MMA Review: #412: PRIDE 3

-Again this is another card I know next to nothing about, although checking the wiki tells me it has Sakuraba vs. Newton which is meant to be a classic and NO GRACIES VS. JAPAN! Word.

PRIDE 3

06/24/98
Tokyo, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Daijiro Matsui vs Akira Shoji

This was of course prior to both guys gaining reputations as the stereotypical Japanese Tomato Can for their later fights against the likes of Murilo Ninja and the ilk. Quadros tells us Matsui is out of the same camp as Sakuraba which means he might be another pro-wrestler who can actually fight.

Fight begins and I suddenly realize that Matsui here looks like a Japanese Anthony Pettis in the face. Takedown attempt fails for Matsui and Shoji clocks him with a left, forcing him to shoot again. Shoji stuffs it and grabs a front headlock as suddenly I’m struggling to take Bas seriously. I had his Lethal Street Fighting stuff on Youtube at the weekend with my buddies, see. YOU try taking Bas seriously after hearing BANG BANG BANG, never underestimate the kick to the groin. Oh, the fight. They trade off with some strikes and go to the ground where Shoji gets the back and lands some punches. Matsui stands and ends up leaning out of the ring, taking more punches as Quadros mixes the two up. I guess the Japanese DO look alike, in a nice world where no political correctness exists. Anyway the ref brings them back in and they circle out before Matsui shoots again. Shoji hits a super-quick sprawl and takes top position in side mount. Little happens though and Matsui scrambles to his feet. Another takedown attempt follows but again Shoji sprawls and grabs a front facelock. Knee connects to the shoulder for Shoji. He also appears to be chin-butting the back, which is odd as fuck. Back to the feet and Shoji lands a knee and then trips him right back down into half-guard. Beautiful transition from Shoji allows him to take the back but he’s too high and Matsui shakes him off. Shoji’s first up though and he lands a pair of soccer kicks to the body as Matsui tries to grab an ankle. Shoji decides to let him back up and they circle before clinching and Shoji gets another takedown into guard. Couple of punches to the body from Shoji but the action’s definitely slowed up now. Man I wish PRIDE would’ve had a clock on screen for these shows so you can tell how long is left. Upkick from Matsui and he escapes to his feet. They look gassed now too. Round ends as Matsui fails on a takedown.

Second round begins with a takedown to guard from Shoji. Little action from there so Shoji stands over him and leaves Matsui down in the crab position. Matsui jumps up and we’re back to standing. Bas and Quadros are treating this like an amazing fight but I dunno, it kind of sucks. I guess their standards dropped after PRIDE 2 and those Gracie horror shows. Takedown attempt from Matsui is stuffed and Shoji takes the back, but doesn’t have hooks in. Matsui does a tremendous job of spinning over and he winds up on top in Shoji’s guard. But a right hand. Quadros is marking so badly for this. I think someone’s paying him extra. Takedown attempt from Matsui is again stuffed and Shoji takes the back once more. Nothing happens from there as Matsui traps Shoji’s arm. Shoji works the right arm free to drop some punches, but they don’t seem to have much effect. Matsui spins over to guard and eats some flush punches as Shoji passes into mount. Bas sounds like he’s saying Shoji should be “kneeing the cat”, but I’m unsure what he’s meaning to say. Matsui gets half-guard back and the action slows up. Reversal from Matsui and he goes for a takedown of his own, but Shoji of course blocks it and gets a front facelock. Matsui manages to work up to his feet but ends up in the same spot again as Shoji sprawls. Round ends there.

Matsui’s corner seems to be letting him drink from a garden hose between rounds, which is odd even for PRIDE. He has a funnel of some kind at least. Third round is delayed as the ref wipes Matsui with a towel. They finally get going with a trade of punches for a moment. Neither man cleanly lands. They circle for a while before another trade leads to a Shoji takedown into full guard. Very little happens from there before Matsui muscles Shoji off as he tries to pass the guard. I just don’t get why Bas and Quadros are creaming over this stuff. Back to the feet and it’s BACK TO CIRCLING. These guys cannot punch for the life of them as they exchange some awful-looking stuff. To be fair Shoji has power though as he stuns Matsui with a crude right hook. Matsui rushes him though and tackles him to the ground in guard. Guillotine attempt by Shoji but it doesn’t look tight to me. Matsui pops his head free seconds later. Action slows down before a scramble sees them leap up, and Shoji throws a flurry that largely misses. Matsui goes down anyway and Shoji stands over him posturing. Matsui shoots again but Shoji grabs the front facelock off a sprawl as Bas advises him to knee the shoulder. Better than kneeing the cat, dude. They come back to their feet and Matsui shoots but Shoji once again sprawls, takes the back and this time he slaps both hooks in. He makes the error of crossing his feet though and Matsui tries for that footlock variant that Joe Rogan goes on about so often. Round ends in that position.

Fourth round of how many I don’t know. Ah, Bas says it’s one extra round. Well, lucky us! Head kick (!) misses for Matsui. Shoji blocks another takedown attempt and grabs the front facelock, then lets Matsui stand. Announcers are coming to the conclusion that this is definitely going to a draw. Brief, crap punching exchange breaks up the circling for a moment. Baseball slide for some reason from Matsui and he ends up in the crab while a confused Shoji stands over him. Back to the feet and Shoji clocks him with some crude power punches, then sprawls to defend the takedown. Back to the feet and Shoji lands with a flurry before sprawling again. Knees to the shoulder land for Shoji and he connects on some punches to the side of the head too. They come back up and hopefully there’s not long left. Three minutes according to Bas. Wild flurry from Shoji and he gets a slam down to guard. Shoji gets full mount but Matsui bucks and tries to get out, almost slipping out of the ring in the process. Ref calls them back up to their feet to avoid that and they circle out. Takedown attempt from Matsui is naturally defended and a scramble sees them back on their feet. Takedown from Shoji and they go flying out of the ring. Thankfully they don’t land on the floor or anything and the refs call them back inside where the fight ends.

No judges here so it’s a draw. Decision would be Shoji’s easily but it doesn’t really matter. I hated this fight, sorry. There wasn’t much action considering it was 40 minutes and when there was action it was really repetitive. It wasn’t anywhere near as offensively bad as Kimo/Severn or Gracie/Kikuta or one of those fights but it definitely stunk.

Daiju Takase vs Emmanuel Yarborough

Aw man, CLASSIC freak show stuff here as Takase is 169lbs while Yarbrough – best known for fighting Keith Hackney at UFC 3 in a ludicrous fight – is tipping the scales at 600lbs or so they say, and looking at him I believe them. Only in Japan, folks!

Fight begins and Takase literally sprints around the ring to avoid being cornered by the fat dude. Yarbrough is moving like he’s waddling through treacle. He makes a couple of swipes for Takase but can’t seem to reach him due to the speed difference. Dude makes Takase look like Ben Johnson or something. We’re about three minutes in here and nothing has happened and yet it’s still fascinating due to the size difference. Bas mentions that Yarbrough is looking gassed already, which is insane. Body punch from Takase. One of Yarbrough’s swipes almost catches Takase and he has to dodge out of the way. He’s lunging in with overhand punches now which is risky as fuck. Running punch lands for Takase as Yarbrough appears to be sucking in serious wind. Looks like he might even slump himself in the corner as he’s so fucked. Alright, so this is beginning to suck now. Quadros is reduced to making Humpty Dumpty jokes and all sorts. Literally nothing is going on here. Takase does manage to land a couple of glancing punches but nothing major. Round mercifully ends there.

Second round and they pick up where they left off, with Takase almost slipping out of the ring after eating a swipe from Yarbrough. Yarbrough’s picking up the pace here but he’s going to gas any second. Sure enough he instantly slows down and is now barely able to move. This absolutely sucks. Referee gives TAKASE a warning for stalling which is pretty ridiculous. What the fuck is he supposed to do? It must be noted that when the ref stepped in Bas’s first thought was that Yarbrough needed oxygen. Takase decides to risk it all and go for a single leg off the restart, but of course the big man lands on top. Crowd go APESHIT as Takase sits up though to land some punches as he desperately tries to wriggle free. He does manage to trap an arm and then sits up to land some more punches and Yarbrough just looks DEAD. But it’s dead weight that’s holding Takase down. Takase decides to punch the legs now and then he slips free and lands punches to force the tapout.

Erm, not sure what to say here. It was watchable I guess just for the freak show factor and the comedy of the announcers but on the other hand it was literally one of the very worst fights I’ve ever seen. I’m leaning more on the side of “it sucked” just because of the sheer length of it.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Carlos Newton

This is a super-famous match for those who haven’t heard about it before and I believe it’s the one that really put Sakuraba over the top as a major star and also made a name for Newton (although he’d fought in UFC already at this point). First time I’ve seen it so I’m pretty pumped. Pre-fight Bas presents both guys with flowers and then gets on the mic to hype a possible fight in the future with Rickson Gracie, which would’ve RULED, for the record. I guess the announcing is live on this show too as Quadros seems to be on his own and then Bas rejoins him and asks how he did.

Fight begins and Sakuraba opens with a pair of low kicks. Newton shoots on a takedown but Sakuraba blocks it and they end up clinched on the ropes, then move across the ring before Sakuraba uses a sick whizzer to avoid a trip and land on top in guard. Sakuraba looks to pass and they spin around as Newton blocks, before Newton bucks his hips and Sakuraba jumps right into an armbar attempt! It look deep but Newton manages to stand and defend brilliantly, working into side mount for good measure. Sakuraba rolls over into donkey guard but Newton slips out of that and takes side mount again. Reversal from Sakuraba and now he’s on top in guard. Toehold attempt from Sakuraba but Newton avoids and gets the back before taking top position. This is AWESOME. Side mount from Newton and the crowd are applauding. Sakuraba gives his back, but then switches it into a single leg and gets back into top position. Outside of the low kicks at the beginning this is basically a pure grappling match. They spin again as Sakuraba aims to pass the guard, and then leaps over right into an armbar. Newton flips his way out though and takes top position but Sakuraba grabs a single leg as Newton rides him. Takedown from Sakuraba and he’s back in Newton’s guard. Again neither guy is throwing any strikes at all. Sakuraba decides to let Newton to his feet and tries some sort of jumping kick that glances. Takedown attempt from Newton but Sakuraba shows sick wrestling and balance and defends to take top position again. Toehold attempt from Sakuraba and it looks like he’s got it locked, but Newton somehow sits up and yanks his leg free to take Sakuraba’s back. He gets one hook in and gets the other too, but he can’t seem to control Sakuraba. Great job by Sakuraba to shake Newton off and he’s back in Carlos’ guard. He passes into side mount but Newton works to regain guard right away. Nice punch from Sakuraba surprisingly enough but he doesn’t follow it up. Newton looks for a triangle but Sakuraba slips out and looks for side mount, and they come back to their feet. Left high kick from Sakuraba is blocked. Takedown from Sakuraba on the bell. Tremendous round.

Second round and Newton catches a kick and gets a rear waistlock, using it to trip Sakuraba down. Sakuraba immediately goes for a kimura but Newton defends and keeps the waistlock before going for the hooks. Sakuraba blocks and they spin around on the ground and end up with Newton still having the back. This is perhaps the best grappling match I’ve ever seen in MMA. Good knee from Newton lands to the body but Sakuraba still seems pretty chilled. Body punch from Newton and it looks like he wants to get the hooks in but is super-wary of being reversed. Reversal from Sakuraba but Newton turns it on him and locks up the right arm with his legs in almost a crucifix. Sakuraba rolls and gives his back again. Flurry of punches from Newton and he avoids a kimura to keep the back control. He gets a hook in but Sakuraba immediately escapes and turns into Newton’s guard. These guys are so technical it’s unbelievable really. Pass from Sakuraba and he locks up an armbar, but Newton evidently has rubber limbs as he avoids it and then spins over the top to get his arm free. That was a ludicrous escape. Newton again gets the back but he still can’t get the hooks in. He decides to sit back in an attempt to get the hooks….but that allows Sakuraba to isolate the left leg, roll over right into a kneebar and FORCE THE TAPOUT!~!

Phenomenal stuff. That was probably the best extended grappling sequence I’ve ever seen in MMA, period, and I mean, I’d heard there were rumors of a gentleman’s agreement to do grappling only, but they did throw some strikes so I guess that can’t be true. Just a tremendous contest between two of the most technical fighters to ever set foot into the ring and I have new respect for both of them after watching it. This was literally like five years ahead of its time in terms of what these guys were doing when you compare them to, well, anyone else on the PRIDE roster at this point.

Gary Goodridge vs Amir Rahnavardi

Goodridge is usually good for a fun fight so you’ll never see me complaining about his presence on one of these cards. Amir for those who haven’t heard of him is a Bas Rutten student, so naturally El Guapo sounds quite pumped to see him in PRIDE. Goodridge is ludicrously huge here.

Fight begins and Amir connects on a low kick, then bulls into a clinch where he eats some solid punches and a couple of nasty knees to the body. They break off and Amir decides to clinch again, where he botches a trip and winds up on the bottom with Goodridge on top. Big right hand from Goodridge as he looks to posture up in half-guard. Flurry lands for Goodridge but Amir manages to tie him up eventually and the action slows down a bit. Couple of right hands do get through for Goodridge but they’re pretty sporadic to say the least. Goodridge tries to posture up, but in the process Amir goes for a leglock. Looks like he might have it as he goes for a kneebar, but the leg isn’t in deep enough and Goodridge manages to pull free to get back on top. Nice triangle attempt by Amir but Goodridge manages to posture free. Amir keeps his hips high and tries for it again, but winds up flipping over and Goodridge takes his back and lands a couple more punches. He rolls and Goodridge remains on top, and this time he starts yelling at Amir wildly to hit him. This is bizarre to say the least. Amir gets full guard and obliges though, but obviously he doesn’t have much power as he’s landing from the bottom. Goodridge on the other hand DOES have power, and so he postures up and drops some SLEDGEHAMMERS that knock Amir into next week. Holy shit.

Decent fight with a couple of slow points, but holy shit what a knockout. Between this and the Taktarov knockout, Goodridge looked like a scary dude at this point in his career when he wasn’t losing to guys with a bit more skill than him. Thankfully for Amir he doesn’t go out on a spineboard like Taktarov did.

Mark Kerr vs Pedro Otavio

This was Kerr’s second fight in PRIDE following that disastrous debut against Branko Cikatic at PRIDE 2. Otavio is better known as THE PEDRO and I believe he’s remembered mainly for a fight with Gary Goodridge where Goodridge squeezed his balls. No, really. He’s a big dude actually but he has nothing on THE SPECIMEN.

We get underway and the Pedro pushes forward and avoids a couple of kicks. He throws a ton of feints, but it doesn’t help him as Kerr hits an easy takedown into the half-guard. Pedro tries to reverse out but I mean, how are you going to do that to THE SPECIMEN? Brutal punches to the body land for Kerr. Kimura attempt on the left arm from Kerr and he uses BRUTE CAVEMAN FORCE to twist it up for the stoppage. Post-fight Pedro absolutely flips out saying that he didn’t tap but dude, Kerr would’ve fucking torn that arm off had the ref not stepped in.

Kerr was terrifying at this point. Just a giant, aggressive, steroid-enhanced monster. Total squash.

Nobuhiko Takada vs Kyle Sturgeon

One look at the name ‘Nobuhiko Takada’ in MMA instantly draws suspicion and of course, a quick check of Sturgeon’s record tells us that this was his lone MMA fight. Odds on this fight being a total and utter work have to be high, then. I guess Takada needed to rebuild his credibility from somewhere after being thoroughly embarrassed by Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1. Sturgeon is a big dude who looks mean, but that’s about it.

They circle around to begin and Sturgeon throws a kick that Takada avoids. A second one lands to the head and drops Takada but it looks suspicious. Low kick from Sturgeon but Takada fires back with one of his own. Takedown from Sturgeon into the guard but Takada reverses and they stand. I’m calling it now, this is a fucking work. Takedown from Takada into Sturgeon’s guard. Sturgeon clings on and lands some short punches while grunting and making MEAN FACES. Takada drops back for a heel hook, barely cranks it and Sturgeon TEASES THE TAP and then taps just like a pro-wrestler.

Fun enough to watch as it was quick and action packed but shit, if that was a legit fight I’m Wayne Rooney. Still, I’d rather see a work than something shitty like Kimo/Severn I guess so there is that.

-Show ends promptly there. Literally no credits even, just boom, show over.

Final Thoughts….

Well, this was far better than the previous two PRIDE shows simply by the existence of Sakuraba/Newton, which is a genuine classic that any self-respecting MMA fan needs to see. Outside of that though the rest was surprisingly okay too. Sure, Shoji/Matsui stunk and Takase/Yarbrough was freakshow nonsense, but neither fall under the umbrella of “possibly the worst fight ever” like a couple of the fights on the first two PRIDEs and then the other three fights at least have decent finishes even if they’re two squashes and a blatant work. Worth a thumbs up for Sakuraba/Newton, but skip over the first fight.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. Newton
Worst Fight: Shoji vs. Matsui

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com