MMA Review: #424: PRIDE 5

-This show is infamous for the main event but we’ll get to that one later. I’ve never seen Vitor vs. Sakuraba though which is supposed to be a really good fight and I believe this was the first PRIDE show to use judges, which is a welcome thing after a string of shitty draws in those earlier shows.

PRIDE 5

04/29/99
Nagoya, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten. And hey, for the first time on these old PRIDE DVDs we’ve got the big introduction segment! Aha, apparently this was the first show under the Dream Stage Entertainment management which would explain this and the suddenly wild production values. It’s not as crazy an introduction as we’d get later in PRIDE – no parade of fighters for instance – but it’s a start.

Egan Inoue vs Minoru Toyonaga

No clue on Toyonaga here unfortunately, but a check of his record tells me he’s a Takada Dojo guy who was 0-2 in Pancrase at this stage. Everyone knows Inoue of course although he isn’t as legendary as his brother Enson.

Fight begins and all Bas can talk about is Egan’s haircut, if you can call it that as he’s totally bald. Toyonaga shoots for a takedown early, but Egan quickly sprawls and uses a cradle to take the back and then full mount for a second. Toyonaga rolls and gives his back again and Inoue’s got both hooks in. Egan looks to sink the choke, but Toyonaga does a good job of tucking his chin and then he manages to slip free and explodes to his feet. Egan stays on him in the clinch though but the Japanese fighter breaks off after avoiding a takedown. Head kick glances for Inoue. Takedown attempt from Toyonaga and he decides to pull guard, but he makes a real mess of it and gives his back. Egan controls him without hooks this time though and Toyonaga escapes to his feet. Big head kick narrowly misses for Inoue. They trade some punches before Toyonaga shoots again, but once more Egan sprawls to avoid and they come back up into the clinch. Odd spot follows as the ref shakes the ropes like he’s the Ultimate Warrior. Right hand lands for Inoue and sends Toyonaga staggering, but he may have been playing possum as he tries and fails with a spinning kick. Egan stands above him and looks to drop some punches, then casually passes the guard into side mount. Toyonaga gives his back again and eats some punches, then he slips free to his feet and gets staggered again by an uppercut. Single leg from Toyonaga but Inoue spins free and grabs a front facelock again. This time he forces Toyonaga onto his back and nails him with a couple of big punches, and I guess Toyonaga taps out from the shots as the ref quickly comes in to stop it.

Decent opening fight; Toyonaga didn’t look very good but Inoue was clearly skilled and showed some excellent, well-rounded skills en route to putting his opponent away. No complaints from me!

Francisco Bueno vs Satoshi Honma

Honma had beaten up poor Naoki Sano at PRIDE 4 in one of the worst refereeing jobs I’ve seen in MMA, while this was Bueno’s PRIDE debut. Sherdog tells me Bueno had one previous MMA fight – a win over Jason Godsey who wasn’t a bad fighter in his day, so I’m guessing he could be legit.

Fight begins and right away it’s noticeable that Bueno has quite a bit of a size advantage. They circle to begin and very little happens from there. We’re about two minutes in now and neither man has even thrown a strike pretty much. Low kick finally lands for Honma. This fight FUCKING SUCKS. You know it sucks when Quadros is calling it a dancing contest. Finally Bueno rushes him with punches and we get a trade. For like two seconds before they go back to dancing and throwing the odd kick. Sigh. Both guys are punching with their chins ridiculously high. Trade follows again and Bueno tags Honma with a serious combination that drops him for the stoppage. Why the fuck did he not do that in the first minute of the fight?

Fight stunk until the ending which looked like something right out of a barroom brawl with flailing punches and chins up in the air. At least it had a finish I guess. Next!

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Akira Shoji

In my mind I was expecting a big size advantage for Igor here but it’s not as apparent as you’d think. Both men have the barrel-type physique. Shoji was coming off his big win over Wallid Ismail here while Vovchanchyn had beaten Gary Goodridge in his last fight. Guessing though that Igor was the hot favourite as he looked practically unbeatable at this stage.

Round One and Shoji circles on the outside, looking understandably tentative as Igor just shows zero emotion and takes the center of the cage. Let hook glances for Igor and then a right hand counters a kick and drops Shoji. Shoji decides to stay on his back, but Igor calls him right back up. Left hook glances for Vovchanchyn. Shoji manages to clinch for a moment but Igor shrugs him off using some brute strength. Slow round thus far. Single leg is defended by Igor and he refuses to enter Shoji’s guard when he drops to his back. Shoji throws a couple of kicks at him from the butt-scoot position, but nothing successful. Ref finally brings Shoji back up and we restart standing. Overhand right glances for Igor. Shoji’s still doing a decent job of avoiding the brunt of the shots though. Combo glances for Vovchanchyn. Big swings miss for Shoji. Good low kick from Igor. Pair of hooks connect on Vovchanchyn but he still easily shrugs off a takedown attempt. Low kick from Shoji and that’s the round. Well, that was surprisingly dull.

Round Two and Shoji circles on the outside as Igor takes the center again. Igor just does not give a fuck here seemingly but I’d prefer that he did as this is quite dull. Low kick lands nicely for Shoji. Quick clinch sees Igor throw Shoji to the ground with ease. Looks like Shoji just isn’t physically strong enough to impose anything on Igor. He stays in the butt-scoot position again but like before Igor’s having none of his guard. Igor kicks the legs as I’m having flashbacks to some of those dire early PRIDE Gracie fights. Shoji finally gets called to his feet and we continue with the circling. Big right hook misses for Igor and it allows Shoji to grab a guillotine, but Vovchanchyn easily pulls out and slams him to the ground, landing in side mount. He decides to get right back up, though, and we’re back to square one. Right hooks glance for both men. Back into the clinch but Igor breaks with a knee. Shoji tries to pull guard right into an upkick, but again Igor has none of it. Shoji needs to go for broke here, not lay in the butt-scoot position. Which is easy for me to say of course as I’m not fighting this brute Russian. Erm, Ukranian. Ref calls Shoji back up. Low kick from Igor and he narrowly misses a brutal right hand. Kick connects low with Shoji’s groin. Ref calls time to let him recover and they get going again. More of the same follows with Shoji just circling out of range as Igor stalks him. Kick from Igor catches Shoji off balance and sends him down and again he stays in the butt-scoot position with Igor over him. Upkicks from Shoji and Igor decides to go into the guard…so of course Shoji tries to get back up. They wind up clinched, exchanging punches on the ropes, but Shoji still can’t take Igor down. Ref calls a break and Igor corners Shoji to deliver a left hook before Shoji circles out again. Wild swings from Shoji but that allows Vovchanchyn to catch him with a BIG RIGHT and down he goes. Bell sounds there to signal the end of the fight.

Aaaaand Igor gets the decision. This is going to sound odd now but THANK GOD FOR JUDGING. I don’t think I could’ve coped with any more pointless draws like on PRIDE 4. Fight, unfortunately, sucked for the most part as Shoji was clearly outmatched by Igor but had enough about him to be able to survive rather than trading and getting KOd. It wasn’t like offensive or anything, but it was pretty frustrating to watch.

Enson Inoue vs Soichi Nishida

This is basically just like the opening fight, with a Japanese fighter I’ve never heard of against an Inoue brother, this time the more famous Inoue in the form of Enson, one of the toughest and craziest guys to ever fight in MMA. Oh, holy shit. Nishida is this fat guy with a shit haircut and ridiculous HUGE black gi pants, like MC Hammer’s or something. Jesus Christ.

Fight begins and Enson DECKS HIM WITH PUNCHES and then takes the back easily. Nishida rolls and ends up mounted where he eats more punches, so he turns his back and Enson chokes him the fuck out.

That was the absolute definition of a squash. Nishida did not belong anywhere near an MMA ring and Enson evidently wasn’t in the mood to fuck around at all. Highlight reel stuff but man, that was pointless if we’re quite honest.

-Next segment is a BJJ exhibition with Rickson Gracie grappling with Royler Gracie. Going to skip this as I’m not exactly Mr. BJJ unfortunately and I’d feel ignorant trying to discuss the merits of this. Sorry.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Vitor Belfort

This is one of those really famous matches that I’ve never actually seen, so I’m interested to see how it actually goes down considering I’ve seen highlight clips that appear to show Vitor beating on Saku, and yet when you read about it online it sounds like a one-sided fight in Sakuraba’s favour. We shall see. Vitor was coming off the legendary knockout win over Wanderlei Silva and I guess he was still largely the “old Vitor” as they used to put it coming into his PRIDE debut. Side note but Vitor is fucking YOKED here and I mean if this guy has low testosterone then I’m Robin Thicke, sorry.

Round One and both men come out tentatively, with Sakuraba glancing on an early low kick. Head kick is blocked by Vitor. Sakuraba has his hands surprisingly low considering who he’s in there with, but Vitor hasn’t thrown a strike yet. Single leg from Sakuraba but Vitor stuffs it easily and then tosses Sakuraba into the corner of the ring. Sakuraba looks to do his trademark kimura from the rear waistlock, but Vitor pulls his arm free and OPENS UP with a big flurry, although a lot of the punches seem to be connecting with the side and top of Sakuraba’s head. Sakuraba dives for a leg again but Belfort sprawls and continues to nail him with left hands, causing him to run away. Another takedown attempt goes wrong and Vitor continues to land, but this time Sakuraba’s persistent and he manages to get Belfort onto his back in guard. Pair of solid punches connect from the bottom for Vitor and then he nails him with a couple of upkicks as Saku attempts to pass guard. HEAVY punches land for Sakuraba from the top as Vitor decides to close the guard, and Belfort obviously wants none of that and kicks him away. Sakuraba drops right back down though and lands a really vicious body punch before standing over him to kick at the legs. Good upkick from Vitor though. Sakuraba’s face is quite marked up actually. He lands a couple of nice kicks to the thighs of the downed Vitor and then attempts a cartwheel guard pass, but doesn’t quite pull it off. Good attempt though! More kicks to the legs from Sakuraba as Vitor jabs at him with upkicks. Surprised the ref hasn’t called Vitor up yet although to be fair both guys are being active. Crowd are now popping for every kick like an old school Thai boxing crowd. Vitor’s legs are seriously welted up. More hard kicks land for Sakuraba. Vitor just doesn’t appear to want to get up, which is weird. He even seems to be looking for push kicks to the groin which is REALLY fucking questionable if those are intentional. Sudden flurry of punches for Sakuraba gives Vitor enough room to scramble up to his feet, and that’s the round. Interesting stuff.

Round Two and Sakuraba fakes a kick to set up a nice right hand! Another faked takedown sets up a left hand. Sakuraba looks totally confident now. BEAUTIFUL spinning back kick to the body from Sakuraba and Vitor has the DELAYED REACTION~! and then goes down to his back! Sakuraba calls him up and then he just drops back down again. More kicks to the legs follow. Ref decides to call Vitor to his feet, and Sakuraba hits him with another spinning back kick to the body. Another one follows and it looks to me like Vitor’s had just about enough of this. Now Sakuraba decides to fake the spin kick and he’s got Vitor flinching. This is crazy. Low kick is almost countered by a Belfort left hand, however. Sounds like Vitor’s corner are screaming at him but he isn’t really listening. Front kick to the body from Sakuraba. Flurry of punches (!) from Sakuraba and Vitor doesn’t even attempt a counter. His mouth is open like he’s gassed quite badly too. Finally he just decides to drop to the butt-scoot position, much to the disgust of Bas. Couple of punches come over the top for Sakuraba and HOLY SHIT Vitor’s left leg is a MESS. He scrambles to his feet and decides to go for a single leg of his own, but Sakuraba immediately looks to set up a kimura to counter. Ref calls a break as the action slows down, and we’ve got about two minutes to go I think. Vitor drops to his back and Bas is HORRIFIED. More kicks to the legs from Sakuraba and he even tries an axe kick this time. Well, might as well I guess. Punches to the legs follow. Ref calls Vitor to his feet and Sakuraba throws some more low kicks at him, causing him to back up like crazy. Head kick connects for Sakuraba. Big right hook follows and Vitor has zero answer. Well, outside of dropping to his back that is. JUMPING STOMP!~! from Sakuraba although it doesn’t land cleanly. More kicks to the legs follow that. Another jumping stomp grazes Vitor and that’s the fight. Ridiculous stuff in the end.

Judges go for Sakuraba with the win. Well, no shit. I guess that highlight video I saw literally showed the ONE flurry that Vitor landed as the rest of the fight was literally all Sakuraba. I’ve heard Vitor broke both of his hands on that flurry, which would make some sense to be fair as a lot of the punches hit the top of Sakuraba’s head, but I mean, I don’t know why he chose to fight such a passive fight after that. I mean he didn’t even attempt any takedowns really and you’d at least expect him to attempt to lay-and-pray or something. I think Sakuraba hurt him with the kicks to the legs and the ground-and-pound though and then really got into his head once he started kicking to the body standing. Phenomenal performance from Sakuraba to totally shut Vitor down and regardless of Vitor’s issues in there, you have to admire Sakuraba for dealing with an extremely dangerous opponent in that fashion. Fun fight too – best of the show thus far.

Nobuhiko Takada vs Mark Coleman

This is a seriously infamous fight. Let’s not beat around the bush as to why, either – from all sources it’s a worked fight as PRIDE basically paid Coleman off to put Takada over. Erm, I know I’ve given the result away there but whatever. I’ve only ever seen clips though so I’m quite intrigued in a way that almost feels dirty. Coleman at this stage was on a three-fight skid, having lost to Maurice Smith and Petey Williams in famous matches and then a less famous – but more controversial – match against Pedro Rizzo which I’m sure I scored for Coleman, although I can’t remember totally.

Fight begins and Takada throws some feints out before Coleman closes the distance and looks to get him down. Takada grabs the ropes blatantly to defend and the ref separates them and gives him a yellow card. First time I’ve seen that in PRIDE and I guess it must’ve been a DSE-introduced deal. They restart and Coleman hits a nice double leg slam into guard. Right away you can see that this might be questionable as Coleman only throws a couple of body punches and he’s clearly allowing Takada to keep a loose butterfly guard. Odd moment follows as Takada gets wrist control, so Coleman headbutts his body and takes a warning from the ref. Coleman passes into side mount and throws a couple of knees to the body, and aw man, he’s clearly pulling his punches to the side of the head. Good lord. LOL Quadros just dropped a Branden Lee Hinkle reference. Word. Full mount for Coleman and then Takada gives his back in order to stand and escape into the clinch. Odd moment follows as Takada jumps to guard and Coleman drops him back down. Few punches land for Coleman from there and then he casually throws the legs aside and passes into north/south. Back to side mount from there as knees to the head were illegal at this stage in PRIDE. Looks like Coleman’s going for the same neck crank that he tapped Dan Severn with, but he can’t tap Takada and eventually Takada explodes out for a second before Coleman tackles him back down. Side mount again for Coleman and he looks for a keylock, but the bell sounds before he can finish it. Round was all Coleman although he didn’t do much damage, which would make sense if it is indeed a work.

Second round and Takada comes out and lands a trio of leg kicks. Not sure whether they’re hurting Coleman or whether he’s selling, though! Easy double leg from Coleman plants Takada in side mount….but Coleman then casually pops himself right INTO the guard, confusing Bas and Quadros massively. Coleman then stands up over the guard and it appears that he could pass at any time, but he just chooses not to. From there he casually moves his leg into place, and Takada quickly goes for a heel hook! Quadros is hilarious here as he’s just like, what the hell is Coleman doing?! Takada manages to seemingly lock up the heel hook and Coleman rolls through, then teases the tap pro-wrestling style before tapping out for real. Ha. Announcers are in shock. I guess they probably knew the deal here but just couldn’t say or something, as a blind man could see that it was a blatant work.

Replay totally confirms it as to me it doesn’t even look like Takada’s got the heel hook cranked and I mean, as victims of Rousimar Palhares would tell you, you don’t fucking TEASE THE TAP when you’re in a heel hook. Really, really sleazy stuff from PRIDE as Coleman’s basically admitted since that this was a work, saying that “I just needed to feed my family” or something of the ilk. Which makes sense, but holy shit is it still disappointing. I still find it quite crazy that the fight remains on the professional records (at least on Sherdog which to me is still the most reliable resource) for both guys as it’s so clearly fucking crooked.

-Show ends with Bas and Stephen still in relative shock about the main event. Or acting shocked, whatever.

Final Thoughts….

A mixed bag this time – we’ve got two squashes and a work to go along with a pair of fights that largely stunk (Honma/Bueno and Vovchanchyn/Shoji) although the advent of judging and two rounds only means that those pair of fights are nowhere near as bad as some of the earlier PRIDE stuff, but on the other hand we’ve also got Sakuraba/Belfort which, while not a genuine classic like Sakuraba/Newton, is still a very entertaining and fascinating match to watch, particularly if you’re looking to get into the legend of Sakuraba. Wouldn’t say this is a full-on thumbs down show then as Takada/Coleman is a historical curiosity too, but skip over the Vovchanchyn fight, surprisingly enough. Thumbs leaning up.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. Belfort
Worst Fight: Vovchanchyn vs. Shoji

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com