Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Revisiting PRIDE FC 5 from 1999!

Are you ready for quite possibly the most forgettable PRIDE event in history? Hell, I just started this article and I’ve ALREADY forgotten about it!

By: Jimbo X

Our whirlwind recap of EVERY Pride Fighting Championship show ever chugs along with PRIDE FC 5, which is the first of four events the promotion held in the year of our lord 1999.

I’m just going to get this out of the way early, folks — this is not a very memorable card. In fact, it very well could be a candidate for least memorable PRIDE show ever, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves … we’ve still got Pride: The Best Vols. 1 through 3 ahead of us, and heaven knows those can’t be unforgettable MMA spectacles, either.

But for the time being, I think I’ll just let the card speak for itself — I mean, goddamn, when one of the highlights of the entire show is a freakin’ self-defense demonstration, you know you’re dealing with slim pickings from the MMArchives, ain’t you?

We begin the show with this elaborate opening ceremony, complete with a giant white cloth box over the ring, blue lights and this symphonic sounding shit blaring over the in-arena PA system. Well, that was spooky as shit, made a million times spookier because of how damned quiet the audience was for it the whole time.

Anyhoo, our first bout on the docket is Minoru Toyonaga vs. Egan Inoue — yep, the brother of Enson. We are coming to you LIVE from the Rainbow Hall in Nagoya, and as always, our hosts are Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros — yes, he of "The Demon Wind" fame. Man, how did Joe Bob NOT bring that up when he screened it on "The Last Drive-In" earlier this year? Rutten talks about how much he digs Inoue's haircut (the punchline is that he’s bald, folks) and the fight, it is on. Then Bas says he likes Minoru's bright orange coif, too, because he's truly impartial and shit. Inoue sprawls and goes for a choke early. He gets in the full mount, and then he transitions to the back mount. He has hooks in, now he's punching Minoru in the back of the head at will. Inoue is riding Minoru like a horse at this point. Amazingly, Minoru escapes from the rear naked choke, and he's right back to his feet. Minoru with some leg kicks and Inoue connects on a BIG head kick. Minoru pulls guard and Egan clubs him on the head from side control. Egan lands another huge head kick and he locks Minoru in a headlock. Minoru sprawls, he's out of the choke attempt and he's vertical once more. Egan literally chases Minoru across the ring and he falls flat on his ass doing a crappy spinning back fist. Egan has him from side control. Now Egan has Minoru's back. There's some ruling around and amazingly Minoru is standing again. "Egan should punch him," Quadros says. What the ... punching somebody, in a fight? GET OUT OF HERE WITH SUCH NONSENSE. There's some more scuffling on the ground and Egan does exactly wha Quadros commands and pops Minoru right in the fucking eyeball. He falls flat on his fanny and the ref, displaying a very un-Pride-like sense of immediacy, hops in there and waves off the fight. That unironically has to be the first EARLY stoppage in Pride history right there, folks. In the post-fight Egan poses with a trophy while the fans in the crowd do their best impersonation of an oil painting. For those of you wondering at home, the stoppage came at 5:53 of the very first round.

Up next it's Satoshi Honma taking on Francisco Bueno. Now there's a name I haven't thought of in LITERALLY 20 years. Honma is giving up at least 20 pounds in this one. Also, the arena is still choking with smoke from the opening ceremony pyro, so that could be a factor in this fight's outcome. Not a whole lot of action going on early. "I think it's going to be total warfare once they start engaging here," Quadros lies to himself. Bueno checks a leg kick, and they start circling each other again and playing patty cake. Honma lands another low kick, then another one. If you like shirtless guys looking at each other and not doing much else, you will LOVE this fight, fellas. "It's starting to be a dance kick now," Quadros observes. "Bueno has done nothing but move around." To be fair, Bueno's thighs do like pretty red from those earlier low kicks. Bueno finally charges, but he doesn't really connect on the first barrage of punches. Honma lead with his chin and Bueno just unloads a billion punches, and he FINALLY manages to clip him up against the ropes. Honma drops to the mat like a sack of rice, and the ref immediately waves off the contest. Of course, being a Brazilian, Bueno hits him about five or six times after the bell, but come on — what else would you expect? The official time, for parties interested, was 4:59 of round one.

The next bout is Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Akira Shoji, which is the most "Pride FC, circa 1999" thing I could ever possibly imagine. And if you thought the last fight had an absurd weight differential, in this one Shoji is giving up a goddamn absurd 40-PLUS pounds to Igor. Huh, one of the sponsors for the show is a business called "Aoki's Pizza." I wonder if they break your arm and flip you off after dropping off your pie? Rutten compares Shoji's legs to "two little trees" and the referee tells them to stop stallin' so goddamn much and actually start fightin' and shit. Then Bas said Igor's only loss to date came from a dude who beat him by biting his eye socket. And on cue, Igor fucking CLOBBERS Shoji with a monstrous hook. Igor lets his opponent get back to his feet under his own recognizance. Shoji whiffs on a spinning kick and shoots for a takedown, believe it or not. Igor, of course, easily shucks him off. Shoji almost gets tagged by another huge hand. Igor tosses Shoji to the mat, and then Shoji starts butt scootin' after Igor. Looks like he's trying to throw some upkicks here. Yeah, his leg kicks aren't too effective from that position, surprisingly. The ref says "enough of this bullshit" and stands him up. Now Shoji is literally backed into a corner. Igor rattles off a FANTASTIC left-right combo, complete with a hard left foot to the liver. Shoji lands a left hook, but Igor just eats it like it was a Junior Mint or something. Igor lands a leg kick and Shoji throws a couple of decent shots of his own, but then Igor easily stuffs the takedown attempt. Shoji throws a leg kick and Igor ALMOST knocks his block off just seconds before the bell sounds.

Round two. Igor lands a leg kick early, then Shoji fires back with a stiff one of his own. Igor shucks Shoji to the mat, and yep, it's time for Shoji to start butt-scootin'-kickin' again. Alright, Shoji is back to his feet. Igor misses on another huge shot and Shoji temporarily has a guillotine lock hooked in. Of course, Igor counters that with a HUMONGOUS slam. Still, he doesn't do too much on the mat and simply lets Shoji ge back to his feet. Igor misses on another huge overhand right. Shoji pulls guard and goes for a desperation upkick. Shockingly, he doesn't land it. Both men are back on their toes and Igor keeps trying to close the gap. Still, he's refusing to pull the proverbial trigger, so to speak, when it comes to landing a knockout blow. Igot accidentally — allegedly — kicks Shoji in the testicles, so we take a brief timeout. This leads to Bas telling the viewers at home that Igor is really a nice guy, in actuality. Shoji bum rushes Igor, but he does literally nothing for the split second he makes contact. Shoji goes for a kick up against the ropes and Igor drops him with a hook to the solar plexus. Yep, time for more that famed Shoji ass-scooting. Igor FINALLY decides to hop into the guard and Shoji scrambles to his feet. Shoji has underhooks in with Igor's back to the turnbuckle pad. Igor thumps his foes upside the head while he tries to hug him to death. The ref gets sick of this shit and tells him to get back into the middle of the ring and start whaling on each other. "Just say no to stalling," Quadros comments. To which Bas, perplexingly, replies "just like in the bathroom." Shoji unwisely tries to get into a slug fest with Igor, and of course, Igor fuckin' drops him half dead with one shot. Shoji is LITERALLY saved by the bell, however, as round number two comes to an end shortly thereafter. Just so you know, this is the first Pride event with actual judges, so this leads to what is officially the first scorecard decision in the promotion's history — which, obviously, is a resounding unanimous decision win for Igor.

Hey, who’s ready to watch another MMA-fightin' Inoue in action? We've got Enson Inoue taking on Soichi Nishida, in a bout in which the latter only outweighs the former by a mere 106 pounds. Nishida is wearing a fucking tent for pants and Inoue drops him almost immediately. Enson rattles off about 24 unanswered shots, then he locks in the rear naked choke. The official time of the tap? Just 24 seconds, ya'll.

As it turns out, Belfort needs steroids to keep from turning into an inept pussy, too.

Oh shit, lucky us, we've got an exhibition grappling match on tap. It's some hot Gracie-on-Gracie action as Rickson and Royler go at it, which is even weirder because Naoya Ogawa gives both of them flowers before their match begins. So, uh, did nobody tell the Japs than in American culture, giving somebody flowers means you want to fuck them? I guess not. LOL at Rutten saying "Oh, say you can see" when some random stagehand brings out a microphone. Rickson says the demonstration is two-part, with the first focusing on self-defense and the second part demonstrating offensive technique. So yeah, this isn't even a real competition, it's basically a paid infomercial for Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Man, wouldn't this have been so great back in the vale tudo days of the UFC, back when Jon Hess could've shelled out $200,000 to show people on the PPV that SAFTA works, goddamnit. LOL at the part when Rickson comes after Royler with a yardstick, only for Royler to return the favor by coming after Rickson with a knife. Bas wonders aloud when one of them is going to bring a gun out. By the way, does anybody know where I can find a full copy of Bas Rutten's infamous self-defense video online? That's something I should've covered in-depth on this site YEARS ago. They show Alexander Otsuka in the crowd and he has this look on his face like "what the fuck is this bullshit?" and it's hilarious. In the post-fight, and I use that term VERY loosely, Rickson says BJJ taught him all the value he holds dear, including "the beauty of peace and when to go to war," which come to think of it, is actually a pretty cool quote. Then he says "Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto" and we're still trying to figure out how they managed to book damn near 20 minutes of the show around that junk, 20 fucking years later.

Alright, time to get back to the REAL fights, and we've got ourselves a doozie: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Vitor Belfort, back when both men were ostensibly in their respective career primes. Holy shit, Belfort has CORNROWS shaved into his skull, looking like a broke-ass favela Latrell Sprewell. Anyway, this is a huge fight for Pride, historically, since it's pitting two UFC expats (who are actually on an upward career trajectory, for a change), so this shit definitely went a long ways in legitimizing the brand. Saku looks for leg kicks early, but nothing is sticking thus far. Saku whiffs on a head kick, and then he and Quadros have a brief conversation about what the word "spring" means. Saku goes for a combo and Belfort fucking explodes on him, tagging him a good two-to-three dozen times while Saku sprawls. Amazingly, Saku weathers the storm and is actually able to manage the takedown. Now he's working from the full mount. Vitor with some hard upkicks, but Saku isn't giving up the position yet. He tags Vitor a couple of times from up top, but nothing severe enough to damage Vitor. Now it's dueling kicks, with Vitor lobbing upkicks and Saku tossing some wicked side kicks to his opponent's thighs. Saku uses a cartwheel to spin out of the full mount, now he's holding Belfort's ankles like the handles on a wheelbarrow. Needless to say, Saku's learned quite a bit about defending the upkicks since his last bout against Allan Goes. Saku rattles off a ton of leg kicks while Belfort rides an invisible upside down bicycle. Vitor's getting some nasty welts forming on his hamhocks now. LOL at Quadros comparing Saku to "a demon" standing over Vitor. Belfort puts his hands behind his head like he's resting in a hammock while Saku keeps tossing heels at him. Saku hops in the full guard and tags Vitor a couple of times with some really good shots. Vitor, however, shoots straight up and clinches, and yep, that's just in time for the bell to sound, thus ending our first of two scheduled rounds.

Round two. Saku goes for a takedown and Vitor almost connects on a big right. Saku lands a spinning back kick to the abdomen and VITOR PULLS GUARD. Saku says "well, fuck this" and goes right back to thigh kicking the shit out of Vitor. The ref stands Belfort up and Saku connects on another spinning back kick. Like, that shit is prime Cung Le quality right there. Saku registers a leg kick, then another one. The fans are just loving this shit right here. Saku just misses on a head kick and Vitor staggers him with a straight right. Saku with a front kick to the stomach and a literal Three Stooges conk on the noggin. Saku throws a nice looking combo, but nothing connects. So, of course, Vitor pulls guard again. Saku hops in the full guard and lands a couple of shots to the face, but Vitor jumps up and shoots for a takedown. Saku is holding steady and threatening a kimura. The ref says "get your asses back in the middle of the ring" and Vitor PULLS GUARD AGAIN. Now Saku's really pissed, throwin’ axe kicks and shit to the stomach. Now Saku is PUNCHING Vitor in the leg, because he can, goddamnit. The ref orders another stand up and Saku wastes no time spamming the leg kicks. He lands a hard left hook and Belfort PULLS GUARD YET AGAIN. So SAKU LITERALLY DOUBLE STOMPS HIS FACE LIKE SUPER MARIO AND THE CROWD EXPLODES IN APPLAUSE. Then he goes for it again, except this time Vitor gets a foot up and I'm pretty sure at least three of his toes ended up in Saku's asshole. Saku rattles off a couple of more leg kicks, and there's the bell, folks. Of course, it's a unanimous decision win for Saku, and for once, it's not just because the judges prefer a Japaheeno win. Well, if Saku wasn't a bona fide star and main eventer in the making before this show, he certainly became one after this. In hindsight, it's not a terribly exciting fight, but as far as transcendent, mega star-establishing performances, this shit right here was up there with Stone Cold against Bret Hart at WrestleMania 13.

And our main event of the evening is upon us — Nobuhiko Takada vs. Mark Coleman, in a TOTALLY REAL, FOR SURE, NOT A WORK WHATSOEVER MMA BOUT. "I can't imagine Takada going the distance on this one," Quadros says. Coleman shoots for a takedown early and the ref has to break them up because Takada won't let go of the ropes. He gets a yellow card for his tomfoolery and Coleman lands a HUGE double leg takedown. Coleman is in the full mount and looking to get Takada pregnant. Coleman with a ton of hard shots to the ribs as Takada works desperately to tie up his arms. Looks like Coleman is looking for a neck crank, but for some reason, he mysteriously lets go of the hold. Huh ... intriguing. Coleman gets back in the full guard and Coleman lands an illegal headbutt to the stomach. Coleman passes the guard and he's got Takada from the side mount. He knees Takada in the back a couple of times and then he lands a few pillow-soft punches to Takada's noggin. Coleman hops into the full guard again, and then Takada spins out to his feet. Takada looks for a guillotine choke, only for Coleman to shoot spinebuster that mothefucker. Coleman goes for some ground and pound, while Quadros talks about how he's infamous for running out of gas early. Coleman guys for a keylock, and Takada spins around like Curly in The Three Stooges and Coleman once again finds himself working from the side mount position. Coleman looks for a neck crank, but he can't get it sunk in all the way. Coleman lands a couple of suspiciously light punches to the face and Takada starts running for his life. Coleman with a takedown, and yep, he's back in side control. Coleman looking for the keylock, and what do you know, the bell rings.

Round two. Both men make snide comments about how unlikely it is for Takada to beat Coleman, so of course, Takada comes out spamming the leg kicks like crazy. Coleman LITERALLY spears Takada out of boots and both men can't figure out why Mark doesn't just pass guard and get into the full mount. "He gave up a good position," a flabbergasted Rutten comments. Takada continues to hold onto Coleman's arm, he starts spinning around and, uh no, TAKADA HAS A HEEL HOOK. They roll around a little bit longer, Coleman tries to make his way to the ropes and HE TAPS. "Oh my God, Takada beat Mark Coleman," Quadros states with a hushed intonation. "This absolutely defies reality." Shit, he can barely keep a straight face when he says "Mark Coleman must be absolutely devastated by this loss," for crying aloud. Coleman quietly saunters to the back while Takada bows to the crowd and shows off his "winner's" trophy and, yep, that's our cue to fade to black, fellas.

What do you mean it looks "fake?"

Of course, Mark Coleman would later say that he was paid to throw the match in favor of Takada, who desperately, direly needed at least ONE win on his MMA record against somebody whose name isn’t Kyle “Seriously, who the fuck am I?” Sturgeon, it appears. Indeed, even Bas and Quadros reckoned something fishy was going on, and their attempts to refrain from just coming out and telling the viewing audience “Yep, this ‘un is fixed” is admirable, if not one of the most noble displays of protecting the corporate shield I’ve witnessed since the guys at Redman chewing tobacco brass-ballingly blamed cancer victims for giving themselves cancer.

Naturally, the irony in all of this is that Takada, who basically started PRIDE as his own vanity project, did indeed develop its own Japaheeno MMA killing machine in the form of his own protege Kazushi Sakuraba, who continued to cement his place in mixed martial arts lore with an upset, one-sided victory over Vitor Belfort. Granted, the fight itself wasn’t terribly exciting, but it’s nonetheless a historically important bout which more or less catapulted Saku into legit main event status. And it was the kind of win he needed after his 30-minute draw with Allan Goes, which he probably would’ve lost on points had Pride implemented judges and scoring and shit just one show earlier.

As for the rest of the show, eh, it is what it is, I guess. It was fun watching the Inoues beat up on a  bunch of Japanese tomato cans, and the Shoji/Igor bout was moderately entertaining, but beyond that? Unfortunately, this was just a tepid, flavorless show with hardly any highlights. Is it historically noteworthy, in the grand scheme of things? Probably, but the end-product — in terms of sheer in-ring entertainment — can’t be considered anything less than supremely underwhelming.

So all that to say, yeah, this one is definitely a “skip” — that is, unless you REALLY have a hard-on for Francisco Bueno, for whatever sick, perverted reason.


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