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Pride 27: Inferno review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on April 13, 2006, 5:34 AM

Pride 27: Inferno

Osaka, Japan

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten, and I think if I remember rightly this was Mauro’s first non-Bushido Pride show. They get down to talking mainly about the four ‘Survival’ matches on the card with the winners advancing to the opening round of the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. Those matches would be Vovchanchyn-Bobish, Kerr-Yamamoto, Herring-McGee, and the main event – Mirko Cro Cop vs. Ron Waterman. Not really the most stacked card compared to the other Pride shows at this point, but it’s not a horrible one either.

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Dan Bobish

We’re opening with one of my most disliked fighters in MMA, Dan Bobish, AKA ‘The Bull’, or as I like to call him, ‘The Gas Man’. Bobish comes in tipping the scales at just under 400lbs here, in vile shape as usual, and this is basically a question of how early he’ll gas out before Igor murders him with strikes.

They get underway, and Bobish looks to close the distance as Igor moves around, throwing some tentative punches. Finally Bobish shoots in and gets the takedown to guard, smothering Vovchanchyn on the bottom. He actually pulls out a cool, if ineffective move by lifting Igor up by the legs and dropping him back down, before settling back into the guard, which remains open, as Vovchanchyn can’t even close his short legs around Bobish’s bulk. Bobish gets a good right hand and then passes into side mount, before looking for a neck crank. He quickly gives up on that one, landing some knees before taking a full mount and landing a couple of punches. He tries to go back to side mount, but Igor catches him in half-guard, so Bobish looks for a keylock, only for Igor to slip out and get full guard back. Bobish smothers him from the top, not really trying anything offensive, so the official stands them up for inactivity, and surprise surprise, Bobish is looking tired. Official shows him the yellow card, and Igor comes in with a good right hand and then a combination, ending with a stiff body kick. Bobish shoots in, but Igor sprawls nicely to avoid, and lands a knee to the body, but Bobish manages to grab a leg and throws him down to his back. Bobish goes into side mount, but he’s badly gassed by this point and can’t really do much. Into the north/south position, but all he can land are a couple of weak knees, and a keylock attempt ends the round.

You can tell exactly where this fight is headed just by looking at them in the corners between rounds, as Igor looks fine, while Bobish is sucking in enough oxygen to choke the front row.

They begin the 2nd, and Bobish looks gassed out completely, lumbering forward only to eat a knee and some punches. He shoots in for the takedown, but Igor easily sprawls back, landing a knee to the head for good measure before bringing things back up. Vovchanchyn lands a big right hand as they stand, causing Bobish to turn away, before shooting in out of desperation. Igor blocks and lands a knee and two soccer kicks, and Bobish drops to his back, where Igor takes the full mount and lands some hard shots to the body and head, triggering the verbal submission.

Pretty much what I was expecting, as it’s a carbon copy of all the Bobish fights I’ve seen – he takes the guy down early but can’t do enough to finish them, then he gasses out and gets smashed with strikes to finish. As I’ve said before, as I’m not a trained fighter, I don’t like to criticise unless it’s something really glaring, but bad conditioning is something I just can’t stand as it’s SO easy to remedy. Good win for Igor, but if I never see another Bobish fight in my life, I’d be a happy man.

Sergei Kharitonov vs LA Giant

Cory ‘LA Giant’ Peterson is HUGE, a legitimate 6’11”, 380lbs, so naturally he dwarfs Sergei here, giving us our token Freak Show Match for this card. This was early in Kharitonov’s Pride career too, only his second match after easily submitting Jason Nobunaga on the undercard of the first Bushido show. Ring introductions are interesting here, as Peterson appears to have a Nazi ‘SS’ logo tattooed on his underarm. Hmmm.....that’s not a good thing if that’s definitely what it is.

Sergei clinches right away to begin, taking some weak right hands on his way to getting a takedown to the Giant’s guard. He lands some shots from the top as Peterson tries to kick him away, but Sergei goes right into the guard and then passes into side mount easily. He opens up with some hard, accurate punches to the face, and then steps over and gets an easy straight armbar for the tapout.

Complete mismatch here – as usual with the freakshow types, Peterson didn’t belong anywhere near an MMA ring, and Kharitonov dispatched of him pretty quickly and easily too.

Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua vs Alexander Otsuka

I believe this was the esteemed Otsuka’s final appearance in a Pride ring, and hey, I’m not complaining. Ninja was being discussed as a potential entrant into the HW GP, as he’d talked of bulking up to avoid ending up with no possible matches outside of teammate Wanderlei Silva in the MW division (strangely enough, the same scenario his brother has today), but that turned out to be a disaster and he’s instead cut to 185lbs this year.

They get underway, and Ninja opens with a hard leg kick into a clinch, where they exchange some knees. Ninja catches him with a nasty one to the groin, and Otsuka collapses into a heap ala Alessio Sakara. Official shows Ninja the yellow card, and they give Otsuka plenty of time, but he looks seriously hurt and his cup’s actually BROKEN. Holy God, that sounds painful just typing it. Otsuka ends up being stretchered out, as Renallo explains that hopefully, they’re going to restart the fight later on the card. Two Otsuka fights on one card? *shudders*

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Dos Caras Jr.

Caras, if you didn’t know, is the only Hispanic fighter in Pride history, and also the only guy to ever wear a mask in the ring, too. His claim to fame (in MMA) is being almost decapitated by Mirko Cro Cop at the first Bushido show. Interestingly enough he’s got UFC newcomer Justin Levens in his corner here – I’m guessing he was training for this one with Ruas Vale Tudo? This was Nakamura’s third fight in Pride, as he was coming off the decision victory over Daniel Gracie at Bushido 1.

Nakamura swings into a clinch to open, and Caras looks for a takedown. They go down for a moment but pop immediately back up, and Nakamura gets a heel trip down to Caras’s guard. He passes quickly into side mount and looks for an armbar, almost getting it locked, but Caras spins out nicely and they come back up with Caras holding Nakamura in a front facelock. They break off and Nakamura blocks a high kick, back into a clinch where he blocks another takedown attempt. Caras lands some knees and they break, where Nakamura misses a big overhand right into another clinch. He gets a beautiful takedown to Caras’s guard from the clinch, and then passes to half-guard right away, but Caras shifts and gets full guard back. Nakamura stands up, taking an upkick, and then tries a cartwheel pass, before landing a good right from above. Nakamura goes back down into the guard and lands some decent shots, before standing and now trying a diving guard pass, almost landing directly into a triangle choke! He avoids it though and passes into side mount, and then full mount. Nakamura tries an armbar, locking it out fully, but Caras stands up with Nakamura hanging on his arm! Holy strength, Batman. Caras manages to slam his way out, and they come back up into the clinch where Caras lands some short knee strikes. The official breaks things up, and Nakamura lands a big overhand right as they press, before blocking a high kick, back into another clinch. The official breaks them again when nothing happens, and then Nakamura punches his way back into another clinch to end the round.

Not a bad opening period at all there, surprisingly enough considering the fighters.

Into the 2nd, then, and they exchange into a clinch to open, but nothing happens from there so the official breaks them up quickly. Both men look to strike off the restart, with Caras landing a nice kick to the body. Back into the clinch, where Caras lands some knees and looks for a takedown, but Nakamura blocks. The ref breaks them again, and Nakamura lands a decent combination as Caras presses forward. Back into the clinch, and Nakamura looks for the trip this time, but Caras blocks and lands a good knee to the midsection. Once again things slow up, and this time it’s YELLOW CARDS as the official breaks them up. And from the restart...they go right back to the clinch and nothing happens. BOO! Nakamura gets a couple of knees in before the official breaks them again, and they exchange from distance to end the round.

Third and final round, Nakamura opens with some good punches, before Caras finally gets a takedown. To no avail though, as Nakamura quickly reverses and gets on top in Caras’s guard. Nakamura turns up the heat somewhat, pounding away with left hands, and then passes into half-guard where he lands some knees to the face....er, mask. Into side mount now and more knees follow, before he smothers him. Nakamura lands some elbows to the body, and then mounts and goes for an inverted armbar, but Caras flips over, right into a triangle from Nakamura! He can’t get it locked on properly though and Caras escapes, landing some short punches as Nakamura tries to keep the distance minimal. Nakamura goes for an armbar from the bottom, but Caras avoids and continues to land some chopping shots to end the fight.

To the judges, then, and Nakamura picks up the unanimous decision. This wasn’t quite as bad a fight as I was expecting – the first round was alright, if a little dull, although the second was foul, with copious amounts of clinching and minimal action. The third round was solid as Nakamura turned up the heat and took the fight to Caras, definitely cementing himself as the clear winner. Caras did better here than in his Pride debut (duh!) but I think it was obvious that he wasn’t really a Pride-level competitor, and he hasn’t been seen in the promotion since. Nakamura, while not the most exciting fighter, has improved a lot since here and you could probably argue that he’s on the cusp of a top ten ranking at this point thanks to wins over Bustamante, Randleman, Vovchanchyn and Kondo as well as competitive losses to Wanderlei Silva and Rogerio Nogueira. If he could work on actually being able to finish his opponents, he’d definitely find himself in the upper echelon soon.

Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua vs Alexander Otsuka

Heh, I guess this counts as a continuation of the first fight, rather than a rematch. And luckily for Otsuka he had a lot of rest time with that last fight going to decision. Let’s see if this lasts any longer than the first one, then...

Ninja comes out with some good low kicks to open, and Otsuka comes back with some punches as they muscle into a clinch. Both look for the takedown, and unsurprisingly Ninja gets it, and despite a reversal attempt, Otsuka ends up on the bottom in guard. Ninja passes quickly into side mount and then gets a rear waistlock, taking Otsuka’s back and landing some punches. He looks for the rear naked choke, continuing to land punches from behind, before suddenly standing and landing a knee to the head! Otsuka goes down and looks for the takedown, but Ninja sprawls back, so Otsuka drops to his back instead. Ninja lands a stomp, but Otsuka grabs the leg for a heel hook attempt, so Ninja drops down to side mount, where he lands some knees and a series of elbows to the body. Ninja mounts, but Otsuka reverses somehow and tries a single leg, but Ninja blocks easily, so he drops onto his back. Another stomp follows, and Otsuka once again tries to grab the leg for a heel hook, but Ninja avoids again, before getting on top and getting a tight arm triangle choke. Otsuka tries to escape, but it’s to no avail, and Ninja tightens it up, causing the rare tapout from Otsuka.

Pretty exciting fight once it got going, actually, as is the regular occurrence with Ninja/Japanese Tomato Can. And sadly for some (but not for me!) this would be the final appearance of Otsuka in a Pride ring.

Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs Mark Kerr

This was one of the ‘Survival’ matches as they threw Kerr an obvious tomato can to try to get him into the GP, as this was his big MMA comeback following the success of his ‘Smashing Machine’ documentary that followed Kerr and his trials and tribulations involving painkiller addiction. He’s not looking in the best of shape for this fight at all, to be frank, but I guess considering he was returning from a layoff of almost three years that’s somewhat excusable.

They press to open, before Kerr shoots in for the takedown, getting a slam to guard, but almost instantly after they hit the ground, Yamamoto rolls him over, getting on top in full mount, and lands some punches from the top from the stoppage. Everyone is confused as hell, naturally....until the replays show that Kerr spiked his head downwards into the mat as he slammed Yamamoto, effectively knocking himself unconscious. Renallo dubs it the “DDT effect”, but damn, was that a stroke of bad luck for Kerr.

Total freak ending to that one and Kerr’s comeback obviously fell completely flat, and he hasn’t been seen in MMA since, sadly. I freely admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of Kerr, but to see a guy come back from a nasty painkiller problem only to knock himself out in his comeback on a freak accident is pretty horrible. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and thankfully Pride didn’t put Yamamoto in the Grand Prix, instead putting him into another survival bout at Bushido 2....with Mirko Cro Cop. Still, an extremely disappointing fight here, especially after the hype surrounding the return of Kerr.

Heath Herring vs Gan McGee

The third survival bout on the show. McGee was fresh in from the UFC, following a knockout loss at the hands of Tim Sylvia in his Heavyweight Title challenge, but I guess at this point, with the big win over Pedro Rizzo still relatively fresh in people’s minds, he was still seen as a contender. He’s in absolutely disgusting shape here, to say the least, probably because he didn’t have to cut any weight to make 265lbs like in UFC. Size difference is tremendous, which is really weird considering Herring is almost always the bigger guy in his fights. This period was arguably the lowest point for Heath’s career, as he was looking to rebuild following losses to Fedor and Cro Cop, but had struggled to put away Yoshihisa Yamamoto and Giant Silva in his two comeback fights. Again, winner is advertised as going into the Grand Prix.

They begin and Herring lands a good left-right combo into a clinch, then breaks with a hard right hook. Clearly utilizing his superior speed, Heath lands some good combinations as he comes forward, ducking a high kick on the way out. Herring continues to come in and out, landing various shots including some good right hooks, as McGee looks completely behind the pace. Finally Gan comes in with a one-two and then some knees in a Thai clinch, before another one-two as they break off. Herring lands a good low kick, and then catches him with some lunging punches as McGee keeps his guard low for some reason. Heath continues to pick McGee apart, landing low kicks and combos from distance, before McGee lands a nice knee and a head kick, before grabbing a standing guillotine. Herring easily escapes that, and after McGee lands a couple of decent shots, Heath catches a kick and gets a takedown to half-guard. McGee tries a leglock, and uses that to reverse on top in side mount. McGee gets into north/south and lands a knee, but Herring rolls and escapes to his feet. They exchange some strikes standing, before Herring shoots in, but McGee gets a nice sprawl and then spins over, taking Heath’s back. Herring grabs the left arm, looking for the inverted kimura ala Sakuraba, but McGee holds on and clubs him from behind, opening a cut under Heath’s eye. Herring tries to roll to guard to finish the kimura, but the round ends before he can secure it. Heath’s eye looks pretty bad between rounds.

Into the 2nd, and McGee lands a combination into the clinch, but nothing happens and the referee breaks them up. Herring lands a one-two off the restart with a BIG overhand right that knocks McGee’s mouthpiece flying, but Gan calmly picks it up off the mat and PUTS IT BACK IN. Eeeew. Crowd pop for that for some reason. Herring comes forward with a big leg kick that hurts McGee, but as he continues to press, McGee grabs a headlock. They quickly break off and the exchange continues, with McGee looking to counter the leg kicks. He blocks a takedown, and the action really slows up, with both men landing the odd shot but not really following anything up. Into the clinch and they muscle to the corner, but the official breaks them up, and Herring flurries into another clinch to end the round. This is getting pretty tedious at this point.

Herring’s eye is pretty much completely closed to open the 3rd, but he comes right out with some AGGRESSIVE FLURRIES!~! They brawl into the clinch and then come right out where Herring rocks him with some WILD shots, but McGee comes back with some sloppy swings of his own, and they WINDMILL!~! in and out of some clinches, with Herring landing the better shots. Both look GASSED at this point, but Herring continues to nail him, landing a hard body shot that McGee answers with a combo, and the wild exchange continues, with Herring rocking him to end the fight.

Whoa, was that third round a lot of fun compared to the opening two. We go to the judges, and your winner, by split decision, is Heath Herring! YAY!~! I’m not sure why that ended up a split decision actually – I can’t see anyone being able to make a case for McGee winning unless all you take into account is damage. Blah. At any rate, this was a horrifically slow fight until the third round, which saw both guys go into a different gear and although they didn’t show much skill, hey, sometimes it’s cool to see two big men windmilling punches at one another.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Ron Waterman

Cro Cop was coming off the first loss of his MMA career – the legendary fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at Final Conflict ’03 – so naturally he was pissed and wanted some payback here. This was right around the time I got into MMA actually, and I seem to remember a lot of people picking Waterman here, thinking after the Nogueira fight, Mirko would be easy pickings on the ground. Waterman looks HUGE here, like, completely dwarfing Mirko who isn’t a small guy himself.

They get underway and Waterman rushes right out and grabs a bodylock, and despite Mirko’s attempts to force him off, he manages to get a takedown to guard. Waterman smothers him from the top, looking for a can opener, as Cro Cop tries to scramble free from the bottom. Mirko blocks a guard pass and manages to avoid any damage from Waterman’s ground-and-pound attempts, but Waterman simply holds him down, shoving his forearm into Cro Cop’s throat for good measure. Finally Mirko manages to use his legs to force some distance, and then uses them to shove Waterman away and stand! And now...we go to school. Waterman looks tired, and Cro Cop closes in, landing a glancing left high kick, but follows with two BRUTAL LEFT STRAIGHTS to drop Waterman to the mat! A series of HORRIFIC SOCCER KICKS!~! follows, and the official stops things there.

If you’re looking for your stereotypical “scary Mirko Cro Cop performance”, this is pretty much it here, as he weathered the inevitable early storm from Waterman before SLAUGHTERING him once they came up to standing, in absolutely vicious fashion. As with all Cro Cop massacres, this was entertaining in a perverse way. And a decent ending to the show, too.

Final Thoughts....

Probably the weakest Pride card since Pride 18 way back in 2001, Inferno had the impossible task of following the stellar Final Conflict 2003, and with nothing especially standing out, it falls well short of that mark. Even the ‘Survival’ matches turned out to be meaningless as two of the winners (Vovchanchyn and Yamamoto) didn’t even make it to the Grand Prix, while McGee, who lost here, was entered into the first round. It’s probably worth a look if you’re a big mark for Mirko Cro Cop, as the Waterman fight is one of his most brutal performances, but really there’s nothing else that’s must-see here, and you can find far better performances from Vovchanchyn, Kharitonov and Ninja (the more impressive guys here) elsewhere. Worth a look for collectors only, I’d say.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, 18, and 28.
UFC: 18, 20, 21, 56, 57 and 58.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 18, 23, 30 and 32.
FFC XV: Fiesta Las Vegas
IFC: Shogun
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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