MMA Review: #23: Pride 17: Championship Chaos Jul14

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MMA Review: #23: Pride 17: Championship Chaos

Bonjour.

With another thirteen MMA shows on tap to review, I’m going to be alternating between Pride and UFC for a while, and this time it’s spotlight on Pride, as I’m looking at Pride 17: Championship Chaos. Taking place in November 2001, Championship Chaos, as the name suggests, was all about the newly introduced title belts in Pride, as Heath Herring would face Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the Pride Heavyweight Title, and Wanderlei Silva would fight Kazushi Sakuraba in a rematch of one of the most exciting fights of the year, for the Pride Middleweight Title. With a packed card that also included Dan Henderson and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Pride 17 is definitely one of the strongest shows you’ll see in terms of the card. Does it match the greatness of previous events like Pride 14?

Pride 17: Championship Chaos

11/03/01

Tokyo, Japan

-We open with a ton of bells chiming, and the fighters all laying out their respective flags in the ring. I’m guessing this was to put over the whole ‘the world is together’ thing after 9/11. Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Quinton Jackson vs Yuki Ishikawa

This one was set up after Rampage beat up on Alexander Otuska in Ishikawa’s Battle Arts promotion. I guess Ishikawa was trying to save face for his promotion, which probably wasn’t a smart idea, given that Rampage is…well, Rampage.

They start, and Ishikawa comes out swinging, which is a bad idea as Jackson just BATTERS him with some hard rights and uppercuts, then gets a HUGE bodyslam into the side mount. Rampage stands, and then attempts to PILEDRIVE (!) him, but Ishikawa blocks, so Rampage just knees him in the head a few times. Rampage takes his back, and lands a few strikes from there, but Ishikawa gets up, so Rampage nails him with a hard knee, and then DROPS him with a one-two combo to end the fight. Total massacre here, as Ishikawa never stood a chance. Rampage rules.

Dan Henderson vs Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua

These two are two of my favourite guys to watch in Pride, so I was looking forward to this hugely when I picked up this show. Henderson was coming off two huge wins over Renzo Gracie and Akira Shoji, while Ninja had looked very brutal in his debut at Pride 16 vs Matsui.

Round One, and they briefly exchange before muscling for position in the clinch. Both land some knees, and Hendo then gets an AWESOME takedown into side mount. Ninja gets right back up ala Chuck Liddell, and Henderson lands some knees to the head, and then pulls a standing guard trying for a guillotine. Ninja goes to ground, but Hendo holds the guillotine on, only for Ninja to pop out and pass to half-guard. Ninja passes to the side mount, and then goes for full mount, but the ropes get in his way, and he ends up back in the half-guard instead. He gets back to the side mount, and lands some punches and knees, as Hendo tries to escape. Henderson tries to fight up, but Ninja gets full mount, and then strangely doesn’t actually do anything with the position, going back to side mount instead, landing some knees and forearms from the position. Henderson tries to escape again, but Ninja holds him down and keeps getting shots, but Henderson defends most of them well. He almost gets up, but Ninja brings him back down, and then closes with a kick. Pretty dominant round for Ninja in terms of positions, but he didn’t really do any damage – and this becomes important later.

Ninja comes out for the 2nd and lands a high kick, before they clinch. Henderson throws a knee, but Ninja counters with a scoop slam into the side mount! THAT was a cool takedown. Ninja tries to land some knees, but Henderson blocks most of them again, and tries to roll for the escape, almost getting a leg lock, but Ninja reverses back to the side mount. Ninja gets some elbows to the body, then stands and attempts a soccer kick, but Henderson avoids and gets back up into the clinch, before sprawling down into the front facelock. Back up, and Henderson lands a slamming takedown into the side mount, where he lands a knee, before Ninja gets up again, and gets his own takedown to the guard to end the round. Like the first round, Ninja had the positions for the most part, but again didn’t really do much damage in them.

