This was top Featherweight contender Curran’s debut in Pride, and he was faced with another top ranked 145lbs fighter in Hioki, who had beaten Mark Hominick with a triangle choke to claim the TKO Canadian Title in his last fight. Interestingly enough Curran had choked out Charles Bennett in his previous fight.
Bell sounds and we’re underway. Hioki opens with some leg kicks in the opening exchange, landing well, as Curran looks to find a way around the reach. Takedown from Hioki but Curran uses a butterfly guard to kick him away and they stand. Hioki continues to use his long reach to land strikes, before sprawling to avoid a takedown. They end up clinched along the ropes, but Hioki trips him down and takes full mount. Curran does a good job of scrambling back to guard, so Hioki chooses to stand. More strikes from the outside begin to land for Hioki, who looks very comfortable standing at this stage. Curran throws some wild hooks out, but can’t seem to land and Hioki is beginning to punish him with the leg kicks now. Superman punch lands for Curran, his first effective strike, but Hioki recovers quickly. Curran finally begins to get inside, landing a good combo, and then he clinches and looks for a takedown. Hioki stuffs it and forces Curran into the ropes, and then muscles Curran down and gets a partial side mount. Curran does a good job from his back at getting a butterfly guard, but Hioki stands and tries a stomp. Curran grabs the leg and looks for a heel hook, but Hioki slips free and they stand. High kick attempt from Hioki but Curran catches it and slams him down, but Hioki locks up a triangle. Curran stands and postures free, then drops down into the guard, where he lands some chopping punches to the body. Mini-slam follows by Curran and he works to avoid a couple of triangle attempts to end the round.
2nd round and Curran comes out looking more aggressive. He shoots on a single but Hioki reverses on the way down, taking top position and landing some sharp punches. Hioki stands over him and lands some kicks, but Curran pops back up. Hioki continues to get the better of the striking exchanges, landing some crisp combinations from the outside and really utilizing the leg kicks. Curran goes back to winging hooks at Hioki’s head, but he’s largely being picked apart at this stage. Few more leg kicks land for Hioki before Curran shoots in for a takedown. Hioki defends it well though and Curran can’t trip him down, and Hioki takes over the clinch with some short knees before breaking off. Fight ends with about four or five leg kicks from Hioki.
Judges score it a unanimous decision for Hoki and I’d agree. Good fight but Hioki’s striking looked far better than Curran’s and he used his reach and length to pick the Big Frog apart from the outside, particularly with the leg kicks. Solid but unspectacular opener.
Aoki was coming in with quite a lot of hype behind him as a very talented, but unusual fighter, and sure enough he’s already bucking the trend by wearing a garish pair of yellow full-length tights as opposed to board or vale tudo shorts. He did though have quite the reputation, as he’d beaten the highly rated Akira Kikuchi for the Shooto title in his last fight and had also snapped Keith Wisniewski’s elbow with a sickening standing arm wrench in 2005. Opponent Black, one of Pat Miletich’s longtime students, had finally made it to the big time after toiling for years on the smaller circuits, and he’d beaten a Korean fighter in an untelevised bout at Bushido 11. Physically Aoki is perhaps the least intimidating MMA fighter ever. Well, except Blake Bowman.
We begin and they circle off before Black catches a kick and shoves Aoki down for a moment. Aoki pops back up and they clinch, and this time Aoki pulls guard. Aoki ties him up right away and goes to the rubber guard, and as Black struggles to pass the outside leg. Suddenly Aoki gets a triangle out of nowhere, locks it up, and despite a lot of struggling Aoki manages to pull down on the head and Black taps out there.
Very slick debut for Aoki as he basically tooled Black from his guard. Not much more to say really as the fight was pretty much over as soon as Aoki pulled guard. He’s a one-dimensional guy but damn is he good at that one dimension.
Like Aoki, Melendez – a student of Cesar Gracie along with the likes of Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and David Terrell – was bringing in a big reputation from Shooto, as he’d torn through the 145lbs ranks but was never able to secure a fight with Pequeno Nogueira for the title. His opponent Obiya was also unbeaten and was a training partner of Takanori Gomi. Melendez’s jeri-curl puts Diego Sanchez’s to shame here.
Round One begins and Gilbert shoots early but Obiya avoids. They exchange some wild punches before Melendez clinches, and then breaks off with some punches. They continue to exchange punches with Gilbert being the busier fighter, and then he shoots in and hits a nice double leg to side control. He looks to pass to full mount and slides his way into the position, where he lands some punches. Obiya does a good job from the bottom of getting half-guard back, but Melendez chops away with punches and lands a knee to the head from an odd angle. Obiya scrambles back to full guard and Gil works again to pass, staying very active on the ground. Short punches land for Melendez inside the guard but Obiya manages to escape to his feet. They look to strike and then a BIG RIGHT HAND folds Obiya like a house of cards! Melendez pounces and looks to finish, landing heavy blows, but Obiya hangs tough and manages to survive. Gilbert ends up in half-guard and then Obiya works to full guard where he takes some chopping body punches. They scramble back to their feet, and again Melendez rocks Obiya badly with a right hand. The Japanese fighter looks wobbly and he gets dropped again, and this time Gilbert lands a stomp and really goes to work landing punches before Obiya manages to slow him down by getting guard. Obiya tries to scramble up but Melendez keeps him down, pinning him into the corner where he lands punches. Obiya tries to escape from the bottom again, going for a double leg, and this time he gets it for a second, but Gil pops up to his feet. Obiya keeps hold of a bodylock and tries to get him down again, but Melendez uses the ropes to block and the ref calls a break and gives Gil the yellow card. They restart and exchange some WILD punches with both men landing! Melendez goes for the takedown again and puts Obiya on his back once more, getting into half-guard. Obiya manages to get back to full guard, and Gilbert remains in there, hitting him with short punches and looking to pass for the remainder of the round. Excellent opening round!
Second round and they press with Melendez landing another heavy right hand. Beautiful three punch combo lands for Gil. He clips him with a flying knee, but Obiya follows by tackling him to the ground. Melendez gets full guard and then scrambles to his feet quickly, and another wild combo from Melendez hurts Obiya. He drops and gets the takedown to half-guard, and right away Melendez passes to full mount. Obiya gives his back and Melendez locks up a body triangle. He can’t get the rear naked choke though and Obiya does a good job of working free to half-guard. Gil tries to pass again but ends up stuck in full guard and then they come back to their feet again. Obiya is swinging for the fences now, clearly knowing he’s losing this fight, but Melendez lands with another vicious combo and gets a takedown. Obiya has a hell of a chin. He gets half-guard and then full guard and looks to lock up a triangle, but he leaves too much space and Gil pops free. He gets to half-guard but Obiya keeps on scrambling right until the bell sounds. Awesome fight.
Judges score it a unanimous decision for Gilbert Melendez. Tremendously energetic fight as Gilbert just threw everything but the kitchen sink at Obiya, but the Japanese fighter proved to be incredibly tough and took everything on the chin without being stopped. Absolutely torrid pace too. Great debut fight for Gilbert Melendez.
No idea why this one was set up as Brennan really hadn’t beaten anyone of note in years. Why not put Kawajiri against a genuine contender? Worse for Brennan, if I recall correctly he’d been bitten by a recluse spider not long before this fight and had really been suffering because of it.
They begin and Kawajiri lands a left hand in an early exchange. Brennan comes in lunging with strikes, but gets hurt with a combo and then Kawajiri lands a knee to the head that drops the Westside Strangler, and Kawajiri pounces for the finish.
Ah, more shocking matchmaking, as Ishida had beaten the man who choked out Takanori Gomi, Marcus Aurelio, at the last Bushido show. So basically Aurelio has the win over Gomi but now Ishida is your de facto champ, and rather than match him with Gomi to clean up the whole mess, he gets an unknown in Chute Boxe’s BJJ coach Marcello. So what the hell would happen if Marcello were to win? YOU TELL ME. Ah, Japanese matchmaking!
First round begins with a touch of gloves. They circle with Marcello landing a low kick, and then Ishida shoots and tackles him right out of the ring! They restart standing, both men throwing out some unsuccessful strikes, before Ishida shoots and gets the takedown to guard. Ishida postures out of a triangle attempt and stays active, landing some punches before avoiding an armbar. Ishida tries to pass but Marcello does a good job from his back of retaining guard, and then tries to kick Ishida away with some upkicks. Beautiful sweep from Marcello puts him in mount for a moment, but Ishida reverses that right away and gets back into the guard. Some good punches from the top land for Ishida and he passes to half-guard. Marcello works a butterfly hook back to full guard though. Ishida opens up with some good strikes, landing like a mini-Fedor in the Brazilian’s guard, and he avoids another submission attempt too. Marcello continues to work for a triangle, but Ishida postures free once more and continues to land punches. Sweep attempt is blocked by Ishida and he continues to land shots; his ground-and-pound is beautiful if not that damaging. Marcello goes for another triangle and tries to transition to a kneebar, but Ishida pulls out of both and remains on top in the guard. Ref eventually stands them and gives Marcello the green card, which is bullshit as both men were working hard. They restart and circle around, and Ishida secures another takedown to close out the round.
Round Two begins and they call time right away because Marcello forgot his mouthpiece. Restart and they circle tentatively before Ishida shoots and gets a single to guard. Marcello tries to kick him away but Ishida avoids it and stays in the guard. Ishida stacks him up but Marcello gets the armbar locked in out of nowhere and extends it, and Ishida looks to be in deep trouble! Ishida twists and turns and somehow the arm doesn’t pop, and eventually Ishida manages to pull it free! Unbelievable escape. Ishida remains on top and works to pass the guard, taking the back with an over/under momentarily before Marcello rolls to a butterfly guard. Ishida continues to drop hammer fists and punches from the top, and no matter how hard he tries Marcello can’t kick him away. He goes for the triangle again but Ishida manages to avoid it, and continues to work him over from the top.
Great fight that has to go to Ishida. Judges all score it for Mitsuhiro Ishida, unanimous decision. This was a really good one, like a Lightweight version of the first Fedor-Nogueira fight as Ishida stayed in the guard and worked the Brazilian over with punches and hammer fists, and no matter how many submissions he went for, Marcello just couldn’t catch him with anything. Tremendous stuff and at this stage Ishida was just ridiculously entertaining.
Sakurai had killed poor Olaf Alfonso dead in his last outing and was faced with another Pride debutant in Brazil’s Azevedo here. Not to be confused with Luiz Azeredo of course. Interestingly enough Azevedo is the only man to have beaten WEC’s current star Jose Aldo Jr.
First round gets underway and they exchange kicks before Azevedo goes for a takedown. Sakurai stuffs it and lands with knees to the head, and then they come up where Mach lands another hard knee. Azevedo keeps going for the takedown though and manages to bring Sakurai down into guard. They exchange short punches on the ground but the fight slows almost to a total lull. Azevedo works into half-guard and manages to take mount for a second, but Sakurai does a nice job of working back to guard. Referee finally stands them and issues Sakurai with the green card. Restart and Azevedo shoots and pulls guard this time, but Mach is having none of that and gets right up. Another single leg attempt is well blocked by Sakurai. Right hand and knee land for Sakurai and Azevedo shoots again but once more Sakurai blocks it. Azevedo transitions to his back but Mach stands back up again. They restart and Sakurai comes in with a BRUTAL KNEE that snaps Azevedo’s head back! Somehow the Brazilian doesn’t look stunned though and he goes for the takedown again, but it looks like he’s cut badly as blood is running down his arm. Ref steps in to call the doctor check, and it’s a bad cut under the left eye. Doctors give it a check and throw the fight out there. Sakurai by doctor stoppage.
Decent fight that ended anticlimactically as Azevedo was acquitting himself well against a very tough opponent. Still, I guess it wasn’t a flukey finish and if the knee had KOd Azevedo rather than opening the cut then nobody would complain. Decent win for Sakurai.
And now we get a classic freak show fight, with Minowaman taking on the obese boxer/toughman Butterbean. Shockingly, Butterbean was actually on a six-fight winning streak here! My pick was Minowa by submission though.
We begin and Minowa tries a dropkick (!) but basically bounces off the Bean. Second attempt is less successful and Butterbean ends up on top of the Japanese fighter in half-guard. Butterbean basically smothers Minowa from the top, landing the odd strike, as Minowa tries to slide from underneath the big man. Sure enough he manages to do it and then sweeps, getting on top in side mount. Minowa tries to land some knees to the head but they don’t really hit the big man cleanly and so he goes to some annoying hammer fists to the face instead. The Bean just looks totally lost from his back, and Minowa ends up working around him before locking up a straight armbar for the tapout.
Pointless, pointless fight that was a waste of time for everyone involved, and that includes the ref, the ring announcer and the judges, not to forget Mauro and Trigg.
And we’re finally into the tournament, with the man who dispatched of former title challenger Murilo Bustamante – Suloev – taking on probably the most impressive of all the quarter-finalists in Kang, who had KOd Murilo Ninja in under a minute. Despite Kang’s impressive standing display against Ninja I figured he’d want to take this one to the ground against a man with the kickboxing pedigree of Suloev. Suloev actually has Fedor in his corner; had no idea those guys trained together.
First round begins and Kang is aggressive right away, landing a right hand and a low kick. Nice one-two from Kang and then he lands a double jab. Kang is really striking well early on. Low kick drops Suloev to a knee momentarily but he comes back up quickly. Suloev comes back with a combo and it looks like they’re settling into a kickboxing game, with Kang surprisingly having the advantage. Beautiful lunging left hook to the body from Suloev though. Kang comes back with a combo and then lands with a jumping kick to the body. Low kick from Suloev is countered by a big right hook from Kang that drops the Russian to the canvas! Suloev manages to get guard but his nose looks busted up by the shot, possibly broken in fact. Kang stacks up in the guard and then passes to side mount, where he controls before passing to mount. Suloev gives his back and Kang gets both hooks in, and now Kang locks up a rear naked choke! Suloev defends it initially but there’s blood POURING from the nose at this point and now Kang gets the choke locked in with one arm, using his free one to trap Suloev’s hand, and Suloev taps out there. Sick visual with Suloev trapped in the choke with blood pouring from his nose.
Well, when Denis Kang comes in on good form there are very few guys in the world that can beat him, and he came in on good form here and just blew Suloev away. Beautiful display standing and when the fight hit the ground it was all Kang. Kang advances to the final four with a dominant win in what was an entertaining little fight.
Interestingly Chonan was originally removed from the tournament due to a broken eye socket suffered in his win over Joey Villasenor, but he recovered and I guess they let him back in. Filho though had looked like a possible favourite to win the whole tournament in his dominating win over Gregory Bouchelaghem, and the main question for me was whether Paulo could finish Chonan rather than smother him for a decision. Chonan is awesome in the pre-fight intros here, rolling his eyes back like the Undertaker or something.
They begin and Filho right away gets an easy double leg to guard. Chonan gets a high guard and tries to kick the Brazilian away, but Filho easily passes the guard into side mount. Great control from Filho as usual, but again he’s not really landing strikes. Couple of knees to the body land and then Filho takes full mount. Chonan looks in deep trouble right away and tries to buck, but as he rolls Filho gets a tight armbar and extends it for the tapout.
Quick and easy win for Filho who basically looked unstoppable on the ground, finally finishing an opponent here too. Chonan didn’t have a chance to show anything as he was taken down, had his guard passed and was submitted in under three minutes, like an old Gracie victim. If Kang had looked impressive in his fight, well, it just got topped by Filho who advances to the semis.
Christ, does poor Gono always have to fight the young dark horse or what? First he gets Daniel Acacio in 2005’s tournament, then the dangerous Hector Lombard, and here he was presented with Gegard Mousasi, who had put away the hapless Makoto Takimoto in the first round. I honestly didn’t know who to pick here because Mousasi was such an unknown quantity, but Gono seemed like the safer pick due to his experience advantage. Ring introduction sees Gono wearing a red afro wig, camouflage vest and zebra-print shorts. Wow.
First round begins and Mousasi backs Gono into the corner of the ring before missing a huge head kick. He backs him up again but Gono lands with a sneaky left hook. Heavy combo lands for Mousasi and Gono manages to cover up to avoid most of the barrage, but Mousasi takes a rear waistlock from the clinch and pulls him down. Gono reverses as they hit the mat and turns into side mount, but Mousasi scrambles to half-guard. Gono works to pass and gets free to side control again, keeping Mousasi down as he tries to wriggle free. Mousasi turns and gives his back for a second, but then gets half-guard and tries to secure a kimura. Good job of defending by Gono and he pulls free, working back into side mount. Full mount by Gono and Mousasi gives his back, with Gono getting both hooks in. Nice backdoor escape by Mousasi, and he goes for a takedown, but Gono hits a sick reversal and manages to take Mousasi down to guard. Gono stands over him for a moment, but takes an upkick and then drops down into the guard. Gono works to pass and again makes it into side control, then turns to the north/south position. Gono looks like he could get a topside triangle if he wants it, but instead he ends up swivelling around into side mount again. Full mount again for Gono but Mousasi rolls free, only for Gono to try to lock up an armbar! Mousasi looks in trouble as Gono tries to extend the hold, but Mousasi does a tremendous job of escaping and gets on top of Gono in side control. Mousasi tries to step over to take the back, but Gono reverses him and gets into guard, where Mousasi looks for a triangle choke. Gono postures free and with a minute remaining he stands and tries a flying stomp, and then passes to side mount where he lands knees to the body. Full mount from Gono with seconds remaining, but he can’t do anything with it before the bell sounds.
Into the 2nd and Mousasi presses forward again, landing an uppercut into the clinch. He tries to land some knees from the clinch but the action slows and the ref calls the break. Body kick and combo have Gono on the retreat, but he doesn’t look hurt and again does a good job of covering up. Good left straight does get through though. Mousasi comes forward swinging again, but Gono deflects the blows and they end up clinched. They get restarted again and Mousasi stalks forward, landing a left hook and some knees from a plum clinch, but Gono gets the takedown from the clinch, down into Mousasi’s guard. Gono passes to half-guard and then slips into side control, and with one minute remaining he takes the back with both hooks. This time Mousasi tries to roll, and with less than thirty seconds remaining Gono suddenly locks up an armbar for the tapout!
Wow, great ending for Gono. This was perhaps the best I can recall seeing Gono fight, as he controlled the action on the ground, getting some great positions and reversals on Mousasi, and on the feet he was able to deflect the majority of Mousasi’s heavy combos and never looked in trouble. When you consider what success Mousasi has gone on to experience (although admittedly, he was very young and inexperienced here) this is an even more impressive win for Gono’s resume. Great fight, too.
Henderson had been given a bye into the quarters due to being the reigning Welterweight champion, and he was faced with the man he’d beaten at Bushido 10 in Kazuo Misaki, coming off an impressive win over Phil Baroni. I guess their first fight was very entertaining which is why they put this one together. The smart money was on Henderson of course.
We get started and they circle tentatively, before Henderson looks for a flurry that backs Misaki up. They clinch up and Henderson looks for a takedown from a whizzer, but Misaki blocks and then scrambles free. Leg kick is countered by Hendo with a big right, but it doesn’t land cleanly. Misaki keeps moving and they exchange strikes, with Henderson landing the best of it with a combo, but Misaki trips him down. Henderson pops back up right away into the clinch and they muscle for position, before Henderson slams him down to side control. Misaki pops right back up and almost eats a head kick on the way. Good leg kick by Henderson and they exchange into a clinch before breaking off quickly. Back into the clinch but this time Misaki scores with a combo as they break. Misaki throws out some low kicks and then they trade right hands, before Misaki clips him with a nice one-two. Good straight left from Hendo and Misaki tries to answer with a spinning back kick but misses. Good body kick from Misaki and then Hendo tries for a flurry, but Misaki uses his movement to avoid any real damage. Misaki is proving to be an elusive target here. Great uppercut lands for Misaki in an exchange. Henderson comes back with an overhand right and a stiff left that snaps Misaki’s head back, but the Japanese fighter fires back and they exchange strikes openly. Good left to the body and right to the head for Misaki. Henderson appears to be looking for the one-hit KO and it’s getting him picked apart a little. Spinning kick from Misaki glances off Hendo’s midsection. Both men land in an exchange and then Misaki catches him with a clean right uppercut. One minute to go and they continue on in kickboxing mode, with the advantage seemingly going to Misaki. Flying knee from Misaki narrowly misses and he closes the round with a leg kick.
Round Two starts off and they exchange strikes again. This time Hendo lands with his big right, but Misaki recovers quickly and they continue to trade. Few good low kicks land for Misaki and he also clips Hendo with some crisp counters coming forward. Commentary has disappeared for this round which is weird as hell. Did Mauro and Trigg go for a cigarette break and get lost in the arena or something? Fight continues though with Misaki landing a nice one-two that snaps Hendo’s head back. Henderson wades into a clinch with a flurry, but a knee to the body from Misaki breaks. Misaki continues to push the action and Henderson finally shoots, but Misaki easily avoids it as Hendo looks exhausted. Misaki’s footwork and movement is winning him this fight. Trigg finally starts talking with a minute remaining, yay. Exchange continues and this is a close fight, but I have Misaki ahead I think. Good body kick from Misaki and he avoids the haymaker right. Three leg kicks and a body kick finish the fight for Misaki.
I think Misaki has it but I’ve seen stranger decisions before so...Judges have it unanimously for Misaki though, no luck for Decision Dan tonight. This was a strangely flat performance for Henderson, who looked intent on throwing the big right haymaker and trying to knock Misaki out, but once it was clear that Misaki was a horribly elusive target, surprisingly Hendo didn’t change things up and use his wrestling advantage. Misaki for his part fought an excellent fight, using his timing, movement and footwork to pick Hendo apart, but you can’t help thinking that Henderson could’ve won if he’d played to a smarter gameplan. Still, credit where it is due, huge upset for Misaki and probably the best win of his career.
And going back to the awful matchmaking in the Lightweight division during this period, why match Gomi with an admittedly tough debutant in France’s Baron for his comeback fight when he could’ve been fighting Aurelio in a rematch to decide the real champion, or even Ishida? Criminal stuff really. Despite the terrible showing he’d put in against Aurelio, Gomi was the firm favourite coming into this one.
We begin and they circle before Baron tries a takedown. Gomi stuffs it but eats a one-two on the way out. Gomi comes back with a right hand that stuns the Frenchman and knocks him off balance, and follows with a flurry that puts Baron into retreat mode. Gomi catches him with some crisp counterpunches and then finds his range with a combo ending with a hard body shot. Another takedown attempt from Baron is avoided. Exchange continues and Gomi drops Baron with a left hand and a knee, and then goes down into the Frenchman’s half-guard. Gomi decides to stand back up and lands some more clean counterpunches, stunning Baron in the exchanges. Baron fires back, showing some heart, but he looks outgunned standing. Bodyshot into a suplex for Gomi and he drops down into side mount. Gomi looks to work for a kimura on the far side and then tries to mount, but Baron blocks and secures half-guard. Gomi stands up and takes an upkick on the way, and Baron follows him to his feet. They exchange some more punches and credit to Baron, he’s hanging in there, but Gomi lands another heavy bodyshot and blocks a takedown. Another big combo lands for Gomi and Baron shoots, but Gomi stuffs it and transitions to Baron’s back. He gets both hooks in and goes for the rear naked choke, but Baron goes a good job of defending and tries to armbar Gomi using his own head! Gomi avoids it and remains clamped to Baron’s back, and this time he gets the rear naked choke sunk in and Baron is forced to tap out.
Excellent main event; Baron put up a great fight but Gomi looked to have gotten his mojo back after the Aurelio fight and landed some awesome combinations standing before hitting a beautiful reversal to take the back for the finish. Really fun fight in a good return to form for Gomi.
-And we roll the highlight reel.
This was a solid if not spectacular show for the Bushido series. It’s better than Bushido 11 as there’s no really slow fights like Suloev-Bustamante from that show, and Minowa-Butterbean gets worst fight awards for being a pointless freakshow squash more than anything. The lack of a real classic fight lets it down a little – Gomi-Baron is the best fight and it wouldn’t have even made the top four on say, Bushido 7 or 9 – and there’s no crazy highlight reel finishes, but what is here for the most part is very good, with the best being the afore-mentioned Gomi fight, Melendez-Obiya, Ishida-Marcello and Kang-Suloev. So it’s a thumbs up for Bushido 12, albeit not an overwhelming one like you’d give to some of the older Bushido shows.
Best Fight: Gomi-Baron
Worst Fight: Minowa-Butterbean
Overall Rating: ***3/4
UFC: 94-99, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
Elite XC: Uprising, Renegade, Street Certified and Unfinished Business.
K1 Hero’s: Final Battle 2007
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.