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Length: 174 mins
Due to the mainstream success of shows like UFC’s Ultimate Fighter and their Spike TV specials, Mixed Martial Arts is starting to gain popularity in the western world. There’s one MMA promotion which hasn’t received as much attention as the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and that’s PRIDE FC. Under the ownership of Dream Stage Entertainment along with K1 and HUSTLE, this MMA promotion has seen some of the biggest names in the sport compete in their ring. Yes, all PRIDE matches are fought in your typical squared circle, with no octagon or cage to be found. PRIDE has been gaining attention over the past few years as the ultimate MMA promotion for hardcore fans. Now with the release of some entire events being released in the UK through FightDVD, we too get the chance to experience the PRIDE Fighting Championship.
This particular show is PRIDE 26 Bad To The Bone, taped at the Yokohama Arena in Kanagawa, Japan on June 6th 2003. There’s a stacked card here, as we get a rematch seven years in the making featuring Don Frye Vs Mark “The Hammer” Coleman. MMA purist’s darling Fedor Emelianenko is also in action, defending his PRIDE Heavyweight Championship against Kazuyuki Fujita. That’s the low-down, but how does the DVD fare?
We start off with an introduction from our usual PRIDE commentary team, Steven Quadros and Bas “El Guapo” Rutten who are positively giddy with excitement over the show. We even get to see Bas channelling the spirit of Hulk Hogan as he rips his own El Guapo shirt off to reveal a PRIDE shirt underneath. After we’ve experienced some more scripted comedy between the pair, we head off to our first match.
1. Nino “Elvis” Schembri Vs Kazuhiro Hamanaka
This should certainly be an interesting fight. Hamanaka has Kazushi “The Gracie Hunter” Sakuraba in his corner, while Schembri is trained in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the style pioneered by the Gracie family. Bas helpfully mentions that it’s easy to tell which fighter Nino is, as he has his surname tattooed in huge letters upon his back. There’s also the fact that he has huge Elvis-like sideburns, which explains his nickname.
The first round is quite close, with neither man gaining a clear advantage. It’s clear to see that Schembri is relying on his BJJ skills, as he wants nothing to do with Hamanaka in the stand-up. Shembri obviously feels more comfortable on his back (hence his BJJ discipline), as he keeps trying to drop Hamanaka into his guard, but the Japanese fighter wants nothing to do with it. Schembri’s main offence is to try and catch Hamanaka in an Omoplata out of his rubber guard, but Hamanaka shows good submission defence by escaping every attempt.
The second round is much more in Hamanaka’s favour, as he dominates the ground game scoring some nice body and head shots. Schembri looked in trouble at times, and had no response to Hamanaka’s offence, favouring to keep trying to take his opponent down into his guard. Again, he kept trying for the Omoplata, but Hamanaka is too slippery.
In the third and final round, Hamanaka continues his onslaught and once again dominates the round. Both men seem to have good conditioning, as neither looks gassed, but Hamanaka showed some decent Ground and Pound skills and once again showed up Schembri, who stuck to his same old game plan which failed to pay dividends.
As a result of 20 minutes of action with no clear winner, the match goes to the judges. Hamanaka gets the unanimous decision, and it’s not surprising when you see the bruising that has started to appear on Schembri’s face by now. The commentary team of Quadros and Bas get a bit carried away and give Hamanaka all kinds of flattering compliments, but his inability to finish the fight made me think that he’s far from being the finished article yet.
Kazuhiro Hamanaka d. Nino “Elvis” Schembri by unanimous decision (20 minutes)
2. Anderson Silva Vs Daiju Takase
Anderson Silva is a Brazilian Muay Thai fighter, who was coming into this show after an impressive win over Carlos Newton at PRIDE 25. Takase belongs to Genki Sudo’s camp, so you’d think that he’d have some kind of elaborate, over-the-top entrance, but unfortunately that’s cut out of the DVD.
The fight doesn’t even last one round as Takase pulls off the big upset, submitting Anderson Silva to a Head and Arm Triangle. The fight went straight to the ground, neutralising Silva’s impressive stand-up, and Daiju dominated for most of the fight with some fairly weak Ground and Pound before catching Silva in a quick submission. It seemed unlikely that the fight would end at that point, as Daiju seemed to be missing Silva’s arm which was hanging through the Triangle choke. Once he noticed that and caught on, there was no going back for Silva. A surprising result, and a decent little fight.
Daiju Takase d. Anderson Silva by tap out via Head and Arm Triangle (8 minutes 30 seconds into the first round)
3. Alistair Overeem Vs Mike “Batman” Bencic
Overeem is a Dutch kickboxer who calls himself “The Demolition Man” and carries a foam sledgehammer around. I’m guessing it’s not because he’s a Triple H fan. Bencic is an American who trains with Team Cro Cop, and has the unusual nickname of “Batman”. Cue lots of jokes along the lines of “I wonder if Robin will be in his corner?” from Rutten.
The fight only lasted a few minutes, as Overeem dominated the stand up with good technical strikes and displayed some skills on the ground too. Overeem finished the fight with an impressive flying knee to the chest which might have been enough to put Bencic away, but the referee let the fight continue. It didn’t last much longer though as Bencic tapped out after being caught with a flurry of strikes on the ground.
Overeem looked impressive here, but the fight wasn’t up to much once the brief stand-up encounter was overwith.
Alistair Overeem d. Mike”Batman” Bencic by tap out via Ground and Pound (3 minutes 44 seconds into the first round)
4. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson Vs Mikhail Illoukhine
Jackson is the kind of guy that MMA needs. It’s all well and good having a decent fighter, but if he’s got no personality, people won’t connect with the guy or be encouraged to buy PPVs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is in no danger of being in that situation. He’s more charismatic than most pro wrestlers, and he’s got the look and skills to back up what he says. The pronunciation of Illoukhine’s name gives Steven Quadros a hard time, and it’s on occasions like this I’m glad this isn’t an aural review. Before the match, Rampage decides to give the referee a yellow card. As Bas correctly points out, this must mean the referee loses 10% of his scoring if the fight goes to a decision. So it begs the question, who’s rating the referee?
This was another one-round destruction job, with Jackson coming out on top yet again. Jackson got on top of Illoukhine early on, and delivered one of his patented body slams which obviously hurt Mikhail. Jackson followed it up with hard body shots, which sucked the life out of his opponent who’s only reply was a few Kimura attempts. Jackson never really looked in any danger of being submitted due to his excellent ground defence, and it wasn’t long before he got into the side mount and let fly with a barrage of big knees to Illoukhine. After one particularly big kidney shot, the Russian tapped out and Rampage chalked up another impressive win without looking in much danger.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson d. Mikhail Illoukhine by tap out via knee to the kidney (6 minutes 26 seconds into the first round)
5. Fedor Emelianenko © Vs Kazuyuki Fujita (PRIDE Heavyweight Championship)
If you’ve never seen Fedor fight before, you’re missing out on seeing one of the most exciting and talented fighters in the world. He comes into this title defence fresh off a huge victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the belt. Fujita had a great record going into this fight, with career highlights including big wins over Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr. Fedor was heavily favoured going into the match, but how would it turn out?
The fight was an absolute joy to watch, with some utterly fantastic stand-up action from both the champion and the challenger. Both men swung huge blows at each other, and the crowd was going wild. There was nearly a monumental upset when Fujita caught Fedor perfectly with a big right hand, causing the champion to wobble around while Bas Rutten claimed he was doing “The fish dance”. Fedor managed to get into the clinch with Fujita without hitting the ground, or else it’d be all over. Eventually, Fedor managed to catch Fujita with a big punch of his own which knocked the challenger off his feet. Despite still being dizzy from the huge punch he took earlier, Fedor managed to take Fujita’s back and choke him out for the submission victory. This was a stunning fight that contained some huge excitement, and both men feeling the effects of a great match-up. Fedor still looked wobbly after the fight ended, while Fujita was still out on the mat long after the fight ended. An instant classic and a great championship defence.
Fedor Emelianenko d. Kazuyuki Fujita by tap out via Rear Naked Choke (4 minutes 17 seconds into the first round)
6. Heath Herring Vs Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic
Heath Herring is a talented wrestler from Texas who moved to Holland to hone his skills. He’s also somewhat famous for his wacky hairdos, and he was sporting a doozy at PRIDE 26. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is one of the most famous MMA fighters around, and a big name in Japan as well as his home country. Cro Cop is a policeman from Croatia who gained fame as a kickboxer, and dominated the K1 promotion. Lately, he’s been trying to become more of an all-round fighter, and has been working some PRIDE shows. At the time of PRIDE 26, Cro Cop was still unbeaten in MMA.
Cro Cop fought a smart fight. Every time Filipovic knocked Herring down, he refused to follow it up by attempting to mount and simply waved his opponent up to his feet. Cro Cop showed some brilliant takedown defence too, which made it difficult for Herring to control the fight with wrestling. After about 3 minutes, Herring was caught out by a vicious kick to the kidney which caused him to fall over. Cro Cop then took his chance and finished Herring off with some punches, and with the American unable to defend himself, the referee stopped the fight. This was another dominating performance by Cro Cop and an enjoyable, albeit short, fight as well.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic d. Heath Herring by referee stoppage via Ground and Pound (3 minutes 17 seconds into the first round)
7. Don Frye Vs Mark “The Hammer” Coleman
At UFC 10, Mark Coleman and Don Frye put on a really good display against each other which ended up with The Hammer coming out on top after the fight was stopped by the referee. It’s been seven years since then, and now Frye has a chance for revenge in the PRIDE ring. Neither of these men are particularly young, and Coleman had taken a year out of MMA prior to this fight, so conditioning looked as if it would play a major factor.
In the first round, it was fairly close but Coleman looked to have the best of it. The stand-up action was relatively poor compared to what we saw in their 1996 fight, and there wasn’t a whole lot going on in the ground game either. Coleman was on top for most of the fight, so most people would put him ahead at this point.
In the second round, it was very much the same with limited action and Mark Coleman’s floor and bore tactics not making for a great fight. There were zero submission attempts, and while Coleman was still ahead, it was hardly the most exciting of fights.
It was very much the same in the third and final round, as Coleman dominated without doing anything spectacular. Again, there was next to no stand-up action, no one tried for a submission and both men were only doing enough on the ground so that the referee wouldn’t stand them up. Coleman finally got into a very advantageous North/South position on the ground and had the opportunity to drop some Kevin Randleman-like knees, but he wasn’t causing enough damage to Frye to put the match in jeopardy.
Time expired, and the match went to the judges for the second time of the night. Coleman was awarded the unanimous victory, which didn’t come as much of a surprise, but it probably wasn’t the way he’d have liked to win and didn’t make for a very exciting fight. After the match, Coleman was interviewed and seemed pleased to have the win, but knew he’d need to do a lot more in his next fight if he was to look impressive.
Mark “The Hammer” Coleman d. Don Frye by unanimous decision (20 minutes)
Due to the number of short matches, there was still some time left on the show. So what did they fill it up with? You’re given replays of three fights. That kind of thing is fine if you’ve bought a pay-per-view and expect 3 hours of action, but it’s a bit pointless on a DVD when you can rewind. It seems a bit wasteful and was most likely a ploy to fill the rest of the disc so that the back of the box can feature a longer run time.
On top of the main feature, you get a few bonuses as well, which is the usual affair you’d see on a PRIDE DVD.
- Ring Girl Photo Gallery
This is nothing more than pictures of the ring girls at the show wearing skimpy outfits. Worthless filler.
- Fighter Photo Gallery
Here we have a few pictures from throughout the night of the show, including some interesting backstage photos. Cro Cop playing cards made me laugh for some reason, and Quinton Jackson actually wears his chain before he even enters the arena. You have to respect living the gimmick to that extent.
- PRIDE FC Rules
A nice introduction to those more used to the UFC rules, as we’re given a fifteen-page overview of rules that are in place in the promotion. Helpful for MMA beginners too.
- Video: What Is PRIDE FC?
A puff piece here to promote the company, as everyone from Royce Gracie to Bill Goldberg gives their thoughts on PRIDE and why they love it. Again, nothing more than filler to be found here.
- Detailed Fighter Bios
Here we have a quick overview regarding all of the fighters who took part in PRIDE 26. There’s nothing here you couldn’t find online within two minutes of searching, but it’s helpful to familiarise yourself with some of the fighters if you’re new to the sport.
- Fight Glossary
This is a very basic look at some of the terms used in MMA. Not much here that you wouldn’t know already, but could be of some use to a PRIDE or Mixed Martial Arts newcomer.
- Event Programme Cover
It’s a picture. Of the programme. What more can I say?
- Event Poster
A still photo of the poster used to publicise the show. It looks identical to the DVD cover, so there’s nothing new or exciting here.
PRIDE 26 isn’t the worst MMA show I’ve ever seen, and it certainly puts a lot of other cards to shame. Saying that though, this isn’t the kind of event you’d recommended to someone trying out PRIDE FC for the first time, due to the fact that there are a couple of filler matches on the card and many of the fights are very short. It’s worth having if you’re an established fan of the company, as you get to see the terrific Fedor Vs Fujita fight, as well as dominating performances from Quinton Jackson and Cro Cop. However, if you’re looking to buy your first PRIDE show, you’d be better off buying the previous DVD, PRIDE 25: Body Blow as it features a much better card all around.
Not an essential purchase, but still a good show nonetheless.
Points: 7 / 10