Grand Prix 2003 Final Round
Sunday 9 November
Report by Nikuraba,
pictures by Roland Fabre of kakuto.com
is the big one for mma. One thing a fight fan in Japan can always rely on is a
steady increase in quality cards as the year draws to a close. Next month itll
be K-1 putting out its card of the year, but tonight was all about Pride and it
was a blistering effort that will really give the visiting UFC supremo Dana White
something to think about.
was a night of revelation. There were 5 answers provided to 5 compelling questions.
To save the lazier readers the effort of scanning the whole report, heres
the answers in the order we learned them:
Dan Bobish really doesnt have a heart.
Yoshida is the real deal.
- Yes, Sakuraba
still has some magic left.
- Yes, Nogueira
is the best fighter to ever lace up open finger gloves.
does Rampage have a good chin.
was a lively atmosphere and an unusual collection of mma dignitaries in the house,
even for a show of Prides calibre. I saw BJ Penn wandering around the electronics
district with a bunch of other caullie-eared Hawaiians pre-show. Dana White was
backstage with a ton of UFC people, including Randy Couture. The Hammerhouse was
in force, including Coleman and Wes Simms. Alistair Overeem was here, with a big
bandage over his left eye, and Fedor was tramping about in too- tight blue deniums.
And so on and so forth. As usual, Vanderleis pre-show introduction shook
the roof off the dome and Cro Cops wasnt far behind. Chuck was presented
as a UFC invader so he got a muted heel reception despite the obvious
respect the fans hold him in.
One Dan Bobish vs Gary Goodridge
than all other sports, fighting is psychological. Hear me out on this one. When
youre on the football pitch, you have your teammates to pull you through
a tough spot. Youve got a manager who can sub you. A physio to kiss you
better after that tackle that never hit you anyway. And youve usually got
just a small role in the grand scheme of the match. Theres no real concept
of bottling it in a football match. Maybe on a penalty, but not over
the 90 minutes. Fighting is a different kettle of fish. You dont play
fighting. If you lose, you lose and you get beat up. Theres nobody
to carry you through the match, so if you dont have what it takes youll
get found out sooner rather than later. Thats why so many of us love mma,
boxing, K-1 or whatever other sport involves two guys locking horns and having
a good tussle. Fighters have heart.
Bobish, however, does not. I like to analyse fighting more than is probably healthy
and heres Nikuraba Maxim Number 23: Big fighters rarely learn the
skills. And another relevant nugget of wisdom (number 67): All big
guys will eventually run into someone who can hit back, and then they are crushed
under the weight of adversity. Such with The Bull tonight.
a big, big man. Put him next to Bob Sapp and youve got half the All Blacks
pack weight. For most of his career that size is all he needed. It sent Brian
Johnston running backwards first time he got him, and kayoed a whole string of
no-hopers. But first time Kevin Randleman hit him back (UVF 4 in Brazil) he quit.
When Jimmy Ambriz hit him back he quit. And surprise surprise when Gary Goodridge
hit him it was another no mas. And Id picked him to win too
started well, in great shape and coming out behind a stiff jab then tried a head-down
rush (takedown is too artistic a term), like he was sacking a quarterback. Goodridge
moved off to the side punching and repelled it. As they reset in ring centre,
Goodridge throws a jab, scoring high on the Bulls face. A finger, thumb,
knuckle or something catches and Bobish immediately steps back, wincing
and putting his right glove up high in protection. As he backs off, in distress,
hes too worried about his eye and not paying attention to the straight right
hand that crashes into his jaw. And for all his limitations, nobody ever said
Goodridge cant bang. Things go all south for the big man and he turns his
back, lost in a world of self-pity. Goodridge follows up and nails him into the
mat with a flurry reminiscent of Lewis-Golota, and there are more parallels between
the two fights than I care to draw. Then its over.
Goodridge by rsf 1RD 0:18
verdict: In Dans defense, theres no doubt his eye got twanged. It
was visibly swollen before he left the ring and badly discoloured when I saw him
backstage. But most fighters dont give up after a few whacks from a guy
70lbs lighter. I didnt think Goodridge was still capable of pulling a shock
but hes given even more mileage to his remarkably long career.
1 Quinton Jackson vs Chuck Liddell
this pair of top-5 fighters squared off there was another larger battle going
on in the background. This was Pride vs UFC and everyone in the arena knew it.
Dana White had taken the unprecedented step of assembling a dream team coaching
environment for the Iceman and brought a bunch of UFC guys to Tokyo in support.
Chuck was decked out in a UFC shirt and had the UFC music for his ring walk. Real
good for business on both sides. UFC get the exposure in Japan and Pride get a
legitimate invasion angle. A win-win situation then. Rampage was my
pick for the GP, once Arona pulled out. I figured that for all of Chucks
great chin, punch and takedown defence, Rampage has the same and better. And so
off to a flyer., pumping out a steady stiff jab then moving off to the side. Rampage
couldnt get past it at all and looked confused on the outside. Liddell kept
moving, then started dropping in occasional right hands and kicks to add variety.
But the more he did it, the more he started dropping the left on its way back
to base. To quote Max Schmelling, Rampage seed something and
instead of continuing to cover up and eat the jab, he started launching wild rights
over the top of the retreating jab. That works a treat and rocks Liddell several
times, sending him scurrying backwards, but for the most part his chin is equal
to the test and its back to tap-tap-tap with that jab. Rampage is being worn down
by the sheer volume of leather he stops with his nose so its a close, intriguing
fight. In fact its exactly the type of fight I like to watch: two well-matched,
good quality fighters, dukeing it out in a tactical battle.
now and then Rampage wants to lock up and take it to the mat but Liddel easily
shrugs him off every time. Eventually the accumulation of right hands, and maybe
even the psychological pressure of having a guy incessantly walking you down,
wears down Liddell and Rampage can impose his will. Hes getting better and
better at receiving the shots on his forearms and countering.
they are clinched in the corner and, back to the ropes, Rampage lands a sweet
combo to send Liddell across the ring. He tries to slam and wouldve got
it if Chuck hadnt grabbed the ropes. But he gets a takedown anyway and forces
Liddell to turtle. After absorbing a hard knee to the ribs the Iceman regains
his feet and they are boxing again. Liddell looks all done and is dropped by a
jab that lands just as hes winding up his own right hand. Again he shows
remarkable recuperative powers but the Force is not with him tonight. 10-9 Rampage.
is glassy-eyed and slack-jawed coming out for round two, looking like a redneck
after an afternoon on the moonshine and technically hes coming apart. Not
only are his punches dropping on their way home, but hes starting to leave
his left out there until the right is ready to go. Bad, bad technique but considering
how tough the first round was, its quite understandable. Rampage takes over and
slams him down. Then a long, savage gnp is laid upon the UFC representative
and hes just too tired to resist it. Eventually the ref figures enough is
enough, though Chuck looks like he could keep sponging it for a good while longer.
Jackson by rsf 2RD 3:10
verdict: This fight was everything we thought it would be and while Rampage showed
he was just that little bit better in every department, Liddell showed plenty
to suggest hes still in that quintet of hot middleweight fighters. Most
of us wondered what would happen to Rampage when the adrenalin wore off and the
injuries make themselves known. After this tough fight, I started to think Dan
Henderson was gonna win another tourney.
two Vanderlei Silva vs Hidehiko Yoshida
wasnt the only one believing there would be truth of a Smirnoff bottle clarity
after this fight was over. Ill happily admit that Im in the Yoshida
is a fraud camp. He didnt beat Royce, and the other 3 guys fell over
for him, as far as Im concerned. So *takes on a Viz letterbocks voice* imagine
my surprise when Yoshida proved himself to be the real deal. Not the second coming
of Jigoro Kano, and not the guy who rescues judo from its dance of the foot
fairies rep, but he is a real fighter with real skills and real heart. Vanderlei
still kicked the shit out of him though.
the Japanese fans knew this fight wasnt the same as what went before, if
only because Silva was a far bigger threat than the likes of Tamura and Satake.
All through the build up and all through his previous *cough* matches, Yoshida
has projected an air of confident, relaxed calm. We probably disagree on whether
that calm was due to contract stipulations. He was certainly shitting bricks this
time as he walked to the ring but he made a passable attempt at holding Vanderleis
stare. Vanderlei was confident, having already bitched a judo silver medallist
and now looking to go one better.
is hurt early by the first time Silva throws and then all hell breaks out as Yoshida
tries to grab. He can push the champ into his own corner, lock up behind his knees
and put the ape-like one on the mat just thirty seconds in. Suddenly it looks
like he might not be carried from the ring afterall and the crowd are sensing
upset. Silva shows a good guard and even rolls into an armbar. Hes immobilised
the arm pretty well but Yoshida sees it in time and isnt in too much trouble,
using Silvas shoulders to sweep the mat as he drives him to the ropes. His
hands keep reaching forwards for the Ezekiel choke and Silva is fearful of it,
keeping his head rooted to the mat and both hands inside Yoshidas at all
times. Theres a proper little battle going on over Silvas chest for
those smart enough to see it (i.e. me). As Yoshida is looking to pass, Silva is
handed a pretty easy triangle, so much so I think it mightve been given
to bait Silva into opening guard. Certainly Yoshida doesnt let Silva hook
his leg in tight and hes pretty patient in there. He passes and draws a
roar of approval from the crowd. Silva doesnt hand around and turtles, rises
holding a single leg and then wins top position. The expected onslaught is nullified
by expert arm control from the Olympian and the friction of his gi. He also offers
enough threat of chokes and arm bars to keep Silva honest. The axe murderer soon
has enough of that and stands up, electing to kick the downed mans legs
till the ref restarts it.
more Yoshida is able to make judo work in real life, executing a sweet hip throw
to kesagatame and then a weak neck crank that is so unlikely to work youd
think hed been training with Tim Catalfo. Silva recovers guard before the
bell, after briefly trying to slip around the back, and so ends a good close round.
And those last three words are ones I never expected to use together in describing
is a different fight. Silva is no longer accepting the clinch in order to land
knees. Now hes pushing off or sprawling, which plays to his strengths far
better. He lands a couple good punches then blocks a takedown with a front headlock.
He digs a knee into the top of Yoshidas head and another one as he rises.
Yoshida is smart enough not to do stay in a judo turtle under these rules. He
shrugs it off, and as he stands up with lumps all over his face and blood dripping
from an open mouth he suddenly looks like a real fighter and I find my opinion
of him changing for the better. Silva continues to throw down and Yoshida slugs
with him. Not because he wants to, but because direct tackles arent working
anymore so he has to set them up with punches. We have been waiting all match
for the inevitable Vanderlei gets caught and dropped spot that is
as predictably part of his matches as his staredown. It nearly happens now, as
cuffs him about the ears twice in succession and forces him into the corner. He
manuoevres into a good throw position but the ropes are between Silva and is path
to the mat so he can stay upright and slip to Yoshidas back. He doesnt
hang around and moves off into striking range, giving Yoshida a kick up the arse
on the way.
ring psychology hurts the match. Yoshida is running low on confidence and blood,
so he wants to stay back for a while. Silva nearly learned the hard way about
Yoshidas grappling, so hes not about to steam in. So they look at
each other for a while. Yoshida knows the match is slipping away from him and
takes the plunge. A solid knee to the face stops his momentum and Silva then grabs
his gi sleeve with the right and whacks him with the left kick and left punch.
Yoshida rolls to a desperation kneebar, surrendering half mount but getting out
of the danger zone nonetheless. He even reverses to top position before the bell,
as Vanderlei didnt quite beat all the fight out of him. 10-8 Silva.
Silva by unanimous decision after two rounds
verdict: Absolutely no doubt about the decision. Dont let the shock of Yoshida
making it competitive blind you to Silva being more effective on all counts. Yoshida
did get the takedown, a pass, and a throw in round one, but at no point did he
dominate or come anywhere near a submission. He also got in very little attrition.
Silva was breathing hard but unmarked. In contrast, when Silva was on the bottom
he was mostly in neutral position and the two times he was sidemounted / kesagatemed
he didnt stay there long and reversed. He also came closest to a sub with
the arm bar (not that it was that close) and won the standup by a huge
margin. His dominant second round put it beyond doubt. But for all that, Yoshida
left the ring with far more credibility as a warrior than all his previous *cough*
wins combined. Hes the real deal and a definite danger to anyone he fights.
Four Murillo Bustamante vs Dan Henderson
dont like to see two of my favourite and most respected fighters share a
ring, cos one of them has to lose. And when they lose like Busta did tonight,
you really wish the fight hadnt happened. He was a whopping 200lbs for this
one, but Dan still looked bigger. They started tentative, Busta looking like an
amateur boxer while Hendo had his chin tucked and was looking for the same head-down
right hand that wrecked Shungo Oyama.
dived in on a double leg and Dan shrugged him off, just as youd expect an
Olympic-level wrestler to do. But what happened next was very out of character
and that same planetary alignment will likely never happen again. Busta overbalanced
and wanted to sit back into a spider guard, getting his head out of trouble much
like the Brazilian Top Team do on failed tackles. As he did so Dan followed him
with a hard one-two. They were fast, accurate and had the look of a guy whos
expecting his opponent to be in precisely that position and has trained to deal
with it. Hence it was only a mild shock that they cracked Busta high on the jawline
and sent him backwards quicker than he was already trying to move. The next bit
was hard luck on the Brazilians part. Hed barely gotten 45 degrees
down when the ropes checked his movement. Dan was still punching and without those
extra couple of feet distance, the already stunned Busta was an easy target. He
got drilled with several good venomous shots and they had him listing to his port
(or is it starboard) side, the corner of where Buzzed Avenue meets Queer Street.
He tries to clinch a double leg and bury his head into Dans thighs but the
referee is already moving in to stop it, having reacted to Busta going down rather
than coming back up.
Henderson by rsf 1RD 0:53
verdict: I, for one, was shocked at how this ended. I knew Henderson would win
(in as much as these things can be known) but this had tough close decision
written all over it. Its bad to see a fighter of Bustas calibre reduced
to a punchbag. Im not questioning the stoppage. It was legit.
Five Heath Herring vs Norihisa Yamamoto
fighters are just plain overrated and Herring is one of them. After racking up
a bunch of wins by simply outweighing his opponents, Heath relocated to Holland
and sharpening up what were frankly sloppy skills. He came on leaps and bounds,
putting together a fantastic win streak against Kerr, Erikson, Inoue and Vovchanchyn.
Closer analysis shows the first two guys collapsed under adversity and the last
two were well out-sized, but good solid wins nonetheless. Then came Nogueira,
Fedor and Crocop. All memorable beatings for the likeable Texas boy, the latter
two being shockingly one-sided. So there is now the big Heath Herring question:
was he really a top five guy? To be generous, lets postpone the question
till after his next fight cos he was awful tonight.
charged out and was rolled over nicely by the much-improved Yamamoto, but he rode
it and they both ended up standing in the corner. Yamamoto hangs on to a guillotine
thats tight enough to stop Herring getting his arm through for a good two
minutes. But once through, he pops out and they swing their arms in the general
direction of each others faces for a while. Its no aesthetic masterpiece.
Yamamoto holds his own and suddenly makes his grappling count, taking Herring
down, taking his back, taking full mount, taking the back again, and taking pretty
much everybody by surprise. Herring reverses but not before shipping some punishment
and looking a bit green. Hes lethargic and looks like the Fedor and Crocop
beatings are too recent a memory. He wills himself back into contention but its
not something youll be watching twice. 10-10
gets a double leg soon after the bell and Herring just lies there like an old
whore waiting to be mounted. He stirs a while later and bridges, but narrowly
avoids giving the back and does manage to give up side mount. Yamamoto is fighting
like its ADCC until Herring can squirm, base and get to his feet. Thats
about the time I doze off. I reckon Yamamoto took the round 10-9 but it didnt
do him any good cos Heath choked him the next round, while I was taking a piss
(though the two events are unrelated).
Herring by rear naked choke 3RD
verdict: Fighters, fans and promoters will all want to forget this ever happened
so lets go along with the conspiracy.
Six Kazushi Sakuraba vs Kevin Randleman
is doing a Super Mario gimmick now. The big screens flashed with mushrooms and
beeped with video game noises, then the man himself came out decked in a Saddam
tash and red cap. A rousing reception. Like most people, I expected Kevin to punch
right through the smaller Japanese legend and expose him as thoroughly shot. Id
go so far as to say this match should never have been made as the weights and
styles match up so bad for Sak. Randleman looked as superhuman as ever and they
both received flowers from Randy Couture. And no, thats not his way of saying
gee, I love you. In Japan its very normal for a dignitary to present
flowers before a big fight, and fighters (indeed men in general) dont come
any more dignified than the natural.
while I was hoping my all-time favourite Japanese fighter was gonna get lucky
(which in this context had nothing to do with winning, of which he had no chance,
and everything to do with not getting bashed into a coma) I should have been recalling
some fight memories. Memories like when Kevin fought Rizzo for the title and they
both sleepwalked through 5 rounds of nothing. Or when a similar non-fight happened
with Pete Williams. On an off night, Randleman can be a very inactive fighter
but Id forgotten that in light of his win over Ninja and war with Rampage.
Memories like when Sak beat the *cough* phenom Vitor Belfort when he shouldve
been destroyed. Or Conan, or going those 15 minutes with a prime Vovchanchyn.
Or tapping Rampage. Much to the delirious, unrestrained joy of his 65,000
compatriots, Sakuraba was about to give up a history lesson. And that lesson is
that even a broken down Sakuraba can beat Randleman when Sak is on form and Kevin
odd and for three rounds the crowd were hushed quieter than the patrons of that
pub in American Werewolf in London. It was a compelling match despite nothing
happening for large periods. Like how it felt watching Frank Bruno whip Oliver
McCall in another inactive match not quite believing your eyes and all
the time thinking that one punch is gonna ruin it for you hero. And when that
punch never comes, the final bell rings and theres that huge release of
pent up tension into a roar of joy. I remember being in a pub with 200 others
for Brunos best night. Now imagine exactly the same atmosphere but with
65,000 people. Words dont do justice to what it was like to be in Tokyo
Dome this Sunday night.
they start cautious and not throwing a thing. Randleman switches stance and Sak
is a whisker away from nailing him with a lead left inbetween. Randleman rushes
in and Sak gives his back, obviously looking for the double wristlock and neatly
protecting that fragile jaw. Randleman breaks off and flurries into a single leg,
tripping his opponent neatly and taking an inside cradle. Its still inactive and
neither guy is really punching. Very, very tactical, which in my book is the wrong
fight for a guy with Randlemans advantages. They battle for hand control
and Sak still wants that wristlock but hes not getting anywhere near it.
Kevin is respectful of the submission threat and if theres one thing that
loses him the fight its that. Hes been spooked by something and just wont
let his hands go.
has abandoned his old take-a-shot-to-get-the-hold approach of old and is carefully
protecting his chin. Randleman is keeping his own right hand glued to his eyebrow,
anticipating the high left kick. When Sak finally pushes the action, he gets pushed
over and uncharacteristically pulls guard. We know Sak and we know hes not
gonna just sit there and sure enough his legs are soon climbing to triangles and
armbars. Randleman goes into a shell, partly because Sak is doing a great job
of breaking his posture and partly cos hes just plain spooked. The referee
is fairly lenient on the Japanese legend, not doing any of the hussling that foreign
fighters suffer. 10-10 (or 0-0 really)
gets caught rushing in chin-up and dropped on his arse. Lucky for him the punch
was more like a push and less like the heavy hooks Randleman normally throws.
Still, for a fleeting second 65,000 people gasp. Randleman stays off him and is
even faked out by a takedown, taking the feint and sprawling over fresh air. The
split second he drops his right hand he gets nailed by the left kick. Its clean
but Crocop isnt fighting till later so he takes it fine and pushes Sak over
again. Again Sak rides his legs high into a loose triangle and again Randleman
declines the offer to pass. 10-10
my card Randleman needs a big round cos the judges will be leaning towards Sak.
He gets a good grip round the waist and hoists Sak up high. The little guy rolls
with it, very smoothly I might add, and is on his feet chasing the double wristlock.
His grip is good enough to force Randleman to headspring over ahead of the pressure.
Sak keeps the arm (showing real class) and immediately tries an armbar over the
top. Randleman has absolutely no idea how to defend it and is rolled over and
Sakuraba by submission 3RD 2:36
verdict: The crowd reaction reflects not just joy that their boy won, but jubilation
that the losing streak is behind him and sheer disbelief he could do it. But it
was Saks fight all the way through. Randleman has to be kicking himself.
He was a shadow of his usual self.
Seven Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Mirko Filopevic
admit it, my faith in Nogueira has been shaken since Fedor owned him and Crocop
started showing hes got what it takes in mma. Not shaken so much that he
drops out my top two, but enough that I couldnt say the words Oh,
Nog will sub him with any confidence. But I figured hed flurry into
a clinch, hug tight, and buttflop to guard. Once there hed find a way to
sub Crocop. Really, I did. But I didnt expect him to take a hellacious beating
to do so. Heres how it went down.
off, let me remind you what six months of Crocop nuthugging on the internet might
have obscured Nogueira is the most respected fighter in Japan. Not ifs,
no buts. Not the most popular, thats reserved for Sapp, Sak, Yoshida
and Vanderlei in that order. But everyone who follows Pride exudes respect for
the quite-talking Brazilian who always looks like hes physically outmatched.
His first appearance on the big screen drew applause of genuine affection so it
was easy to figure out who was heel and who was babyface in this drama. He looked
every inch the superstar on his ringwalk. For his part, Crocop has the post picturesque
highlight reel in mma and he looked every inch the destroyer as he padded down
the ramp. Fedor give flowers and a speech. Then Takada wanted a go. Then the national
anthems (theyd sneakily stripped the champ, as if this fight needed a belt
to make it important). And then finally the tension turned up a notch higher than
Sakuraba had managed. To me, this was all about the takedown. If they stand,
Crocop by kayo, no question. If they roll, Nogueira by sub, no question.
away Nogueira shows the ringcraft that will win him the match. He circles to his
left, away from the vaunted Crocop high kick. That one thing there makes all the
difference. Its something of a paradox, but at the highest level (and you cant
get higher than these two) fighting can be a very simple activity. And this fight
was all about one thing: Crocop is unwilling to throw anything from his right
hand side, and therefore everything that comes from the left is over-extended
and loses half its power before it lands.
stalks cautiously, as is his normal demeanour. Nog toys with a few lead rights
then pounces, hugging and buttflopping like Mystic Meg here predicted. Crocop
tries to pound his way back to his feet but Nog has locked up and grabbed the
wrists with that insane grip of his. Crocop shows excellent posture and hand positioning
to totally nullify Nogueiras submission threat. Hes not as natural
as Fedor was, but hes doing the same things and staying safe the same way,
only without the incessant punching. Crocop looks like hell ride it out
till the ref stands him up but is able to take it into his own hands anyway and
gestures Nog to get up and follow him. He fires two left kicks, blocked, to let
him know they are there and then a few more but Nogs lateral motion takes
the sting off them. Then Nogueira loses his mojo and the title starts its plane
journey towards Croatia.
bad tackles from Nog, all badly set-up, and hes eaten a bunch of kicks.
Each time he rolled to his back and unlike Bustamante, hes in ring centre
and gets away with it. Crocop shows no inclination to meet him on the mat so Nogueira
is forced to stand. A straight left breaks the ex-champs nose and Crocop is imposing
his takedown defense. But hes really selling himself short on the ringcraft.
Rather than cut off the ring, hes following Nog around ring-a-ring-a-rosie.
And absolutely everything he throws is a homerun from his left side. Theres
no variety, no combos, no jabs, no low kicks and none of the right hooks and right
kicks that would discourage Noguiera from that successful anti-clockwise motion.
Very, very bad strategy from such a top class fighter. I can only assume hes
been bitten by that kickboxing bug and fallen in love with his round kick. After
winning almost every mma fight with one technique hes become a depressingly
hes astonishingly good with that one dimension that he does have and finally,
after 15 minutes of frustration he lands the homerun kick hes been looking
for all night. It crashes into Nogueiras chin and a sharp follow-up right
puts him down hard. Not out, but down hard. And just at that moment the bell ends
the round and a radio call is patched to the pilot to change course for Brazil.
Roiund two is
like an entirely different fight. Busta and Sperry have found Nogs mojo
and hes suddenly a force to be reckoned with. He immediately shoots a quality
double leg and Crocop just reacts too late, landing on his arse. In a flow
of beautiful grappling, Nog is out to sidemount, straight over to full and then
pounding away. Crocop doesnt take it lying down, so to speak, and grabs
tight and thrashes around. Nogueira patiently beats him down, careful not to overcommit
and not risking a sub. He thinks about an arm triangle, the safest sub in the
book, but Crocop is wise to it. Finally, Crocop has had enough down there and
takes a risk. He bridges off and pushes his arms into Nogs chest. Nog cant
help but get rolled over but he happily takes the arm on the way and secures a
Rodrigo Nogueira by submission 3RD
verdict: Just incase anybody missed the hints in the opening paragraph, here it
is in plain English: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is the best fighter in the world.
Skill is what won this fight, but it took tremendous heart, persistence and a
well-formulated gameplan to get past that first round. And yes, the crowd went
mental. There was more air-punching than at Monsters of Rock.
Vanderlei Silva vs Quinton Jackson
is looking like hes wanted this fight for a long long time but hes
pretty beat up from the stiff resistance Chuck Liddell put up. Silva is very fresh.
They draw even on the staredown. In fact Rampage probably edges it in sheer novelty
with his evil muthafucker snarl. On the bell he closes immediately underneath
Silvas defensive one-two and hoists him up. Silva is pretty smart and sinks
a guillotine on the way up. Rampage is suddenly at a loss over what to do and
just stands there, upright, with Silva half sitting on the top rope. So is it
in? He sinks to his knees, briefly looking like hes sleepy but then pops
his head out so maybe he was okay all along. A gnp ensues but Silva
is adept at hand control so the ref is calling action and then unfairly cards
both guys. By then Silva had curled up to a close arm bar and eaten knees as Rampage
passed to side mount, so its not like they were just laying there.
since Igor drilled him and he kept coming, Ive been a big believer in Rampages
chin. That more than anything was what made me pick him for the tournament, and
it got sorely tested in the next minute. He ducks low for a takedown and eats
a well-timed knee. As hes pulling his head back, Silva throws a wild one-two.
Exactly the situation you see at every fight show and 95% of the time those punches
swipe at fresh air. But this was Silvas night and he had a lock-on system
in his gloves (now you know why he always wins). Both shots crashed hard into
Rampages chin and put him deeply on the defensive. Silva lept onto him and
kneed brilliantly from a thai clinch. Yoshida must feel he dodged a bullet cos
that was exactly what Silva had tried on him but failed. Knee after knee crunch
up Rampages features. Quinton is doing everything right in that position.
Hes getting his forearms in the way, moving around and hitting back when
he can. But Silva is having the best 30 seconds of his career, comparable to that
bizarre accuracy that Belfort laid on him years ago, and nearly everything lands
clean and hard. Rampage is all at sea, but didnt I mention he has a chin
of granite? He keeps standing, keeps defending and even when hes knocked
on his arse and eats a football kick, he has the presence of mind to pick and
ankle, rise and close the distance. Silva is punching now and its such a prolonged
outburst by the Brazilian that theres a serious risk of him punching himself
out. Im thinking if he doesnt put him away now, this fight is
gonna turn. But he does put him away, or at least the referee decides that
giving Rampage the chance to comeback is outweighed by the tremendous punishment
hes absorbing. Quinton is stopped on his feet, stunned but fighting, and
the refs momentum bowls him over and he realises hes got no more reason
Silva by rsf 1RD 6:20
verdict: Vanderleis biggest win and no wonder he was in a blindingly good
mood backstage. After a shaky start he showed a devastating offensive repertoire
that was too much even for a guy of Rampages sturdiness. Im not gonna
dispute the stoppage. Fighter safety comes first, and Vanderlei was owning
him at the end, but to me theres still a what if?. Rampages
comments will be instructive.
it was a fantastic show from top to bottom with only the Herring-Yamamoto fight
dirtying the bedsheets.
/ Significance / Matchup / Entertainment / Workrate
KO Bobish / D / B / C / C
KO Liddell / A / A / A / A
UD Yoshida / A / C / C / A
KO Bustamante / A / A / C / C
SUB Yamamoto / C / E / E / B
SUB Randleman / B / C / B / D
SUB Filopevic / A+ / A+ / B / C
KO Jackson / A+ / A+ / A / A