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2000-09 in MMA: Top 50 Fights Of The Decade


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I’m surprised it never got made in that period between Brock leaving WWE the first time and him signing with the UFC. Either a MMA fight or even a pro wrestling match would’ve been quite a spectacle when red pants Brock was fucking about in that Inoki fed.

And while we’re reminiscing about freakshows, I think a lot of people forget that Brock’s MMA debut was originally supposed to be against Hong Man Choi. 

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#29 - Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg 2 - UFC 52 - Apr 16th 2005 OK then. A well known one here. There was some bad blood going into this fight. They’d fought at UFC 45 back in November 2003 and Hughe

#6 - Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama - Pride 21 - Jun 23rd 2002 Right then. You’ll all have seen this fucker. If not, why not? An all time classic right here. No real backstory to speak of. There

#19 - Diego Sanchez vs Nick Diaz - The Ultimate Fighter 2 Finale - Nov 5th 2005 Inside the Top 20 now. And this is an old favourite of mine from my early days of really getting into MMA. It’s the

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We’ve finally reached the Top 10.

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#10 - Carlos Condit vs Hiromitsu Miura - WEC 35 - Aug 3rd 2008

This was very early into me following WEC. I’d obviously heard of the promotion and seen all the hype for guys like Urijah Faber and Miguel Torres, I’d seen little clips and highlights and gifs and all that. But with the shows not being televised over here, it wasn’t so easy to watch them. It was actually WEC 34, the show just before this one, that finally hooked me in. It had Faber vs Jens Pulver in the main event and Torres vs Yoshiro Maeda in the co-main and I just remember seeing everyone buzzing about these two FOTY candidates on the same night. Clearly remember Dave Meltzer raving about how good they were on his site. Must’ve been days later I finally tracked the show down somewhere, probably torrents, and that was me sold. From 34 up until the final show 53, I went out of my way to make sure I watched them. I’ve since gone back and seen a lot of the earlier stuff but for me, 34-53 will always be the golden spell of WEC. That 2 year period was maybe the best run of consistently incredible shows that any MMA promotion has ever put on.

This Condit vs Miura fight was a big part of keeping me hooked too. While WEC 34 was amazing, if the follow up show was cack I might’ve drifted away from it. Or just dipped in when Faber or Torres were fighting. WEC delivered in a big way again with 35 though. It was a 4 fight main card and the first 3 were all exciting as fuck with big finishes. Then came the headliner.

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Condit was the WEC Welterweight champ. He was only 24 years old here but already he was pretty much a full on veteran. He’d fought all over the place from King Of The Cage to Rumble On The Rock in Hawaii to Pancrase in Japan. He’d seen all the different styles and gained a lot of valuable experience early on in his career. So when he stepped into WEC’s blue cage in 2007, he was already seasoned. He won the belt in just his second fight in the company and defended it twice against Brock Larson and Carlo Prater. At this point he was 4-0 in WEC and had finished all 4 opponents.

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Miura had a record of 9-4 here. Nothing special. His background was in Judo and Sambo but he liked to mix it up in the standup too. He’d lost to Mayhem Miller in his WEC debut a year or so earlier but had bounced back with a drop to 170. A first round KO over Blas Avena at WEC 33 bagged him a crack at the gold and here we are.

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Carlos Condit (c) vs Hiromitsu Miura - Welterweight Title

WEC 35: Condit vs Miura

August 3rd 2008

Las Vegas, Nevada

The old WEC intro always gives me the old nostalgic tingles.

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Urghh. Burn it. Set fire to it immediately.

Seriously, I’ve always said Mir is great in this role as colour commentator but he’s mumbling like fuck here. Tripping over his words and murdering the pronunciation of Miura’s name again and again. The one thing I give Mir credit for, I’m retracting it. Fuck Frank Mir.

“He’s a tough fighter and I’m sure that he deserves to be here but I’m gonna show him that he doesn’t wanna be in there with me. He’s gonna figure out real quick that he doesn’t wanna be in that cage with me.” - Carlos Condit

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Round 1: There’s not much of a feeling out process here. Miura knows he has to close the distance because Condit’s a fair bit taller and lankier than he is, so it’s forcing the action right off the bat. It’s working as well, Miura is landing some shots.

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Beautiful throw by Miura there. He’s off to a strong start. Back on the feet and Miura with a really nifty trip. He’s letting Condit back up but he’s already shown that his Judo techniques are not to be slept on. He’s letting Condit know he can put him on the mat if he wants to. Condit turning up the heat now, landing some nice kicks and knees.

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Condit drops him! Love the way he hid the right hand behind the push kick feint. Miura didn’t see it coming. Condit is on top of him laying a beating down now. Lots of elbows. But he gets overzealous with an armbar attempt and Miura uses it to get up and throw him again. Miura with some ground and pound to end the round. Close one. Miura started strong and finished strong, had those throws. He certainly had more of the round in terms of time. He was in control for over half the round. But Condit did drop him and beat him up on the ground. Based on that, probably Condit 10-9 but I could see giving it to Miura.

Round 2: Condit’s looking good early here with a variety of kicks right out the gate. They wind up on the ground and Condit’s on top. Really good stuff here, it’s non-stop on the feet and on the mat. Condit gets the mount and he’s battering Miura with elbows and punches. Miura is flopping about and gives up his back so Condit dives on an armbar again. Miura having T-Rex arms is what saved him there. Condit on top again and there’s the buzzer. Condit 10-9.

Round 3: Man, this is such a gruelling battle. Miura’s going for another throw but Condit’s not playing ball. Condit briefly gets the mounted guillotine, Miura escapes but Condit still has him mounted. Not good. Condit actually looks really tired here, which you don’t see often. He’s landing the odd strike but he’s mostly using this mount as a chance to rest. Understandably. The pace of this one has been insane. But Miura must sense he’s fading and reverses position. He’s on top now and dropping heat! Hard shots on the ground from Miura here. He’s punching Condit’s head in. Back on the feet and they’re both just giving it everything.

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Condit lands in top position somewhere in the madness. He’s got the mount again. The twists and turns and shifts in momentum here are crazy. Condit is elbowing the crap out of him now from mount. Ref Josh Rosenthal looks close to stepping in but Miura keeps moving. He gives up his back but he’s avoided Rosenthal stopping the fight and bought himself a little bit more time. Condit’s working a choke though. He can’t get it under the chin and the round ends. Condit 10-9 again but fuck me that was some round.

Round 4: Miura actually looks the fresher of the two at the start of this round. Incredible. He’s coming out all guns blazing.

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He hits a half throw/half trip thingy but Condit weathers it and comes back with a takedown of his own. But now Miura sweeps back into top position! This is nuts. Ground and pound from Miura again. Back on the feet and they’re going after it again and Condit somehow lands in the mount again. And Miura reverses it again! What the fuck? Tons of punches from in the guard here by Miura. Condit looks fucking exhausted now. He’s just lying there with his head flat on the canvas totally spent.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look so knackered in a fight, except for the end of the Robbie Lawler fight maybe. They’re back up. Miura whiffs badly on a big right hand...

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Condit puts him down with a knee to the jaw! Miura’s on all fours and Condit is punching away. Not much pop behind the shots but Miura isn’t defending and Rosenthal has seen enough. It’s over.

Winner - Carlos Condit by TKO. Round 4 - 4:43.

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Awesome fight. There’s some booing at the stoppage but I thought it was fine. You can’t just turtle up, let a guy hit you with a bunch of unanswered punches and expect the referee not to stop it. Miura just had fuck all left at that point. It was probably as much physical exhaustion as him being hurt. The knee was just the final straw. What a fight though. From listening to the talk pre-fight, Miura got some respect as a ‘tough guy’ but it’s clear he was thought to be a standard run of the mill title defence for Condit. Just a body to feed him. But Miura didn’t come to lose or just have a go. He put everything into winning this fight. Condit probably won every round but that really doesn’t tell the true story of this one. You have to watch it for yourself. Miura gave him hell from start to finish. Honestly, if you’ve never seen it, get it watched. Even better than I remembered.

