Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Friday, November 22, 2002
Mixed Martial Arts--- It's quite the historic weekend for mixed martial arts, with UFC 40 on Friday and Pride on Sunday. The Pride card from the Tokyo Dome in Japan looks impressive, but also has its fair share of the mismatches that have become Pride's signature. I understand that a lot of the scheduled fighters went down with injuries during training, including Mario Sperry, Mirko Cro-Cop, and Kazuyuki Fujita. But what about the other talent that was apparently lined up and ready to go? Where are Dan Henderson, Rogerio Nogueira, and Anderson Silva? Why are they not on the card, while several MMA punching bags with little-to-no MMA experience are on the card?
Regardless, I would still say that I am looking forward to several of the matches scheduled for this event. First and foremost on my mind is the highly-anticipated showdown between Ricardo Arona and Murilo "Ninja" Rua. Outside of Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock, Arona vs. Ninja is the fight that I am looking forward to the most this weekend. These are two young, talented fighters in the prime of their careers, in great shape and just coming off impressive wins over big-name stars. Arona scored a victory over perennial top five light-heavyweight Dan Henderson, while Ninja beat jiu-jitsu legend Mario Sperry in one of the most exciting MMA fights that any of us will ever see. A win in this fight could push either fighter into an immediate title shot.
Arona vs. Ninja is an evenly-matched fight that could go in a lot of different directions. I don't think the fight will end in a submission because both fighters are so good at countering them, as evidenced by Ninja getting out of an endless barrage of submission attempts from submission master Mario Sperry. I believe that it's ultimately going to come down to two things: Stand-up ability, and stamina. In both of those categories, I would have to give the edge to Ninja. Arona is no slouch as a kickboxer, but Ninja can stand up and trade punches with the best of them, and is far more dangerous on his feet than Arona.
If Arona is going to win before the time limit expires, it would probably be with the ground-and-pound strategy, but that strategy generally works best when you have more conditioning and lasting power than your opponent. Endurance in later rounds is actually something that pushed Arona over the top in victories against Guy Mezger and Dan Henderson, but no one in Pride and maybe even all of MMA can match Ninja in that area. You wouldn't know it from looking at him, but Ninja has proven time and time again that he has more stamina and heart than just about anyone. The only thing that's certain in this one is that it's going to be one hell of a fight. I'm picking Murilo "Ninja" Rua to win, and I think it is most likely to be a decision victory since these two are so evenly matched.
Elsewhere on the card, Pride's Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira, faces the 6-foot-11 Dutch kickboxer Semmy Shilt in a non-title fight. Shilt is a damn good kickboxer thanks largely to his long reach, but he hasn't had much success in mixed martial arts due to his lack of ground-fighting skills. Most fighters who are even moderately proficient at ground-and-pound or submissions have had no problem taking Shilt down and defeating him. So, it stands to reason that the #1 submission artist in the world and the #1 fighter in the world, period, shouldn't have much of a problem in this fight. I'm picking Minotauro by submission. By the way, it's going to be a tough couple of weeks for Semmy Shilt, because not only does he face Minotauro on Sunday in a mixed martial arts bout, but in early December he is scheduled for a K-1 kickboxing bout against the 6-foot-8, 380-pounds-of-muscle Bob Sapp.
In the only title fight on the card, Light-Heavyweight Champion Vanderlei Silva goes up against Hiromitsu Kanehara. While Kanehara does have a TKO victory over Dave Menne on his resume, that's just about the only victory against an accomplished fighter that he's ever had. He's more qualified than some of the scrubs that Pride puts in the ring, but with a 10-7 mixed martial arts record, he has no business being in the ring with Vanderlei Silva fighting for the Light-Heavyweight Title at one of Pride's biggest shows of the year. Kanehara is a veteran of the Rings fighting organization in Japan, where the rules severely restrict strikes to the head. He's not used to getting punched in the head by a mid-level fighter, much less one of the quickest and most dangerous strikers in all of MMA. This is a typical Pride mismatch that Vanderlei is going to easily win by knockout.
With a title shot against Minotauro Nogueira going to the winner, the stakes are high for the heavyweight fight between Heath Herring and Emelianenko Fedor. Fedor is a tough guy that can take a lot of punishment, but Heath Herring is one of the most underrated heavyweight fighters in the world. If he went to the UFC right now, he could immediately fight for the Heavyweight Title and have a decent chance of winning it. In much the same way that Tito Ortiz has his own signature style of ground-and-pound that employs the use of devastating elbows to the head, Herring has his own style of ground-and-pound that focuses on equally devastating knees to the head. Herring is a big guy with excellent conditioning, and I fully expect to see him ground and pound his way to a victory over Fedor. If Heath Herring does win and goes on to face Minotauro, I still think that Herring has less than a 50 percent chance of winning, but he would probably have a higher chance of winning than just about any other fighter in MMA. Minotauro and Herring faced off in late 2001 in a classic, back-and-forth struggle that Minotauro ended up winning by unanimous decision, and I'm frothing at the mouth right now at the thought of a Minotauro-Herring rematch.
