Another day, another creepy email from Mike Fagan. It seems that today was such a historical day in MMA that he would like it covered, so he sent me another picture of his disturbing basement calendar. What's so special about October 21st? Well, sixteen years ago in the far off Land of the Rising Sun, Akira Maeda was staging another version of his Mega Battle tournament that had become a semi-staple of his Rings organization. And in 2006, the most famous Japanese MMA promotion of them all came to North America for the first time. You know you wanna hear all about this, right? I wish I could show you the pictures of Fagan's basement too, but alas, the creepy factor would be too much for some of our younger readers. Sorry Roth.
We'll start with Pride 32: The Real Deal.
Pride had just lost their contract with Fuji TV in Japan due to the yakuza scandal and were scrambling for ideas. The Vegas show was already set up anyway, so they went forward with it. They had to abide by the unified rules though, which neutered the card to a degree. No 10 minute rounds, no elbows or knees on the ground, and round-by-round judging. The event was also seriously hurt by the fact that Wanderlei Silva wasn't allowed to compete due to a recent knockout, Mirko Cro Cop was injured, and the proposed Mark Hunt vs. Eric "Butterbean" Esch fight was scrapped due to not being competitive enough. Dumb.
The card was still full of stars though, and started off amazingly well. The show opened with an awesome 22-second flying-knee KO by Robbie Lawler on Joey Villasenor, and the next bout between Kazuhiro Nakamura and Travis Galbraith was a back-and-forth war. Phil Baroni picked up a solid submission win next, and Dan Henderson defeated a lazy-looking and uninspired Vitor Belfort by wide decision. Butterbean and Josh Barnett picked up wins, though Josh probably dropped the first round in his bout before getting a submission win in the second (Barnett's opponent, Polish judo world champion Pawel Nastula, tested positive for steroids and a variety of stimulants after the bout. Oh the irony!).
The rest of the card was strange and interesting. Wanderlei Silva came out to call Chuck Liddell out for the second time in 3 months (and at least managed to not say that he wanted to make love to him this time), and then Mauricio "Shogun" Rua tapped Kevin Randleman was a nasty, nasty kneebar in under three minutes. Then it was onto the weird and wacky main event pitting Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko against the overmatched and over-the-hill Mark Coleman.
Fake snow fell on Fedor as he made his entrance, which actually looked really cool. Basically, Coleman tried to get a takedown for the whole first round and Fedor beat the crap out of him, swelling his eye up. As soon as he finally got the takedown early in the second, he was folded up and armbarred in no time. The craziest part of the show was after the fight though. Coleman, who had a severely messed up face and looked like the elephant man, got his two young daughters in the ring with him and both were crying uncontrollably. He tries to console them for a bit, then throws that out the window and carries them right over to the guy that just kicked the crap out of their dad. Fedor's all smiles and one of the daughters even waves at him (in fear), but it was a suuuper awkward ending.
After the jump, you can learn a thing or two about ancient MMA history as we'll discuss a Rings event from 1995.
You've probably heard of Rings at some point. Many of the top fighters in the world competed there at some point, including Fedor Emelianenko, Dan Henderson and Randy Couture. Rings was the brainchild of pro-wrestler Akira Maeda, who opened it in 1991 after he left the folding UWF. Back then Rings was a shoot-style promotion and it's kind of vague whether the bouts were worked or legit. It wasn't until 1997 that they actually stopped promoting themselves as a wrestling organization. It gets a bit more iffy because Maeda won the 1993 Mega Battle tournament, but the fights aren't counted towards his record in some places. But the 1995 tournament is counted everywhere. Weird, I know. It's partly that the records are hard to find, but it's also partly because...well, they were probably worked.
Anyway, Maeda had dropped two bouts in a row going into the tournament. Other names you might know that competed were Russian legends Volk Han and Mikail Illoukhine, though Illoukhine wasn't in the tournament for some reason. Maeda didn't even put himself in the main event, rather choosing to push 6'7, 332 lb. Tariel Bitsadze who defeated an undersized opponent in a non-tournament bout. Maeda unsurprisingly went on to win the tournament a couple of months later. The organization didn't hit it's peak until 1999, when two very successful King of Kings tournaments churned out a ton of stars. Pride was huge by that point though and once most of the guys went over there, Maeda closed up shop in 2002.
If you'd like to learn some more about Rings, you can check out this history piece that Nate wrote back in the day. Nate's history series was amazing and it should be required reading for anyone that's new to the sport.