Friday, October 19, 2018

QUINTET (クインテット) 10/5/18: QUINTET.3

Orleans Arena
Las Vegas, Nevada

HELLO FRIENDS QUINTET 3 DEBASES US BY BEING FROM LAS VEGAS A CITY THAT TELLS YOU RIGHT UP FRONT IT IS FOR IDIOTS and yet here we are, every one of us, welcomed to the broadcast by Sean Wheelock who perhaps you will recall from other martial arts commentatings and also by Meisha Tate who was oft-bested by Ronda Rousey's 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (that's normal) but who also seemed way more together than Ronda Rousey just like as a person (that's normal too). Not only are we offered in this gathering several five-against-five contests in the かちぬきせん kachinukisen 【 勝ち抜き戦 】mode which has fast become our custom, but also there will be several s u p e r f i g h t z as well such as for example have you heard about this it's a real thing 石井 慧 SATOSHI ISHII vs.  フランク・ミア FRANK MIR and regarding this bout in particular Meisha Tate notes that as Mir is a well-known leg-lock specialist (is this true? I think of him more with arms? I will have to check) one has to wonder if Satoshi Ishii, a man of judo, will be comfortable with him in ne-waza. I guess we will just have to see about that won't we, Meisha Tate, with whom I have utterly no quarrel. Okay I have checked though and Frank Mir has only ever won two of his (mixed martial arts) matches by leg-lock, the hiza-juji-gatame knee-bar against Brock Lesnar and an ashi-dori-garami (some call it a toe-hold) against, if you can believe it, Tank Abbott, who Dave Meltzer weirdly outed on the Wrestling Observer Radio from right after Kevin Randleman died (r.i.p.) of pneumonia (it could take any of us at any time, please do not be heedless about colds). Lenne Hardt gets the people (such as they are, I am not sure there are that many) going with her artful shoutings atop the PRIDE theme, a dark reminder that the UFC owns all that stuff, although I guess we might also wonder aloud about who really owns, like, anything, you know? There is a parade of græpplerz, as well there might be, and a lot of them (though certainly not all) seem kind of like dikkz.

Yes, a small crowd on hand, I think, but maybe I heard that the McGregor/Nurmagomedov press conference went really late and it hurt the walk-up, or something? Because McGregor showed up really late on purpose to show how much more important he is than other people and then Nurmagomedov just left and so McGregor didn't end up getting to be super racist to him in person on that day but he had for sure done so previously so he probably still got a good amount of being super racist in if you take the broad view? I wonder how all of that turned out in the end; it is weird that we'll never know. First up we've got the venerable Hideo Tokoro, who at forty-one years of age is somehow even older than me, against Nicky Ryan, a sprightly young man of seventeen. Much is made of how he is seventeen and yet very good but why wouldn't he be? Have you trained with these kids getting ready for Canada Games? Some of them are killers! Also there is the very recent case of Daria Bilodid (Дар'я Геннадіївна Білодід) who won Paris and Zagreb and Europe and then also the World Championships at Baku in the -48kg division all at the age of seventeen. She too is very good, look:


I get the gimmick, obviously (here is a very young man against a very old one! how marvelous!) but if you know anything about anything you will be familiar with how seventeen is not too young to be very good at a sport and also with how at forty-one it is in virtually all instances too old to be very good at a sport. Tokoro, whose best win is probably a draw against Royce Gracie (or maybe his actual win over Royler Gracie, depends how you approach it I guess), says a wonderful thing that will totally go at the very top of this post in screen-cap form when he goes, "I started watching UWF as a fan, and started martial arts. Before I knew it, it was twenty years." The Long UWF is upon us, or perhaps we might better say that it is upon him; or that, though dead, The Long UWF is visited upon us through Hideo Tokoro, its vessel; or maybe wherever two or three are gathered together in its name, there we find the spirit of The Long UWF in the midst of them? Big questions, no real answers here at Leg-lockery or at least its attempt begins immediately, and Meisha Tate is quick to note that this is a high-level technical situation to be in because it is a 50/50 one (ah but the modern systematization of the ashi-gatame [that just means leg-locks] positional hierarchy spear-headed by the very John Danaher people [and Danaher himself of course] under whom Nicky Ryan trains has made that extremely not the case for those who grasp its intricacies, though, right, and that is the technical development that totally underpins the ascendance/re-emergence of leg-locks in no-gi submission grappling, is it not? let us not belabour the point though). Our referee for this and all three of the evening's Special Singles Matches is Yuki Nakai! Everybody loves him! He has an orange necktie! Nicky Ryan has taken Hideo Tokoro's back and secured a fine sankaku do-jime (body triangle) en route to a hadaka-jime (naked strangle). I did not note the time but it was just a few minutes. Good job! 

After the match a UFC advertisement afflicts us, a reminded that however illicitly we might obtain our tapes (or "files" aka "electronic tapes") we never truly escape their tyranny (also it says UFC FIGHT PASS in the corner of the screen the whole time). And then it is time for Sakuraba's team against Urijah Faber's team! I listened to Urijah Faber do about fifteen minutes with Bryan and Dave and he was stoked (the man's own word) to be facing Kazushi Sakuraba, who was his favourite martial artist when he started his own training so many years ago. I like Urijah Faber even though his gym, Alpha Male, has a dumb name that has not kept up with the research surrounding wolves and their packs and behaviours that has brought the term "alpha male" to utter irrelevance in that field of study (maybe his team is named after gorillas or something, I don't know really anything about gorillas [also it is self-evidently whack and grasping that a demonstrably little fella named his team Alpha Male but that is neither here nor there {except for right here}]). But he seems nice; I like him. Kazushi Sakuraba just said something lovely about Daisuke Nakamura, look: 

An eight-minute bout, then, between Sakuraba and Faber to begin this 団体戦  dantaisen. Interestingly, in the interview I mentioned a moment ago, Faber told Bryan and Dave that the penalty system in QUINTET means that training for a wrestling pace rather than the pace of a jiu-jitsu tournament made the most sense to him, and in fact just as I relate this to you, shidos (guidancez) are visited upon both able græppzmen because they are not doing enough to seem able. Submission only grappling is so weird! Urijah Faber is floating around all over the place from position to position on top of Sakuraba but Sakuraba is just like "whatever, this is fine" and it seems very strange! There is a paradox here and I am not at all the first person to speak of this but I will mention it: you hear "submission only" and you think at first ah, such grappling purity but in practice it is totally not that, or I guess you might say that maybe it is that, but it is so purely grappling that it is rendered, like, fully æsthetic and artificial to the point that in a weird way it almost isn't even exactly what you would expect in a martial art anymore (this is not to say the competitors are not themselves martial artists or anything absurd like, that; do not be absurd; these are sikk martial artists; I am talking about rules weirdnesses and nothing else), and by that I mean (and others have meant; again, this is not new ground) you see submission-only matches contested with no regard to being in objectively horrendous positions (because there are no points awarded for position) from the perspective of just, like, martial arts: "this guy is sitting on my chest and postured up but it's okay as long as I keep my arms tucked in tight, we can stay here all day!" You probably shouldn't! That's a really bad idea! But under these rules it doesn't matter in the least so by all means proceed. This kind of thing is at least as old (and probably much older, what do I know) as Kano criticizing fairly-early judo competitors who grappled from a lower posture than he favoured ("guys guys guys, that's a real good way to get kicked in the head if we were gonna fight for real here; let's straighten up a little; you guys" he pretty much wrote) and continues into our own time with the submission-only vs. people-for-points debates in jiu-jitsu, a debate of which I remain only dimly aware but slightly interested. Points awarded for position simulate, however imperfectly, the martial-arts-hitting-advantage earned by that new position, were martial-arts-hitting permitted! Which of course it should not be, do not mistake me; I never want anyone to hit or be hit (and yet I like boxing and karate is rad; I am a mess of both ideas and feelings). But literally every martial arts competition has things like that, and it is always only ever a question of degree, isn't it: like, in a mixed martial arts bout, if one dude or indeed lady is atop another, and pummels them in accord with the darkest traditions of hitting, and the person on bottom rolls to their front and exposes their back in their flight from the hitting we mentioned only moments ago, why can't you keep hitting the back of their head? Well it is because we are trying, however tenuously, to have a civilization here, is of course the answer. Anyway and in conclusion, rules shape contests in ways that are both predictable and unpredictable, and sometimes the outcomes can be weird! Sakuraba and Faber was a draw, by the way, as was Nakamura against the enormous Jaoude, and everybody seemed to try hard. Please forgive my digressions but I am not backing up; time is an arrow.

And now it is Josh Barnett against Team Alpha Male's late replacement, Gordon Ryan. I know exactly enough (and not one whit more) about this world of no-gi subgræppz to know that they might as well have said that Team Alpha Male's late replacement would be A Gun. Hey guys, late replacement for our low-key dantaisen in judo class today, it is time-machine 1964 Isao Okano, he's just gonna work in with the group, try and grab him for a round after if you don't get him in the draw yourself aaaaaaand hajime. In the little I have seen of and heard from Gordon Ryan he seems fully a dikk but maybe he is just in a part of his life where he is a hot-headed young competitor and he will settle out into something else as he ages; we can't rule that out, and if he lives a full life in the martial arts there will be time for him to explore many aspects of it, and one aspect is for sure being a hot-headed youth when in one's tai period. Please allow me to quote at length from the Judo Canada Dan Grading Syllabus published in 2017:

 Seiryoku Zenyo (maximum efficiency with minimum effort)
 Jita Kyoei (mutual welfare and benefit)

Grades in judo are attributed with regard to elaborate principles by Master Jigoro
Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, and as stipulated in the regulations of the
International Judo Federation (IJF).

These grades, as in all the "budo", must show a certain technical progress, a larger
understanding of the discipline and a certain "elevation" of the individual who is
promoted. This is the shin-ghi-tai in its entirety.

SHIN: moral and intellectual value

GHI: technical value

TAI: corporal value 

Each period of the Shin Ghi Tai principle must be accomplished during the correct
period of the practitioner’s life in order to reach higher dan ranks.

The Tai period corresponds to the physically austere. The introduction to and
practice (shugyo) of the global learning of judo must be done in the early years of
the judoka’s life. This learning must be expressed through randori and shiai, for
this period is the harshest. In other words, the tai period is the period when the
training is physically at its hardest. This period typically is when the judoka is a
teenager or a young adult.

Only results accomplished in the U18, U21 and Senior Age divisions are
recognized as valid contribution towards the period of corporal development (Tai)
of Judoka.

Candidates eligible for promotion based on meritorious contribution to
development of Judo in Canada, may be exempted from this grading limitation and
considered for higher dan grade promotion.

The Ghi period concerns the mastery of mechanical skills, the quality of the
strategies and the variety of the practical knowledge of judo. It shall occur when
the judoka already has sufficient judo experience to allow him to express a logical,
efficient and fluid Judo in complete accordance of the statement of Jigoro Kano’s
maxim: Seiryoku Zenyo - maximum efficiency with minimum effort.

The Shin period, which concerns the moral and intellectual aspects, must reflect
Master Kano’s second maxim: Jita Kyoei - mutual prosperity and benefit. The
Yudansha has proven his fighting skills, and thus shares his technical ability with
his judo community.

Some elements are obviously more tangible, more measurable than others. This is
why the role of the “sensei” is of capital importance. At the time of the candidate's
application, no one else is better placed to judge these elements." 

I mean, all of this might play out a little differently in a martial art that has no core ethical teaching and has seen a proto-fascist capitalist individualism rush in to fill that void, but it is very difficult to say. 

Returning though to the matter at hand, and the matter of Gordon Ryan's youthful ways, I have definitely encountered whispers (this is to say, utterly unsubstantiated internet writings [not unlike our own]) about performance enhancing drugging after he put on like thirty seemingly very good pounds in a pretty short time period in an exxxtremely untested sport but at this very moment he is about to compete against multiple-drug-test-failer-even-when-nobody-was-failing-cuz-the-tests-were-a-total-joke-and-yet-somehow-he-managed Josh Barnett and who knows what he's got going on these days. About twenty seconds in, Gordon Ryan loses a contact, and I have never understood how anybody can græpple with contacts even though my man N I C K did so for years and years. Ryan seems to want to just work from the bottom rather than try a takedown so he just sits down (I cannot help but always think this super lame; I get it tactically and everything I just really, really dislike it æsthetically and probably also, in ways I definitely can't articulate let alone defend, in terms of virtue?). Barnett grabs around the neck for a can-opener but Ryan is playing an active butterfly (or dare we say . . . TK) guard so what can is there even to be opened AHHHH HAAAA a nifty butterfly sweep from Gordon Ryan and there was nothing remarkable about it (over/under grips, lovely lift, teach this to your beginners early) other than that it totally just worked on Josh Barnett. Ryan goes from half-guard to the side to tate-shiho-gatame lickety-split. As he scooches-up ever higher, Barnett tries to bridge up out of it but Ryan grabs a neat little sankaku-jime on the way over and that's it, a triangle choke finish in just a little over two minutes. Gordon Ryan is really very good!

He sticks around, then, for Marcos Souza. There is a great energy to their match! They are fighting hard for takedowns, which changes the whole feel of things (for me anyway). And once they hit the mat, things are very dynamic! It looks like Gordon Ryan might finish with a kata-gatame arm-triangle for kind of a while but then the match is restarted standing and both are given shidos for inactivity? I don't get it: Gordon Ryan was doing a tonne to finish but it just didn't happen. Weird, but these rules (and their enforcements) remain a work in progress I guess. An inopportune camera shot reveals a lot of empty seats as we begin anew. Ryan's passes are lovely, and then once he gets to where he'd like to be his pressure looks to be guuuuuhhhhrosssssssssss (no diss, but rather praise) and he just squished his way to a hadaka-jime win over Marcos Souza so it is only Marcos Souza's brother Roeberto Satoshi Souza who remains. Ryan is way way bigger than this other Souza and so the match will be a mere four minutes. After shidos, Gordon Ryan just sits down, which I do not doubt will work out for him, but against a much smaller opponent looks especially lame. In time he hits a fine morote-gari, to his credit, and he really should just be able to smoosh this little fella from her. It sure looks like Ryan is taking it easy and playing for the match-ending draw in the final minute, which you can't fault him for, really, in his third straight match. This does earn him another shido but the draw, seconds later, puts Team Alpha Male (lol it really is a bad name) into the second and final round. Sean Wheelock mentions that Gordon Ryan's goal is not to be the world's best grappler but instead a UFC champion which is weird to me because he doesn't even fight MMA (it's right there; you can just fight it) so he is probably at least a little bit sad all the time. 

The other first-round team match is between Team Polaris, which I am still not sure about three events in (in terms of what even are they) against Eddie Bravo's squad of 10th Planet guys. The first bout is betwixt the smallish: PJ Barch (of 10th Planet) and Vitor "Shaolin" Ribeiro! Remember him? He beat Kawajiri one time! In SHOOTO! After a well-paced two and a half minutes, both dudes are enshido'd and restarted, so they are really unusually serious about action, these referees. Barch ends up in pretty much the shiba lock position working with an arm entanglement, hold on I must have a .gif of the shiba lock for you somewhere at; I will be right back . . . okay actually just go right here and enjoy several. It's a neat position! I saw it first emerge out of Japanese collegiate judo but now it has made its way to the IJF World Tour and so it belongs to us all. Barch and Ribeiro seem headed to a draw but the action has been intense and I have just been proven a fool as with seconds remaining PJ Barch has finished an inverted ude-hishigi-juji-gatame off an Iatskevitch roll which is this one (thank you 小室 宏二 Komuro Kōji [I hope you enjoy Montréal when you teach there next month):

Gregor Gracie, a Gracie with whom I am unfamiliar, is in next against PJ Barch, who has to be pretty tired after all of his many attacks. Gregor Gracie is quite a bit bigger, too, so it's a lot. They spend much of their fairly brief contest weirdly pretzeled before Barch yields to a triangle double-knee-bar that I've never seen before but which has a deeply Volk Han feel to it and so I approve immensely:

Amir Allam, a professor of seismology, is in next for 10th Planet, but they don't specify his academic rank so I will have to check. "Assistant Professor, Geology & Geophysics, University of Utah" well okay I hope his application for tenure is well-received by first his department and then the dean; my sincere best to him in this; it is a grind out there. While I was looking that up they had a really nice match that Gregor Gracie finished with a totally classic application of 逆腕絡 gyaku-ude-garami that I bet I have a .gif of Masahiko Kimura doing also. 

