MMA Review: #16: Pride 14: Clash Of The Titans Jun05

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MMA Review: #16: Pride 14: Clash Of The Titans

Hey hey.

Welcome to another Pride review, as this time I’m taking a look at the second show of 2001, Pride 14: Clash Of The Titans. This card was headed up by a clash between Japanese pro-wrestlers Kazuyuki Fujita and Yoshihiro Takayama, but the rest of the card saw some extremely interesting matches, including the UFC invading Pride in the form of Chuck Liddell, who would face Guy Mezger. Also, Vitor Belfort would step up in terms of weight, and face off with the ever-dangerous Heath Herring.

Pride 14: Clash Of The Titans

05/27/01

Saitama, Japan

We open with a weird intro, as Pride ring announcer Kei Grant, whose face appears in a large sphere in the ring, introduces the fighters. Once the intro is over, the sphere explodes. Honestly, the production values of this company are HUGE. Your hosts, as usual, are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Wanderlei Silva vs Shungo Oyama

This was Silva’s follow-up to his massacre of Kazushi Sakuraba, so naturally he’s the overwhelming favourite going into this one. MAD staredown between the two fighters as the referee explains the rules.

They circle to begin, with Oyama trying a spin kick as Silva tries a low kick, with both missing. They trade wildly, before Oyama NAILS him with a straight right, sending him falling forwards! Silva grabs a single leg as he staggers, and comes up with a BIG LEFT AND RIGHT, rocking Oyama, who decides to run away, causing the referee to come in for the stoppage. Fans boo the stoppage, as it could be argued that it was premature, but hey, Oyama was running, and as Stephen Quadros said, “The fans don’t pay his medical bills”. Another good performance from Silva, outside of him being rocked early, which seems to be a staple of his early Pride fights.

Nino ‘Elvis’ Schembri vs Johil De Olivera

‘Elvis’ comes out in full Presley regalia, with the huge sideburns and strange white suit. He’s a Jiu-Jitsu wizard, according to the announcers.

Elvis shoots in to open, and De Olivera avoids. Elvis tries to get him into the guard by going to his back, but De Olivera’s having none of it, and remains standing. Elvis comes back up, and shoots again, with the same result as De Olivera easily avoids. Elvis backs off in the stand-up, clearly not accustomed to stand-up fighting, before shooting in again. De Olivera blocks once more, and this time gets a good body shot in. They exchange a few kicks, before Elvis finally gets the takedown, into the half-guard. Elvis works to get the mount, and lands a couple of shots before De Olivera goes for an ankle lock. Elvis brings the fight back to standing, and immediately gets another takedown, back to the half-guard. Elvis works to pass the guard again, and moves into side mount, where he continues to work for position. Elvis stands to attempt to get the mount, but De Olivera lands an up kick and gets back to guard. However, this time Elvis passes through to the mount, and from that position, he locks on a textbook armbar for the tapout. This was pretty good, mainly a submission wrestling match with very few strikes. Elvis seemed a lot more comfortable on the ground than on his feet, so he took the fight to where he was more comfortable and finished. Smart fight from him.

Gary Goodridge vs Valentijn Overeem

Overeem is another Dutch fighter out of the Golden Glory camp. Goodridge looks in great shape here, as the announcers proclaim that they don’t think this one will last long.

Overeem comes out with some low kicks, as Goodridge presses. Overeem shoots, but Goodridge blocks the takedown and lands some knees to the head. Overeem goes onto his back, and Goodridge enters his guard where he muscles him around on the mat. Overeem blocks the shots that Big Daddy drops, and then tries for a kimura, but obviously it doesn’t work – Goodridge is a world champion arm-wrestler! Goodridge powers out of the attempt, and then gives Overeem a BIG KNEE, before hammering with shots as Overeem taps out to the strikes. Well, as advertised, that was short, and quite a nasty beating for Valentijn.

Jose ‘Pele’ Landi-Jons vs Daijiro Matsui

Pele was fighting with Wanderlei Silva’s Chute Boxe Academy at this point, and was one of their most decorated Vale Tudo fighters, being mainly known for his vicious Thai boxing style. Matsui has a bad record, but from what I’ve seen, he does put on some exciting fights, and is generally one of the better imports from Japanese pro-wrestling.

Pele presses to open the fight, trying a couple of his flying knees, but Matsui avoids. Pele swings, and Matsui ducks, but Pele then meets him with a HUGE LEAPING KNEE THAT SNAPS HIS HEAD BACK!~! Holy fuck, he’s gotta be out, but no, he’s down on all fours, but still moving. Pele drops some shots onto the back of his head, but Matsui crawls towards him. Pele takes his back, getting both hooks in, and goes for the rear naked choke. Pele keeps trying for the choke, looking really persistent, but after a struggle, Matsui escapes. Pele then goes for an armbar, but Matsui lifts him up and SLAMS HIM DOWN! Pele keeps hold of the arm, so Matsui lands some knees to the head and then spikes him down with another slam. Still, Pele looks to have the armbar synched in, but Matsui shows tremendous heart and manages to escape. Pele goes back to trying the choke, taking his back and getting the hooks in once more, but this time he gets a couple of strikes in too. Matsui then stands with Pele on his back, and RAMS HIS HEAD INTO THE CORNER! God, this fight is mental. Pele has his legs triangled around Matsui’s body though, making it very difficult for Matsui to actually get him off his back. They get moved away from the ropes, and Pele then strikes Matsui on the back of the head, and elbows his spine. That’s an illegal blow in Pride, so they quickly get separated, and Matsui has some time out, as Pele gets the yellow card.

They restart, and Matsui gets a high kick, then tries a DROPKICK (!) that misses. Who does he think he is, Randy Orton? Pele looks really disgusted with the move, and tries a combo which Matsui blocks. Pele gets a good kick as Matsui shoots in, but Matsui keeps going and gets the takedown into the full guard. He works in the guard, raining down some hard shots onto Pele, and continues this for a while, slamming Pele’s head down into the mat. Ha, never seen anyone do that before. Matsui continues the ground and pound, getting some hard shots in, to end the round. Total surprise here as Matsui controlled the first round, and even though Pele got some good stuff in early, Matsui finished it out nicely.

Matsui comes out for Round 2 with a side kick, and Pele answers that with a low kick. Matsui tries another dropkick that Pele easily avoids again, and Pele comes in with some kicks to the legs while Matsui’s down. Pele tries a leaping stomp, but Matsui blocks, and Pele enters his guard, before standing and getting some more leg kicks. Matsui gets up, and Pele hits a good combo and a knee to the head. Matsui avoids a high kick, and counters another kick into a single leg takedown, into the guard. Matsui continues where he left off the first round with some ground and pound, and tries to work to pass the guard, but Pele preps a triangle choke, causing Matsui to lower down slightly and go back to the ground and pound. Matsui passes to side mount, and Pele tries to escape, but Matsui then passes to the full mount! Pele fights up to his feet before Matsui can do any damage, and then HE gets a takedown into side control, but Matsui reverses over to the half-guard! Whoa! Matsui uses some shoulder strikes to end the round.

Really entertaining fight so far. They both press to open the final round, and Matsui tries a variation of what looks like Chris Jericho’s running enziguiri (!), but Pele deflects the blow well. Matsui tries a kick, but Pele grabs his leg and sweeps him down. He gets some kicks to the legs, and then jumps into the guard, getting some shots in. Pele keeps working in the guard, getting some decent shots, before he decides to stand. Both men up, and Pele gets some low kicks and a hard right hand. Matsui shoots, Pele sprawls, and Matsui goes onto his back to avoid the knee to the head. Pele goes back into Matsui’s guard, where he gets some more shots in, before standing and getting some leg kicks, and a stomp. Matsui tries a single leg, and then gets a double leg, but as he goes for the takedown Pele sweeps him over onto all fours. Matsui quickly goes to his back to avoid the knees, and Pele gets another leg kick before entering the guard. Pele works in the position, but Matsui answers with some up kicks. Pele stands and tries a stomp, but Matsui gets another takedown to end the fight.

We go to the judges…and it’s Matsui! This was a huge upset at the time, as Pele was a widely renowned fighter, and Matsui wasn’t very highly thought of. However, he put on a great performance to spoil Pele’s Pride debut, nullifying the Brazilian’s striking, controlling the ground work for the most part, and using some very unorthodox offense, so he certainly deserved the win. Hella entertaining fight, too.

