MMA on DVD: Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Gracie

Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Gracie

San Jose, California

-For those who’ve forgotten, this was the first MMA event sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, around a month or so before the UFC arrived in the sunshine state. It also had the honour of holding the record for the largest audience at a North American MMA event (with 18,625) until it was broken just under a year later by UFC 68. The headliner was, as the title suggests, Frank Shamrock’s return to MMA action against longtime rival Cesar Gracie.

-We begin with a trailer for the MMA-centered movie ‘No Rules’, starring Tom Sizemore, Pamela Anderson, Frank Shamrock, and Randy Couture (who is as wooden as Steven Seagal, if the trailer is anything to go by). Looks pretty hilarious actually and I’d be interested in checking it out for the hell of it.

-Your hosts are Lon McEachern, Phil Baroni, and the late Ryan Bennett. They do a pretty good job actually – I liked Baroni in his commentating role when he did it in UFC, Bennett was always solid, and McEachern certainly isn’t horrible.

-We get a big opening segment before any of the fights begin, with some local singer performing the US national anthem, and the whole setup is like a pro-wrestling show, with the big entrance ramp and everything. Jimmy Lennon Jr. is doing the ring announcing, which always adds a big-time feel to a show I think. At least they didn’t get Rich Goins.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Crafton Wallace vs Ray Routh

Routh is fighting out of the Idaho Lion’s Den branch, which is the same camp that originally produced Trevor Prangley, I believe. Baroni’s touting him as an excellent wrestler, which is a contrast to the pretty much pure-kickboxing game that Wallace brings.

They begin and Routh quickly gets to the clinch, avoids Wallace’s attempts at getting a plum clinch, and gets a takedown to half-guard. Wallace gets full guard and holds on tightly, clearly trying to stall for the stand-up. Routh stands out of the guard and drops a few good punches down, but Wallace seems okay. Referee brings them back to standing, and Routh has a cut on the head, most likely from an elbow Wallace threw from the bottom. He tries for another takedown, but Wallace slides free and uses a front facelock to get back to his feet. Routh looks really tired now, and shoots in again, but Wallace sprawls and gets back to his feet, before landing strikes to end the round, including a strong left hand and a glancing left high kick.

Into the 2nd, and Wallace looks more aggressive now, pressing forward and landing a left hand and a strong body kick. Routh steps off, and then comes charging forward, but leaves himself way too open, and Wallace grabs the plum clinch and nails him with some knees to the head to drop him for the stoppage.

Pretty decent fight; once Routh gassed out which was like halfway through the first round, it was all Wallace as he took over with his superior striking, and ended the fight in style. Wallace went on to get a shot in the UFC, but didn’t do all that great, being submitted by Martin Kampmann and Nathan Marquardt.

Heavyweight Fight: Dan Puder vs Jesse Fujarczyk

Puder, for those who don’t remember, was the WWE Tough Enough winner back in 2004, with his main claim to fame being that he was training MMA before his WWE days and was able to catch Kurt Angle in a seemingly legit kimura on one of the Tough Enough segments. Personally I thought the whole Angle situation was blown out of proportion by Meltzer, et al, but whatever. Puder gets a HUGE pop here upon entrance, and is sporting a t-shirt that reads “I Hurt Kurt”. Guess he’s got to capitalize on it somehow. Just another point – Puder didn’t look all that big in WWE but he’s firmly a pretty large HW in MMA, just shows how big most of the WWE guys really are I guess. No clue on the background of Fujarczyk, and even though he’s unbeaten I suspect he’s simply here to lose to Puder.

They begin and Fujarczyk comes out swinging, catching Puder with a couple of punches, but Puder quickly gets the takedown to guard. He looks to work a neck crank from inside the guard, but can’t do much damage and the referee calls them back to standing. Puder misses a high kick off the restart, and Fujarczyk breaks a brief clinch off. They exchange some punches, and this time Puder catches him, stunning him, and Jesse drops for a takedown, but this allows Puder to spin out and take his back. Puder quickly locks up a rear naked choke, and flattens him out for the tapout.

