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Pride 10: Return Of The Warriors review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 30, 2006, 10:22 AM

Pride 10: Return Of The Warriors

Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten, nope, sorry, thatíd be Eddie Bravo for this show. Not the greatest replacement either as him and Quadros hardly agree about a thing on the entire show. Anyhow, they run down the card, pushing the big matches that include Renzo Gracie/Kazushi Sakuraba, and Ken Shamrock/Kazuyuki Fujita.

Vitor Belfort vs Daijiro Matsui

Iím hoping this oneís a bit better than Belfort vs. Yvel was, but from what Iíve heard about Vitorís Pride career I donít hold out much hope. Still Matsuiís one of the best at taking a beating, so you never know.

We begin and itís a VERY tentative start as both guys circle around without doing anything. Finally Matsui shoots in for a takedown, but Vitor sprawls and spins to Matsuiís back ala Vovchanchyn on the last show. Belfort works him over with the right hand from behind, until Matsui spins over into guard, and lands some heel kicks to the kidneys as Belfort works from the top. Suddenly Vitor OPENS UP with a couple of crazy flurries inside the guard, as Matsui desperately tries to push him off! Matsui manages to get into the turtle position, but Vitor gets a side waistlock and continues to land as Matsui is cut badly at this point. He turns to his back, but eats more heavy punches, so he rolls right back into the waistlock, taking more shots as he does. Poor Matsui tries to roll, but just continues to take abuse as the round finally ends with Vitor in total control.

Into the 2nd, and youíd think Vitor would just blast the guyís head into the second row, but no, they begin incredibly tentative again, and this goes on for so long until the referee steps in and gives both guys a warning. Belfort FINALLY gets a takedown to guard as they restart, and he chops away with ground-and-pound, sitting up to deliver some shots and throwing the odd flurry, but mainly, the action is very slow. Matsui tries one submission Ė an armbar Ė but Vitor avoids it easily, and continues to work him over from the top. Into side mount, but Matsui works back to full guard quickly, so Belfort continues his conservative offense from the top to end the fight.

To the judges, and itís no surprise, Vitor picks up the unanimous decision. This was hardly what Iíd call a stellar performance, though Ė it was clear within the first three minutes or so that Matsui was no match for Belfort, and after completely dominating him in the first round, I just donít understand why Vitor didnít come out and at least look like he was trying to finish him in the 2nd. I mean, sure, it was a one-sided performance, but the aggression from Belfort was very low.

Wanderlei Silva vs Guy Mezger

This should be interesting as Iíve heard good things about it before, and Mezger is one of those guys who might not win all his big fights, but heís pretty much always competitive with anyone, so itís nearly always a good scrap. This was of course pre-Sakuraba days for Silva, so he didnít have quite the killer aura that he went on to possess in later years.

They get underway and Mezger lands a couple of left kicks, as they trade jabs from a distance. Silva circles round, but Mezger lands the left high kick, and then a left hand to follow. They go into a brief clinch, where Mezger lands a knee to the midsection and follows with a one-two, cutting Silva over the eye. Mezger shoots in for a takedown, but Silva avoids and lands a knee, and they come back and trade some nice punches and kicks. Silva lands a good low kick, and follows with a left into the clinch, but he misses a big knee as they break. Wanderlei gets another good leg kick in, but Mezger continues to land some nice shots of his own too, coming out of a clinch with a left high kick that clips Silva. Silva comes back with a low kick, and then stuns him with a one-two, sending him tumbling! Silva tries to follow up, but Mezger manages to grab a single leg and then lands a knee as Silva goes to one knee himself, trying to get back up. Into a clinch, but Silva stuns him with a one-two again, and they exchange, just trading big punches now, and Silva is getting the better of it. Mezger looks wobbly as the trade goes on, but finally Silva rocks him with some more shots Ė including a blatant headbutt Ė and then nails him with a huge right hand for the knockout.

Really exciting stand-up fight there, and it was interesting as Mezger looked in control when he managed to keep the fight elusive and strike technically, but once Silva drew him into simply standing and trading, like most times Iíve seen that happen, Guy was toast. Iíve seen people complain about the headbutt on MMA boards before, and yeah, it was blatantly illegal, but I donít think it made a large difference in the result, anyway. Good fight, regardless.

Ricco Rodriguez vs Giant Ochai

Ochai, I believe is a Japanese pro-wrestler of some notoriety, but I have little to no idea on why he was booked on this show at all. He looks completely bizarre too, standing at 6í1Ē, but weighing nearly 300lbs and sporting huge rock star shades and an afro. Rodriguez, of course, was pretty badass at this point.

Ricco throws some kicks to open, before he gets a bodylock and lands some knees to the midsection. They break and Ricco tags him with some punches, before shooting in, but Ochai sprawls and grabs a guillotine. Of course, heís not going to tap Ricco with that, and sure enough Suave picks him up and delivers a BIG SLAM down to side mount. He tries to pass into full mount, but Ochai manages to get half-guard, so Ricco works him over with some punches, and then drops back for a kneebar. It looks like heís locked it on, but as he tries to hyperextend it, Ochai somehow escapes and scrambles to his feet! Ricco joins him and lands a right hand into the clinch, where he knees the body. Ochai tries a throw, but ends up on the bottom in half-guard, and this time Ricco passes right into full mount. Ochai rolls and gives his back, so Ricco locks on a body triangle and works for the rear naked choke, but Ochai actually defends it pretty well, and then manages to roll back into the mount position, but Ricco gets a front/smother choke variation, and the Giant taps out there.

Dominating performance as youíd expect from Ricco, although Ochaiís defensive skills werenít that shabby at all. Seriously, itís horrible to think about what Riccoís become over the years, cause he was really, really good back at this point and you wonder if he could ever recapture that form.

Gilbert Yvel vs Gary Goodridge

Yvel was looking to bounce back from his disappointing loss to Vitor Belfort at the preceding Pride show here, while Goodridge was coming off a loss of his own, to Ricco Rodriguez.

They circle to begin, before Yvel lands a HUGE LEFT HIGH KICK TO THE SIDE OF THE HEAD!~! Goodridge goes DOWN AND OUT, and 28 seconds in, thatís all she wrote.

Iíve seen this before in highlight packages, but itís even better to see it properly with the range of replays and what-not. When you see it from a couple of angles, it actually looks like it didnít connect, the kick comes that fast. One of the ultimate highlight-reel knockouts and it pretty much guaranteed Gilbert a ticket back to Pride for some time Ė heís fought there a further six times and lost every fight. But wow, one of the greatest high kick knockouts youíll ever see.

Mark Kerr vs Igor Borisov

Announcers donít seem to know much about Borisov outside of his history as a Sambo champion (every unknown Russian in Pride is a Sambo champ, seemingly) and all I can find on his record besides this fight is a win over Giant Ochai. For those who care though, with a lightly permed haircut and a crazy tan, he looks somewhat like a European porn star. This was Kerrís first fight back following his surprising loss to Fujita in the 2000 Pride GP, a tournament I think he was actually expected to win.

Kerr comes right out and lands a heavy low kick, before blocking a high kick attempt. Two more low kicks land, before Kerr gets the takedown to guard. Borisov tries to tie him up from the bottom, but Kerr breaks free and grabs the back of his head, yanking it up into a neck crank for the quick tapout.

Total squash job there, Borisov was clearly overmatched and Kerr just wasted no time, and got the submission with just pure brute strength.

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Enson Inoue

I think I said this in my last review, but regardless, itís something that canít be understated, and thatís the fact that at this point Igor Vovchanchyn was practically the scariest guy in MMA. On the flip side, Enson Inoue is not a scary man. However, what he is is a very tough man. One of the toughest men to ever compete in MMA in fact, with an attitude that heíd rather have one of his limbs snapped than tap out in a fight. Heís wearing gi pants here, greatly impressing Eddie Bravo, who points out that Ensonís only chance in this one is to catch Igor with a submission, most likely from his back.

The bell sounds and Enson comes CHARGING OUT OF THE GATE with a right hand into the clinch, and they quickly break and go into the WILDEST TRADE EVER, just throwing absolute BOMBS at each other, and Enson manages to land, cutting Igor under his left eye, before Vovchanchyn inevitably lands a couple of harder shots and rocks him, before throwing him down to the ground. Igor follows down into Ensonís guard, and avoids a triangle attempt and passes into half-guard. Inoue manages to get full guard back, but Vovchanchyn sits up and lands some punches, avoiding another triangle in the process. Igor just opens up on him, clubbing away with some SERIOUSLY HARD shots, and continues to avoid any submission attempts that Inoue throws up. More bombs land and itís hard to believe that Enson is still in this fight by this point, as Igor is just landing at will over and over and over. He passes into half-guard now, and then looks to mount, getting into a dominant position, a quasi-mount with Enson turning onto his side. From there itís a MASSACRE, as Igor just drops some HORRIFYING sledgehammer-like punches to the head, seriously some of the most frightening shots Iíve ever seen in MMA, for the last minute until the round ends.

Between rounds Enson canít even get up, his head looks like itís been pounded in repeatedly with a mallet, looking brutally swollen on one side, and the doctor stops things there, even though it looks at one point like Inoue wants to carry on. I hate to think what couldíve happened if it had carried on, as Inoue was looking like the living dead at the end of that round anyway. One of the most terrifying beatdowns Iíve ever seen in MMA, but man, it was a hell of an entertaining fight Ė in a way like a prototype version of what weíd come to see in the first Fedor vs. Nogueira fight, except this was way more brutal, Iíd say. Enson truly is one of the toughest bastards to ever compete in an MMA ring.

Ken Shamrock vs Kazuyuki Fujita

This was Kenís second fight back in MMA after returning from his WWF run, the first being a knockout victory over Alexander Otsuka a few months prior. Kenís looking seriously lean and cut up here, too. Fujita has Don Frye and Brian Johnston in his corner, and Frye looks completely different to how Iíve seen him before, sporting a big beard and a long, curly ponytail, which makes him look like the villain in the Van Damme flick ĎLionheartí. Still a badass though, donít get me wrong!

We get underway and Ken opens with a hard low kick and manages to block a takedown. Fujita comes back with a clipping right hook, and then shoots in, but Shamrock sprawls to avoid again, before stuffing another takedown attempt and tagging him with a big right-left combo! Fujita grabs the clinch, but eats more hard punches and uppercuts from Ken. Fujita tries a takedown again, and Ken blocks, but Fujita gets a waistlock and turns into the double underhook bodylock position, but Shamrock grabs the ropes to avoid going down. Referee calls time and shows Ken the yellow card for that one. They restart, and Shamrock stuffs another takedown, and this time NAILS him with some quick combinations! Fujita tries to return fire, but Ken absolutely TAGS him with punches, sending his mouthpiece flying and ROCKING HIM LIKE A HURRICANE!~!

Fujita looks wobbled and Ken shoves him to the mat, closing in, but Fujita attempts a single leg as Shamrock comes forward. Ken counters into a guillotine attempt, and it looks tight, as Shamrock stands and leans right back, with Fujitaís face turning purple, but he canít get the tapout so Ken releases and avoids a takedown attempt again. They go into a clinch and exchange some knees and punches, but when they break off Ken looks tired and the pace definitely slows from here onward. Fujita tries the takedown again, but Ken avoids once more, and lands another low kick. They go into a clinch again, but this time the ref calls time for some reason, I couldnít tell quite what but it looked like a possible low blow from Fujita. They restart and go right into the clinch, with Ken landing shots well again, working him with uppercuts and inside hooks. Ken breaks off, but they go right back into another clinch, where Ken lands some more knees and uppercuts, but this time Fujita manages to muscle the action into the corner, and suddenly something goes very wrong for Ken, who yells at his corner, and subsequently Pete Williams throws in the towel.

Very, very weird ending there that obviously wouldíve been confusing as hell at the time, as Ken was completely dismantling Fujita and seemed to call for the towel for no real reason. Apparently though Ken suffered an irregular heartbeat Ė hence the now-infamous ďPetey! My heart!Ē line Ė and just decided to get out before something went seriously wrong. The usual story youíll hear online is that Kenís heart problem here was caused by the use of steroids during his WWF run, but how true that is Iím honestly unsure. Still, forgetting the ending for a second, this was possibly the most impressive performance Iíve ever seen from Ken, as he showed some excellent striking and also a very good takedown defense, too. Really entertaining fight while it lasted.

Ryan Gracie vs Tokimitsu Ishizawa

I think Iím one of the few people online that Iíve spotted to actually like Ryan Gracie for some reason, hey, I just think he comes across as a cool guy. Bit of a psychopath, but a cool guy. Coincidentally, this is his MMA debut. Ishizawa is better known as Japanese pro-wrestler Kendo Ka Shin, and I have really no idea why he was signed to fight Ryan Gracie on a Pride show, but hey, here he is.

Ryan gets busy quickly, using punches to set up a nice takedown to a very loose guard, almost in the corner of the ring. Ishizawa gets a half-hearted guillotine, but Ryanís arm is in and thereís just no way heís going to get tapped with that. Ryan slowly works his way free, and as he gets out he lands a knee as they stand, and then Ryan just KILLS HIM DEAD WITH A SICK COMBINATION OF PUNCHES!~! Ishizawaís head bounces back like a speed bag, and thatís it right there.

Wow. If it werenít for Yvel/Goodridge, this would easily be the ďhighlight reelĒ moment of the night, as it was basically an identical situation to the Phil Baroni-Dave Menne knockout with Ryanís punches almost keeping Ishizawa up. Opponent was obviously questionable, but this was a great debut for the Gracie Bad Boy.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Renzo Gracie

This is of course the third match in probably the most famous rivalry in Pride history, that being Sakuraba vs. the Gracie family. Sakuraba had already gone through Royler and Royce Gracie before this, beating the latter in the legendary 90 minute fight at the Pride GP, but Renzo, I believe, was seen as a more difficult challenge due to his more-well rounded game when compared to the other Gracies Ė heíd beaten Oleg Taktarov with strikes, for instance, as well as winning his fights with subs. MONSTROUS pop for Sakuraba upon introduction, naturally.