Third and final round, and Henderson comes out with his big right, before they clinch, where Ninja lands a knee to the groin. Nasty. He gets the yellow card, as they give Hendo some time, before restarting back into the clinch. Henderson gets a takedown into the side mount, but Ninja escapes again and gets back up. Ninja is doing an AMAZING job at escaping from the bottom, I must say. Hendo lands some knees in the clinch, then gets a hip throw takedown, but again Ninja gets right up to his feet. This time though, Henderson lands some HARD knees to the head, and then nails him with two nasty uppercuts, rocking him! Hendo lands some BIG PUNCHES as Ninja wobbles, before grabbing the clinch. The official breaks it, and Henderson lands another good right, as Ninja still looks wobbly. Ninja tries a double leg, but Henderson reverses and lands in the 69 position, before the official restarts them in the center. Ninja manages to get up, and then gets a takedown into the half guard before the fight ends.

We go to the judges, and the winner is…Henderson! Now, this might seem dodgy, given that Ninja clearly dominated the first two rounds by some margin….but then consider what we learned from judge Matt Hume at Pride 16. Firstly, in Pride, the fight is judged across the whole fight, rather than through each round (ala UFC). Secondly, Pride’s rules value attempts to finish the fight, and damage, above all other categories. And although Ninja dominated the first portion of the fight, he did very little damage, and didn’t come close to finishing the fight. Henderson, on the other hand, while he only came through in the third, came very close to KOing Ninja, and also did arguably more damage in that one big flurry than Ninja did in the whole fight. Altogether, that outweighs Ninja’s position control, so yeah…I’d agree with the judges that Henderson was the winner here. Pretty interesting fight, that didn’t get boring at any point. Both guys continue to impress.

Semmy Schilt vs Maasaki Satake

The size difference is ludicrous again here, but then I’m probably going to say that about pretty much anyone that faces Semmy Schilt.

Satake smartly tries to keep his distance, as Schilt lands some light kicks to begin. Satake manages to land a right, and blocks a kick, clearly trying to ‘stick and move’. Schilt lands a knee, but follows with a low blow, and they give Satake time. The facial expression he has here is PRICELESS. Restart, and Satake lands some looping punches from distance, but Schilt finally traps him against the ropes, and nails him with a HARD liver kick, before chopping him down with a left to KO him. Rutten is quick to point out that it’s the liver kick that did the most damage (it’s a long-running joke that Bas LOVES the liver shot). Pretty short and one-sided, as Satake couldn’t really do much against the huge Schilt.

Renzo Gracie vs Michiyoshi Ohara

Honestly, I’m not even going to bother with play-by-play for this one. Basically Ohara is another one of those Japanese pro-wrestlers who shouldn’t really be in MMA, and in this fight, he just attempts to avoid Renzo altogether, even grabbing the ropes to prevent a takedown. Renzo, being a Gracie and thus a primarily Jiu-Jitsu guy, simply can’t seem to finish Ohara on his feet, despite Ohara not really offering any threat or even defense besides holding and clinching. They got the wrong Gracie here – Ryan would’ve butchered this guy. This is undoubtedly one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen, and a total black spot on the show.

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Mario Sperry

Sperry, one of the members of the Brazilian Top Team, has a huge reputation as a submission wrestling expert stemming from his awesome Abu Dhabi record, but he hadn’t actually fought in MMA for well over a year at this point, and before that, his last fight had been in 1997. Vovchanchyn is wearing a patch on his head, apparently he got cut in training.

They get underway, and Sperry immediately shoots for a takedown, but Igor sprawls back. Sperry keeps coming in, and eventually gets the takedown into the guard. Igor holds on, obviously looking for the restart, so Sperry lifts him up and slams him back down. Sperry passes through to half-guard, as the cut on Vovchanchyn’s head re-opens. Sperry works to pass, but Vovchanchyn gets back to guard and goes for a sweep, only for Sperry to get into half-guard again, where he locks on a TIGHT side choke, passing over to the opposite side of the body for more leverage, and Igor quickly taps out. Awesome performance from Sperry to tap out one of the top names at the time after being out so long, but I’m wondering whether his submission was actually great, or whether it was just that Vovchanchyn’s submission defence is uber-weak. I’ve never actually seen Igor against another primarily submission guy, so I’m not really sure at all.

Matt Skelton vs Tom Erikson

This one was fought under Pride rules, but they were modified to three shorter rounds as Skelton was technically a K1 fighter at the time, and thus this was a ‘K1 vs Pride’ fight. The British Skelton has since moved away from kickboxing/MMA, and into professional boxing where he’s unbeaten, and is the current British and Commonwealth Champion.