Post-fight Puder cuts an energetic promo thanking the crowd for their support, and gets another big cheer. Puder looked pretty good here against what was likely an overmatched opponent, but then Puder was pretty inexperienced himself so it’s all fair I’d say. Puder’s now 5-0, so I guess he’s not doing too badly.

Middleweight Fight: Brian Ebersole vs Matt Horwich

I’ve heard a lot about Team Quest’s Horwich, but never actually seen him fight, so this should be pretty interesting. He enters here to one of the most bizarre theme songs I’ve ever heard, some sort of Christian rock/pop stating “Our God is an Awesome God”. Ebersole, his opponent, is a Frank Shamrock student and the most I know about him is from the incident that saw him suspended for apparently “working” a fight with Shannon Ritch later in 2006, though he claims it wasn’t a work and he was merely showboating.

Round 1 begins, and Horwich shoots for a takedown right away, putting Ebersole down, but Ebersole quickly gets a reversal and a takedown of his own. Horwich gets full guard and pulls his leg up to attempt a gogoplata, but Ebersole avoids, and moves him towards the fence. Very little ends up being done from this position, and the referee brings them back to their feet, where Horwich shoots, but Ebersole blocks and ends up in top position again. Horwich transitions from an oma plata attempt to a triangle, but can’t get it locked in tight, and Ebersole gets out and then the official stands them again. Ebersole lands an uppercut and a bodyshot, before Horwich pulls guard and goes for the gogoplata again. Ebersole avoids, but doesn’t land much from the top, and the round comes to an end shortly after.

Into the 2nd, and Horwich gets to the clinch, but takes a knee and ends up pulling guard. Ebersole works the body, and then stands up, but Horwich shoots again and once again pulls guard. Ebersole avoids another oma plata attempt and the ref stands them, and Ebersole fires off some knees from the restart. Horwich lands a combo, and then pulls guard to attempt a guillotine, but Ebersole works his way out and lands some shots from the top, but the fight remains a very slow paced one. They come back to their feet, and Ebersole lands an uppercut into a clinch, but Horwich pulls guard and we get more of the same to end the round.

Third and final round then, and Horwich eats an uppercut to begin and pulls half-guard. Ebersole works the body as Horwich gets full guard, and then the ref stands them. Ebersole throws a left high kick off the restart, and then slips on a right high kick attempt, but still avoids Horwich’s takedown and ends up on top. Ebersole begins to land some more shots as Horwich looks tired now, and Ebersole avoids a reversal and lands some more punches. Horwich tries a sweep, and then a kimura, but Ebersole avoids both and stands, before landing a diving left hand. He stands again and drops another left into the guard, before the referee brings them back up. They fix a problem with Ebersole’s glove, and restart, and Ebersole avoids a takedown, gets to the clinch, and lifts Horwich for a BIG SLAM, but Horwich lands and gets a triangle just as the fight ends.

To the judges, this is obviously only going one way, and sure enough it’s a unanimous decision for Brian Ebersole. Really plodding fight though, as Horwich just seemed unable to do a thing but fight from his back, while Ebersole was able to get out of any submission attempts but do very little else. Certainly wasn’t impressed with either man here.

Middleweight Fight: Eugene Jackson vs Jorge Ortiz

Ortiz is nicknamed ‘The Naked Man’ for some unknown reason, and he comes out to a Mariachi track ala Diego Sanchez, playing up the Mexican background. UFC veteran Jackson was returning from a layoff of over three years, although physically he looks not much different from his UFC peak years. I always sort of liked Jackson, too.

Round 1 begins and Jackson presses forward into the clinch, but Ortiz breaks off with a nice right hand. Jackson lands a combo and gets a takedown to guard, and from there he works into half-guard and begins to land punches from the top. Ortiz gets full guard, but Jackson stays quite busy from the top, doing little damage however. The ref stands them, and they exchange punches, with Ortiz seemingly getting the better of it to end the round.

Second round opens with Ortiz pressing forward, working some leg kicks, and they exchange in a brief trade before backing up again. Both men land from distance, doing nothing major though, and Ortiz continues to work the leg kicks. The fight becomes really slow towards the end of the round, with the crowd getting restless too, as not much action happens at all.

Third and final round, and Jackson presses forward, and lands a big right that hurts Ortiz. Jackson looks for the finish and comes forward swinging, but suddenly slows right down as Ortiz fires back, and this allows Ortiz to recover and land a combo. They continue this slow-ish exchange, until Jackson lands a good bodyshot and stuns him with a right again, but doesn’t really follow up. More of the same follows to end the fight, and the crowd are unimpressed and boo.

Jackson picks up the decision, but again, neither man looked great or anything here. Jackson took the first and third rounds but didn’t come close to finishing outside of one short period, and the result was a very dull match indeed.

Lightweight Fight: Gilbert Melendez vs Harris Sarmiento

Ah, I love me some Gilbert so this should be fun. Sarmiento has always brought the fight when I’ve seen him too, so hopefully this will be a better fight than the previous two.

They get underway and Melendez takes a knee early, but presses forward to the clinch and gets a takedown to half-guard. Sarmiento gets full guard, but is pressed up against the fence, and Gilbert works into half-guard and lands some shots. Sarmiento manages to get full guard back, but eats a series of punches and elbows from the top, with some nasty stuff landing. Melendez passes back to half-guard and continues to land, but Sarmiento gives his back, and uses the opportunity to escape to his feet. Melendez looks for the takedown again right away, and Sarmiento defends, but it’s all for naught as Melendez slams him down to his back, and continues to land the punches and elbows to end the round.

Gilbert comes forward to open the 2nd, but walks into a heavy combo from Sarmiento, with a bodyshot buckling the knees of Melendez. He comes through it though and gets a takedown to half-guard, where he opens up with some REALLY heavy ground-and-pound, just a barrage of nasty elbows landing, and Sarmiento’s had enough and taps out there.

Good showing for Gilbert as he basically overwhelmed Sarmiento outside of the one bodyshot in the 2nd. Some really strong top work from him and a good way to open up his account for 2007.

Heavyweight Fight: Mike Kyle vs Krzysztof Soszynski

Soszynski is a big, strong-looking heavyweight out of Shawn Tompkins’ camp, and with Kyle’s penchant for exchanging heavy punches this ought to be a slugfest. Kyle, being a local fighter out of San Jose’s own AKA camp, gets the big hometown pop, which makes a change to the boos he used to get while he was in UFC.

They press early, with nothing really landing, until Kyle comes forward with a flying knee. The blow lands glancingly, and Soszynski uses it to catch Kyle and get a takedown, but Kyle uses a whizzer to get back to his feet right away. They clinch up, and surprise surprise, Kyle lands a knee below the belt, and the referee calls time. Soszynski recovers and they restart, and Kyle begins to land the better strikes, working him over with some powerful low kicks. However, Kyle throws out a punch, but catches Soszynski in the eye with his thumb, and the referee calls time again. This time Soszynski can’t continue and because the ref feels the foul was unintentional, they throw the fight out and call it a technical draw.

Jeez, I don’t like to label anyone a dirty fighter, but Kyle’s career is absolutely full of a litany of fouls at this point, from kneeing Eilers in the groin to biting Wes Sims on the chest and now this. Horrid ending.

ISKA/Strike Force Lightweight Title: Josh Thomson vs Clay Guida

Not 100% sure what ISKA is, whether it’s the sanctioning body behind Strike Force or what. Anyway, Guida, despite sporting an impressive record of 18-4 at this point, was largely unheralded, and especially as he was coming off a loss, I think the general consensus was that the always highly ranked Thomson would run right through him en route to claiming the title. I certainly thought that way, as Thomson’s one of my favourite guys to watch in the LW division and is a fighter I feel could always contend with the very top talent. Being a title fight, this is a five rounder.

Round 1 begins, and Thomson throws a high kick, but Guida shoots for the takedown. Thomson grabs a guillotine and jumps to guard, but Guida works his head free and pops out. He begins to land punches, but Thomson gets an armbar, so Guida works his way free and stands, only to take a nasty upkick to the face for his troubles. Back into the guard, and Guida avoids the Punk’s triangle attempts and lands a few good shots. Thomson locks up a triangle properly, but Guida lifts him up and slams him, so Thomson goes for the armbar instead, only for Guida to shake loose into half-guard. Thomson gets full guard back quickly and tries the armbar again, but Guida avoids and begins to work him over with punches and elbows inside the guard. Thomson almost scrambles free, but Guida keeps him down, opening up a cut under Thomson’s right eye with his elbows. Thomson goes for a leglock from underneath, but Guida avoids and gets a full mount, only for Thomson to escape to guard. Guida works with more punches, before Thomson tries a leglock, and uses the opportunity with Guida standing to catch him with another upkick, and finally gets a reversal, ending up on top in Guida’s half-guard. Thomson passes to full mount, but the round ends, and Thomson’s right eye is now rapidly swelling shut.

Hell of an opening round.

Guida catches a flying knee and gets the takedown again to open the 2nd, where he grinds away with more elbows. Thomson locks up an armbar, but the positioning is blocked off by the cage, and Guida works his way free again. Thomson stands, but Guida takes him right back down and continues to land elbows against the fence. Thomson looks for an oma plata, but can’t lock it up and Guida stays continually busy from the top, keeping an astonishing pace up. He works into half-guard and then mounts, but Thomson quickly scrambles from the bottom to regain guard. Guida continues to land shots, and then Thomson catches him with another upkick, but the ref spots that Guida was kneeling and calls time for the foul. They restart in the same position, where Guida continues to pound away. Guida’s rounds easily thus far.

Guida shoots in again to open the 3rd, but this time Thomson secures a tight guillotine and jumps to guard. Guida looks in deep trouble, but somehow manages to work his head free, and begins to work in the guard, but the referee stops things and warns Guida for raking at Thomson’s eyes. Boo! They restart, and Guida shoots in again. Thomson looks for a switch, but Guida gets a slam to guard. He tries to pass, but Thomson keeps full guard and the ref brings them back up. Guida shoots in again, but eats a knee on the way in, and this time Thomson finally avoids the takedown! Guida comes back with a wild backfist attempt, but misses and then shoots again, working for the takedown, which he eventually gets, putting Thomson on his back in guard. Guida remains busy from the top, landing continuous strikes, but soon the ref calls him up again and this time takes a point for the eye gouging. Pretty dirty tactic, I have to say. They restart, and Guida ends with *another* takedown. Even with the point loss I’ve still got that round as 9-9, which means Thomson is still behind by two points on my scoring.

Into the championship rounds now. They exchange strikes to open and Thomson catches him with a good combination, but Guida ducks a right hand and gets a takedown to guard. He continues to work from the top, landing strikes, but he can’t pass the guard, and actually drops into a triangle, but Thomson can’t lock it up properly. Guida continues to grind away from the top, keeping an unbelievable pace considering this is the fourth round. Thomson is beginning to look battered at this point, with his face a mess, but still he keeps fighting, and he almost gets an armbar, only for Guida to slip free yet again. Guida keeps his sick pace up, avoiding a sweep to stay on top, but Thomson ends the round with a pair of nice upkicks. This is an absolute WAR, but I have Guida up 39-36 going into the final round.

Into the fifth and final round, and Guida opens again with his totally relentless shot, getting the takedown to guard. Thomson scrambles to his feet, but Guida takes him down again, and avoids a triangle to pass into half-guard. Guida continues to land elbows, and even as Thomson regains full guard he still takes punishment. Thomson lands a glancing upkick as Guida stands up, but Guida continues with his ground-and-pound assault from the top. Finally Thomson takes a risk and gives his back, using the position to escape to his feet, but Guida shoots in right away and gets a takedown against the fence, where he continues to do damage. Referee brings them up, and Guida shoots right into a sharp knee, but it seems to do no harm and Guida gets the takedown and avoids a roll for a leglock from Thomson, ending the round and the fight in top position.

Judges have it 49-46, 49-45, and 49-45 for Guida, making him the new ISKA Lightweight Champion, and Thomson looks disappointed and badly beaten down. Post-fight Thomson insinuates that Guida was using dirty tactics by rubbing his eyes, but regardless, he was well beaten here as Guida just came out with an absolutely insane pace that Thomson can’t have been expecting, and kept it up throughout the five rounds, just showing a relentless takedown and ground-and-pound game. If Thomson had merely laid there this would’ve been an interesting fight thanks to Guida’s ridiculous pace, but Thomson was game too, throwing up a plethora of submission attempts that Guida did an amazing job of escaping. Awesome fight from start to finish and I’d be willing to call it a Fight of the Year Candidate, and it’s even more incredible that Guida has actually topped this performance in terms of entertainment arguably twice now! A total war.

Middleweight Fight: Cung Le vs Mike Altman

Cung Le is a very famous name in the world of San Shou, which is, I believe, a kickboxing variant that allows throws and takedowns (though no ground work), and he was making his MMA debut here. Being a San Jose resident he gets a massive pop too, on par with Puder and Shamrock as the pop of the night. Announcers are pretty excited for his debut as he’s said to be quite the striker. His opponent here, Altman, was only a little more experienced than Le, sporting a 1-1 record, and he’d also lost to Le previously in San Shou.

They begin, and Le comes out throwing a plethora of low and high kicks, but doesn’t land any of them clean as Altman looks very tentative and tries to stay out of range. A big spinning back kick to the body from Le lands nicely, reminiscent of the one Georges St-Pierre landed on Matt Hughes in their first fight. Altman looks hurt, but stays out of range to recover, and Le throws some more spinning kicks that miss this time. Finally Le lands cleanly, catching Altman with a right high kick to the back of the head that stuns him, and Altman gets really defensive now, practically in full retreat mode. Le closes in and misses a spinning back kick, but then catches Altman with a short right hook, dropping him face-first for the KO.

Le looked pretty explosive here, but his opponent, like all of Le’s thus far in his career, was basically a walking punching bag, and he made no attempt to even strike with Le, let alone get him to the ground where he’s a complete question mark. Nice finish, but a waste of time in terms of a competitive fight.

Middleweight Fight: Frank Shamrock vs Cesar Gracie

Crowd are really hot for this one, and it’s no surprise as Shamrock is the hometown hero for them and gets a monster pop upon arrival. This fight had been talked about for a long, long time before it was finally put together here, although I’m actually unsure about what started the rivalry outside of it being the old Shamrock-Gracie feud that began back in 1993 with Royce and Ken. Tale of the Tape claims Cesar is 14-0 in MMA, and I think the announcers recognize that that’s a bit of a fabrication, as Baroni outright states that Shamrock’s got far more experience in actual MMA, though he’s sure Cesar’s great at BJJ and has had his fair share of scraps. From what I can gather Strike Force were forced to fabricate Cesar’s record (he was actually making his MMA debut) in order for the CSAC to allow him to fight an experienced opponent like Shamrock. Having trained the likes of David Terrell and Nick Diaz though, you’ve got to figure Cesar has some skills. Shamrock as always looks in tremendous shape.

They begin, and Shamrock comes out looking to strike, landing a couple of leg kicks, before stepping in and CRUSHING Cesar with a right hand, crumpling the BJJ master to end things very early indeed, inside the first minute.

Not much to say here – Shamrock’s finish was impressive but he was clearly fighting someone who was hugely outmatched, and I don’t think it’s possible to judge how much Frank has left in the tank on a fight like that. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Shamrock would’ve had a better fight from one of Cesar’s students like Terrell or Shields, but then I guess it wouldn’t be Shamrock vs. Gracie, would it? Triumphant return for Frank, at any rate.

-Post-fight Shamrock says he’s here to stay, and on commentary Baroni expresses an interest in fighting him. And, we end there.

Final Thoughts….

The Inside Pulse
: While I certainly wouldn’t call Shamrock vs. Gracie a contender for best show of all time or anything (it’s probably not even top five in 2006 in fact) it’s a fun enough card with only a couple of fights standing out as being relatively unwatchable. Outside of those two everything else is reasonably solid (especially Wallace/Routh, Melendez/Sarmiento), and the icing on the cake is definitely Thomson vs. Guida, which is one of the most engaging and fast-paced five round fights I can ever recall seeing. The marquee fights with Cung Le and Frank Shamrock are extremely one-sided and don’t really live up to the hype, but they both end with highlight-reel finishes so who am I to complain? Add in the hot crowd and the historical significance of this being California’s first real show, and this is worth a recommendation. Thumbs up.

Coming Soon….

UFC: 69, 70, 71 and 72.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
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: