This is my second write up of a Pride event. I hope to churn these out consistently.
The first match was between Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie. Apparently, Royce had requested that this match have no time limit. Each round would be fifteen minutes, but there could be as many rounds as were needed. The announcers were calling this match the "fight of the century." Both fighters remained very calm. Sakuraba was tied up in the ropes for a while and began working on Gracie's gi. He was trying to pull the back of the gi over Gracie's head (think hockey fights). Helio Gracie was in Royce's corner and was laughing when Sakuraba attempted this. The crowd loved it. The camera showed Eric Clapton in the audience; I was surprised to see him there. Gracie had good technical striking, but there was not much power behind any of the strikes, they just set up take-down attempts, basically. Sakuraba did his double karate chop from within Gracie's guard. Bas commented that he did not like Gracie's little punches from the guard. Bas also announced that his new name is "Bas 'El Guapo' Rutten." This ended round four; over an hour of fighting. Sakuraba was in Gracie's guard. I was disappointed to see a lack of offensive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu from Gracie. Sakuraba used Gracie's gi and belt to get a really good stack; Gracie looked in trouble. I think the gi was definitely a liability in this match. After an hour and fifteen minutes passed, the photographers had to have extra rolls of film brought in. Sakuraba was landing leg kick after brutal leg kick and even knocked Gracie down with one. Gracie's leg was really ruined, he could barely stand on it. Helio looked extremely nervous, and Royce's corner had the towel in hand. Sakuraba attempted his jumping stomp and the sixth round ended. Gracie's corner threw in the towel. The match was over an hour and a half long. The two fighters showed great sportsmanship after the fight. Sakuraba moves on in the tournament to fight later.
Next was Gary Goodridge versus Igor Volchanchyn. Early in the match Volchanchyn accidentally landed a knee below the belt. It was so strong it broke Goodridge's cup and he had to get it replaced! Goodridge was in Volchanchyn's guard at one point and had Volchanchyn's right hand trapped under Volchanchyn's back. I know this is a pass, but Goodridge did not really do anything with it. Volchanchyn got it free and both stood up. Goodridge looked really tired and got rocked by Volchachyn. The referee stopped the fight and Volchanchyn got the TKO, who will fight later.
Akira Shoji versus Mark Coleman was next. Pat Miletich came out with Coleman; he was training Coleman. Coleman kneed Shoji accidentally and started screaming and swearing when the referee gave him a yellow card. Coleman really worked on Shoji's ribs on the ground. The announcers mentioned the "ten kilogram rule" during this match, where the lighter fighter gets the edge in scoring when there is a difference in weight greater than ten kilograms. Coleman won the unanimous decision and advances in the tournament to fight later in the night.
Next was Kazuyuki Fujita versus Mark Kerr. Fujita is the heaviest competitor in the tournament, the announcers say. They also say that Fujita is in over his head against Kerr. El Guapo is in Kerr's corner. Kerr spent a lot of time in the turtle position in this match, taking strikes from Fujita. Fujita won the unanimous decison, which was considered a huge upset, and advaced in the tournament.
The first semi-final match was Sakuraba versus Volchanchyn. Volchanchyn attempted a couple of suplexes in this match. I'm sure Sakuraba was exhausted in this match after his battle with Gracie. I watched this match with my girlfriend and her father, who are Ukrainian, like Volchanchyn. They would laugh whenever Volchanchyn's corner would yell to him. The corner would yell in Ukrainian and and my girlfriend told me that the corner was saying "hit him! hit him!" whenever Volchanchyn had Sakuraba in a compromising position. The judges called the first round a draw and Sakuraba's corner threw in the towel before the second round could start. Volchanchyn will be fighting in the finals.
Masaaki Satake versus Guy Mezger was next in a non-tournament match. Mezger won the decision.
The last semi-final match was Fujita against Coleman. Fujita's leg was all taped up and his corner threw in the towel as soon as Fujita went in for the shoot. Coleman moves on without having to expend too much energy.
Ken Shamrock versus Alexander Otsuka was next. A lot of footage showing an altercation between the two men was played. When the match starts, all the lights in the arena go out but immediately come back on. It felt really staged and confusing, to be honest. Shamrock looked pretty good and got the TKO. Eric Clapton came in the ring and gave Shamrock flowers.
The finals match was next, Volchanchyn versus Coleman. During this fight, the announcers talk about how this sport is not very big in the United States yet. One announcer says that people really like the tournaments but Bas thinks they are not honest because some fighters will be more tired or beat up than others. Coleman was trying really hard to get a kimura in this match but the technique was off. He was trying to bend the elbow it looked like, instead of pointing the elbow down to put the pressure on the shoulder. The camera shows Gilbert Yvel in the crowd, who was only 22 years old at the time. Coleman gets a takedown and had Volchanchyn in the corner in the north-south position. Since Volchanchyn was face-up in this position, Coleman was allowed to deliver knees to the head. After some brutal knees by Coleman, Volchanchyn taps out to strikes and Coleman wins the 2000 Pride FC Grand Prix! Coleman is pumped and runs and jumps onto the turnbuckle and falls. I've seen this clip on highlight reels before, it was goofy, but more forgivable within the context of winning this tournament and $200,000.00. They give Coleman a huge belt, a huge trophy, and a huge check. Coleman gets a standing ovation from the crowd. Sakuraba comes in the ring to take pictures with the winner and runner up. Fujita could not come out because of his knee injury.
I really liked this event. I used to think decisions were awful. I wanted every fight to end definitively. However, after seeing the hour and a half battle between Sakuraba and Gracie, I have changed my tune. Not only are matches this long probably bad for the business (fans leaving, tuning out, etc.), I'm sure it's bad for the fighters too. Both were worn out and who knows what kind of long term adverse effects those fighters suffered from fighter for over an hour and a half. I liked the tournament format, but I still don't know how I feel about making fighters fight more than once in a night. It was exciting, but again, I'm sure it's not good for the fighters.
As always, comments and criticism are greatly appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.