MMA Review: #43: Pride: Total Elimination 2003 Jan30

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MMA Review: #43: Pride: Total Elimination 2003

Pride: Total Elimination 2003

08/10/03

Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Damon Perry and Bas Rutten, who run down the card. This was a hell of a stacked show – the first round of the Middleweight Grand Prix (which came to a head at Final Conflict 2003, you can find my review of that show here) featuring Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, Chuck Liddell amongst others, and the Holy Trinity of Pride Heavyweights (Nogueira, Fedor, Cro Cop) taking on three tough opponents.

-We get a little hype video for the Grand Prix matches – Liddell vs. Alistair Overeem, Rampage vs. Ricardo Arona, Hidehiko Yoshida vs. Kiyoshi Tamura, and Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba. Perry and Rutten then announce that Arona’s injured himself training, and Rampage’s new opponent is the current UFC Middleweight Champion, Murilo Bustamante. He wasn’t *technically* still champ as his contract ran out in May…but I guess he hadn’t been beaten for the belt.

-Big fighter intro follows with a lot of pyro, but no real weird effects like on some of the shows.

-Rutten and Perry preview the Fedor/Goodridge fight, and then take a ‘Tequila shot’ before they go to ringside. These skits go on throughout the night. Perry might’ve been a shoddy announcer, but at least he was fun, unlike Mauro Renallo who’s just annoying.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Gary Goodridge

Pre-fight Perry hypes this as ‘Old Pride vs. New Pride’ which pisses Goodridge off as he doesn’t like to be called old. Rutten predicts that this isn’t going past the first round, but he’s not sure who will come out on top. One of those statements makes sense. The other…doesn’t.

They get underway and Fedor closes in with a hard combo, causing Big Daddy to cover up along the ropes. Fedor starts landing some SICK body shots, rocking Goodridge’s whole body, before Gary finally gets a clinch. Fedor lands a big knee to the gut and just TOSSES HIM DOWN, before entering the guard. Goodridge holds on for dear life, but Fedor breaks free of the grip and lands some BRUTAL RIGHT HANDS before passing into a side mount. Fedor keeps on pounding as Goodridge just covers up now, hoping for the stoppage, so Fedor stands and lands about three soccer kicks, then goes back down to dish out some more punishment, and the official decides he wants Goodridge to go out on a stretcher rather than in a coffin, and stops it there. Post-fight Fedor looks bored. Total massacre here, as Goodridge just looked way out of his league from the moment Fedor threw a punch. The man is just plain scary.

Chuck Liddell vs Alistair Overeem

We get a Liddell hype package before the fight as they drum up the UFC vs. Pride thing. Clips from the press conference air where Dana White proclaims that Liddell will walk the GP, and then we get some clips of Pride fighters talking shit on the UFC, like Kevin Randleman. Probably not the best person to be talking smack on Liddell as Chuck knocked the shit out of him, but hey. Everyone’s expecting a slugfest here as ‘Demolition Man’ Overeem is quite the aggressive striker. He’s one of my personal favourites in Pride too, as I’ve never seen a boring fight from him and he always comes to throw down. Chuck enters to the traditional UFC theme, and a nervous Dana White joins us on commentary.

Round 1 begins and Overeem tries a left high knee, as Liddell looks to counter, but Overeem catches him with an overhand left! Liddell is stunned, and quickly clinches, before breaking off with a right hand. Overeem lands another knee as they press, and tries another but Liddell gets a takedown to guard. Overeem sits up in the guard and Chuck counters with a front facelock, landing some knees to the top of the head. Overeem works out of the predicament and gets back up, and they exchange where he lands a nasty knee to the body of the Iceman. Overeem follows with another hard combo, stunning Liddell again and he clinches up. Back out and Overeem misses a flying knee, but keeps pressing with a combo, only for Liddell to counter with a nasty overhand right. Overeem eats it up and tells him to bring it on, so Liddell does, hitting a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT that sends Alistair staggering towards the ropes. Chuck smells blood and IT’S ON, as he closes in with three rights, a nasty knee, and then a combo of overhand rights and left hooks that drop Overeem out cold.

Started off on dodgy ground for Liddell, but once he got one big hit in, it was all business and the Iceman delivered as usual. One of the best KOs I’ve ever seen, and boy, the replays of that overhand right are BRUTAL.

-We get a ‘Rampage’ Jackson video package, before going backstage to talk to Ricardo Arona, who broke his ankle in training. His friend and replacement Murilo Bustamante reveals that he believes God called him to win this tournament. He’s taken the fight on five days notice. Rampage helpfully adds that he doesn’t have a crystal ball, he just has two balls, and he doesn’t care who he fights. God, I love that man.

Quinton Jackson vs Murilo Bustamante

Announcers talk about how Bustamante might be more dangerous for Rampage than Arona would’ve been, as he’s more likely to slap on a sudden submission than the more ground and pound oriented Arona.

Round 1, and they circle with some jabs, before clinching where Bustamante tries to pull guard. Rampage holds him up, and walks him right over to his own corner, where he puts him down in the guard, unable to slam him because Bustamante has his arms locked up. They restart it in the center of the ring, and Bustamante immediately goes for the armbar, almost getting it locked in, but Rampage manages to spin his way out. Bustamante transitions right into a triangle choke, so Rampage breaks it with the POWERBOMB!~! and backs away. Back up, and they exchange some punches, before Bustamante gets a takedown right into the ropes, down to half-guard. The referee has them moved out of the ropes, and Bustamante tries to pass the guard, but Rampage muscles him over into his own guard, where Bustamante grabs a guillotine choke. Rampage STANDS WITH THE CHOKE ON, and walks over to the edge of the ring, but Bustamante pulls him down and it looks like he’s fading out, pro-wrestling style. Rampage finally manages to work his way out, though, escaping into half-guard, before they stop the fight to sort out Rampage’s shorts, which are falling down. Lucky for Rampage there, letting him get a bit of energy back.

They restart in Rampage’s guard, but Jackson quickly escapes and lands a BIG KNEE to the face that puts Bustamante onto his back. Rampage stands off and they circle, jabbing into a clinch. Bustamante pulls guard again, but this time Rampage is having none of it, and stands right back up. Bustamante comes back to his feet and they exchange some more jabs and some combos, with Bustamante stunning him with a couple of punches. Rampage gets a takedown to half-guard, and tries to pass, but Bustamante gets his guard back and Rampage pulls out again and stands. They exchange again with Bustamante landing a couple of good rights, but Rampage laughs them off and lands a good combo into a clinch. Bustamante tries to pull guard again, but Rampage blocks and they exchange some combos, down into Bustamante’s guard where Jackson peppers him with strikes to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and they circle with some jabs into a clinch, where Rampage gets a takedown to guard. Rampage works over the body, but Bustamante tries an armbar, so Rampage quickly stands out. Back up, and Rampage lands a big left to the body, and follows with two hard knees to the ribs that really hurt Bustamante, and a short right hand puts him on his back. Rampage refuses to enter the guard and Bustamante gets stood, where Rampage lands a hard right leg kick as Bustamante tries a combo. Jackson starts to fire off with the kicks to the leg, avoiding the combos as Bustamante starts to limp. They continue to exchange and Rampage lands a knee into a clinch, where Bustamante pulls guard. Rampage works the body momentarily, then stands up again, to end the round.

Third and final round, and they exchange some brief combos, before Rampage goes back to the right leg kick. Rampage lands a good left, and follows with a knee, so Bustamante drops to guard. Rampage lands a right, then stands, and they continue to exchange with Rampage working the kicks again. Rampage lands a heavy combo, down into Bustamante’s guard, but he stands up to avoid an armbar. Back up and Bustamante shoots in with a takedown attempt, but Rampage blocks and goes down into Bustamante’s guard, where he works the body with some good shots to end the fight. We go to the judges, and the winner via split decision is’..Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson! Surprised it was a split one, to be honest.

This started off pretty exciting as Rampage came very close to being caught with various submissions in the first round, and couldn’t get his striking going, but once he worked out a proper gameplan (use the leg kick to set up the punches, and stand right up out of Bustamante’s guard) he pretty much stifled Bustamante and the 2nd and 3rd rounds belonged to him completely. Good performance from Jackson if not his most exciting.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Ricco Rodriguez

UFC vs. Pride, Round II. From what I’ve gathered this was like a huge dream match about nine months before this point, as Rodriguez was the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion while Nogueira was the reigning Pride Heavyweight Champion, and they’d met once before in Abu Dhabi where Ricco subbed out Nog with a kneebar. Coming into this, though, both men had suffered the most crushing defeats of their careers – Rodriguez to Tim Sylvia, and Nogueira to Fedor. Mark Coleman joins us on commentary for this one.

They begin and Ricco fires off a superman punch into a clinch, where Nogueira gets the takedown to guard. Nog passes quickly into half-guard, and tries a guillotine, but Ricco escapes and gets his head out, on top in Nogueira’s half-guard. Nogueira gets a full guard back as Ricco lands some short strikes, so Nog tries an armbar and Ricco escapes it back into the guard. Nog tries an oma plata instead, but Ricco escapes that, and ends right back in the guard where Nog tries a triangle choke now. Ricco avoids THAT, and then lands a good right back into the guard, where he starts to pepper Nog with some short strikes. Nogueira tries the triangle again, but Ricco avoids it another time, and turns him over to the turtle position, landing some knees to the head. Rodriguez gets a front facelock and then goes back into Nog’s guard, landing some short punches. Nogueira turns over on a submission attempt again, and Ricco continues to land with the short strikes back into Nogueira’s guard. Nog tries another triangle, but Ricco avoids it again and works the head and body with some punches, before standing. The official stands Nog up, and they circle off before Ricco tries a flying knee! It barely lands, and they exchange and circle, with Nogueira landing some nice hooks and straights. Ricco misses another flying knee and they clinch, where Ricco gets a knee to the midsection and a takedown to guard, where he stands up out of a triangle attempt to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and they exchange straights into a clinch, and then come back out and continue the exchange. Ricco gets a nice takedown to a side mount, but Nogueira quickly gets the guard back, and goes for a kimura. Ricco pulls out of it and tries to pass the guard, but Nogueira sweeps him over, only for Rodriguez to sweep him back over immediately in a BEAUTIFUL reversal. Nog goes right for the oma plata again, but Ricco works and escapes it into the guard. Ricco works the body, but Nogueira tries an armbar again, so Rodriguez reverses and gets a ride into a front facelock. He tries some knees, but Nogueira falls back into the guard, and Ricco peppers him with some short punches to end the round.

Into the third and final round, and Ricco lands a flying knee as they exchange some jabs, and gets a quick takedown to guard. Nogueira goes for the kimura again, and this time it looks like he’s got it, as he locks Ricco’s arm right out, but Ricco rolls and somehow manages to escape! Ricco gets into the half-guard from there, but Nogueira gets the full guard back. Rodriguez works the body and head with some short punches, as Nogueira tries to strike up from the bottom. He goes back to the submissions and tries the triangle again, but Ricco somehow pulls out of that, and works the body, before folding Nogueira over and landing a knee to end the fight. We’re going to the judges, with all three announcers thinking Ricco has it won…but Nogueira gets the unanimous decision!

This was a uber-controversial decision, and a ton of people still debate it on the MMA message boards to this day, with two trains of thought. The first one is basically that Ricco controlled the pacing and the positioning of the fight, avoided all of Nogueira’s submission attempts and basically kept busy throughout, and thus, he won the fight. The other way of thinking is that Ricco basically played ‘lay and pray’, and Pride’s rules clearly state that they favour attempts to win the fight over anything else, and Nogueira had a TON of unsuccessful submission attempts, and thus, HE won the fight.

I’m somewhere in the middle, I guess. Yes, Ricco controlled the pace and positioning, but did he actually do any damage with it? Not really, as all he was able to land were short strikes mainly to the body. That said, Nogueira might’ve had close submission attempts, but really, they didn’t do any ‘damage’ per say. The fight basically looked like Nogueira/Fedor part 1, except Ricco didn’t destroy Nogueira with the strikes like Fedor did. I’d say Nogueira won this fight…because it was in Pride. Pride’s rules clearly favour someone who tries to finish the fight, and he did so. UFC’s rules favour someone who controls the pace and action, and thus Ricco would’ve won the fight in UFC (see Hughes over Verissimo). It’s apples and oranges really and Ricco fans have no right to be upset over it, in my opinion.

-Antonio Inoki does an in-ring skit with the fighters on the upcoming Bushido show in the ring, and he slaps a couple of them. I don’t get that reference, and nor do I care, to be frank.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Igor Vovchanchyn

This was expected to be a hell of a stand-up war, even if Vovchanchyn hadn’t fought in some time coming into it. Skit before the fight has Cro Cop playing cards (and losing) with his training camp. Funny stuff.

Igor opens up with some left jabs as Mirko throws his left high kick and misses it. Mirko avoids some right hooks, and then blocks a high kick attempt. They circle around, and Mirko lands a left jab, and follows with the LEFT HIGH KICK OF DEATH!~! and Vovchanchyn is OUT with just over a minute gone. Jesus, that was SCARY. Almost like the passing of the torch, too, from one killer Eastern European striker to another. Post-fight Cro Cop calls out Fedor demanding a title shot, and Fedor, at ringside, just smiles. God, they better put that fight together this year.

