19 fight report
Arena, 24th February 2002.
arena was packed for the show, with all the
cheap (if you can call Y7,000 cheap) tickets
sold out. There were some tickets selling
in better seats but no many. Saitama Arena
is a huge venue with a retractable roof and
all sorts of shops, gyms and even a John Lennon
museum inside it. It had a big fight atmosphere
due to Enson`s comeback and it seemed every
other person had some sort of Enson merchandise.
The merchandise pit had the usual t-shirts
and stuff. Best item was the Igor Vovchanchyn
sports towel, selling for Y3,000. I tried
to find the Igor cookies but they`d sold out.
missed the opening ceremony (deliberately)
so straight onto the fights. On paper it was
an awesome card, with the last 4 fights legitimate
headliners for any other promotion.
Catalfo vs Tom Erikson
came in looking leaner and stronger than recently,
while Catalfo was in great shape for an old
man. Erikson came out fast from the opening
bell and secured a double underhook grip to
take control of Catalfo`s lower back and bend
him back for a takedown. He soon scooted round
to side mount and started looking for a forearm
choke. As Catalfo struggled he gave his back
and it was downhill from there for him. Erikson
started working for a pretty ragged rear naked
choke and Catalfo seemed to be defending it
okay with his chin tucked in, but as Erikson
released and tried again he got it on the
second attempt to force the tap.
was under pressure right from the opening
bell and was never in it. Erikson seemed to
think it would be an easy match cos he walked
right through him and was muscling his way
through all the moves and making no attempt
to conserve energy.
Erikson by rear naked choke at 2:35 of round
verdict: Erikson looking as good as ever,
but he doesn`t seem to have learned from his
loss to Herring when he shot his wad too early.
Ismael vs Alex Steibling
crowd were really up for this one and both
fighters made good ring entrances. Steibling
was wearing a t-shirt with `Brazilian Killa`
and the front and `Royce Who?` on the back.
I suppose he`s earned the right having beaten
5 Brazilians in a row. He was very
hyper on his way into the ring and was well
received by the crowd. Wallid was funny too,
doing his psycho-eyes thing and looking manic.
fight was a let-down. Wallid shot for a double
leg straight out the blocks and Steibling
sprawled until Wallid could finally finsh
the takedown and ended in Steibling`s guard.
He was then just happy to punch inside the
guard for a while, as he`s apt to do. The
match went this way for a while, slowly, with
nothing effective from either fighter. Steibling
didn`t seem to have any problems holding Wallid
in his guard and showed that throughout the
match. When the last 30 seconds were called,
Wallid forced the pace and nearly gave his
back on the bell.
hurt him with a knee early in the first round,
forcing Wallid into a bad double leg attempt.
With an inconclusive position on the mat,
Steibling went for a wierd kimura lock which
had Wallid rolling around a bit until he got
a side mount. Steibling escaped well from
it and gave Wallid a few good `pedalo` kicks
in the face. Again both fighters upped the
pace in the last 30 seconds which ended with
Steibling delivering hard knees from the front
headlock position on the mat. Wallid took
a few but tucked up well underneath.
the start of the third round Wallid took more
hard shots that had him dazed enough to try
a weak single leg. It looked like the pounding
he took from Akira Shoji, but TV replays showed
that nothing landed clean. He was starting
to look one-dimensional and Steibling was
defusing all his attacks. Steibling pulled
off a nice reversal to briefly take the back
but Wallid turned out well into half guard,
but it put Wallid on his back for the first
time in the fight. As they scrambled Steibling
tried an arm bar over the top but rolled off
into guard. He did a few more pedalo kicks
and the round ended.
Steibling by unanimous decision after three
verdict: close, but fair decision. Steibling`s
guard is very good. Wallid needs to add more
to his game cos he`s becoming predictable.
