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Pride 32: The Real Deal review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on March 1, 2009, 2:17 PM

Pride 32: The Real Deal

Las Vegas, Nevada

-This was the first show on Pride’s ill-advised excursion to the US, as really by this stage the UFC had become such an established brand in the States that outside of the hardcore fans, very few people cared about Pride. Not only that but it was right after the beginning of the end for the company, as Fuji TV had dropped all DSE products following the Yakuza scandal which really is too big to touch on here (and to be honest I still don’t understand some of it). DSE promised a star-studded card for the first Vegas show, and did deliver in some ways, bringing Fedor Emelianenko, Shogun Rua, and Dan Henderson over, but really it was somewhat of a weaker card for Pride standards at the time – no Nogueira, Silva, Arona, Cro Cop, Gomi, and so forth. Still, this was a big deal anyway, simply because it was Pride in the US for the first time.

Few rule changes too then, as coming to the US meant that Pride would have to run by the Unified Rules, meaning no knees to the head on the ground, no soccer kicks or stomps, and three five minute rounds as opposed to the ten minute opener with the ten point must system in effect. They did keep their ring though, and elbows remained outlawed.

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo, Frank Trigg and Craig Minervini. Nope, I haven’t heard of that guy either. They talk about the long wait for Pride’s US debut and Trigg basically tries to sell Pride as the true form of MMA. You know, it’s *SO* TNA to bash the more established competition while they barely recognize your existence. So TNA. Mauro is apparently dreaming, by the way.

-They go backstage and show Mark Coleman with his family, including his two young daughters. More on that later. Then we see Fedor playing cards I think. Insane that the dude who looks like a Russian alcoholic is the best Heavyweight fighter of all time.

-Really dope video package gets us started. It is seriously cool to see a sickening KO like Fujita over Thompson in super-slow-mo.

-They actually do the full Fighter Introduction segment complete with the Crazy Screaming Female Ring Announcer, just like a Japanese show. Glad they did that as it just isn’t Pride without it really. Biggest pops appear to be for Vitor Belfort, Shogun, Butterbean (WTF?) and Fedor. Quite surprising in a way as you wouldn’t have thought many US fans would know Fedor or Shogun. Must be a crowd full of hardcores.

Robbie Lawler vs Joey Villasenor

Not sure how the hell the first Pride show in the US ended up with these guys in the opening match – not that they’re bad fighters, I love Lawler especially – but they’re hardly the first guys you think of when you think ‘Pride’, are they? Lawler in fact was making his Pride debut. Surprised they didn’t have a Shoji or Matsui massacre to begin things or something. Ah well, good fight regardless.

Round 1 gets started to a big pop. Villasenor comes forward but Lawler lands with a big left high kick right away. HUGE FLYING KNEE kills Joey dead and in classic Lawler style he stops to flex before pounding him for the TKO. Nice!

Awesome knockout for Lawler; this was the beginning of his stellar run at Middleweight really as he hasn’t lost since the fight prior to this, just a seriously vicious finish. Fight was over before it begun but who cares? A highlight reel win like this is always cool. Lawler was one of my favourite guys when I first got into MMA and seeing this reminded me why. Hell of a finish.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Travis Galbraith

Nakamura had made a name for himself as a pretty solid LHW at this time, losing to the tip-top guys like Shogun and Wanderlei but always putting up a fight, and gaining solid victories over the likes of Kevin Randleman and Igor Vovchanchyn. No clue why Galbraith ended up as his opponent – last time I saw the guy GSP was murdering him as a Welterweight in TKO. He’s pretty damn stacked considering he was once at 170lbs, though.

They begin and trade leather right away, before Herb Dean (SO odd to see him refereeing in Pride) calls time for a low blow, didn’t see it myself but whatever. They trade into a brief clinch, but break off quickly. Both men wing some pretty wild shots at one another, and then Nakamura lands a high kick. BIG LEFT HOOK drops Galbraith and Nakamura closes in and looks to finish, but the Canadian shows heart and survives, getting to guard, but he takes some more heavy shots from the top. Galbraith locks up an armbar though, and as Nakamura pulls out he gets a kneebar and pulls the Japanese fighter down. It looks pretty tight but Nakamura does a good job of spinning out, only to give up position in the process and Galbraith ends up on top in guard. Galbraith works to half-guard but can’t quite get full mount, and then Nakamura works a nice sweep into top position, and he passes to half-guard himself. He tries to get to side mount, but Galbraith does a good job of blocking, so Nakamura stands. They trade some more wild punches and then Galbraith drops and gets the takedown, almost forcing Nakamura out of the ring in the process. Couple of shots land for Galbraith from the top, and then he stands back up. Beautiful left jab from Nakamura snaps Galbraith’s head back, and he ends the round with a nice judo throw from the clinch. Awesome opening round.

Round 2, and they trade off to open again, with Galbraith punishing the body with some knees this time. Nakamura trips him down to half-guard and lands some shots to the body, before looking to lock up a guillotine choke. Galbraith seems alright though, so Nakamura chooses to stand. They trade off into the clinch again, and Galbraith bulls him to the corner of the ring, but Nakamura lands a big knee to the head to drop him to all fours, and then lands some punches to the head to take the TKO.

Really fun fight actually, where I wasn’t expecting one at all. Galbraith brought it and Nakamura answered with fire, and we ended up with a hell of a brawl. Possibly Nakamura’s most entertaining fight actually. Definitely his most entertaining win.

Phil Baroni vs Yosuke Nishijima

Boxer Nishijima, to be frank, had looked terrible in his previous Pride fights and already sported an atrocious record of 0-3. I guess they matched him with Baroni in the hope that the NYBA might trade with him standing. Baroni though had lost to Kazuo Misaki last time out and really wanted a win in Pride’s US debut. Big pop for Baroni, naturally. Pity they cut his entrance in fact.

They get started and Nishijima swings a punch, but Baroni ducks right under it and gets a double leg to guard. Smart man. Baroni works the body with some heavy blows, and then passes the guard into side mount with relative ease. He looks to lock up an arm, and then changes his mind and just pounds away at the head. Nishijima looks lost on the ground even though he gets half-guard back, and Phil just keeps slugging away at the body. Back to side mount for the NYBA and then he gets the Hughes crucifix and pounds the head. Baroni locks up a far side kimura, but can’t quite step over the head to finish things, and Nishijima manages to survive, but after a bit of a struggle the NYBA manages to step over the head, and that’s that as the boxer taps out. BEST EVAH!~!

Very smart performance from Baroni as he could’ve stood and traded with the boxer, but really that would’ve been risky and so he chose the more cerebral approach and simply grounded Nishijima where he was clueless, and so the win ended up being quick and easy. Always nice as a Baroni fan to see him pick up a win like this.

Post-fight Baroni cuts an emotional promo where he jokes that he knows nothing on the ground and only learned the kimura the other day, and then drops like four f-bombs in twenty seconds. HE’S THE FUCKIN MAN!~!

Dan Henderson vs Vitor Belfort

On paper this might’ve been the best fight on this card, as both men had been recognized for years as two of the top guys at 205lbs, and it’s surprising in a way that their paths had never crossed before. Belfort hadn’t looked great in some time though, despite KOing his opponent in his last fight, and so Henderson was the clear favourite going in, despite coming off a flat performance of his own against Misaki at 185lbs.

Round One gets underway and Hendo throws his big right, and then takes Belfort down to guard. Belfort gets a leg up looking for a possible triangle, but Henderson passes to half-guard. He tries to pass to side mount, but Vitor gets a nice reversal from the bottom and flips Hendo over, reversing to side mount. Vitor avoids a kneebar and stays on top of Hendo, stacking him up, but he ends up back in Dan’s guard. Henderson actually gets a leg up into a triangle position, but Vitor uses it to go for a heel hook in a sweet move, but Hendo pulls out and Vitor ends up on his back. Henderson stands over him and kicks the legs, until the ref brings Vitor back up. Straight right lands cleanly for Henderson in a brief trade, and then he closes the distance into the clinch again. Takedown for Henderson from a bodylock, and he lands in half-guard and lands some punches to the head. Front facelock from the top controls Vitor and he stays on top and then tries to secure a guillotine as the round ends. Good opening round, probably had to be Henderson’s in terms of scoring.

2nd round and both men look tentative early, before clinching up. Belfort jumps to guard and gets slammed HEAVILY into the mat. Hendo stays busy from the top with some right hands, and you can hear Matt Lindland in the background yelling that Vitor is done. Henderson covers the mouth, classic early-UFC tactic there, and continues his ground-and-pound as Vitor tries to tie him up. Hendo stands over him and hits some heel strikes to the legs, before the ref calls Vitor back up. Right hand from Hendo back into the clinch, but the ref breaks it for inactivity. REALLY wild right misses for Henderson and he falls down momentarily off it. Belfort lands a body kick but seems unwilling to open up with the hands, and Hendo hits him with a knee and then gets another takedown to half-guard. Hendo pushes his forearm into the throat of Vitor and the ref has to pull them away from the ropes to stop Vitor’s head from being pushed down on the bottom one, and then the round ends shortly after.

Third and final round, and realistically Vitor needs a knockout to win this one, but it looks like he just can’t let his hands go for concern over Henderson’s takedowns. Hendo gets the better of an early exchange, but they clinch and once more Hendo puts him down in guard. Punches land from the top for Dan as Vitor just seems unable to do anything about it. He controls Vitor completely, passing into half-guard, but when he tries to mount to lock up a guillotine Belfort finally gets a reversal and ends up standing with a rear waistlock. Hendo ends up tumbling to guard, but Belfort just can’t do anything from the position and ends up losing it when he stands and Hendo goes for a leglock. Belfort ends up down on his back in side mount, and Henderson slugs away at the head, with one minute remaining. Belfort turns and gives his back, but still can’t get out and Henderson works him over with elbows to the body. With ten seconds remaining Belfort pulls off a sweep, but can’t do enough and the fight ends there.

Has to be a unanimous decision for Henderson, pretty easy fight to score, and sure enough Hendo takes the victory. Pretty dull fight with the odd bright spot, as Vitor just couldn’t let his hands go and was basically controlled on the ground for the most part by Henderson, looking unable to stop the takedown too. To make matters worse for the Phenom, he was busted for steroids post-fight. Hilarious how most of the guys who get busted for ‘roids end up losing anyway. Nice win for Henderson but it was hardly his most entertaining showing as he never came close to stopping Belfort.

Butterbean vs Sean O’Haire

I believe Butterbean’s original opponent had been Mark Hunt, but Hunt got scratched from the card for health or Visa issues, I forget which, and so former WWE wrestler O’Haire was brought in to replace him, no idea why they’d do that. O’Haire looks in AWFUL shape too, nowhere near as cut as he was in his WWE days when he actually looked pretty imposing. Butterbean is as round as ever of course. 398lbs, disgusting.

Pre-fight the cameras actually show the crazy female ring announcer and she’s wearing a floppy hat and a raincoat, looking like a twisted version of CC DeVille from Poison’s Unskinny Bop video.

O’Haire comes out with a couple of kicks, but gets clipped by an overhand right early. He tries to exchange with Butterbean and then ducks down for a takedown, but Butterbean slugs away with some clubbing right hooks, and O’Haire’s legs go out and that’s all she wrote. 29 seconds. Nothing to see here.

-Pride president Nobuhiko Takada enters the ring and cuts a shitty promo in broken English, saying Pride is here to stay, before Hidehiko Yoshida, Hayato Sakurai and Kazuyuki Fujita join him and cut equally shitty promos. Rumor I read was that they can all speak English much better than this and just decided to talk in broken English to keep up their “characters” I guess, pretty stupid if it’s true.

Josh Barnett vs Pawel Nastula

Polish judoka Nastula had looked decent in his MMA debut against Rodrigo Nogueira, but then he was matched with another insanely tough opponent in his next fight (Aleksander Emelianenko) and then after a win over Brazilian Edson Draggo, ended up with Josh Barnett, another consensus top ten fighter, in his fourth fight. I guess as he was pushing 40 there was no point to building him up against lesser opponents though. This was to be Barnett’s sixth fight in 2006, which is pretty crazy given how inactive he was previously. His last trip to the ring had seen him beaten in the finals of the Openweight Grand Prix by Mirko Cro Cop.

They circle to begin the 1st and Nastula catches him with a couple of punches as they go into a clinch. Nastula looks to trip him down, but Barnett blocks as they lean onto the ropes. Crowd begin to boo a little as Nastula really pushes for the takedown, and he manages it, getting Barnett on his back in side control. He lands a few hammer fists as little happens really, and the crowd sound restless for the first time in the night really. Herb Dean decides to stand them up, surprising given Nastula’s position but then nothing was happening so blah. They restart and Barnett looks to strike, but Nastula ducks a shot and clinches up again. Another takedown by Nastula but this time Barnett gets to half-guard. Few small punches land for Nastula to end the round, as Barnett rolls for a leg on the bell.

Round 2, and Barnett swings into the clinch, looking for a takedown of his own this time, but Nastula blocks and Josh breaks off with an uppercut. Barnett lands a knee into another clinch, and then they trade punches before going back to the clinch. Good knee inside from Nastula, answered by a body punch from Barnett. Ref calls for action, so Nastula breaks off with a right hook. Pair of left hooks stun Barnett badly, and Nastula closes in with a flurry! Big uppercut lands for Nastula and he gets a takedown to side mount again, and then looks to step over for mount but Barnett blocks. NICE reversal from Barnett as Nastula looks for some punches, and from there he quickly grabs the leg and locks up a toehold for the tapout.

Barnett did well to get that submission there as he was pretty much being dominated beforehand, surprising as Nastula never really showed that much ability before, but then Barnett was likely burned out at this stage after so many fights and fought a much flatter fight than he normally does. Boring fight for the most part, especially the first round. And Barnett, who was suspended for steroid use in his last time fighting in the US, passed the piss test comfortably – but Nastula was busted for the juice. Sigh.

-Wanderlei Silva gets in the ring and cuts a promo in broken English and Portuguese. Unlike the Japanese fighters I know Silva’s English wasn’t great at this stage, so it’s all good. He calls out Chuck Liddell, saying he’s running and doesn’t want to fight him, but come on, that whole situation was ridiculous, as Pride never had any intention of co-promoting with the UFC and simply used UFC 61 as a way to get some publicity for Silva. Silva says he’ll be back in February.

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Kevin Randleman

Shogun apparently wanted Mark Coleman in a rematch of their controversial January fight, but ended up being matched with Coleman’s good buddy Kevin Randleman instead. Randleman hadn’t fought in Pride since early 2005 but looks in tremendous shape here, and gets a huge pop from the crowd as he looks INTENSE.

They begin and Randleman SPRINTS out of his corner and takes Shogun down right away! Shogun IMMEDIATELY turns and goes for a leglock, as the referee tries to stop Randleman from grabbing the ropes. Shogun goes for a heel hook but Randleman sits up, leaning on the ropes, and then he gets pulled down and tries to turn to escape, but Shogun locks up a toehold and Randleman starts to YELL IN PAIN, bridging up like he’s Steve Austin in the Sharpshooter or something! This is DOPE. He gets free for a second but Shogun locks it back up and Randleman RAISES HIS HAND TO TAP but refuses!! Finally Shogun transitions to a tight kneebar and then PULLS THE LEG BEHIND HIS ARMPIT and Randleman finally taps. Wow. Post-fight Randleman’s leg looks JACKED, no surprise there.

Unbelievable stuff even if it only lasted like two minutes. Shogun locked up the leglock right away, but it was Randleman’s attempts to escape that made the fight as he didn’t try to get out using technique, just used pure strength and basically looked like he was selling the pain like a pro-wrestler. Really sick kneebar to put him away though – very good ground skill shown by Shogun. This could well have gotten Randleman over as an even bigger star despite the loss – but he failed his urine test too, bizarrely not even providing his own urine. Well, that’s an understatement – according to the NSAC he didn’t even provide human urine, apparently choosing to use the urine of a horse or a corpse instead, in a truly bizarre situation that I don’t want to get into hugely here. Tremendously fun fight, however.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Mark Coleman

I still don’t see why they chose to rematch Fedor with Coleman, as it wasn’t like he gave Fedor tremendous problems in their first fight, and he hadn’t been on a dominant run since or anything, his only win of note coming in the controversial Shogun fight. I guess they wanted to match Fedor with someone known to the US crowds while pretty much guaranteeing him a win though. To give credit to Coleman, he does look in pretty impressive shape for the fight.

They begin and Trigg mentions that Coleman’s had his daughters taken out of the arena in case he takes a beating. You sure about that, Frank? Coleman shoots for a single leg, but Fedor sprawls out beautifully and then rocks Coleman with a heavy combo. Coleman gets desperate and dives for an ankle pick as Fedor keeps slugging at the head, but he can’t get Fedor down and the Russian looks to lock up a guillotine. Coleman manages to switch to a double and gets Fedor down, but can’t control him and Fedor pops right back up. Coleman keeps trying for the takedown, but Fedor’s balance is sick for a fat dude and he breaks off with a heavy left hand. Coleman tries to answer back but gets dropped by a short right, and Fedor follows up with some serious haymakers, hurting Coleman badly. Coleman dives for a leg again, but Fedor blocks again and Coleman looks bloody now as Fedor keeps on landing shots. Referee separates them and Jesus, Coleman’s face is a MESS, this ought to be stopped really. Coleman’s left eye looks swollen shut. They decide to let it go though, and Coleman shoots again, but still Fedor blocks the takedown. Announcers mention Coleman’s lasted two minutes longer than last time like it’s a moral victory for him. They separate with ten seconds remaining but neither guy lands. This is scary stuff.

Round 2, somehow. Coleman throws a right hand and shoots, but again Fedor sprawls out and stuffs it. Coleman keeps trying though, going from a single leg to a double leg, and finally he manages to get the Russian on his back! Crowd pop as Fedor squirms from the bottom, and Coleman looks to land some punches from the guard. Fedor quickly locks up an armbar from the bottom though, and despite Coleman desperately trying to block it, the Russian straightens it out for the tap. Same finish, different day then.

Horribly one-sided fight. Coleman showed heart but that was about all he was allowed to show, as Fedor stopped his takedowns with ease, punished him standing, and then when he *did* give up a takedown it was over within seconds as Fedor locked up the armbar with ridiculous ease. Devastating showing from Fedor but you wish he’d been up against an opponent in his prime.

Post-fight we get a genuinely disturbing moment as Coleman gets emotional, and promises he’ll be back...before bringing his sobbing daughters into the ring to tell them “daddy’s okay, he feels great”. The kids are literally horrified by the sight of Coleman’s swollen face and it gets even worse as he INTRODUCES THEM TO FEDOR and even the stoic Russian looks disturbed by this. Coleman is a fucking MADMAN, seriously.

-Show ends with a highlight of the night’s action ala a UFC show.

Final Thoughts....

Rather than decide to try to challenge the UFC’s dominance by putting on a more US-oriented card, it was as if Pride just decided to bring a typical Japanese event over, and while it was fun and clearly got over with the hardcore fans, there was nothing here to really provide true competition for the UFC – I mean, sure, the fights were decent enough and nothing really dragged, but a lot of it was horribly one-sided and really who wants to see Butterbean vs. Sean O’Haire? Pride 32 is probably worth a look if only because of the historical value of it being the first Pride card in the US, but really it’s no better than a run-of-the-mill Pride show from Japan and certainly doesn’t come close to the “classic” Pride shows like Pride 10, Pride 25 or Final Conflict 2003. In terms of the fights, Shogun-Randleman is tremendous fun but the rest is either one-sided or just passable, and the scene after the main event is truly disturbing. So it’s a firm thumbs in the middle for Pride 32.

Best Fight: Randleman-Shogun
Worst Fight: O’Haire-Butterbean

Overall Rating: ***

Coming Soon....

UFC: 82-94, Fight Nights 13-17, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, and 33.
WEC: 30-38
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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