On paper, Dream Stage’s final PRIDE FC card didn’t look like anything special. Overall, I’d say that UFC 69 gave us the best fight of the weekend in Garcia vs. Huerta, but PRIDE gave us the more entertaining show.

As always with Dream Stage, the entrances, video packages, and other extras were all amazingly good. We can only hope that the Fertitas will continue this tradition of excellence when they roll out their version of PRIDE FC. Well-produced videos highlighting the storied history of Japan’s number one MMA promotion were rolled out at the beginning, the middle, and the end of the show. Veteran fighters Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman came out during the long intermission to trade stories with announcer Frank Trigg. The closing ceremony, featuring many of PRIDE’s top fighters coming out to pay tribute to the end of an era, was impressively moving. Certainly, the sizzle was all taken care of… but how was the steak?

Monson vs. Fujita

To be honest, this simply didn’t have the feel of a PRIDE vs. UFC dream match. Maybe it’s just that I think of The Snowman as more of an ADCC submission grappler first, and a UFC veteran second. Still, this was two tough, physically powerful, well-seasoned fighters going at it, so it didn’t really need that dream match feel to be compelling for me.

Fujita pressed forward with aggression, and Monson absorbed his punishment and fought back with intelligence and leverage. Eventually, the American scored a perfect takedown, took back control, and sunk in a RNC for the first round victory. The man who lost cleanly to the man who lost cleanly to the UFC Heavyweight Champion had just cleanly beaten Japan’s top heavyweight fighter. It was not hard to see some symbolism in this.

Sokoudjou vs. Arona

Knocking out one Brazilian MMA superstar in impressive fashion might be put down to chance. Pulling off the feat twice in a row, however, cannot be called a fluke. Sokoudjou is the real deal. Arona, pulling away from a failed takedown attempt with the match less than two minutes old, sold out to defend the knee that he thought was coming. Sokudjou saw his opening and knocked the Brazilian Top Team superstar flat with a thunderous right uppercut.

Aoki vs. Lo-A-Njoe

In one of the many striker vs. grappler matchups on the card, the judoka twice caught the kickboxer attempting a flying knee, and took him down. The second time was the charm, as Lo-A-Njoe was able to reverse position as Aoki was trying to pass his guard, only to end up caught in one of Aoki’s lightning quick submissions. This time, it was an arm bar that did the trick.

Frye vs. Thompson

This old school vs. new school slugfest started out with the staredown to end all staredowns, and it just got better from there. The Predator knocked the Colossus down off of the opening charge, but didn’t pounce quickly enough to finish him off. The two brawlers went back on forth on their feet and on the ground, giving their fans everything they could have hoped for, including a few seconds of classic Frye vs. Takayama style dirty boxing that drove the crowd into a polite Japanese frenzy. With about five minutes gone, Frye was left standing gassed in the corner as Thompson threw unopposed leather at his head. Badly dazed but too tough to go down, Frye turned to the ropes for support, forcing the ref to finally step in and put an end to the punishment.

Yvel vs. Shoji

This was a true battle of the veterans, as both men have been fighting professionally for over a decade. It was nice to see Akira Shoji on this card, as he has been with PRIDE since their very first show in 1997. It took less than a minute for the fight to hit the ground, where they fittingly went old school by going for battling heel hooks. Yvel broke free, however, took top control, and quickly pounded Shoji out for the victory.

Takimoto vs. Galesic

It was jiu jitsu vs. tai kwon do in this bout. As far as I know, Galesic is the first fighter to have successfully adapted a TKD base to the MMA style. His striking is indeed impressive, but Takimoto still managed to take him down, control him with an omoplata, and transition into a surprise topside armbar for the first round win.

Sadly, neither Drago vs. Nakao nor Butterbean vs. Zuluzinho made the North American PPV broadcast. Instead, we got 20 minutes of blah blah blah about the match-ups, and a replay of Coleman’s victory in the legendary 2000 GP.

“Kiss” forced Drago to tap, and Bean stunned the world by putting a kimura on Zuluzinho. I’m sure that either of those fights would have been a thousand times more exciting than Kos vs. Sanchez.

Thanks for reading!

The Inside Pulse
DSE’s final PRIDE show ended up being better than it looked on paper. That’s not saying all that much, though. None of the fights ended up going beyond the first round. None of the fights were boring, but none were absolute classics. If you really like wild brawling, Frye vs. Thompson is worth going out of your way to see.


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