This post combines the last two weeks of Fight Prose in edited format: Total Elimination and Final Conflict, the 2003 Pride Middleweight Tournament. To see the original posts in their full glory (with pics, embedded videos, and full digressions), please visit the site and subscribe to get weekly emails, or read on below.
Everything in life is just for a while.
― Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly
Oh boy, this is one we’ve been waiting for: the Pride 2003 Middleweight tournament (Middleweight in Pride being LHW in today’s UFC). It starts with Total Elimination 2003 in August and continues with Pride Final Conflict in November and believe me it’s a doozy! Wanderlei, Rampage, Alistair, Sakuraba, and, live and direct from across the Pacific ocean, UFC star, the Iceman Chuck Liddell! As such it's often billed as the UFC vs. Pride, but in truth there are only a few fights on the cards that would really qualify. Many other wild fights graced these cards though, including feeding old legends to young and/or middle-aged killers.
The only fly in the ointment appears to be the presence of Damon Perry on the commentary. Who the fuck is Damon Perry? Where’s the Fight Professor? What the fuck! I am averse to change. And this guy is annoying. DON’T LIKE Anyway, let’s start with Total Elimination:
Gotta think Gary is gonna get straight fucked up, which is a shame as I am definitely a Goodridge fan and it’s sad to see how deeply impaired he has gotten. Time to lose some more brain cells Big Daddy. Jeezus. Death by fucking jackhammers and soccer kicks. Check out the ref cam.
Mark Coleman in the middle of that beatdown: "You’re fine Gary, you’re fine!" No, no, I don’t think he is.
In the mid-fight skits Bas and Damon are doing shots of Tequila and sexually harassing catatonic Pride girls. Not sure what the theme is here. This guy Damon’s a doofus, I miss Stephen.
Alistair Overeem vs. Chuck Liddell
In the pre-fight video a young, pre-HGH/Super-Chad, pasty, JNCO-wearing Dana White with more or less a full head of hair confidently puts $250,000 on Chuck to win the tournament. Ohh, and Dana’s in the commentary booth as well, with a voice a few octaves higher than these days. Dana’s marveling at the 35,000 in the Super Arena, "Gee Whiz, we’d never get this at the Hard Rock," and claps excitedly as Chuck walks by.
To the fight: Alistair gets in a few good knees in the early going and cuts Chuck, who responds by getting Alistair down and returning the favor. Alistair starts getting a little wild and Chuck wobbles him, follows up, and finishes it. Dana runs to give him a big hug.
Murilo Bustamante vs. Rampage Jackson
Murilo (the UFC champ!) comes in as the late replacement for Ricardo Arona to face Rampage. Shows the draw of this era’s Pride, though I suppose he must have been a package deal with Chuck.
Weird herky-jerky start here. Rampage almost gets caught in an armbar and slams Bustamante. Then he almost gets caught in a guillotine. Then his pants fall off. When they finally restart, Rampage lands a couple knees and wisely stays off the ground. In the second round, Rampage lands a couple more knees and solid kicks. Bustamante doesn’t want to strike with Rampage but is unable to get to the ground until he pulls guard in the last minute. I sort of spaced the third round but I am certain Rampage will get the decision victory. Had I not already known the result going in, I guess maybe it could be a close decision, and yes, actually it winds up a split.
Ricco Rodriguez vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
It’s the former UFC HW Champ and BKFC vet Ricco Rodriguez vs. Former Pride HW Champ Big Nog for what is the third (kinda) cross-promotional battle of the night, with the series tied 1-1. I gotta think Pride comes out with the victory here.
Superman punch from Ricco and a Big Nog takedown. Minotauro going for those crazy HW subs, but Ricco has some skills as well and they seem evenly matched. Amazingly hefty Ricco in his corset pretty clearly takes the first round. The second sees some strange scrambles and positions for the big boys. Big Nog gets close to an armbar and a triangle in the third, but ultimately goes nowhere heading towards the loss. Whoah, I wrote too soon! Holy shit, Ricco is robbed. UD goes to Nogueira.
Damon "The Dog" Perry totally sucks. I miss Stephen. When does Mauro Ranallo start? Soon I hope. (Answer: Pride Bushido 1 which is next week on Fight Prose. Subscribe to get it straight in your email.)
Mirko Cro-Cop vs. Igor Vovchanchyn
Man, I love Igor, but he’s a little past his prime for this one. Let’s see if he gets destroyed as comprehensively as his compatriot Big Daddy Goodridge. Well, Igor lasts a little longer then Gary, but he may well be dead. Fedor is looking on.
Hidehiko Yoshida vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
This fight seems just a touch out of place here. Judoka vs Puroresu: very much a throwback to early Pride. Yoshida’s got the gi on, which we haven’t seen in quite some time; his fighting seems to indicate he doesn’t have much in the way of a modern MMA game. It looks like Tamura will wipe the floor with Yoshida and the winner will in turn will get annihilated in the next round. But that’s not how it turns out! For this day at least. (I’m looking at Yoshida’s W-L record after the fact and his career was much more successful than I would have guessed.)
Kazushi Sakuarba vs. Wanderlei Silva
I said this about their second fight: why the fuck would Sakuraba want to fight Silva again! And again again! Sakuraba and his cornerman are prepared for the coming apocalypse and walk out looking like the Road Warriors from WWE.
Sakuraba is so fast and weird, he must be hell to fight even at this stage of his career, but Wanderlei is Wanderlei and… Goodnight. Jeezus, don’t fight this guy anymore Kazushi!
Which brings us to the end of the big UFC vs. Pride (not really) show Total Elimination. Two knockouts of death from Silva and Cro-Cop, but for all the hype this event gets, it’s not even the best of the last few Prides. Pride 25 beats this IMO. Goes to show, if you stick a couple UFC guys in there, the later "best of Pride" lists are all locked up.
Moving on to the next event and the conclusion of the tournament: Pride Final Conflict 2003, with Wanderlei, Rampage, Chuck, and Yoshida. It’s November 9, 2003 and we’re live from the Tokyo Dome with an announced crowd of over 67,000 for the show - that’s just nuts. I’ve been to the Tokyo Dome and that place is huge. With the baseball field full of seats, I have no doubt that’s an authentic number.
Gary Goodridge vs. Dan Bobish
Looks like an open-weight fight for the two old dudes as Bobish is definitely over 300 pounds. Gary got destroyed by Fedor last time out, so let’s hope for a better performance from him this time. Eh, eighteen seconds of nothing much as Bobish grabs his eye after a clean left and Big Daddy pounds on him.
Rampage vs. Chuck
Quinton says he’s drinking less and playing fewer video games, so Chuck better watch out. His biggest strength is his strength. Okay. The intro videos tonight are considerably longer than usual and replete with devastatingly high quality graphics (sarcasm) and some new person narrating them, possibly because they know Damon Perry’s an idiot. Well, at least we get to see Nerdy Dana, who’s also back in the commentary booth.
The fight is limited to two rounds as they are fighting twice tonight. Quinton’s looking very slim and has a Sakuraba-esque mask on for his walkout.
It’s jabs back and forth before they start with the serious heavy leather and Chuck is eating big shots from Rampage. Big shots on both sides. In the booth, Dana’s being crabby about Chuck not kicking Rampage’s legs. Rampage connects and gets the takedown. Quinton connects again and Iceman like a dead man walking, but he makes it to the bell. Good first round. Rampage beating him up in the second, and Chuck’s corner throws in the towel as Rampage is pounding him with vicious shots to the body. Helluva fight from Rampage.
As the fight ends, Damon asks what is actually an interesting question of Dana, "What do you want from Pride." And Dana quickly answers, "Sakuraba."
He obviously didn’t get Kazushi, reputedly leading to the UFC's reluctance to ever do any co-promotions ever and totally monopolize the sport. Sakakibara-san, you couldn’t give up Sakuraba for one fight in Vegas? Instead you had to make this man so bitter and vengeful for the next twenty years.
Wanderlei vs. Yoshida
Yoshida had the surprise win in the first round, but you have to think he’s gonna get blown away here against Wanderlei. Really the matchup is borderline unfair, considering the degree of difficulty of Rampage’s fight. Yoshida’s wearing the gi again, and Bas is talking through the possible advantages. Yoshida gets a takedown early and is running through submission attempts, but Silva surprisingly threatens with a triangle. Yoshida gets out and they restart in the middle. Once again, Yoshida is surprising me with how well he is doing. Wow, he makes it through the first round, and probably even won it.
Silva connects with several big shots to start the second and Yoshida is clearly tough as fuck but backs off to avoid taking more damage. Wanderlei is cautious as he doesn’t want to get taken down again, but ultimately wins the round and the fight comfortably. At least Yoshida pushes Silva fifteen minutes so we can see a relatively even matchup fatigue-wise in the final.
Murilo Bustamante vs. Dan Henderson
This is the reserve match, presumably if one of the other winners can’t continue; Dan does it within a minute with a knee to the jaw and strikes.
In the intro video, Randleman’s talking about having a seizure and getting a car accident three months ago. Meanwhile, Sakuraba has just been repeatedly getting his ass kicked in recent events. Sounds like a great idea for these two dudes to fight! Another old guy, UFC champ Randy Couture, is handing out the flowers to start the fight. Boring first round, but minimal brain damage. Second round much the same. In the third round, a Randleman takedown backfires into a Sakuraba armbar submission victory.
Cro-Cop vs. Big Nog
"I don’t want to go to the ground and from a standing position I think I’ll kill him," says Cro-Cop. Well, that’s terrifying. The original fight was supposed to be with Fedor, but he broke a finger, so this is for the interim Pride HW championship while Fedor recovers. See, not only the UFC does this! (It’s another 18 months or so before we finally get to see Fedor vs. Cro-Cop in the summer of 2005.) Big Nog gets it to the ground early but Cro-Cop survives and keeps the rest of the round standing while he whacks him with kicks to the body. Cro-Cop is doing the same thing he did to Heath Herring at Pride 26, just dismissively calling Nogueira up off the ground whenever he shoots in and fails to take Mirko to the ground. Big Nog gets kicked in the face and is saved by the bell.
Wow, round two starts with a quick Nogueira take down and he’s in full mount G&P. Holy cow, he transitions to an arm bar and gets the tap! Wow! Helluva comeback from the former champ. Fedor pays his respects from ringside.
Tournament Final: Wanderlei vs. Rampage
Here we are at the main event of the evening: the final battle of the Middleweight 2003 Pride Grand Prix. You’d expect both fighters would be pretty beat from the first fight, so who knows what we’ll see.
Rampage charges into Silva and goes for the slam but Silva gets a choke in and Rampage is forced to set him down. Rampage pounds on him on the ground for about five minutes before the ref stands it up. And Wanderlei just goes off. Wow, that was brutal.
Welcome your new champ, same as the old champ. That was a great fight and that was a great event. Much better than Total Elimination. I can see why this one is on the Best of Pride lists for sure.
Next week it’s Pride Bushido 1. We’ll welcome the introduction of a new format, and Mauro Ranallo! Please visit Fight Prose for more content each week, including the upcoming ONE and RIZIN shows.