The UFC started the New Year with a bang, putting together a strong card at UFC 35 and placing the pressure squarely on shoulders of PRIDE to do the same and kick the year off strong. Pride countered with a main event featuring two former UFC greats battling it out in a fight that was 5 years in the making. Pride had been doing its best to hype the event and its WWF style hype machine spearheaded by Jackie Kallen came to a head on February 24. It was "Put up or shut up" time for Pride and all the hype in the world would not help if the product did not deliver and deliver it did. For the first time the Pride event was shown "Almost Live" with only a half day tape delay. The prayers of many fans around the world were answered, many fans who did not have the patience to wait to for the PPV show before sneaking a peek at the results on the net were given a reprieve and the wait was shortened to only one nights sleep. The Matchmaking was also much stronger than in past events, and although the hit and miss matchmaking was still evident, the number of clear misses were cut to a manageable number. Here are my thoughts on the fights that went down today at PRIDE 19 "Bad Blood" This is a review of the American Direct TV PPV broadcast aired on Sunday Feb 24, 2002.
Tim Catalfo Vs Tom Erikson
Both fighters came into the ring looking slimmer and trimmer than in past fights and it was apparent both were taking this opportunity very seriously. Erikson at 285 had a huge weight advantage of 50 lbs and he used every pound of it early as the lifted the smaller Catalfo from the clinch, clear off the mat and dropped him to the mat and went straight to side control. Catalfo seemed uncomfortable in side control and instead gave Erikson his back. It proved to be the wrong choice, after a short face/neck crank the "Big Cat" took the rear naked choke and forced the tap early in the first round. Surprisingly Catalfo didnt a Hairdo that looked like two red palm prints on bright blond hair. That proved to be the only strike against him on this night. In a match that many felt would be a replay of his fight with Alan Goes, Steibling looked to be the better-conditioned athlete on the night and took the fight on the strength of a solid third round. Steibling looked like the stronger of the two and fired off a nice combination of punches that put Ismail on the defensive, then rocked him with some solid knees from the Thai come out banging like many expected from the fiery competitor, and never got off the mat again. Erikson takes the relatively easy bout and sets himself up for a match up with a name fighter in the Pride organization. He has rattled off a modest two fight win streak and seems to have put his upset loss to Heath Herring behind him. Erikson by submission in round one.
Alex Steibling Vs Wallid Ismail
NOTE: This fight was not shown in its entirety on the PPV broadcast.
Taking a cue from Heath Herring, Steibling unveiled clinch. That seemed to be enough to win the round and the fight, as a very tired looking Ismail could do little but attempt the takedowns and rest his weary arms. The fight ended with a couple of solid up kicks from Steibling that shook up the Brazilian and forced him back into Steiblings guard and into the rest position. Ismail did show some resolve taking some solid shots and not giving up, he actually lasted longer than the much bigger Alan Goes and took a hit in weight when fighting the bigger Steibling. Steibling continued to stay on a roll winning his sixth fight in a row, taking the decision from the outspoken Brazilian, and setting himself up for some bigger name fighters. His winning ways continued and he won his 6th fight in a row all against Brazilian fighters! His mastery over Brazilian fighters is beginning to become quite a story and I would not be surprised if PRIDE threw another one or two his way. Steibling wins by unanimous decision.
Carlos "The Ronin" Newton Vs Jose "Pele" Landi
In my eyes this was the fight of the night. Both competitors looked to have similar builds so weight was not going to be a factor and skill would be the tiebreaker.
In a back and forth battle that impressed the fans on many levels, both fighters came into the fight ready to rumble. The fight started out with Pele coming in with his hands down almost baiting Newton inside and then throwing a quick kick that just missed Newtons head, "Pele" was ready to throw down. Newton made the necessary adjustments and took the fight to the mat on a nice takedown, and went to work from the guard. Newton went from submission to guard pass and back again as Pele went from block to block eventually working his way back to the standing position. From here "Pele" seemed to take control of the fight keeping Newton at bay with a solid combination that stung Newton and kept him on his toes. "Pele" then threw a huge knee that landed flush on Newtons face and seemed to put Newton out on his feet. Newton eyes looked glazed but he stepped back and gave Pele the "Thumbs up" for a job well done, still keeping his focus and his eyes on "Pele". Pele didnt seem to want to follow up on his huge knee and instead stayed back and went for a take down! Fatigue may have played a role but I dont know why "Pele" got inside and took Newton down instead of striking, and giving him a chance to regain his composure. That seemed to be his undoing. From there Newton worked his way to his feet, mixed in a nice judo throw, and went to work on the arm. Newton secured the Armbar and reefed on the arm forcing the tapout in round one. After the fight Newton patted "Pele" on the back in a show of sportsmanship but "Landi actually punched Newton in a gross display of unsportsmanlike conduct. Pele has now lost in both his Pride appearances, his other loss coming against Pride Punching bag Daijiro Matsui, and looks like he needs to go back to the drawing board. Newton on the other hand is back on track, and after a controversial loss to Matt Hughes, may find his way back to the UFC.
Igor Vovchanchyn Vs Heath Herring
Crowd favorites Herring and Vovchanchyn both seemed calm and collected as they entered the ring. Vovchanchyn in particular looked unusually trim and seemed to be in great physical and mental condition for the fight. This bout showcased many different sides of Herring including a new Hair do that could of scared the paint off my walls but did not faze the ever composed "Ice Cold" Igor Vovchanchyn. I was really looking forward to seeing this fight and the first round did nothing to disappoint, in a seesaw fight that saw both fighters take it back and forth. In round one, after a early flurry Herring seemed content to employ a ground and pound technique and stayed within Igors guard after an early failed attempt to pass the guard. The ground and pound was safe and moderately effective but after a stand up, Vovchanchyn went to work going for a takedown after a missed kick attempt, and easily slipped to side control and then the mount. Herring seemed to give up the mount much too easily to Igor, he wasnt so careless against Nogueira, but on this night his guard work seemed to be a little sloppy. Igor controlled the round from the top position and worked well from the top ground position all night long taking side control, the mount and Herrings back at different points in the fight. Surprisingly Herring had a much more difficult time passing Igors guard, than Igor had passing Herrings! On the other hand, Igor was much less active from the top and that proved to be his undoing. Instead of going for the ground and pound that he used effectively in the past he instead seemed to be looking for various keylocks and submissions! He was not as busy as we have seen him, Herring was the more aggressive of the two and that was enough for him to score the decision after three back and forth rounds that saw both fighters with opportunities to take control of the fight. Worth mentioning, Herring struck Igor with an inadvertent BUT blatant head butt and was not penalized, but Vovchanchyn was given a yellow card in round three. It may not have affected the decision but, I dont believe that either infraction deserved a yellow card. Igor has fought regularly in Pride for a very long time. Herring takes the Hard fought decision after three rounds.
Antonio Nogueira Vs Enson Inoue
Walking into the ring Enson looked very solemn, slowly making his way towards the ring and hugging his friends as he inched his way into the ring. Back from retirement and sporting new tattoos all over his body, Enson Inoue looked somber but ready to do a little tattooing himself, tattooing his fist onto Nogueiras face that is. Nogueira, for his part looked ready to take care of business and made his way into the ring confident and ready. Nogueira seemed to want no part of a throwdown exchange with Enson that would have been Ensons only chance of survival; instead, he shot in to start the fight in a rather feeble attempt that Enson easily avoided, pushing Nogueiras head down and into the mat. After a brief leg kicking exchange from the standing position Nogueira was stood up and the battle started anew. Nogueiras strategy seemed to be to slow the fight down and not give Inoue the chance to launch any bombs that could give him a punchers chance. After a minute in the clinch, Nogueira stepped under Ensons leg and swept it to take it to the ground and quickly moved in for the kill, he went to a Kimura that looked secure, but Enson somehow squirmed free. He showed heart getting himself free from a hold that many lesser hearts would have tapped from but seemed to be worse for the wear from there on out. Nogueira again showcased his smooth grappling skills and inevitably caught Enson in a Triangle choke that choked him out at 6:17 of round one. Enson showed a resolve that is commendable but the result was the same, Nogueira wins by Ref Stoppage in round one. Enson ended his career with a loss but again shows off a heart that few can compare with.
Vanderlei Silva Vs Kiyoshi Tamura
Silva has been tearing through the Japanese contenders as quickly as Pride has been able to bring them in. Although throughout the fight the outcome was never really in doubt, Vanderlei showed some things that we have not seen from him before. When the fight started out, Tamura started with some solid kicks and surprisingly Vanderlei did not answer with strikes, instead going in for the takedown! Once he had secured the takedown he made no attempts to pass the guard or stand up out of the guard, he seemed content to resort to Ground and Pound tactics. In fact, the fight did not return to the standing positions until Tamura slipped out and stood up from the guard! When back standing Silva took the clinch and scored with a strong knee strike that opened up Tamuras nose and bloodied it considerably, but again the trademark aggressiveness was not quite as evident, as he stood back and let Tamura slowly regain focus. Tamura took the opportunity to trade a few blows with Silva and staggered Vanderlei with a solid punch to the face that Vanderlei smiled off. The round ended again with Vanderlei sitting back in Tamuras guard and slowly Grounding and Pounding with rather uninspired hammerfists and strikes. The round ended and although Tamura looked like his face had had enough, he seemed to be doing well considering the circumstances. The second round started out tentatively with Tamura initiating the action with a stiff kick to the waist that struck Vanderlei hard, instead of answering with a flurry of kicks or strikes Silva again went in and got the takedown! After a short time on the mat Vanderlei Finally stood up out of his guard and went toe to toe with Tamura and Cold Cocked him square in the chin sending him careening into the canvas face first like a belly flop on the canvass. In an interview on the Pride site, Tamura mentioned that thinking about Silva has made him unable to sleep at night. Silva helped him with that problem turning the lights out early in round 2 via vicious Knockout. Although Silva controlled the fight he didnt seem like he was his usual self, I wonder if he was injured or if he was ill because he didnt seem to have the same fire that I have seen from him numerous times in the past. Nonetheless, Silva wins by K.O round two.
Ken Shamrock Vs Don Frye
All the Hype had finally reached the end of the rainbow and the fight that some thought might never happen finally came to a head. Lets start from the beginning, round one started slowly with both looking for their spots and waiting for the other to make the first move. The first three quarters of the first stanza took place in the clinch with both fighters landing solid body shots, knees to the body and the occasional knee to the thigh. Neither fighter made any head room from the clinch but Shamrock gambled going for the leg submission towards the latter part of round one, leaping for the leg and securing what seemed to be a well sunk in heel hook. Fryes choice to go with the shoes for the fight seemed to be a bad one but as the round closed Shamrock was unable to finish the submission and looked like he had blown his wad a little bit. He looked very weary as he slowly made his way back to his corner, For a much needed rest. Frye looked like he had dodged a bit of a bullet and gingerly made his way to his respective corner as well and after a moment even got his ankle taped up, no doubt due to the effects of the heel hook.
Rest and relaxation seemed to be the theme of round two, which was spent in the clinch with both fighter catching a breather and showing their age a little bit.
Round three was the round where both would give everything they had to close out a fight that both wanted very badly. After another clinch Frye caught Shamrock with a huge punch that dropped Shamrock to the canvas seemingly finished, and Frye rushed in for the kill, but amazingly Shamrock stood right up from shot and held on till he was able to recover and reverse the position putting Frye on his back! Shamrock then worked slowly recovering his breath and in a last ditch effort to take control of the fight he again went for the heel hook. He again seemed to have it sunk in deep but he was again unable to finish and Frye even looked like he was trying for the same submission. Frye of course not known for his submissions could not do any damage with it but he survived the attempt, enduring what seemed to be a painful submission attempt, and waited for the bell. Much of this fight took place in the clinch with neither fighter gaining any appreciable advantage there, it was when the fight broke from the clinch into a flurry of punches or went to the mat in jumble of submission attempts that the damage took place. The big shot that Frye landed to drop Shamrock was the difference and Frye took a split decision for the victory. At the end of the fight in what may have been the closing ceremony of the hype machine, Frye and Shamrock hugged to end the years of feuding and Frye apologized for his insults. In the end all that mattered was both fighters showed a lot of heart in a solid fight that closed the PPV in style.
My pick for the fighter of the night.
Newton was aggressive from the outset and showed that contrary to popular belief he does have a chin. He took an amazing knee to the face but still had the bearings to tough it out and take the win. The young med student from Canada is the
Pride stud of "Bad Blood"
This PRIDE card was the answer to all the critics that blasted Pride for Its spotty matchmaking and questionable calls. While Pride did not have all the answers tonight, it took a big step in the right direction and took one small step closer to its ultimate goal with the "Semi Live" satellite coverage. Overall a solid card, funny enough the Daijiro Matsui, Rodrigo Gracie fight was not shown on the broadcast, all for the best I guess, as I hear that the fight was hardly a barn burner with Gracie taking the win by Choke in round three. There are no guarantees but if Pride keeps putting fights like Igor/Herring and Newton/Pele on its cards things are looking bright to say the least. With a Middleweight and Heavyweight Tournament Grand Prix apparently on the horizon things are looking good for the fans around the world. Here is to a great Pride 20.