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Pride: Total Elimination 2005 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 16, 2007, 2:29 PM

Pride: Total Elimination 2005

04/23/05
Osaka, Japan


-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten, who are mad excited for this; the opening round of the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix, and rightfully so, because the last Middleweight GP ruled. This was of course back before tournaments were completely played out in Pride thanks to over-saturation shortly following this one. Renallo mentions that the favourite for the tournament has to be Wanderlei Silva, but really anyone in the line-up could take it.

-Long video package runs down the line-up for the tourney, and man is that one stacked tournament. Silva, Arona, Vovchanchyn, Overeem, Belfort, Rampage, Nogueira, Henderson...I don’t need to go on really. Seriously – there’s only one guy (Yoon Dong Sik) that you could argue doesn’t belong there – the rest are legit, mainly top-level fighters.

-We get a HUGE fireworks display before the traditional fighter introduction, and that’s a huge crowd they’ve got here too.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Kevin Randleman

Pre-fight Randleman cuts an excitable, sweary promo basically guaranteeing that he’ll knock Nakamura out within five minutes. Call me stupid, but I actually had Randleman pegged as the dark horse to win the whole thing going into this one. Yeah, I know. Nakamura is sans gi here.

Nakamura presses forward to open the fight, and Randleman looks surprisingly tentative, but then he shoots in and gets a takedown to half-guard. He moves Nakamura towards the corner of the ring, crossfacing him to try to create some distance, but Nakamura cleverly uses the corner to post himself and get back to his feet in a clinch. Nothing happens for a moment and then the ref calls the separation. Randleman comes forward into the clinch again and they exchange knees, but again we get a stalemate and the ref calls the break once more. Nakamura actually tries a flying knee off the restart (!) but Randleman shows some great reactions, catching him in mid-air and slamming him down, where Nakamura gets half-guard. Pretty much nothing happens for a while – what happened to a KO within five minutes? - before Nakamura escapes to his feet again, and gets a nice shoulder throw to half-guard. Nakamura passes into side mount and lands some knees to the body, and then looks for a full mount, but Randleman blocks and regains half-guard. The judoka works for full mount and gets it though, but can only land short blows as Randleman holds on. Nakamura goes for an armbar, but Randleman manages to pull his arm out, and gets a reversal to top position in half-guard to end the round.

Wow, was that a dull round or what?

Second round, and Nakamura presses forward, eating a right hand on his way into the clinch. Nothing happens there again until the ref breaks them, and Nakamura misses a high kick off the restart, allowing Randleman the easy takedown to half-guard. The action slllooowws down again, before Randleman finally works into mount, but Nakamura reverses him over and suddenly Randleman looks absolutely exhausted. Nakamura ends up in side mount, where he traps the arm ala Matt Hughes and starts to really pound away to the face, looking at one point to have put Randleman on dream street. He goes for a keylock rather than just pounding him out though, and Randleman gets a nice reversal and goes for a takedown of his own. Nakamura sprawls back, but Randleman gets him down anyway and Nakamura gets half-guard, and sure enough nothing happens as the round ends.

Third and final round, and they clinch up right away, but the official breaks them again. They go right back into the clinch, and this time Nakamura gets a takedown to guard. He passes to half-guard, then into side mount, and gets a full mount with little problem, but does nothing with the position and Randleman reverses him over, getting on top. Nakamura gets full guard though, and things slow down AGAIN. Ref brings them up finally and Randleman gets the yellow card. Restart, and Nakamura tries a knee, but Randleman catches it and gets a takedown to half-guard, and we end the fight in that position.

Judges give Nakamura the unanimous decision, and Randleman storms off as soon as he hears it, really angry about his performance. As he should be, as he did practically nothing there outside of a few takedowns. Nakamura didn’t do much more, to be fair, but at least he had a couple of bright spots and that ended up being enough to take it. Horrible way to begin the show.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Ricardo Arona vs Dean Lister

Major grappler vs. grappler match, this one, as I believe they were actually pegged to face each other in the Abu Dhabi Superfight before they got paired off here. Lister had qualified for the tournament by winning a mini-tournament at the preceding Bushido show, while Arona was in because, well, he’s Arona and he is AWESOME.

Round 1 begins, and Arona lands a couple of low kicks to open, and they go into a clinch. Ref calls the break quickly and they circle tentatively for a while, before Arona lands a couple of punches. Arona actually drops him with a right hand, and then lands some punches down into Lister’s guard, before looking to pass. Lister does well to retain the full guard though, so Arona stands and throws a soccer kick, before going back down into the guard. Lister looks to go for a triangle, so Arona stands up, and Lister joins him, where they exchange some robotic-looking strikes. Ref calls time for this lack of action and shows Lister the yellow card. Arona swings for him off the restart, but Lister catches him with a takedown and then drops back for a leglock attempt. Arona works to avoid, as we see Lister’s somehow picked up a nasty cut on the forehead. Arona grabs his glove to block an ankle lock attempt, and then pulls out entirely, going for a triangle choke of his own before transitioning for an oma plata. Lister avoids and tries the ankle lock again, but Arona manages to escape once more and ends up in full guard. Lister tries the leglock a third time, but Arona avoids and ends up on top to end the round.

Lister shoots in for a takedown to open the 2nd, but Arona blocks and reverses, ending up on top in half-guard. Lister gets full guard and holds on tightly, so Arona seems content to stay in the guard and pepper him with the odd punch. Arona stands to avoid a triangle, and they come back up where the Brazilian catches Lister with a decent left uppercut, but mainly both fighters miss their attempted strikes. Renallo and Rutten get really frustrated at this point, trying to find ways of saying “this fight is boring” without outright stating that. Lister reverses a takedown attempt and manages to mount, but Arona does a good job of manoeuvring from the bottom into full guard, and from there he almost locks in a triangle as the round closes off.

Third and final round then, and Lister gets a takedown to open, avoiding the triangle again. He decides to fall back for an ankle lock once more though, and Arona reverses it again and gets on top. He tries to mount, and does, but Lister holds on tightly to avoid any strikes. He ends up giving his back, but Arona can’t capitalise and they scramble to their feet before Arona ends up on his back. He misses an upkick, and they exchange in Arona’s guard before Lister tries the ankle lock again. Once again Arona avoids it easily, and then gets a sweet ankle pick reversal and gets a side mount. Arona lands some right hands and then mounts, but chooses to stand for some reason and they circle off to end the fight.

To the judges again, and this time Arona picks up the unanimous decision in what turned out to be a pretty close fight. There were actually some really high-level grappling exchanges in there and it was better than the first fight, but the pace was absolutely DIRE and it seemed like neither guy wanted to risk making a mistake, which made for another very dull fight for the most part.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Igor Vovchanchyn vs Yuki Kondo

Renallo right away promises a better fight between these two, seemingly assuming that Igor is going to kill Kondo dead in the first minute or something. Igor definitely looks better at 205lbs, that’s for sure – he’s even sporting abs here. Bas mentions that he’s only 30 and you would never guess that to look at the guy. Kondo was coming off a pretty impressive showing against Dan Henderson coming into this, but he was definitely the underdog.

They get underway and circle with little happening, before Vovchanchyn stuffs a takedown and ends up on top in side mount. He tries to go for the north/south position and lands a knee, but Kondo gets full guard before major damage can be done. Igor lands some punches to the body and the head, but Kondo eats them right up and then tries an armbar from the bottom, before going for a kneebar. Vovchanchyn tries to stand, but tumbles to the mat and Kondo transitions into a toehold, but Igor clubs him with his free leg and manages to stand out. He goes back into Kondo’s half-guard, where the Japanese stays busy from the bottom, but continues to take some punches. Suddenly Kondo gets a nice sweep and ends up on top in Igor’s guard, where they exchange before Kondo passes into half-guard. Igor locks up a kimura from the bottom, and uses it to flip Kondo over and get on top, but Yuki blocks him from stepping over the head to close the hold off. Igor lets the kimura go, and then takes the full mount, landing punches to the body and the head. Again Kondo gets a reversal before Vovchanchyn can do any real damage, but Igor reverses him right away and lands some left hands to end the round.

Round 2 opens and Igor comes forward aggressively, catching Yuki with a combination before getting a takedown to half-guard. Kondo scrambles into full guard, but takes some shots to the body and the head for his troubles. None of them seem to do much damage though, so either Kondo is as tough as an old boot, or Igor lost all his punching power with the extra pounds he cut. Igor passes into side mount, where he lands some knees, and then mounts, landing punches, but still not overly damaging Kondo, and the round ends soon after.

Third and final round (sensing a pattern here?) and Kondo tries a takedown, but Igor blocks and gets a side headlock, where he drops with almost a DDT and rolls right through into Kondo’s half-guard! Nice stuff. Kondo gets full guard, but Igor lands some punches and passes out to the side, where he gets a waistlock. Kondo stands though and turns into a clinch, and they break off. Kondo tries a takedown, but Igor sprawls back and hits him with some knees. They come back up and muscle for a takedown, but Igor breaks with a combo to the body, so Kondo pulls guard. Igor mounts again and lands some more punches, but like before they don’t seem to hurt Kondo, and this continues as the round, and fight, ends.

Igor picks up the decision, no surprise there, but like the first two fights, this was definitely a bit of a letdown. I mean, it wasn’t a snoozer like the first two were, but I think everyone (myself included) was expecting Igor to be a total killer at this weight and it didn’t seem that way at all – his punches didn’t seem to do all that much to Kondo and the fight was at a really slow pace again.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Vitor Belfort vs Alistair Overeem

Belfort was apparently representing the UFC in the GP, as he’d been fighting there for a few years previously, but whether that was an official thing I’m not sure, as he hasn’t been back to UFC since and ended up doing a few more fights in Pride instead. Plus, he didn’t appear to have the BACKING OF THE DANA like Liddell did. And while we’re on that, what’s with Pride always pairing the UFC rep with poor Overeem? I guess they don’t care if he loses to an outsider or something.

Overeem blocks a high kick attempt to begin, and then throws a big knee into the clinch, where he follows up with a takedown to guard. He lands some short punches, and then stands out of an armbar attempt and clips Vitor with a soccer kick. Referee brings Vitor back up, and he tries some left hands, but Overeem avoids them and gets the takedown to guard again. Alistair stands back up once more, but misses a stomp and the ref brings Belfort up once more. Vitor lands a left into the clinch, but fails on a guard pull attempt and the ref ends up calling the break. Overeem throws a high kick, but Belfort gets a takedown to Alistair’s guard, and things slow down to almost a standstill as Belfort peppers him with a few punches. Ref finally brings them back up and shows Overeem the yellow card. Christ, is everyone on downers tonight or what? They restart and Overeem gets on the offensive, landing a good right hand, which he follows with a front kick and a takedown to guard. Alistair stays busy, but does no real damage and after a while again, the ref stands them and this time it’s the yellow card for Vitor. Restart, and this time Overeem lands a BIG KNEE and follows with a short right hand that PUTS VITOR DOWN! Overeem pounds away in the guard, but Vitor tries an armbar, so Alistair pulls out to avoid and Vitor flips right over, looking for a takedown, but Overeem counters by clamping on a tight guillotine, and with nowhere to go, Vitor taps out.

Nice to see the first finish of the night, but I was hugely disappointed at the time as I was really pulling for Vitor here, being the UFC rep and all, and he just fought a totally flat fight, didn’t seem interested at all, and despite not fighting his greatest fight himself Overeem was able to capitalize. Good finish but that was another dull fight for the majority.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Dan Henderson

Coming in this was the fight I had been anticipating the most, as Henderson, after a bit of a layoff, had returned to Pride in late 2004 and beaten Nakamura and Kondo in succession, while Nogueira – a guy who I felt was possibly top five in the world in terms of talent – was finally getting a chance to crack the upper echelon against a real top-of-the-bill guy. Definitely the most intriguing match of the opening round.

Round 1 and they exchange some punches early, into a clinch, and Henderson gets a nice takedown right into full mount. Nogueira reverses right away though, but Henderson uses an over/under to control and avoids being put on the bottom. They come back to standing and it appears that Nogueira’s got a bloody nose already, not sure what was responsible for that. Henderson wades forward with some wild punches, but Nogueira counters them nicely and clips him on the way into a clinch. The ref breaks them up, and Henderson throws a winging right and ends up slipping to his back, but he kicks Nogueira away and stands up quickly. Hendo wades in with some punches again, but they look windmill-ish and Nogueira again lands some nice counters as they trade into a clinch. Henderson gets the takedown to guard, but Nogueira tries an oma plata and looks for a second to have it locked on. Hendo manages to escape though, once again showing his Houdini tendencies, and he stands and drops some punches into Nog’s guard. They come back up, and suddenly Henderson looks exhausted, even leaning on his knees. Never seen that from him before. He swings some punches, but they miss the mark and after a brief clinch, Nogueira blocks a single leg attempt and puts Henderson on his back with Nog in the side mount. Nogueira reaches over for a far-side kimura, and then steps over and turns it into a straight, textbook armbar....and Henderson taps out there. Whoa.