Little Geo Martinez, who is an excellent breakdancer, is next up for Gregor Gracie, who is on quite a tear! Geo spins in for a leg-lock and, I mean, he totally looked like he was breakdancing, I don't know, it was just wild. He is all the way up into tate-shiho-gatame before you know it and he wastes no time before attempting an ude-hishigi-juji-gatame armbar which Gracie rolls first with and secondly out of but it was a legit threat for a little bit. OMG FLYING KNEE TO THE GROIN GEO NO NOT LIKE THIS:


Things have taken a dark turn. Protective cups are not mandatory, Sean Wheelock explains, and in my view should not be permitted, even in light of the atrocities exhibited above (the juji-fulcrum is too strong). When they get back to it, Geo finishes quickly with a gyaku-ude-garami from the shiba lock position we have already talked about (it really is neat). Marcin Held is the next Polaris fighter and he does like eighty knee-bars in 1:06 so that's it for Geo (great job though, Geo). His big brother Richie fends off the ashi-gatame (leg-lock) barrage and comes pretty close for a moment with a kagato-jime/gogoplata (a waza with an intriguing history) which is a real crowd-pleaser. He doesn't get the shime-waza (strangulation technique) but finishes with an ashi-sankaku-garami/omoplata and that is a combination I looooove to do from the position many have come to know as コムロック
 K O M L O C K 5 6 6 9.

What a lot of action! Craig Jones in next for Polaris! Who just sits down and scoots in (booooooooo) and wins by kata-ashi-hishigi, a straight ankle lock, in no time. Geo limps off and Adam Sachnoff lumbers on and then he and Craig Jones both sit on the ground at the exact same time BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO (all booing my own, the crowd seems fine with everything). Highs and lows here at QUINTET3. Some really interesting hand-fighting for hadaka-jime ends with Craig Jones setting up the finish with all kinds of hand-over-the-mouth smothering which has no place in sport and so Team Polaris advances. 

A great team contest! All finishes!

And now for a Special Single Match between the thicc Marcelo Nunes and the lanky Haisam Rida of Ghana but largely of Japan in terms of his training AAAAAAHHHHHHH this is crazy rolly action right away at once with such rolling! That settles out in about thirty seconds or so, for they are only human, but things remain good. In time, Marcelo Nunes accidentally blasts Rida in the face with his shin, and Yuki Nakai gives Rida time to recover, which you might think Yuki Nakai would not be all that inclined to give, in that he could easily be like so is anybody gauging your eye out before you have to fight Rickson Gracie after? no? then you're good; trust me; you're good but no he is not that way at all for Yuki Nakai knows mercy, knows compassion. Marcelo Nunes by 肩固 kata-gatame head-and-arm choke from 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame! Good stuff!

It is perhaps worth noting at this point if I have not already that the Wheelock/Tate commentary team is not at all unpleasant! 

SATOSHI ISHII vs. FRANK MIR THIS IS THE MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING IF YOU ARE MEEEEEEEE and although you are obviously not it is of course the case that a crucial feature of lyric poetry is the identification that occurs between reader and the speaking "I" of the piece and I mean honestly what is that we are doing here together if not literally that exact thing but not of poesy as such but of 固技 katame-waza (græppling techniquez). Remember when Frank Mir got tosssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssed (払腰 harai goshi / sweeping hip) by Fedor in Bellator a little while back? I heard Mir talk openly and honestly (one might say "frankly" haha) about how getting so tremendously thrown didn't actually hurt him physically but it hurt his feelings and embarrassed him, and led him to rashness thereafter, which led to him getting clubbered unto the symbolic death of seemingly actual death for a minute there (this sport is a mistake). I bet the whole fight is up on Youtube and yes in fact it is (in Russian [obviously]). Hey, that Fedor/Chael Sonnen match was pretty wild too, right? I made .gifs of two particularly interesting moments of judo therein, and I will share them with you now, the first of 内股巻込 uchi mata makikomi . . .

. . . and the second, the very rarely seen (in the wild) 浮落 uki otoshi, because rarely does one encounter a foe who just comes straight at you as one does in the first movement of 投の形 nage no kata (the kata tells the tale of an increasingly savvy and thus increasingly cautious uke being thwarted again and again by increasingly technical judo) and anyway here you go: 

Please watch this final .gif as many times as it takes you to be convinced that this is neither koshi-waza (hip technique) nor ashi-waza (foot/leg technique) but indeed a te-waza (hand technique) and specifically, bafflingly, uki otoshi, which in actual judo shiai is far more likely to look more like this . . .

. . . or indeed this:

But we have digressed from the true matter at hand and that is the ongoing weird ordeal of Satoshi Ishii's life ever since winning the +100kg gold medal at Beijing and just making these decisions, like, these decisions that make you wonder whether or not that old post on The Underground Judo/Sambo board (since renamed the Train Judo forum, R.I.P. Quincy Rice) from a guy who trained with him and created the impression of a man with the mind of a child and the waza of an angel, as my friend Andrew (初段 shodan) once summed up my summary of a guy's summary of what it was like to train with Ishii (quite possibly, if I am remembering this right, during the weekend over which Ishii was awarded a jiu-jitsu brown belt for his first weekend of doing jiu-jitsu though obviously being an Olympic champion judo player gave him a head-start over most people doing their first weekend [he has to my knowledge {and I would like to think someone would have told me} never been awarded a black belt in jiu-jitsu]). I do think though--and maybe this is unfair of me, I don't know, but I do say this with love in my heart--that Satoshi Ishii's post-Olympic sporting and professional life is utterly encapsulated in this picture taken just after he met with UFC representatives about possibly having matches for them, years ago:

Lovable and weirdly heartbreaking, right? He is a singular figure, I think. Also it's like, if that's how he came out of the meeting, where are the clothes he wore going in? And the answer is, of course, in his new gym bag.  

Ishii is very excited to compete against Frank Mir! Frank Mir offers a few thoughts, brief and to the point (he is from all I have seen an excellent teacher) about the differences between grappling for mixed fighting versus grappling for submission-only grappling: in MMA, there are positions you don't worry about passing, because you can strike well from them, and there are positions you would never stay in in MMA (because of being hit in them) that are totally available to you in an on-going way in submission grappling; we have discussed all of this before, haven't we, friends, but Mir just says it all very clearly and concisely. Mir thinks Ishii is very good, and that "obviously anyone who wins a gold medal is on a different level" but he also notes that tonight they will not be competing "with judo tops on" which I do believe to be a failing of both this event and also of all non-judo events broadly, and he notes further that the fight is not over should Ishii throw him, but rather the true fight only begins should Ishii throw him. Mir is good at low-key hyping up a match while remaining respectful of his opponent! Ishii says he has been working on a lot of grappling everyday in the gym (omg me too) and "training like animal" (omg me too [to the extent that we are all of us the human animal]). Ishii says he does feel good about how nobody can take him down, and that he can take everybody down (man that must feel pretty great!). This really very compelling video package (if, again, you are me) ends with Mir saying that given his own reputation as a submission-fighting heavyweight (one of the best ever in MMA, I think we would all agree), should Ishii so much as last the eight-minutes with him, it would be "a dent" in Mir's reputation. I AM SO READY FOR LENNE HARDT BEING WEIRD ABOUT THIS and she certainly is as Ishii comes to the mats in a Cro Cop hoodie of some kind! Was it not Mirko Cro Cop himself ("I don't want your viewers to get offended; I am not the creator of any anthropological theories, but you can tell by [Chael Sonnen's] face that the man is slow--that he is stupid and he has the IQ of a children's shoe size. You can tell this by his face.") who defeated Satoshi Ishii to claim from him the Inoki Genome Federation championship? And yet now they are bros? Training together at CRO CROP SQUAD GYM? It occurs to me that I would like very much to see the life of Satoshi Ishii told in a many-volumed manga by 小池 一夫 Koike Kazuo and 小島 剛夕 Kojima Gōseki if that is at all possible and as Kazuo Koike yet lives I think it is fair to say that this remains no worse than half-possible. 

I mean no disrespect to any of the competitors in the final team match that will deservedly serve as this evening's main event when I say that I don't care even slightly what happens in it compared to how I care about this Ishii/Mir contest even though I have absolutely no doubt that several of the people in that later match possess skillz far better suited to this undertaking than either of these two before us now but the heart wants what it wants, right? And it wants 107.5kg/237.0lbs of Satoshi Ishii against oh no oh Frank 127.8kg/281.8lbs what have you done to yourself; how has it come to this; is there anything we can do to help. Mir comes out to "Amazing," still a strong 808s and Heartbreak track despite all that has occurred in the many years since. Meisha Tate says she thinks Frank Mir's approach that he acknowledges he may be thrown, and he is ok with that, is sensible. Man oh man he looks big here though: 

I am not here to heavyweight-shame (or at least not exclusively here for that reason) but yiiiiiikes. 

The referee is of course Yuki Nakai. The bell sounds! If there is no winner in the eight-minute round, there will be a timeless overtime period. As soon as they tie up, Ishii starts low-key stepping in and just flashing the subtlest turn of the hips, as though he is thinking thoughts that run along the lines of osoto-gari or harai-goshi or -- and this is pretty serious, get ready -- osoto gari *to* harai goshi (such a lovely little combination that you can teach people really quite early on and which, if truly mastered, means you have probably won the Olympics, so congratz to you for that). Yeah ok by the end of the first minute Ishii looks like he's got a decent feel for how much resistance he's going to get on a left-side osoto-gari and let me tell you this is pretty neat to see. I don't know who's cornering Mir but he is advising Mir to change levels and get in there which is a very optimistic thing to even say but there is no reason to have a nay-sayer as your second, is there. Shidos of guidance are offered to each competitor with seven minutes to go. A little kouchi-gari as Ishii continues to feel out the throwing situation or throw-sitch. Sean Wheelock notes that the weight disparity is so immense here that under QUINTET(O) rules this should be but a four-minute bout but those strictures have been waived in this instance. Mir shoots in for a little double-leg but Ishii sprawls back out of trouble and takes the back. Ishii just rides him from here, no hooks or anything, just a strong waist-lock and leaning, just leaning. Meisha Tate thinks Mir should roll through for a leg-lock but I don't know, that sounds pretty dynamic for a guy north of 280 whose shirt is riding up. As Mir tries to stand, Ishii puts him right back down with a 小外刈 kosoto-gari (it is osoto-gari's little pal!) and Mir pops up with a smile on his face that I think is not a good smile to have, it's like a covering-my-embarrassment smile; this is a little like the Fedor match except he will not have to worry about hitting (even under mixed-fight rules, Ishii would be very unlikely to hit). Tate says that Ishii "flat-backed Mir right there" and that's true, Ishii did visit upon him the symbolic death of ippon, for sure he did. 

And yet the match continues; so weird. (Remember how great it was when Karo Parisyan threw somebody in a UFC match one time and you could see Karo's buddy in his corner signal the ippon? I should find that one sometime.) With four minutes to go, Yuki Nakai again offers the guidance of shido as a kindness. Ishii feints the major-outer reap of osoto-gari and throws instead with the major-inner reap of ouchi-gari and that has got to be ippon number two, somebody stop this thing. Meisha Tate rightly notes that Ishii realized he wasn't going to be able to get all the way across Mir's hips and so settled for a low, inside attack. She's good! Mei Yamaguchi 山口 芽生 was really good too when she wasn't getting Scotsplained by Stuart Fulton on the earlier shows, though, so I don't know who I prefer in this rôle but either way I am content. I will take Sean Wheelock over Fulton in a heartbeat though. And now it is Satoshi Ishii looking for a wheel-lock of his own haha there is no such lock. Tate is like "ah ok now this is what I want to see" with regards to Frank and his Mirrings but Ishii is just squishing him, and staying well clear of Mir's dangerous legs, transitioning between 横四方固 yoko-shiho-gatame (the side!) and 上四方固 kami-shiho-gatame (north/south! which Renzo Gracie and John Danaher say in their book is best considered a variation of side control! weird, right! also never order the salmon kami as an appetizer even though it's cheap unless all you want is the head and neck! I have probably told you this before! also salmon sushi wasn't really a Japanese thing, they had to be convinced by Norwegians! it's a neat story!). Two minutes to go now, and Frank Mir has his near-side knee up to help keep Ishii from moving from the side to 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame (right up on top) and it's a funny little quirk when people from other græpplingz join us at judo and do that same thing with their knee to prevent you coming up on top because either way in judo it's a pin and the osaekomi clock is running, new friend! And your new friend is like haha oh ok I guess I'd better start moving then haha! and everybody is having such a nice time together as friends at judo. Yuki Nakai stands them both up, and offers them further guidance through shido, but also decides on the fly that a double hansoku-make in a bout of such sikkness would be a crime against waza itself and so the match must continue. OH HEKK YES so last time he threw, Ishii flashed the osoto and finished inside with ouchi gari, but this time he flashes the ouchi, reaches across for the osoto, and, as Mir retreats, finishes on the far leg at the edge of the mat with nidan-kosoto-gari, the two-step-minor-outer-reap we know and love so well. 

That's a third ippon and yet the match continues, this time once these two large fellows have been safely returned to the centre of the mat. They are restarted in yoko-shiho-gatame (the side) and Mir's second seems to think Mir has a chance to shrimp to half-guard from here but there is no evidence of this. And now overtime! Golden score! Unlimited time! Wheelock notes with great delight that on the bout sheet this is indicated by the infinity symbol ∞. Yuki Nakai is like "guys plz, one more shido and I've got to call this thing, give me something here" and he says all of this with his eyes (his one good one, I guess, R.I.P. to his eye [also he says some of this with his words]). Mir flops to his bottom, and is passed and pinned in kami-shiho-gatame as Ishii attempts a half-hearted choke as Mir's shirt rides up higher than ever, exposing his tummy-tum for all to behold. Perhaps this is what has at last convinced Yuki Nakai to impose the match-ending shido on Frank Mir (who does not object in the least) AND SO OUR WINNER BY GLORIOUS SHIDO IS SATOSHI ISHII in a bout both commentators agree would have been scored a lopsided 10-8 in the context of mixed fight.     

Our main event then (although this is to me very much like how there was a match [or two {I am not checking}] after Hulk Hogan vs. The Rock at the Wrestlemania I went to with my brother that one time as we looked down upon the action from our semi-obstructed seats in the 500s purchased for prices commensurate with my loathing of getting and spending as a guy memorably wrote in a sonnet one time) sees PAGANS SUCKLED IN AN OUTWORN CREED vs TEAM WREATHÈD HORN lol no that is not true but is instead Wordsworth bursting forth from the parenthesis that contained our reference too him and now here he is in the principle moment of our writing as Team Alpha Male bows in (I like that they do that! but of course I do!) against Team Polaris and we are shown the lists of who shall hold the positions of senpo, jisho, chuken, fukusyo, and taisho for each (that is really what it says on screen, this is not just me being difficult) but as they will become clear during the unfolding of things I will not list them. Let's see then! 

Quite sensibly, if you did not appear for your team in the opening round, you must begin on the mat for the final one. Dan Strauss of Team Polaris is around 205lbs and Dustin Akbari is around 160lbs (hey me too) and so this will be but a four-minute match just as soon as this advertisement for bitcoins airs (not kidding). I cannot tell why but Dustin Akbari receives a shido before the match even begins and the crowd boos but I even backed it up and don't know what it was about, forgive me. Ah, ok, Meisha Tate explains that it is because he had junk in his hair that they had to wash out -- this happened last event with some other guy and Kazushi Sakuraba was so mad at him but it was mostly just funny because of Sakuraba's inherently comic way. Akbari pushes the pace and Strauss disgraces himself by just kind of laying around despite being forty-five pounds bigger; æsthetically and probabaly also morally this is an abomination. Akbari plants Strauss with a strong ouchi-gari but perhaps no small part of that enplantening resulted from Strauss grabbing a mae-hadaka-jime/front choke/guillotine on the way down. Akbari pulled his stylishly-coiffed head right out of it, though, no big deal. Akbari keeps up a great pace for the remainder of the four minutes, trying all kinds of stuff up to and including a 飛び十字固め tobi-juji-gatame (flying armbar), all the while making Dan Strauss look like a big dummy. There is great peril, I think, for a great big guy (either in absolute or relative terms) when competing against someone who is not one, to end up looking like a big dummy, and I do sympathize with this plight even though it is one I will myself never know unless a bunch of people who weigh like a hundred pounds start coming out to the club. The match is a draw, and both are eliminated, as Meisha Tate notes that the clock is the true winner of this bout which is a haunting thought if think about its broader truths. 

Marcin Held and Mansher Khera, now. Khera is a Marcelo Garcia black belt, much like Dilllon Danis, a big jerk who (I'm not saying it's right) got dealt with in the Khabibtermath, and who is so much of a jerk, in fact, that Garcia kicked him out of his club. Imagine it! Marcelo Garcia is by all accounts a lovely guy, but he simply could not sanction DIllon Danis' foolishness (or maybe because he is such a lovely guy, he could not sanction it). Exiled from the dо̄jо̄ by one's own sensei is a grim fate. Mansher Khera seems nice, though. This match is another good one, with Marcin Held looking for leg-locks as Meisha Tate talks about how in mixed martial arts you don't see a lot of them because people will hit you in the face while you do them (true, I've seen that happen). I really like Khera's classic ne waza style AND HOLY MOLY he came super close to a gyaku-kata-gatame in the mode of Joe D'Arce as time expired! Another draw but no problem, lovely stuff. 

I think Stuart Fulton is doing the non-Lenne Hardt portion of the ring announcing and I reject it.

Craig Jones drops to his seat immediately against the deeply huge Antoine Jaoude, who wrestled for Brazil at Athens 2004, but who in only a minute or so is standingly hadaka-jime'd on this day. And so it shall be Craig Jones against Gordon Ryan, which sounds like it could be good: and it is! Gordon Ryan has a pretty awful tattoo that just says "JIU-JITSU" on his forearm but it does not prevent him from grinding Jones out, passing, taking the back, and finishing with a hadaka-jime that was actually more of a choking of the face (illegal in judo because it is gross, but undeniable in its efficacy). All he needs, then, is to take Vitor SHAOLIN Ribeiro to a draw to win the match for his team and that seems like it will not at all be a problem to do (I mean no disrespect to the rugged lands of Shaolin). Well, Ribeiro did very well to defend as long as he did but Gordon Ryan transitions to a nifty juji-gatame from the back. Oh and I see that I have been totally mistaken in that Team Polaris still has a guy, and that guy is Gregor Gracie, who did very well earlier but who may be injured of shoulder, Meisha Tate believes. GREGOR GRACIE HAS HIT TK SCISSORS I REPEAT GREGOR GRACIE HAS HIT TK SCISSORS as Gordon Ryan crept ever higher in his tate-shiho-gatame as he quested, I believe, for juji-gatame. Have I gone this entire show without mentioning that the no-closed-guard rule is really great for this kind of event? If so forgive me; if I have not, then forgive for repeating myself; either way please forgive me. A draw ends this final round and so Team Alpha Male (lol that name though) wins but really it was just that Gordon Ryan, a guy so good at this that I have heard of him, ran through like seven dо̄ödz. 

I would like to close by saying that the real winner tonight is in my view FRANK MIR and I will tell you why: when he was waiting to walk out for his match against Satoshi Ishii, a camera low-key caught a production assistant (or something like that) doing an obviously pretty bad job of communicating to Frank Mir whether or not it was time for him to actually go out, and it was super awkward, like, I don't know anything about how any of this kind of thing works but it looked like a weirdly cumbersome mess, but Frank Mir, just a moment before he was set to compete, totally gave her a kind smile and gentle nod and treated her nicely in a way that in my view revealed character. As Kazushi Sakuraba grabs the house microphone and simulates a trumpet fanfare (lol this guy) before handing out medals to the winners and requesting that the public follow and support QUINTET from now on, I feel like this was their best show yet! Let's keep watching them! Thank you for time, friends! OH NO SOMEBODY BROUGHT A LITTLE TODDLER OUT ONTO THE MATS THIS IS CUTE BUT DANGEROUS HE'S GONNA GET STAPH COME ON REF GET IN THERE oh man Satoshi Ishii has a shirt that says CATCH AS CATCH CAN and it has a three-eyed owl on it. ALRIGHT FOR REAL THIS TIME I AM GOING, GOD BLESS YOU ALL.      

Saturday, October 6, 2018

PRIDE.2(プライド・ツー) 1998年3月15日


シリーズ PRIDE(ナンバーシリーズ)
主催 KRS
会場 横浜アリーナ
放送局 スカイパーフェクTV!
入場者数 11,860人

AAAAAAAAND MUCH MORE QUICKLY THAN I HAD FOR SURE ANTICIPATED WE ARE BACK WITH ANOTHER PRIDE FC THE FC STANDS FOR FILTH CAULDRON and I must thank you for your kindnesses regarding the inaugural post in this our new endeavour (and yet the scissors remain very much the same [in that they are TK]) despite its somewhat appalling length (20k+ words, thirty-two single-spaced pages should one print it out [please don't {but please do forgive me}]) but at the same time are we not gathered here precisely to see to which appalling lengths (eh? eh?) man will go in his quest to best his foeman through les arts martiaux (à chacun son style!) or their grim approximation? THERE'S NO WAY TO KNOW FOR SURE BUT LET'S HAVE A LOOK and we are right into the action here, no real preamble of any kind on this our tape as well as at this our blogspot today and so all is decorous as . . .

. . . 佐野 直喜 Sano Naoki also (and currently) known as 佐野巧真 Sano Takuma (but here called Sano Yuhi/Yuhi Sano) is first in against the wee-most full-grown member of the Gracie family to gain any measure of fame at least until the showing-up of first Kyra and then Kron (who I have it on good authority [his dad {source: hearsay at the seminar}] is not thrilled with sport jiu-jitsu competitions because he feels there is too much stalling there [maybe introduce a more rigorous system of shido or guidances to push the pace then guys; we know how to do this; this is not all new]) and of course I speak here of young Royler Gracie who is now 52; I just checked. Sano is a true man of The Long UWF in that, I am learning, he was of the 1984 NJPW dojo class, wrestled on excursion in Calgary and Mexico, had a Wrestling Observer Newsletter Match of the Year (vs. Jushin Thunder Liger before the lore-wise Osaka crowd [1990]), landed in Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Group (Purofesshonaru-resuringu Fujiwara-Gumi プロフェッショナルレスリング藤原組) before settling into the UWFi with his dude Nobuhiko Takada and then, much like that selfsame dude, got creamed in fights that were real. And then like twelve years in NOAH? This guy has lived a life! Of a very certain kind! Let's see how Royler gets him! Stephen Quadros and Bas Rutten are of course our pals for this Yokohama Arena show and once again they are making awkward and unconvincing comments about how they themselves are actually for real in the building and certainly for sure not just in like California or something doing voice-overs over a weirdly muted audio track with just these, like, bad levels (I don't know how they are doing this at all, this is pure speculation and probably wrong). A presumably chastened Nobuhiko Takada (but who can say) is in Sano's corner; Rickson Gracie stands in Royler's. Rickson is a well-built and very fit man but by no means a big one, but even so he is a lot bigger than Royler. I have never particularly cared for Royler's ways, which I perceived at the time and recall now (perhaps incorrectly) to be a displeasing admixture of little-dog-aggro and then just whiny, however I do very much like to teach a step-over 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame (I guess they all are, in a sense) from 崩上四方固 kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame that I have learned fairly recently is known to some as "Royler's armbar" and so on the level of waza perhaps we are all one? Also on other levels too (all of the levels).  

Sano is 5'9" and 202lbs, Gracie 5'8" and a far slighter 150lbs, so pretty much my size (I've got like an inch and eight-to-ten pounds on him and also no desire to ever fight anyone so look out, everybody). Quadros speculates that Royler is the most well-rounded of the Gracies but I think he just means fighting, not outside interests. The KRS-padded ring-posts remind us that we remain firmly in the Kakutougi Revolutionary Spirits era and also that the bridge is over (those would actually be BDP-padded ring-posts I guess but please do not make this difficult). Bas Rutten ecumenically notes that professional wrestlers, though not accustomed to actual martial arts competition, do train regularly and can probably do some things and, what's more, are probably out here to prove a point (that they are not all necessarily fakers [obviously most totally are]). A low-postured clinch leads to Royler sitting right down and sweeping quickly with a double-underhook butterfly sweep, passing to the side, and then immediately to 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame. To his flailing credit, Sano attempts something akin to TK Scissors but it goes no further (nor yet farther) than vain flail. Sano works to entangle a leg and maybe a dozen very eager fellows try to get a SA-NO SA-NO chant to happen but they are proven Gretchen Wienerses by the thousands whose silence is their rebuke. Sano sweeps Gracie over but really it was probably Royler baiting a 三角絞 sankaku-jime as much as anything (he is 抱上 daki-age'd out of it). Bas says that were he to fight a Gracie he wouldn't even clinch with them, just striking, dangadadangadadang (he does not say this last part)
. Again Quadros describes Takada, Sano's second, as the Hulk Hogan of Japan and once again there is no real problem with that unless we decide to be super stuck up. Sano hangs out in Royler's guard for kind of a while without being particularly menaced but he isn't doing anything to either pass or strike (not that I am hoping for hitting now or ever [except for when there is karate, for some reason]). Neither Quadros nor Bas can believe Sano is not punching, and they are equally baffled that he is not standing up out of this open guard but he sure isn't! He is getting swept again, though, just like the first time (it's a classic sweep! we teach it often!). Reflecting on the atmosphere in Yokohama Arena at present, Bas Rutten sings a brief passage from "The Sound of Silence" as Royler achieves 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame once more and seeks, this time, 袖車絞め sode-guruma-jime, literally the sleeve-wheel choke, which Quadros quite helpfully calls the over/under choke (that's totally how your arms go! he's right!). Sano traps an arm to the mat, almost despite himself, and I think you can tell that it is for sure despite himself because once trapped, he does not seek to roll to that side. Neither Bas nor Quadros think anybody wants to see this; again Bas sings. I like this match though! "He should push himself out, start hitting," is Bas's advice to Royler, so that he can create some movement that might lead to an arm-bar. "I don't want to see a fight like this for the next thirty minutes."  

SQ: Bas, let me ask you this.

BR: Ask me.
SQ: Is this fight boring?
BR: Right now it is. Yes. It is. Ask me something else.

I think it's pretty good though! We are here for different things maybe and that's fine. Quadros argues that people pay money to see "personal emotional conviction" from the athletes; he is making an argument on behalf of real technique plus real emotions; Stephen Quadros is strong style. 

Bas Rutten begins to do parts of Scarface in an outrageous accent as we approach twenty minutes. Royler is punching a little now but it seems to only frustrate our hosts further in that these punches, these punches are teensy. Hey Daijiro Matsui is in Sano's corner too! That's great! We'll see him soon I think! Quadros suggests that fights like this will never appeal to a broad public, and, whilst he does not enjoy professional wrestling himself, he can see why people would be willing to pay their $29.95 for a guarantee of action. Bas argues that what we are watching right now does not even constitute a fight but is, on the contrary, "laying there." I can certainly appreciate that perspective but, again, I'm having a nice enough time personally. A Sano sweep! And triangle escape! Now Royler is hitting quite a bit from the bottom, but Sano just won't, and instead hugs high on the thighs and buries his head in Royler's groin. Royler is mad with attack from the bottom, though, creating enough space to up-kick, and I don't even really know why but I always find up-kicks super unpleasant to behold. I think they'd hurt! Sano's face is bloodied as he stands and backs away; Gracie butt-scoots unbecomingly. Quadros speaks of the recurring Mark McKinney head-crushing character on Kids in the Hall but you know what was way better than that, the one where Bruce McCulloch was like can you believe I work in a bank? (It's ok, he'll be quitting soon.) ALRIGHT THEN Royler tips Sano over with a little double, passes, Sano turns away slightly, and Royler finishes with 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame in a performance Stephen Quadros characterizes as "boring . . . but masterful" whereas Bas feels he could have done the exact same thing in two minutes. I wonder what the time on this actually was . . . lol ok it was 33:14, I guess I didn't really have a sense of it. That's pretty long!

Although in the secondary world of memory and re-creation Akira Shoji and Juan Mott enter the ring mere moments after the conclusion of the previous paragraph, in the primary world of our ongoing lived experience it is in fact the next day, and I would like to share with you something Dave Meltzer said on last night's Wrestling Observer Radio that I listened to this morning, and that is that he has not watched any Pride shows at all since the demise of it (Pride), which is I suppose not surprising because I mean where is he going to fit that into his week? He mentioned this by way of saying that the most recent RIZIN show had the aura and audience of an old Pride show and, in fleeting glimpses, the fights sort of some of the time a little maybe (I have watched only a little bit of the show he spoke of and realistically I will not finish it). I remain skeptical that any of it will amount to much but 27,208 people went to the show at さいたまスーパーアリーナ Saitama Sūpā Arīna even though there was a typhoon going on so I am probably saitama super wrong about it! To 小路晃 Shoji Akira, though, who on the previous show fought Renzo Gracie to a draw we liked! He is lying down on the mat, stretching (I love to do that). Juan Mott is of Brazil, and little is known of him other than that he is a rangy striker; Akira Shoji please be careful! Mott certainly seems at ease moving about in a loose kickboxing way I observe as I request you "keep it locked" to (or indeed .ca) for analysis of things like this. Behind a little jab, Shoji gets in tight for a low clinch and sends Mott crashing to the mat with a 小外掛 kosoto-gake (minor outside hook) of note and what I also note (and invite you to as well) is that he employed a waza that begins with the same kanji as his very surname; that's so high-level. The on-yumi or borrowed Chinese reading of 小 is shou whereas one of the kun-yomi or native Japanese readings is ko! Can you even believe it! Shoji, visibly and quite rightly pleased with this trivial yet profound æsthetic triumph, finishes with the naked strangle of 裸絞 hadaka jime at 3:47. Akira Shoji rolls on!

Next up we have a kickboxing match betwixt William van Roosmalen, who used to bounce at the same bar Bas Rutten did (what are the odds?) and Ralph White, who in PRIDE.1(プライド・ワン) suffered a horrendous hematoma that thankfully seems to have responded adequately to the application of a bag of peas from the freezer in the intervening months. Longtime readers will perhaps recall that I do not care about kickboxing matches even a little, as the potential for jūdō to occur therein is very nearly zero. I promise I will tell you at least parenthetically who wins though (William van Roosmalen, liver-knee KO, 0:38 4th round). Stephen Quadros got racialist about Ralph White as he limped back to his corner one time ("I don't think that's a ghetto strut, I think that's a limp!") and it was very not great. 

Holy moly, who's this guy:

Ah ok we are very much back to what we are all here for (if I may so presume in my arrogance, not a good quality for sure) as 桜庭 和志 KAZUSHI SAKURABA makes his Pride début against Vernon "Tiger" White whose shoot middle-name, I have just now learned, is Verdell. Vernon "Verdell" White! That's even better! Vernon White had already been around forever by this point and had lost like a thousand matches in Pancrase. Sakuraba so far had a (possibly-worked?) loss to Kimo (in fact it is here if you want to watch it and those headbutts to the base of the skull sure look upsettingly real to me!) and that deeply odd UFC Japan tournament win to his credit but on the whole was still very much youthful and almost heartbreakingly as-yet-unmurdered, just look:

"The yet-to-be-dismantled Saku; the geese," as Elizabeth Bishop had it in an earlier draft of this one here. Nobuhiko Takada stands in the corner as his second, but what if it were geese though. White lands a pretty solid punch right away so Sakuraba drops low for single-leg takedown, enough of that. As soon as Sakuraba gets to the side he begins his quest for the 逆腕緘 gyaku-ude-garami/reverse arm entanglement/double wrist-lock/figure-four/Kimura so closely associated with his art that when you do it with him in Fire Pro the crowd goes hwaaaiiiiii every time. I always really like it when you work from that grip into 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame and I guess so does Sakuraba because that is what he is up to now! But White is doing a great job of staying active and I guess more to the point sensibly active and this match has a great feel so far! Tra Telligman can be heard offering advice from the corner because Vernon White is of "The Lion's Den." I am thoroughly, thoroughly enjoying young Sakuraba's interest in rolling juji-gatame attacks against the kame or turtle position (please enjoy the kanji for it, which kind of looks like a little turtle: 亀); I don't remember this being a feature of his græppling but I would be very pleased to be mistaken in this and in fact find he was always doing it and I just forgot. A gyaku-ude-garami-grip entry into juji-gatame from the back is pretty much my favourite thing in all the vast realms of waza so please, let's do more of that. Round one ends and it was excellent! It was probably ten minutes long. Round two has Sakuraba on top in tate-shiho-gatame seemingly before the bell even rings but, after White turns face-down, Sakuraba's rolling juji-gatame slips off and we're just hanging out down there for a while (extremely pleasantly so, please do not mistake me). Oh hey:


Does this waza not call to mind the rolling 引込/隅hikikomi/sumi-gaeshi from (and indeed to) 逆腕緘 gyaku-ude-garami that we have seen in these pages so many times before, always (or often) accompanied by this perhaps all-too-familiar (I mean to you, not to me; I can't get enough of this) .gif of 木村 政彦 Kimura Masahiko

The outer (rather than inner) hook is an intriguing variation or 変化 henka that I am pretty eager to try myself! Hey it's a judo night too so why not! Vernon White does well to stay noodle-armed and twist loose of this lovely hold. Sakuraba tries the same technique again ("Sakuraba's got mooooooves!" Quadros observes) but White entangles his legs, cleverly, and before you know it has Sakuraba's back and attacks with hadaka-jime (don't worry, Sakuraba's chin is tucked). This is a great match! White gets a weird double-underhook neck-crank standing (maybe it is a super common wrestling thing but I sure wouldn't know it!) but gives it up as they head to the ground, which is exactly where I would think you'd want it, but what do I know about neck cranks. Bas and Quadros agree that this is one of the most technical grappling matches they have seen in mixed martial arts, and as Vernon White literally TK scissors his way out of a bad spot, I get it; I totally get it. Also, your guy (this is me [I hope]) totally just recognized 水, the kanji for mizu, water, on a bottle of water if you can even believe it so I am feeling pretty good about all kinds of things right now.

Round three! But not before another night has passed in the present (day) of our encounter, and please for a moment let me tell you what we did at judo last night because it was so fun: as we have a handful of students ready for their yonkyū/orange belt gradings we ran through the 四級の技 yonkyū no waza or more specifically the 四級の寝技 yonkyū no newaza which google translate would have you think means "4th grade sleeping task" which is not far off but which is more precisely the orange belt newaza and rather than approach it as a list of techniques to be demonstrated discretely we approached it very much along the lines of varied attacks from central "hub" positions (the attacks are I guess then spokes? in a nice wheel? maybe a tree and branches would be better but I for sure think of hubs) so in addition to a number of 十字絞 juji-jime/cross-choke and 腕挫十字固 ude-hishigi-juji-gatame applications from the steadfast pinningz of 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame, 上四方固 kami-shiho-gatame, and 崩上四方固 kuzure-kami-shiho-gatame, we also explored (and this is the point, thank you once again for your continued patience in this and all related matters) an entry into an Iatskevitch-roll juji-gatame that begins as an escape from kami-shiho-gatame in the form of THAT'S RIGHT YOU TOTALLY GUESSED IT: TK Scissors precisely in the mode employed by no less an exponent of that waza than Tsuyoshi Kohsaka himself in no less a contest than his RINGS 2/24/01: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE OPEN TOURNAMENT KING OF KINGS 2000 GRAND FINAL bout against Randy Couture which thanks to generalized Russian disregard for copyright law (no diss) you can see here (skip ahead to about 12:50 to see the specific waza in question and hear WOWOW EXCITE MATCH's Kenichi Takayanagi's call of "TK SCISSORS-GA!" amidst the roar of the crowd [watch the rest of the match to see other applications of this same technique and also to see TK throw Randy Couture with 払腰 harai goshi {a moment ago I mis-typed and instead wrote "the roar of the crows"; please consider it}]). Round three! Sakuraba and White touch gloves to begin the round because they are nice. Something I am noticing right now is that Young Sakurba plus about twenty minutes of fighting gives you something much closer to Present Day Sakuraba:

Once things move once more to the ground (this does not take long) and Sakuraba grabs a leg, Bas and Quadros touch briefly on the Pancrase prohibition against the heel hook in the wake of rampant knee-and-shin murders and look I'm not trying to start a whole thing here but I wholly support prohibition and think it is good. They then reflect on the studious nature of the Japanese crowd, which Bas puts in an interesting way, I think, when he says that in every other country he's competed in, everybody in the crowd knows better than you do (do this, do that), but it is not the case in Japan. Sakuraba achieves an unusually high 縦四方固 tate-shiho-gatame which, though an inherently strong position, does invite (you know it) TK Scissors as a counter, and indeed Vernon White tries several pairs of them. As White rolls, Sakuraba grabs a juji-gatame but does not finish, and loses position as White slips out to the side. This continues to be so good! Although I have definitely seen this match before, I remembered nothing distinct about it, and I wonder why. Perhaps it was overshadowed by Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton, which I would probably still say is my favourite match? It's coming up pretty soon! And ok there at last is the juji-gatame that ends this lovely contest at 6:53 of the third round. Quadros suggests that if Kazushi Sakuraba has indeed been training with professional wrestlers (at Takada Dojo), then they have been very good teachers indeed.

Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta! If I am remembering this correctly it goes on for hours! One of the great revelations of the RINGSbox for me was just that Sanae Kikuta was held within it; despite my enthusiasm for him (and of course for GRABAKA more broadly) I somehow had no idea he had ever RINGSed. But he did! Twice! The first time he appeared before us in that context, RINGS 4/4/97: BATTLE GENESIS Vol. 1 in 後楽園ホール Kōrakuen Hōru (where better), we spoke of him thus, didn't we (we did): 


THEY SAY SANAE KIKUTA IS ON THE MOVE, PERHAPS HE HAS ALREADY LANDED and in fact he has and this all comes as an enormous surprise to me. I had read some time ago that Kikuta had considered RINGS as a possible thing to do before he settled into his long career of high-taste-level excellence in a number of endeavours but I had literally no idea that he had ever had a RINGS match (let alone two, which seems to be the case). I am shoot surprised by joy! Sanae Kikuta, oh man, where to begin: Kikuta was a national high school judo champion who then trained at university under Toshihiko Koga (three-time World and 1992 Olympic Champion, the best pure thrower of his generation probably and arguably the greatest ippon seoi nage player ever); Kikuta entered and won both the Lumax Cup: Tournament of J '96 (Ikuhisa Minowa was in it!) and Lumax Cup: Tournament of J '97 Heavyweight Tournament (Ikuhisa Minowa was I don't think in it). Actually I guess at the time of this RINGS appearance he is between Lumax Cups (you will recall Tsuyoshi Kohsaka's 1995 win, surely, wreathed as it was in glory). After his brief time in RINGS, Kikuta will go on to fight in the earliest PRIDEs, a tonne of Pancrases (speaking of Minowa, please enjoy this wildly wild Kikuta/Minowa match), and win the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship at -88kg in 2001. To win ADCC (a de facto no-gi BJJ world championship) as a judo player is perhaps the greatest of Sanae Kikuta's several great gifts to us, and to me personally, in that it makes for an unreal (and yet all too real) point of trolling betwixt me and my pals who enjoy BJJ. A five-star (I recognize no sixth) Youtube video called "【寝技世界一】菊田早苗 [World's No.1 Ne Waza]" exhibiting Sanae Kikuta's wins over Evan Tanner, Chris Brown (who had beaten Renzo Gracie the round before, so was "legit"), Egan Inoue (finalist vs. TK in the '95 Lumax), and Saulo Ribeiro (an ADCC and Mundials champion several times over, and author of Jiu-Jitsu University, an enormously worthy ne-waza tome) has tragically seen its uploader's account terminated and like a fool I never downloaded it when I had the chance. But it totally happened, Sanae Kikuta did it; he *did* it. What else might we say of Sanae Kikuta? Let's see: i) That his GRABAKA (græppling fool) gym had the best t-shirts (GRAPPLING PARTY the king of them; it served as my avatar on the boards for a time but I never ordered one; no images of it remain on the entire internet; the future is terrible); ii) that GRABAKA remains strong and has a lovely space, and that (iii) his blogis quite thoughtful (this is a google translate situation obviously, given my illiteracy):

"February 01, 2017


In earnest, I started judo since entering junior high school, so that was the start of fighting sports life.

However, at that time, I never thought that doing judo was a fighting sports, but rather intense sports, martial artis.

Unlike boxing etc, it was not intended to give pain to the partner.

However, if I think that this is the foundation of my current fighting sports and definitely helped most of my life, I think that he has been fighting fighting again.

It is because judo was there that I can live like this now.

Judo is essentially a game to be beautifully contested so as not to hurt other people. By mastering this, however, you can compete against any genre of fighting sports.

It is nourished for physical strength, sense of balance, and mental, all.

If you master Judo, then you will be transformed into a tremendous one by a shift change within yourself.

Since it was originally used for fighting, it is commonplace to say that it is natural.

So, as a junior high school, though it happened to be a judo I met, I feel like I'm doing judo all the time after all.

Since the origin is judo, its base has been continuing all the time, and only the rest is applied. So, nothing has changed."

Also--and for now, let us agree, finally--his Fire Pro name is "Mad Grappler" Kikuma Kaname and they call GRABAKA "GRANADA", I would like to get that in, too. I should probably say finally finally that for all the very real enthusiasm I have for Sanae Kikuta and all his many doings (perhaps you are already convinced of this?), maybe don't get too excited about it all because fundamentally he takes people down and lays on them. But so deftly, I love it. 


And Renzo Gracie of course you know, both through his respected lifelong commitment to the martial arts and also from how he lightly owned my dear friend Cory on twitter this one time (they ended their conversation in fellowship, please don't worry). Let's see what they get up to! (Sanae Kikuta and Renzo I mean, not Cory [although hey Cory what's up]). AND HERE THEY GO! THEY HAVE ALREADY CLINCHED IN THE CORNER! Attempts at minor reaping techniques lead to rapid engroundening; at present Renzo is on top but held securely between Kikuta's able legs. My memory of this fight is that this is most of happens! But I am proven wrong at once as Renzo stands up out of Kikuta's guard, and the two clinch in the corner once more. Their hooks are over/under, if you were wondering about that! The next little burst of waza is low-key great, as Kikuta attempts the minor outer hook of kosoto gake, which Renzo seeks to counter with an uchi-mata that Kikuta rides out, landing him on top but still half-held in Renzo's niju-garami (half-guard). Stopdon'tmovestopdon'tmove is the referee's first instruction aaaaaaaaaand fight is his second. Both Quadros and Bas feel Kikuta is expending too much energy whilst within Renzo's guard but I cannot see how, myself, as he isn't doing much other than being wary (though watchfulness is its own exertion I suppose). We're five minutes in! Quadros and Bas are both on a thing where they don't really like to say Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, they like to say "jiu jitsu as practiced in Brazil," stemming from something Oleg Taktarov said to Bas one time where he was like "we do not say Russian Sambo we say sambo (well I mean some of us say са́мбо or indeed САМозащита Без Оружия [not me though]), we do not say Japanese judo we say judo, we should not say Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we should say jiu jitsu, is foolish, and for that we must punish" (none of this is exact but is, I hope you will agree, quite evocative). Quadros is utterly unaware of who Sanae Kikuta is other than "a Pancrase guy" but even just that is a pretty good thing to be. Both of our commentators are already urging action and restarts and things of that nature but this is actually good to watch, like for example Renzo just turned his hips a little as though to attempt juji-gatame, and then a moment later Kikuta hints towards a koshi-kiri hip-cut as though offering the faintest hint of would could in time become the scarf hold of kesa-gatame or, were a far-side underhook to be employed, kuzure-kesa-gatame. This is very much what I am here for, and if this means I must part company with Bas Rutten to be here for it, I can accept that (ps I love you Bas Rutten and I'm sorry). Have I mentioned that Rickson is in Renzo's corner? Or that at our house we recently re-watched The Smashing Machine (a grim tale wonderfully told), for the first time in I guess close to fifteen years, and that it was just great, and that a super little part of it was Renzo getting advice from Rickson and nodding slyly at it? I will make a .gif of that later. UPDATE: I totally made a .gif of it (below). I like that there are two Renzo parts in this little .gif, the first as his attention is caught, and the next nodding like yeah that's right I totally will to whatever it is Rickson suggests he do.

As we return to the match at hand, ROUND TWO sees Renzo punch Kikuta in the face one time before they are clinched against the corner yet again. Quadros observes that Kikuta is pretty sneaky with some of these takedown attempts and I would agree because of how he trained under Koga at university. Renzo is doing a good job with knees from the clinch, but rather than talk about that I would like to talk about how the corner they are in right now is Kikuta's corner, and you can see his guys looking up and offering tips and I find it quite captivating: 

I am finding myself reminded of a part of Quadros' commentary that I do not enjoy, and that in time may come to truly grate, and that is that at his worst (well I guess the earlier anti-black racism was probably objectively his worst) he has a tendency to pair a glaring lack of knowledge about a fighter's background (this is rampant already re: Kikuta) with stern condemnation of that fighter's apparent game plan. A moment ago, for example, Kikuta resisted Renzo's takedown attempt, and Quadros was like, "why would he do that, he's not a boxer" (???) and then moments later Kikuta counters Renzo's uchi-mata with a pretty thunderous ouchi gari and Quadros is like "OOOOOOOH! BEAUTIFUL!" and Bas is like "you see, he wants to control when and how he gets to the ground" and it is amazing that he had to say that. They go back to being bored immediately after this happens. Between the second and third rounds, Bas thinks these guys should try the mount, or side mount, because nothing is happening in the guard, and he is probably right that it is pretty easy to pass the guard of either Renzo Gracie or Sanae Kikuta if the other guy just gets the idea to. And ok I will just actually not say other things about the commentary in this fight, how about, because Bas and Quadros both greet Sanae Kikuta's deep and true ouchi gari with groans because it means he will be inside Renzo's guard once more, and I declare enough of this anti-græppling nonsense, I will not inflict it upon you further. Their petulant boredom says way more about them than it does either Sanae Kikuta and Renzo Gracie! I am really disappointed! But at the same time it's not their fault for not realizing how my feelings are, or would be. Kikuta takes the risk of turning his hips to pass whilst holding a deep headlock rather than an underhook, and the specific risk is that Renzo could take Kikuta's back should he slip his head out in a manner like *boop* but all that happens instead is a moment of dynamism betwixt these two guys whom I like. Kikuta stands up out of guard, then right back in, and then gets to half (although not for long). In time, Renzo traps Kikuta's arm from the far side in a way that calls to mind, for me and I assume for literally everyone else, the very curious situation between Nishimura (Kokushikan University) vs. Kimura (Meiji University) at the Kodokan Kohaku (6th-8th dan) Team Tournament in May of 2010, initially uploaded to youtube as “mysterious ne waza”:

What Renzo did wasn't actually much like this at all, now that I see it again, and he certainly didn't sweep and pin and lock with it; nevertheless I feel like this was a worthwhile digression as waza is very much its own reward. A great pal and I figured this out one time at judo and had a blast doing so!

