PRIDE WITH FRESH EYES – PRIDE 2: Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge, Vernon White vs. Kazushi Sakuraba

Well after a bit of a layoff, I am back to reviewing Pride FC chronically for the first time. For a full explanation of why I am doing this, check out the inaugural column.

After Pride 1, my expectations are very high, hopefully Pride 2 lives up to the hype.

Pride 2
March 15, 1998
Yokohama Arena, in Yokohama Japan
Commentators: Stephen Quadros, Bas Rutten

Very brief introduction here. Pride 1 had a much more elaborate into. This time, they are getting straight to business.

(1) Royler Gracie vs. Yuhi Sano

No familiarity with either of these two men.  This is a massive weight disparity. Takada and Rickson in respective corners. Gracie does everything he can to pull Sano into his guard. Gracie lands a sweep takedown.Sano chant breaks out. Sano tries to push Gracie off. Eventually Sano gets on top and thwarts a triangle attempt by tossing Gracie. They end up in a long clinch sequence. Several camera cuts to Rickson and Takada. Very mundane action. The size difference makes this odd. Bas Rutten starts singing “The Sound of Silence.” It is very quiet, even by Japanese standards. Several minutes with Gracie on top, but no action at all.

The announcers try to amuse each other. Gracie starts to punch while locked up by Sano. These punches are very soft. The commentators have some gems here; they do a “Scarface” impression and make an analogy of a slow blues band at a punk concert. Sano finally escapes, but still no offense. Gracie lands a kick from the ground. Gracie on his back is landing shots on Snowhole sitting, Gracie lands a solid punch on a standing Sano. Gracie ends up on top, Sano gives up his back, swift arm bar, and Sano taps.

Result: Gracie by submission at 33:14 of the first round. 

Analysis: What a mixed bag. Most of the fight was excruciatingly boring. Gracie was clearly the superior fighter, but the weight discrepancy seemed to neutralize the fight. However, once the fight got going, it was very entertaining. The visual of the much bigger Sano getting pummeled by a guy sitting down was a treat. What a bizarre roller-coaster.

(2) Akira Shoji vs. Juan Mott

I am a fan of Shoji after Pride1. Never heard of Juan Mott. Trading powerful leg kicks. Shoji lands a takedown. Mott gives up his back. Shoji lands punches to the back of Mott’s head. Shoji locks in a deep choke, Mott taps.

Result: Shoji by submission at 3:47 of the first round.

Analysis: Shoji is once again fun and entertaining. Aside from his clear dominance in the fight, he draws you in with his mannerisms and energy. I really hope we get to see a lot more of Shoji in the future.

(3) William Roosmalen vs. Ralf White

No familiarity with Roosmalen. White was on the unfortunate end of an illegal shin kick at Pride 1. His hematoma was also very entertaining to the commentators. Roosmalen is huge. They are wearing JKD gloves, not sure if this is a kickboxing match. Leg kicks by White. Alright, it is a kickboxing fight. They clinch and throw knees before being separated. Roosmalen warned for clinching.

End of round 1

ROUND 2 Nice jabs by White. Roosmalen lands a right hook, they clinch. Powerful roundhouse kick by Roosmalen. Heavy exchanges by both men.

End of round 2.

ROUND 3 In this round the clinching is tolerated much more. Roosmalen somehow drops White. He gets up.

End of round 3

ROUND 4 Roosmalen drops White with a knee to the body. He does not get up. It is over.

Result: Roosmalen by KO at 0:38 of the fourth round.

Analysis That was fun. Poor White seems to be this great looking athlete that gets beat up on every Pride card. Roosmalen did not look like an athlete, but nobody would want to be on the receiving and of one of those knees.

(4) Vernon White vs. Kazushi Sakuraba

Alright, the freshly minted UFC hall of famer, against someone with a very generic sounding name. White lands a clean punch to the side of Sakuraba’s head. They go to the ground, Sakuraba ends up on top. Sakuraba attempts an unsuccessful Kimora. They stand up, and roll around. Sakuraba ends up in White’s guard. White gets up, but Sakuraba lands a takedown, ends up on top. After some crafty maneuvering, Sakuraba gets White in an arm bar. White stands up while Sakuraba still has the arm bar locked in. White breaks free, Sakuraba gives up his back, and Sakuraba quickly reverses a choke attempt. Sakuraba ends up in side control against the ropes…the refs attempt to move the fighters to the middle of the ring, but Sakuraba keeps grappling as this is taking place. Eventually, they make their way to the middle of the ring.

Sakuraba stands up. White throws kicks at the knees of Sakuraba. Sakuraba gets through the kicks of White, before getting reversed and once again giving up his back. White relaxes for a second on Sakuraba’s back. White throws one punch to the side of Sakuraba’s head, before standing up. White attempts a soft kick to a grounded Sakuraba, but White ends up being taken down. Sakuraba ends up on top. White’s corner is heard urging White to, “Kick his f—-g a–… and stop playing around. Stephen Quadros concurs.

Sakuraba attempts an arm submission, settles into a mount.

End of Round 1

ROUND 2 White lands a solid jab.

Sakuraba lands a double leg takedown.

White gets Sakuraba off of him, Sakuraba attempts an arm bar in the process. White escapes the submission attempt, once again Sakuraba gives up his back, but White looks perplexed. White lands a punch to the back of the head before attempting a choke. Sakuraba gets out. When they stand up, White attempts to throw from behind but Sakuraba reverses. This happens twice. This sequence ends up with other instance of Sakuraba giving up his back, White pondering a technique, before finally attempting a choke. White lands a standing double under hook choke, but eventually lets up. White lands knees to a crouching Sakuraba. From a standing position, Sakuraba attempts a Kimora, white punches free. Sakuraba lands a double leg takedown, lands some punches from a mount. White reverses.

End of round 2

Round 3 White falls attempting a kick, but he gets up.  They trade kicks.

Sakuraba lands a takedown. Sakuraba is in control on top. White throws Sakuraba off of him, Sakuraba attempts an arm bar during the transition, but White escapes. Sakuraba gives up his back, but rolls his way into an arm bar attempt, he locks it in White taps.

Result: Sakuraba by submission at 6:53 of the third round.

Analysis: I have very mixed feelings about this fight. On one hand, it was a fight that had a lot unique transitions; on the other hand, the fight just seemed to drag. The commentators were touting the fight as a technical masterpiece, but a condensed highlight reel would have been a much more enjoyable watch. Also, this was the first lackluster fight that the announcers didn’t liven the otherwise dull atmosphere. Like the fight, the commentators came across as repetitive.

(5) Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta

At Pride 1 Renzo Gracie put forth a rather tepid performance, hopefully this will be more exciting. I have no knowledge of Sanae Kikuta. Kikuta very aggressive, they end up clinched into the corner. Kikuta pulls Gracie to the ground, Gracie is on top. They stand up. Gracie chargers into the corner, but is quickly wrapped up by Kikuta. Gracie throws knees while locked in a standing clinch. Kikuta lands a takedown out of the clinch. They end up at the ropes, and are moved to the center. Gracie maintains a solid guard. After some inactivity, they are once again pushed to the middle. Kikuta is trying to escape, but is finding dead ends.

End of round 1

ROUND 2 Kikuta comes out throwing shadow punches.

Gracie lands a stiff right head to Kikuta’s head, Kikuta responds with a clinch attempt. Gracie walks both men into the corner. Gracie lands knees in the corner clinch. Kikuta’s takedown attempt breaks the clinch, once broken Gracie lands a series of punches. Kikuta runs in for a clinch. Gracie corners Kikuta. Kituta attempts a takedown, but his momentum is seized by Gracie. Gracie gets Kikuta into his guard. Kikuta’s movement pushes them to the ropes, they are drug to middle. Kikuta stands up. Kikuta attempts several kicks, while Gracie is on his back.  Kikuta rushes to go back to Gracie’s guard. Gracie lands punches to Kikuta’s kidneys.

End of Round 2

ROUND 3 Kikuta charges immediately, and lands a takedown, they wind up in Gracie’s guard. Bas Rutten says that he is speechless. The commentators discuss tickling as a possible strategy. Gracie stands up. After some kicks, he goes right back to Gracie’s guard.

End of round 3

ROUND 4 The commentators explain that this fight has unlimited rounds. Both men come out with quick punches, before clinching in the corner. Kikuta lands a takedown. This time Kikuta lands punches while on top, but they are once again moves to the center of the ring. They are stood up by the referee, the commentators are unsure why. It would seem that there was concern about punches to the back of Kikuta’s head. Gracie lands a left hand, they both miss kick attempts.

End of round 4

ROUND 5 As usual they start the round in the clinch. Kikuta’s takedown attempt results in him being on the receiving end of guillotine. Gracie lands knees while holding Kikuta’s head. As they go to the ground, Gracie briefly sinks in a neck crank, before Kikuta escapes. In Gracie’s guard, the two combatants are talking to each other.

End of round 5

ROUND 6 Quadros questions the meaning of prize fighting. Rutten explains that this is not fighting. Time is stopped to fix Kikuta’s glove. Kikuta charges but into the ropes, but Gracie scouts it well, and locks in a guillotine. When they get to the ground, Kikuta taps.

Result: Gracie by submission at 0:43 of the sixth round.

The announcers scream “Thank God.” Gracie is screaming with joy.

Analysis: That was a miserable experience. Critics who don’t like MMA because of the grappling aspects should use that fight to reaffirm their position. This fight was so bad that the commentators were defeated at the end.     

