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Pride 28: High Octane review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 30, 2006, 8:49 AM

Pride 28: High Octane

Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten, who run down the card, concentrating on Rampage-Silva II, as well as the big semi-main of Cro Cop-Barnett. They also discuss the returns of Heath Herring and Dan Henderson, both in fights against rising Japanese talent. No fighter intro part here, they go right into the first match...

Heath Herring vs Hirotaka Yokoi

Both men were coming off losses to Rodrigo Nogueira in the Heavyweight GP, with both succumbing to Nogueira’s new Anaconda choke. Yokoi had looked impressive in losing and this was seen as a potential breakout fight for him, while Herring had relocated from Golden Glory in Amsterdam to train with the Las Vegas Combat Club (Frank Mir’s team), and pre-fight he says the home cooking’s done him good.

They begin and Yokoi comes forward into a clinch, but Herring breaks off quickly and they circle out. Yokoi comes forward, but Herring catches him with a wild right hook, dropping him to the mat. Heath charges in with Yokoi taking the turtle position, and Herring goes CRAZY with the knees, dropping some HUGE shots down onto Yokoi’s head. The referee appears to stop it, but then it turns out to be a call for a break, and he reprimands Herring for dropping the knees onto the back of Yokoi’s head. Heath quite rightly tries to point out that he’s not doing it on purpose, it’s just the way Yokoi’s lying there. Yokoi looks WOBBLY in the corner while this is going on. Finally we get a restart, and Yokoi grabs a clinch for dear life, but can’t get a takedown, and Herring breaks off with some body punches, before dropping him again with a short right hand. Yokoi lands in the turtle position and Herring RAINS DOWN THE KNEES for the stoppage.

That was one of the most vicious knee assaults I’ve ever seen in Pride, I think. Herring came in clearly focused and ready and he just smashed Yokoi, never letting him get a chance to recover from the first right hook, and to be honest the fight probably should’ve been stopped with the first barrage of knees. Still, definitely one of Heath’s most impressive fights.

Ricardo Arona vs Sergey Ignatov

Announcers know absolutely squat about Ignatov, which makes sense given that this is his MMA debut. Why you’d match a debutant against Ricardo fucking Arona I don’t know, but hey, this is Pride we’re talking about. Regardless, he’s a small, pale Russian who bares a resemblance to TUF’s Lodune Sincaid. Arona looks seriously pumped for this one, apparently wanting to “send a message” after his powerbomb loss to Quinton Jackson earlier in the year. I love me some Arona, so excuse any excess bias here.

Arona throws a high kick to open that glances off Ignatov’s arm, as they tentatively press. Arona lands a snapping leg kick, then follows with a takedown as Ignatov comes forward. He passes quickly into side mount, but Ignatov gets his guard back so Arona stands and drops some heavy punches down to the body and the head. Ignatov makes a scramble from the bottom, but in the process gives Arona his back, and Ricardo lands some punches and controls him with both hooks in as Ignatov looks for a way out. Ignatov manages to escape, but Arona quickly gets him down on his back in guard again, and lands some hard punches en route to passing to half-guard. Ignatov tries a sweep from the bottom, but ends up giving his back again, and Arona pounds away and looks to flatten him out. Arona tries the float-over armbar ala Lil’ Nog, but Ignatov avoids and gets free, only to eat a nasty up-kick from Arona’s guard. Trying to replicate the Jackson fight Arona lands two more, so Ignatov wisely stands, and the official calls Arona up to join him. Arona comes forward with a nice right hand, and follows with a knee and Ignatov goes down and eats a kick along the way. Arona goes down to Ignatov’s guard, and then jumps right into a mount, pounding him until Ignatov gives his back again. This time Arona looks for the choke, and finally gets it, holding it on for good measure as Ignatov taps out. Post-fight the official gives him a yellow card for holding the choke, but hey, I’m sure he doesn’t care at this point.

This was an impressive, machine-like performance from Arona who basically toyed with this guy and ran a clinic on him. A lot of people criticise Arona for being a boring fighter against the tougher opponents, but against a guy who was clearly outmatched here, he put on a far more entertaining performance, showing much better striking than he normally does as well as his usual awesome ground positioning and the like.

Aleksander Emelianenko vs James Thompson

Ah, the first British fighter (Matt Skelton was a kickboxer) in Pride, and it’s none other than James ‘The Colossus’ Thompson. No surprise that Pride would pick him to be their British rep, as he’s a guy known more for his huge muscles and intimidating look than his fighting skills. Basically the UK’s equivalent to Bob Sapp, really. Aleksander comes out to Fedor’s entrance theme, looking as stoic and terrifying as ever, and the staredown here is hilarious, as Thompson is SHAKING WITH INTENSITY AND FURIOUS ANGER!~! while Aleks looks like he just woke up from a nap.

Ding! They get underway and Thompson comes CHARGING IN LIKE A BULL IN A CHINA SHOP and literally knocks Aleks flying! Aleks pops right back up and they exchange WILDLY, with Aleksander landing a right hand to wobble him. Another big right follows, Big Jimmy hits the deck, and that’s all she wrote, at eleven seconds. I hate to quote James Blunt, but...So long Jimmy, so long Jimmy!


Hilarious fight there as Thompson just charged right into his doom while Aleks got business over with quickly and actually cracked a smile post-fight. Incredibly enough (or not so incredibly....this is Pride we’re talking about), Thompson was brought back another three times, fed tomato cans for three of them before being knocked out by Fujita in his last appearance. Thank God for Michael Bisping representing the UK MMA scene, I guess.

Alistair Overeem vs Hiromitsu Kanehara

This was Overeem’s return to action following over a year away from Pride after his knockout loss to Chuck Liddell. No idea why they waited so long to bring him back as he’s pretty much always exciting, but whatever. This was clearly a bone thrown to him, too, as Kanehara had been soundly beaten in his previous two Pride fights with Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop respectively.

They get underway and Overeem comes in with a big knee into the clinch, before landing another that sends Kanehara down into the turtle position. Overeem lands some knees to the head ala Heath Herring, then tries for a guillotine choke (before it was a signature move of his), but Kanehara manages to escape. They come back up into the clinch, and Kanehara pulls guard, but Overeem stands up and the action comes back to the feet. Overeem tries a flying knee, and then gets a takedown to side mount, but Kanehara gets full guard back. Overeem stands and Kanehara follows, and Alistair lands a flying knee and then tries the guillotine again. Kanehara works to escape back up into the clinch, but then drops to the turtle position again and Overeem lands some hard knees until he drops to his back. Overeem stands and calls Kanehara up, then tries a knee, but Kanehara drops to guard. Overeem takes a mount, but Kanehara gets half-guard back and Overeem works to pass. He stands and calls Kanehara up again, then lands a right, and a knee, causing Kanehara to go down again.

Overeem waves him right back up, and Kanehara gets a clinch, but eats a knee to the body and goes down again. Overeem waves him up – sensing a pattern here? – and lands a low kick and another flying knee before Kanehara pulls guard. Overeem stands up out of it and lands a left, but Kanehara pulls guard AGAIN. Overeem this time decides to go into side mount, and gets the guillotine, but Kanehara escapes and gets on top momentarily before Overeem stands. They go into the clinch and Overeem lands a knee, causing Kanehara to fall to his back in the corner. Overeem starts raining some punches down onto him, and then lands a stomp, before the ref stands Kanehara back up. Overeem lands a mid-kick and gets a rear waistlock, before nailing a German suplex. Kanehara tries a kimura varient, but ends up mounted, and gives his back, but can’t get a rear naked choke to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and Overeem opens with some knees, causing Kanehara to....you guessed it, drop to his back. The official stands him and he drops AGAIN, but the ref calls him right back up. FIGHT YOU USELESS FUCK. Overeem comes in with some knees and a good front kick, and they go into the clinch and then down to the mat where Overeem gets a side mount. He drops some knees to the head, then sprawls back as Kanehara tries a reversal. Back up, and Overeem drops him with a series of knees in a Thai clinch, and then lands a soccer kick to the head. Kanehara comes back up, but Overeem gets a waistlock and pulls him down, landing a kick as Kanehara tries an ankle pick. Back up, and Kanehara’s nose is badly bloodied at this point. He eats some more vicious knees, and then tries a takedown, but Overeem sprawls to avoid. Back up, and the official calls time, and things get stopped there for Kanehara’s facial damage.

I said Overeem’s usually an exciting fighter – that’s true if his opponent’s interested in fighting. Kanehara was not interested in putting up a fight here – he was there as a punching bag and he knew it, and he seemed to be as desperate to avoid that as possible. Seriously – I would’ve screamed if he’d dropped to his back one more time at the point where it was stopped. Not the most watchable fight, then.

Mark Hunt vs Dan Bobish

Pre-fight Bobish tells us he’s in much better shape than his last Pride performance, as he’s managed to lose 35lbs. That’d be great....except he’s still fat and still weighs 335lbs. This was Hunt’s second MMA fight, following a somewhat impressive performance in losing to Yoshida in June. Bobish tells us that once he gets it to the ground, Hunt isn’t getting up. Bobish’s other performances would beg to differ....

They get underway and Bobish rushes into a clinch, but Hunt avoids a takedown and backs off. Bobish tries the same tactic again, but this time runs into a knee that opens a cut. The officials stop things momentarily, but it’s only a small cut, so they restart things and Bobish manages to get double underhooks and tosses Hunt down to side mount. Bobish works the body, and Hunt gives his back and curls up in the turtle position as Bobish looks to pound away. Dan drops some knees to the head, opening a small cut on the back of Hunt’s head but apparently not hurting him. He manages to land some more, but not very cleanly as they glance off Hunt’s arms. Bobish lands some punches and then tries what looks like a Chris Benoit-esque crossface, but Hunt avoids. Bobish keeps him down though and then works some more knees, but Hunt manages to scramble up to his feet. To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Bobish is GASSED, leaning over with his hands on his knees. He comes forward wildly, but Hunt catches him with an uppercut, and he falls to the mat. Bobish manages to stand, but Hunt lands a kick to the midsection as he staggers up, and seconds later Dan collapses in a heap and the official stops things there.

Post-fight Rutten tries to claim the kick to the midsection put him out, but it looked to me more like Bobish simply ran out of gas. Again. As it goes, this was a pretty fun match for a Dan Bobish fight, as he was quite active on the top by his standards and might’ve done some damage had Hunt not had a head made of concrete. Hunt fought what I guess you could call the smart fight against Bobish though, as he just waited for the guy to gas and then finished him standing. I don’t like to criticise fighters, as you know, unless they do something really bizarre, but as I’ve stated before, bad conditioning disgusts me. ANYONE can work on their conditioning – it’s the easiest part of any athlete to improve, unless you’ve got a medical condition – so there’s just zero excuse for Bobish gassing again. Thankfully, he’s not been back in Pride, and we’ve got well-conditioned athletes like Alexandre Lungu and Zuluzinho to take his place. Wait.....

-Between fights Kazushi Sakuraba makes an entrance and cuts a short promo in the ring, explaining his intent to fight on the Shockwave card on New Year’s Eve.

Dan Henderson vs Kazuhiro Nakamura

Pre-fight Henderson talks with Renallo about his reputation for possessing a ‘big right hand’, and says he’s been working on the left one too, before showing that he’s wearing a ‘Hulk Hand’ on his left. Ha, pretty funny. He actually comes out wearing them to the ring, too! This was Hendo’s big return to Pride following a year off, after he TKOd Murilo Bustamante at Final Conflict ’03. Nakamura was also coming off a win over Bustamante, and was looking to establish himself as a top guy at 205lbs. For some reason he’s sporting a terrible ‘temporary tattoo’ on his back here.

Nakamura charges in to open, and Henderson lands a right uppercut and then a right hook. Nakamura throws a low kick, but Hendo counters with an overhand right, so Nakamura drops for a single leg. Henderson blocks, but ends up on the bottom in what is almost a crucifix position across Nakamura’s back. Nakamura comes back to standing with Henderson holding him in a side headlock. He tries a throw, but botches it and Henderson gets on top and lands a couple of knees, before the official suddenly comes in and stops it. Announcers are confused, but it looks like Nakamura’s injured either his left shoulder or collarbone, and he looks in a LOT of pain. They go through the replays, but can’t seem to find the point of injury, as it looks like just a freak occurrence.

Not much to say there. It looked like it was shaping up to be a decent contest before the injury. Thankfully Nakamura has bounced back to action since.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Josh Barnett

Both guys talk some major trash pre-fight, with Barnett promising to make Mirko tap out, while Cro Cop seems offended that Barnett would dare talk trash on him, and promises to make him eat his words. This being Barnett’s first fight against a top level guy since Randy Couture in 2002, it was a HUGE deal for MMA fans to see how Josh had progressed since leaving UFC.

They begin and Barnett comes in aggressively, but Mirko avoids a couple of clinch attempts. Cro Cop throws his trademark left high kick, but misses it and ends up on his back, with Barnett on top in guard. They work for position for a second, and then out of nowhere Barnett starts tapping out, and the official separates them, and that’s it. Another freak injury, this time Barnett apparently dislocated his shoulder, with absolutely zero reason behind it. Post-fight Mirko gets on the mic and promises Barnett a rematch when he’s healthy.

Total anti-climax given that the fight had the second biggest build on the card, but I guess these things happen every so often, nobody’s fault.

Pride Middleweight Title: Wanderlei Silva vs Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson

Loooong video package leading us into this one. Not surprisingly, as this was the fight that everyone had been looking forward to since their first meeting, that saw Silva stop Rampage with a barrage of knees, kicks and punches after both fighters had been through wars earlier in the night with Hidehiko Yoshida and Chuck Liddell respectively. Since then, Rampage had taken out Ikuhisa Minowa and Ricardo Arona, while Silva had also blown through Minowa, and then stomped Yuki Kondo into oblivion in August. You don’t need too much of a backstory here though – the bottom line is that these guys have a HUGE rivalry and were promising a total war. And what’s more – the title is on the line!

We get the national anthems of the USA and Brazil before the introductions, and before his anthem plays, Rampage actually takes a call on his cellphone. Crazy stuff. Absolutely INSANE staredown here too, these guys look like they want to kill each other.

They get underway and Rampage quickly closes the distance and gets a clinch, and they exchange in close, before the official breaks things for an inadvertent low blow to Silva. They restart, and Silva throws some combos, but Rampage deflects them with his arms and comes back with a combo and a knee. Silva answers with a flurry of his own and they exchange punches into a brief clinch, then break off. Silva comes forward with a punch and a big knee attempt, but Rampage muscles him into the corner and they stay there momentarily before the official breaks things up. Silva comes forward from the restart and throws some combos that Rampage blocks for the most part, but then Silva gets a Thai clinch and opens up with some short punches and knees, only for Rampage to get a takedown to guard! They stop things momentarily to check a small cut on Rampage, then restart and Rampage works him over with punches to the body and head. He stands to attempt a guard pass, but Silva throws his legs up for a triangle. Rampage pulls out to avoid, and they end up back in Silva’s guard, where he tries a kimura which Rampage easily avoids. Rampage continues to work him over with some short shots as Silva defends well from the bottom, landing a nice up-kick at one point too. Things slow down though, so the official stands them up....and shows both men the yellow card. So they go slow for like, 30 seconds in a fight that’s been really good so far, and they lose 10% of their purse for it? Ridiculous.

They restart and Silva tries some combos, but Rampage covers up and deflects them again, then comes forward and lands a BIG RIGHT HAND to Silva’s jaw! Silva goes down and Rampage pounces, looking to pound away in the guard as Silva tries to recover. Rampage gets into side mount momentarily, but Silva gets guard back and tries a triangle. Rampage avoids it and gets into side mount, landing a BIG KNEE to the head! He looks for the mount, but ends up in half-guard, and pounds away with some heavy shots, but the round ends there. Damn, maybe a minute longer and that might’ve been it.

So we’re into the 2nd. Silva comes out throwing combos to open, but they go into a clinch and Rampage manages to get the takedown again. He works the head and the body, but Silva works from the bottom and gets a sweep, ending up in Rampage’s guard! Things slow down from there, before Silva stands up. He tries a big stomp, but misses, before landing a glancing soccer kick, but as he tries another one Rampage gets an ankle pick and comes back to standing. They clinch up, but break off and Silva throws some mid-kicks. He lands a nice right, but Rampage gets another clinch and muscles him around. Silva breaks off, and then Rampage comes forward, but walks into a MONSTROUS RIGHT HOOK! Rampage looks badly stunned and Silva SMELLS BLOOD, and comes in with another big right and a series of SICK KNEES, the last one smashing Rampage’s face and sending him hanging through the ropes, unconscious. Good lord, that was brutal.

WOW. Truly one of the most vicious endings in MMA history. And man, what a fight. Maybe not the most technical, maybe not the most crazy, but as far as drama goes it’s definitely top of the tree for 2004 in my book at least. Yep, this is your Fight of the Year. And I might not be a fan of Wanderlei Silva, but that was a hell of a performance, probably the most impressive of his career in fact. A classic throwdown.

-And, we end there, as Silva celebrates with his title – a title he legitimately earned with this fight.

Final Thoughts....

Had Henderson-Nakamura and Cro Cop-Barnett not ended with freak injuries, this could’ve been a contender for the show of the year in 2004, if not one of the best Pride shows of all time. The undercard is a ton of fun outside of Overeem-Kanehara, which I guess could be entertaining if you like seeing Japanese men take pointlessly long beatings. Obviously the highlight here was the main event, as a fight that was built beyond belief completely lived up to the hype, with both men throwing down and showing heart and skill in their quest for the title and putting on arguably the Fight of the Year in the process. It’s not as memorable as it might’ve been if the two semi-mains had been great fights too, but as it is, Pride 28 is still one of the best shows you’ll find from the premier Japanese company. High recommendation.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, 18 and 29.
UFC: 18, 20, 21, 58, 59 and 60.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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