26 February 2007

Pride 33 Thoughts: Part One

Usually (in other words, when Pride run shows in Japan), I like to watch the event live, and react accordingly. Opting to sleep instead of watch this Las Vegas live, I have opted to watch this show on a match by match basis – beginning with those near the end of the card. I.E. the ones I want to see most. However, after having seen the whole thing, I will endeavour to have this post make sense in chronological order. You will also notice that I throw the concept of self-editing out of the window for these posts. Sorry.

Match One (watched third):
Joachim ‘Hellboy’ Hansen (Norway)
-vs-
Jason ‘Is Wearing a Kilt’ Ireland (USA)


Hansen is an awesome fighter, and definitely one of my personal favourites. While he beat such greats as Takanori Gomi in Shooto, he made his name on the big stage when he knocked out legendary Caol Uno with a brutal knee to the face in a classic match.

He went to Pride and beat the likes of Luiz Azeredo and Yves Edwards. More recently, though, he is coming off a few losses including a decision to Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai, a DQ to Tatsuya Kawajiri and a submission to the excellent Shinya Aoki. Hansen comes to the ring sadly devoid of his usual pseudo-Black Metal theme tune. Moody rock isn’t really his scene, but I’m not about to tell him that to his face. Russow, despite the comedy nickname I gave him (it transpires his official moniker is ‘The Irish Tornado’, but I can’t be bothered editing that in), looks like he definitely means business.

META: the thing is with downloading fights, you generally know whether they are going long or short. That said. I am not complaining, because the internet is a glorious thing that allows me to watch this stuff. Anyway, this fight look s like it will be quite long. The lightweights having long fights tends to indicate it will be pretty good. Anyway, I’m going to watch the whole ting and get back to you with thoughts.

OK, the first round is over, and my optimism was rewarded. Hansen was dominant with takedowns, and ground control. One beautiful sequence saw Hansen gain a takedown with a clinch, then rolling through into getting Ireland’s back. Heartening was Ireland’s positive round-ending flurry of strikes.

The second round was also very engaging, though Hansen-dominated once more. Less than a minute into the round, Hansen caught Ireland with a good punch, following it up with what seemed like a deadly clinch and knees to the head combination. The file has nine minutes left at this stage, though, so I knew the match was not yet over.

Still, Hansen had back mount for a lot of the fight and, though briefly stifled by Ireland’s solid defence, ended the round with some pummelling in an attempt to get Ireland to defend with his arm, at which point Hansen would be able to get the arm-bar. As aforementioned, Ireland has tough defences, and he survived until the bell. Worth mentioning is the scowl Hansen gave the camera, as though frustrated by the lightweight immovable object he was presented with.

Impressive, too, is a Manowar reference from ever-dorky Barnett. Also, Hansen starts the third round by raising his hands in an apparently cocky gesture. The two decide to throw down, but the only throwing down turns out to be Hansen throwing Ireland down with another Thai clinch. He echoes Nogueira with his triangle choke to arm-bar sequence and, as Barnett pointed out, perhaps this was more of an intentional reference to the way Hansen lost to Aoki on December 31st. Hansen proved he learns quickly by forcing the (eventual) submission from a game, but over-matched, Ireland.

Match Two (watched fifth):
Frank ‘Twinkle Toes’ Trigg (USA)
-vs-
Kazuo Misaki (Japan)


It is good to see Trigg back in action. I never really thought he should retire just because he had been on a bad run – most of that run included losses to Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre, and they only tend to lose to each other nowadays. So Trigg recently returned to action and won impressively against the really good Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller for ICON Sports. Nice one.

I don’t really know what to think about Misaki. He’s good, and no doubt about that (you don’t beat the each of Baroni, Henderson and Kang by being a sucker), but I get a weird feeling about him. He seems to do really well without being especially good at anything. He fights intelligently, and to his strengths, and I guess that should be applauded, but he just doesn’t wow me much. This is partly because he won the recent welterweight GP after having lost in the semi final. An injury to finalist Paulo Filho led to Misaki taking his place (after Filho beat Misaki), and eventually winning the whole shebang. Credit where it’s due etc. I just hope Trigg smashes him, which might be a hope too far.

Into the third round, and I hope Trigg gets the inevitable decision here. He has essentially dominated the action, owning Misaki’s back, but neither man looked close to ending things. Decent fight, but I never really get the urge to re-watch Misaki fights. Nice one; Trigg got a unanimous decision. In terms of the big picture, he has now beaten the welter GP champion. He has wrestled his way into a great position in the rankings. In fact, with Anderson be-bopping and scatting all over his opponents in the UFC 185 lb division, perhaps Dana White is regretting severing ties with Trigg. He is, after all, a tough, well rounded fighter with good takedowns and top control – someone who could theoretically give Silva problems.

Match Three (watched sixth):
Travis Wiuff (USA)
-vs-
James Lee (USA)


I am largely indifferent ot this fight, to be honest. Wiuff’s claim to fame for me (apart from the fact that you pronounce his name pretty much the opposite to how it is spelt: ‘Phew!’) is that he got tapped out by Renato Sobral who is, if not my favourite light heavyweight, in the top three. James Lee is a stranger to me. In fact, I got him confused with a British lightweight initially.

Lee dropped Phew in about the first second of action, and now they’re rolling around like they’re at school and one of them dissed the other’s gyal. After about seven seconds of rolling around, Lee gets the win with a guillotine choke. Rather fitting, really, as I’m sure I used that at some point in school. We just called them headlocks, though. And I didn’t get paid for doing them either.

Match Four (watched seventh):
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Brazil)
-vs-
Rameau Sokoudjou (Cameroon)


This should probably be pretty quick, because Rogerio is arguably the best in the world at 205 (not an argument I would make, but still), and Rameau is pretty new to the fight game. He is also predominantly a grappler (African judo champion, no less), so I expect Rogerio to box him out. But will I be correct~?

Nicholas Cage is in the audience. Do I not like that actor. Sokoudjou impresses me early with kicks, and JESUS CHRIST SORRY FOR THE CAPS, I HATE THEM TOO, BUT HE HAS JUST SPARKED OUT NOGUEIRA. Jiminy Jillikers. Wow, it was a near-secret left hand right on the button, and Sokoudjou just booked himself right into the light heavyweight top ten. And for those seeking answers: no, I was not correct.

Match Five (watched eighth):
Hayato ‘Mach’ Sakurai (Japan)
-vs-
Mac Danzig (USA)


Mach vs. Mac. Sadly, the parallel is not quite serendipitous (if, indeed, it would have been anyway), because ‘Mach’ is apparently pronounced ‘Maha’. There is rather a pleasant little story accompanying this tilt: Danzig (awesome surname, by the way) apparently grew up idolising Sakurai, so this is something of a humbling event for him. It also means he ostensibly knows Sakurai’s fighting style inside out. The question is whether this homework can neutralise the size, skill and experience of the lightweight tournament finalist Sakurai. Well, the night has been one of upsets, so let’s see…

Sakurai is apparently ‘excited to knock out an American in America’, and I am glad the art of working a crowd is not dead. The first round was quality, as there was no deference from Danzig, and plenty of action. The highlight had to be the beautiful hip toss into arm bar attempt by Sakurai. The submission was not forthcoming, and I am excited for round two.

Sakurai was something to behold in this round. While Danzig was dancing around him and throwing punches, ‘Mach’ merely stood, calmly in the centre of the ring. Slightly reminiscent of a Komodo dragon biting its prey and waiting for it to die, he waited patiently, and threw a punch at the right time. He threw a low kick at the right time. For minutes, he stood, waited and released at the right time. Before the round ended, and after those low kicks had accumulated on Danzig’s leg, he hit the American with a single blow that left him crumpled on the mat.

The upset was not to be, but this round was a masterclass in how to keep calm and undo a more active opponent. This is what I meant by the experience of Sakurai.

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