They start, and Erikson shoots in for a takedown, and then gets a spinning belly-to-belly suplex (!) down into side mount. Erikson quickly passes to the full mount, where he gets a HAND CHOKE for the tapout. Whoa, I thought that was illegal in Pride. Obviously not. Skelton’s ground game was clearly lacking, which makes sense coming from K1, and Erikson simply capitalized on that. Very one-sided fight.

Pride Heavyweight Title Match: Heath Herring vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Ah, now this is the one I’ve been waiting for, two of my favourite fighters in MMA battling it out for the biggest prize in the game. Both guys had been on a hot streak going into this one (justifying why they were there, I guess), with Herring destroying Tom Erikson, Enson Inoue, Denis Sobolev and Mark Kerr, and Nogueira tapping out both Gary Goodridge and Mark Coleman, who joins us on commentary here. Herring’s hair? He has a red diamond shaved into it, with a black outline, and a smaller, black diamond in the center.

Herring opens by throwing some hard punches, but Nogueira counters a kick with a takedown, and gets the side mount. He tries an armbar, but Herring escapes back up to his feet, only for Nog to pull him down into a guillotine. Herring pops out into the guard, which is not the place you want to be against Nogueira. Nog immediately grabs Heath’s arm to prep the triangle choke as Herring tries to ground and pound, and then goes for it, getting the legs up into position, but Herring somehow avoids, slamming Nogueira down to escape. Herring is back on his feet, and he yells at Nog to get up and stand with him, showing shades of the Mark Kerr fight. Nogueira comes up, and Herring swings a kick that misses, before they TRADE PUNCHES WILDLY, with Nogueira getting the better of it! Nogueira lands a big knee to the head, as Herring looks rocked. Heath tries another kick, but Nogueira blocks and throws a punch, only for Herring to counter *that* with a takedown into the guard. This fight RULES.

Nog controls Heath’s arms from the bottom, and then goes for the triangle again, but Heath avoids and comes back up once more. Back to standing, and Nog counters a kick with a BIG RIGHT that staggers Herring, and follows with a takedown into the half-guard. Nogueira passes to side mount, but Herring reverses into Nogueira’s guard. Nogueira tries a kimura, Herring is able to avoid that, but he’s having real trouble striking in the guard due to Nogueira’s submission attempts. Herring stands, and lands some good low kicks as Nog joins him, but Nog comes back with some solid punches. Nogueira lands a good combo, then gets a hard knee to the head, and follows with a double leg takedown, taking Heath’s back! Herring blocks a choke attempt, and gets into the half-guard, but Nog works back to full guard. Herring finally gets some offense on the ground, landing some nice hammer fists and avoiding a sweep. Back to standing, and Heath tries a low kick, but Nog catches him with a right and gets the takedown into side mount. Nogueira passes to full mount and begins to tee off with punches, so Herring rolls, and Nogueira takes his back and tries an armbar, but SOMEHOW Heath avoids and ends up in Nog’s guard to end the round.

If this fight keeps this pace through the next two rounds, it’s definitely my pick for best Heavyweight fight I’ve seen so far. And the initials ‘HH’ for Heath Herring ought to stand for ‘Heath Houdini’ judging on the submission escapes he was pulling out there.

Round Two, and they circle to open, before Nogueira lands a good combo. Into the clinch, and Nog gets a double leg into the side mount, where he lands some punches and knees to the body. Nogueira works the position, and gets full mount, but Herring rolls and gives his back. Nog lands a hard knee to the head, and then almost gets the rear naked choke, but Heath rolls back over into the full mount. Herring rolls again as Nog looks to strike, so this time Nogueira gets both hooks in and triangles Heath’s body to prevent him from rolling again. Nog works for a keylock, but Herring tries to roll, so Nog goes for an armbar, only for Heath to escape THAT, and get back to his feet! Holy shit. Heath tries to throw a kick, but Nogueira lands a solid combo, and avoids a takedown, getting Herring’s back, with Heath in the turtle position on the mat. Heath turns and gets into Nogueira’s half-guard, then almost passes to full mount, landing some solid shots in the process. He chooses to stand again, and swings as Nogueira joins him, avoiding a takedown. Round ends with Herring on his back, Nogueira standing over him. GREAT second round to follow the mind-blowing opener.

