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Pride 34: Kamikaze review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 3, 2009, 2:32 PM

Pride 34: Kamikaze

Saitama, Japan

-This was, then, the final Pride show following the buyout by Zuffa in March 2007. I guess at the time they just expected it to be the final Pride under DSE, but in the end it turned out to be the last one altogether. After rumors of fights like Wanderlei Silva vs. Igor Vovchanchyn for the card turned out to be false, what we got was pretty underwhelming in the end, if Iím being honest. Such is life.

-We open with a weird cartoon ish montage that well, has nothing to do with Pride or MMA in general for that matter. Huh.

-Into the arena for the fighter introductions. It seems weird not to have Mauro and Bas commentating over the top of this stuff telling us a bit about the fighters and what-not. Biggest pop goes to Don Frye, and the Japanese ring announcer calls Jeff Monson ďUFC monsterĒ.

-Your hosts are, well, who knows? They donít bother to have a show intro or anything like that and instead get right into the first fight. Iím pretty sure one is Frank Trigg. Well, according to Bryan Alvarez the other dude is Sean Weelock. Never heard of him.

Makoto Takimoto vs Zelg Galesic

Big height advantage for Galesic here who is just so lanky. Heíd been tearing things up over in Cage Rage if you remember leading into this, his Pride debut. Takimoto was another one of the myriad of random judokas that DSE brought in during this period, bringing a record of 2-3 in to this fight.

Zelg comes right out of the gate with a right high kick, and follows with a right low kick. More kicks land as Galseic seems content to strike from the outside. Takimoto manages to close the distance and gets a double underhook, looking to trip Zelg down, but the Croatian does a good job of defending. Good leg sweep takes Galesic down, and from there as Zelg looks to escape, Takimoto takes his back with both hooks in. Zelg looks to turn into him, so Takimoto transitions into an arm triangle, and then goes to side mount instead as Galesic avoids the choke. Nothing really happens until Takimoto tries an armbar, but Zelg slips free and stands, then tries a crazy flying stomp that doesnít land, but ends up with him in full mount. Takimoto tries a reversal, but eats a knee from the turtle position and then Galesic turns and takes his back, looking for the standing rear naked choke with the pull-down ala Fedor vs. Fujita. It looks pretty deep, but slightly off to the side and Takimoto manages to avoid. They scramble and Takimoto ends up in full guard again, avoiding some shots from the top. Galesic decides heís had enough of the ground game and stands up, and the ref quickly steps in and orders Takimoto to his feet. Strong combo lands from Galesic and they trade off with the Croatian getting the best of things, decking the judoka. BIG STOMP to the head follows and then a few soccer kicks as Takimoto tries desperately to cover up. Galesic ends up going down to Takimotoís guard, surprisingly, and Takimoto tries to hook up an arm. Ref stands them up and brings them back to the center of the ring. Five minutes in now and Takimoto ties Galesic up nicely from the bottom, and then goes for an armbar. He transitions to an oma plata, and Galesic rolls to try to alleviate the pressure, but ends up on the bottom where Takimoto hooks up a far-side kimura for the tap.

Quite a fun little fight actually; Galesic landed some good strikes, particularly the combo into the stomp and soccer kicks, but Takimoto did well to survive and why Galesic chose to go into the guard Iím not sure, but it cost him in the end.

Gilbert Yvel vs Akira Shoji

Two old-school Pride guys here, neither of which IIRC had fought with the company for a while. I think in fact this was after the whole ďKOing the refĒ incident, so no clue why DSE would still bring Yvel back. Well, Affliction have done it too, who knows why. Big size advantage for Yvel, but since when is that a new thing for fights involving Shoji?

Shoji bulls forward, but eats a knee and a right hook and chooses wisely to back away a little. Big right hand and flying kick land for Yvel, but Shoji clinches and manages to get a takedown to guard. Yvel ties him up from the bottom, and avoids any punches that Shoji throws. Pretty much nothing happens for a while even when Shoji stacks up to try to deliver some shots. Finally Shoji manages to pass to half-guard, but Yvel surprisingly rolls for a heel hook! The hell? We get a duelling leglock spot with Shoji countering with an ankle lock, and Yvel ends up releasing his momentarily. Shoji transitions to a heel hook himself now, but Yvel avoids it and ends up on top, and from there he drops some punishing right hands until the referee mercifully steps in.

