This is a monumental show for a couple of reasons. First, it's one of the great super cards of the 1990s, a card that features fighters who would end up being or already were world class fighters like Dave Menne, Dennis Hallman, Matt Hughes, Akihiro Gono, Carlos Newton, Hayato 'Mach' Sakurai, Rumina Sato and Caol Uno. But the biggest highlight of this supercard was watching the two best fighters in their weight class fighting for the vacant Shooto Welterweight Championship (152 lbs title).
Some like to start with the Jens Pulver vs Caol Uno (UFC 30) fight as the starting point for the
linear lineal world lightweight title. It's obvious why since it's a well known five round classic for the first ever UFC World Lightweight title. But really, the most legitimate starting point would be in 1999 in the organization that was known for having the best lighter weight fighters in the world at the time. You had Caol Uno, who had been getting everyones attention in Shooto events with some great finishes, like against Zvonko Jakovyevic (that my good friend Tim Cooke uploaded here online) and Ian James Schaffa. But really, his most impressive win up to that point was at the Vale Tudo Japan 1998 event against Ricardo Botelho, who was fresh off a big win against Joel Gerson (a little bit more about him later). At the time, Botelho was a BJJ black belt with a 3-1 record and a serious submission threat. His only loss before he fought Uno was a major shocker in international MMA, as Rumina Sato became the first person person to submit a BJJ Black Belt in modern MMA history (he used a beautiful heel hook to get the job done). So in the Uno vs Botelho fight, Uno demonstrated some intelligent caution to avoid getting caught up in Botelho's dangerous guard, and found clever ways to outwork the BJJ black belt. In the third round of this great fight, Uno started landing some absolutely brutal shots from inside Botelho's guard to finish him off as Botelho tapped via strikes. After this impressive win, Caol Uno was ready to fight the man a lot of NHB enthusiasts thought was the most exciting fighter in the world.
Rumina Sato was on a hell of a streak of fantastic finishes at this point in time. He opened up his long Shooto career with a swank calf slicer. After some great wins with some beautiful submissions, he ran into John Lewis at the 1996 Vale Tudo Japan show in a very difficult fight. In his previous fights, Lewis had defeated Thomas Puckett via armbar and had gone to a draw with Carlson Gracie Jr. at the first ever Extreme Fighting event. In this fight, John Lewis put forth a very strong performance that kept Sato on his back and unable to do much of anything. While it was a draw, it was still an unfortunate setback for Rumina Sato as it was clear that Lewis had had the upper hand during the fight. But he bounced back spectacularly with the aforementioned fight against Ricardo Botelho on 1/18/97. He had an amazing run in 1997, he had 3 more memorable submission victories and decisively avenged his disappointing draw with John Lewis by tapping him out via armbar at the 1997 Vale Tudo Japan show on 11/28/97. His 1998 started off rocky with a huge upset loss to Joel Gerson, that he later avenged via grappling at the Canadian Jiu Jitsu Championships. This grappling tournament is fondly remembered as the time that Sato traveled to Canda and destroyed Canadians with some explosive grappling. He also had another disappointing loss against Nova União creater Andre Pederneiras. But right after that came one of the greatest moments in MMA history, as Rumina Sato finished Frank Shamrock student Charles Diaz with the most beautiful flying armbar in MMA history in only :06 seconds!
Before we get to the main event, let's take some time first to check out this Shooto - 10th Year Anniversary Parade of Champions ceremony. This really cool presentation involves Shooto Lightweight Champion (9/8/90 - 5-31-91) Kenichi Tanaka, Shooto Lightweight Champion (5/31/91 - 3/27/92) Kazuhiro Sakamoto, Shooto Lightweight Champion (3/27/92 to 9/5/99) Noboru Asahi (one of the four pillars of Shooto along with Uno, Sato, and Sakurai), Shooto Welterweight Champion (10/17/91 - vacated) Tomonori Ohara, Shooto Welterweight Champion (11/7/94 - retirement due to eye injury in 1995) Yuki Nakai, Shooto Middleweight Champion (8/3/91 - vacated later in 1991) Yoshimasa Ishikawa, Shooto Middleweight Champion (10/17/91 - 1/18/97) Naoki Sakurada, Shooto Light Heavyweight Champion (5/31/91 - 5/7/96) Kenji Kawaguchi, Shooto Light Heavyweight Champion (5/7/96 - 12-00) Erik Paulson, and the only Shooto Heavyweight Champion (8-12-97 to 2000) Enson Inoue (at the time, he was the
linear lineal UFC World Heavyweight Champion):
Shooto - 10th Anniversary Super Card (May 29th, 1999) Part 9
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So now the two top ranked lightweights of the world were set to face off in the 10th year anniversary of what is the longest running MMA organization in existence. The result was pure beauty, it is one of best examples of in ring excellence in 1990s MMA and one of the timeless classics of that era. The fight, amusingly enough, started with Uno darting forward and throwing a flying kick (like he did in the first BJ Penn fight) and had both guys feeling each other out with some quick feints and strikes. Sato then quickly locked in a bodylock, tripped Uno down, and in a split second had Uno's back with the greatest of ease. Sato was stuck on Uno's back like glue, and he viciously worked towards locking in the RNC. Uno showed his brilliant submission defense by refusing to allow Sato to lock in the hold. Uno defending against the RNC and other submissions would end up being one of his career defying themes, as he had similar moments in many of his brilliant fights against the likes of world class grapplers like Penn and Aoki, and world class fighters like Hansen. Sato had a tight body triangle, but after several attempts, Uno was finally able to spin around to get on top of Sato and in Sato's guard. Uno did a little bit of ground and pound, and then later landed some legkicks to Sato as the first round came to a close.
They tested each other on their feet at the start of the 2nd round until Sato charged forward to take Uno down and take his back again. Unlike the 1st round, Uno didn't stay in that position for long, he reversed and briefly tried to work some ground and pound before they went back up. Sato failed with a takedown attempt, but Uno didn't. Sato was doing a good job of covering himself up and defending, so Uno made sure to work in some hard sounding body shots on the ground. Uno stood up, but he was very alert since Sato was clearly hoping to catch Uno's leg if Uno made an tactical error. The round came to an end with both of them getting back up and Sato failing to get another takedown.
It all came full circle in the 3rd, as Uno charges at the beginning with a nice double leg. Uno quickly transitions into a double underhook guard pass, and secures Sato's back in a moment of dazzling grappling. Most fighters would have been finished then but not Sato. Sato jumps to his feet, when Uno tries to take the back again and Sato just tumbles Uno right off his back. Uno shows a speed advantage as he drives forward for another beautiful double leg, but Sato doesn't stay on his back for long and the fight goes back up. When Uno attempts another double leg, Sato quickly catches a guillotine but nothing is there. As Uno tries to ground and pound, Sato still shows off a very dangerous guard, but the bloodied Uno is too smart to be caught in a Sato leglock. As they go back up to their feet, Sato has a body lock on Uno, tries dragging him to the mat, but it's not working. By this point in the fight, Uno is clearly the fresher of the two and starts to get the better of Sato with his striking. Uno's clearly taking over. A desperate Sato shoots in, but Uno quickly takes his neck and starts to lock the RNC in before even having his hooks in (an Uno trademark). He positions himself behind Sato and takes his back. Finally Uno gets Sato to tap out! What an amazing fight.
This whole event is worth watching, you see some of the best fighters of that era competing, a celebration of MMA and some good fights involving future stars. But at the very least this event should be watched to see the two very best lightweights of the world fighting in a classic to determine who is the undisputed number 1 lightweight in the late 1990s MMA scene.
Rumina Sato vs Caol Uno - Hype Promo
Rumina Sato vs Caol Uno (Part 1)
Rumina Sato vs Caol Uno (Part 2)
Rumina Sato vs Caol Uno (Part 3)
I uploaded the entire event for your viewing pleasure on my DailyMotion page: