MMA on DVD: Pride 30: Fully Loaded

Pride 30: Fully Loaded

Saitama, Japan

-We begin with some bizarre cartoon. I’ve watched this like three times now and I still can’t see how it relates at all to Pride.

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten. They run down the card, talking about the main event of Cro Cop/Barnett, the co-main of Sakuraba/Shamrock, the return of Rampage, and the other big heavyweight match, Kharitonov/Werdum.

Zuluzinho vs Sentoryu

Lord, Sentoryu isn’t exactly the smallest guy himself (though he’s lost weight since his Pride debut) but he’s absolutely dwarfed by Zuluzinho, who looks to be about 360lbs and very little of that in muscle. The story with Zuluzinho is basically that his father, Rei Zulu, was this legendary fighter who was once defeated by Rickson Gracie in a fight on the beach. And thus, this fat guy, his son, despite only having one recorded MMA fight, gets an invite into Pride. Just, don’t ask.

Sentoryu takes some swings at the body to begin with, easy target I guess, but Zuluzinho lands a knee and a right hand before grabbing a clinch. Couple of knees from the big(ger) man land, but one strikes the groin and the ref steps in and calls time for Sentoryu to recover. Sentoryu waits in his corner taking some deep breaths, but the officials seem more concerned for Zuluzinho, checking over his shorts for some reason. No idea what that’s all about. They finally restart, and exchange some crude punches, before Sentoryu shoots in for a takedown. Zuluzinho’s shorts begin to fall down as he works to block the takedown, and the officials really start to panic, the referee going crazy while one of the outside officials leaps onto the ring apron and lunges for the shorts. No, really. Finally Zulu tries a couple of knees, and Sentoryu appears to drop a bit lower down for the takedown…and the ref stops the fight there. The hell?

Nobody seems to know what’s going on, naturally Sentoryu is pissed, while Mauro and Bas seem equally confused on commentary. Replays show that Zulu’s knee didn’t even land clean, sort of catching Sentoryu on the top of the head with the thigh. Honestly, I can’t work out at all why this was stopped – the only reason, as ludicrous as this sounds, that I can think of is that the referees were panicking over the possible “wardrobe malfunction” by Zulu. Seriously. Possibly the most bizarre fight in Pride history, and remember that this promotion put on Tamura vs. Makhmud.

Murilo Ninja vs Murad Chunkaiev

This was Ninja’s first foray back into Pride for some time, with his last appearance being the controversial loss to Rampage Jackson at the start of the year. No clue about Chunkaiev really, though Bas mentions that he’s been training with Golden Glory and that he’s a good wrestler. He’s also billed as being from Chechnya, which excuse my ignorance, I didn’t even think was an actual country.

They begin, and Chunkaiev blocks a high kick attempt from Ninja, and then takes some swings, before catching a flying knee attempt and getting a takedown to guard. Ninja immediately tries a triangle, but Chunkaiev avoids and lands some punches as they scramble back to their feet. They exchange into the clinch, where Ninja lands some knees before breaking off. Ninja gets a bodylock and switches into a rear waistlock, pulling Chunkaiev down, but the Russian, er, Chechnyan works back up into the clinch quickly. They break and miss some punches, before Chunkaiev just shoves Ninja down to the mat and then drops a BIG RIGHT down into the guard. Ninja seems unaffected though and spins to his feet, where they trade, and Ninja lands a knee, only for Chunkaiev to get a takedown. Ninja gets half-guard and stays active from the bottom, and then works to escape, grabbing a bodylock himself as they come back up, before pulling Chunkaiev down. Chunkaiev turtles up, and takes a few kicks before Ninja grabs an over/under. Chunkaiev seizes the opportunity to reverse into top position, but Ninja quickly secures a heel hook from underneath and rolls into it for the submission.

Pretty fun fight there while it lasted, if a little on the short side. Nice win for Ninja to come back into Pride with.

James Thompson vs Alexandru Lungu

And when you thought things couldn’t get weirder than Zuluzinho, here’s Alexandru Lungu, who appears to be about another fifty or so pounds HEAVIER than the big Brazilian. This guy is well over 400lbs and makes Butterbean look in good shape. I have NO idea where Pride find these guys, I really don’t. Apparently he’s a Romanian judo champion, but all you really need to know is that he is HUGE and dwarfs Big Jimmy Thompson, who is evidently Little Jimmy Thompson in this one.

They get underway and Lungu actually decks him with a right hand straight away, and then rushes in and looks for some sort of choke as Thompson gets on his knees. Thompson ends up on his back, in half-guard and then full guard, as Lungu seems to be looking to just smother the guy. Finally Thompson manages to push away from the bottom and get back to his feet, an achievement in itself given the size of Lungu. They trade some crude punches on their feet, and Lungu clinches, but takes a heavy bodyshot from the Englishman. Thompson breaks off, and they exchange, with Thompson landing some knees and punches, and finally Lungu’s had enough and just collapses through the ropes, and the ref stops things there.

Bit of a weird ending – it didn’t look so much like Thompson’s strikes had hurt Lungu, it was more that the guy was sucking in all of the oxygen in the arena and still couldn’t get enough energy to defend himself. It’s not often you’ll see James Thompson win a fight through superior conditioning, but well, here you go. Total freak-show.

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson vs Hirotaka Yokoi

The return of Rampage was one of the selling points of this show, as he was coming off his three least-convincing performances in Pride, the brutal losses to Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio Shogun, as well as the controversial decision win over Murilo Ninja. Yokoi was a good opponent for him here actually, not overly great, but tough enough to provide a solid test for Jackson to see where exactly he was after the Shogun loss. This is the first time, additionally, that I can recall seeing Rampage’s current trainer Juanito Ibarra in his corner with him.

Yokoi shoots in for a takedown right away to begin, and then pulls guard. Rampage lands some punches to the body and the head, but Yokoi stays active from the bottom, and goes for an oma plata, using it to roll all the way through as Rampage defends, and Yokoi ends up on top in side mount. Rampage works back to half-guard, but then Yokoi works back into side mount again, only for Rampage to just power out and turn over into a side mount of his own. That was just pure strength there. Rampage traps Yokoi’s arm ala Matt Hughes and then drops some HEAVY punches down, before going into overdrive, just BRUTALIZING Yokoi with punch after punch, and then finally he stands and lands a nasty soccer kick and a stomp to the head for the referee to call a stop to things.

Slow start for Rampage but once he got going that became a very convincing performance, as he put a real nasty beating on Yokoi once he got into a good position. Not one of Rampage’s real classic showings in terms of a flashy finish or anything, but certainly one of his nastier endings. Good fight albeit a bit short.

Sergei Kharitonov vs Fabricio Werdum

This was definitely the fight I was most looking forward to on the card, as these two looked like the rising stars of the division and most, myself included, thought that they could finally provide a challenge to the “big three” of Fedor, Nogueira and Cro Cop. Werdum was unbeaten in Pride at this point at 2-0, and unbeaten at 6-0-1 in his career overall, while Kharitonov was coming off an impressive stoppage of Pedro Rizzo, and was sporting a 6-1 Pride record with the only loss to Nogueira in the semi-finals of 2004’s Heavyweight GP. Mauro mentions that a title shot could be in the near future for the winner here.

They begin, and Kharitonov presses tentatively to begin, avoiding an early takedown attempt. Sergei continues to close the distance, but Werdum shoots in, so Sergei blocks into the clinch, and then reverses and gets a takedown of his own. They scramble back up, and Werdum pulls him down, but then they scramble back up again. Werdum presses, and swings a wild right before shooting in, this time getting the takedown to half-guard. Kharitonov holds a guillotine, and Werdum tries to pass, but Sergei manages to escape to his feet. Sergei avoids another takedown attempt, and this time Werdum drops to his back, and Kharitonov decides to go down into his guard. Werdum holds him tightly, and then tries a triangle, but Kharitonov easily avoids, standing up out of it. Ref calls Werdum back to his feet, and they exchange punches before Werdum shoots in again. Sergei sprawls, but ends up out of room and Werdum gets him down into half-guard before taking his back. Sergei turns out into Werdum’s guard, so Werdum goes for a triangle again, but like before Kharitonov stands out and escapes.

Werdum comes back to his feet, and Sergei closes the distance and lands some punches, but doesn’t put together any of his usually good combinations. Werdum drops to his back and lands an upkick, but Sergei avoids a high triangle attempt and enters the guard. He stands back up and leans over Werdum, taking an upkick, before landing a couple of punches. Werdum tries a takedown again, but Sergei sprawls, so the Brazilian drops to his back again. This time Sergei’s having none of that so Werdum comes back up, and lands a pair of rights, before Kharitonov answers with a jab, but both men seem very slow on their feet. Werdum drops to his back again before the ref calls him back up. They press and exchange a few jabs, and then Werdum shoots in again, but Sergei blocks. Werdum grabs a front facelock, but Sergei backs out and they exchange jabs again before Werdum shoots. Sergei blocks with a guillotine attempt, and Werdum pulls out and drops to his back to end the round.

Second round, and Kharitonov opens with some jabs, but Werdum shoots in and drops to his back again. Ref stands him back up, and Sergei corners him, but doesn’t throw any combos whatsoever, sticking to one-punch shots, and this allows Werdum to shoot again, this time pulling guard and trying some upkicks. Sergei wants none of that and stands back up, and the ref calls Werdum up again. Werdum throws an overhand right, but then goes right back into the crab position, and the ref calls him up once more. Kharitonov closes in, but they only exchange some slow one-punch shots, before Werdum shoots and drops to his back AGAIN. This is getting really tiresome at this point. Ref stands him again, but Werdum attempts to pull guard off the restart and we end up again with Werdum in the crab. Ref stands him and this time it’s a yellow card. Sergei jabs at the body as they restart, and Werdum answers with a front kick. Werdum lands a right hand and then shoots, but Sergei avoids the takedown and Werdum ends up being called to his feet yet again. Sergei lands a really nice left as they restart, but doesn’t follow up at all, and then they exchange a couple, but Sergei avoids a takedown and Werdum ends up on his back. Ref calls him up, and they exchange a few shots to end.

Third and final round, and Kharitonov presses, but Werdum pulls guard and so Kharitonov stands up out of the way. Werdum tries to entice him down to the ground, telling him to bring it on and even offering him side mount, but Sergei refuses flat out and the ref stands Werdum back up. Kharitonov presses forward again, but yet again Werdum ends up shooting in and pulling guard. He goes for a triangle right away, but Sergei pulls out, and the ref calls the Brazilian up. Werdum lands a right off the restart…but drops to his back AGAIN. Ref calls him up, and Sergei presses, but Werdum pulls half-guard, so Sergei uses a half-guillotine to stand and Werdum lands a crab kick from his back. Ref stands him up, and Kharitonov lands a couple of leg kicks and they exchange a few punches. Sergei avoids a guard pull and kicks Werdum’s legs, and then Werdum gets stood and they exchange a few punches to end the fight.

To the judges, and the first has it for Kharitonov, second has it for Werdum, and the final judge has it for Kharitonov, giving him the split decision win. This was, however, one of those unfortunate fights where both men come away looking worse than they did going in. Kharitonov did well to avoid the takedown and made sure Werdum couldn’t bring the fight into his realm of the ground, but when they were on their feet it wasn’t like Sergei was beating Werdum up or anything; in fact they were pretty even and I have no idea why Sergei wasn’t putting his combinations together like he normally does. I have no problem, however, with Kharitonov getting the decision as at least he wasn’t resorting to the horrid desperation tactic of dropping to his back constantly. Awful, slow paced fight that I never want to see again.

Makoto Takimoto vs Yoon Dong Sik

Oh God, I am NOT looking forward to watching this one. No idea of the issue here, though I’m sure it stems from the judo world. Takimoto is wearing his gi, while Yoon has chosen to dump the gi in favour of the usual MMA board shorts.

They press to the clinch, and Takimoto reverses a throw attempt and gets Yoon down in half-guard. He looks for a gi choke and then passes to the mount, before standing for a soccer kick, but Yoon grabs his leg and rolls for a heel hook. Takimoto pulls out and stands, and then lands a nice uppercut, but Yoon gets a takedown to half-guard. Takimoto gets a kimura from the bottom, and rolls into top position, but Yoon rolls through that, only for Takimoto to roll again and end up on top trying the Matt Hughes far-side kimura variation. Yoon blocks it well, so Takimoto releases and ends up in half-guard, and things slow down so the ref stands them up. Yoon tries a high kick that Takimoto blocks, and they exchange some crude punches before Yoon gets a double leg and passes right into mount. Takimoto gives his back, and Yoon lands some punches, before going for an armbar, but Takimoto manages to turn into half-guard to avoid. Yoon stands to attempt a guard pass, and works into full mount before going for the armbar again, however Takimoto avoids it well into Yoon’s guard, and Yoon holds him close to end the round.

Ha, call me shocked, but that was a good round!

They circle to the clinch to open the 2nd, but little happens and the referee separates them. Takimoto comes forward throwing a combo, but it looks really crude, and then they exchange sloppy punches with their chins in the air, and Takimoto lands some good ones, so Yoon clinches before he gets really hurt. They muscle for position but neither can do much with it, so the ref breaks them and we get a few more crude punching exchanges before Yoon gets a takedown to half-guard. He punches the body, and then the round ends.

Takimoto opens the third and final round with a body kick, and they press to the clinch where they exchange a couple of knees. Ref breaks them and the sloppy punching exchanges continue, with little to no defense and both guys hanging their chins right out like targets. They go back into the clinch, but nothing happens and the ref breaks them when Yoon lands an accidental low blow. Takimoto gets time to recover and this takes a while, but then they restart and Yoon swings into a clinch, but Takimoto gets a takedown and lands a flurry of punches, while Yoon holds onto the gi to end the fight.

To the judges, and it’s a unanimous decision for Takimoto, which doesn’t seem to please the crowd at all. Eh. I didn’t think this fight was so bad at all, it definitely had it’s dead points, sure, but both men worked relatively hard and even though there was little skill involved in the punching exchanges, I don’t think you can fault them for effort. Not the worst fight of all time by a long shot.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Ken Shamrock

This is being pushed as a big ‘Legend vs. Legend’ match and I guess it was a big deal even if both guys were clearly way past their best at this point. Shamrock was fresh off his loss to Rich Franklin in the UFC, while Sakuraba was returning after suffering a horrendous beating at the hands of Ricardo Arona. Saku actually has the Chute Boxe camp in his corner here, after training with them for a while earlier in the year. So strange to see that.

Shamrock presses the action as they begin, but both men look tentative and unwilling to make the first move. Both men swing some punches, but neither connect, and Shamrock misses a half-attempt at a takedown. Finally Sakuraba suddenly catches Ken unawares with a flurry, knocking him off balance into the ropes, and as Ken goes down he appears to turn away from Sakuraba and the ref comes in for the stoppage! Ken *immediately* leaps up, protesting that he’s fine, while Sakuraba reels away celebrating.

Replays show that Sakuraba’s combination definitely landed cleanly and knocked Ken down, but whether he was out enough to warrant a stoppage is definitely up in the air; announcers decide that it was probably because Ken turned away from Sakuraba that the ref stepped in, but really it looked to me like the ref just stepped in at the first chance he got to call the fight for Sakuraba, and Ken just wasn’t given a chance to even attempt to recover. Definitely an early stoppage in my book.

-We go backstage with Ken and he’s FUMING, cutting an angry, ranting interview saying that this is MMA, not boxing, and he was always lead to believe that in Pride you had to *finish* the opponent before the ref would stop the fight, citing his fight with Alexander Otsuka as an example, before bringing up that Don Frye knocked him down and he was allowed to recover there. WHY IS SAKURABA ANY DIFFERENT?!?, fumes Ken. He’s right, you know.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Josh Barnett

Before the fight we get a recap of the first meeting between these two just about a year earlier, which ended prematurely as Barnett dislocated his shoulder while taking Cro Cop to the ground. Then we get a pre-fight interview with Barnett in which he says that Cro Cop has a bad attitude to the fans and the press, and that he dislikes him very much.

Size difference is HUGE here, surprisingly, as Barnett doesn’t look in the best shape and seems much, much larger than Mirko. Seriously, you forget just what a big guy Barnett is I think.

They begin, and Barnett comes charging right out, pressing the action and looking for a clinch. He takes a body kick, but then gets to the clinch and throws some knees, before breaking off and landing a big right. They go back to the clinch, but Mirko breaks, only for Barnett to keep pressing forward, before catching a kick and getting the takedown. Mirko keeps a tight guard and then pushes off and stands back up into the clinch. Barnett lands some knees inside, and then tries for a suplex, but messes it up and this allows Cro Cop to land directly into the full mount. Mirko stays low on Barnett in the mount, landing a few punches, before Barnett works from the bottom and manages to buck him off. Cro Cop comes down into half-guard, and works to pass, landing punches, but nothing major, and Barnett manages to reverse back to his feet in the clinch. Barnett fakes a knee and lands a nice right hand inside, before they break and Barnett catches him with a right uppercut and another knee into the clinch. They muscle for position, and Barnett shoves him down to his knees, but Mirko comes up right away and Barnett gets right back to the clinch, continuing to land some knees. One catches Mirko in the groin, so the ref breaks them up, and they restart, with Barnett swinging right back to the clinch. Another low knee lands though, so the ref breaks them again. Cro Cop lands a left hand off the restart, but Barnett continues to press with the knees into the clinch as the round ends.

Round two opens up much the same, with Barnett coming into the clinch again and landing some more knees. Referee breaks them up though and Cro Cop catches him with a stiff left counterpunch, before Barnett clinches again, and then breaks with a pair of nice right hands. They go back to the clinch, and this time Cro Cop surprises him with a takedown to side mount, and again works into the full mount! Whoa, never in a million years did I expect to see Mirko Cro Cop in the full mount against Josh Barnett. Both men look tired though, as Cro Cop looks to create distance and lands some decent punches. Barnett tries to buck him off, but this time Mirko keeps his balance and stays in the mount. Barnett manages to push him off, but Mirko keeps him down in side mount, and works the body, before Barnett blocks a knee to the head as the round ends.

Barnett opens the third and final round by getting the clinch, but Mirko breaks off and the ref stops things to check a cut under Barnett’s eye, not sure how he got that at all. They restart, and Barnett walks right into a body kick and a nice combination from Cro Cop that stuns the American and knocks him off balance! Mirko avoids a takedown attempt and they clinch, but the ref breaks them up, only for them to go right back to the clinch. Barnett works the knees once more, but the ref breaks them again, so Barnett works some low kicks back to the clinch. They exchange some body shots inside, breaking in and out of the clinch, before Mirko gets another takedown, this time to half-guard. Not much happens from there, and Cro Cop avoids a leg lock attempt right on the bell as the fight comes to an end.

To the judges once more, and this time it’s a unanimous decision for Cro Cop. Pretty solid fight I guess; a bit of a weird one too as I never expected Cro Cop to be doing better on the ground, while Barnett, outside of Mirko’s combo in the third, mostly got the better of the standing exchanges thanks to his work in the clinch. It looked like Barnett wanted to try the Fedor gameplan; that is, push the pace and not allow Mirko to counter, albeit Barnett was more interested in working the clinch, but Barnett just didn’t have the conditioning to push the pace consistently throughout and so he got caught a couple of times as well as the points where he was taken down. Cro Cop looked flat himself though, especially standing, and when you consider that this was only two months after the war with Fedor, I think burnout has to be a factor with him. Overall, a decent main event that probably could’ve been better had the fighters been a little more prepared.

-We go backstage with Josh Barnett and he explains that he just didn’t train as well as he should’ve done, and his conditioning was way down, which is why he wasn’t able to keep the pace high and made the mistakes that contributed to his loss. He even ends by saying he needs to consider his future in MMA. Thankfully he’s continued to fight, though. And from there we roll the credits.

The Inside Pulse
: Pride 30 is one of those shows that probably would’ve been a lot of fun for the Japanese crowd, but just doesn’t translate well at all for the Western MMA fan. I’m sure the Japanese were creaming over the Zuluzinho and Lungu fights, but in reality they were nothing more than freakshow nonsense that puts a black eye on this show in general, and the farce that was Sakuraba-Shamrock isn’t much better really. Rampage and Ninja’s fights are fun to watch, but they’re too short to really mean anything, and Werdum-Kharitonov is like watching paint dry. The main event is decent enough in a way, but it’s not the best fight from either man and you just get the feeling that Cro Cop especially was really burnt out at this point. So in general, not the best way to follow a stellar Final Conflict up with. Avoid this show.

Coming Soon….

UFC: Ultimate Japan, Ultimate Brazil, 68, 69, 70, 71 and 72.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Gracie.
Rumble On The Rock 7.
Gladiator Challenge: Summer Slam.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman: