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Pride 29: Fists Of Fire review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on July 21, 2006, 9:33 AM

Pride 29: Fists Of Fire

Saitama, Japan

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten. They talk about the big fights on the card, those being Coleman-Cro Cop, Rampage-Ninja, Kharitonov-Mu Bae, and Vovchanchyn-Takahashi, apparently. What, no mention of Nogueira-Overeem?

-Into the arena for the fighter intro, and nothing of note to report except the fact that Rampage has actually grown his hair out which looks pretty hilarious.

Mario Sperry vs Hirotaka Yokoi

Yokoi was making a return after being smashed by Heath Herring at Pride 28, and he’s looking whiter than ever here, albeit slimmed down to 205lbs. Damn, that’s a pale human being. Sperry looks in pretty good shape here too.

They get underway and Sperry comes forward, but misses a right hook and they go into an uneventful clinch that the official swiftly breaks. They exchange briefly, then circle off, back into a clinch where they exchange knees to the thighs and both seem to be looking for the takedown. Neither can get it, though, and the official breaks them off again. Sperry lands a hard leg kick off the restart, and they trade punches into a clinch, where both guys avoid leg trips. Someone’s bleeding, and the ref breaks it up and it’s Sperry, with a small cut over his eye. They clean him up, then restart and Sperry lands a right hand back into the clinch. They muscle for position, with Sperry looking for a takedown, but then come back out, only for Yokoi to miss some punches right back into the clinch. Sperry looks for the takedown again, but Yokoi manages to get him down, only for Sperry to slip out and take Yokoi’s back. He moves around into a front facelock and starts to drop some knees down, before standing and landing some VICIOUS soccer kicks as Yokoi tries to grab the leg in desperation. Sperry goes back to the front facelock and starts to rain down some more knees, as Yokoi seems intent to turtle up and not attempt to defend himself. Not sure why this hasn’t been stopped yet. Sperry gives him another soccer kick, and then lands some more knees, this time to the body. Another flurry of knees to the head follows, and finally the ref stops it with about a minute remaining.

Not the most exciting fight as it was really uneventful for the first few minutes. Once Sperry got the front facelock position though, Yokoi had absolutely zero answer for the knee assault just as in his fight with Herring.

Fabricio Werdum vs Tom Erikson

This was Werdum’s debut in Pride and he was coming in with quite the reputation, being one of the best BJJ stylists in the world, as well as being part of Team Cro Cop as Mirko’s ground trainer. Renallo also mentions that he was originally planning to join Chute Boxe as their HW representative, but ended up going with Mirko instead. Interesting. Apparently Erikson has claimed he’ll take out Werdum here, and then go after Cro Cop. He’s supposedly slimmed down, but looks just as huge as ever to me.

Erikson closes in to begin and gets a clinch, where Werdum drops for a single leg. Erikson nearly goes down but manages to pop up, and then he delivers a nice throw down to side mount. Erikson chooses to stand though, so Werdum comes up and tags him with some punches, but Erikson blocks his takedown attempt and ends up on top in Werdum’s guard. He looks content to lay there, trying no offense outside of a crossface, so finally Werdum tries an armbar and Erikson stands up out of danger. Werdum joins him standing, and Erikson presses, but Werdum suddenly lands a flurry of punches that bloody Erikson’s nose up! Erikson gets the clinch so Werdum pulls guard, and as Erikson lays there again, Werdum tries an armbar, and then an oma plata, but Erikson manages to avoid. Werdum looks for a triangle next, so Erikson stands up again. He backs Werdum into the corner, and Werdum shoots in for a takedown, but Erikson sprawls back, and then inexplicably allows Werdum to slip behind onto his back and put both hooks in! Erikson immediately looks in deep trouble as Werdum pounds the head, and then gets his arm under, securing the rear naked choke for the tapout.

Impressive debut for Werdum as he was able to outgun Erikson standing, and when it hit the mat, despite being on the bottom position for the most part he neutralized any offense Erikson could’ve hoped to put together. I’m not sure what Erikson was doing at the finish, but as soon as Werdum got good position on him, it was over.

Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua vs Hiromitsu Kanehara

Rua was on a tear in Pride at this point, blowing through his first three Japanese opponents with ease. Kanehara was coming off two losses to Cro Cop and Alistair Overeem where he’d basically played a punching bag, so this was only ever going one way – the question was whether Shogun could do what Mirko was unable to do, and put Kanehara away.

Shogun opens up with a low kick, then grabs a Thai clinch before taking Kanehara’s back as he drops to attempt a takedown. Shogun can’t get both hooks in though, and they come up in the clinch. Back out, and Shogun throws some kicks, before suddenly landing a right hook to put Kanehara down, and follows with an INSANE JUMPING STOMP TO THE HEAD!~! Kanehara looks in deep trouble as Shogun pounds away, and then stands, landing a series of VICIOUS STOMPS AND SOCCER KICKS!~! One final soccer kick lands frighteningly hard, and the ref steps in there.

Scary, scary performance from Shogun and a precursor of what was to follow for him in 2005. I think everyone knew this was going to be one-sided, but nobody expected a slaughter on the level of this. Probably the closest thing to attempted murder you’ll ever see in MMA, in fact!

Igor Vovchanchyn vs Yoshiki Takahashi

Vovchanchyn has slimmed right down to 205lbs here, and looks to be in tremendous shape, even sporting abs. At just 31 the announcers talk about him potentially making some real noise in the Pride MW division. On paper this was another really one-sided fight as Takahashi had lost two of the three fights he’d had since 2003, and looked pretty terrible in his Pride debut against Heath Herring.

Takahashi misses a high kick to open, and both guys press forward tentatively, teasing shots with nothing landing. Igor partially lands a high kick that sends Takahashi backwards, so Takahashi tells him to bring it on. Vovchanchyn obliges, landing a hard one-two, and then follows with a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND, and adds two more for good measure as Takahashi falls down unconscious.

Well, I guess that was exactly as advertised. The skin-ripple effect that the replays pick up as Igor nails him is pretty brutal, too. Post-fight Bas is screaming about Igor vs. Wanderlei, but sadly that fight never materialized.

-Polish Judoka Pawel Nastula joins us in the ring and cuts a promo explaining his intent to face the top Heavyweight fighters in the world. Apparently he’s an Olympic gold medallist and was 300-something and 0 at one point in his career. Big reaction for him – the Japanese fans love their Judoka.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Stefan Leko

This was pretty much Leko’s last chance in Pride, as he had lost to Naoya Ogawa in a questionable fight at Total Elimination 2004, but then came back to be pretty much schooled by Ikuhisa Minowa at Shockwave, too. Nakamura was making his return following the shoulder injury sustained in the fight with Dan Henderson at Pride 28.

They get underway and Nakamura immediately closes the distance and grabs a bodylock, getting a takedown to Leko’s loose guard in the corner of the ring. Leko looks lost on his back immediately, and Nakamura sits up and delivers a flurry of punches before the ref comes in for the stoppage at about 45 seconds.

Looked like a possibly early stoppage, but let’s face it – Leko was going nowhere and was barely defending himself, either. Apparently after this show, Mirko Cro Cop told Leko he wasn’t cut out for MMA and he ought to go back to kickboxing. Based on his three fights in Pride, I’d agree.

Sergei Kharitonov vs Choi Mu Bae

Mu Bae was receiving an inexplicable push from Pride at this point, being fed some terrible fighters in order to build him up for reasons unknown to me, at least. On the flip side, Kharitonov was coming off a really impressive 2004 that saw him end up in the semi-finals of the Pride Heavyweight GP, finally losing in a close-fought battle to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Again, this looked like a one-sided fight on paper.

Staredown here is hilarious as Kharitonov gets all intense, before Mu Bae circles his head around, and Sergei follows him, not breaking the stare. Sergei also laughs, but it’s one of those “You are SO dead” laughs rather than true humour. God, Choi is fucked.

Mu Bae looks to clinch immediately as they begin, but Sergei keeps his distance quite easily. Choi comes forward, swinging wild punches, but Kharitonov catches him with counterpunches as he backs off. Mu Bae then throws the WORST SPINNING BACKFIST EVER, missing by a mile, while Sergei continues to tag him with counterpunches, including a nice right bodyshot. Choi shoots in to try to get it to the ground, but Sergei blocks it and then gets a standing guillotine. Mu Bae manages to work his way out, but continues to swing terrible punches, and Kharitonov rocks his world with a left hand. Sergei follows up with a right cross, and then NAILS him with a clean combination causing Mu Bae to cover up along the ropes. Kharitonov smells blood, and continues to land unanswered punches, until finally Mu Bae collapses and the ref stops it.

Total one-sided beatdown there, but boy, it was fun to watch.

-Wanderlei Silva joins us in the ring and talks about entering into the 2005 MW Grand Prix, before asking the crowd who they’d rather see him fight – Sakuraba or Yoshida. My answer would be neither, but Silva decides on Yoshida and challenges him to a fight in the opening round. Oooh, Wanderlei Silva vs. a Japanese fighter. Never seen that before.....

Kiyoshi Tamura vs Aliev Makhmud

Announcers don’t seem to know much about Makhmud outside of the fact that he’s from Azerbaijan and he’s representing FILA, which is some kind of wrestling governing body. This is, unsurprisingly, his MMA debut. Tamura actually looks to be in decent shape here. Makhmud is also built like a tank.

They begin and Makhmud comes leaping out of his corner and bulrushes Tamura into the corner. He looks for a takedown, but Tamura blocks so the official breaks them up. Makhmud then uses the strangest fighting style I’ve ever seen, basically leaping forward for no good reason, right into mid-level and low kicks being thrown by Tamura. He finally catches a kick and gets Tamura down, but Tamura scrambles right back up and Makhmud grabs him in a front facelock. Makhmud tries to land some knees to the head, but he can’t bring them high enough and it’s more the thighs that land on Tamura’s skull. They separate, and Makhmud comes leaping forward into a knee, and then tries the leap again, but this time ends up jumping right into a low blow. Official immediately calls for time as Makhmud rolls around in pain.

It looks for a while like they’re going to declare it a no-contest, as Makhmud continues to roll around in pain while his corner try to ice his crotch. Finally they get him seated in the corner, and fan his crotch with a flag (?!) as they announce that he’s being given three minutes to recover. Christ, this is taking FOREVER, could they not have cut this from the US broadcast?

Finally they restart, and Makhmud comes LEAPING IN again, but this time lands a wild left hand that stuns Tamura momentarily. He recovers, though, and comes forward with a couple of kicks as Makhmud backs off and then starts waving to the referee, who promptly ignores him. The fuck? Suddenly he has a change of heart, apparently, and tells Tamura to bring it on. Makhmud comes forward, and then throws a RIDICULOUS spinning kick that looks like a retard doing an impression of Jean-Claude Van Damme, almost falling out through the ropes in the process. Even Tamura looks confused at this point and lands a half-assed combo. Makhmud backs off, grabbing his crotch again and gesturing wildly at the referee, but still the official does nothing. Tamura stands off looking totally confused, and finally after more waving, Makhmud’s corner throw in the towel.

Post-fight Sakuraba tries to cut a promo challenging Tamura to a fight, but he’s already left the ring in disgust, and the crowd are booing viciously at this point. I honestly don’t know what to say about this one. One of the weirdest – and worst – fights I’ve ever seen in my life.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Alistair Overeem

On paper this was easily the most intriguing fight of the card, one that pitted two evenly matched, top level fighters against each other. General consensus was that Overeem had the advantage standing, while Lil’ Nog had the advantage on the mat, but even that wasn’t cut and dry – Nogueira had been seriously improving his striking, while Overeem had upped his grappling levels to the point where he’d become the European Abu Dhabi qualifier in his weight class. This one should be good.

Both press the action to open, with Overeem landing a nice right hand. Nogueira blocks an attempted high kick into a clinch, where Overeem throws some knees to the body. They jockey for position, before the official breaks them up. Alistair tries his trademark flying knee, but Nogueira keeps his distance, only to take a nice right hand from Overeem into the clinch. Nogueira blocks a throw and then pulls guard, where he tries a triangle choke, but Overeem’s having none of it and he stands up and walks calmly away. They come back to standing and exchange from distance, before Nogueira pulls guard again. He looks to prep a submission attempt as Overem stays in tight, and indeed, Nog tries a triangle choke, but again Overeem stands, this time eating an upkick along the way that bloodies his nose. Overeem stands over Nogueira and kicks at the legs, before the official calls Nog back to his feet. They exchange into the clinch again, and jockey for position, before Overeem blocks an upper body takedown. The official breaks them off, and Nogueira lands a good right hand into the clinch, then trips him down to side mount. Nogueira looks for the full mount, but ends up in half-guard and then Overeem gets full guard, where they exchange to end the round.

Into the 2nd and Overeem comes out aggressively, and they exchange for a while before clinching. Nogueira pulls half-guard and controls hi from the bottom, but they come back up and Overeem lands a good right hand into the clinch again, and then gets a takedown to side mount. Nogueira gets full guard immediately, and tries a triangle, but Overeem quickly stands up out of danger again. They exchange back into the clinch, and Nogueira now gets a throw to side mount and then takes full mount. Overeem manages to get half-guard back, but Nogueira mounts him again, and then OPENS UP, bombing on Overeem until the round ends. That was mighty close to being the finish right there.

Third and final round, then, and Overeem looks tired, swinging wildly before Nogueira gets the takedown. Overeem turtles up so Nogueira stands, and Overeem presses forward, trying a knee and causing Nog to drop to his back. The ref brings him back up, and Overeem lands a good knee into the clinch. Nogueira breaks, and they trade back into the clinch. Overeem looks gassed out pretty badly at this point, and Nogueira lands counters as Overeem presses forward, rocking him with a combination. Overeem looks staggered, and Nogueira UNLOADS with a huge flurry, with Overeem looking out on his feet! Nogueira looks for the takedown, but ends up in guard where he looks to prep a submission, but Overeem manages to avoid and things slow down momentarily...so the ref stands them and shows yellow cards. Absolutely ridiculous. They restart, and Nogueira lands a couple of knees in the Thai clinch and follows with a flurry, before getting the takedown to side mount. He looks for a kimura and it appears to be synched in,, but Overeem somehow manages to avoid it to end the fight.

We’re going to the judges for the first time in the night, and all three score it for Nogueira. Well, that was an easy fight to score, at least. Pretty evenly matched in the early stages, but the difference was cardio, as Overeem gassed out late in the 2nd and from there Nogueira just took over, and even had Overeem almost KOd in the final round. Really good performance from him, this was. And a solid fight too, the best of the card thus far.

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua

This was Rampage’s big return bout following his devastating loss to Wanderlei Silva, and the big question was obvious – could he return to pre-Silva form? As I mentioned earlier, he’s grown out his hair here, looking pretty hilarious because it’s so different. Ninja was seen as a tough, but beatable opponent for him, and he was also coming off a knockout loss, to Sergei Kharitonov.

They begin and Ninja lands some low kicks into the clinch, where they exchange knees. Ninja slips on a knee attempt and Rampage grabs a front facelock, but can’t do anything with the position and Ninja slips out. Rampage catches him with a stiff left jab, but Ninja lands a combination into the clinch, and looks for a takedown. He lifts him up for a slam attempt, but ends up landing on his back mounted, and Rampage looks to pound, but Ninja scrambles free and gets to his feet. They clinch up again and Ninja knees the body, before trying a trip, but Rampage blocks and they continue to exchange in the clinch. Ninja manages to get a rear waistlock, looking for the German suplex, but Rampage avoids and they break off, but Ninja comes back into the clinch again. Rampage works for the takedown this time, and gets a nice nelson and crotch bodyslam, dropping Ninja RIGHT ON HIS HEAD. Ouch.

He goes into side mount and looks to try some knees, but Ninja scrambles up again back into the clinch, and they exchange knees and short punches. Ninja gets a takedown of his own now into half-guard, and tries to pass, but this time Rampage scrambles up to the standing clinch. Ninja throws a big knee, but Rampage uses it to get a takedown to half-guard, only for Ninja to scramble free again, this time into a front facelock. He gets out though, and lands a glancing high kick into the clinch. The official breaks them up this time and Ninja throws another high kick as they trade, then lands another one into a clinch again. Ninja looks for the takedown, and gets a rear waistlock and pulls him down into half-guard. Rampage gets full guard back, and Ninja works from the top, passing into half-guard and then into side mount, but before he can do any damage, Rampage reverses over and gets on top in half-guard. Ninja manages to get full guard back to end the round.

Ninja comes forward into the clinch again to open the 2nd, and Rampage throws him down, but Ninja pops right back up. Rampage quickly grabs him in a rear waistlock, and then gets a BIG GERMAN SUPLEX, into Ninja’s half-guard and then a side mount. Ninja works a guillotine to prevent any damage, and Rampage can only land one knee strike before Ninja scrambles to his feet. Into the clinch again, and Rampage lands some shots before getting a takedown to guard. He lands a hard right from the top, then looks to pass, but Ninja tries a leglock, so Rampage avoids it and ends up back in his guard. He lays there doing nothing for a while, looking tired, and Ninja tries a triangle that looks synched in, but Rampage manages to avoid. They come back up into the clinch, where they muscle for position before the ref breaks them up. Rampage suddenly looks tired, and Ninja throws a big knee into the clinch, but Rampage gets a takedown to end the round.

Between rounds both Renallo and Rutten remark that this isn’t the old Rampage, he’s far less aggressive and looks completely exhausted at this point.

They exchange into the clinch to begin the 3rd round, and Rampage gets a guillotine, so Ninja tries a throw but botches it and lands squarely on his head. Rampage gets into side mount and lands some knees and punches, but Ninja scrambles to his feet in a front facelock. He gets a big slam, but Rampage reverses position into north/south as they hit the mat. He doesn’t do much though and Ninja scrambles up to his feet, getting his own takedown to half-guard. He passes into side mount and goes for a keylock, but Rampage avoids it and scrambles free, before getting a big release bodyslam, dropping Ninja onto his head and shoulder! Into the side mount and he lands some knees, but they’ve got no real power behind them and Ninja escapes to his feet and tries a takedown. They muscle for position, and Ninja breaks off, nearly shoving Rampage through the ropes before following with some punches to end.

Announcers think it’s clearly Ninja’s fight, I’m not so sure, it was really close. Judges score it Rampage, Ninja, Rampage for the split decision win for Quinton. Ninja looks REALLY upset and storms out, while Rampage hardly looks impressed with himself. Post-fight Shogun comes into the ring and challenges Rampage, who accepts, providing Pride will give him fair time to prepare.

Pretty bad fight, I know the announcers seemed to think Ninja was robbed, but really, he didn’t do all that much either. It was pretty even, but it seemed that Ninja was just too good at scrambling out from the bottom position for Rampage to do any damage, and Rampage’s aggression levels were at an all-time low following the Silva fight. Just a really bad performance from a guy who you could normally guarantee to put on an exciting fight.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Mark Coleman

From what I remember, this was seen as a somewhat intriguing, if a little predictable fight. Despite his advanced age, Coleman still possessed one of the best takedowns in MMA, so the question was basically whether he could get it to the ground before Mirko kicked his head off, and if he did get it to the ground, whether he could keep it there without gassing out. Pre-fight Mirko actually says if Coleman gets him down, he’ll be looking for “triangles and oma platas”. Coleman once again uses his horrible faux-James Bond theme music.

They circle to open and Coleman shoots in, but Cro Cop blocks it and backs off quickly. Coleman lands a right hand and then shoots in again, but Cro Cop shows off an awesome sprawl and manages to avoid the takedown. You can see Coleman’s confidence fading with every failed shot. Cro Cop presses forward tentatively, and then staggers him with a heavy left straight, so Coleman shoots in again only for Mirko to block once more. Cro Cop is landing now, and he starts to fire off punches while avoiding another takedown. Cro Cop stalks him, landing a low kick and another left straight. He avoids another takedown, and then Coleman shoots in again, but this time Mirko barely even sprawls, choosing simply to muscle Coleman off him. Impressive stuff. Coleman looks a beaten man at this point, and Cro Cop decides to make it official, landing a nasty left hook, and then follows with a left uppercut and another left hook to drop him. A soccer kick follows, and the official quickly stops things there.

Tremendous performance from Cro Cop to just completely stuff the takedowns of one of the best wrestlers in MMA history, even if he is past his prime at this point. You could see the confidence evaporating from Coleman quickly each time he realized he couldn’t take Cro Cop down, and the end was pretty inevitable by the time it finally came. One of Cro Cop’s more devastating performances, and that’s saying something.

Post-fight Mirko challenges Fedor to a title fight, while Coleman cuts a long-winded promo paying tribute to Cro Cop, but making sure everyone knows he’s not done just yet. And, we end the show there.

Final Thoughts....

Pride 29 is packed full of mismatches and squashes, but hey, sometimes mismatches and squashes are fun, and that’s the case for most of this card. Werdum-Erikson, Shogun-Kanehara, Vovchanchyn-Takahashi and Kharitonov-Mu Bae, despite being completely one-sided, are all enjoyable enough. Of the top three matches, Overeem-Nogueira and Cro Cop-Coleman definitely deliver on their promise, while Ninja-Rampage, despite being a little slow in places, isn’t a bad fight either. In fact the only thing ruining the card is the ridiculous Makhmud fight, but hey, you can skip over it. This isn’t in the running for best MMA show ever or anything, but it’s a fun, watchable show with some cool finishes. Recommended.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, and 18.
UFC: 18, 20, 21, 59, 60 and 61.
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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