**This is the third post in a new series taken from my MMA blog. Similar to my series on the UFC, I will recapping and ranking all things PRIDE beginning with their first event. Be sure to check Fight Rankings for more in this series, which includes cumulative fight and fighter rankings for the early UFC and PRIDE events.**
Three months after the last PRIDE event and just one month after the last UFC event, we'll be seeing the return of PRIDE with its third card. So far, I've not been pleased with the PRIDE promotion. They've definitely had some exciting contests, but at the same time, I've also had to sit through Severn vs. Kimo from PRIDE 1 and the miserable Gracie fights from PRIDE 2. Yuhi Sano and Sanae Kikuta are absent from this card, meaning that we won't have the pleasure of being completely underwhelmed by their presence. Unfortunately, this will also be the first PRIDE card without any Gracies.
We'll see the PRIDE return of Nobuhiko Takada after unsuccessfully challenging Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1. Kazushi Sakuraba, who has had success in both the UFC and PRIDE thus far, will make an appearance at this event. Akira Shoji will also compete after putting on impressive performances at PRIDE 1 and 2. There will also be a number of familiar faces from the UFC including Mark Kerr, Gary Goodridge, Carlos Newton, and Emmanuel Yarborough.
Wait, Emmanuel Yarborough? You mean the fat guy who fought Keith Hackney in a David vs. Goliath fight? Yes, he's apparently yet to die of complications from diabetes or getting trapped in a hot air balloon basket as a balloon ascends endlessly toward the heavens. I have very low expectations for this card, which will somehow have to be good in spite of the presence of such a huge, useless man. Dare I proceed? I guess I don't have a choice at this point...
PRIDE 3 - June 24, 1998
As with previous PRIDE events, there's little if any fanfare or waiting prior to the fights. However, we do get some brief highlights for the fighters in the first contest between Daijiro Matsui and Akira Shoji. Though the fighters are very evenly matched physically, Shoji showed us great spirit in his initial fights while this is Matsui's PRIDE debut. I think that Matsui has a big hill to climb to score the victory here.
Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten are back, this time welcoming us to the Nippon Budokan arena in Japan. Budokan houses concerts, martial arts, and professional wrestling events in Japan and is perhaps best known in music circles for Cheap Trick's live At Budokan album. I fully expect Bas to make some kind of Cheap Trick joke or reference before the third fight is over.
Bas is optimistic about Daijiro Matsui's chances, stating simply, "I hear good things about this guy!" Quadros goes on to tell us that Matsui trains with Nobuhiko Takada and Kazushi Sakuraba, so perhaps he has some kind of professional wrestling background? Quadros also informs us that Shoji has been training with Shooto's Caol Uno, a fighter who we've yet to see in either PRIDE or the UFC. Uno will be in Shoji's corner for this fight.
The fight opens up quite tentatively, as we might expect between a pro wrestler and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Quadros clarifies that Matsui is in the black trunks and Shoji is in the multicolored trunks (black and orange), to which Bas says that the trunks are only multicolored if you consider black a color. Um...yes?
Shoji lands the first blows of the night landing a nice 1-2 combination cleanly on Matsui, who responds by lunging for a takedown which Shoji easily avoids. From the sprawl position, Shoji throws some knees to the body and then allows Matsui to stand back up. Matsui quickly points out that Shoji's glove is damaged and the referee briefly halts the action to correct the problem.
Shoji lands some more nice punches and Matsui responds with a body kick and another takedown attempt, but Shoji successfully defends it yet again and takes Matsui's back. As Matsui stands back up, he ducks his head through the ropes but that doesn't deter Shoji from throwing some punches during this unusual tangle. Matsui throws some strikes back at Shoji but the referee restarts the action. By restart, I mean that the referee pulls Matsui back in the ring while Shoji punches him. Shoji gives up Matsui's back and walks back to the center of the ring.
Bas suggests that Shoji and Matsui attend the same boxing school, since both men are fighting with their hands down at various points of the action. It seems like Matsui has more to be worried about with Shoji being slightly more aggressive and on point with his strikes. As Shoji throws a left, Matsui shoots but can't get the takedown. Shoji and Matsui adjust positions and Shoji is able to take side control. Shoji works to move into full mount, but Matsui rolls out and gets back to his feet.
With both men being relatively inactive on the feet, the only recourse from the referee is to occasionally interject himself by yelling "FIGHT!" at both men. This doesn't do much since Matsui seems more interested in circling his opponent between weak takedown attempts. Matsui's fourth takedown attempt is greeted with a sprawl and some knees to the body and shoulder from Shoji. Matsui stands back up but eats some knees to the body before being taken down by Shoji.
