MMA Review: #33: Pride 20: Armed & Ready Dec07


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MMA Review: #33: Pride 20: Armed & Ready


After an incredibly good show in the form of Pride 19: Bad Blood, you can’t say that Pride didn’t try to top it with this card. Pride 20: Armed & Ready was a loaded card, complete with Bob Sapp’s MMA debut, a Quinton Jackson fight, the first meeting between Chute Boxe and Brazilian Top Team fighters, and a huge main event pitting Mirko Cro Cop against Wanderlei Silva! With a card as packed as that, would Pride be able to out-do their last show?

Pride 20: Armed & Ready


Yokohama, Japan

-We open with a strange sequence involving Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten delivering a briefcase to some Japanese gangsters, in what looks like something out of a spy movie. They run down the card, then open the briefcase, which contains Rutten’s instructional tape. Ookay. Not sure why they bothered with this, but hey, it’s Quadros and Rutten, so it was relatively entertaining.

Bob Sapp vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto

This was Sapp’s MMA debut, though I think he’d fought in K1 a few times before this. Yamamoto had tapped out K1 fighter Jan Njorte at Pride 18, which is probably why he got this fight, as Njorte, like Sapp, dwarfed him. The size difference here, as you can imagine, is ridiculous, as Sapp outweighs Yamamoto by 120lbs.

Yamamoto tries his best to stick and move, but Sapp rocks him almost immediately with some crude punches, then slows up, trying to conserve his energy. Yamamoto tries to clinch, obviously wanting the takedown, but that’s never going to happen, and Sapp tosses him around like a rag doll, before rocking him again. Sapp takes his time, backing off again, before punching away in the clinch and rocking Yamamoto again. Sapp finally corners him, and decks him with another sloppy punch, before landing some knees to the body. Sapp decides to let Yamamoto up rather than finish him on the ground, and they circle some more before Sapp traps him in the corner again and no-sells some punches, before nailing him with a wild punch for the KO. The announcers talk like this was an impressive debut for Sapp, but in reality, with the size difference he should’ve finished Yamamoto in about half the time it took him, and it’s not like his punches were deadly accurate or anything, they were just crude swings with a lot of power behind them.

Quinton Jackson vs Masaaki Satake

Rampage was still climbing the ranks in Pride at this point, working his way through low-level Japanese fighters en route to becoming one of the greatest Light Heavyweights in the world. The pre-fight interview with Rampage is pretty funny here, as it’s basically one huge ‘bleep’, when Rampage talks about his last opponent Daijiro Matsui and the way he gained a DQ victory over Jackson by milking a groin shot a bit too much. Rampage enters wearing warpaint, getting into the ‘Armed & Ready’ theme.

They begin, and Rampage immediately grabs a clinch. They exchange some knees in the clinch, before the referee breaks for lack of action. Rampage walks right through some punches and grabs a clinch, then gets a leg grab, and lifts Satake for a HUGE bodyslam. Rampage starts to drop knees and punches in a side mount, then moves over to the 69 position and lands some more knees to the head. Satake almost gets guard, but Rampage leaps right out of it back into side mount. Satake works back to half-guard, and continues to eat punches and knees, but eventually gets full guard. Rampage works to pass, and gets a side mount and some knees, before taking the full mount. He pounds away, but Satake tries a leglock, and gets back into half-guard. Rampage gets back into the side mount, but Satake works and manages to stand, with Rampage holding him in a rear waistlock. Rampage delivers a HUGE GERMAN SUPLEX, landing Satake right on the top of his back, and Satake rolls over in pain, covering up, as the official comes in for the stoppage. Awesome finish from Rampage there, as it was clear Satake was done the moment he hit the mat. THAT’S an impressive performance.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Yuskue Imamura

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is actually the TWIN brother of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but they agreed that Rogerio would fight at 205lbs to avoid them fighting for the same title. Little Nog’s reputation wasn’t quite as high as his brother’s coming into his Pride debut, as he’d only had two MMA fights beforehand, but according to the announcers, he’s just as skilled as his brother. Imamura is yet another low-level Japanese wrestler.

Round 1, and Imamura comes in with a single leg takedown to half-guard, but he gets caught in a guillotine on the way down, and Nogueira cranks it, and gets the tapout in 35 seconds! Lord. I think it’s official now that anyone with the name ‘Nogueira’ rules. Awesome debut here.

Ricardo Arona vs Dan Henderson

Talk about a dream match, these are two of the top ten Light Heavyweights in the world (even if Hendo is slightly lighter) and the premise of this fight was the main reason that I picked up this DVD, as I absolutely love both guys. Arona is absolutely SHREDDED here.

They get the first round started, and Hendo comes out throwing rights with bad intentions. Arona shoots in, though, and gets a powerful takedown to guard. They exchange punches in the guard, and Arona works to pass, getting into Henderson’s half-guard. Arona keeps working from the top, and passes into a full mount, but Henderson scrambles and gets his guard back. Arona works back to half-guard quickly, and then mounts, but Hendo reverses over into Arona’s half-guard. Henderson grabs a headlock from the top, and lands some knees to the face, but Arona works to stand, eating some more knees as he comes up. Arona lands some low kicks, and clinches, but Henderson gets double underhooks and delivers an awesome takedown to side mount. Henderson lands some rights and knees, and then gets the crucifix move that Matt Hughes used to beat Carlos Newton, and starts dropping the heavy rights. Arona escapes and works his way to his feet, then drops Henderson with a right! Arona goes down into Hendo’s guard, but Hendo recovers and holds on, as Arona works to pass. Henderson tries an armbar from the bottom (!) but Arona escapes that to side mount. Arona gets the full mount, but Henderson holds on, and then reverses, but Arona gets back on top in Hendo’s half-guard. Arona works to pass again, but Henderson grabs a headlock and uses it to reverse over, back up to standing! Arona slips on a kick attempt, and Henderson pounds in Arona’s guard to end the round. Some uber-impressive stuff here.

They exchange low kicks to open round 2, before Hendo lands a hard right hand! Arona counters with a takedown to guard, and Henderson looks to hold on as Arona works for position. Arona stands, and Hendo lands a couple of upkicks, before Arona looks to pass the guard from standing. He can’t, and ends up back in Hendo’s guard where he works to pass, before standing again and kicking at the legs. The referee stands Henderson, and they circle with Arona throwing some leg kicks, before Henderson comes in with some punches, and grabs a standing guillotine. Arona counters with a takedown to guard and powers out of the guillotine, before they stop the fight to check a cut over Arona’s eye, must’ve been caused by the punches. They restart and Henderson defends as Arona works in the guard, chopping away with some punches. He passes into the side mount, but Henderson lands some knees from the bottom as Arona looks for the full mount. Arona ends up in half-guard, where he works with some pounding to close the round out.

Into the final round, and they exchange punches, into the clinch where Arona muscles him down to half-guard. Arona works the body with some punches, then passes to a full mount, and tries to pound, but Henderson counters with a headlock and rolls to his stomach, giving his back. Arona gets out of the headlock and immediately goes for a rear naked choke, and it looks like he has it, but Henderson escapes and rolls back into the mounted position, what an escape. Hendo tries to buck him off as Arona lands some punches, and Hendo can’t escape as Arona controls him beautifully. Henderson almost escapes towards the end, but can only get a half-guard, as the time runs out. We’re going to the judges, and the winner, by split decision, is Arona! Really close fight here, as they were pretty much equal in the first two rounds, but I’d agree with the decision as Arona controlled the last round and almost had the finish with the rear naked choke. Just a close fight with a really high skill level shown throughout. I love these guys.

Murilo Ninja Rua vs Mario Sperry

This was not only the first meeting between two Brazilian fighters in Pride history, but also the first clash between Chute Boxe and Brazilian Top Team members. Ninja was coming off a close loss to Dan Henderson, while Sperry had choked out Igor Vovchanchyn in his last Pride appearance. Ninja makes an awesome entrance actually wearing a ninja outfit, complete with mask and samurai sword. Surprisingly low-key staredown too, considering that A) It’s Chute Boxe vs. BTT, and B) It’s Murilo Ninja.

Round 1 begins, and Ninja blocks a takedown, before they WILDLY BRAWL, and Ninja DROPS HIM WITH A RIGHT!~! Sperry comes up quickly and clinches, seemingly holding on for dear life as Ninja works to create some distance, escaping and hitting another flurry. Ninja sprawls to avoid a takedown, then lands some knees in a side mount as Sperry tries to get guard. He does, and immediately tries a triangle/armbar combo. Ninja escapes, and they come up in a clinch, before Sperry gets a takedown to half-guard. Ninja tries a kimura from the bottom, but Sperry blocks, and works for position, trying to pass the guard. Ninja tries to escape, and manages to get to his feet, coming up in a guillotine. Sperry pulls guard, thinking he’s got it, but Ninja pops out as they hit the mat, and chops away with punches in the guard. He stands, and tries a stomp, then goes into a side mount. Back up, and Ninja lands the SOCCER KICK!~! to the face. Sperry stands and eats a right, but manages to clinch and get a takedown to half-guard. Sperry goes for a kimura, and almost gets it, but Ninja somehow escapes, and stands, before nailing him with punches! Into Sperry’s guard, before Ninja stands and lands a stomp, then enters the guard properly. Ninja chops away with punches in the guard, before standing. The official stands Sperry and Ninja throws a high kick, but Sperry answers with a decent combo, and grabs the clinch. Ninja lands some knees to the gut, but Sperry goes for a guillotine. Ninja escapes that, and they trade again, and Ninja drops him! Sperry grabs a single leg to try to recover, and manages to get half-guard, landing some punches to close the round.

Wow, that was a hell of a round, it had EVERYTHING from knockdowns to sub attempts to reversals, and Rutten and Quadros talking about it being an all-time classic if they can keep up the pace isn’t far off.

Round 2, and Ninja comes out with a flying knee attempt! Sperry blocks and they trade wildly into the clinch, where Sperry tries a takedown. Ninja blocks, and they muscle around, before Ninja gets his back! Sperry rolls through for a kneebar, and almost has it, but Ninja escapes again into Sperry’s half-guard. Ninja passes into a side mount, and lands some knees, then takes his back again. He works for a rear naked choke, but Sperry escapes and turns into Ninja’s guard. Ninja tries a kimura from the bottom again, but Sperry blocks nicely and gets to half-guard. Sperry now looks for a kimura, and allllmost has it, but Ninja escapes AGAIN, and they come back to their feet exchanging some knees in the clinch. Sperry looks tired at this point, and Ninja gets a takedown into side mount, where he ends the round with knees to the head. Sperry looks tired and beaten between rounds, while Ninja looks pretty much fresh.

Third and final round, and they exchange low kicks to open, before Ninja decks him with a left! Ninja lands a stomp, but Sperry recovers quickly and comes back up into the clinch. The official breaks them for inactivity, and Ninja rocks him again, before going into Sperry’s guard. Ninja punches away in the guard, before they stop the fight to check on a cut on Sperry’s head. Restart in the same position, and Ninja continues to punch away to end the fight. We’re going to the judges, and the winner by unanimous decision, unsurprisingly, is Ninja. AWESOME fight here, probably could’ve gone either way given the amount of close subs that Sperry had, but really Ninja gave him a hell of a beating in parts, and Sperry did well to go the distance. Post-fight Ninja cries in celebration, and Nogueira cries in frustration at seeing his trainer get beaten on. Definitely one of the best fights I’ve seen here.

Sanae Kikuta vs Alexander Otuska

I’m guessing these two had some kind of pro-wrestling beef, as the crowd are RABID for this one, totally pro-Otsuka, and Otsuka fakes a handshake after the staredown, pulling away before Kikuta can take his hand. Kikuta is actually legit, having won a ton of Pancrase fights and only having losses to really top guys like Bustamante and Nogueira. Otsuka, on the other hand, is about as far from legit as you can go.

They clinch up to open, and Otsuka lands some knees, before Kikuta gets a takedown to guard. Otsuka messes up Kikuta’s hair from the bottom, garnering a HUGE pop from the fans, while Kikuta tries to create some distance for pounding. Kikuta passes to a full mount, and lands some punches, before going for an armbar. Otsuka manages to block, and then tries an armbar of his own, but eats a soccer kick for his troubles. He manages to reverse to half-guard, but Kikuta immediately reverses to a side mount. Otsuka works back to half-guard, but Kikuta gets another mount, and punches away. Otsuka rolls to his back, and Kikuta gets his hooks in, but Otsuka rolls back to the mount position before he can go for the choke. Otsuka then rolls again, and Kikuta lands some punches to the face, busting Otsuka’s nose. Otsuka rolls back to mount, and narrowly escapes a side choke. Kikuta tries a keylock, then an armbar, but Otsuka escapes that into a side mount! Whoa, Otsuka actually showed a bit of skill there. Kikuta works back to guard, but Otsuka lands punches to end. Otsuka’s face is a MESS, though.

They come out for the second, and the camera reveals a HORRIFIC lump on Otsuka’s head, like an egg sticking out of the side. Oh man, that’s one of the sickest visuals I’ve ever seen in MMA. Kikuta clinches to open and gets a takedown to guard, before passing through to side mount, and then full mount. Kikuta lands some short, stiff punches, then takes Otsuka’s back again, where he lands about a dozen or so unanswered punches to the head. The referee should’ve stopped it there – Otsuka wasn’t defending at all. Kikuta keeps punching, and then tries a rear naked choke, which Otsuka blocks, to end. Otsuka’s getting OWNED here. His face is a real mess, Ken Shamrock against Tito Ortiz levels, after this round.

They clinch to open the third, and Otsuka promptly lands about six knees to the groin, without the referee even warning him. The crowd love it, but c’mon, that isn’t right. Kikuta gets a takedown to the half-guard, and then gets an easy full mount. He lands some knees in a side mount, then goes back to full mount, and gets a BEAUTIFUL armbar, extending it fully, but Otsuka refuses to tap. The arm is extended completely, and the referee should probably be stopping things, but he lets it go, and after God knows how long in the hold, Otsuka escapes and gets mounted again! Kikuta lands some punches, and that’s it. Kikuta rightfully gets the unanimous decision, as he brutalized Otsuka here. Otsuka goes over to congratulate him, and the crowd explode as they tease a handshake…but Otsuka refuses again, and then makes the ‘fuck you’ gesture at him, before three masked guys raise his arm like he’s won. Well, despite the ending being one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I’ve ever seen in MMA, Otsuka is still a joke, and he got absolutely blasted here. The referee was also quite dodgy, allowing Otsuka to get away with not defending himself AND land a number of low blows. Ah well, pretty sick beating anyway.

Wanderlei Silva vs Mirko Cro Cop

This was Mirko’s real debut in Pride (after having a bit of a joke fight with Takada at Pride 17), but because he was still technically a K1 fighter, the rules were modified here, giving us five three-minute rounds, standing restarts if the fighters get too close to the ropes, and no judges. Obviously this is pretty much a dream match, as they’re both devastating strikers and also aggressive as hell. We get a CRAZY staredown, almost nose-to-nose, as the crowd go BALLISTIC, and rightly so. Silva seems to be being treated as the face here, getting mammoth chants throughout.

Both look tentative to open, before Silva begins to press with some low kicks. He blocks Mirko’s trademark left high kick, but Mirko lands a HARD body kick, causing Silva to come forward with a flurry, and a takedown to guard! Crowd go APESHIT, as Silva stands and tries a soccer kick, then goes back to the guard, landing some punches, before the referee stands them up. Silva presses with some punches, and tries another clinch, but Mirko shoves him off before he can get the takedown, and then presses the action himself, before Silva closes the round with a leg kick.

Round 2, and Silva comes in with a flurry, but then goes to his back, and Cro Cop backs away and waves him up. They throw some kicks and jabs from distance, still looking tentative, before Mirko lands another good body kick. He tries another, but Silva catches it, and gets a takedown to guard! Silva starts to pound away as Mirko tries to block, and continues to deliver some punches as the round ends. The announcers are really shocked at how well Silva is doing at this point.

Round 3, and they both press to open, before Silva lands a high kick. Mirko comes back with a body kick, and Silva responds with some punches into the clinch. Mirko breaks, and misses a high kick, before landing a decent right hook. Silva throws another high kick, then suddenly comes forward with punches, and ROCKS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Mirko clinches, and they muscle for position, before the official breaks them, and they circle to end the round. Whoa, Silva is really taking it to Mirko here.

Fourth round, and both press tentatively with leg kicks. Mirko blocks a flurry, and comes back with the deadly left high kick, but Silva blocks it, clearly having done his homework on that one. Mirko then lands a SICK LIVER KICK that makes a cracking noise through the arena, and blocks a flurry before landing it again. Into the clinch, but the referee breaks them and Silva throws another flurry, back into the clinch where they muscle for position. The referee breaks them again, and they circle off to end the round. Silva has a HUGE bruise on the body from the kicks, as they ice it between rounds.

Fifth and final round, and they press tentatively again, with Silva blocking the high kick, and coming back with a body kick. They exchange some punches into the clinch, but Mirko pushes him off. Mirko tries the body kick again, but this time Silva catches it, and gets a takedown to guard! Silva starts to pound away, but the referee stands them up again, and Mirko starts to come forward, going into a clinch, but Silva breaks it up with a combo. Silva tries a high kick, then grabs a bodylock, but Mirko sprawls to block a takedown and lands the body kick again, to close the round. No judges means it’s a draw. Post-fight Sakuraba comes out and gives both fighters flowers.

Well, this was interesting, if not the awesome dream match that I was expecting. I think it’d be better if they did it now, simply because Mirko was new to MMA here, and now he’d be more used to the takedown, etc. If there were judges, I’m pretty sure this would’ve been a clear decision in favour of Silva. Mirko arguably did more damage with the body kicks, which Silva would’ve been feeling for weeks afterwards, but outside of those, Silva controlled the pace of the fight, and was more aggressive. Wanderlei’s gameplan here was surprisingly good for someone who usually fights each fight in the same way, as he wasn’t his uber-aggressive self, and that made Mirko really wary of the takedown and almost unable to really press the fight. I think Mirko must’ve thought Silva would come forward swinging as he always does, which would’ve made him easy picking, but when he didn’t, it threw Cro Cop off a bit. At any rate, it’s nowhere near one of the best fights you’ll see, not even the best on this card, but it’s still really interesting to see two of today’s top fighters in the world going at it.

Final Thoughts…

Despite four fights in a row going the distance, Armed & Ready is another hell of a show from Pride. Rampage and Little Nog’s performances are impressive, but it’s the closer-fought matches that are the impressive ones here, as Arona/Henderson and Ninja/Sperry are really awesome, high skill level stuff that any MMA fan would easily get into. The main event, while not being the blowaway slugfest you might expect when you see ‘Wanderlei Silva vs. Mirko Cro Cop’ is still really good, and it’s definitely something to see a tactical, planning Silva rather than the usual psychotic ‘Axe Murderer’. While not as outstanding overall as Bad Blood, Armed & Ready is certainly worth a look.

Next up, the AWESOME UFC 49, and then UFC 39, Cage Rage 7, before we return to Pride for their next show.

Thanks for reading,

Scott Newman: