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

PRIDE FC Openweight Grand Prix 2006 Kaimakusen
PRIDE FC Total Elimination Absolute 5/5/06 Osaka Dome

1. 3R10/5/5
X Gilbert Yvel vs Roman Zentsov O
left hook → KO
Yvel flies out at the bell with a blitz of muay thai but very little lands and Zentsov easily takes him down directly into side control. Zentsov works to set up a variety of arm locks. Yvel's ground defense is decent but he's clearly not where he wants to be and Zentsov remains in control even after getting rolled into guard. Yvel escapes a kimura attempt out the back door to get to his feet... and flat on to his back when Zentsov crushes him with a left hook to the jaw. Zentsov was never in real danger. Yvel's counters and reversals ultimately existed to give the match a little flair; even with his advanced muay thai skills, there was never any doubt that Zentsov could take him down and control the grappling game. This confidence also allowed for a better opening in transition from floor to feet. Simply put, the better fighter won, and he did it with a picturesque knockout.

2. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
X Alistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum O
chickenwing arm lock
Round 1: Overeem looks like he took a pilgrimage to BALCO. At the bell, Werdum sprints out and lands a glancing flying front kick. Early on neither want to close the distance or do much of anything. Overeem repeatedly changes his stance and cuts off the ring, but his endeavors result only in clinches in the corner. From one such position, he manages a pro-wrestling style bodyslam but Werdum doesn't do much from the guard. Throughout the round Overeem is able to get out of Werdum's guard practically at will by just standing up. He tries a flying stomp kick at one point but misses. For Overeem, round one was the kind of thing that makes modern UFC judges salivate: he controlled the ring but didn't go out of his way to attack, he got takedowns into top position but did absolutely nothing. Werdum, on the other hand, tried half-hearted kickboxing when his BJJ failed but didn't really manage any offense whatsoever from any position. You have to go way down on PRIDE's list of criteria to adjudicate this, but technically it was Overeem's round.

Round 2: The pace is up slightly but the script stays the same. They increase their striking a bit but nothing considerably changes the tenor of the match. Three minutes in, a rather tired-looking Overeem manages a nice sweep takedown. From full guard, Werdum finally goes to work. After doing virtually nothing for the whole match, he twists a big roidy arm into a kimura and for the first time in his career Overeem taps!

This could probably be called a "comeback" victory for Werdum, but he wasn't really coming back from anything. Overeem was "winning" in a meta sense, certainly, but there was no danger of anything interesting happening at any point until Werdum found a way to prey on Overeem's conditioning issues. Not a performance to make you jump out of your seat, but Werdum did show that you can never fully write off a jiu jitsu expert. How he fares against someone that does not get exhausted from dragging around an overencumberance of unnatural muscle remains to be seen, however, especially considering just how weak his stand-up game appeared to be.

3. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
X Kousaka Tsuyoshi vs Mark Hunt O
overhand right → referee stop
Round 1: TK cashes in on the weight difference, so no knees or kicks on the ground by either man. They start out boxing; from a clinch early on Hunt gets a takedown and looks to use his weight to just wear out TK. They trade punches in a slow dance and clinch in the corner. TK unleashes a combination culminating in an inadvertant voyage south of the equator, but Hunt's fine. They touch gloves, get back to fighting and Hunt immediately drops him with a right to the face. TK tries to snare a leg lock from his back and Hunt drops into side control. TK wriggles over to get his back but can't secure the choke even after several moments of punching away from the back. From a body triangle he transitions to a crucifix and goes for the arm (with a reverse triangle around the head). Size on his side, Hunt pulls out, stands up and walks away with five minutes left in the round. Back standing, they enter into an andante of strike trading. Hunt smothers him in the corner but TK punches his way out all the way to the opposite corner. Amidst the flurry one of the strikes caught Hunt clean. Both guys think the other is rocked, so they trade big slow knockout swings for the remaining half of the round. TK looked done at least three times, Hunt once. Hunt lands another right and TK's so depleted a simple push sends him to the mat. The round ends with Hunt in mount tapping in some light hammer fists. Pretty strong mead from both guys, but not a technical masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination. TK's grappling was excellent but Hunt was simply too big for him, defaulting the fight to a stand up war. Exciting as Kousaka's Wepnerine heart made this, there's no doubt that this was Hunt's round. The only question going forward is his stamina.

Round 2: Sure enough, Hunt looks exhausted and it only gets worse as the round progresses. They pick up where they left off in the latter half of the first round with big slow flails. Hunt's dead on his feet and seems as concerned with keeping his boxing trunks up as he does fighting Kousaka. Intelligently, TK changes his strategy and shoots in for takedowns, figuring a wholly depleted fat guy will now be submittable. Unfortunately, size is once again an issue: whenever Hunt can't stuff a shoot, he's able to just power up and out, but TK keeps trying. Hunt keeps backing away and fiddling with his waistband but with less than a minute left in the round he blasts a big overhand right that sends TK slumping headfirst into the corner. Hunt does not pursue and the referee calls it. TK wanted to keep getting his ass kicked, but he was done. If that right hadn't done it, the next one would have.

This had a little bit of everything, from TK's grappling in the first half of round one to Hunt actually kicking in round two—but of course what made the entertainment was both guys getting blasted in the face bar fight style numerous times. As strong a boxer as Hunt is, the sad truth of this match was size difference. If you were to take Hunt's exact skill set and stuff it into a smaller fighter, there's a very good chance TK wins with his grappling ability. His refusal to die was fun to watch, but that's the caveat of an openweight tournament: weight classes really do exist for a reason. Still, for pure entertainment value, this was fight of the night material.

4. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
O Josh Barnett vs Alexander Emelianenko X
V1 Arm Lock
PRIDE bills Barnett's style as "puroresu." Much in the same way Gary Goodridge's martial art was arm wrestling. Actually, nevermind, Goodridge was good at arm wrestling.

Round 1: Emelianenko takes absolute command from the outset, controlling every aspect of the match. He works a relaxed, very technical boxing match, doing an excellent job of controlling distance with the left jab and opening up combinations when the opportunity arises. Conversely, Barnett looks anything but relaxed. While Alexander's striking is calm, compact and intelligent, Barnett's game is wild, twitchy, and nervous. Alexander picks his moments and is the first to do significant damage with a well placed left uppercut. Meanwhile, Barnett's striking is little beyond ill-conceived forward charges of wild combination attacks and the occasional knee out of a clinch with nothing causing any real concerns for Emelianenko. Worst of all for the Babyface Assassin, he seems afraid to shoot. Frankly, he looks unprepared for the fight. Round one was entirely Alexander, but when it ends he slumps into his corner, looking absolutely exhausted.

Round 2: They continue the with the same deliberate boxing pace, but Emelianenko is completely gassed. Barnett finds a clinch against the ropes and, working hard, at last scores a takedown directly into side control. He blasts some hard knees to the face and goes after Emelianenko's left arm. Before his kimura lock is even fully extended, Emelianenko taps. So curious was this that commentary stated near matter-of-factly that he must have suffered an injury during the takedown. Not so, apparently. If this wasn't a worked finish, the only explanation would be that Alexander's conditioning was actually so brutally poor that he wanted to end the match the second he got in trouble on the ground. A really awful payoff to what had previously been brilliant standing tactics.

Weird things follow Josh Barnett around. Not the level of Yoshida, perhaps, but this match was curious to say the least.

5. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
O Fujita Kazuyuki vs James Thompson X
right hook → KO
Fujita aggressively shoots for takedowns, but Thompson handles them all quite well and gets control of the fight with a full battery of striking. Fujita eats some punches but clearly has trouble with outside leg kicks. Thompson presses the fight with punches, knees and leg kicks, most with Fujita backed into the corner. The strikes become more wild and Fujita ducks directly into a knee strike. He's rocked, but not only does he stay on his feet, he looks pissed. Thompson stays on him with knees and Fujita looks to be in real trouble. He struggles desperately for a single but it's Thompson that ends up on top. When his corner screams at him to stand up, he immediately obliges. As they get to their feet, Fujita lands a flurry of punches, one of which clearly rocks Thompson, but he's not going down. Fujita keeps blasting away and after a barrage of at least twenty cleanly landed punches finally drops him with a right hook. Rather ridiculous, but a great comeback nonetheless.

Thompson had the superior game plan and striking technique. What lost him the fight was Fujita's solid skull. It had to have been frustrating to land as many legitimate strikes as he did, many directly to Fujita's face, but have the guy keep coming. Thompson maybe strayed from his strategy a bit in the end, but credit still has to go to Fujita for taking everything thrown at him and chopping away until the big British tree came down.

6. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
O Mirko Crocop vs Minowa Ikuhisa X
GNP → referee stop
Minowa shoots but of course meets the beautiful Crocop sprawl. Back up, Minowa flips into a koppo-abise-geri. It lands, but does no damage. Crocop presses the fight into the corner. They clinch, Crocop lands a knee and a big left to the body, then finishes this farce early with ruthless ground and pound.

What a preposterous match. During the pre-match instructions, even Crocop himself looked to be consciously trying to stifle outward displays of disdain. This wouldn't prove anything as a sideshow attraction, much less a tournament match. The only thing Minowaman can take out of this is that he lived.

7. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
O Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Zulu X
ude-hishigi gyaku juuji-gatame
The close to 400 pound Zulu swings wildly and Nogueira effortlessly takes him down. He first takes side control, then meanders into full mount. Juuji. The end. Zulu had less of a chance then Minowa. Nice bye into round two for Nogueira.

8. Grand Prix Opening Round 3R10/5/5
O Yoshida Hidehiko vs Nishijima Yousuke X
Because Nishijima is a former boxing champion, Yoshida throws up his usual psychokinetic anti-striking shield. Nishijima fails his saving throw so Yoshida entertains himself with some odd-looking high kicks. Yoshida's hypnosis extends to takedowns, for he get Nishijima on to his back by simply crashing into an embrace and implanting a suggestion to fall over directly into his mind. Yoshida works his way into a triangle choke and the referee soon decides that Nishijima is unconscious. Nishijima had no involvement whatsoever with this match beyond losing.

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