Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

PRIDE GP 2003 Kaimakusen
8/10/03 Saitama Super Arena (40,316)

I’m not big on explosions, pomp, and circumstance, but the Japanese PPV makes PRIDE come off as so much more of an event than the American one. I personally fast-forward through the ring entrances the American version cuts, but certainly they do a lot more for the product than the announcers drinking shots. They replaced the shill Stephen Quadros with Damon Perry, who has the ever so fitting nickname "The Dog". This joker thinks he is announcing for the WWE. All he does is put himself over, and show how cool he is as if people not only give a damn about him, but are actually paying to see him rather than the matches. It’s bad enough that the American products are racist against the Japanese (and everyone else), but with this clown spending half his air time showing how dumb the ring girls are, now the Japanese are now paying a guy to be sexist and racist against their own product. It boggles the mind.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Gary Goodridge

Fedor was impressive for his punching power and his ability to mix his strikes up, but his quick win was more a result of his opponent offering no defense. Goodridge was terrible both in standup and on the ground. Fedor barraged him with a combination at the outset. Gary clinched, but Fedor kneed him in the stomach and swung him around for the takedown. Goodridge allowed Fedor as much distance as he wanted, just scrunching up and trying to cover his head like the boxers UFC used 10 years ago that had never been on the ground. This meant all Fedor had to do was keep punching and he’d get a quick stoppage. 1R 1:09

GP 1st Round: Chuck Liddell vs. Alistair Overeem

Exciting standup fight. Overeem has more weapons on his feet and is quicker than Liddell, but Liddell has more power and precision. I thought Overeem should have gone for a more quick hitting offense. Use his speed to take the strikes that are there and let them open up the big knees. Instead, he fought a very high risk high reward style, which is his usual style, but usually he doesn’t fight guys that are arguably better in standup.

Overeem dazed Liddell early with a left hook, so Liddell clinched. Liddell, who was cut above the right eye, took Overeem down after a right hand. They were here to slug it out though. Overeem was doing good, but he missed a high kick and Liddell hit him with 2 rights. Neither looked that great, but Overeem just stood there dazed or tired or both. Liddell then threw a right hand around Overeem’s defense and cracked him in the forehead. It was a really weird ending. I guess Overeem got caught trying to catch his breath. 1R 3:09

GP 1st Round: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Murilo Bustamante

There were two decisions in a row. I thought both were bad, but what bothers me more is the lack of consistency. Well, the consistency of giving the PRIDE guy that benefit of the doubt is the most troublesome, but the value of failed submissions has to be rated equally or it’s just going to be a crapshoot like boxing decisions always are (the recent De La Hoya/Mosely was another reminder of why boxing is just a waste of time these days).

Bustamante was a late replacement for training partner Ricardo Arona, who broke his ankle. The long first round was all his, though Jackson’s raw power made things difficult for him. For instance, he tried to pull guard and Jackson just held him in the air. Bustamante nearly had two submissions in this round. First, he came close to an arm bar from the bottom, but Jackson slammed his way out. Maybe I overestimate martial arts fans, but I can’t imagine many serious fans were impressed by The Dog barking that this was a "wham bam Rampage slam". Bustamante also guillotined Jackson. This submission is hard to rate because there wasn’t that much danger coming from the lock because due to one of Jackson’s arms being in it, but Jackson didn’t appear to know how to escape and was in the hold for a while before turning his head out. Jackson’s shorts came down during this, leading to a couple minute rest where he got his wind back and as soon as they restarted he was able to hit a good knee.

What hurt the case for Bustamante is the second and third rounds were mostly standup. Obviously Bustamante’s advantage is on the mat, but we’ve seen Bustamante beat good fighters with his fists. I thought Bustamante was very smart in standup, but the way he fought isn’t likely to impress the judges, and didn’t. He was more concerned with not getting caught than his own offense. Jackson hurt Bustamante with 2 knees to the body then an uppercut to the head, but that was really the only time Jackson did much in standup. Bustamante was less successful, but basically I wouldn’t put much weight in any other offense either did in the final 2 rounds. You could say that Bustamante was refusing to fight, but both guys were active, it’s just that Bustamante wasn’t going to just blindly slug it out with a more powerful guy like what passes as K-1 kickboxing these days.

What I judge Bustamante on is that Jackson finally wasn’t able to be Jackson. Jackson didn’t slam Bustamante, he didn’t pound him, he didn’t rock him in standup, etc. Bustamante is a more well rounded fighter than Jackson. Standup wasn’t his choice against Jackson, but he wasn’t getting beat up by any means. If anything, being too comfortable in standup hurt him because the lack of trying to get Jackson down counted against him in aggression and made people think Jackson was controlling the fight.

This was a very close fight. PRIDE puts more weight on the end of the fight than the beginning, and the edge there went to Jackson even though it wasn’t much of an edge. I give Bustamante credit for two legitimate near finishes to Jackson’s one time hurting him, so in absence of anything else that was notable I’d have to give Bustamante the nod. Control doesn’t negate coming close unless control leads to some tangible results. Jackson won a split decision. Good fight at least. 3R

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Ricco Rodriguez

Nogueira wants to fight from the ground, even if he’s on his back, but Rodriguez is a high level BJJ practitioner in his own right who is most comfortable on top. Most of the fight was in this position, so I don’t see how you can give the advantage to either. Both were doing what they wanted, but weren’t having any success. I give the nod to Rodriguez because he kept himself out of danger and still managed a passable, maybe serviceable ground and pound. Again, what I’m going to go back to is that Nogueira wasn’t able to do anything he usually does. Yes, he did try submissions from his back, but far less than usual and none that were any threat. Simply attempting submissions doesn’t do much for me. It’s like a big wild strike, sure if it hit it would have really hurt the guy, but if there’s essentially no threat of it hitting then it’s essentially worthless.

This was a decent match with a few highlights. Rodriguez hit a flying knee after Nogueira was forced to stand up. Later, he tried another, but Nogueira avoided and caught him with a right hook. The positioning battle was interesting, with things like Rodriguez getting mount then Nogueira taking guard back in seconds.

The main thing of note is Rodriguez seemed to have figured Nogueira’s ground game out. Rodriguez can avoid submissions, but this seemed closer to a case where he was successful because he knew everything that was coming. He stayed active and seemed in control, and I don’t just mean because he was on top. Nogueira tried 3 triangles in a row at one point, but they weren’t even close. He tried extending Ricco’s arm once, but Ricco just rolled through. I can’t see giving this decision to Nogueira because there was no threat at all coming from these attempts. Maybe if Bustamante had fought Ricco his two submissions that posed some threat to the far less adept ground man Jackson would have been nothing, but defense ought to be a big part of determining the victor. Bustamante and Rodriguez may not have done that much, but they kept themselves out of danger and did a little more. Rodriguez was totally shocked when Nogueira got the unanimous decision. 3R

Mirko Cro Cop vs. Igor Vovchanchyn

Igor can strike with most MMA guys, but obviously he’s not on the level of the top kickboxers. Mirko had the reach advantage, and even if it weren’t for that he would probably have been too quick for Igor. Vovchanchyn had some new strikes like the right high kick and double jab, and they even landed, but since he wasn’t going to take Mirko down it was just a matter of time. Mirko took a minute to time Igor then landed two left straights that cut Igor’s eyebrow. With Igor off balance backing away, Mirko followed with a wicked left high kick for the KO. Again, this was no indication of Mirko’s true ability. 1R 1:29

GP 1st Round: Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Hidehiko Yoshida

The best work PRIDE has pulled off. Similar to Tamura’s later RINGS matches, it was extremely believable. This wasn’t Tamura’s style though, probably because Yoshida isn’t a worker and they have no confidence in him in this area either. The match was exciting because it was so wide open, but what made it really work is they looked like they really hated each other and everything had a certain ferocity to it.

This was a smart work in that they did what you’d expect to work for them if it wasn’t a work. Tamura was far more aggressive than he ever is in a shoot, not worrying about a possible counter. Tamura landed several inside leg kicks. Yoshida looked pretty clueless and was basically walking into Tamura’s strikes. With Yoshida on his back, Tamura jumped at him, but wound up in guard. Tamura stood up out and kneed Yoshida in the head though. Yoshida eventually caught a kick and took Tamura down, but Tamura went around his back. Things were going well for Tamura, but Yoshida "has such a grasp" that he can get Tamura down with a mere headlock. Yoshida is so great that in less than 10 seconds he can take Tamura down and choke Tamura out with his gi. The match was short, but that’s probably the way these have to go because the more shoots the people see the harder it is to fool them.

I’m not sure what to think of this match. On one hand, it was the best match on the show. On the other, this was a big chance for Tamura which I certainly believe he would have won, and now it’s down the drain because they learned nothing from the last no charisma judo stiff they tried to make big, Naoya Ogawa. I’d feel a lot better about this match if it was on a U-FILE show because I’d know what to expect and could then focus on the high quality. Instead, I just feel cheated, and am certainly disappointed because I got my hopes up that Tamura was getting another chance to be big only to find out that he was just a tool to help promote another unworthy guy. 1R 5:06

GP 1st Round: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Wanderlei Silva

It seems as though those KO’s knocked the sense out of Sakuraba. He came out with a partner, both in Roid Warrior getup. He fought as if he believed he was one, he was going to take Silva’s best shot and just pop up or something. Beyond that, it’s hard to fathom what he was thinking. It was like the first Silva fight where instead of trying to do what was necessary he felt he had to prove he could slug it out with The Axe Murderer. Engaging Silva in standup is absolutely the worst thing one can do, as his whole game is waiting for his opening and take you out with a fierce counter combination.

Given how it was fought, the match went exactly as expected. Sakuraba was okay for a little while. He landed a few decent blows. He got tagged a few times and was cut, a bloody nose from a clinch knee, but he was able to escape in time. The basic problem for Sakuraba is he presents no threat to Silva in standup. He had to keep his distance and try to swoop in for a quick strike then escape before getting clobbered. Silva could come in firing and hit Sakuraba, but it’s not his game and against this opposition there was no need to deviate. In the end, since he didn’t fear Sakuraba’s strikes, he just let Sakuraba come in and hit him. This allowed him to time Sakuraba, so the next time he raised his leg to block the low kick then exploded with a left straight/right straight combo while Sakuraba was backing out for the KO. I know it’s extremely hard to take Silva down, but if you aren’t even going to try you just signing up to get pulverized. Sakuraba probably wouldn’t have won no matter how he fought Silva, but fighting Silva like the match was K-1 rules was sheer insanity. 1R 5:01

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