ROUND FOUR involves clinching at its onset, and also ouchi gari, and then the guard. Hey fun fact: beneath my old Adidas zip-up hoodie right now I am wearing one of these, which you can get for very little money on ebay because they are knock-offs (of quite expensive shirts, which is a kind I do not get):

This is really quite relevant because of the places the two fighters in this fight we are watching come from! One of my judo buddies told me one time that this shirt looks like an image from a DOS game and I received this comment entirely in the spirit it was offered which was easy to do because it was praise. Renzo is grabbing his own shin in a way that I am sure some would say is suggestive of the rubber guard but I have been falsely accused of rubber guard myself and know that pain so I am hesitant to inflict it upon another. Round five! The pace has slightly quickened but make no mistake, we are very much clinched. Off a little scramble, Renzo grabs a mae-hadaka-jime/front choke/guillotine and begins to knee. There's an arm inside as Renzo jumps to guard and Quadros, who in the previous show spoke to the real possibility of the arm-in guillotine over Bas' objections, here rejects the notion outright, and only now do I remember that I said I would say nothing more about the commentary, forgive me. 

ANOTHER NIGHT PASSES before we resume this our shared endeavour with our guy Sanae Kikuta attempting that same risky koshi-kiri hip-cut with an arm around the head but Renzo (our other guy, I think it is fair to say, we all like Renzo I think) is unable to exploit this. And so they danced. Round six! AND THERE IT IS Renzo catches an arm-in guillotine/front-choke at once and Bas Rutten is forced to concede that it is an actual technique! I think the total time of the match was 50:43 which is long for sure but also only about half of a class and there were only a handful of moments in this match where either guy was exerting himself as hard as you would in a hard session so you can see how they could go on like that. I liked it though! Except for how mean the announcers got! 

I have no issue with Tasis Petridis, and George Randolph might well be a tremendous fellow, what do I know, but they are here to have a kickboxing match and that is once again something I am not an enjoyer of. The ring introduction is very good, though, and makes extra clear who is in the  青[あお] コーナー ao koonaa (blue corner) and who the 赤[あか] aka (red). Petridis, a Muay Thai boxer from Australia, bests the enormous American Kenpoist (I believe this is his way; Quadros and Bas are imprecise on this point but he is a shirtless black-gi-pants'd black-belt-wearer, and that's almost got to be kenpo) by decision and both guys seemed to try their best. 

Oh man it's Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge! You will perhaps recall that the previous time Gary Goodridge joined us he knocked out Oleg Taktarov so calamitously that I didn't necessarily want to keep on watching any of this and also Dave Meltzer wrote of Taktarov in the Observer that "there was an immediate fear that he may have been killed"! This seems less likely to occur against Marco Ruas, though, who is, as you know, The King of the Streets (in that "Ruas" means streets). Were you, unlike me, aware that numbering among Ruas' many martial attainments is the esteemed judo rank of 三段 sandan? Good for him! That's one more than I am but I remain hopeful! Ruas wins this quite exciting fight by ヒール hiru ホールド hoorudo at 9:09 in what we can only characterize, in light of recent revelations, as yet another triumph for judo.

HEY GUYS IT'S MARK KERR JUST LIKE IN THE FEEL-GOOD HIT DOCUMENTARY THE SMASHING MACHINE which I included a link to earlier in case you have never rented it from the Queen Video that was on Bloor Street for some reason (what about the one on Queen Street? oooooh you must mean *Queen* Video) or if maybe you have but it's been a while I heartily encourage you to encounter anew . . . its grimness! Bas Rutten can be seen in Kerr's corner and yet is heard also on commentary with Stephen Quadros and they do not address this and it feels weird. Branko Cikatić is Kerr's opponent and he breaks like eight rules in two minutes, mostly rope-grabbing to prevent takedowns, which is I guess a pretty minor foul if we take the broad view, but he also elbows Kerr a bunch of times in the back of the head which, I mean, guys (guys; guys; hnnnguys) what are we even doing here. That's a disqualification for sure. This is an unpleasant image if literalized, I grant you, and so I am loathe to employ it, but I feel I have little choice but to note that the 横浜アリーナ Yokohama Arīna crowd just shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiits on this main event:

And who can blame them! Ah but what, we sing together as one, Did Dave Meltzer Say:

November 10, 1997:

"Takada was interviewed backstage at the 11/3 Kingdom show at Korakuen Hall and claimed he broke a rib from a kick and suffered a broken arm from the finishing armbar in the match with Rickson Gracie and that he hasn't been able to train since and wouldn't be able to return to competition until January. There was some hope his first match back would be on the Pride Two show on 1/18, although he may not be ready by then. Takada also claimed he went into the Gracie match with a neck injury and wasn't nearly at 100 percent." 

[The same issue mentions that there was some thought of Takada vs. Tank Abbot for a UFC Japan show, which is a wild thought!]

November 17, 1997:

"At press time, it is now back to Randy Couture as the most likely opponent for Maurice Smith on the Ultimate Japan PPV show on 12/21. While nothing is definite, it now appears Royce Gracie is likely to have his first match in two-and-a-half years on the 1/18 Pride Two show at the same Yokohama Arena.

What is penciled in at the moment is Smith vs. Couture for the title along with three other singles matches and a four-man heavyweight tournament. The single matches look to be Mark Kerr vs. Gary Goodridge, Kevin Jackson vs. the winner of the 11/29 Frank Shamrock vs. Enson Inoue match, and Vitor Belfort vs. an opponent to be announced. The heavyweight tournament looks to include Tank Abbott and Marcus Conan Silviera along with two other spots to be filled. Kimo is off the show, presumably having signed to instead appear on the Pride Two card for a higher guarantee. The promotion wants to use Japanese talent, but with Pancrase having a major show the night before (and in the same city, although at a smaller building) and RINGS in the middle of its Battle Dimension tournament [yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss], none of their talent, which would be the best name talent, would be available. Tickets for the show are scaled at $425, $250, $85, $42 and $25.

There has been a lot of talk that Kerr would face Gracie in the main event of the Pride Two show in a match with no time limit. Semaphore Entertainment Group has publicly stated that it has an exclusive world wide contract with Kerr and wouldn't allow him to work the Pride Two date, but others close to Kerr are claiming they have found a loophole in the contract which would allow him to work both shows."

November 24, 1997:

"The promotional war when it comes for the top spot in Vale Tudo between SEG's Ultimate Fighting Championships and KRS' Pride promotion came to the fore this week due to both groups running major shows in upcoming months at the Yokohama Arena. 
Pride debuted with a show on 10/11 at the Tokyo Dome that drew in excess of 35,000 fans with a decent amount of papering, easily the largest crowd in the modern history of Vale Tudo (apparently in the heyday of Helio Gracie in Brazil in the 50s, he once fought before 80,000 fans) headlined by Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada.  Before that show, the promoters had a meeting in New York with SEG about working together in the same basic sport framework, and shortly after the meeting signed both Gary Goodridge and more importantly, Dan Severn to appear on its just, show six days before both were slated to appear on SEG's Ultimate Fighting PPV event in the United States.  Goodridge is believed to have been offered $20,000 for a match with Oleg Taktarov, and Severn was offered $40,000 for a match with Kimo, both figures were considerably higher than SEG had offered either fighter.  The rest of that is history, as Severn was injured in the Pride One match against Kimo, and SEG's planned main event of Maurice Smith vs. Severn fell apart ultimately just three days before the show. 
However, the business rivalry has reached another stage with SEG running Yokohama Arena for its PPV show on 12/21, while the Pride Two event will take place at the same arena on 1/18.  In addition, SEG has tentative plans to run a second PPV show from Japan in May after a March show likely in either Louisiana or Mississippi. 
The first legal step in the fight was the announcement on 11/13 that SEG Sports Corporation filed a summons and complaint in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Manhattan seeking an injunction against Mark Kerr for breaching his exclusive contract with SEG.  Kerr had agreed, and according to some sources, already signed a document to appear at the Pride Two Event.  Kerr had previously signed an exclusive contract with SEG that forbid him from participating in mixed martial arts matches with any other promotion provided the matches would be televised (Pride Two will be televised in Japan) or occurred within 30 days before and after of an SEG event (Pride takes place 28 days after Ultimate Japan).  SEG had already announced Kerr, a world class wrestler who is generally considered as one of the top five NHB fighters in the world with a 7-0 record including two UFC tournament victories as appearing on its Japan show, with Goodridge as his most likely opponent in a singles match.  Kerr had already pulled out of what was scheduled to be his first Japanese fight on 11/29 at the Vale Tudo Open in Tokyo for the Shooto promotion, apparently due to his SEG contract or perhaps because Pride offered him a bonus for debuting in Japan on their event.  This led to Shooto signing Tom Erikson for his Japanese debut on that event as a replacement, beating Pancrase, who had been negotiating with him, to the punch. 
Kerr had already left the United States for a press conference in Japan for the Pride show when the summons was filed, and was apparently unaware of the situation when asked about it at the Pride press conference on 11/14.  He was served over the weekend after returning from Japan.  Kerr had been in negotiations for a singles match as the main event on the show against Royce Gracie, but at the press conference, it was instead announced that Gracie and Kerr would have singles matches against unnamed opponents.  Also announced at the Pride press conference were that Marco Ruas and Renzo Gracie would appear on the show, that there would be a rematch from the Pride One event with Bronko Cikatic of K-1 fame against Ralph White, and they strongly hinted of a match with Akira Shoji (who fought Renzo Gracie to the surprising draw at Pride One) vs. Juan Mott (who fought with the MARS organization and has a 1-1 record).  At the press conference, Pride announced that tickets to its second event would go on sale on 12/7 with tickets at $850, $250, $170, $125, $85 and $60 which would be the highest pricing structure ever for an event of this type in Japan.  Those close to the situation say that Kerr has told people that he absolutely won't be appearing on the SEG show.  Officials of SEG say that while they can't force Kerr to work on their show, that they are going to make absolutely sure that he doesn't appear on the Pride show.  Then comes the question as to the jurisdictional power of a decision in U.S. Federal Court over an issue that involves an American contract, but also a match in Japan."

December 1, 1997: 

In probably the biggest coup in a long time, Nippon television (Ch. 4 in Tokyo, the same station that has carried All Japan Pro Wrestling since the early 70s) has signed to carry the Ultimate Japan show. The card will air on a tape delay on 12/21 from 1:15 a.m. to 2:40 a.m. and serve as the lead-in for the All Japan pro wrestling show that night. This will mark the first time a UFC show will be airing on network television so the total audience watching this show will be the largest to date. A successful event with a network audience, albeit limited due to it airing past midnight, or a successful showing by any of the fighters would become a lot bigger boost in the Japan market, just as a flop show would, with greater exposure, be more of a killer. With just a few weeks before the Ultimate Japan show, the line-up for the card is remaining sketchy. Semaphore Entertainment Group had discussions with the WWF about trying to use a wrestler that could do a UFC match and would also mean something in Japan as a draw. The first person talked about was obviously Ken Shamrock and SEG made a huge offer for him. Because of WWF's plans for Shamrock, they didn't want to risk him in that type of a situation and both sides were in negotiations regarding another wrestler, but ultimately WWF decided against it due to the injury risk with such a depleted roster at present when it came to talent depth. As things stand right now, Maurice Smith vs. Randy Couture is the main event. Mark Kerr looks to be off the show and is still talking like he's going to do the Pride show, although SEG is going to court to try and prevent that from taking place. The Kerr situation for the 1/21 show is weird in and of itself. Some sources in NHB were calling the Pride press conference almost a double-cross on a very minor scale of the Bret Hart deal. Both Kerr, and presumably Royce Gracie, were going to Japan expecting Pride to announce them against one another in the main event, but instead at the press conference, the promoters announced both would be on the show against different but unnamed opponents. UFC had slated for a Gary Goodridge vs. Vitor Belfort match, however Goodridge pulled out this week because his foot injury suffered in the Tokyo Dome match against Oleg Taktarov was slow in responding. Kevin Jackson vs. either Frank Shamrock or Enson Inoue remains on the schedule, plus a four-man heavyweight tournament. The plan right now is for a Tank Abbott vs. Yoji Anjoh first round match, and Marcus "Conan" Silviera against another slot that needs to be filled. It has been hard to get name Japanese fighters because RINGS has a show on 12/23 [RINGS 12/23/97: WORLD MEGA-BATTLE TOURNAMENT 1997: SEMI-FINALS that's true yes] and Pancrase has a show on 12/20. Guy Mezger isn't booked on the Pancrase show that month so they may bring him back.

Mark Coleman has been telling people he thinks he'll be able to return from knee surgery in time for the March PPV show." 
December 15, 1997:

Oh what might have been:

"And if that wasn't strange enough, the world of NHB and traditional style pro wrestling again came closer together with a working agreement between the UFC and WWF that resulted in the announcement by the former of a Ken Shamrock vs. Nobuhiko Takada match, the first NHB match-up between huge name pro wrestlers, on its 12/21 PPV show from the Yokohama Arena.

And even stranger than the alliance between reality fighting and the historical masters of fiction is whether or not this match will actually take place. Shamrock, with the approval of the WWF, signed for the match on 12/4, and SEG officially released it on its web site the next day. However, this news was strangely never announced by the Japanese group that is running the local promotion for the show, nor did the WWF say anything about the match either on the 12/7 PPV show, in which Shamrock was in the main event, or its live Raw show the next night, despite an apparent agreement with SEG to push the match. The word is that WWF is planning to tape a feature of Shamrock training for the Takada match and insert it into the 12/15 Raw show, and use it to plug the UFC PPV on 12/21, although by ignoring the match completely on 12/7 and 12/8, it shows that the WWF is at best going to mention the match but not make a big deal of the match. The WWF will also have the rights to use the match after the fact on its television should it desire to do so. And the weirdest of all was at the Kingdom house show on 12/8, reporters there talked with Takada, who once again claimed, as he has publicly in the past, that he is suffering from a variety of injuries and wouldn't even be able to start training until the new year and claimed that he had never agreed nor would he be doing the UFC show.

As of press time, the situation regarding whether that match will take place or if Shamrock will appear on the show, perhaps against another opponent, are unclear.

The deal to get Shamrock to appear actually started several weeks back. SEG made the WWF an offer believed to be in the $100,000 range for Shamrock to appear on the show, and WWF turned it down flat because they had major plans for Shamrock and didn't want to risk either his health or his reputation in an environment where they weren't in complete control. After that point, there were negotiations between SEG and WWF to secure Leon White (Vader) for the show, being that Vader was a huge drawing card in Japan as a pro wrestler with New Japan and UWFI (a worked shoot group) and a lot of wrestling fans believe he's tougher due to his size than people who train specifically for real fighting. WWF may have considered White, but eventually turned down that proposal with the feeling that due to their own roster being depleted with injuries, they didn't want to risk White's health since he was in their plans as well. Although there were reports elsewhere putting the fact there were talks involving these two together and that their first match in Japan for FMW was booked in the manner it was specifically to build up a rematch, at no point was it ever considered having a shoot or a worked match with Shamrock vs. Vader on the UFC PPV show. Also, it has been made clear that at no point was in SEG interesting in having any pro wrestlers, no matter how big their names, do the show in any kind of a worked situation.

The talks largely were dormant until word came from Japan that Takada would only do the show if his opponent would be Shamrock. With ticket sales for the live event slow due to not having a big name Japanese draw, it was felt imperative to get Takada to do the show. SEG more than doubled the offer to the WWF for Shamrock at that point, at which point the WWF became very interested. It is believed the money offer is actually largely coming from SEG's Japanese partners, a group headed by a Mr. Sakata with money backing from Tsutya Video, a Blockbuster-like chain in Japan. After a few days of negotiating and the price changing upwards once again to where it would be by far the biggest payoff in the history of UFC, and among the biggest for a pro wrestler or NHB fighter for one match in history (Rickson Gracie reportedly earned more for his Tokyo Dome match with Takada, and it isn't in the range of Hogan's major PPV payoffs), Shamrock signed the deal. The contract terms it is believed give Shamrock veto power over choice of a new opponent in the event of a late substitution. In the past, Shamrock had expressed interest in fighting either Vitor Belfort (who doesn't have a signed opponent at press time for the show) or Tank Abbott (who is scheduled at press time to appear in a tournament), but whether he'd want to do so with only one week of training is another question.

From a business standpoint, if correctly promoted, Takada-Shamrock should have a lot of curiosity and some box office impact in Japan, although with it going in "cold" (no storyline build-up) and not much time to get the pub out, not to mention no major office with weekly television to promote the match, it is by no means enough to guarantee a huge crowd at Yokohama Arena by itself. For the U.S., Takada's name means nothing and UFC has no television so for it to mean anything from a business standpoint, it would have to be largely through whatever hype the WWF would give the match in hyping Shamrock, which at this point doesn't look like all that much if any. It is also interesting that Shamrock will be doing the show along with several people he's had a hand in training, his brother Frank, who faces Kevin Jackson in the under-200 title match, Maurice Smith, who faces Randy Couture in the heavyweight title match, and Telligman, who is an alternate in the heavyweight tournament.

Why Takada, 35, whose only true shoot match was his one-sided loss to Rickson Gracie (although he's been victorious in double-cross situations with Koji Kitao and former heavyweight champion boxer Trevor Berbick and was a world champion pro wrestler and a tremendous drawing card with UWFI before being one of the greatest workers in the world in the late 80s with New Japan but working credentials mean nothing in the octagon), would insist on Shamrock raises several questions. It could be that since Shamrock, a former UFC heavyweight champion and the first King of Pancrase champion, who has a NHB record of 6-2-2 (although both draws would have likely win wins had their been judges), is already a major star in Japan with a tremendous shooter reputation, that Takada could risk a loss to him without devouring whatever is left of his falling reputation. It also could be that Takada feels it would be okay from a reputation standpoint, not to mention not as punishing, to lose to a mat submission expert as opposed to slugging it out with someone who would be more likely to deliver a knockout blow. Or it could be that Takada recognizes that Shamrock, 33, is on the road with the WWF in a very brutal road schedule, and that he can't possibly be in top fighting shape and maybe he can catch him at less than his best and a victory would totally rehabilitate his reputation after the relatively easy Gracie win. But even with only one week of serious fighting training, Shamrock would be considered a heavy favorite in this situation and of the reasons, the first would seem to have the most validity. The risk Shamrock is taking by going into this match is probably more of a risk of injury, as he's suffered numerous injuries in his fighting career, than a risk of losing.

Takada's main weapon is that he can kick extremely hard, although he's not experienced in using that in legitimate competition and certainly not against a fighter with Shamrock's experience in mixed matches. Shamrock has fought and beaten both Maurice Smith and Bas Rutten in legitimate Pancrase matches and Don Nakaya Neilsen (a former WKA World cruiserweight kickboxing champion) in a mixed shoot match at a Tokyo Dome pro wrestling card, all of whom one would think kick as hard or in some cases quite a bit harder. While in Pancrase, Shamrock only lost one legitimate kick/submission rules match (he lost a kickboxing match to a trained kickboxer from The Netherlands), to Masakatsu Funaki and that was largely to avoid any kind of an injury since the match was only a few days before the second Gracie match in UFC. His other loss, his Pancrase championship loss to Minoru Suzuki, was a Pancrase business decision before the first match with Dan Severn in that Pancrase didn't want to risk having their world champion lose to a world champion in the world of pro wrestling, even though Shamrock beat Severn in that match.

Shamrock, after signing for the match, did a WWF house show in Providence, RI on 12/6 but only did about a 30 second squash match to avoid getting banged up. He followed it up working a hard 18:29 on PPV against Shawn Michaels in the main event of the PPV, before flying to Dallas and missing the television tapings to begin training with Guy Mezger, Tra Telligman and Peter Williams for only about one week before leaving for Japan. But at press time, Takada's statements make everything questionable.

Which makes two major NHB main events that are unclear as the rival KRS promotions announced for its Pride Two show on 1/18 at the same Yokohama Arena, a main event of Royce Gracie vs. Mark Kerr. Kerr has a contract with SEG which prohibits him from appearing in any televised fights (this show will be taped for television) and from doing any NHB shows 30 days before or after an SEG show and a court date is set for 12/19 to determine whether Kerr has the legal right to do the show. A secondary question is whether or not a court in New York has legal jurisdiction over stopping a fight in Japan even though the contract was signed in New York. Nothing was officially announced as far as the rules of the fight although that has been a sticking point. Obviously Gracie would want no time limit and no stand-ups for lack of action and eliminating head-butts, which would theoretically be one of Kerr's most valuable lessons while on top caught in the guard. Kerr wants as close to no rules as possible (i.e. head-butting legal) and since it will be fought in a ring rather than an octagon, netting under the bottom ropes so Gracie can't roll out of the ring. The Japanese promoters will likely insist of some sort of a time limit (Kerr may agree to the stipulations that if Gracie lasts the time limit, than rather than having judges, that Gracie be awarded the victory just for hanging on because of the expected 75 pound weight differential) and make wearing grappling gloves mandatory, but Gracie is against wearing gloves. Gracie also wants the referee to not have the power to stop the match.

The first Pride One Event, on 10/9 at the Tokyo Dome, was the first PPV event ever in Japan and drew an 8.0 buy rate, although with the limited universe that is actually 12,000 buys out of a universe of only 150,000 homes. Even so, that was considered a phenomenal success even though the number of homes makes it likely not profitable nor was profit ever considered any kind of realistic proposition from the PPV at this stage of the game. The buy rate does show the potential in Japan for NHB (and even more so pro wrestling) when PPV technology reaches the U.S. level. Even with the Japanese debut of Royce Gracie, the second event is not going to be put on PPV.

On paper, Gracie vs. Kerr looks to be among the most intriguing NHB fights in years, and also perhaps one of the most boring. Gracie, 11-0-1, who hasn't fought since going to a 36:00 draw with Shamrock in 1995 in a match that had their been judges, he would have likely lost via decision. Kerr, a world class amateur wrestler who weighed 255 pounds in his most recent UFC appearance, 7-0, has been victorious in three consecutive tournaments, two in UFC and another in Brazil, without every being on the defensive. Kerr has won almost all of his matches in rapid order with the exception of a one-sided and brutal 30:00 decision against Fabio Gurgel, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert with a similar style and considered to have similar level of abilities to Gracie. Unless Kerr makes a quick mistake, the match figures to go to the ground with Gracie hanging onto the guard. Gracie figures to take the most punishment, and if he can catch Kerr unaware in a submission, he can beat him, but if he can't, it's largely going to be the defensive posture and trying to avoid serious blows and wait out the time for Kerr to make a mistake since points aren't awarded for aggressiveness.

Also announced for Pride Two are Renzo Gracie (4-0-2) vs. karate expert Sanae Kikuta, Juan Mott (MARS; 1-1) vs. Akira Shoji (1-1-2; best known for his 30:00 draw with Renzo Gracie at the Tokyo Dome), Branko Cikatic (the 42-year-old former K-1 champion) vs. Ralph White, another kickboxer in a rematch of their Tokyo Dome no contest match and Marco Ruas (6-1-1) against TBA, who is rumored to be Brazilian Roberto Traven (4-0)."

December 29, 1997:

Sakuraba's super weird UFC Japan win, in detail:

"The Ultimate Fighting Championship and Japan seems like as natural a match-up as peanut butter and jelly or baseball games and hot dogs. For years, Semaphore Entertainment Group, the parent company of UFC, has eyed Japan like a man (or woman) eyeing their ultimate fantasy date for several years. And then, with little warning, that date actually happens. And like can happen when the reality hits, it can't live up to the fantasy.

The Ultimate Japan on 12/21 at the Yokohama Arena may have been UFC's weakest show since the early days of the genre. There were no memorable matches. In the two title matches that promised to be really intriguing, one had so much happen so fast it was like it never took place, and really, it barely did. The other took place, but nothing happened so slowly that most fans that were looking forward to it probably couldn't have cared about the result once it was over. The tournament, an idea that has totally outlived its usefulness, was just another fiasco ending up with a middleweight pro wrestler who won just one match and was not even scheduled to be part of the show until about two days earlier, winning the entire thing after being ruled as the loser initially of his first round match.

There were only about 8,000 fans at the Yokohama Arena, a sizeable percentage of that being papered in a 17,100-seat capacity building darkened in production to hide the empty seats. It was miked so poorly that even when the crowd did pop, it still seemed like you were looking through a window outside the auditorium looking in on the show while watching the television rather than being at ringside. When the show was over, there wasn't one match that you'd want to remember. And with the exception of establishing Frank Shamrock as a legitimate superstar in the sport, there was nothing that happened to in any way give the impression UFC has any kind of a bright future in 1998.

At press time we don't have any figures on paid attendance, but all the fans who had ticket stubs for the 12/14 Kingdom pro wrestling show in Tokyo were told they could bring them to the UFC show and exchange them for tickets to the event. There were also freebies passed around the night before at the big Pancrase show in Yokohama, which drew a legitimate sellout of 5,500 fans to the smaller Bunka Gym. The problems in regard to drawing the poor crowd included the lack of a match that meant anything in Japan to headline the show and relying just on the name UFC as the drawing card, which doesn't work with the plethora of both shoot and worked live events in the Tokyo area that drew from the same audience base, and generally weak promotion due to having Japanese partners with no experience promoting live events. The event should have drawn a huge amount of media publicity, but the Japanese promoters didn't cultivate the media and thus the event never became anything close to a must-see major event coming to their country. In addition, many people overestimated the interest among Japanese pro wrestling fans, who made up the vast majority of the more than 35,000 fans who attended the Tokyo Dome Rickson Gracie vs. Nobuhiko Takada match, in seeing people like Tank Abbott, Vitor Belfort and John McCarthy that had never appeared in Japan before.

Shamrock, in his first UFC match, caught 1997 World Cup freestyle champion and 1992 Olympic Games gold medalist Kevin Jackson in an armbar to become UFC's first under-200 pound world champion in an incredible 14 seconds (it was announced on television as 22 seconds but 14 seconds was the actual time). However, Shamrock's training partner, heavyweight champion Maurice Smith, dropped his title after losing a decision to 1997 U.S. Greco-roman 213-pound champion and Most Outstanding Wrestler Randy Couture after the two went an uneventful 21:00 through regulation and two overtimes. In the tournament, it was Kingdom pro wrestler Kazushi Sakuraba who came out on top in the single weirdest UFC tournament to date. And the man who just three months ago was looked at by many as being the unbeatable force who would control this sport into the next century, Vitor Belfort, in the octagon despite being in no condition to be fighting, looked totally unimpressive in beating a hand-picked jobber and participated in what many are suspicious of being the first worked match at least of any length (there were two very questionable short matches) in the history of the UFC.

Whether Belfort vs. Charles was or wasn't a work, the fantasy of going to Japan led to a string of problems, not the least of which was a potential threatening of the long-term credibility of the event.

There clearly was some sort of an alliance between SEG, which promotes a real sport in UFC, and Kingdom, which promotes a pro wrestling version of UFC which is in the majority of cases (but not in every case) a very stiff work. There is nothing wrong, in fact it should be encouraged, for Vale Tudo, a real sport of which UFC is the most famous entity of, to learn from marketing tricks and even try to create angles from the real framework of things that do happen just as real sports find real things to create rivalries, like pro wrestling often does better than anyone. In Japan, Abbott, who had a few of his fighters on the Kingdom show one week earlier, got his persona over somewhat on the event that was televised in Tokyo, and later he and Anjoh exchanged barbs at the pre-fight press conference. There was a lot of speculation that Abbott and Anjoh would be rematched in Kingdom, thus making Abbott the latest UFC star to join the ranks of pro wrestling. It should be encouraged for UFC to market its stars into being celebrities and larger-than-life personalities the way pro wrestling can do for its top stars. Pro wrestling can learn from UFC and it already has changed pro wrestling in Japan for the better, as in Japan wrestlers can incorporate known UFC positions and spots into their match to shock the fans into momentarily suspending disbelief, or incorporate new finishing holds or false finish maneuvers because fans have seen that they "really work" and allow matches to intensify in the believing of reality without taking as many dangerous bumps. But for the sake of UFC being UFC, they have to remain totally separate from pro wrestling so as not to blur the line between shoot and work. Not from a business standpoint necessarily, because in Japan those lines are totally blurred and with rare exceptions, the worked shoot matches have more public appeal than the true shoot matches, and the worked shoot stars are bigger names and sell more tickets for their stiff works than the real shoot stars do for their less entertaining to the public legitimate encounters. Any business relationship with pro wrestling partners whether it be Kingdom or even the WWF, and my belief is that any long-term business in Japan at all, if it gets too deep, will one day result in UFC matches with predetermined finishes being something more than a rumored rarity. SEG came very close on several accounts to it happening on this show, probably without their knowledge or consent, and they were the promoters.

I don't even want to speculate on what could have happened had the Ken Shamrock vs. Nobuhiko Takada match taken place, aside from the huge boost in late ticket sales and probably a significant boost in the buy rate. But you are still talking about two pro wrestlers with lots of conflicting big money business interests residing on both. Actually the latter point was the best thing about the match for UFC because both are big enough names that neither promotion would have likely allowed either to do a job in such a highly publicized scenario in both countries. For business, clearly a match like that was needed on this show to spice it up and particularly for selling tickets in Japan. Had Yoji Anjoh found a way to beat Tank Abbott in the first round and faced stablemate Sakuraba in the finals, they are both experienced as working a very similar style of match and whether they would do a worked match or not, certainly any match between the two would have a lot of question marks no matter what the result. That didn't happen, but Belfort vs. Joe Charles did.

As mentioned last issue, Belfort nearly pulled out of the show when Brad Kohler, a fighter with a 7-0 record in NHB and a wrestler of enough ability to place fifth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic team Greco-roman wrestling trials, was announced as his opponent. Belfort was examined by an SEG doctor to confirm his claimed parasitic bacterial infection that had weakened him to the point he couldn't properly train for the event. Since so much of the promotion of the show in Japan was based on having him appear, he was talked into appearing for the good of the show, and basically allowed to hand-pick his opponent from a list supplied to him. A fighter who is at less than his full capabilities is easy prey for an upset. Belfort's career and stardom in UFC would be derailed with a second consecutive loss. Belfort's team picked Joe "The Ghetto Man" Charles, a chubby 38-year-old former judo champion who had fashioned a 5-8 record in fights around the globe, including one very suspicious loss to sometime stablemate Oleg Taktarov on a Vale Tudo show in Japan. There have been numerous worked matches on Vale Tudo shows in Japan already, most, but not all, in matches that involved people with ties to the pro wrestling community in Japan which is why there are always going to be problems with such an event in Japan no matter what the promoters themselves wish for.

Belfort, whose has a Jiu Jitsu background but his main forte is boxing, never threw one punch as the two rolled around on the mat, ending with Belfort winning with an armbar in 4:04. Neither man had tenseness and reactions that would one expect in a real UFC fight. There were wide openings for both to execute moves and both at times were wide open for punches, yet no blows were thrown. Charles even rolled into an advantageous position before being reversed and in a RINGS-looking finish, Belfort grabbed the armbar. If it was a work, it wasn't blatantly obvious although it did appear to be. But what was blatantly obvious was there was an agreement before the match that neither was going to strike the other and they were just going to do a submissions only match, which is a sport, but not this sport. Belfort, who looked totally unhappy about the situation, showed no emotion in winning (similar to what we've seen in K-1 matches when fighters have won what appear to be set up matches) and in his post-match interview basically let on that he was under the weather and in describing his performance, said that he was simply doing his job and claimed that he wanted to demonstrate his prowess on the ground and win a match without punches. The announcers, who admittedly had a hard show to do, tried to explain that he was trying to show he could do more than box when he left his major piece of his arsenal at home, although the fact he was performing while ill and the questionable credibility of his opponent wasn't brought up. In any man-on-man fighting sport with as wide a latitude of rules as UFC, there can be pre-match agreements. In one of the early UFC matches when the rules had even wider latitude, Guy Mezger (before his Lions Den and Pancrase days), had a match with Jason Fairn and both had long hair and there was a pre-match agreement that neither would pull the others' hair, even though hair pulling was a legal tactic, thus neither had to cut their long hair. But the announcers acknowledged that agreement on the broadcast before the match started and Jim Brown, who was doing color on those days, even made fun of both "pretty boys" for it. Mezger this year when he came back to UFC after Pancrase, because the hair pulling was still legal, did cut his hair and ended up winning his tournament. It is well known that the Oleg Taktarov-Marco Ruas match in Brazil that the two agreed not to use leg kicks (although both violated that agreement when it came down to the fight) and Taktarov was asked not to try and take Ruas down, which basically almost fixed the fight, even though the fight itself was not a work, because Ruas is far superior standing to Taktarov. I know of one of the top NHB competitors who has carried opponents and made matches seem more competitive and exciting than they should have been which was better for the show although some took it as a sign he wasn't as strong a fighter as he really was, although that competitor has not gone so far as to allow himself to be put in a position of losing while "entertaining." Showboating exists in boxing, and it partially made superstars like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, which is a real sport, as do fixed finishes. The most popular combat sport in Japan today, K-1, has had its share of suspicious matches. The Mezger-Fairn match, where both agreed not to pull on the others' hair, and in which the announcers clearly told the audience ahead of time about that, where the match itself was clearly a shoot, isn't a problem. The Taktarov-Ruas match where fans thought they were seeing two of the best in the world in a real Vale Tudo bout, and the pre-match agreement even though the match itself was a shoot, that changed the fight in favor of Ruas (technically the result of that match was a 30:00 draw since there were no judges decisions, although Ruas dominated as expected and gave Taktarov a bad beating) was in some sense a fraud. And the agreement in Belfort-Charles, even if the match itself wasn't predetermined and both were trying to win under the guidelines they had agreed to and I'll just say I'm not convinced that was the case either, was also a fraud in that they didn't fight under UFC rules because of an agreement that the audience didn't know about. And that could be yet another problem in a sport that is looking for athletic commission regulation in the U.S. as a way to legitimize itself back onto major PPV systems (the irony being that the commissions are largely controlled by boxing and it is the boxing interests that appear to be behind the UFC's most powerful political foes).

And UFC is right now at a very important crossroads. Cable companies have dropped them because they are too real. They can't control their long-term booking because they don't fix their matches and in every show, the "wrong" guys for maximum box office often win. They have a heavyweight champion who is a very efficient fighter, but not a very exciting one in style and having a low-key personality that lacks the star power charisma they are looking for, but also who is going to be very difficult for anyone to beat except another world-class wrestler. And the wrestlers don't like facing each other. You can see where this easily could all end up going. And where it already has come very close to getting.

The one bright spot of the Japan trip was the potential for the sport on television. Coming off the Gracie-Takada Vale Tudo show from the Tokyo Dome doing an 8.0 percent buy rate in the very limited Japanese PPV universe, an edited down to 90 minute version of the card aired later that night on Nippon TV from 1:15 a.m. to 2:45 a.m. drawing a phenomenal 4.0 rating in that time slot, which would likely be better than a 50 share and even beat its lead-in of All Japan Pro Wrestling 30 with its year-end package show that did a 3.9, and that's with a show with no Japanese culture mainstream stars fighting. It was noted that in 1993, K-1, in its first network appearance in a similar time slot, did a 3.1 rating, and its popularity over the past four years has grown to where the K-1 Tokyo Dome show did a 20.7 rating in prime time (for comparison purposes, the 12/15 San Francisco vs. Denver Monday Night game which was the highest rated Monday night game of the season did an 18.2 rating). With K-1's success in prime time, the Japanese networks are not only bidding for the new K-1 contract (K-1's deal with the Fuji network expired with the Tokyo Dome show), but also looking at different but similar programming to build into the same or near the same level of a television attraction. Both UFC and Pancrase have gotten network feelers in that regard.

Probably the biggest news coming out of the show from behind-the-scenes for the future of UFC was the replacing of Art Davie with John Perretti as the new booker and matchmaker. Davie, one of the original founders and owners of UFC along with Rorion Gracie, had been rumored for months to be on the way out to leave and help set up a rival promotion, although he had publicly denied that and there is still no actual confirmation of that happening although most close to the situation expect Davie will end up forming his own organization. His contract with SEG was about to expire and he wasn't even brought to Japan for this show. Perretti, who had met with SEG about the position a few weeks back, was in Japan initially to be in Igor Zinoviev's corner in his Pancrase debut. He ended up working the UFC show as a judge basically at the last minute after agreeing to replace Davie as the matchmaker on 12/19, although the decision for him to replace Davie as booker had already been made before show time, which put him in the strange position of rendering a decision in the main event to be determine a champion that he would be in charge of booking. Perretti was the matchmaker/booker for both the defunct Extreme Fighting Championship and International Wrestling Forum promotions on PPV. EFC's final two PPV shows were noted for being two of the best NHB shows in history although his first two shows were poor and featured the same phony records and phony credentials of fighters that UFC has also at times, including this show (Anjoh's record; claiming Abbott had a 245-5 record in street fights which may be true for all we know but is hardly verifiable and claiming Silviera's record was 29-1 when he in interviews in NHB newsletters he himself had mentioned his first actual match as opposed to dojo fights was at the first EFC show and he'd only had four NHB matches in total). The IWF show was poor not only from a business standpoint due to the limitations and drawbacks of the rules and the way the fighters were matched-up and the total defensive stance several of the Brazilians went to, but it did have probably the most accomplished and talented cast of athletes ever put together on any PPV show. Perretti by his own admission hasn't been successful as a promoter, but is generally accepted as being the best matchmaker of the few who have been given a shot at the position. One would expect Perretti to not favor tournaments, which seem to have run their course, although tournaments still appear to be an SEG favorite, and attempting to recruit a higher calibre of athletes overall and less Tank Abbott types, although Abbott remains an SEG favorite as well. Those who spoke with Perretti in Japan said that he was saying he'd never allow situations like the Belfort-Charles fight to take place. In an interview with Tap Out after the show, Perretti praised Belfort and his coaching staff but said "Vitor's going to have to fight somebody absolutely real, whether that be Bas Rutten, whether that be (Mark) Coleman--hopefully he doesn't have a career-ending injury. Whether that be somebody who has lost to someone else in a great match. He has to fight someone real or there is no room for Vitor in the UFC. Unlike other people who don't fight real individuals, the UFC is about real fights." Perretti, who had been highly critical of UFC in the past, did his Bret Hart routine in the interview, even to the point of praising Abbott, who he'd been heavily critical of in the past, particularly for his conditioning, and claimed he was in much better shape for this fight. He even praised McCarthy's initial call stopping the first Sakuraba-Silviera match. Perretti also talked about wanting to establish more lower weight classes to enable talented smaller men like Japan's Rumina Sato (11-0-1), a 160-pounder who many consider the most exciting NHB fighter around, to participate. In Davie's defense, he appeared to have minimal influence on this particular show.

1. Tra Telligman (7-1) beat Brad Kohler (7-1) in 10:06 with an armbar in the heavyweight tournament alternates match. Telligman, who went into the match with an ankle injury, is a Lions Den fighter while Kohler was initially a strong Greco-roman wrestler. Kohler dominated most of the match using his wrestling takedowns and managed to open a cut on the side of Telligman's left eye. Kohler was throwing elbows into the cut trying to open it. The finish saw Telligman actually give Kohler his back as an opening to drop down for the kneebar, but missed on the knee and instead got the arm. Even though they were alternates, they may have been better than any of the guys in the heavyweight tournament main draw. Telligman couldn't continue in the tournament due to his ankle injury being worsened in combat.

2. In the heavyweight tournament main draw, Tank Abbott (7-6) beat Yoji Anjoh (0-2) via unanimous decision after 12:00 of regulation and a 3:00 overtime. Abbott didn't look in any better shape this time out than he did in the Maurice Smith match, where he claimed he did little training for. The announcers claimed Anjoh had a 14-2 record coming in, but that he wrestled for Kingdom where they do open handed slaps and wasn't experienced in facing closed-fist punches. In actuality, using any Kingdom stats as legit just kill credibility since Kingdom is a worked pro wrestling promotion. In addition, Kingdom doesn't do open handed slaps but includes punches (worked as they may be), and Anjoh does have experience in one NHB match in Japan and also in a couple of other shoot matches against stand-up fighters in which punches were legal. Abbott was just too strong for Anjoh, as he was able to take him down and threw heavy punches to his face and body. At one point Abbott got Anjoh in his best submission hold, smashing his face against the octagon cage but unlike many of Abbott's previous opponents, Anjoh hung in there and took the discomfort. At one point Anjoh nearly got an armbar but Abbott punched his way out of trouble. The announcers never brought up Anjoh's altercation with Rickson Gracie, which is probably his most notable accomplishment in his pro wrestling career and made him kind of an infamous celebrity in Japan initially which he's since parlayed into being something of a celebrity. Anjoh wound up with his left eye pretty much swollen shut and his mouth swollen and busted open. A couple of stand-ups were ordered by John McCarthy as Abbott was getting tired and not really doing much on top, but Abbott was always able to take Anjoh and remain in control. After regulation time expired, Anjoh was able to get a few leg kicks in while standing, but Abbott was able to take him down and hammer some body punches in the overtime until time expired. It was a one-sided fight and an obvious unanimous decision. Abbott wound up with an injury to his left hand, which was said on the broadcast to have been broken although actually that wasn't the case. But in any event, he was also unable to continue in the tournament.

3. Marcus Conan Silviera (3-1) went to a non-decision with Kazushi Sakuraba (0-0) in the other tournament first round match. Sakuraba was a late replacement for Alex Hunter largely because the Japanese promoters pressured UFC into adding another Kingdom fighter to the tournament. The announcers on first reference referred to Sakuraba as a Pancrase fighter although later his connection with Kingdom was acknowledged. There was a belief going in that Anjoh and Sakuraba would both be easy prey for Abbott and Silviera so the fear of the two pro wrestling stablemates meeting in the finals would be minimal. Sakuraba was announced at being 203 pounds, but looked to be more like 190, as it was clear he was giving up a good 50 pounds to Silviera. This was the weirdest match in UFC history. After an exciting back-and-forth first 90 seconds, Silviera caught Sakuraba in the corner and was pounding on him with several unanswered punches. Sakuraba went down to shoot a take-down. Ref John McCarthy thought he dropped from the punch rather than to initiate an offensive move and stopped the match at 1:55. Sakuraba and the Japanese audience went crazy. Sakuraba took off his gloves, refused to accept the verdict, and tried to get the microphone away from Bruce Buffer. What was edited off the PPV was a 20 minute segment in the ring with Sakuraba screaming over the house mic in almost a pro wrestling angle fashion, and a situation where there was a lengthy discussion in the ring with Kingdom and UFC officials. McCarthy, whose decisions are supposed to be final, insisted the fight was stopped. However, after viewing the replay, combined with the fact that there was nobody else available for the finals to begin with, McCarthy was overruled for the first time and they decided to have a rematch later in the show for the championship. Clearly McCarthy blew the call, which he later admitted to. However there were many people upset from a credibility standpoint over him being overruled, as generally speaking, decisions to stop fights in other sports by the referee, even when they are on occasion premature, are generally not overruled. Actually, in the recent Tyson-Holyfield, it appeared ref Mills Lane wanted the fight stopped after the first bite but the commission didn't want the finish and it appeared he was talked out of stopping it the first time, although when Tyson did it again, nobody talked him out of stopping it.

4. Frank Shamrock (2-1) became the first UFC under-200 pound champion beating Kevin Jackson (3-1) in 14 seconds with an armbar. Jackson took Shamrock down and went to throw a right, but in doing so, Shamrock snatched his arm in a lightning quick submission. Shamrock, who has broken away from Ken & Bob Shamrock and moved to Sunnyvale, CA, did thank both of them in his post-match interview for helping him get his start in fighting. It was a spectacular win but unfortunate in a sense because on paper this looked like it would be the most exciting match on the show. Among those in Shamrock's corner for the win were Maurice Smith, Guy Mezger and Telligman.

5. Vitor Belfort (5-1) beat Joe Charles (5-9) in 4:04 with an armbar.

6. Sakuraba (1-0) beat Silviera (3-2) in 3:45 with an armbar. Silviera dominated the early portion on the ground, but Sakuraba finally got an escape and did a quick spin into the armbar. The place went nuts with Sakuraba's upset win with all the Kingdom wrestlers including Nobuhiko Takada celebrating in the ring with him.

7. Randy Couture (4-0) beat Maurice Smith (4-1) by judges decision after both men fought the 15:00 time limit and two 3:00 overtimes to win the UFC heavyweight title. The match was rather uneventful and went almost exactly as expected. Couture was able to take Smith down and neutralize his standing skills. Unlike previous grapplers Silviera, Abbott and Mark Coleman, Couture was in great condition, nullifying Smith's main attribute in beating men who were superior to him when it came to wrestling as Smith is really only a beginning level wrestler who has great defensive skill on the ground. Couture mainly just held Smith down and threw some blows, including bloodying Smith's nose up with a few elbows. A few times Smith tried reversals but Couture's speed and skill on the ground was such that he was quickly able to neutralize those attempts and wind up on top. The story was the same in both overtimes, as Couture took Smith down and controlled him, throwing in a few knees for offense. Two of the judges, an official from Shooto named Fukase and sub referee Joe Hamilton, gave the decision to Couture, while Perretti ruled it a draw. Granted that Couture never hurt Smith seriously and he was in a guard a lot of the time he was on top (although Couture passed the guard a few times), Couture fought his game and delivered virtually all the offense in the fight. Smith wasn't nearly as accepting of the decision as one would think, saying he thought it should have been a draw since Couture held him down the whole fight but never hurt him. Perretti's draw decision was based on a by-the-book looking at the criteria offered in equal parts rather than judging the fight on the whole. The three criteria were stand-up punching and kicking, in which he gave it to Smith, overall aggressiveness between standing and on the ground, in which he gave a half point to each because Smith was more aggressive on the feet and Couture more aggressive on the ground, and effectiveness on the ground, in which he gave the point to Couture. The problem is roughly 19:30 of the 21:00 were on the ground, so even though Smith was more aggressive while standing, there is no way that aggressive point should have been split in half, and Couture's "point" for the ground should have carried 93% of the consideration out of 100% in the overall decision making process, not 50-50, because 93% of the fight was fought on the ground with Couture basically in control and being the aggressor. Kirk Jensen, Smith's manager, was furious at McCarthy for not ordering more stand-ups, even intimating that Smith in the future would fight in RINGS, K-1 or KRS but would never fight in UFC again if McCarthy was the referee. In his post-match television interview Smith talked about returning for the next show, which will be 3/13 at the Ponchotrain Center in Kenner, LA, near New Orleans, but he also said that this is a grapplers sport. Couture may not be available to defend his title on that card because there is a major Greco-roman championship tournament at about the same time."

January 5, 1998:

"The world of NHB went through its own series of twists and turns over the past week due to an injury to Royce Gracie cancelling what had been perhaps the most anticipated fight in a long time against Mark Kerr and ending with the entire show postponed.

KRS announced the match-up of undefeated fighters for the main event on 1/18 at the Yokohama Arena on the Pride Two show a few weeks ago. At that point there was a cloud hovering over the match in the form of Kerr's contract with Semaphore Entertainment Group (UFC) which prohibited him from fighting on a televised show (this show would be televised in Japan) and on a show 30 days before or after a UFC show (this was 28 days after the UFC show that SEG attempted to book Kerr on, however due to the legal problems with SEG, Kerr wouldn't do the show). The Judge in New York refused to issue a restraining order to prohibit Kerr from doing the show. We don't have a lot of details on the court case other than the ruling seemed to be it was a matter for Civil Courts to decide on the validity of the contract which there is some question of since the contract was issued in New York and Ultimate Fighting is actually an illegal activity in the state so therefore it may put into question every existing UFC contract on those grounds. Just a few days later, and if you're picking up a pattern in this issue, it's because there is a pattern, Royce Gracie allegedly suffered a back injury which resulted in a bulging disc, leading to numbness in his right arm and right leg and will be out of action from four to eight months, thereby cancelling the fight. A few days later, with no main event, KRS announced the 1/18 show was being moved to 3/15.

Coming on the heels of the fiasco involving the Ken Shamrock negotiations, the subpar Japanese show leading to a lot of people questioning the credibility of parts of the event and the cancellation of what was the most intriguing big-name fight in a long time have left the NHB industry in apparent disarray.

Everything from the rules, the credibility, the methods of promotion and the matchmaking have all been called into question over the past week. The fact that everyone promoting Vale Tudo has a different set of rules. Some matches are in a boxing ring, which is the wrong setting because fighters can use the ropes for balance and to avoid takedowns, or risk injuries from falling out of the ring. But the cage, like the former issue over the lack of gloves, is a weird political issue based on ignorance. While the more violent appearing, but scripted, ECW, is making headway in getting reversals by cable companies (largely because WWF is becoming more violent and it's difficult to exclude ECW from PPV over content and allow WWF, and WWF is a big moneymaker), there is still no sign of a cable company reversing its position on this subject. Even though the buy rate of the recent UFC shows is somewhere between double and triple that of ECW, few would argue that for 1998, ECW's future as a PPV entity looks brighter. Ref John McCarthy blew the call in the Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Conan Silviera original match although at the time he appeared adamant about his decision to stop the fight and he had a better view of Sakuraba's eyes than any television camera. The decision to put them back in the ring for a rematch came off on PPV as the right decision. But many are questioning that it happened more because the Japanese protested so loudly and longly and it was a political compromise and one wonders if under other circumstances and had it been an American or Brazilian fighter that McCarthy had ruled couldn't continue and had their been no nationalistic protest would the same situation have occurred? There is another question regarding the tournament. While alternate fight winner Tra Telligman went into the show injured, and came out of a tough match with Brad Kohler limping, he was ready and willing to continue on. When Tank Abbott suffered a hand injury and couldn't go into the finals, by UFC rules, that put Telligman into the finals. Theoretically the Sakuraba vs. Silviera match was a first round match and there still should have been a Sakuraba vs. Telligman tournament final. It was said at the show that Telligman couldn't continue due to an injury, but those close to Telligman claim that while he was hurt, nobody examined him and ruled his injuries were too severe to continue, and he didn't indicate to anyone he wasn't willing to continue, so the entire tournament protocol was thrown out the window. More than any other show, this card seemed like something where rules were changed on the spot. McCarthy clearly had the authority to stop the fight. No ref is perfect and McCarthy for the most part has been an excellent, although some would say a little too aggressive at times, official. He admitted a blown call in ruling that Maurice Smith kicked Mark Coleman when he was down when Coleman actually wasn't down. As it turned out, the "right" thing appeared to happen but some would argue it was for all the wrong reasons. It has been clearly stated that judges in UFC fights can't rule a draw. In the Severn-Shamrock title match in Detroit, where neither really deserved to win, if judges were allowed to rule it a draw they very well may have. The obvious conflict of interest in making John Perretti a judge to begin with when he had just taken the job as matchmaker and everyone knows for business that Maurice Smith makes a better champion than Randy Couture, was already a problem. But judging the match a draw was against what we believed UFC rules actually were. Judging problems themselves are unavoidable and we've seen far more smelly decisions in boxing than UFC, in fact I can't even say we've seen one bad decision in the history of UFC fights that had gone the time limit.

But now comes the most serious problem and that is the connection to the world of pro wrestling. Many of the best fighters in UFC history, Ken Shamrock, Dan Severn and Maurice Smith, all came from a background which included other sports but also participation in worked pro wrestling matches. It's a weird problem. Every one of these men proved they belonged as UFC stars by what they did in legitimate matches. So to exclude people with backgrounds in works wouldn't be fair. UFC has spawned now a number of people who have dabbled in pro wrestling, and a few who have become legitimate stars, Shamrock and Don Frye as the best examples, based largely on their success in UFC. On last week's show, the roster and ties to pro wrestling make it really weird. Of the 12 fighters on the show, five had participated in pro wrestling in the past (Telligman, Yoji Anjoh, Kazushi Sakuraba, Frank Shamrock and Smith) and another probably will shortly (Tank Abbott). Anjoh, Sakuraba and Smith have done worked pro wrestling matches. Telligman has only done one match with Pancrase that I'd assume was a shoot, and I don't even want to comment on what Frank Shamrock has or hasn't done because it is largely shooting in Pancrase, but not always, and he's done a lot of matches there and anything I were to say about the subject would be pure speculation on either account. Joe Charles did a questionable Vale Tudo match in Japan prior to this one. One could argue that in the previous generation, there were many great athletes who went from the Harlem Globetrotters, who did worked pro basketball, to the NBA, which was a shoot, and nobody questioned their NBA performances. So this is a confusing issue. But the Charles-Vitor Belfort match opened a major can of worms.

But the biggest problem is what befell the world of kickboxing when it was starting to make headway in the United States in the early 80s. Numerous organizations spring up, all crowning world champions, none of which have any credibility and more importantly, drawing power to the public. The top fighters once they make a reputation are often unwilling to test that reputation against fighters they feel are a risk to that reputation. With the media not taking the sport seriously because it's not something they grew up with combined with politicos either in the pocket of boxing or not understanding the sport putting restrictions on it then result in killing its growth. In NHB, so many of the top fighters seem unwilling to face other top fighters. And then you have the Tom Erikson problem. There are many NHB competitors, particularly amateur wrestlers, who believe Erikson is as close to unbeatable as anyone in NHB (acknowledging that should he make a mistake, anyone can be submitted but nobody could overpower him). UFC itself is loaded down with amateur wrestlers and the belief is Erikson is not particularly charismatic or flashy, or easily beatable. At this point UFC has to be both sport and entertainment, and neither of those words are bad words despite the fact purists decry the word entertainment attached to sports and it is acknowledged that UFC can't exist only for the purist or it'll die a fast death. So you have the entertainment decision and not use Erikson, but how do you justify it from a sports perspective when so many of the athletes involved think he's the closest thing to unbeatable? And the wrestlers themselves pose a problem. They aren't willing to fight each other. So why introduce new wrestlers when the mix at the top is already clogged up with wrestlers. If Erikson comes in and dominates, what do you do? Couture won't fight him. And it's not just the wrestlers. For the most part, the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guys won't fight each other either. So how this all sorts out between the problems with the fighters and the problems with the cable companies and politicians and the lack of uniform application of the few rules is the story for 1998."

January 26, 1998: 

"NHB: The Kakutogi Revolution Spirits (KRS) promotion held a press conference on 1/16 and announced Mark Kerr (7-0 NHB) vs. Bronko Cikatic (the very first K-1 champion in 1993 although he's now 42 or 43 years old) as the main event for Pride Two on 3/15 at the Yokohama Arena. Even though Cikatic has a name from K-1, this match has very little if any box office appeal to the Japanese fans. Gary Goodridge vs. Marco Ruas will be the semi-main on the show. Royce Gracie came to Japan for the press conference and explained about his back injury and that he would be out of action until June and said that he would like to fight Kerr at that point

Kerr's legal situation is back up in the air. The New York judge who originally ruled against SEG in their attempt to get an injunction to prevent Kerr from fighting for KRS due to his UFC contract, agreed upon appeal that he may have been mistaken and misinterpreted New York law as it applies to UFC in his original ruling. The judge ordered the case re-opened for this coming week and ordered Kerr to appear in court for a deposition. Kerr reportedly has already received a $50,000 advance from KRS for his proposed fight with Gracie that fell through, which is why they are using him in the main event on the next show, because the money is already spent, even though he doesn't have an opponent he can draw against. The original ruling puts all existing UFC contracts into question which is likely the reason the judge is re-evaluating the original ruling."

February 2, 1998:

"The Mark Kerr legal case has been moved to February. Apparently Kerr had no idea that he was going to face Bronko Cikatic, or even knew who Cikatic was, even though the match has already been announced for 3/15 on the Pride Two show."

February 9, 1998:

"KRS announced one more match for its 3/15 Pride Two show at Yokohama Arena, which reportedly has a poor advance for Mark Kerr vs. Bronko Cikatic and Gary Goodridge vs. Marco Ruas as headliners with Kerr's appearance still in question due to his New York state court fight ongoing with Semaphore Entertainment Group regarding his UFC contract. That match will pit pro wrestler Sakuraba, coming off his UFC tournament victory, against Royler Gracie, a smaller brother of Royce and Rickson, who has won numerous World championships in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competing at 147 pounds and is unbeaten in NHB. That match will be intriguing largely because Gracie, having the edge in experience, will be giving up about 35 pounds to Sakuraba, who has a few matches under his belt although did have a somewhat fluky win of a UFC tournament on 12/21 through winning only one match. KRS also announced it would be running Pride Three at a major arena in Japan in June (the only match announced for that show will be Kimo vs. pro wrestler Sano), and that the October Tokyo Dome card will be called Pride Four.

UFC has reportedly been interested in using Takada to headline its planned May return to Japan. With Takada already having the Gracie match on his table, it would necessitate Takada either being put in a worked situation or being put in with an opponent so easy the outcome would be guaranteed as at this point he can't afford a loss. Ken Shamrock and the World Wrestling Federation have a big money contract to the Japanese promoters of UFC and there were assumptions it would be honored in May as well, although it appears any thoughts of matching Takada with Shamrock are out the window as Takada simply can't afford that risk."

February 23, 1998:

"Royler Gracie has also been replaced by Vernon White, a former Lions Den and Pancrase fighter, as Kazushi Sakuraba's opponent on the 3/15 Pride Two event with no reason explained. I don't believe Gracie was ever actually signed for the match."

March 9, 1998:

"It is believed that Royler Gracie will face pro wrestler Yuhi Sano as part of the Pride Two show on 3/15 in Yokohama

KRS is also negotiating for Bas Rutten's NHB debut to be on its 6/24 show, with Murakami Kazunari being suggested as his first opponent."

March 16, 1998:

"NHB: The legal problems between Mark Kerr and Semaphore Entertainment Group were settled on 3/7 out of court. There was apparently a confidentiality agreement on the settlement, but Kerr is going to be doing the 3/15 Pride Two Vale Tudo show in Japan that SEG was attempting to prevent him from appearing on since it violated his SEG contract. Kerr is in the main event against Branko Cikatic, the 1993 K-1 Grand Prix champion. It is believed the advance for this show is poor, and it's being held in a 17,000 seat arena. Kerr was talking after the settlement about being hopeful of returning to the UFC."

March 23, 1998:

"In the other major NHB show of the week, Kakutogi Revolution Spirits (KRS) held its second show, called Pride Two, on 3/15 at the Yokohama Arena, most memorable for making the attempt at doing no time limit matches.

The gimmick was considered a failure, as the show, which aired live on PPV in Japan, lasted five hours and was reported as being one of the worst major NHB shows in history. Many of the long undercard matches were battles of attrition with little changes in movement, boring to the spectators, and the main event between American amateur wrestling star Mark Kerr and former K-1 kickboxing champion Bronko Cikatic of Croatia, was a total flop. That ended on a disqualification when Cikatic refused to let go of the ropes to avoid a takedown in just 2:14. Since Cikatic, who is well known in Japan from K-1, was the crowd favorite since Kerr had never fought in Japan before, his being disqualified in a shoot match for such a minor violation, got the crowd hot, although he was refusing to listen to several referees warnings and one caution. The main event was considered a very poor match. The crowd was announced at 11,860, but that figure is highly inflated as there appeared to be around half that in the building, and the paid attendance was closer to 3,000.

Kerr reportedly earned $90,000 for the match, which was originally to be against Royce Gracie and resulted in a since settled lawsuit by SEG. Even though the lawsuit has been settled, the belief is that he'll likely never be brought back into UFC, where he looked to be a potential heavyweight superstar. Kerr, a former NCAA champion at Syracuse and fourth place finisher at the 1996 Olympic trials, upped his NHB record to 8-0 with the win. Cikatic, who is 42-years-old and pummeled his way to a victory in the very first K-1 Grand Prix tournament in 1993, was in his second NHB match, the first being a no contest when he literally destroyed Ralf White by kicking him when he was down, which was another rules violation which he wasn't disqualified for, but when White couldn't continue, because it was an illegal action that ended the fight, he wasn't given the win either. Known mainly for having a lethal punch which has seen him score some spectacular early knockouts in K-1 years ago before retiring (he made a K-1 comeback this year and lost in the first round of the Grand Prix tournament at the Osaka Dome), Cikatic was warned several times about holding onto the ropes and throwing elbows. After being given a caution and refusing to stop, there was no choice but to disqualify him.

The semifinal was said to be the most entertaining and brutal match of the show with Brazilian legend Marco Ruas beating powerhouse Gary Goodridge in 9:10 with a heel hook. Ruas, with a verifiable record of 7-1-1, according to reports was pummeled badly for most of the match by Goodridge, now 8-6, to the point he was bleeding badly. However when Ruas went for a heel hook, Goodridge, inexperienced at submissions, turned right into the hold, basically checkmating himself. Goodridge, still one of the best arm wrestlers in the world and a former world champion in that sport, and a top calibre powerlifter, was coming off a brutal destruction of Oleg Taktarov on the first Pride show last October. After knocking out Taktarov, this was the most highly anticipated heavyweight match by insiders in NHB in several months.

But the story of the show was the length, particularly in matches featuring cousins Renzo and Royler Gracie. In the opener, Royler Gracie, the smaller brother of Rickson and Royce, gave up 50-60 pounds to pro wrestler Yuhi Sano of Kingdom, but finally overcame him by catching an armbar in 33:14. The match was said to be boring with neither man attempting anything on offense most of the way. Renzo, a cousin, increased his verifiable record to 5-0-2 beating K-1 fighter Sanae Kikuta in a shocking 50:43 before catching him in a front guillotine. It was shocking just that a match would go that long, but also that a Gracie would need that much time to finish off a fighter who had predominately fought stand-up, and the match was said to have been so slow when it came to movement that fans in the stands were actually falling asleep. The Sano match was a straight no time limit match. In the Kikuta match, they were fighting with 10:00 rounds but with no limit to the number of rounds until there was a clean finish. In another match fought under similar rules, Kazushi Sakuraba, a pro wrestler formerly with UWFI and Kingdom, increased his record to 2-0 coming off his strange UFC heavyweight tournament victory in December, beating Vernon White (3-4) of Lions Den and formerly of Pancrase in 26:53 with an armlock. This was said to have been a good match since White nearly shut Sakuraba's eye with strikes before getting caught in the submission. The other NHB match on the show saw Akira Shoji, who held Renzo Gracie to the surprising draw in October at the Tokyo Dome, increase his record to 2-1-2 beating Juan Mott (1-2) of Atlanta with a choke in 3:47, in what was also said to have been a good match.

KRS announced its next show for 6/24 but didn't announce any of the matches on that card. There has been a lot of speculation that Bas Rutten will make his NHB debut on that show. Both Rickson Gracie and Nobuhiko Takada were at the show and gave speeches to the crowd building up their Tokyo Dome match on 10/11.

3/15 Yokohama Arena (KRS Pride Two - 6,000): Royler Gracie b Yuhi Sano, Akira Shoji b Juan Mott, Kickboxing rules: William Roosmallen b Ralf White, Kazushi Sakuraba b Vernon White, Renzo Gracie b Sanae Kikuta, Kickboxing rules: Tasis Petrides b George Randolph, Marco Ruas b Gary Goodridge, Mark Kerr b Bronko Cikatic-DQ"

And that's it! I have searched and searched but it does not seem that Dave ever got tape! Isn't that dark! All he had was hearsay! But we have so much more. Thank you once again for your time, my friends; let us look ahead with hopeful hearts to our next encounter, during which, I am pretty sure, Carlos Newton and Kazushi Sakurba will delight us endlessly. Until then!