Fight Prose: Pride Grand Prix 2000 Opening Round

The first moments of the walkout in the Tokyo Dome are filled with the pounding of Taiko drums, a stirring orchestra, a shouting MC, and a who’s who of first+ generation MMA stars with weights ranging from middleweight to superheavy. Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros are on the commentary, along with a few special guests including Ken Shamrock. With two-hundred K to the winner, even twenty years later that’s still a considerable fight purse in the UFC.

Reserve Match: Wanderlei Silva vs. Bob Schrijver – Young Wanderlei is an unknown element against the musclebound Dutchman. Wanderlei is looking surprisingly scar-tissue free and wearing a nice Chute box branded speedo. Silva with a workmanlike first round submission. Following the fight, Ken Shamrock enters the ring and announces his return to "no holds barred fighting" from the WWE.

Tachihikari vs. Gary Goodridge – this fucking stone OG killer up against a sumo guy in wrestling trunks. Not liking this one for the sumo guy. Yup. On a side/sad note, I saw a recent video of Gary Goodridge on youtube the other day. The fight game is unkind. On another note, GG is a former arm-wrestling champion, though he was not a long-haul trucker and may or may not have estranged children.

Ebenezer Fontes Braga vs. Akira Shoji – Pride super veteran Akira Shoji up against a young Brazilian. Shoji-san seems to be doing some yoga in the corner before the fight. Shit tons of clinch knees for Braga and a couple takedowns for Shoji make it an even and not so interesting fight. I guess these fights are one 15-minute round? Anyway, Shoji takes it with some home-cooking from the judges. Probably should have been a draw and another round.

Kazayuki Fujita vs. Hanse Neyman - Bas gets excited whenever a "Holland bad boy" fights and this bad boy’s got a gut hanging over his boxing shorts. Trivia: Fujita’s trainer is Antonio Inoki who fought Muhammad Ali in what could be called the first ever MMA fight. Hanse going for some big strikes and Fujita doesn’t like it but Neyman slips and it goes to the ground, where Fujita thrives. Neyman taps to a neck crank.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Guy Mezger – "Pride’s crown jewel," says Stephen. Shamrock’s in Guy’s corner for his third role change of the evening – a fighting renaissance man is Shamrock. Both fighters are careful – Guy jabbing and stuffing takedowns and Sakuraba kicking. Mezger just looks too big to me. (Almost every guy in this tournament seems too big for Sakuraba in truth.) Mezger should win the decision but the judges call the draw and it goes another round. Shamrock is pissed and forces Metzger to leave the ring. Shamrock then goes over to Sakuraba and talks shit. Mezger winds up getting DQed. Nice going Frank!

Masaaki Satake vs. Mark Coleman – K1 vs. UFC. Gary Goodridge comes into the commentary booth and seems super excited for the ultraviolence. A few times now he proudly exclaims: I’ve lost to both of these guys! In Satake’s first "no holds barred" fight, you imagine he’ll get wrestled to death. Or subbed in seconds. Despite the quick loss, I gotta watch some of Satake’s K1 fights – he looks like a fun dude.

Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Alexander Otsuka – the slightly tubby Ukranian dude who strangles babies against the lighter, smaller Japanese pro-wrestler. Not looking good, though Otsuka has a decent bit of MMA experience. The Diet Butcher is bloodied early, while GG laments the lack of grounded knees and kicks in this incarnation of Pride rules. The fight would certainly be over faster were Igor able to knee the head from the ground. Instead Otsuka weathers a longer beating.

[Where the hell has Bas disappeared too? "All the fighter that have ever kicked my butt I’m friends with, but if I kick a guy’s but I’m not interested," says GG.]

Enson Inoue vs. Mark Kerr – oh, this should be a good one. Bas appears in Kerr’s corner, so that’s where he went. To the ground within seconds and little happens. I’m scrolling through Enson’s Twitter now looking at his dogs. GG’s hocking loogies. "Very lubricated," GG says, looking at Kerr’s askew kneepad.

[Bas returns.]

Royce Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada – Before the fight is a video going through the Gracie’s history with Pride, which is considerable. Nonetheless, I gotta think Royce gets smoked by most everyone in this tournament, but maybe Takada takes it easy on him. Royce has been out of the game for five years and perhaps for that reason is wearing a gi. This is looking and feeling like one of those horrible early Pride Gracie fights that goes for 50 minutes but it’s only gone about 8 so far. It turns out Takada was hurt the whole fight as he painfully limps back to his corner at the bell. This somewhat excuses the shitty performance. Royce wins the UD, somewhat surprisingly to me. It will take some careful matchmaking to keep him from getting murdered in the next round.

Kerr, Coleman, Royce, Vovchanchyn, Sakuraba, Goodridge, Fujita get in ring for a group photo. Pretty sweet. Stayed tuned for the next Fight Prose: Finals. Please join me over at Substack and give me any suggestions, questions, or comments about Fight Prose.

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