They exchange kicks to open, before Renzo swings some punches into a clinch. Sakuraba gets a takedown to Renzoís guard, but then chooses to stand, and avoids Renzoís attempts at upkicks. Renzo comes back to standing, and starts to work the right low kick, landing some nice ones on Sakuraba. He comes forward, but Sakuraba gets a reversal on a takedown attempt and Renzo ends up on his back, where Sakuraba stands over him and lands some kicks to the legs. Back up, and Gracie deflects a high kick, and they try an exchange where Sakuraba answers the low kick with a right hand. Gracie shoots in, but Sakuraba avoids, and comes back with some nice leg kicks and a good right hand. Renzo shoots in again, but Sakuraba avoids once more and this time counters with a knee. They exchange some punches and leg kicks into a clinch, but it ends up being inactive, and after a few slow moments, the official breaks them up. Gracie catches him with a left hook and a low kick off the restart, but Sakuraba blocks a high kick, and then teases a Mongolian chop as he comes forward, before landing a low kick instead. Another low kick follows, but itís Renzo who presses the action to end the round. Good, competitive opening round.

Renzo shoots immediately to open the 2nd, but Sakuraba reverses and ends up on top, before standing and teasing some sort of leaping attack. Instead he tries a charging side-kick, which almost looks like a baseball slide using one leg, and then follows with a punch that lands nicely. Gracie stays down in the butt scoot position, so Sakuraba kicks the legs in his trademark fashion, even busting out a spinning back kick to the legs (!). This continues for a few moments as Saku kicks away, avoiding Renzoís upkicks in the process. He then tries a CARTWHEEL PASS!~!, but Renzo manages to push him off with his legs, then comes back up to standing and both guys swing some punches that miss. Renzo shoots in again, but ends up spinning to guard, and Sakuraba goes into half-guard only for Renzo to get one butterfly hook back in. Sakuraba stands and teases some sort of kick, but then goes back into the guard, and Renzo holds him close, so Saku chooses to stand again, this time grabbing Renzo by the ankle and spinning him around in a circle on the mat.

Back up, and Gracie counters a low kick with a quick right, before blocking a takedown attempt and landing a knee and another right hand. Sakuraba comes back with a left high kick, then tries a single leg, but Gracie avoids again, and counters with a knee. Sakuraba shoots in once more, getting a single leg to guard this time, but Renzo gets a reversal from the bottom and they come up to standing, with Renzo holding Saku in a rear waistlock. Sakuraba hooks the left arm for a standing kimura, and then drops to his knees, as Renzo tries somehow to do something with what would normally be a good position. Weíre into the last minute of the fight now, and Sakuraba suddenly comes back up to standing, and then SPINS INTO THE KIMURA, taking Gracie down to half-guard....and dislocating his elbow, badly, in the process. Needless to say the official spots the sick angle on Renzoís arm and stops things there. Holy crap, on replays that looks nasty, but Renzo looks alright after the fight, actually.

Post-match Gracie gets on the mic and says his only excuse is that Sakuraba was the better man on the night, total class act. I think Ryan Gracie then challenges Sakuraba, but Quadros and Bravo are too busy talking about the possibility of Rickson vs. Saku that they pretty much ignore the promo. Anyway, back to the fight Ė itís easily my favourite of the Sakuraba vs. Gracies series, as Renzo, especially in the first round, was very competitive with Sakuraba and definitely held his own standing. The second round was more entertaining as Saku pulled out some of his more unorthodox tricks, and the ending to the fight, with the spinning kimura, was a thing of beauty. Well, beauty as far as holds that break peopleís limbs go. I think itíd be fair to say that this fight was Sakuraba at his absolute peak, both in terms of popularity and in in-ring performance. Definitely one of the earlier Pride classic fights.

-And the show ends there.

Final Thoughts....

When I first got into MMA around three years ago, and did the whole ďwhich shows are worth picking up?Ē thing around the boards, Pride 10 was immediately one of the highest recommendations from a lot of longtime fans. This was my first viewing of the show, and to say it definitely still holds up would be an understatement. Thereís nothing youíd call ďbadĒ outright on the show, and even the more pointless fights (Rodriguez-Ochai, Kerr-Borisov) are squashes that end quickly. But Mezger-Silva, Shamrock-Fujita, Inoue-Vovchanchyn and Gracie-Sakuraba are definitely four of the best fights Iíve seen from the older Pride shows, with the latter two probably holding up as two of the better fights that the promotion has put on, period. Add in the highlight reel finishes for Yvel and Ryan Gracie, and top to bottom, it makes for a hell of a show. Definitely lived up to the hype for me. Pride 10 is up there with Pride 25 and Final Conflict 2003 as the best shows the companyís done. Highest recommendation.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 11 and 18.
UFC: 62, 63, 64 and 65.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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