MMA Review: #438: PRIDE 8

-Historically you’d have to consider this a really important show in the development of PRIDE as it was the first to feature a match between homegrown star Kazushi Sakuraba and one of the legendary Gracie clan, in this case Royler. Elsewhere we’ve got Mark Coleman, Wanderlei Silva and Igor Vovchanchyn returning, and….Frank Trigg?!


Tokyo, Japan

Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten.

Daijiro Matsui vs Wanderlei Silva

And thus begins one of the great PRIDE traditions, that being Wanderlei facing off with a severely undersized Japanese opponent. When Chael Sonnen says Wandy’s PRIDE run was “fake” this sort of thing is probably what he was talking about, not that the fights were fixed, just that the opposition was questionable. I’ll refrain from calling Matsui a can though as he was a decent fighter at this stage, just wildly undersized for 205lbs.

Wandy looks roided to the gills here. Fight begins and they throw some feints before Wanderlei lands a couple of punches from the outside as Matsui tries to throw kicks. Overhand right lands nicely for Matsui and then he shoots on a single leg. Matsui’s shot is pretty quick to be fair. Silva sprawls to defend and winds up stuck in the corner of the ring. Wandy grabs a front headlock and works his way back to his feet, but Matsui stays clamped on the legs. Switch of position from Wanderlei and he takes the back with no hooks as Matsui turtles up. Couple of punches land for Wanderlei. Back to the feet and Silva kicks Matsui in the head as he leans through the ropes. He winds up climbing out of the ring, which is ridiculous, but of course the ref brings him right back in. Head kick glances again for Silva. He rushes Matsui with punches and then lands a series of VICIOUS KNEES when Matsui leans at him. Matsui is in trouble and he dives desperately for a takedown, but Wanderlei sprawls out and grabs the front facelock. Action slows down a little as Silva holds the position, obviously unable to rain down the knees as he would be able to do in later PRIDE shows. Looks like Matsui’s nose might be busted too as there’s blood on the mat. Short punches connect for Wanderlei as the announcers discuss the legality of Vovchanchyn’s knees to the head of Mark Kerr on the previous PRIDE show. Silva decides to stand and then lands some stomps on the downed Matsui, then lets him up and rushes him with punches and some more really nasty knees. Matsui has a hell of a chin. He shoots again but Silva blocks and takes the back with no hooks again, and it looks like it’s Matsui’s forehead rather than nose that’s bleeding. More punches connect for Wanderlei. This is a horrendous cut as there’s blood leaking EVERYWHERE. Ref calls time to get it checked out in fact.

Doctors clean him up and he’s good to go. Matsui wants to start standing again but the ref resets them where they were on the ground. Matsui quickly gets to his feet and decides to rush Wandy with punches, and we get a WILD BRAWL that resembles Sanchez/Melendez! Word! They end up in a scramble and Matsui winds up on his back in full guard. Matsui’s got balls of steel, got to give him that. Wanderlei decides to stand again, and tries a jumping stomp before delivering a really nasty one using the ropes for leverage. Ref doesn’t like that and gives him a yellow card. They restart standing and Wandy stuns him badly with a left head kick to end the round. No idea how Matsui survived that round. His corner ought to throw the towel in really.

Second round and Matsui opens with a leg kick. He tries to potshot Wandy from the outside a little but Silva is unfazed. Matsui fakes a shot but Silva’s having none of that and he grabs the front facelock again. He decides to stand and then rushes Matsui with punches, and Matsui decides to swing right back again for a second before turning his back. Quadros now mixes up his Japanese and calls Matsui “Shoji”. He leans out of the ropes to avoid some shots from Wanderlei before the ref forces him back in. Punches by Wandy and he secures the plum clinch to punish him with more knees. Down he goes, looking for a single leg, but Wanderlei again takes the back with no hooks. This time he works and slaps the hooks in to look for a choke, but Matsui manages to spin free and gets into top position in Silva’s guard for the first time. There’s so much blood leaking from Matsui that it’s ridiculous. Wanderlei’s doing more work from the bottom than Matsui is from the top, too. Matsui is an absolute MESS. Wandy’s punches from the bottom are incredibly vicious. Haven’t seen someone do this much damage from there in a long time. Action continues from there until the fight ends.

Certainly no need for an overtime round here – all judge give it to Wanderlei Silva. This was a one-sided, criminal beatdown that probably should’ve been stopped for Matsui’s own good after the first round. I mean sure, he survived to go the distance but sometimes being that tough isn’t a good thing. Poor guy’s face was literally cut to ribbons by Wanderlei’s assault here. Exciting fight but it became perverse to watch at points.

Frank Trigg vs Fabiano Iha

Colour me shocked to see this one – I legit had no idea Trigg fought in PRIDE prior to his 2007 fight there. He was unbeaten to this point and had just beaten BJJ ace Jean-Jacques Machado. Iha meanwhile – usually fighting out of Tito Ortiz’s Team Punishment camp – had recently lost in his UFC debut and was looking to get back to winning.

Fight begins and Trigg rushes forward and throws some kicks that stun Iha. Iha tries to trade back but takes some knees from inside the clinch, so he decides to pull guard. Iha lands some heel kicks to the kidneys ala Royce Gracie and it looks like he’s turning for an armbar, but Trigg postures out to avoid. Triangle attempt follows and it looks like he’s almost got it, but Trigg slams his way free. Iha goes for it again, and then transitions to a triangle armbar, but again Trigg breaks free and from there he OPENS UP with some heavy punches. Iha quickly grabs hold of him to slow that onslaught down. Action slows down a little and Trigg decides to bring the fight back to standing. Pair of left hand and an uppercut stun Iha, and a right hand puts him down! He pops back up, but Trigg continues to unload and TAGS him with combinations. Just brute force type shots too with not much technique. Big knees land for Trigg as he secures a plum clinch, but Iha breaks off. He’s hurt badly. Trigg keeps walking him down with more shots and finally he drops Iha with a combo and the ref calls it there.

Trigg looked awesome there. Incredibly aggressive and while his stand-up technique was leaving him wide open for counters, Iha couldn’t answer back as Trigg just kept pouring it on and never let up for a second. Fucking great fight right there and I can’t believe PRIDE didn’t bring Trigg back after this.

Allan Goes vs Carl Malenko

This was Goes’ first fight back in PRIDE after his draw with Kazushi Sakuraba at PRIDE 4 – probably the closest anyone came to beating Sakuraba at that point in fact and you could argue with judges he would’ve gotten the win. Malenko meanwhile had put on a pair of stinkers since debuting at PRIDE 6, and when those stinkers come against Egan Inoue and Wanderlei Silva of all people you know you’re a dull fighter! Hopefully this one looks different but I’m not holding my breath.

They circle to begin before Goes shoots and plants Malenko on his back pretty easily. Malenko attempts a scramble and looks to lock up a kimura, but it allows Goes to move himself into half-guard. Into side mount for Goes and he looks like he’s setting up for an arm triangle choke. Good job from Malenko to get back to half-guard, but Goes easily slips into side mount again. They spin around a few times in that position which is a bit odd, but it doesn’t help Malenko at all as Goes steps smoothly into full mount. Shoulder strike lands for Goes. Malenko appears to have no answer for this as Goes sits up a couple of times to land punches before keeping low again to retain control. Armbar attempt from Goes but he botches it HORRIBLY and Malenko escapes, winding up on top in Goes’s guard. Goes goes for an armbar from the bottom, but Malenko manages to posture out and avoid it. He remains in the Brazilian’s guard, though. Malenko can basically do nothing from this position. He stands up and hooks the legs like he’s going for a Boston crab, but Goes elevates him with the legs and kicks him away. Malenko quickly gets back on top though in the same position. This time he decides to let Goes back to his feet. Single leg from Goes though and Malenko’s on his back again, this time in half-guard. Full mount follows right away. Arm triangle choke follows from the mount, and Malenko looks like he’s unconscious before tapping out.

Great showing from Allan Goes. Just a whitewash really as Malenko had zero offense and was finally met by an opponent he was unable to lay-and-pray on. Basically a total exhibition for how well BJJ can work in MMA against a one-dimensional opponent. Post-fight Malenko throws a wobbly, but fuck that guy anyway.

Mark Coleman vs Ricardo Morais

This was Coleman’s first fight back in PRIDE after the ludicrous work against Nobuhiko Takada. Pre-fight video uses this FUCKING AWFUL knock-off of the James Bond theme to show a couple of Coleman highlights for some reason. Seriously now, why not just use the real thing? Morais meanwhile is HUGE. 6’8”, 270lbs apparently, so basically a prototype of Bigfoot Silva. His nickname? The Mutant. Well, no shit. Dude DWARFS Coleman. He’s as terrifying visually as prime Ubereem. Not that Coleman’s a small guy himself! Vince McMahon would be loving this fight.

First round begins and they circle with Morais winging a left hook at Coleman who stays just out of range. Big punches miss for Morais and he decides to clinch, surprisingly enough. He muscles Coleman into the corner of the ring and the action slows down enough for the ref to call a break. Lunging right misses for Coleman. Can’t believe Coleman’s not gone for a double leg yet. Sure enough as soon as I’ve typed that he hits a single leg and drops Morais into guard. Coleman appears to be going for a neck crank, but Morais opens his guard a little to avoid. Morais tries to kick him away, but Coleman passes into side mount, although it’s not a great position as they’re stuck in the ropes. Coleman tries the neck crank he tapped Dan Severn with, but Morais slips out and takes the back before they stand. Combo lands for Morais and then things get REALLY SLOPPY as he swings forward and almost slips to one knee in doing so. Takedown attempt from Coleman and despite Morais sprawling, he can’t get away and ends up on his back in guard again. Coleman’s takedown was excellent, have to give him that. Action slows down again as Coleman works the body a little and keeps trying and failing on the neck crank. Couple of good punches do get through for Coleman and Morais can’t seem to kick him away. Coleman stays on top to end the round. Bad round.

We get a BRANDEN LEE HINKLE!~! sighting in Coleman’s corner between rounds. Second round and Coleman catches a kick and slams Morais right down into side mount. Unfortunately from there very little happens as Coleman squeezes down on Morais with no choke or anything. Morais manages to roll through to full guard. Neck crank from Coleman but he can’t get the tapout. This fight sucks. Sweep attempt is avoided and Coleman finds himself in side mount again. No clue why he isn’t using any of his famous ground-and-pound here. Mount attempt from Coleman but Morais gets half-guard. Morais just can’t get out from underneath Coleman at all. Full guard now and again Coleman goes for the neck crank unsuccessfully. Few punches land for Coleman but for the most part this is a bust. Full mount for Coleman now but even from there he doesn’t do much. Even an attempt by Morais to give his back is blocked. Couple more punches land for Coleman. Fight ends there.

Judges give it to Mark Coleman I guess because he did just a little more than Morais. By which I mean he hit takedowns and held position while Morais did NOTHING. This was a God-awful fight, seriously. Let us never speak of it again.

Tom Erikson vs Gary Goodridge

Erikson at this point was unbeaten in MMA complete with a knockout of Kevin Randleman on his resume, so it’s pretty clear that the dude was not the type of guy to be fucked with. He’s huge here too, pushing close to 300lbs and not exactly out of shape either. Goodridge meanwhile hadn’t fought since his controversial loss to Naoya Ogawa at PRIDE 6. Guessing Erikson came to PRIDE in the same deal that brought Trigg over as both guys were representing the rAw team which was a pretty major camp back then as they had Vladimir Matyushenko as well as Randy Couture, Dan Henderson and Matt Lindland before those guys broke off to form Team Quest.

Fight begins and Erikson STORMS out of his corner and they trade WILD PUNCHES like a fucking bar fight. Holy shit. This is CRAZY. Erikson gets a takedown to side mount that was more sheer force than actual wrestling, and he locks up a side headlock from there and looks like he might go for the Coleman neck crank. Instead he hits a SLICK move into full mount and begins to bomb on Goodridge with punches. For a huge guy Erikson is scarily quick. Goodridge does well to get back to full guard and from there Erikson finally slows down a little. Goodridge decides to make things interesting by randomly taunting Erikson to hit him, and of course the Big Cat obliges and traps an arm before delivering some clubbing punches. Goodridge keeps shifting his hips from the bottom and goes for a leglock at one point, but Erikson’s base is too good and he keeps top position. More punches land for Erikson and he easily avoids an attempted arm triangle from the bottom. Nice pass to side mount from Erikson but Goodridge quickly regains half-guard. Americana attempt follows, but Erikson gives it up quickly. Full mount for Erikson and he begins to land some more punches, but Goodridge does enough to slow him down and the round ends with him attempting another Americana. Clear-cut round for Tom Erikson.

Second round and Goodridge lands a nice low kick and catches Erikson with some punches, but the Big Cat gets hold of him before he can capitalise and gets the takedown to guard. Short hammer fists land for Erikson as Goodridge clings onto him tightly. After a great start this is becoming like Coleman/Morais: Redux. Erikson passes into half-guard and appears to be attempting some form of smother choke, but it’s not working and man this is becoming dull. Couple of blatant elbows connect for Erikson. Thought they were illegal! Bas is now singing on commentary and that’s when you know things have gotten dull. What happened to the crazy aggressive Erikson from the first round? Scramble puts Goodridge back into full guard. And very little happens from there. Ugh. Into half-guard for Erikson. Round mercifully ends there. So little play-by-play but that’s because NOTHING HAPPENED.

Judges score it for Erikson, duh. First round of this was pretty awesome but the second sucked beyond belief. I’m guessing Erikson gassed out between rounds because there’s just no rhyme or reason for a performance to drop quite as badly as that otherwise. This was an awful showing from Goodridge regardless.

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Francisco Bueno

At this point I’m guessing Vovchanchyn was ranked as the top heavyweight in the world, as regardless of what the record books now say, he’d knocked out Mark Kerr in the main event of PRIDE 7. Bueno meanwhile hadn’t been seen since an awful fight at PRIDE 5. This was, I’m guessing, an absolute squash on paper.

We get underway and Bueno circles on the outside as Vovchanchyn takes the center of the ring. We get literally no action early on until Vovchanchyn catches Bueno against the ropes and NAILS HIM WITH A HUGE RIGHT HAND!~! Bueno is OUT and as he goes down face-first Igor lands another right-left combo ON THE WAY DOWN for good measure. Jesus Christ. Bueno looks DEAD.

Crowd go absolutely CRAZY as about seven officials flood the ring to try to deal with Bueno, rolling him onto his back and holy shit he’s still unconscious. Bas is yelling at them to get him onto his side but he appears to have come around. That was one of the best knockouts in MMA history, point blank. Just an incredible finish for Igor Vovchanchyn. If you haven’t seen this one then holy shit you’re missing out.

Renzo Gracie vs Alexander Otsuka

After beating the legendary Marco Ruas at PRIDE 4, Otsuka hadn’t returned to MMA – I’m guessing he was back in his pro-wrestling role – but for whatever reason DSE rolled him back out here to take on Renzo Gracie, who had last been seen in one of the WORST FIGHTS OF ALL TIME against Sanae Kikuta at PRIDE 2. Personally I’m just hoping this one is under regular PRIDE rules and not like unlimited rounds or something, although a check of the records suggests it is regular rules. Thank fuck!

Crowd give Otsuka a massive pop and he’s got this weird bandage around his head. No idea what’s up with that. They get underway and trade kicks before Renzo tags him with a one-two. Takedown from Otsuka and he actually gets side mount for a second as Renzo misses a sweep. Gracie quickly reclaims half-guard though. Crowd are so into Otsuka that it’s insane. Full guard for Renzo as Stephen and Bas debate the meaning of Otsuka’s ‘Diet Butcher’ nickname. Otsuka’s not doing much at all here. His shitty headband is gone at least now. This is pretty dire. Triangle attempt finally from Renzo but Otsuka escapes. Action suddenly turns up as Renzo NAILS him with a series of upkicks that bust him WIDE OPEN. Otsuka’s got a plaster on his head actually which must’ve been what the headband was covering. He gets back on top but there’s a lot of blood coming from his head and it’s dripping all over Gracie. Few punches to the body connect for Otsuka but Renzo throws up a triangle from nowhere and it looks locked up. There’s a bit of room in there though and it allows Otsuka to escape. Upkick connects for Renzo and they come back to their feet. Nice leg kick from Renzo and he hits a great sprawl to avoid a double leg. Glancing right hand lands for Gracie. Otsuka is reaching out to grab him but can’t quite manage it. A couple more low kicks buckle his knee badly. Takedown from Otsuka but Renzo locks up a guillotine and pulls guard, only for Otsuka to slip his head free. Otsuka manages to pass into half-guard for a second but Renzo almost sweeps him en route to getting full guard. Couple of decent hammer fists connect for Otsuka. Round ends there. That really got good towards the end, surprisingly enough.

Second round and Otsuka lands a nice kick before ducking under a Renzo combo and hitting a double leg. Renzo right away gets to full guard though. Again Otsuka’s leaking a lot of blood all over Renzo’s chest. Renzo is staying busy from the bottom with punches and he’s continually shifting his hips although he hasn’t gone for a submission yet. Suddenly though he goes for an armbar and it looks sunk in! Renzo rolls to a belly-down position but somehow Otsuka slips his arm free! Holy shit that was a Houdini-like escape. Renzo winds up in side mount as the crowd go absolutely crazy for Otsuka. Otsuka tries to escape that but ends up basically pulling Renzo into full mount. Oops. Surprisingly enough though he chooses to go back to side mount where he lands a knee to the body. He adds some more really sharp knees, and continues to control the pro-wrestler with relative ease. The ring mat is now looking absolutely disgusting by the way, just stained with a horrible amount of blood. Otsuka tries some knees to the body from the bottom, but they don’t really connect well. Scramble from nowhere sees both men back on their feet and the crowd are LOUD. Otsuka plows forward but Renzo tags him with punches and then grabs him in a rear waistlock and HITS THE GERMAN SUPLEX! Word. Otsuka tries to tie him up on the ground by grapevining a leg, but he’s still in trouble most likely. Renzo begins to set up an arm triangle choke, but Otsuka rolls for a possible kimura on the left arm to avoid that. Round comes to an end there and we’re going to the judges.

No overtime needed here as Renzo Gracie is awarded the win. Call me crazy but I thought that was a fucking great fight, seriously. Otsuka if we’re honest is a largely unskilled fighter, but he really brought the fight here and never stopped trying, rather than just laying in the guard like Kikuta had done, and it meant that Renzo was able to open up with his full arsenal of technique and made for a really exciting fight with a ton of cool spots, in particular the suplex and the armbar attempt. Bravo, guys, bravo. Practically a show-saver after the previous two fights.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Royler Gracie

Super-historic stuff here then. Sakuraba had made his name in PRIDE by basically taking out a bunch of top BJJ fighters for the most part (Braga, Newton, Belfort) and had generally looked like a superstar in the process, using moves that at the time seemed unheard of in MMA. At this point too – discounting Royce’s “loss” to Harold Howard in the UFC – the Gracie family were still unbeaten in MMA competition and still had the unstoppable aura stemming from Royce and Rickson’s tournament victories as well as Renzo and Royler winning early PRIDE fights too. So this was a natural fight to make at this stage, particularly when you consider the whole PRIDE promotion was basically built around the Gracies vs. the homegrown Japanese heroes.

No clue on the round length or anything here as Bas and Stephen don’t actually tell us. On a side note Sakuraba’s actually a lot bigger than Royler – billed as 183lbs compared to Royler’s 150lbs. That’s pretty rare for a Sakuraba fight actually.

We begin and Royler closes the distance and shoots, then pulls guard as Sakuraba defends. He sits up into a butterfly guard variant as Sakuraba lands a couple of shots to the body. Elevator sweep attempt by Gracie is blocked. Royler seems to be looking for something, but Sakuraba decides to stand back up and forces Gracie to join him. Big head kick misses for Sakuraba. Takedown attempt from Royler but Sakuraba defends and drops some solid punches. Royler goes down to his back but doesn’t quite have full guard. Really good shots connect for Sakuraba and he stands back up with Royler in the butt-scoot position. Crowd are pretty amped here as Royler crawls towards Sakuraba who narrowly misses a big kick. Jabbing kicks to the knees land for Royler but Sakuraba pops the crowd with a leg kick of his own. He teases the jumping stomp but decides not to do it, and goes back to kicking at the legs. Royler pops back up but Sakuraba drops him for a split-second with a leg kick. Gracie charges in but can’t grab Sakuraba and so he drops to his back again. His right leg is badly marked up from the kicks. More kicks land for Sakuraba. Apparently this IS under regular PRIDE rules in terms of the round timings. Kicks look like they’re hurting Royler now as he’s trying to avoid them and clearly holds his leg after one. Sakuraba just keeps kicking away and Royler is in trouble here. He’s struggling to mask the pain now, outright wincing when the shots land. Round ends with more abuse to Royler’s legs. That was a serious amount of kicks to take.

Second round and they circle with Royler trying to close the distance. He gets caught leaning for a takedown though and Sakuraba makes him pay with a hard knee. Good right hand lands for Sakuraba too and a leg kick follows. Action slows down a little as Sakuraba stalks forward while Royler throws some of those jabbing low kicks that Royce used to use to set up takedowns in the early UFC days. Suddenly a BIG RIGHT HIGH KICK drops Royler HARD and he’s in trouble. He sits up into the butt-scoot position again and we’re back to Sakuraba kicking the legs. Sakuraba was so awesome here. Royler gets back up, but he’s wobbly as hell now. Sakuraba continues to stalk forward and he lands the right high kick again, albeit not so cleanly this time. Royler tries some more jabbing low kicks, but Sakuraba lands a low kick of his own that almost takes Royler’s legs from under him. He drops to his back but Sakuraba’s having none of that and forces him back up. We get a shot of Rickson looking really concerned at ringside, unsurprisingly. Takedown misses by a mile for Royler. More stalking from Sakuraba but Royler keeps the distance with the jabbing kicks. Right high kick narrowly misses for Sakuraba. More low kicks follow for Sakuraba as Quadros suddenly tells us we’ve got no judges in this one and it must end with a finish. Leg kick almost takes Royler off his feet and then a VICIOUS spinning back kick connects with the body. Man. Sakuraba is just owning Royler. Couple more leg kicks follow. Royler goes down to his back off one and eats some more kicks. Royler gets back to his feet and eats another really cruel leg kick, buckling the right knee inwards badly. Another spinning back kick lands, albeit nowhere near as cleanly this time. Royler drops to his back again and this time Sakuraba decides to follow him down for a second. He stands over him to drop a right hand, then grabs his ankles to drag him across the ring in a comical spot. This guy is incredible. Punches to the legs (!) follow. Finally Sakuraba decides to oblige Royler and drops into the guard, but seconds later he stands free and kicks the legs before taunting Gracie, forcing him to his feet. Royler outright charges in and pulls guard, and this time Sakuraba grabs the right arm….and straightens it out into a kimura! Holy fuck. Crowd are going INSANE at this point. Royler has half-guard but he’s in DEEP TROUBLE here. Sakuraba FORCES THE ARM BACK and has it fully cranked at this point! It looks like he’s going to break the arm Frank Mir style….and with Royler grimacing in pain the referee decides he’s seen enough and STOPS THE FIGHT. Insane. Royler protests but I don’t think he can have many complaints – I mean if he hadn’t stopped it Sakuraba would’ve either broken or dislocated his arm.

Incredible fight. I mean, it’s hard to put into words how good Sakuraba was here – sure, he had a big size advantage on Royler but I mean, you have to remember that nobody had come close to beating a Gracie in an MMA fight at this point in time and Sakuraba just came out and SCHOOLED him in all areas, I’m talking full on whitewash. You take Sakuraba – who was a natural Welterweight really – and put him into the UFC at this time and I’ve got no doubts that he would’ve dismantled Pat Miletich and run the table at that weight class for well, lord knows how long. It’s a pity that he was treated how he was and put against so many huge, roided monsters in PRIDE eventually – something that’s damaged his long-term reputation – but then if he hadn’t done that I guess he wouldn’t be Kazushi Sakuraba, Japanese folk hero.

-Show ends with Sakuraba celebrating while the Gracies protest.

Final Thoughts….

Outside of the shitty Coleman fight and a bad second round in Erikson/Goodridge, PRIDE 8 is a pretty great show actually. Big highlight is obviously Sakuraba vs. Royler, but Silva/Matsui, Goes/Malenko, Trigg/Iha and Gracie/Otsuka are all really good and Vovchanchyn’s knockout of Bueno was the very definition of a highlight reel finish. This would’ve been worth a look for Sakuraba/Gracie alone but with the rest on tap it’s an easy thumbs up. Probably the best PRIDE show to this point in fact.

Best Fight: Sakuraba vs. Gracie
Worst Fight: Coleman vs. Morais

Until next time,

Scott Newman: