OK, I woke up about an hour after this was due to start. First thing I saw was what turned out to be the closing moments of Nakao-Drago. I was concerned that I had missed a lot, but apparently not; I'm told that was the first fight. Anyway, Nakao won that withwhat looked somewhere between a neck crank one of those weird New Japan side choke things. I wouldn't know. Anyway, Drago disappoints me.
Next up was Butterbean vs. Zuluzinho. Mention was made in the video package of a Monsters Grand Prix. Hopefully they just meant this fight, because that is not what I need to contemplate when I've just woken up. Anyway, there was a brief bit of brawling, Zulu got a takedown, Butterbean reversed it in a scene reminiscent of two giant tortoises tryig to grapple, and side cotrolled him for a while with the ocasional punch. Bizarrely, Bean won it pretty early with an arm lock I'm not sure of the official name for. Elbow was vertical past the head, arm was bent pretty much double. Sorry.
Galesic - Takimoto has been happening while I've been typing. The sacrifices I make. This has seemed pretty cool, actually. Zelg seems to have had the best of the striking, with Takimoto slightly more successful initially on the ground (then some Galesic GnP). As expected, then, but both are back pon de feet. The two were trading, Takimoto obv got dropped. Some 'soccer kicks', but Galesic now in guard. Takimoto busted open. Centred on the ground. Takimoto with kinda open guard, controlling arms. Switches to an armbar attempt, some rolling about, Taki in side control, wins with armbar.
Uh-oh: Yvel. Here comes trouble. Opponent is indeed Shoji; they showed footage of him getting knacked by Semmy. Bloody hell, Shoji is only just coming out? That Yvel entrance took too long. Might have to make more coffee at this rate.
Early days, and Shoji in Yvel’s guard. Whoa, I must have blacked out for a while, because we now have an ankle lock battle! Has Yvel been replaced by Valentijn Overeem or something? Yvel gets narked with that and surges into action with some surprisingly effective ground and pound. That’ll be a stoppage in the first then. Yvel helps up a limping Shoji because everybody is nice today. Seriously, you should have heard how pleasant Esch was about Sakakibara. The whole world thanks him, apparently.
Awesome. The camp marching music signifies the impending presence of no less than Don Frye. This song is seriously excellent; it’s like he’s a superhero from the black and white age. OK, James Thompson is second out and he still looks like he’s being electrocuted, thankfully. That was possibly the best staredown I have ever seen. There was jawing, that strange near-headbutting that’s more of a violent head-rub, everything.
They steam out at each other and Thommo falls. The world’s most lethargic ground and pound allows him to get back up and we get a brief re-enactment of Frye-Takayama. They get separated, Thommo with a takedown and side sorta-control. The action slows. They get back up and the pace has definitely dropped. They go back down. Frye impressive with the control. Guillotine attempt from Selleck. Thommo gets out and is on top. Jimmy transitions from decent punches to teeing off for all he’s worth. Frye technically remains on his feet, but really takes a breather by leaning on the ropes. Few are bothered by that. Thompson just keeps punching and eventually the fight is stopped. After the initial animus, the two kiss and make up. Sadly not literally. News-that’s-not-news: Thompson does not punch as hard as Le Banner. I have to admit I really liked this one; I was proper cheering away by the closing stretch.
'I won't let that happen again', Frye apologises to the crowd. If only I could believe you, Don! He does give credit to 'this big bastard', though. 'The only happy people on the planet are for[sic] Britain'. Frye over-estimates his import to international self-esteem, and Coleman tells him he's a star. Thommo starts banging on about how Frye is his MMA hero (that explains a lot), and it's all very emotional.
Intermission signals more coffee for me. Aiming for a level of hyper-caffeination here. Oh, how I have missed the summer morning sun. Excellent, Takada and Sakakibara promos have happened, and we get a guest appearance from Tiger Mask Sakuraba! This is going to be the great fighter parade I had hoped for, as Tamura rocks up to the ring. What… they’re going to fight? I wish I could understand Japanese. Maybe they’re just solemnly reminiscing. No idea what that was.
Aoki up next, and I imagine this is going to be a quick submission. Prove me wrong, Brian!
Brian jumps into Aoki, gets caught, taken down, Brian punching from Aoki’s guard. Jumping knee attempt taken down, Aoki now on top. Brian reverses positions, but gets caught in an armbar! Quick submission it is (1:33).
Oh shit. Sokoudjou gets 808 State soundtracking his video package, which is just marvellous. The first minute is tentative kickboxing, and Sokoudjou defends the takedown well. Oh you lie! Sokoudjou knocks Arona down with a right uppercut, goes for a bit of GnP and kicking, but ref waves him off. Unbelievable, and in less than two minutes. Sokoudjou with another massive upset.
Footage of Fertitta press conference, and seeing UFC action on a Pride show is surreal. I know, I’m naïve and old fashioned. It’s still weird, in a good way. The Monson entrance is a tad more traditional mixed martial artist than the pre-Silvia fight excellence. Fujita with the Pride theme and, swept up in the moment, I now want him to win. I’m fickle, I know.
After a feeling-out process, a Monson takedown is defended, but he ends up with Fujita’s back, while on the feet. Gets the takedown, but Fooj reverses it. A bit of inaction (I assume so, wasn’t really paying attention. Apologies), and restart on the feet. Four mins gone. Fujita trying for a one-punch finish, but is defended against. Monson with another TD attempt; Fooj on top, north-south. Monson scrambles, gets Fujita’s back. Hammerfists. Fujita defending the rear choke. Monson is tenacious, and apparently sinks it in (dodgy camera angles). Fujita taps and UFC wins. How symbolic.
Seemingly everybody who was ever in Pride is in the ring, and the people Dana likes are cutting promos. I have to admit that I am slightly moved when Sakakibara faces the assembled fighters and says ‘thank you for everything’. At times like this I still wish Pride was on good terms with Inoki. Quite emotional, all things considered, and I was pleased to see people like RandleMAN, Ze Mario Sperry and Bustamante knocking about.