Post-fight both guys show some respect, which is always nice to see. Another solid little fight but really, itís Gilbert Yvel vs. Akira Shoji, and in 2007 what does that really mean to anyone?

James Thompson vs Don Frye

Frye hadnít fought in Pride since 2003 before this, his last fight being the disastrous KO loss to Gary Goodridge. Itís fitting that they brought him back here though as despite him being a UFC guy to begin with Pride was really where he had some more of his memorable moments, the fight with Shamrock, the rematch with Coleman, the brawls with Yvel and Takayama and so forth. Massive pop for him as heís always popular in Japan. Thompson Iím guessing was the opponent in the hopes that theyíd end up with a wild brawl in the vein of the Takayama fight.

We get a MENTAL STAREDOWN to begin with, with both guys shoving each otherís head back and what-not, and Trigg comments that ďall you need to do is give him a kiss and heíll back offĒ, referencing his own staredown with Matt Hughes, funny stuff. Well, Iíd only recommend that if Heath Herringís not the opponent, dude.

Thompson comes CHARGING IN right away and eats a kick to the gut and then a right hand that PUTS HIM DOWN! Frye dives down into the guard and slugs away at the body, but Thompson manages to get to his feet, and they muscle off into a clinch and exchange some shots inside. Suddenly we get a replay of the classic Frye-Takayama spot, with both men holding the otherís head and just whacking away to the face. Doesnít last long though and the ref calls the break. Thompson surprisingly gets a takedown off the restart, and uses a guard pass to side mount to escape a guillotine. Knees and punches from Thompson land, and then he takes full mount and rains some punches down. Frye rolls and Thompson actually takes the back with both hooks (!) but Frye quickly escapes to his feet. Thompson lands some sloppy punches inside as Frye looks to answer, and they end up clinched again with Thompson throwing some knees.

Takedown from Frye to half-guard, and Thompson looks to reverse out. Frye tries a guillotine from the top and they end up standing, and Frye goes to his back still holding the guillotine, but he doesnít have full guard. Thompson escapes and ends up in side mount, and Frye turtles up and takes some more shots. Frye suddenly looks in trouble as Thompsonís punches land flush, and as he tries to stand Thompson LASHES OUT with two soccer kicks, the knee actually catching Frye right in the face. Frye is OUT OF IT leaning on the ropes now as Thompson lands shot after shot, just big, winging punches from this huge guy. Big knee lands and more punches as Frye somehow finds it in himself to swing back, but nothing really lands. Thompson keeps landing, but begins to gas as the fight starts to resemble a drunken bar brawl. With Frye the more drunken of the two. Frye STILL wonít go down and itís criminal that this hasnít been stopped yet. Finally Frye turns away, and the ref steps in.

Alright, so this was a fun brawl, if a little sloppy, but honestly I donít care how tough Frye is, itís criminal to let a man in his fourties take that sort of beating, and itís this sort of thing that I wonít miss Pride for at all. Thompson didnít even look that great to be fair as his punches ran out of steam fast, and in the end it was like he was fighting a heavy bag as opposed to an opponent.

Shinya Aoki vs Brian Lo-A-Njoe

Alright, so Aoki is looking like a potential megastar at Lightweight after choking out Joachim Hansen on NYE. Youíve got Gilbert Melendez, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Takanori Gomi and lord-knows how many other guys under contract. So who do you match Aoki with on the final Pride show? Why, Brian Lo-A-Njoe, this random Dutch bloke who nobody had ever heard of. Never really fought anyone well-known, certainly never beaten anyone well-known. Just....why? At least he has odd symbols shaved into his hair I guess. Aoki is sporting his ridiculous long tights again here.

Brian avoids the first takedown and lands a flying knee, but Aoki grabs ahold of him and immediately pulls guard. Brian drops some pretty strong punches from the top to be fair, but Aoki stays calm until the Dutchman stands back up. Another flying knee lands from Lo-A-Njoe, but Aoki again grabs hold of him and drags him down, this time landing on top in Brianís guard. Aoki quickly passes to half-guard, but gets reversed over into guard. No problem though as he locks up an armbar right away, and Lo-A-Njoe tries to wriggle out but gets caught deep, and has to call a verbal submission as his arm is trapped underneath Aoki.

Not much of a fight there as even though Lo-A-Njoe was the better striker, he didnít fight a smart fight, trying the flying knees which are always going to get you taken down. Submission ended up being quick and easy for Aoki.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs Ricardo Arona

Ah, now this is more like it. Team Questís Sokoudjou had come literally from nowhere (with a record of 2-1) to KO Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at Pride 33, a win that shot him right into contention at LHW, and rather than throw him an easy fight or anything he was immediately greeted with another perennial top-ten contender in Nogueiraís teammate Ricardo Arona. Stats make these guys perfectly matched outside of the experience difference.

They circle briefly before Sokoudjou lands a pair of HUGE leg kicks, serious power on them. High kick misses and Arona fires back with a good leg kick of his own. They exchange a couple more kicks before Arona catches one and goes for the takedown, but Sokoudjou shows some sick athleticism and avoids with a leaping sprawl. Arona keeps trying for it, but Soko blocks well and then begins to whack him with some hammer fists to the head. Arona suddenly staggers back and Sokoudjou follows with a BIG UPPERCUT that puts him on the deck! Right hand and soccer kick follow and thatís all she wrote.

Another huge upset from Sokoudjou. This time he showed more than he did against Nogueira too, demonstrating power in his kicks as well as his hands, and a tremendous amount of athleticism to avoid Aronaís takedown. After his UFC run though the jury is still out on the ĎAfrican Assassiní as to whether heís a young guy who ended up fighting tough opponents too soon in his career and just needs more experience and training, or whether heís a guy who just falls apart if he canít finish early. Arona for his part claimed dengue fever (?!) affected his performance here, but he hasnít fought since, not even surfacing in one of the Japanese promotions that sprung up in Prideís wake.

Jeff Monson vs Kazuyuki Fujita

Main event is being played out like a UFC vs. Pride fight, despite Monson having been gone from the UFC since November 2006. Itís hardly Sylvia vs. Nogueira or Couture vs. Fedor in terms of UFC/Pride clashes either, but you get what you can I guess.

They exchange a few jabs to begin, before Fujita misses an overhand right. Monson shoots, but ends up on his back as Fujita sprawls. Fujita lands some hammer fists but Monson keeps going for the takedown, and ends up getting Fujitaís back, hopping on with both hooks as Fujita stands. Monson ends up dropping down and stands behind him, and then trips him down, but he goes for the choke with no hooks in and Fujita swings Monson off him, and goes for a guillotine. They spin around on the mat and then Monson looks for a single leg, but Fujita works to avoid it. Knee lands from Fujita as Monson continues to crawl for the takedown. I just noticed we have a third commentator here, but I have no idea who it is Iím afraid. Monson ends up on the bottom, and Fujita stands and lands a kick. Ref calls Monson to his feet, and they exchange some jabs again with neither guy getting the better of it. Fujita avoids another takedown, and Monson ends up in the butt-scoot position and eats some kicks to the legs. Ref calls the Snowman back to his feet, and he blocks another overhand right attempt. Fujita avoids another takedown, landing a knee to the head as Monson holds onto the leg again. He really goes for the takedown, and this time trips the leg from under Fujita and takes the back. Hammer fists and punches land for Monson, who gets one hook in and works for the other. Couple more punches land, and finally Monson gets both hooks in and rolls him over, locking up a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Decent enough fight I guess, but as the main event of the last ever Pride show this was totally underwhelming. I mean, sure itís a good win for Monson, but itís still Jeff Monson vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, you know? Post-fight Weelock refers to the mystery commentator as ďDanĒ. Dan Henderson maybe?

-And we end with all of the fighters - pretty much most of the Pride roster in fact Ė joining Nobuhiko Takada in the ring and posing for the cameras.

Final Thoughts....

Well, everything ends in the first round, and there are some fun finishes, but really for the last ever Pride show this was totally underwhelming. I mean, none of the guys that made Pride what it was during the golden years were on show here (Silva, Sakuraba, Nogueira, Rampage, Fedor, Cro Cop, and even guys like Henderson and Gomi) and the only fight that felt like a big deal was Sokoudjou-Arona. I guess it wasnít planned to be the last ever Pride show, but in the end, intentionally or not, the company went out with a whimper rather than a bang. Best off to just pretend Pride ended with the stellar Pride 33 and forget about the existence of this one then, unless youíre a Sokoudjou fan.

Best Fight: Galesic-Takimoto
Worst Fight: Aoki-Lo-A-Njoe

Overall Rating: **

Coming Soon....

UFC: 75-92, Fight Nights 11-16, and TUF VI and VII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, 32, and 33.
WEC: 28-37
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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