Huge, huge victory for Nogueira, but damn, you have to wonder what was up with Henderson there. He fought a really horrible fight for his standards, and to fall victim to a simple armbar like that, when you consider what he escaped against Nogueira’s brother is pretty crazy. His whole tactic seemed to involve wading in with his head down, windmilling punches though, and he seemed exhausted after about five minutes. Just a really poor showing from him, not sure if he was injured or sick or what, but he definitely didn’t seem himself.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Kazushi Sakuraba vs Yoon Dong Sik

Pride’s newest acquisition Phil Baroni joins us on commentary, and immediately endears himself to everyone by botching Yoon’s name and referring to him as ‘Pork Fried Rice’. Gotta love the NYBA. Yoon is apparently a noted judoka from South Korea, but this is his MMA debut. Sakuraba for his part has about enough tape around his knees to cover an Egyptian mummy here, which can’t be a good sign I don’t think.

They get underway and Yoon actually comes forward and presses the action, but Sakuraba suddenly lands a flurry of punches that puts him down at about 30 seconds, and the ref steps in there.

Damn, not much to see there – Yoon obviously hadn’t come prepared to take a punch, and just didn’t know how to react once Sakuraba whacked him. Easy route for Sakuraba to get into the Quarter-Finals, but in his state it was probably a good thing to pair him with this guy as I question if he could’ve beaten anyone else on show. Well, maybe Randleman.

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson

Thankfully, Baroni sticks around to commentate on this one too rather than cut his appearance down to like a minute. This one was set up on the prior Pride show, as Rampage got a questionable decision win over Shogun’s brother Ninja Rua, and was subsequently challenged by the younger Chute Boxe fighter. Announcers are wondering right away whether Rampage has been able to prepare properly for this one, after the last bad performance and being half-killed by Wanderlei Silva prior to that.

Shogun comes out aggressively, opening with a big right hand into the clinch, where he lands a couple of knees to the body before the ref calls the break. Rampage tries to work his jab, but Shogun walks through it and gets a plum clinch, landing some knees that seem to spook Quinton. Shogun breaks off and half-catches him with a bizarre Van Damme-esque flying kick, but then follows up with some punches and a few knees that have Rampage on the ropes, looking in trouble early. They go into a clinch, but break off quickly and then Shogun gets a waistlock and lands some knees to the legs.

Rampage turns into the regular clinch, and they exchange some knees before the ref breaks it. Shogun opens up with a one-two and a high kick into the clinch, where he gets a takedown into Rampage’s half-guard. They come back up and Shogun catches him with a knee, and then a series of knees from the plum clinch cause Rampage to clutch at his body apparently in a LOT of pain. Uh oh. Shogun wastes no time and lands a left to the body, following with some more knees into the clinch. Ref calls the break again and Shogun closes in with more knees and a BIG UPPERCUT, and Rampage goes down face-first! He comes back up, but Shogun gets him in the corner and OPENS UP with the knees, causing Rampage to collapse, and some HARD SOCCER KICKS finish there.

WOW. Total massacre right there as Quinton just wasn’t allowed to get off the back foot, as Shogun came out aggressively and compared to well, EVERY OTHER FIGHTER on this card, it was as if he’d taken a large amount of speed while the rest of them had overdosed on ketamine. From what I know Rampage ended up with a broken rib from a knee early, and it was just downhill from there, as he just didn’t seem prepared for the onslaught that Shogun brought. One of those fights that really makes you sit up and take notice of a fighter, and in this case, Shogun had definitely served notice to the rest of the division. And hey, finally a bit of excitement on this card!

Middleweight Grand Prix: Opening Round: Wanderlei Silva vs Hidehiko Yoshida

This was a rematch from the semi-finals of 2003’s Middleweight GP, and that was actually a really exciting fight, surprisingly enough. Yoshida had arguably improved quite a bit since then too, so there was a bit of interest here despite this being ANOTHER Japanese opponent for Silva. For his part Wanderlei had promised to knock out every single opponent he faced in the tournament, which is a pretty bold prediction to say the least. He actually looks a lot smaller than normal here, and even Renallo notices it right away, especially round the shoulder area. Don’t know what’s up with that – whether he did less weights or something training, who knows.

Round 1 and Silva swings as usual to begin things, but actually ends up getting a takedown to guard instead. Yoshida hangs on tightly as to not allow Silva any offense, and the referee brings them up after a while and shows Yoshida the yellow card. They restart and TRADE WILD PUNCHES, but neither lands cleanly and Yoshida shoots in, but Silva stuffs the takedown and presses forward methodically. Christ, even Wanderlei of all people is moving like he’s waist-deep in tar on this show. Silva finally catches him with a left that looks to stun Yoshida, but he manages to get into a clinch and gets a nice takedown to Silva’s half-guard. Yoshida passes into side mount, and lands a couple of glancing shots, but Silva reverses to his feet in a clinch and they exchange punches at close range. Yoshida gets another takedown though, and lands some good left hands as Silva holds on tightly now. Yoshida stays pretty active from the top, before Silva tries an armbar, but ends up letting go. Yoshida slams his way out of a brief triangle attempt, before Silva reverses to his feet and ends up standing over Yoshida to end the round. Man, slow round again there.

Second round, and both fighters still seem very tentative as they get underway. Silva throws a few punches after a while, but Yoshida pulls guard and holds on, looking for some sort of possible choke as Silva tries to break free and pound. Silva finally breaks off and stands over him, dropping a couple of nice punches down onto the head, before narrowly missing a dangerous stomp. Silva goes back into the guard, and continues to work from there to end another dull round for the most part.

Third and final round; I don’t think many people thought it would come to this. Silva comes out more aggressively this time, seemingly realizing he needs to win this round and win pretty big. He opens up with some leg kicks, and then lands a nice right hand. Some more punches land glancingly, before Silva really starts to open up with the leg kicks, hurting Yoshida more and more with every one that lands. They go into the last minute, and finally Silva capitalizes on the wobbly legs of Yoshida and decks him with some punches, but as he looks to follow with a stomp Yoshida catches the leg and pulls him down! Crowd go crazy as Yoshida desperately tries to lock up a toehold, but can’t get it on, and ends up releasing and grabbing a guillotine instead, flipping himself over to top position! Crowd are in a frenzy thinking Silva’s in trouble, but Wanderlei sticks his thumbs up to his corner, and then ends up waiting out the rest of the round with Yoshida trying the choke. The last minute of that round was better than the rest of the entire fight and most of the whole card, as it goes.

To the judges, and this is a *close* fight, so much so that Bas won’t even call a winner. First judge has it for....Yoshida, and the look on Silva’s face when he hears that is PRICELESS. Second and third have it for Wanderlei though, and it’s a split decision victory for the champion.

Very, very laboured performance from Silva and it wouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest if Yoshida had taken the decision, actually. Granted, Yoshida didn’t do all that much offensively in the way of damage, but he certainly controlled large portions of the fight and before Silva really hurt him with the low kicks in the final round, didn’t seem to be in trouble at any point. So a bit of a moral victory for him in a way, and definitely not a convincing performance from Wanderlei by any means. No idea why he was so tentative and methodical here, but then you could ask the same question about 90% of the fighters on this card, so hey.

-The rest of the Elite Eight join Silva in the ring to pose for the cameras and hype up the Quarter-Finals, and we end there.

Final Thoughts....

Well, it’s been said plenty of times that a stellar line-up on paper doesn’t always translate to a great show, and boy does this one really give weight to that line of thinking. On paper this was the most talent-filled tournament probably in MMA history, and what we ended up with was a card full of dull, slow fights that saw the majority of the fighters fighting in a horribly methodical way, as if they were more worried about the possibility of losing face than actually coming away with the win. The first three fights are the biggest snoozers on the card, so at least it’s uphill once you’re past them, but even then, there’s some incredibly flat showings here (Henderson, Belfort, Rampage, Silva) that make you wonder whether there was something in the water in the Osaka stadium. Shogun’s performance is a stunning one, but one performance does not make a card. Truly one of the most disappointing events that I can remember. High recommendation to avoid.

Coming Soon....

Pride: Critical Countdown 2005, Final Conflict 2005, and 30.
UFC: Ultimate Japan, Ultimate Brazil, 68, 69, and 70.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Gracie.
Rumble On The Rock 7.
Gladiator Challenge: Summer Slam.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com




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