Guy Mezger vs Chuck Liddell

This was Liddell’s Pride debut, thanks to an agreement between Pride and the UFC, and Liddell was coming off a KO of Kevin Randleman going into this fight. Guy Mezger was also on a hot run at this point, having KOd Alexander Otuska and Egan Inoue, as well as putting on a great fight with Wanderlei Silva. All signs pointed to an exciting fight from these two.

Liddell comes out with a combo, as both men tentatively exchange some kicks and punches. Mezger gets a good high kick, and they clinch, where Chuck muscles him into the corner. The announcers mention that according to reports, Tito Ortiz has a ton of trouble with Liddell in training, struggling to take him down. A bit of foresight there? They come out of the clinch, and exchange, then back away from one another. Back in close, and Mezger gets a good left hook. They exchange from distance, and Guy continues to work the left hook. Mezger begins to really get the better of the exchange, landing a sweet high kick, as his confidence appears to be growing. Mezger presses the fight more, landing a good combo. They trade, and Liddell begins to throw some bombs, but none really connect. They continue the exchange, and Mezger clinches to avoid a huge shot from Chuck. Liddell gets a good right in the clinch, before they come back out, where they circle, and Mezger gets a HUGE OVERHAND RIGHT and drops him!! Liddell comes up quickly, but Mezger follows in, landing a BIG HIGH KICK and a good left. Liddell’s clearly rocked, and he clinches, before trying a takedown, which Mezger avoids. They come out, and touch gloves, before circling to close out the round.

Some great stand-up work in the first, most notably from Mezger who seemed more confident, and more comfortable with the striking. They come out for Round 2, and Liddell immediately presses the action, getting a good overhand right, then he OPENS UP WITH THE COMBO and batters Mezger, nailing him with a hard uppercut that PUTS GUY TO SLEEP!~! Good lord, that’s one of the best KOs I’ve ever seen, just a total ‘highlight reel’ moment as Mezger was legitimately out cold, complete with his left leg folded underneath his body. Liddell took a round to get going, but when he’s on, Chuck is ON, and Mezger felt his power here. Another great fight on an awesome card so far.

Dan Henderson vs Akira Shoji

Shoji’s another convert from pro-wrestling, and he’s another one with tremendous heart and puts on some exciting fights. I’m a HUGE fan of Dan Henderson, as I’m more impressed with every fight I see him involved in. Wait until I get round to reviewing his clash with Nogueira’

They trade to open, and Shoji catches him with a hard shot that puts Henderson down! Henderson tries an up kick, but Shoji quickly comes down with some good punches as Henderson tries to block and gets guard. Shoji works inside the guard but can’t do much, before he decides to stand, and gets some leg kicks. The official stands Henderson, and he looks for the big shot, getting some solid rights and a biiig left hook to rock Shoji. Shoji tries a takedown, but Henderson sprawls and NAILS him with a huge knee to the head, putting Shoji on his back where Henderson drops a nasty right down onto him. Henderson backs off, and waves Shoji up, before rocking him with some more right hands when he does. After some vicious shots, Shoji falls backwards, and Henderson gets the full mount. Shoji tries to buck him off, but Henderson decides to go back to standing, and nails him with some more good punches when Shoji joins him. Henderson sprawls to the front facelock to avoid a takedown, and gets another good knee in the face, before they come back up and Hendo hits him with some knees in the clinch. Henderson continues to work the clinch, then they separate and Henderson presses with some low kicks and a solid uppercut. Shoji’s face is a MESS at this point. Henderson keeps landing the strikes, until Shoji gets a takedown into the guard. He tries to work the guard, but doesn’t really get any good shots in. Shoji stands, and Henderson gets a couple of up kicks to end the round.

Henderson comes out for the 2nd chopping away with the right, and Shoji goes down with Henderson going into his guard. Henderson lands some good punches in the guard, working the position, before the official stands them after a while and books Shoji for stalling. Henderson attacks with a punch/knee combo, and a good left hook, before they clinch. Shoji tries a takedown, but Henderson shows his wrestling skill and reverses, ending up in the mount. Henderson gets some good shots in, trapping the arms so Shoji can’t cover his face, and really nails him with some hard punches. Shoji tries to buck off, but can’t, and the round comes to a close with Henderson working the mount. This is really becoming a serious beatdown now.

They’re out for the 3rd, and Henderson presses with a combo, before getting a takedown into the mount, but Shoji skilfully elevates him over and off! However, Henderson catches him again with a hard knee, a punch, and some more knees in the Muay Thai clinch. Shoji grabs underhooks, but Henderson comes out with a knee to the head, hard right, and then another HUGE knee that puts Shoji on the canvas. Henderson begins to celebrate, thinking it’s over, but the official doesn’t stop the match. Henderson reluctantly goes into the half-guard, clearly not wanting to really beat Shoji much further, and gets some elbows to the body and knees and punches to the head. Henderson passes to side control, and begins to really smash him with knees and punches, before FINALLY the referee steps in for the stoppage. Pretty one sided after the dodgy beginning for Henderson, as the fight slowly became a big time beating, with Shoji taking some nasty shots until the official was forced to stop it. Another good performance from Henderson, too.

Heath Herring vs Vitor Belfort

Some interesting rule changes here, as due to the weight difference (Herring has about 30lbs on Belfort) knees and kicks to the head when the fighter is in a downed position are outlawed. Herring Hair Update – he’s gone for black wedges shaved into the head, with red diamonds in the center, and huge sideburns. Cool, as always.

Herring comes out immediately with a kick, which Vitor catches and counters into the takedown. Into Herring’s guard, and Heath tries to hold him, then tries to escape, but Vitor counters into an attempted guillotine. Herring pops out of the submission attempt and into Belfort’s guard, where he works the position and moves into side control. Vitor gives his back, and Herring gets some knees to the body and some punches. Belfort goes to all fours, so Herring reaches around from behind, hitting him with some punches to the head. Heath continues this for a bit until Belfort pulls guard. Herring begins to work the guard with some strikes, but Belfort suddenly turns him over into the full mount! Herring rolls onto his front, giving Vitor his back. Belfort goes for the choke, but Herring stands with Belfort on his back, and tumbles him over onto the mat before he gets the hooks in. Heath stands, and waves Belfort up, before hitting a big front kick! Herring goes down into the side mount, with Vitor on all fours, but he can’t use the knees, so he takes Belfort’s back and tries the choke. Belfort reverses, rolling out into the 69 position, and holds him down. Herring gets up, and into Belfort’s guard, where Belfort moves his hips up for a submission, but Herring works the guard and gets him into the side mount with Vitor on all fours to end the round.

Competitive round, with both guys working the position and neither getting any real damage in. Herring seemed to control for the most part, though. Herring presses to open the second round, and hits a BIG KNEE that Belfort simply takes, before getting a takedown. Herring muscles his way back up, and when Belfort tries again, Heath grabs the ropes to prevent it. The official shows him the yellow card for that, and they restart with Herring trying a low kick. Herring sprawls to avoid a takedown attempt, and tries some more kicks. He blocks a takedown, and ends up on top in Belfort’s half-guard. Vitor quickly gets it back to full guard. Herring holds him down and gets some shots in, trying to pass the guard as Vitor goes for an armbar. Herring avoids and stands, before getting a takedown into a very open guard from Belfort. Herring takes his back, but chooses to stand again, before ducking a punch and getting another takedown into the guard, where the round ends.

Herring opens the final round with a good low kick and a HARD high kick, but Belfort sucks it in and gets a takedown into side control. Herring tries to roll him off, and gives his back, before trying to roll for a kneebar. Belfort blocks, and ends up in side mount again. Vitor takes his back and gets one hook in, but Herring turns and goes into Belfort’s guard. Herring works the body in the guard, and continues until the fight ends. We go to the judges, where Belfort earns the unanimous decision? I honestly thought Herring had that one won, he controlled the fight for the most part, and seemed to get the better shots in standing, too. Maybe the judges were allowing for the weight difference? I don’t know.

Gilbert Yvel vs Igor Vovchanchyn

Both guys are heavy strikers, so everyone seems to be expecting a stand-up war for this one. Yvel comes out and tries some kicks, as both men seem a little reluctant to really engage early. Finally Yvel tries a flying knee, but Igor blocks and gets the takedown into the side mount. Yvel looks really panicked, as Vovchanchyn works for position, and easily gets into the mount. Igor tries a side choke, so Yvel rolls onto his stomach to block. Vovchanchyn then grabs him in a rear naked choke, keeping the position on top of Yvel (like a camel clutch) rather than rolling, and Yvel quickly taps out. Very fast fight, and the announcers seem uber-impressed that Vovchanchyn took the fight to the ground rather than stand with Yvel. Yvel’s ground work looked horrible here, as he was clearly clueless as to what to do when Vovchanchyn took him down. His ground work looked pretty bad against Fujita, too’.I’d say proving that primarily one-dimensional fighters can’t really do that well in MMA at this point.

Kazuyuki Fujita vs Yoshihiro Takayama

Both of these guys have come from Japanese pro-wrestling, but Fujita had proven his calibre in MMA by the time of this show, haven beaten guys like Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr. From what I’ve seen of him, he’s a great wrestler who can take a hell of a hit. By contrast, this was Takayama’s MMA debut. Mark Coleman joins us on guest commentary for this main event.

Takayama TOWERS over Fujita during the staredown, but looks horribly out of shape when compared to Kazuyuki. He comes out with some crude strikes, but Fujita immediately takes him down. Takayama works to get back up, and they go into a basic test of strength, with Takayama trying to get up while Fujita tries to keep him down. Eventually Takayama fights back up, with both guys in a front facelock. Back up, and Fujita works for a single leg, but then comes back out. Fujita shoots in, but Takayama gets a good sprawl to avoid. They clinch, and Fujita uses some Couture-style ‘dirty boxing’, nailing Takayama with some hard uppercuts. Quadros mentions that this match in Japan would be the equivalent of WCW’s Goldberg taking on WWF’s Triple H in the UFC in a shoot match. Personally, I think that shows the difference between the Japanese and US pro-wrestling scene more than anything else. Anyway…Fujita keeps working the clinch, before Takayama comes back with some hard knees to the midsection. They break off, and WILDLY TRADE, before clinching back up again where Takayama works the body with some more knees. Fujita comes back with some more uppercuts, then pulls Takayama down into the front facelock, and hits him with some knees to the head. Takayama gets back to standing, and hits Fujita with some more knees to the body, but Fujita follows with the takedown ad nails him with some BRUTAL KNEES in the side mount. Takayama crosses his legs, to attempt to prevent the mount, so Fujita just pounds away in the half-guard, getting some REALLY hard shots before the round ends.

We begin Round 2, and Takayama throws some more crude strikes to open, but Fujita counters with some better shots, rocking him. Fujita gets a waistlock, and uses it for the takedown, hitting him with some nasty knees in the 69 position. More knees, and Takayama sits up, so Fujita moves to the front facelock. Takayama fights back up, but Fujita gets a sweeping takedown into the full mount, where he locks on a tight side choke, and rather than tap, Takayama passes out to award the fight to Fujita. Well’.this was definitely entertaining, and I guess that’s one of the primary points in MMA. In all honesty though, Takayama showed a ton of heart, but not much skill. I know the Japanese love that, but I’d personally rather see someone uber-skilled than a Takayama type. That’s not a slight on the fight though, as while it wasn’t technically amazing, it was hard-hitting and entertaining throughout.

Final Thoughts…

Without a doubt, I’d consider this to be one of the strongest MMA shows I’ve seen, and that’s counting both Pride and UFC. While there’s no fight I’d consider one of the very best I’ve seen on this show, everything is entertaining throughout, and there’s no boring fight. Pele vs Matsui and Liddell vs Mezger are both really strong fights, with good performances from all four men, and Henderson’s beatdown of Shoji is one of the most brutal I’ve seen so far. Belfort vs Herring is a back-and-forth match, and the weight difference, as well as the questionable decision (IMO) make for a really interesting fight. And the main event, while not technically great, is brutal and entertaining. So yeah, high recommendation for Pride 14, a card that entertains from start to finish.

Next up, either Pride 15: Raging Rumble, which features the debut of two of today’s most prominent fighters in Pride, or a short stop-off with the UFC in the form of UFC 22: Only One Can Be Champion, and the incredible Tito Ortiz-Frank Shamrock fight. Which will it be? Wait a few days and find out.

Peace

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com