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Length: 140 Mins
Eh? Where’s “The Real Deal” gotten to then? No big drama, though, as PRIDE’s second foray into the live Western market, from Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Centre on 24 Feb 2007, left their Nevada debut eating it’s dust, likely snaring the crown for focal point in an annum that was roundly heralded as the year of the upset in MMA. Indeed, anyone who stuck an accumulator on this event probably wound up owing the bookies money…
One jovial aspect of watching random latter days of PRIDE events is picking up the little indicators of what degree of disarray they were in at any given point. From Bas Rutten’s initial departure onwards, the group’s announce team on any given night was a significant barometer in this respect, and on this night DSE drafted in Bodog refugee Lon McEarcheran to handle play by play, in light of Mauro Ranallo’s departure. McEarcheran’s stint on Season Two of BodogFIGHT saw him comprise, as I recall, one of the most irritatingly non-descript broadcast ensembles in living memory, alongside Paul Lazenby and Jeff Osbourne. On this night, however, old Lon was lifted out of the doldrums, headfirst into respectability, thanks to a sterling turn on colour by Josh Barnett, who should have a post-competition career rivalling that of Frank Trigg to look forward to, on this evidence. My distorted brain had lead to me believe that this was the event that Craig Minervi aurally stunk up- colour me at a loss right now, but it’s been a testing year- so I was very grateful for small mercies.
- PRIDE Middleweight Championship Fight
Wanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson
- Takanori Gomi vs. Nick Diaz
- Mauricio Rua vs. Alistair Overeem
- Sergei Kharitonov vs. Michael Russow
- Hayato Sakurai vs. Mac Danzig
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
- Travis Wiuff vs. James Lee
- Frank Trigg vs. Kazuo Misaki
- Joachim Hansen vs. Jason Ireland
The quality of local (as in an American) card filling journeyman also took an upswing for this outing, with perennial B-Levelers Travis Wuiff and Mac Danzig dusting the shorts off while Travis Galbraith, Sean O’Haire and their ilk sat at home. Oh, PRIDE, how you warmed my heart so, in your incarnation as a shootfight version of WCW Saturday Night. Shrieking banshee MC Lenne Hardt is still absolutely hilarious…
Why, oh why don’t the UFC look to one Joachim Hansen to break up the Penn-Sherk-Florian party at the summit of 155lbs? The intimidating-looking “Viking” took to the ring with Jason Ireland and NSAC’s favourite commodity Steve Mazagatti, eventually having to audibly instruct the latter to call a halt to proceedings having transitioned fluently from gogoplata to triangle choke to armbar on the former in the final round. Still, the unheralded Ireland proved game opposition for the fearsome Scandinavian, surviving being blatantly outmuscled in the clinch to garner grace with several tidy combos in the opener, and holding his own in a frantic scramble to assert superiority on the canvas in the middle round… an opener that proved more competitive in practice than it appeared on paper.
The evening’s second outing unfortunately highlighted why Frank Trigg’s run in the elite bracket of MMA fizzled out following his departure from Zuffa, as the veteran welterweight- resplendent in a rather outstanding “Blackbelt in Bullshit” tee during the introductions- laboured to an insubordinate decision over Kazuo Misaki- a plodding, unremarkable fight that really won’t lend itself to repeat viewing, falling short in both the entertainment and ultimate significance departments.
The false dawn express rocketed into the platform in the form of the third and fourth fights of “The Second Coming”, as firstly James Lee employed less than forty of his allotted seconds to guillotine and submit the aforementioned Wiuff (the only YAMMA Pitfighting champion in history, you know!), which regardless of subsequent disappointments was a truly impressive feat, given that he took the fight on less than two weeks notice. Immediately thereafter, the soon-to-become blueprint flash-in-the-pan Thierry Rameau Sokoudjou produced the biggest shock of the night (nay… the year?), shooting out of the blocks to engage and letting rip with a serious left, straight knocking out Antonio Rogerio Nogueria. If not ultimately one for posterity, PRIDE’s second Vegas outing certainly provided some visceral wallpaper.
Future TUF Champion and another man who would flatter to deceive on the back of a spot of quickfire fame (notice a pattern emerging here?) Mac Danzig suffered in the early standup exchanges opposite DSE-mainstay “Mach” Sakurai, but to his credit remained active from the bottom when the fight untidily hit the canvas, coming close to securing a triangle choke, yet buoyed by a little joy, became a tad too exuberant in the following standing exchange, falling victim to a hard Harai Goshi at the conclusion of the first round, which almost resulted in the Japanese securing an armbar. Clearly in control, Sakurai almost nonchalantly dictated that the fight remain upright into the second round, and finished the American off with a low kick, right jab/hook combination, to cap a matter of course display from HS.
Actually, there’s more filler on this card than I remember… prior to the big three fights of the night Sergei “Where Am I Now?” Kharitanov armbarred and submitted Mike “Who?” Russow in rapid order (in fairness to the fight for it’s short duration “rapid” was indeed the order of the day).
Was this show really just two years ago? The reason I ask is, on the back of their respective most recent performances, I’d put my full bank balance on Alistair Overeem beating “Shogun” Rua were that fight occurring tomorrow…although, the signs of the decline were evident upon closer inspection, as the younger Rua brother had little but a succession of stuffed takedown attempts to show for the first three minutes of this fight. The Dutchman dictated the ebb and flow, both freestanding and in the clinch, until “Shogun” retaliated to a quickfire shot from “The Demolition Man” with a heavy overhand right, prompting the ubiquitous Mazagatti to call the one-punch knockout. Hey! This was fun.
The semi-main event at the Thomas & Mack was the second part of the trilogy that announced to the world that “Oi, Takanori Gomi isn’t actually that good, you know.” “The Fireball” and that old rambunctious rascal Nick Diaz engaged in quite a hearty staredown prior to their non-title clash, which placed highly in my estimation for Fight of 2007 honours. The Californian’s trademark cocksure, wide-stanced offensive jab centrepieced the opening round, bookended as it was by a Gomi takedown out of the blocks, and a straw-clutching wild right hook by PRIDE’s only ever Lightweight champ to drop his American foe. The round concluded with Diaz in absolute ascendency, utilising his significant reach advantage to land a multitude of punches, with Gomi visibly shaken after the bell as a result. The Japanese fighter reacted desperately to the engulfing tide at the inset of the second round, throwing wild punches and landing an erratic but sloppy takedown, leaving himself wide open for Diaz to clamp on an inescapable gogoplata for the major league surprise submission victory. Certainly a fight worth going out of your way to see (as an aside, those painfully smug post-fight Jerry Millen interviews have been mercifully cut from this commercial release.
You know, it never actually dawned on me until thinking about the main event of this show, coupled with the fact that the semi-main was a non-title affair, how ridiculously seldom the championships in PRIDE were defended. Indeed, the umpteenth upset of a Saturday night in Vegas constituted only the second and final time that a PRIDE Championship (in any weightclass) would switch hands inside the ropes. The man cruelly monikered “Decision” Dan became the only man in the history of either of the premier leagues… “Hollywood” Henderson toppled Wanderlei Silva in the final conflict for DSE’s 205lb strap. The Team Quest man’s scrappy standup saw him frustrate the dogmatic Brazilian across the opening spell, prompting Silva to push the tempo at the onset of the second with crisp combinations that mainly connected with air, with the clunkily monikered “American Athlete” capitalising with the first significant takedown of the fight, holding the Chute Boxe man on his back and peppering him with hammerfists. With Hendo’s superior wrestling surely putting him ahead on the scorecards, Wandy unleashed the heavy artillery with more than a hint of over-urgency, falling prey to a couple of nifty counterstrikes. The conclusion landed with a chance backfist from Henderson, and a followup right shot to put the longterm incumbent down and out. Prior to this night, all and sundry were loudly questioning Henderson’s positioning as challenger to the Middleweight crown… with that in mind, a changing of the guard proved a fitting conclusion to a mind boggling night.
Clearly, some time on, the pick-your-jaw-off-the-floor aspect of PRIDE’s penultimate outing, given the simply stunning results of just less than half the fights on tap, has eroded away. Nonetheless, “The Second Coming” remains a pulsating night of Mixed Martial Arts, with only one snoozer (Trigg vs Misaki) being offset by a genuine must-see in Gomi vs Diaz. Get this.
Points: 8.5 / 10