Final round, and Nogueira counters a kick with a solid right that snaps Heath’s head back. Nog sprawls to avoid a takedown, and lands some knees in the front facelock, before taking his back again. Heath avoids a submission attempt, and gets back to his feet somehow, landing a jumping knee as they exchange, but Nog gets a takedown to the guard, and passes to half-guard quickly. Nog looks for a kimura, passing to side mount to attempt the move, but somehow Herring avoids it. Nogueira then gives it up and gets the full mount, trying for a keylock, but Herring manages to escape *that* too. Nog lands some punches, so Heath gives his back again, and actually lands some good shots from the bottom this time, before reversing into Nogueira’s guard to end the fight. We’re going to the judges, and by unanimous decision, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira becomes the first Pride Heavyweight Champion, as the legendary Antonio Inoki presents him with the title.

This was just an incredible fight from start to finish. Nogueira pretty much dominated from bell to bell, but taking nothing away from Herring – he worked his ass off throughout to avoid Nogueira’s submissions where many would’ve ended up being tapped out. I’d say this is the best Heavyweight fight I’ve ever seen, *just* edging out Nogueira vs Sapp and maybe Couture vs Rizzo from UFC 31. Everything from the submission attempts and reversals, to the exchanges on the feet was outstanding here. Just one of those fights that all MMA fans should see, I think.

Pride Middleweight Title: Wanderlei Silva vs Kazushi Sakuraba

And given the unenviable task of following Nogueira-Herring is the rematch between Silva and Sakuraba. Obviously more was at stake here, being for the Middleweight Title, but really it was about more than the title as Sakuraba was desperate to redeem himself after the beating he took at the hands of Wanderlei the last time they met. Royce Gracie joins us on commentary for this one. HUGE crowd heat during the intros and staredown, too.

Sakuraba immediately counters a kick with a takedown, into Silva’s guard. Silva desperately tries to get up, but Sakuraba keeps him down, and tries to work the position, but Silva uses an upkick to fight back up to his feet, and grabs a front facelock as the crowd go batshit sensing a repeat of their previous fight. Sakuraba gets the clinch, and Silva lands some knees to the legs and body, then throws a flurry of knees to the head, rocking Sakuraba. Saku comes back up and tries the takedown, then clinches again. Back out, and Silva lands a high kick and a hard right, grabbing a headlock to avoid the takedown. Silva lands a hard kick as they come up, but Sakuraba gives his back, so Silva grabs a waistlock. He lets go to avoid any submissions, and Sakuraba then gets a takedown into the guard. He lands some shots in the guard, and keeps working, passing through to the half-guard. Silva gets back to the full guard, and then NEARLY gets an armbar, but Saku manages to avoid. Sakuraba keeps working, and when Silva tries a kneebar, he counters by coming back up and grabbing a guillotine! The choke looks tight, but Silva breaks by landing a HUGE bodyslam right down onto the point of Sakuraba’s shoulder. Into Sakuraba’s guard, and Silva tries to work, and avoids a triangle to end the round.

Sakuraba gets up, and there’s a HUGE lump sticking out of his shoulder, and after checking it over, the fight’s stopped for the injury. Rutten thinks he’s broken his collarbone, but whatever it is, it looks nasty. Replays show that it was most likely caused by the slam from Silva. Inoki presents Wanderlei with the belt, as Sakuraba, with ice strapped to his shoulder at this point, actually APOLOGIZES to the fans for the performance. Damn. Well, who knows how this would’ve turned out without the injury? It was certainly looking like a different fight to their first encounter, and I’d say that Sakuraba was beginning to look more and more comfortable as it went on. It’s a huge, huge pity that it ended the way it did. This couldn’t top Herring-Nogueira, as nothing could, but it was a solid main event nonetheless.

Final Thoughts…

Totally awesome show from Pride, as both title matches lived up to the hype, and everything else on the card outside of the awful Gracie match was solid. It’s a historically important show as it was the first time Pride had crowned champions, and that’d normally be enough for a recommendation, but c’mon…this show has Herring-Nogueira, arguably the best Heavyweight fight there is. Anyone who’s interested in MMA should pick up this show, or at the very least, search out Herring-Nogueira. High recommendation for one of the best Pride shows I’ve ever seen.

Next up? UFC 30, and the further rise of Tito Ortiz. Until then…

Peace

Scott Newman:

OratoryMorningGlory@hotmail.com