MMA Review: #409: PRIDE 2

-No introduction for this one sorry as I legitimately know nothing about this event! I’ve been told it’s somewhat of a bust though so we shall see.

PRIDE 2

03/15/98
Yokahama, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Royler Gracie vs Yuhi Sano

Quick Google search tells me that Sano was a pro-wrestler, so I guess he was following in the footsteps of Nobuhiko Takada in challenging a Gracie, this time the smaller Royler, who like most Gracies at this time was both undefeated and greatly feared. No clue on rounds or timing. Gracie’s giving up 50lbs according to Quadros.

Fight begins and Royler circles while Sano stretches out like he’s prepping to do some bench presses. They go into a collar-and-elbow tie-up of all things before Gracie pulls guard. Sano tries to stand but Royler pulls him right into a butterfly guard using double underhooks. Sick sweep follows and Royler is on top in Sano’s half-guard. Quick pass to full mount follows and methinks Sano might be in trouble. Sano tries a mad attempt at bucking him off and manages to get half-guard for a second before Royler passes back into side mount. Back to full mount and this time Royler stays low to avoid the Japanese fighter bucking him off. Sano uses his size to roll him anyway but Royler goes for a triangle. Sano lifts him up though and shakes him off and we’re back to standing. Sano again goes for the collar-and-elbow tie-up and again Gracie pulls guard. Sano tries to pull out, but Gracie keeps hold of him as Quadros calls Takada the Hulk Hogan of Japan. Ha. Nothing is happening here, dude. Triangle attempt is again avoided by Sano. Couple of sweep attempts are also avoided. This is basically a grappling match as I don’t think either guy has thrown a strike yet. Sweep from Gracie puts him back on top in side mount. Full mount follows again. Then back to side mount. Then back to full mount. Royler gets his right knee onto Sano’s left arm for a while but he doesn’t do anything with it. Sano might be gassed here as he isn’t really moving. Arm triangle choke is right there but Royler doesn’t seem to want to commit to it.

Announcers are now openly complaining about the fight as Royler’s not doing anything from the top and Sano isn’t doing anything from the bottom either. It isn’t Kimo/Severn yet but this does suck. Quadros asks Bas “Is this fight boring?” and Bas is like “Yes, yes it is”. Ha. Fifteen minutes gone already, good lord. Sano finally tries some sort of reversal and almost gets to guard, but Royler passes right away and gets back to side mount. Full mount unsurprisingly follows and we’re right back to square one. Sigh. Couple of strikes land for Royler now though at least. It’s knee-on-belly for Royler now but we’re still no closer to a submission. This is one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen. Reversal from Sano suddenly puts him back into top position, but it’s Royler who lands punches from the bottom as Sano just fucking kneels there. Looks like Sano might be putting himself in a triangle, but Royler doesn’t really go for it as Bas starts cracking jokes about going down on a chick. Upkick lands for Royler and finally pops the crowd. Fight slows down again though as Rickson at ringside looks more intense than either guy in the ring. Some wild shots have Sano’s nose busted up at least. Couple more good shots from Royler and Sano decides to stand out of the guard. After taking some more shots he drops back in, where he takes some more punches. Weird moment as Royler sort of swings off Sano’s arm and then allows him to stand. Ref calls time to get rid of some loose tape on Royler’s glove, and they restart with Royler in the crab position. Sano runs away for a moment and then drops back into the guard. Sweep from Royler and he easily avoids a crap guillotine attempt. Full mount follows and Sano gives his back before rolling back into the full mount. Armbar finally follows and it’s over. Thank God.

Well, that’s half an hour of my life that I’ll never get back. Sano just sucked terribly and did basically nothing outside of the odd reversal, while Royler took waaaay too long and played with his food like a kid trying to avoid eating vegetables or something. Terrible stuff.

Akira Shoji vs Juan Mott

Shoji had gone to a draw with Renzo Gracie at the previous PRIDE show which to be fair was pretty impressive for this time period. Sherdog tells me Mott currently has a record of 3-4. Google tells me via some site rating BJJ instructors that Mott is a “total fraud”. We shall see I guess.

Fight gets started and they circle with Mott throwing out some Gracie-esque short front kicks. Leg kick connects for Mott. Shoji looks pretty chilled, circling around on the outside. Couple more kicks from Mott. Takedown from Shoji and he dumps Mott down and takes full mount. Big punches rain down for Shoji and Mott gives his back. More punches land and then Shoji locks up the choke and forces the tapout.

Total squash but it was a fun one as Shoji was actually a decent fighter before he got really thrown to the wolves a bit later on in his PRIDE run. Mott unsurprisingly wasn’t very good at all.

-Kickboxing match between Ralph White and William van Roosmalen follows. I’m not play-by-playing it because, well, I’m an MMA guy not a kickboxing guy and there just isn’t the comical freakshow aspect to this one that PRIDE 1’s White vs. Cikatic fight had. Fight is alright I guess. Standard kickboxing match as van Roosmalen picks White apart and then puts him away with a knee to the body in the fourth round. Next!

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Vernon White

This was Sakuraba’s first fight in PRIDE (well, duh) and his first one following his UFC tournament win, too. Imagine how different things might be had he stayed with UFC at that point? Anyway, despite a spotty record, I believe Vernon White at this point was still pretty highly respected as one of Ken Shamrock’s top students in the Lion’s Den, so this would’ve been a pretty interesting fight.

Fight begins and Sakuraba lands a nice low kick as White pushes forward. Big left hand from White rocks Sakuraba badly, but he manages to drop for a single leg and gets White onto the ground. Leglock attempt from Sakuraba but he gives up on it and takes side mount instead. Sakuraba’s cauliflower ears are pretty epic even here. Kimura set-up from Sakuraba but White grabs his own hands together to defend. Sakuraba almost twists it up, but White pops free and explodes to his feet. Nice single leg from Sakuraba brings him right back down. White reverses and looks to escape to his feet, but Sakuraba manages to force him back down into half-guard. Pass to full mount follows and it looks like he’s considering an armbar, but he gets too high up and Vernon bucks him off and escapes to his feet. Low single leg from Sakuraba and he gets White down again and takes north/south this time. White regains guard but Sakuraba immediately spins into half-guard. Nice pass to side mount from Sakuraba and he goes after an armbar and turns belly-down. White grimaces and tries to pull his arm free but this looks deep. White stands with Sakuraba hanging off his arm, and somehow he does a tremendous job of escaping and taking Sakuraba’s back! No hooks though and Sakuraba shakes him off and takes side mount. Sakuraba stands over him for a second and then grabs a foot to attempt a possible heel hook, but gives up on it right away to go back to side mount. Knee on belly from Sakuraba but he doesn’t go for full mount for whatever reason. Instead he stands over Vernon and then goes back down after White throws some sharp upkicks. Into side mount for Sakuraba and he appears to be prepping for a kneebar, but he gives that up to look for another armbar. He rolls into it, but White again defends tremendously, escapes into top position and then takes the back. White stands and throws a big kick that Sakuraba ducks under, and seconds later he’s on his back again courtesy of a beautiful takedown to side mount. He looks to be setting up a possible submission, and then steps over to full mount, but the round ends there. Really nice round.

Second round and White clips him with a right hand early on. Action gets a bit slow before Sakuraba shoots in and plants White on his back under side mount again. Action slows down again from there and then Sakuraba easily takes full mount. White looks to roll and Sakuraba goes for the armbar, but he doesn’t have the arm deep enough in and White looks ridiculously calm in there. Sure enough Vernon escapes and takes the back with no hooks. Good punches from White to the side of the head and Sakuraba looks like he might be a bit stuck. White looks to sink the choke, but Sakuraba avoids and hits a reversal to take top position again. White manages to get to guard and it looks like he might be going for a triangle for a second, but Sakuraba avoids and settles into the guard. White pops back to his feet and Sakuraba goes for the single leg again, but a reversal from Vernon allows him to take the back. Sakuraba then goes for what would become his trademark move – the kimura – and drops and rolls for it. White manages to fight it off but Sakuraba gets the arm extended for a second, but somehow Vernon slips free and stands. Sakuraba goes right back to the rolling kimura and they end up twisted up on the mat like a pretzel. Another reversal from White though sees him take the back again. This time he gets one hook in, and he tries a choke. Sakuraba avoids though and gets back on top in guard. Into side mount for Sakuraba and Vernon rolls and gives his back, and Sakuraba looks to attack the arm again. Vernon avoids that and takes the back again, where he lands a couple of punches with no hooks. Reversal from Sakuraba and he pretty much crawls his way into a takedown attempt, but White prevents it with almost a neck crank attempt with the head trapped down and both hands locked around Saku’s arms. He gives it up for some reason though to drop some knees to the body from a front facelock. Sakuraba pops back up, but White has his back. Again Sakuraba goes for the kimura, but this time Vernon spins out and we’re back to standing. Beautiful takedown from Sakuraba and he gets into half-guard. Full mount follows. Few punches connect for Sakuraba but Vernon slides out the back door and escapes, taking the back once again. Sakuraba grabs the right ankle to pull him over, but the bell sounds there. This is actually a really good fight.

Third round and they exchange some kicks early on. Hard body kicks are blocked by both men. Sweet single leg from Sakuraba plants White on his back. Sakuraba had a ridiculously fast shot at this point. He stands over the guard of Vernon and looks to pass, getting into half-guard. Into side mount for Sakuraba and he waits for a moment before stepping over to full mount. Good punches from Sakuraba and White covers up. Looks like Sakuraba’s setting up for an armbar as his legs are really high on White’s chest. Armbar attempt as White bucks, but Sakuraba can’t quite lock it up and Vernon escapes nicely and takes the back with no hooks again. Sakuraba locks up the kimura again and rolls for it, but again White shows tremendous defensive skills to avoid. Couple of hammer fists land for White but he still doesn’t bother with the hooks. Face crank attempt from White is easily avoided by Sakuraba and he manages to roll Vernon over when he tries for the hooks, taking north/south in the process. Scramble from White but Sakuraba goes for a kimura and then turns it into an armbar as White rolls. Looks like it might be deep this time, too. He rolls again, but Sakuraba straightens out the arm to force the tapout. Nice.

Super-long fight but I actually enjoyed it a ton as it was great to see really early Sakuraba before he was ruined by fighting giant guys, and yeah, he showed absolutely tremendous skills that were way ahead of his time more than anything, with a super-fast shot, incredible grappling skills and total serenity whenever he was put into a bad position. White put up a good fight too and it made for a great technical grappling match.

Renzo Gracie vs Sanae Kikuta

We all know about Renzo of course and he was coming off his draw with Akira Shoji on the first PRIDE show here. Kikuta meanwhile had fought in some promotion called the Lumax Cup, with his lone loss coming in the Vale Tudo Japan tournament in 1996. No idea on rounds or time limits but as it’s a Gracie fight it’s bound to be a bit strange I’m sure.

We get underway and Kikuta bulls into the clinch, but Gracie works for a trip right away and forces him into the corner of the ring. Takedown from Renzo into Kikuta’s guard. Kikuta ties him up right away and nothing happens until he gets an escape to his feet. Renzo charges forward and Kikuta looks panicky and quickly grabs a clinch. Knees to the body connect for Gracie, but Kikuta tries a trip and gets it in a nice move, landing in Renzo’s half-guard. Renzo gets back to full guard and we slow down to a crawl as they lay in the guard for AGES. You know, I get the idea of the Gracie system of BJJ and self-defense and what-not and I respect it, but damnit it has no place on an MMA show. It was fun to see Royce tap dudes in the UFC because those guys stunk, but in these early PRIDE shows the Japanese guys at least knew enough to avoid rudimentary submissions and we end up with THIS RUBBISH. For fucking hours on end. Round One ends there. Quadros helpfully tells us this but doesn’t tell us how many rounds this is going for.

Second round and Kikuta throws some punches out but they look really amateurish, like he’s just started training. Excellent left hand by Gracie and Kikuta clinches, but Renzo quickly forces him into the corner of the ring. Kikuta blocks the takedown and they muscle for position with the Japanese fighter defending a trip. Knees land inside for Gracie. They break off but it’s only brief as Renzo clinches again and we’re back to Kikuta defending trips. Takedown from Kikuta puts him into Renzo’s guard as the ring announcer kindly tells us there’s five minutes to go in the round. Very little happens from the guard, unsurprisingly, as Kikuta’s got enough of a base not to be simply armbarred but not enough skill to actually do anything offensively. Finally Kikuta decides to stand free of the guard, leaving Renzo in the butt-scoot position. Ref ought to call Renzo up but he doesn’t and so Kikuta dives back into the guard, horrifying Quadros. Man, how Quadros and Bas sat through these shows without losing the will to live I do not know. More nothingness from the guard follows until the round ends. This sucks.

Third round and Kikuta sprints out into a clinch and trips Renzo down into the guard. Odds on the whole round being Renzo tapping him with rabbit punches from the bottom while Kikuta lays there seem pretty high. Next time someone says like, Ben Askren is boring, show them a fight like this. Bas says he’s speechless but what the fuck would there be to say? The announcers are the best part of this fight as they’re just openly ragging on Kikuta’s gameplan, or lack of one. And this goes on FOREVER until Kikuta somehow slips into half-guard and then decides to stand over him. Gracie won’t get up and so Kikuta dives back into the guard. Sigh. He passes into half-guard as Bas tells us this has been going now for almost 30 minutes, causing me to shudder. Gracie regains full guard and Kikuta lays there. Bas and Quadros now debate the point of these types of fights, saying it isn’t entertaining and hell, it’s not really sport either. Another painful round in the books.

Fourth round and Bas is asking Quadros how many rounds this is, almost pleading with his voice for Stephen to say just four. But it’s actually UNLIMITED ROUNDS. Takedown attempt from Renzo is blocked and we’re back into a clinch. Trip takedown from Kikuta and he actually lands a punch, stunning Quadros. But unfortunately it’s pretty much all he does as we’re back to laying in the guard. I think the shots of Rickson at ringside might be more exciting than this fight. I feel dirty typing this because I love Renzo and the guy is a legend but this is absolutely one of the worst fights I’ve ever seen. Quadros mentions that the fight would be far better if it didn’t have these unlimited rounds. Ref calls a stand-up which is odd, but apparently Kikuta got hit with some sort of illegal punch. They restart standing and maybe that was the ref’s idea? Good leg kick from Kikuta as they throw out some crude strikes to end the round.

Fifth round and Kikuta bulls into the clinch and we start just like the other rounds. This time though Renzo manages to work into a standing guillotine choke, but it doesn’t look like he can get the tap from it or anything. He pulls guard though and evidently thinks he’s got it, but Kikuta manages to get his head free for some ground-and-pound. Oh, wait, I got that wrong. He gets his head free to allow him to LAY THERE DOING NOTHING. Which goes on for the WHOLE TEN MINUTE ROUND. Fuck this nonsense.

SIXTH ROUND and this fight is pushing a fucking HOUR, dude. Seriously. Bas is just fucking sick of this by this stage and rightfully so. Fight gets stopped before anything happens to fix Kikuta’s glove. They restart and Kikuta charges in for a takedown, but Renzo grabs a guillotine. He pulls guard and this time it looks deeper, and KIKUTA FUCKING TAPS TO SAVE US ALL. Quadros and Bas are both like THANK GOD after the fight.

Another one of the worst fights of all time then; somehow this was WORSE than Royler vs. Sano from earlier in the show. I don’t think I ever want to watch another non-Rickson Gracie vs. a non-Sakuraba Japanese fighter EVER AGAIN. Now I know why I was told to avoid these early PRIDE shows!

-Another kickboxing match follows and it’s Tasis Petridis vs. George Randolph. For those who care, Petridis wins a decision. I however don’t care so I’m skipping it entirely.

Marco Ruas vs Gary Goodridge

Goodridge’s previous fight had seen him KO Oleg Taktarov in absolutely criminal fashion; one of the most horrific knockouts I’ve ever seen, while Ruas was making his Japanese debut after winning the UFC 7 tournament and then beating up some other early UFC veterans (Steve Jennum, Pat Smith) elsewhere. I love Ruas and he’s one of my favourite early MMA pioneers, so hopefully this will be fun.

Fight begins and Goodridge swings some heavy leather that Ruas manages to avoid. Takedown attempt from Ruas but Goodridge stuffs it and hits him with a knee to the body to break off. Roundhouse kick and spinning backfist miss for Ruas. Takedown is blocked aain by Goodridge. Leg kick glances for Ruas and Goodridge narrowly misses a right hand sledgehammer. Goodridge has no form on his punches at all but holy shit they’re powerful. Takedown attempt from Ruas basically out of desperation to avoid the haymakers, but Goodridge manages to get on top in half-guard. Ruas looks badly cut over his left eye. Big shots connect for Goodridge from the top and Ruas looks stunned. He manages to get to full guard but man Goodridge throws with some force. Action slows down a bit as Goodridge looks tired, but he does at least try to pass the guard, working into half-guard. Ruas to his credit has remained super-calm in the face of this storm from Goodridge. Gary finally decides to stand out of the guard and we restart on the feet. Ruas circles as Goodridge stalks forward, then corners Ruas with some punches, but as he rushes in his leg buckles and he slips, allowing Ruas to land a right hand and force him into the ropes. BRUTE STRENGTH from Goodridge allows him to throw Ruas to the ground, but Ruas right away goes for a heel hook and after a bit of a struggle he locks it up for the tapout.

Fun fight that wouldn’t have looked out of place in like UFC 8 and probably would’ve been one of the better fights on a card like that, too. Post-fight a young Pedro Rizzo celebrates with Ruas. Fun enough, no complaints from me here as they actually came out and fought!

Mark Kerr vs Branko Cikatic

From what I know, at this point Kerr was like the most feared man in MMA as he’d smashed up everyone he’d faced to this point, winning two UFC tournaments as well as a Vale Tudo tournament in Brazil, and his blend of brute strength, great wrestling skill and developing striking was pretty much unheard of at this point, like an evolved Mark Coleman pretty much. Cikatic for those who have forgotten was a legendarily dirty kickboxer who had landed a soccer kick and caused Ralph White to have an alien grow from his head on the first PRIDE show. Not sure how this ended up as a main event but I guess Kerr was like a marquee signing for PRIDE or something.

Ring introductions show BAS RUTTEN in Kerr’s corner. So Quadros is going solo I guess. They begin…and yet Bas is commentating? Shit, that means these poor guys had to watch this show TAPED and commentate over the two Gracie matches? Kerr is roided out of his fucking mind here. They circle with no strikes thrown and Kerr shoots, but Branko fires some shots at the back of the head while gripping the ropes. Tons of referees rush in to break this up and Cikatic WON’T LET GO OF THE ROPES. They pull him off and restart and Kerr looks fucking FUMING. ROID RAGE!~! They restart and Kerr shoots again, and once again Branko grabs the ropes and begins to drop VERTICAL ELBOWS TO KERR’S SPINE. Holy fuck this guy is dirty. Refs pour in but this time Kerr’s had enough and begins to land punches to Branko too. Three guys have to pull Kerr away. This is totally out of control. Bell sounds and the fight’s thrown out. Wild stuff. Total pro-wrestling. And it’s beyond hilarious to hear Bas commentating on this while he’s also in the ring with Kerr! Decision is finally made to disqualify Branko for the second time in two shows, and they bury the hatchet and HUG IT OUT. Audience are furious. And the show ends there.

Final Thoughts….

Even for 1998 standards this was a terrible, terrible show. Sakuraba vs. White was fun enough and Goodridge vs. Ruas was decent too, but they were offset by a totally useless main event that descended into chaos and two of the worst fights I’ve ever seen in Gracie vs. Sano and Gracie vs. Kikuta. Now I understand why I was told to just start with PRIDE 10 and move on from there. Hopefully PRIDE 3 will be better but I’m not exactly getting my hopes up. High recommendation to avoid.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. White
Worst Fight: Gracie vs. Kikuta

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com