Akira Shoji is in half guard and quickly moves to full mount, but Matsui gives up his back to Shoji! Shoji gets too high and Matsui slips out from the position and briefly takes Shoji's back before he explodes out, dropping Matsui to his knees. Shoji throws a couple of kicks to the body of his downed opponent and Matsui crawls forward for a takedown, but Shoji wants to stand with his opponent.
After a prolonged period of no striking, Matsui rushes into the bodylock with Shoji and then pulls guard for the first time in this fight. Shoji has some success from guard, landing some punches before standing up and going back to his feet. Bas and Quadros have high praise for this fight so far, calling it "action packed." I agree to a certain extent, though the lack of striking is disconcerting. There have been some pretty nice ground exchanges and this hasn't been nearly as bad as some other fights in PRIDE's limited history.
As good as the grappling has been, the striking in this fight has been very poor. I could probably count on one hand how many strikes have been thrown between these two fighters and since Matsui is unable to take Shoji down, it seems like we're stuck here for now. Matsui unsuccessfully pushes for another takedown as the first round of the fight ends. Matsui actually sticks up his back leg to keep Shoji from kicking him while on the ground, a wise move given the abuse he's taken thus far.
The fighters touch gloves at the start of the second round and both seem anxious to get back to work. Matsui opens with a low leg kick, and then after another 30 seconds, he follows up with some punches but ends up clinched with Shoji who scores the takedown. Since the fighters are near the ropes, we come to my favorite part of PRIDE events: the referees adjusting the fighters!
I really hope this tradition carries into the later PRIDE events. I would love to see fighters adjusted away from the ropes all the way into 2007, though I suspect this practice will go away sooner rather than later. You know, when the officials realized there's a more efficient way to do this than by physically moving the fighters.
After the restart, all that happens is that Shoji rests and then stands up out of guard. Matsui is more hesitant to stand at this point, knowing that Shoji is liable to attack him even while on the mat. Back on the feet, Matsui is a little more aggressive with kicks, throwing a few body and leg kicks. Matsui tries another shot that Shoji sees from a mile away and Shoji takes Matsui's back. Matsui hits a slick roll and ends up in Shoji's guard for the first time during the fight. I'm anxious to see how Matsui does from this position.
Matsui actually postures up and lands some nice punches before Shoji shoves Matsui out of guard and gets back to his feet. As Shoji stands up, Matsui moves in with a body kick and lands a right hand on Shoji! It looks like Matsui may have stunned his opponent, but he fails to capitalize on this and is still very quick to stand back and let Shoji regroup. It's nice to see a little more fire from Matsui at this point in the fight.
Matsui is now working the leg kick a bit more, though the referee is still forced to encourage the fighters to strike. Matsui isn't giving up his weak takedown which allows Shoji to take his opponent's back in the inevitable event that he successfully defends the attempt. The fighters are near the ropes again, but this isn't worthy of a restart. Rather, it just means Matsui won't be able to pull off another roll to reverse positions. Shoji is landing some punches with his free right hand since Matsui has trapped Shoji's left. The exchange brings the fighters closer to the ropes and prompts a quick restart.
Matsui works for an ankle pick to try and reverse positions, but he's just too close to the ropes and Shoji maintains his opponent's back. Matsui eventually rolls into the corner on his back and Shoji lands some big punches with three minutes left in the round. There is still no fight clock, but Bas was nice enough to translate the edict made by the ring announcer. This is a very bad position for Matsui, though he lands a couple of decent punches from the ground. For the third time, the referees restart the action after moving the fighters away from the ropes.
The position seems to be less hazardous for Matsui after the adjustment as Shoji isn't at all postured up. Matsui works out of the position as Shoji appears to attempt a transition to full mount, but Shoji maintains control from the sprawl position. Matsui attempts to escape with just one minute left, but Shoji is maintaining control and throwing some knees from this spot. Matsui bursts forward to try for a single leg takedown but is unsuccessful, Shoji maintaining sprawl control until the second round ends.
The fighters touch gloves again to begin the third round, but the referee halts the action to wipe down an excessively wet Matsui. Once the action restarts, we see some more strikes from Matsui who rushes in with a very slow 1-2 combo. He feints some kicks, but stays generally inactive.
Shoji rushes in to strike, but Matsui starts throwing some big punches. Unfortunately for him, Shoji gains control and takes Matsui down. Matsui has had luck escaping from the ground in earlier exchanges, so it will be interesting to see what he does from guard. Shoji is simply throwing weak strikes and trying to maintain control at this point. But sure enough, Matsui is able to shove Shoji off as he attempts to advance positions. Matsui is again hesitant to stand with a threatening Shoji standing over him. He throws some low kicks from the crab position before springing up without incident.
We see some exchanges at this point with Matsui rushing in with a slow combo, followed by Shoji landing some heavy shots with Matsui against the ropes. Shoji inexplicably backs off and Matsui attempts another takedown, this time having success with the ankle pick. Matsui finally lands his first takedown and is now in guard after a quick referee adjustment.
Matsui starts throwing some punches from the closed guard and Bas confirms that these strikes "won't do anything." Matsui quickly gets to his feet and starts throwing punches at his downed opponent but Shoji is up quickly and throws Matsui down to the mat, landing some punches of his own. Shoji is again on his feet with Matsui not wanting to stand, but this time, Matsui works for a takedown instead of trying to stand back up. Though Shoji defends the takedown, it was a really crafty attempt by Matsui to gain control.
Shoji backs off from the sprawl position and tries to land some punches, but Matsui avoids the exchange and pushes himself away from Shoji. Both men are back on their feet and are receiving encouragement from the referee to get busy. Matsui moves in for another takedown but eats some punches in the process. This time, Shoji cleanly takes Matsui's back with just one minute remaining in the round!
You can see above that Matsui is trying to take advantage of this position where Shoji has his legs crossed. Matsui tries to secure an ankle crank by stretching his right leg over one of Shoji's feet, which would effectively put some serious torque on Shoji's leg if applied correctly. Matsui gets his leg in the right position but he can't get the necessary leverage. He tries to cinch his legs together and stretch forward, but Shoji gets his leg out as the round ends. I should note that these rounds are all ten minutes long, meaning we're 30 minutes into this fight right now.
And now it seems like we're going to see a fourth and final "extra round" for this really fun grappling contest. Bas isn't sure how long this round will last, but he does seem confident that this is the last round of the fight. Based on the first 30 minutes, I'm not sure that either fighter will be able to end this contest barring exceptional circumstances.
Shoji opens the period looking for some punches, but Matsui immediately drops and works for a takedown. We're back in a familiar spot with Shoji controlling and throwing knees from the sprawl position. Matsui grabs for a potential ankle pick, which is enough to prompt Shoji to stand back up. Matsui is able to get back to his feet without incident.
Matsui moves in on Shoji with some punches, but Quadros doesn't think they do any kind of damage. It's very clear that both fighters are uncomfortable with their striking, as any exchanges come in short bursts. Very little damage has been done by either fighters' strikes and that doesn't seem to be changing...
So Matsui decides that an Antonio Inoki style sliding sweep/kick combination is the best offense at this point. And why not? It's something different and you never know when a fighter could get incapacitated by light strikes to the leg. Needless to say, Matsui gives that up after not too long and is back on his feet - but now Shoji pushes forward with some punches and he's putting some muscle behind them! Shoji appears primed to do some damage, but Matsui quickly drops for a leg in desperation.
Shoji gets his sprawl on, just like he's done for most of this fight thus far. He actually spends a few minutes here before Shoji stands up with just three minutes remaining in the fight. Bas now only thinks this is the last round, which is somewhat scary. What if he's wrong and this fight will never stop?
With both men standing, Shoji rushes in for some punches and Matsui grabs Shoji's head in a weak guillotine position. Shoji slams Matsui to the mat and is now in Matsui's closed guard. Matsui is throwing some kicks to Shoji's back from the closed guard, but Shoji pushes forward and tries for full mount. Matsui struggles and briefly gives up his back before exploding out from underneath Shoji. It looks like Shoji briefly tries for an arm as Matsui falls through the ropes and onto the ring apron. That was an interesting exchange that seemed like it was going somewhere before Matsui fell out of the ring.
The fight is restarted with both men on their feet and Matsui quickly resorts to another takedown attempt. Shoji sprawls and works to take Matsui's back, but Matsui rolls out of the position and away from Shoji. Matsui is back up on his feet and lunges with some punches before Shoji tackles Matsui with both fighters tumbling through the ropes! That is effectively the end of the fight as both fighters embrace before a draw is announced.