Matsui vs Rodrigo Gracie
was really enjoying himself on the ring walk,
looking more like he was on his way to a nightclub
than his MMA debut. In contrast Matsui looked
really tense, probably conditioned to expect
his ritual beating in a Pride ring. Gracie
shot for a double leg and bulled Matsui out
through the ropes. After another tie-up Matsui
grabbed the ropes to avoid a takedown and
was warned but not carded. Gracie was doing
all his tackles behind a right hand punch
and third time lucky got the takedown, landing
in Matsui`s guard. The Japanese fighter locked
up tight for a while but Gracie worked his
way through to mount. Gracie was looking very
comfortable under MMA rules, even when Matsui
reversed him. Matsui tried a bad achilles
hold and got reversed shortly before the bell.
The doctors checked his bloody nose between
second round was more of the same in what
was quickly becoming a boring fight. Gracie
got a takedown, passed to half mount, Matsui
recovered full guard and so on. The fighter
were stood up and Gracie got a yellow card
for something I didn`t see and wasn`t announced
in English. Gracie ended the round by nearly
sinking a rear naked choke but as usual Matsui
proved to be resilient to submission attempts.
as the third round started and I was contemplating
getting a drink, Matsui tackled and got caught
in a guillotine. It didn`t look dangerous
because he had his arm through, but he ended
up tapping. Gracie didn`t let him go for a
while, and started mugging to the crowd until
the ref dragged him off. Pretty conclusive
finsh to a mediocre bout.
Gracie by guillotine choke at 0:28 of the
verdict: Matsui showed his usual resilience
and lack of offense, Gracie could be the goods
but its too early to tell.
Newton vs Jose Pele Landhi Jons
it was time for 5 consecutive good match-ups
(on paper at least). This was a tough fight
to call and the crowd knew it judging from
the anticipation in the air. There were split
loyalties too, because Newton speaks decent
Japanese but Pele is associated with the popular
fighters locked up into a clinch early on
and it was clear Newton wanted a judo throw.
His first attempt resulted in a scramble and
another clinch. Then he did a beautiful over
the shoulder throw that drop Pele heavily
onto his back. Newton transitioned to a tight-looking
armbar from the bottom but Pele scrambled
backwards and eventually pulled out of it.
During the stand-up Pele landed a huge knee
to the face that had Newton wobbly and after
a missed flying knee, Pele capitalised with
a hard takedown from a bodylock. Newton recovered
his senses and went for a sweet armbar. He
held onto Pele`s other arm too to stop him
escaping the same way. Pele wouldn`t tap (he
never has before) and Newton really cranked
it. I was expecting to here a crack, but Pele
tapped and walked straight out the ring.
gave a comedy speech in Japanese saying stuff
like `How did you like the match? Interesting
eh?` and `The rest of the matches can`t be
as good as this one` etc, and the crowd were
laughing along. It was a very good match with
alot going on, momentum shifts and a conclusive
finish. Except for the knee, Pele never really
got his standup going, while Newton showed
he can submit anyone.
Newton by left arm bar at 7:17 of round one.
verdict: Newton was able to impose his game
and that kept Pele on the defensive except
for brief flurries. Best fight of the night.
Herring vs Igor Vovchanchin
weighed in lighter than usual at 103kg but
didn`t really look himself during the ring
walk. He did a brief taped comedy skit on
the big screens before the bout. Early in
round one Herring bumbled his way into a takedown
after a bunch of flying knees that missed.
Herring got very busy inside Igor`s guard
but nothing landed to worry Igor. I got the
feeling Herring felt he should make as much
of it as he could while he was on top, because
he seemed to be over working himself for little
reward. Igor got back to his feet and they
traded a little. Igor caught a kick to get
a takedown that he converted to mount but
Herring quickly threw him off. Herring tried
an optimistic triangle from guard which just
let Igor slip round to side mount. This was
about 4 minutes in and Igor really took over
and kept Herring pinned while chopping away
with short punches and knees. Herring found
a kimura that he exploited into a reversal
but Igor writhed his way out of it. Towards
the end of round one Igor took Herring`s back
and worked a choke, fighting like a BJJ guy.
For most of round one Igor was out-wrestling
Herring and the only dominant positions (side,
full mount) were from Igor. Herring never
passed guard. Herring seemed like he was gassing
and it was clear he`d felt Igor`s power and
didn`t like it. During every flurry, Herring
panicked a little and disengaged.
stand-up was also ineffective in round two
and I think he still hadn`t landed a shot.
Igor caught another kick for a takedown to
side mount. This time Igor was reluctant to
let the strikes go from the top position,
probably respecting the couple of reversal`s
Herring had pulled off in round one. So most
of the round was Igor laying in side mount
and chopping away while Herring just hung
on and covered up. Near the end Herring rolled
for a knee-bar but Igor saw it coming. It
seemed that Herring had switched to survival
mode while Igor was playing it safe for a
decision. Igor`s round by a long shot.
changed in round three. Herring came out with
his second wind and was more aggressive. He
immediately looked for a takedown and ended
up in Igor`s guard. By now it was clear that
Herring wasn`t going to stand up with Igor.
Herring dropped a hard accidental headbut
onto Igor from the top but there was no card.
Herring was really busy with punches from
the top but nothing hard or clean, just point
scorers. Igor was yellow carded for inaction,
which seemed very harsh. But as the round
progressed Igor just wasn`t offering any offense,
like he was surrendering the round. Don`t
know why because he didn`t look hurt or tired,
and Herring wasn`t doing anything different
to how he started round one.
Herring by unanimous decision after three
verdict: A bad decision. Can only assume that
the yellow card and inactivity in round three
cost Igor the fight. But he`d won the first
two rounds clearly and the card was harsh.
Still, Igor needs an easy opponent next, he`s
Shamrock vs Don Frye
people had been waiting years to see this
bout and the Japanese knew it. There was so
much tension pre-fight! Frye was far and away
the popular fighter, probably owing to his
years at New Japan Pro Wrestling. Or maybe
Ken`s sideburns worked against him, because
he got booed during the introductions. The
staredown was intense. Ken looked determined
and Frye just looked evil. Both fighters were
lean and light.
of the fight followed the same pattern: A
short exchange of punches followed by an upper-body
tie-up and then both fighters looking to land
short hooks and knees. Then they`d break and
do it again. Ken seemed to slightly out-strength
Don in the early going but from about the
5 minute mark Don was walking Ken around the
ring, though not overly dominating position.
Don worked a really effective body attack
from the tie up, throwing lots of painful
sounding right hooks that reddened Ken`s ribs.
Ken was mostly headhunting and mixing in a
few knees. It seemed like Don was getting
the best of it when Ken monkey-rolled for
a knee-bar and ended up with a heel hook.
In was sunk in very deep but Don didn`t
look at all phased and never for a moment
looked like tapping. But he did look a little
lost on the ground, restricting his escape
attempts to pulling on Ken`s forearms and
throwing the odd shot. Mostly he just lay
there. Ken switched to a figure-four footlock
but couldn`t get a good grip and went back
to the heel hook. Ken was working on alot
of squeezing bursts that must have took alot
out of him and then the bell went. Everyone
was watching Frye walk back to his corner
and he`s foot was dragging a bit. Amazing
that he never tapped.
two was dull, now that the tension had faded
and it was just two old men trading shots
from a tie-up. Frye`s foot seemed okay. In
a few exchanges Don seemed to be pushing Ken
around. Both fighters seemed to want the round
off to catch their breath.
three picked up again. Don dropped Ken heavily
with a six-punch combination of which the
last left hook landed clean on the chin. Ken
woke up as he hit the mat and Don jumped onto
him in a strong half mount and pounded the
shit out of him. Ken hung in there and after
nearly losing to a forearm choke, Ken shrugged
him off, nearly gave his back and ended up
in Frye`s guard. Don had missed his chance
but the momentum hadn`t really swung away
from him. Frye tried an unlikely double armbar
which Ken pulled out of and went for a heel
hook on the other leg. Again Frye looked to
be lost on the mat and Ken again sunk in a
heel hook really tight. Frye didn`t try to
escape, he just went after Ken`s ankle but
seemed, frankly, inept. The fight ended with
both fighters working heel hooks but Ken`s
was much tighter. They hugged after the bell
but there was still a little tension between
Frye by split decision after three rounds
verdict: Fair decision on account of a heavy
knockdown and Frye seemingly edging the standup
(90% of the fight). Ken had near submissions
twice but couldn`t make them work. Frye said
after the fight that Ken broke both his ankles!
Rodrigo Nogueira vs Enson Inoue
doubt at all that this was the main event
as far as the crowd were concerned. Enson
made an emotional entrance with the walkway
lined with his team-mates holding traditional
battle banners reading `Yamato Damashi`. He
hugged them all on a long ring walk and the
crowd were cheering him on. It seemed to me
like a man walking to his execution, even
though Enson fears no-one. Nogueira was warmly
received but came a clear second favourite.
Enson was down to 97kg and covered in tattoos.
stood off from Minotaur until the latter made
a lunging tackle. Enson fended it off easily
and Nogueira rolled to guard, anticipating
kicks to the head. Enson was very patient
and kicked around Nogueira`s legs until the
ref stood them up. Nogueira forced a clinch,
got a takedown and passed guard to take half
mount and an armbar. Predictably, Enson wouldn`t
tap and eventually gritted his way out of
it and landed in Nogeira`s guard. He then
launched his own offense and landed some good
strikes. Nogueira is always busy on the bottom
though and when Enson over-extended on a punch
he reversed and got a guillotine. Enson fought
out and landed in a shoulder lock from Nogueira`s
legs. That looked like the end but just as
Enson escaped he got caught in a tight triangle
that put him to sleep.
Rodrigo Nogueira by triangle choke at 6:07
of round one.
verdict: Pretty much one way traffic and Enson
showed alot of heart but couldn`t match Nogueira`s
the bout, Enson made a speech in Japanese
from the ring. Not sure what it was about
but alot of the crowd didn't like it because
when he started repeating it in English, some
sections of the crowd started booing him and
shouting "Tamura! Tamura!". The
booing meant I couldn't follow his English
speech either so I have no idea what he said.
He got riled by the booing and told the crowd
(well, sections of it) to sfuk off. Really
unusual to hear a Japanese crowd boo a fighter,
especially considering how they'd cheered
him on the way in and everyone was
wearing Enson t-shirts. Nogueira was oblivious
to it all and made a polite speech saying
he loves Japan and how he is treated here.
Silva vs Kiyoshi Tamura
was a middleweight title bout as Pride tried
to throw another challenger at Silva in the
hope of keeping the belt in Japan. Silva weighed
in at 92kg and Tamura at 85kg. The build-up
was full of shameful Japanese nationalism,
with a video on the big screens that basically
said `Vanderlei has beaten our Japanese fighters,
lets hope Tamura sorts him out`. Kimura looked
like he was on his way to the electric chair
and wouldn`t return Silva`s famous stare-down.
caught a kick to get a take-down and initiated
a serious smackdown from inside Tamura`s guard.
Tamura was busy underneath but Silva blocked
every attempt early and he was the only one
doing attrition. When Silva started to get
through with heavy shots, Tamura made a break
for it and stood up. From out of nowhere Tamura
dropped Vanderlei with a punch that put him
headfirst into the ropes and when Silva turned
around he looked shaky for a second or two.
It forced Vanderlei into a takedown attempt
while he recovered his composure. The round
ended with Tamura lumped up and spitting blood
in his corner.
got a takedown early in round two and when
they stood up he landed a picture-perfect
right hand to the chin that dropped Tamura
face first. The follow up football punt missed
but the ref jumped in an waved it off. Tamura
was going nowhere and didn`t protest (when
he finally got up).
Silva by knockout (straight right) at 2:28
of round two.
verdict: An easy win for Vanderlei though
Tamura occassionally made it interesting.
it was a good show but it couldn`t live up
to the high expectations that the match-ups
promised. Brazil is still top of the tree