(6) Tasis Petridis vs. George Randolf

I have no idea who either of these guys are. Honestly, these two would have to try very hard to be as boring as the previous fight. This is a kickboxing fight. Randolf is huge. They trade kicks. Randolf lands a knee to the head. Randolf ends up on the ground. Both men trade multiple strikes.

End of round 1

ROUND 2 Most of the strikes are coming from Petridis, Randolf is only able to clinch. Randolf looks gassed.

End of round 2

ROUND 3 Petridis lands a quick takedown. Petridis lands several leg kicks. Petridis lands a pair of heavy left hooks.

End of round 3

ROUND 4 Petridis repeats a pattern of leg kick followed by a series of punches.

Petridis lands a head kick. Randolf is aggressive, but not landing meaningful strikes.

End of round 4

ROUND 5 Petridis is nearly flung out of the ring by a charging Randolf. Petridis lands a jumping reverse sidekick. After a fury of punches by Petridis, he is struck by a low blow, time is stopped.

End of fight.

Result: Petridis by decision.   

Analysis: That was really fun. Initially I would think that Petridis would get mauled by the giant Randolf. However, it was absolutely the other way around. That fight was placed in the perfect part of the card. That was essentially a palate cleanser.

(7) Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge

This could be fun. After Pride 1, I am curious to see if Goodridge still has those heavy hands. I am familiar with Ruas but do not have a depth of knowledge about him. Goodridge lands some hard punches to Ruas head. Ruas misses a few kick and back fist attempts. Goodridge corners Ruas with punches. Ruas responds with an unsuccessful takedown attempt. Goodridge ends up in a side mount. Goodridge lands powerful punches from a top position. They stand up.  Goodridge rushes in with a barrage of punches, but slips, before grabbing his leg. Goodridge pushes Ruas to the ground, but Ruas locks in a heel hook, Goodridge taps.

Result: Ruas by submission at 9:09 of the first round.

Analysis: That was wild. Goodridge looked like he was going to kill Ruas throughout the fight. It looks like Goodridge suffered some sort of leg injury. This fight had an aura to it, that the other fights did not. I want more of these guys.

(8) Branco Citivic vs. Mark Kerr

Alright this should be interesting. Citivic was last seen throwing an illegal shin kick in a kickboxing fight. I feel that I know more about the legend of Kerr’s physique over his fighting acumen. Not exactly a USADA era fighter. Kerr shoots and picks up Citivic. Citivic responds with strikes to the back of Kerr’s head. Citivic grabs the ropes with all of his strength. It takes some time for the officials to get Kerr off of the ropes. Eventualy the fighters are broken up, and Citivic is given a warning. The sequence repeats itself, but this time Kerr gets angry and punches Citivic while the referee are pulling them apart. After they are separated, Citivic is laid out on the ground. The bell rings. Both fighters seem confused. They hug, as the crowd boos.

Result: Kerr by Disqualification at 2:14 of the first round.

Kerr gets on the mic to apologize to the crowd.

Citivic gets on the microphone and requests a rematch.

Analysis: Well that was not a fight, but it sure was entertaining. After two encounters with Pride, I have no idea if Citivic can fight. However, I do know that Citivic is really good at getting disqualified. I do not know if he is doing this out of ignorance for rules; or he is simply not good enough to compete on a level playing field. Either way, I would hate to be the guy fighting him. As fun as that “fight” was, it was sour note to end the card on.

Fight of the Night: Marco Ruas vs. Gary Goodridge

Fighter of the Night: Akira Shoji

Fight to Avoid: Renzo Gracie vs. Sanae Kikuta

Overall Impressions

As the old saying goes: “The sequel is never as good as the original.” In the case of the first two Pride events, Pride 2 was “The Lost World: Jurassic Park.” The card has some really fun moments, but it was just too long. The more exciting fights could not overcome the mundane bouts. There seems to be a pattern forming of boring Gracie fights in Pride. Aside from the Rickson Gracie-Nobuhiko Takada fight from Pride 1, all the other fights including a Gracie have slowed the momentum of their respective cards.

Unfortunately, the commentary on Pride 2 was not at the level of its predecessor. Rutten and Quadros   seemed to be lulled to sleep by the malaise of fights. The witty one-liners were largely absent. Their mood seemed to reflect those of the crowd that were silent even by Japanese standards.

While many long for the days of unregulated MMA, this card was an argument for the modern parameters. Royler Gracie vs. Naoki Sano would have benefited from a weight limit. Similarly, the Renzo Gracie-Sanae Kikuta fight really needed a time limit.

As disappointing as this card was, it does not deter me from continuing this journey through Pride. I just Pride 3 is little shorter than three hours.

NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: PRIDE WITH FRESH EYES – PRIDE 1: Rickson Gracie vs. Nobihiko Takada, Dan Severn vs. Kimo, Taktarov vs. Goodrich

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