I do think that Shoji was in control for more of this fight and I'm unsure what the judging situation is at this event, but I'm not going to argue with a draw. That was a pretty fun fight with lots of turns, even if neither fighter was close to ending the contest. And to think, I'm only one fight in and I've already typed more than 2,800 words. I could be in for a long night...
Okay, so at least this fight won't last very long. Emmanuel Yarborough will take on Daiju Takase in the second match of the evening. Forget skills - the only thing that matters in this fight is weight. As in Yarborough weighs three times more than his opponent. He is a gigantic man with gigantic man breasts. Yarborough gets a very nice hand from the crowd and all Bas can muster is "Oh...my...God!" Yarborough is wearing some very fashionable red shorts that appear to have at one time been a canopy.
Yarborough is holding court in the center of the ring as Takase desperately circles away from his opponent. Takase lunges in with a left hook that doesn't appear to connect, but Takase is understandably hesitant to engage. When Yarborough gets close enough to Takase, he will throw punches that inevitably miss as Takase ducks away.
The Fight Professor is stunned by Yarborough's size, saying that he has never seen a man this large in his life. Takase leans in for a body punch, but Yarborough responds immediately with a punch that misses. Whenever Yarborough punches, Takase runs. Takase cuts it close at one point and gets caught with a punch near the ropes and Takase is almost smiling because even he knows he cut it a bit close. Takase runs toward Yarborough and I'm not sure what he was trying to do, but it looks like he bounces off of a brick wall.
This fight is awesome. The referee is calling for action, but I'm not sure what he expects. Takase gets some action going by doing a forward roll to avoid Yarborough, who is now standing like a statue in one of the corners. I think all of this walking has probably wiped him out right now. Somehow, we're already five minutes in and not a lot has happened. Bas remembers the line from Rocky III where Mickey and Rocky banter about how much a guy like Thunderlips eats in the morning. He wonders if Yarborough might legitimately eat 200 pounds worth of food in the morning.
Quadros suggests that Takase sprint in circles around Yarborough in the hopes that he would get tired and dizzy and fall down. I think Yarborough might respond to that by standing still and swinging his fists outward in the hopes that he disrupts Takase's circular path. Bas thinks Takase should either go for a single leg takedown or slide under Yarborough's legs, an idea that terrifies Quadros for fear of Takase getting squashed.
Bas is now calling for Takase to kick Yarborough and Quadros points out the obvious by saying this is a silly match-up. Like that needs to be said? Of course it is, Emmanuel Yarborough is fighting - what do you expect? The round ends and...well, that was something. The crowd is jeering a bit as both men go back to their corners. Bas and Quadros feel like it's inevitable that Yarborough will get tired or have a heart attack sometime soon.
At the start of the second round, Yarborough is getting more active and the crowd is getting behind him. He gets Takase pinned against the ropes a couple of different times, but he doesn't land any significant strikes. Still, it would have been enough for Yarborough to just grab and smother his opponent. That early burst may have been the last bit of energy Yarborough had as he's standing still with his hands on his hips.
The referee stops the action for what Bas says is oxygen for Yarborough. Believe it or not, we're seeing the first ever yellow card in PRIDE history! The referee adamantly waves the card in Takase's face warning him to pick up the pace and the crowd is pleased to see this. Maybe this will be enough to light a fire under Takase, though it's not an easy task to get a man to march to his own death. He did sign on for this fight, so I guess that's half of the battle.
The fight is restarted and oh...no. Takase actually tries a single leg takedown. How on earth does a yellow card mean take this gigantic man down to the mat?? In an absolutely terrifying moment, Yarborough falls on top of his significantly smaller opponent almost crushing his head and neck. Takase thankfully avoids any serious damage, but his legs are now pinned under his massive opponent. Here is Stephen Quadros' take on the situation.
"No!! Don't go for the single!! You've gotta be out of your mind!! No!! This is horrible!! This is like...this is like Jaws! This is like Jaws! This is like Jaws! Where Robert Shaw was sliding off the boat into the jaws of the shark...this is the exact same thing! You've got this huge behemoth...if he gets on top of Takase, it's going to be harmful! It will be harmful! He's gotta get out of there and fight for his life!"
Seriously, this is happening and it's pretty scary. All the while, Takase is struggling to escape the grasp of his huge opponent. Takase is striking Yarborough's head and appears to be working for an armbar, though I'm not sure he has that kind of strength. Takase is punching his opponent in the legs to try and break free and Yarborough appears to have been busted open by his opponent's punches. Takase is finally able to escape and punch his grounded opponent enough to force a submission due to strikes.