It's going to be fun to watch in a sadistic sort of way when MMA legend Don Frye goes up against Hidehiko Yoshida. Yoshida is the kind of guy that a lot of people (including me) love to hate. This is due to the fact that Yoshida still claims he choked out Royce Gracie at the Pride Shockwave event this past summer, even though the instant replay clearly shows that he didn't even have pressure applied to Gracie's neck, much less choke him out. Yoshida is an Olympic gold medalist in judo, which doesn't mean much in mixed martial arts, other than maybe taking your opponent to the ground and then not knowing what to do offensively when you get there. Yoshida's fight with Gracie was a submission grappling match with no striking allowed, and this is his MMA debut. Making your MMA debut against Don Frye would be the equivalent of someome making his boxing debut against Oscar de la Hoya. Yoshida is going to lose by knockout in embarrassing fashion, and it couldn't happen to a more appropriate guy.
In the fight that will be the most nerve-wracking to watch, Kazushi Sakuraba returns to face off against some guy named Gilles Arsene who almost no one in the MMA community has ever even heard of. You would think Sakuraba would have no problem disposing of his unknown opponent, except for one little fact: He's fighting with a broken eye socket. Sakuraba's eye socket bone was broken in a TKO loss to Mirko Cro-Cop less than two months ago. In addition to his chronic shoulder and knee problems, Sakuraba's eye socket has barely begun to heal, and he is still having vision problems. And yet here he is, fighting nonetheless because his friend and mentor Nobuhiko Takada is having his retirement match on the same show. It's commendable to want to honor your mentor by fighting on his retirement show, but to risk long-term vision loss and facial damage with this kind of injury is just plain stupid. I'm picking Sakuraba to beat his no-name opponent by submission like he has done to so many other fighters over the years. I just hope that no permanent damage is done to Sakuraba's eyesight or face in the process.
Kevin Randleman burst onto the MMA scene a few years back with an impressive victory over former UFC Champion Maurice Smith, but his career has been on a downward spiral for a while now. Randleman made his Pride debut in September against a Japanese man named Michiyoshi Ohara who has almost MMA experience or discernable skill. Despite his opponent's apparent lack of knowledge about anything related to fighting, Randleman was unable to finish off his opponent within the 20-minute time limit. Instead, Randleman quickly got winded and started sucking air like he was on the 25th mile of a 26-mile marathon, despite the fact that he hadn't really done much of anything. For the majority of the painful-to-watch fight, Randleman just stood there, horribly out of shape, occasionally landing a strike on his ridiculously unqualified opponent. Randleman is going to win again on Sunday, but only because Pride has put him up against another unknown with little-to-no MMA experience, Kenichi Yamamoto. Randleman better be thankful for the easy opponents he's been given so far in Pride, because at this point absolutely anyone who is a mid-level or higher mixed martial artist would probably tear Randleman apart.
I have saved this fight for last since it's more of a joke than a fight, and one that perhaps one or two dozen people outside of Japan care about. Nobuhiko Takada, the perennial embarrassment to both his country and mixed martial arts in general, is having his so-called "retirement match" against Kiyoshi Tamura. Takada gained his reputation in Japan in the UWFI, a "strong-style" pro wrestling organization where the fights might have appeared to be real at first glance, but in fact the outcomes were just as pre-determined as those in any other pro wrestling company. In general, pro wrestling matches with pre-determined outcomes are often incredibly entertaining to watch, but it's dishonest for a company like the UWFI to have based its entire promotion on the concept of the fake fights supposedly being real.
In Pride, Takada lost quickly on two separate occasions to Rickson Gracie, only because Gracie turned down several huge-money offers to throw the fight and let Takada win. The only wins that Takada has ever had in any MMA organization were against Mark Coleman, Kyle Sturgeon, and Alexander Otsuka. It is now common knowledge in the MMA community that his win over Coleman was fixed, and came at a low point in Coleman's career when he desperately needed a big payday. Most suspect that Takada's wins over Sturgeon and Otsuka were pre-determined as well. In any fight that Takada has ever fought that was legitimate and without a pre-determined outcome, he has lost decisively and embarrassingly. Some of those losses were just plain disgraceful, like his loss to Royce Gracie where Takada just hung on to Gracie and literally attempted one offensive move (a punch) in the entire 20+ minute bout.
If Takada vs. Tamura is a legitimate fight, then of course Tamura is going to win. Tamura was able to last for a while and actually land a few shots on Vanderlei Silva, and there's no way in hell that Takada would be able to do that. The more likely scenario is that it's not going to be a legitimate a fight, and Takada will win. He'll end his fraudulent career with a fraudulent win in a fraudulent fight. Congratulations, man, way to go out on top...