Hidehiko Yoshida vs Kiyoshi Tamura

This was basically set up to get a Japanese fighter into the semis of the tournament, as I personally don’t think either guy would stand a chance against any of the other six involved (although Yoshida was proven to be legit when he fought Wanderlei Silva), and Pride wanted something to draw the huge crowds, as usual. Damon Perry gets VERY annoying here yapping on about Yoshida’s gi, almost reaching Renallo levels of annoyance.

Round 1, and they circle with Tamura working a low kick to the left knee, as Yoshida looks a bit lost with the striking. Tamura keeps working the kick, and then closes in and drops him with a left hand! Crowd go apeshit as Tamura tries a flying stomp into Yoshida’s guard, then lands a knee as Yoshida stands back up. They continue to circle and Tamura keeps landing the low kick to the knee, before they exchange punches with Tamura getting the better of it. Yoshida’s limping BADLY at this point, looking like Bret Hart selling a knee injury, as Tamura keeps landing. Yoshida finally catches a kick, and gets a takedown, but Tamura takes his back as they hit the mat. Tamura lands some punches, and they come back up, where Yoshida manages a headlock takedown and tries for a gi choke in the headlock position. Tamura manages to escape to standing, but they exchange into a clinch and Yoshida gets a takedown to half-guard, and quickly applies a choke using the sleeves of his gi, and Tamura taps out. Perry LOVES that, screaming on and ON about the bloody gi. Still, good little fight while it lasted. Post-match Yoshida has his knee iced, while continuing to sell like Bret Hart.

Wanderlei Silva vs Kazushi Sakuraba

This was Match III in their infamous series, and while I can see why they set it up – the Japanese fans want their hero to get the victory in the ‘blowoff’ – given that Sakuraba was coming off another nasty KO loss to Elvis Schembri, it probably wasn’t the best idea to put him against Wanderlei on this show. The announcers – joined by Quinton Rampage Jackson – talk about the likelihood of a Sakuraba retirement should he lose the fight, which shows you what kind of condition he was in. Still the entertainer though, he enters wearing the Road Warrior spikes and a lucha mask. Silva looks as cold and psychotic as ever.

They begin and Sakuraba quickly lands a good left, as they exchange briefly. They start to circle and Silva rocks him with a combo, ending with an uppercut that seems to scare both the announcers and the fans. Sakuraba tries faking a takedown to make Silva lean forward, then uses a quick combo, but Silva answers and they exchange briefly again. Silva comes forward with a combo, but Sakuraba counters with a pair of nice knees in a Thai clinch, and follows with a nice body kick. Silva trips him down, but Sakuraba gets up quickly, and tries a shot, only for Silva to block and land some knees in a front facelock. Bas goes crazy for that as they were the beginning of the end in Silva/Saku I, but this time he escapes and they come back up to standing, where Silva clinches briefly and breaks with a good combo ending with a hard left hook. Sakuraba lands a combo of his own, but glancingly, and Silva continues to press, as both men miss some wild punches. Sakuraba then steps in with a low kick, but Silva counters with a HUGE LEFT-RIGHT COMBINATION, and Saku is DEAD.

Well…Not literally, but it looked like it for a second, the way he landed. That was like Brad Pitt’s character KOing the bare-knuckle guy in Snatch, he looked like he actually fell in slow-motion. Rutten and Rampage immediately suggest that he should retire after that one. Probably the sickest flash KO I’ve ever seen, I think. Silva advances to Final Conflict.

-We end with a highlight reel of the night’s action, and some funny out-takes with Rutten interviewing Rampage, Liddell and Goodridge.

Final Thoughts…

AWESOME show here. There’s honestly not a bad fight on the card (though Bustamante/Jackson gets slow in places) and there’s something for everyone. Fans of stand-up brawls will love Overeem/Liddell, Silva/Sakuraba and Mirko/Vovchanchyn, while Rodriguez/Nogueira is one of the best ground-based chess matches you’ll ever see. I don’t think it’s as good a show as Final Conflict simply because that had more dramatic moments with Nogueira’s miraculous win over Cro Cop, and the incredible final match between Rampage and Silva, but it’s damn close. One of the best MMA shows you’ll ever see, and the whole Grand Prix gets a huge thumbs up from me.

Thanks for reading…

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com