My goodness, this was a complete mess. Absolutely awful in the best possible ways. I'm really thrilled to have been witness to this fight, but now I just feel sad. Bas compares Takase's terrifying experience to sinking in quicksand which seems appropriate.
In perhaps the most disappointing turn of events, Takase is presented with a rather small trophy for his victory. I thought we clarified in earlier posts that the bigger your opponent, the bigger your trophy when you win the fight. At 6'8" and more than 600 pounds, a victory over Emmanuel Yarborough is at least worth an 8-10 foot tall trophy. Takase should have been presented different trophies every day for a month, though I wonder if the yellow card automatically reduces the size of your trophy. Ah yes, that must be it. Theory intact!
This next fight is going to be great, and not just because the two men combined weigh 250 pounds less than Emanuel Yarborough. Veterans Kazushi Sakuraba and Carlos Newton will square off in what would be equivalent to a modern middleweight fight.
Hey look, it's Bas! In the ring! The Japanese crowd gives El Guapo a lovely hand as he presents flowers to Carlos Newton and Kasushi Sakuraba. I wish Bas Rutten would give me flowers. Not in a romantic way, but like...you know, how dudes give each other flowers when they're best friends. We'll plan to go see a baseball game or bowling and Bas will just give me some flowers because he thinks I'm cool. It's not gay, it's a perfectly normal way for men to say, "Hey, I like you and I wouldn't mind taking my shirt off with you." IT'S NORMAL, LEAVE ME ALONE.
Bas briefly takes the microphone and drops two huge pieces of news: he'll fight Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight Title at the next UFC event in October and then he'll fight Rickson Gracie in PRIDE once his UFC contract expires. History, unfortunately, does not quite unfold in that way and it's quite sad as I would have loved to see Bas in both of those fights. Maybe instead of Rickson Gracie, he meant Ruben Villareal. And instead of PRIDE, he meant a WFA event almost a decade later. Sigh.
I love the crowd's reaction when the translator reveals that Bas wants to fight Rickson Gracie. If awe had a noise, that would be it. This man comes into a PRIDE ring and tells the world of his ambitions to fight one of the most legendary fighters in all of combat sports. And Bas was just totally cool about it, almost as if he was going to get ice cream after the show. It's no big deal to him...fight a Gracie, make some bucks, move on. That's my man. Bas and Quadros play it off as if they're cageside for the fights and Bas just returned to the announcing booth.
When the bout begins, Sakuraba is the early aggressor with some low kicks before Newton rushes in to the clinch. Newton goes to hip toss Sakuraba, but amazingly, Sakuraba maintains his balance and lands in Newton's guard! Sakuraba very quickly tries to spin around Newton and as the Canadian tries to defend, Newton is somehow able to lock in an armbar!!
This looks extremely tight but Newton somehow fights out of this hold. An odd struggle leads to Newton in side control, but Sakuraba amazingly reverses positions effortlessly and moves into guard. Sakuraba goes for a heel but this doesn't work and Newton ends up on top again in side control. Sakuraba turns over onto all fours and goes for Newton's leg, pushing forward and moving back into guard. This is incredible. We're only a few minutes in and I'm in awe of Kazushi Sakuraba. Honestly, I've not seen a lot of these early PRIDE fights and I'm completely delighted by how this man grapples. Of course, Newton's no slouch himself.
Sakuraba is trying to figure a way to submit Newton from this spot while Newton is working hard to control his opponent's hands. Sakuraba spends some time working for an armbar while Newton spins with Sakuraba in defense, but he eventually locks the hold in again! Newton is quick to escape to a standing position, but Sakuraba again goes for the leg and pulls Newton to the mat! WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING!? Kazushi Sakuraba's brain is not normal, but in the best possible ways. People shouldn't be able to do these things.
Sakuraba is trying to fake Newton out in an attempt to go for a heel hook, but Newton keeps up and stays out of trouble. Sakuraba stands back up and in a show of respect, Sakuraba allows Newton to get back to his feet without issue. Sakuraba isn't as active with his leg kicks this time and Newton lunges in for a big punch, but Sakuraba is able to take Newton down again and gets back into guard.
Sakuraba goes for a punch and quickly locks in a toe hold, but Newton is able to escape after a struggle and take Sakuraba's back! Newton sinks in both hooks and is going for a choke - this doesn't look good for Sakuraba, but I know not to doubt the man at this point. Sakuraba adjusts and moves to all fours so Newton's grip is loosened. Newton throws some weak punches, but Sakuraba is able to shrug Newton off and move into his guard!
Sakuraba lands a big right hand from guard, but leaves it as just the one punch at this point. Sakuraba moves into side control and briefly takes Newton's back, but Newton stands back up and backs Sakuraba off with a punch. Sakuraba moves in with a quick takedown and the bell rings to end the first round. This was perhaps my favorite round of MMA since beginning these UFC and PRIDE recaps. I don't know that I've ever seen grappling like that in my life, Sakuraba is super-humanly talented.
Round two starts with Newton shooting in on Sakuraba after a a low kick attempt. Newton takes Sakuraba's back and drags him to the mat, but Sakuraba somehow grabs onto Newton's arm and goes for a Kimura. Newton frees himself and takes Sakuraba's back and is able to maintain position after a brief struggle that sees Sakuraba almost splayed out in a crucifix position. Newton postures up above Sakuraba and throws a couple of knees to the body.
At this point, Newton has been able to maintain control longer than at any point in this fight. He's held Sakuraba's back for a while, but now Saku reaches back for Newton's leg but Newton manages to figure-four Saku's right arm. Bas says that if Newton were to crossface Sakuraba and torque his neck to the left, that would probably be the end of the fight. The hold would resemble Chris Benoit's Crippler Crossface submission hold, just with less child murder. Sakuraba quickly pushes forward and avoids that position, though he freely gives up his back once more.
Newton comes back with some punches while postured up over Sakuraba landing some of the best ground and pound this fight, though that's not saying a lot. Sakuraba rolls back onto Newton and is able to turn into his guard. You can hear Newton's corner urging him on to submit Sakuraba, though that's a task much easier said than done at this point. Sakuraba quickly advances positions and locks in a really nasty looking armbar, but Newton is somehow able to escape and take Sakuraba's back again!! That was wild, I thought the fight was done!
Newton attempts to sink in his hooks to take Sakuraba's back, but he inadvertently leaves his ankle free. Sakuraba quickly grabs hold of Newton's leg and locks in a knee bar, rolling forward and gaining maximum leverage! This is very bad news for Newton who is quickly forced to tap out! What a stellar fight and an amazing finish! Sakuraba was working for submissions all fight and it seemed inevitable that he would finish one. Newton made this mistake and ended up paying for it.
After the fight, Sakuraba and Newton pay each other respect and receive a great hand from an appreciative crowd. Sakuraba and Newton appear to be laughing and joking like old friends once this fight is done and it's great to see. These two men put on an incredible fight and should be extremely proud of this. I'm proud of it and I just sat on my ass and typed all sorts of nonsense. This is exactly the kind of fight that makes me so happy to be an MMA fan.
I should note that Sakuraba's trophy appears to be only a few feet tall, though I think at this point, some kind of statue should be erected in his honor. Seriously, between this and his fight with Vernon White, Sakuraba has completely won me over. I WANT HIM TO FIGHT AGAIN RIGHT NOW.
Gary Goodridge will now fight Amir Rahnavardi in a fight that has a very tough act to follow. Then again, this fight could be Harold Howard vs. Jesus Christ and it wouldn't be a tenth as good as Sakuraba vs. Newton. If I could travel time, I would go back to PRIDE 3 so I could witness Sakuraba vs. Newton in person. That was a god damn masterpiece, Goodridge vs. Rahnavardi is a heap of vomit in comparison.
But it could still be a good fight!
Goodridge will be making his third PRIDE appearance in this fight and we know his reputation as a smashing striker who can bust out the arm wrestling if needed. Bas reveals that Goodridge was originally supposed to fight Kimo, but the Hawaiian blew out his knee and Rahnvardi took the fight on one day's notice. Rahnvardi was actually going to corner Kyle Sturgeon, who will be fighting in the main event tonight.
Surprisingly, Rahnavardi opens the fight swinging but Goodridge clinches and throws some big uppercuts and knees. I wonder if Rahnavardi is thinking twice about this strategy? He actually quickly lunges in for a punch and clinches with Goodridge. He tries for a judo throw, but Goodridge blocks the throw and ends up on top. Goodridge is in half guard and throwing some punches from this position, but he's mostly trying to maintain control and advance positions.
Okay, so I think Stephen Quadros spoils the outcome of this fight during the commentary? He tells a story about how he was getting phone calls from Rahnavardi when he was in Japan and when he accepted the fight with Goodridge. Quadros then, for whatever reason, finds it necessary to say that Ranadvardi loses the fight. I listened back to this three times and I still can't make sense of it. I wondered if the two had fought previously, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Umm, so I guess Goodridge wins, but we'll have to wait and see for sure.
Bas notes that all of Goodridge's punches sound different from one another, which is an interesting thing to say. All of his punches just sound violent to me, but I guess Bas just has an ear for these things. Goodridge's punches are coming sparingly, though Rahnavardi is working hard to control Goodridge's wrists here. He's holding onto Big Daddy and I wonder if he's just trying to survive deep into the fight until Goodridge gets tired out.
Goodridge postures up and tries to strike his opponent, but Rahnavardi locks in a kneebar that appears to be close! He loses the grip after struggling for the hold and Bas shouts warnings to Rahnavardi to let go of the leg and get on top of his opponent. Unfortunately, Goodridge escapes the hold and moves into guard. Rahnavardi attempts to catch the transitioning Goodridge in a traingle, but Goodridge avoids that submission as well. Bas and Quadros seem very impressed with Rahnavardi, especially having taken the fight on short notice.
Goodridge moves from guard into side control and basically folds Rahnavardi in half. Goodridge works for a key lock, but Amir tries to lock in an armbar of his own. Unfortunately, he turns onto all fours and takes a big right hand from Goodridge before turning back over.
At this point in the fight, Gary Goodridge goes insane. He shouts to Rahnavardi that this fight is "child's play" and encourages Rahnavardi to hit him again and again. He continues to shout "woo!!" and "again!!" as Rahnavardi throws some strikes that appear to do little damage from the bottom. Goodridge has gone nuts and now he's landing some big blows from Rahnavardi's guard. After just a couple of punches, Rahnavardi appears to go out and the referee stops the contest! Goodridge has knocked Rahnavardi out and won his second fight for PRIDE.
Goodridge is celebrating with huge howls while clutching his newly won trophy. He's also celebrating with a man wearing a black bandana who I initially mistake for Jesse Ventura. I think that because it's 1998 and nobody else in the fucking world wore a bandana aside from "The Body". Nonetheless, Gary Goodridge is your winner - and he is also crazy.
We move on to another massive heavyweight with UFC and PRIDE experience as Mark Kerr takes on Pedro Otavio. Quadros reveals that Otavio's nickname is "The Pedro", which is fantastic. I hope Kerr is at least nice enough to not crush The Pedro's head like a grape.
It looks like The Pedro wants to touch gloves but Kerr opens up with a leg kick. I get disoriented since we see Mark Kerr throw a leg kick, but also because he looks noticeably trimmer in this fight. He doesn't look quite looks like the illegitimate child of Alistair Overeem and a tractor anymore.
Kerr throws a high kick this time, showing off a bit of his improved striking. Quadros warns that The Pedro likes to put on a show, but as he says that, Kerr shoots in for a takedown and moves into half guard. Kerr postures up and throws some knees to his opponent's head as The Pedro grabs onto Kerr's waist for dear life. Kerr starts throwing some huge body shots but then lays back down on The Pedro. As The Pedro tries to escape, Kerr grabs on to his left arm and torques it deep behind his back. This looks really frightening and Otavio starts to scream as the referee stops the fight!
But wait! Was The Pedro actually screaming out in pain? After the fight, he immediately hops up and disputes the stoppage. Kerr is a strong guy and I feel like him locking in a submission like that is a definite way to rip somebody's arm out of socket. The Pedro is adamant that fight shouldn't be stopped and Pedro keeps shouting "NO! NO!" Bas also feels like The Pedro was screaming out in pain and that the stoppage was warranted. Kerr gets his trophy and is celebrating...with Bas Rutten? Even more evidence that Bas and Quadros are recording this commentary long after the fact.
Time for the main event of the evening pitting Nobuhiko Takada against Kyle Sturgeon. We all remember Takada from not even coming close to defeating Rickson Gracie at PRIDE 1. He is, however, a Japanese hero and has the firm support of this crowd. Sturgeon indeed has Amir Rahnavardi in his corner, but also Thomas Denny, a man who has been fighting pretty much forever.
Bas and Quadros don't know a lot about Sturgeon. Quadros says that Sturgeon fought in Pancrase style fights in California while Bas says he's never heard of the guy. Way to play it up, Bas. I'm sure you could have said something generic like "hey, I've heard good things" or "he's a tough guy." Instead, Bas denies the guy before the fight even begins.
I don't like how this fight starts. Sturgeon throws a pathetic looking high kick that Takada blocks. Takada then taunts Sturgeon to do it again and he obliges, Takada selling the kick like death when it appears to barely graze his head. Quadros wonders aloud if the kick hurt Takada, but it's pretty clear that he's putting on a show here. That's a polite way of saying that the first 20 seconds of this fight have been fake as shit.
Sturgeon throws some weak low kicks and Takada fires back. Sturgeon is successful with the most transparent takedown attempt ever and Quadros notes that Sturgeon is bouncing around quite a bit. I wonder if he's not working the fight, but instead, is super high on meth. He looks like he could possibly be a meth head and I think he trains with Kimo, so both of those could be bad signs.
Sturgeon stands and seems interested in a leg lock of some kind, but forgets to grab hold of the leg as Takada shoves him to the mat and gets back to his feet. Now Takada moves in for a takedown of his own and moves into guard. Bas is trying to get a good look at Sturgeon's tattoos but can't make out what they mean. Sturgeon is throwing some punches from the bottom while Takada is just holding his position. Bas says that Sturgeon won't win any fights with these "rabbit punches". He then proceeds to make the "ribbit" noise briefly confusing a rabbit and frog. God, I love Bas.
Takada stands up, grabs Sturgeon's leg, and falls back into a heel hook with very little resistance. He locks in a pretty unconvincing submission hold and Sturgeon taps out to the hold. Bas notes that this was "a fast one" and Quadros and Bas says nobody would have expected this. I think this is all a nice way of saying that this fight was a work.
Well, what a great way for this night of fights to end. I turned on an MMA event and ended up with a pro wrestling match. I guess that's what you expect when Takada fights a guy who doesn't have a Wikipedia page (though the Takada/Kerr fight is another story). Takada was unimpressive in victory, but to the Japanese, he's a hero
But it looks like one of Takada's teammates is becoming a more legitimate hero to the Japanese people and that's Kazushi Sakuraba. Sakuraba put on one of the best performances that I've ever seen against a super tough opponent in Carlos Newton. Sakuraba's grappling was magical and I feel privileged to have seen this fight.
PRIDE 4 is coming up on what will be the first anniversary for the promotion. We'll see a lot of familiar faces from the first three PRIDE events and there will be one big name rematch that should turn a lot of heads. It will have a difficult show to follow as PRIDE 3 was the promotion's strongest offering yet. There was still a bit of the freak show element here, evident in the Takada and Yarborough fights, but we also saw some really great mixed martial arts action. I'm looking forward to PRIDE 4 to see what the promotion will have to offer on its first big milestone.
Greatest Fights of PRIDE 3
- Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton
- Akira Shoji vs. Daijiro Matsui
- Gary Goodridge vs. Amir Rahnavardi
- Mark Kerr vs. Pedro Otavio
- Nobuhiko Takada vs. Kyle Sturgeon
- Daiju Takase vs. Emmanuel Yarborough
Top Ten Fights Through PRIDE 3
- Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton - PRIDE 3
- Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vernon White - PRIDE 2
- Akira Shoji vs. Renzo Gracie - PRIDE 1
- Akira Shoji vs. Daijiro Matsui - PRIDE 3
- Gary Goodridge vs. Oleg Taktarov - PRIDE 1
- Gary Goodridge vs. Amir Rahnavardi - PRIDE 3
- Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge - PRIDE 2
- Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada - PRIDE 1
- Mark Kerr vs. Pedro Otavio - PRIDE 3
- Kazunari Murakami vs. John Dixson - PRIDE 1
Greatest Fighters of PRIDE 3
- Kasushi Sakuraba (1-0)
- Akira Shoji (0-0-1)
- Daijiro Matsui (0-0-1)
- Carlos Newton (0-1)
- Gary Goodridge (1-0)
- Mark Kerr (1-0)
- Amir Rahnavardi (0-1)
- Nobuhiko Takada (1-0)
- Daiju Takase (1-0)
- Pedro Otavio (0-1)
- Kyle Sturgeon (0-1)
- Emmanuel Yarborough (0-1)
Top Ten Fighters Through PRIDE 3
- Kazushi Sakuraba (2-0)
- Rickson Gracie (1-0)
- Marco Ruas (1-0)
- Renzo Gracie (1-0-1)
- Akira Shoji (1-0-2)
- Daijiro Matsui (0-0-1)
- Carlos Newton (0-1)
- Gary Goodridge (2-1)
- Mark Kerr (2-0)
- Royler Gracie (1-0)