Mad thing is, Miura never went on to do much in MMA after this. He only fought 5 more times and finished up with a record of 12-7. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another fight of his. It’s like he came out of nowhere to give us this one absolute banger of a fight then disappeared back into obscurity. He was like a man possessed on this night though. Looking him up, he went into Boxing a couple of years after this and went 9-1. Hasn’t fought since 2012 now and at 38, I imagine he’s done. 

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#9 - Tyson Griffin vs Clay Guida - UFC 72 - Jun 16th 2007

Back at 155 and this is one of my all time favourites. This came right in that period where they were rebuilding the Lightweight division. They’d sacked it off a few years earlier, which I never understood. The original 155 crew of BJ Penn, Jens Pulver, Caol Uno, Din Thomas, Yves Edwards, Dennis Hallman and that lot was a pretty strong pool of talent back in the early 2000s. I’m guessing the contract dispute with Penn around 2004 played a big part though. But the UFC decided to bring Lightweight back in 2006 and they fully committed to it by devoting a whole season of TUF to finding new talent, as well as signing up a bunch of young, exciting fighters from various other smaller promotions. They already had a returning BJ Penn and Jens Pulver plus Sean Sherk and Kenny Florian had dropped to 155. Then you had Tyson Griffin, Clay Guida, Frankie Edgar, Roger Huerta, Thiago Tavares and guys like Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard and Joe Lauzon coming in from TUF 5. It was a hell of a mix of familiar names mixed with fresh faces which provided the backbone for what would quickly become the most exciting division in the sport.

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Tyson Griffin was a hot prospect at this time. 8-1 with all his wins coming inside the distance, trained at Xtreme Couture when they were doing well, was the only man to hold a win over WEC poster boy Urijah Faber. He was on fire and developing a reputation as one of the most entertaining young fighters in the game. In his fight before this, he’d suffered his first loss against Frankie Edgar (which I covered earlier in the thread). But it was a razor close decision and a true FOTY contender so his stock really didn’t take a hit. Think that was the only fight I’d seen of him at this point and this was his attempt to rebound from that first L.

“I’m actually looking to test his chin, he’s a tough guy. I’ve seen him get banged up with his jaw swollen from here to there and...he’s a tough dude. I’m ready for a war. I’m looking to take the fight to him and I know he’s looking to take the fight to me so we’ll see who can break who’s will. I plan on being the guy that does it.” - Tyson Griffin

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Guida was 21-7 here. Former Strikeforce champ known for his relentless wrestling, his seemingly never ending cardio and his frantic pace. He was one of the guys the UFC picked up when they decided to bring back the Lightweights in 2006. Him and Frankie Edgar had actually tried out for TUF 5 but never made the cut and the UFC just signed them both outright. I can see why they did that with Edgar. Incredible fighter, even back then, but he doesn’t scream ‘reality TV’, does he? I’d have quite liked to have seen Guida in the house though. He’d have been perfect for TUF. He won his UFC debut, submitting Justin James on the undercard of the first Rich Franklin vs Anderson Silva fight. But he lost on points to Din Thomas in his next fight. So like Griffin, this was his opportunity to redeem himself and get back in the win column.

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Tyson Griffin vs Clay Guida

UFC 72: Victory

June 16th 2007

Belfast, Northern Ireland

I vividly remember watching this round a mate’s pissed out of my skull. 2007 wasn’t a good year for me personally and I spent much of it absolutely bladdered. Mad thing was the mate in question is now my brother-in-law and my future wife was there on this night. We were still a few years off getting together at this point. I met her a couple of times around this time and I’m ashamed to say I barely recall it. I was a mess and she thought I was a dick apparently. Don’t know why I put ‘was’ there because that hasn’t changed. Anyway, my mate had one of those dodgy cable boxes where you got all the sports and PPV events and stuff. Good job really because this being on PPV was taking the piss really. If we hadn’t found a way to watch this illegally, I don’t know when I’d have seen this fight. Remember, the UFC were only just breaking back into the UK/Ireland again in 2007. They ran that Royal Albert Hall show in 2002 and never came back for years. Bisping winning TUF had opened up the doors again and they did UFC 70 in Manchester. So you’d think they’d bring some big fights over, trying to woo us. No. Look at this for a main card...

Rich Franklin vs Yushin Okami 

Forrest Griffin vs Hector Ramirez 

Jason MacDonald vs Rory Singer

Tyson Griffin vs Clay Guida 

Ed Herman vs Scott Smith

It’s not the worst card ever but to charge £20 on Box Office for it was a bit of a liberty. Franklin and Okami were legit but Okami was never the most entertaining to watch and as a PPV headliner it just wasn’t cutting it. And Ramirez was a nobody. Him in a PPV co-main event was laughable even back then. Thankfully, Griffin vs Guida was on early in the card before the alcohol really took effect.

Referee for this is Big John McCarthy. I miss that big bastard reffing. With all the talk lately about referees and safety and controversial stoppages, you really have to stop and appreciate just how good and how consistent Big John was. I’m sure he made the odd mistake or dodgy call over the years but nothing glaringly obvious is jumping out in my memory. And when you factor in that he’d been going since UFC 2, right through those Wild West days of the sport and put in a solid 20 years. He was always in control in there and did a tough job very well for a very long time. Is he in the UFC Hall Of Fame? If not, why not? Not on Dana White’s Christmas card list?

Anyway...

Round 1: Straight away I notice Griffin is in the longer, baggy shorts here. Must’ve been creeped out by Rogan banging on about his bum and thick legs in the Edgar fight. Crowd are booing 30 seconds in, and I’m not exaggerating, presumably because nobody is bleeding already. Jesus wept. Clay’s going after a takedown and Griffin is showing some freaky balance defending it while hopping on one leg. Not only that, they’re exchanging punches while Clay has Tyson hopping! Griffin with a guillotine but Guida pops out. The pace here already is off the charts. I can see skinhead Bisping watching cageside as these two nutters scramble around the cage. Tyson opens up with punches against the fence and Guida returns fire with a right hand that backs him right up. Guida has never been much of a striker but I’ve noticed a few times that he clearly must pack a bit of a punch. He may lack technique but when he does connect it seems to stop guys in their tracks for a second. And he did break RDA’s jaw that time.

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Griffin’s turning it on late in the round though and he’s got Clay reeling a bit. They go into a crazy scramble again and that’s round one in the books. Absolutely flew by that did. Griffin 10-9 for me.

Round 2: Right where they left off and Griffin’s takedown defence is just insane. His balance and ability to stop takedowns, from a guy who specialises in wrestling like Guida, is up there with BJ Penn in his prime in this fight. Totally defies all logic how he’s able to do it. Tyson teeing off but Guida’s giving as good as he gets.

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Griffin with a German suplex that doesn’t quite pan out as Guida lands arse first on his face. There’s more reversals and transitions here than I can do justice. Guida going for a kneebar now...

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Which Griffin just tries to body punch his way out of. They don’t sound like fun but Guida eats them and keeps cranking back on the leg. Now Griffin is going for a heel hook. Guida spins out of it. This is outstanding. Belfast aren’t booing now. Guida takes the back, he’s trying for a rear naked choke.

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Nope. Christ, I forgot all about that. Guida says ‘fuck that, I was never a looker anyway’ and stays on his back with a body triangle. But Tyson manages to half shake him off and survive the rest of the round. Close one but I’m saying Guida 10-9.

Round 3: Griffin is really letting loose with his striking at the start of this round. And he’s still defending the takedowns really well. Even when Guida does get him down it’s so brief and Griffin springs back up. At one point they’re in some fucked up position against the cage, Guida has the back but Griffin’s on top just dropping elbows. Clay spins out, Tyson is going for a leg lock and Clay just casually turns around and backhands the absolute shite out of him a few times. I love this fight. Clay on top now. This is the position he’s been after the whole fight.

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Don’t think he wanted that though. But Guida stays on top for the remainder of the round, the crowd is going crazy as the final seconds tick away and Clay lands some of his trademark caveman ground and pound to really seal the round. Guida 10-9.

Guida looks well happy post-fight. Griffin looks down in the dumps. He looks like he thinks he’s lost this one.

Winner - Tyson Griffin by split decision.

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I can’t argue with the decision. I had it 29-28 for Guida myself. The commentary seemed to side with a Guida win too, with Eddie Bravo scoring it for Clay on his unofficial scorecard. But there really wasn’t more than a cunt hair in it. 

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Fucking phenomenal fight however you scored it. At the time I thought it was the best MMA fight I’d ever seen. It would be overtaken later in the year but it’s always been up there for me as one of my personal favourites. Again, I say it a lot on here but what the hell happened to Tyson Griffin? The guy seemed to have all the potential in the world at this point and it just petered out. Maybe it was just too many wars in such a short time. In 2007 alone he faced Edgar, Guida and Tavares in consecutive barnburners. But as hard to believe as it sounds now, I think if you asked most MMA fans and journalists back in 2007 who they thought would go further - Griffin or Edgar - most would’ve said Griffin. Even despite Edgar narrowly beating him. It’s mad to think that by August 2010, Edgar was the champ and had just gone 2-0 over BJ Penn. And Griffin had just got KTFO in a minute by a faded Takanori Gomi. 

Edited by wandshogun09
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48 minutes ago, wandshogun09 said:

Anyway, my mate had one of those dodgy cable boxes where you got all the sports and PPV events and stuff. Good job really because this being on PPV was taking the piss really. If we hadn’t found a way to watch this illegally, I don’t know when I’d have seen this fight.

Aye, what sad fuck actually paid for that card...............................ahhh fuck. 

Btw, I had Guida winning on the night as well. 

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Stellar write-up as always, wand. I almost feel like I'm there, hearing the smack of each punch, the way you describe it.

Sorry for keeping going on tangents like this, but I see Griffin was wearing foot-tape/wraps - it seems to me, looking at the evolution of MMA over the years, that the promotions have basically favoured stripping everything down to basics, but I still wonder why foot-tape/wraps were banned. Presumably it's something to do with grappling, given that they're allowed in kickboxing?

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27 minutes ago, Carbomb said:

Stellar write-up as always, wand. I almost feel like I'm there, hearing the smack of each punch, the way you describe it.

I have no idea how he remembers all of these fights. 

I have zero recollection of Condit vs Miura, even though I probably watched it at the time. I'd also forgotten about Sanchez vs Guida. 

Edited by jimufctna24
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#8 - Diego Sanchez vs Karo Parisyan - UFC Fight Night - Aug 17th 2006

Sanchez was still unbeaten at this time. 15-0 and the UFC hype machine had been fully behind him coming off his TUF win a year or so earlier. He’d won 3 fights since TUF but the only one of any real note was the Nick Diaz grappling war. Oddly, after that win he was matched with John Alessio, who he beat on points. Typically, it was another exciting Sanchez scrap, maybe his most overlooked actually. But from a name standpoint, it felt like a little bit of a backwards step coming off the Diaz win. So while he was still on a streak, his momentum might’ve cooled off slightly. This would be another step back up though.

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Karo ‘The Heat’ Parisyan was an absolute phenom at this time. A Gokor Chivichyan and Gene LeBell student and all around bad motherfucker. One for Carbomb’s Fighters From Yesteryear thread. When I first got into MMA, Parisyan instantly became one of my favourites. I’ve always been a huge fan of Judo in MMA. It’s definitely not the most effective of the grappling disciplines when it comes to applying it in a MMA setting, but fuck me it’s fun to watch and adds a different flavour. For all her faults, you can’t deny it was something to behold when Ronda Rousey would launch some poor woman through the air with one of those throws. And the likes of Hidehiko Yoshida, Sexyama and Stun Gun Kim are just some of the names who brought that to the mix as well over the years. It’s still a bit of a rarity to see in MMA but it’s always been something I’ve enjoyed. But Parisyan was the first fighter I saw actually pulling that shit off in MMA and I loved him for it. He showed himself to be a right twat later on when he made that guest appearance on TUF 5 - “do these guys know who I am?” - but at this time, he could do no wrong in my eyes.

Going into this fight, he was 15-3 and coming off 5 wins in a row. Like Diego, Karo had also beat Nick Diaz in a fantastic fight (that narrowly missed this thread) at UFC 49. He’d also strung together wins over Chris Lytle, Matt Serra and Nick Thompson. His only losses were to GSP and Sean Sherk but he was only an 18/19 year old kid in the Sherk fights. At this point though in 2006, he seemed to be peaking. He was actually supposed to challenge Matt Hughes for the belt in late 2005 but tore his hamstring and had to pull out. Shame because Hughes vs Parisyan at that time would’ve been amazing. We never did get to see it and Parisyan never did get that title shot.

“What I’m shooting for is pure annihilation on Diego. Whether it’s the standup, clinch, ground and pound or submissions. When he shoots in I wanna sprawl so hard he thinks he hit a brick wall. Get the back, get on top, go for submissions. Cut him open with a nice elbow, over the eyebrow...looks real nice on TV.” - Karo Parisyan

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Diego Sanchez vs Karo Parisyan

UFC Fight Night: Sanchez vs Parisyan

August 17th 2006

Las Vegas, Nevada

The old Red Rock Resort hosted this one. I liked those little venues in the early Fight Night days. Nice and cosy for some violence. This was a proper mouth watering matchup at the time. One of the first non-PPV fights I was buzzing for. Vividly recall avoiding the spoilers until it aired on Bravo. 

Round 1: Diego gets a takedown and he’s got the mount and back within seconds. Unbelievable how easy he made that look against a grappler the calibre of Parisyan. Diego with ground and pound from the back. Worst start imaginable for Karo this. He manages to stand up and hits a sweet trip takedown of his own though. He’s landing punches from the top now and even going for those diving punches into the guard like Shogun used to do in his younger days. Diego’s back up and Karo is cut under the eye.

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Fucking awesome throw by Parisyan! Both the crowd and the commentators lost their shit at that. Diego looked like a ragdoll. It’s mad because Parisyan always just looked like some regular doughy fella but those years and years of Judo obviously built up a ridiculous core strength in him. Probably couldn’t lift for shit in your local gym but he was built for throwing human bodies around. He tries another one which Diego half blocks but was probably worse because he gets spiked on his head on the way down. They get into a sloppy but spirited punching exchange as the round ends. Close round. Diego bossed the first half but Karo really turned it around with those throws and a strong finish. Probably lean towards Sanchez 10-9 though. The throws were pretty but I thought Diego had more control for more of the round and did more damage overall.

There’s a great atmosphere here. I think a combination of the two fighters being nutcases, the smaller intimate setting plus the fact both the Sanchez and Parisyan families are in the crowd for this, there’s a real tension there. If the families kicked off that night, I wouldn’t have wanted to be working security. A bunch of emotionally charged Mexicans and Armenians? And you want me to step in between them? Nah, you’re alright.

Round 2: Striking early here and Parisyan is having some success. He even lands a decent headkick which was unlike him. Fucking Tito Ortiz is in Parisyan’s corner. Imagine the batshit and nonsensical conversations those two had? Karo landing quite a lot here and follows up with a big slam.

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Parisyan is looking good here. Diego does some beautifully weird escape but gets taken right back down. They scramble and now Diego winds up on top. Incredible stuff from both here. Back on the feet with less than a minute left and Parisyan scores a late takedown. Parisyan 10-9 for me. He had a really good start to the round, Diego swung it back his way a little bit in the middle part but I felt Karo put a stamp on it with that takedown at the end.

Round 3: Both out swinging and it descends into a clinch battle with both landing knees and punches from there. Goldberg and Rogan are so biased towards Sanchez here. They’re completely ignoring most of Parisyan’s landed punches and talking about how Sanchez is getting the better of it. They really bummed the TUF guys in those early days. Parisyan with another slam and some ground and pound. But Diego refuses to just accept it, digs deep and reverses position. He’s going for a choke! Now he’s in mount dropping bombs. Mental how quick he’s turned this around. He was on the bottom 20 seconds ago. Diego is all over him. Back up now and Sanchez is going to the body. Parisyan seems to be slowing down and that isn’t going to help matters.

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Huge knee from Diego which sends Karo’s tooth flying. He tries to answer with a throw but Diego isn’t having it and ends up on top again. He’s winning this round on sheer conditioning at this point. Diego punching away as the round ends. Sanchez 10-9.

Winner - Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision.

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No problem with Sanchez getting the nod. I had him winning myself. But one of the judges (Glenn Trowbridge) had it 30-26, which is off. The other two had it 29-28 the same as me.

Rewatching these old fights, there are so many I wish were 5 rounds. This one maybe more than any of them. If only that 5 round main events rule came in sooner. I think I said it before on here but in this era, that series of Sanchez, Parisyan and Diaz all fighting each other hooked me in just as much, if not more than the big names of the time like Liddell, Ortiz and Couture. They were definitely the ones who opened my eyes the most to the grappling and how exciting it can be. To this day, whenever someone is getting into MMA and they throw out the old ‘I’m not keen on the boring cuddling on the floor’, I recommend at least giving some combination of the Sanchez vs Parisyan vs Diaz series a look. If you still think it’s boring then MMA probably isn’t for you and I’d suggest GLORY Kickboxing. But yeah, Sanchez vs Parisyan is a classic. And one again that I’m actually glad was a one-off. Looking back at this, they were both so young and dynamic and on the rise. It’d have been easy to assume these two would likely do a trilogy over the years. But seeing how their careers panned out, and especially how Parisyan declined so rapidly, I’m glad this was a one time thing because I highly doubt the Parisyan of about 2008 and beyond would’ve been up to this kind of war.

We talk about MMA ‘what ifs?’ from time to time on here. Karo Parisyan’s decline has always fascinated me and saddened me in equal measure. After this Sanchez fight he had two more cracking fights with Drew Fickett and Josh Burkman. Then he dropped right off. He went from one of the most exciting and promising talents in the sport to a shell of himself. It seemed like overnight his explosive style and throws started to evaporate, the injuries started to pile up and all kinds of rumours about drugs and mental issues surrounded him. Here he is on Inside MMA in 2010 talking about some of his struggles...

Young Jon Jones there listening intently. Church going Jonathan would never have used drugs back then.

I remember the stuff about anxiety and panic attacks. I also remember Joe Rogan talking about the leg injury Karo had (the one that took him out of the title shot against Hughes) where a big chunk of his leg muscle had basically died and he had a huge dent or hole there. There was a back injury somewhere in there as well. Just seemed like everything went tits up at the same time. He fought on for a few more years but he was never right. It’s sad but his highlight since the decline was probably his 2014 TKO over Phil Baroni in Bellator. It’s a sad story. He was only about 27/28 when he started going off the rails. He should’ve been up there in the title mix for a few more years yet. Now he’s never brought up and when he is, it’s mostly just people laughing at him giving it the big one on TUF 5. A lot of people forget but at one point he might just have been the most exciting thing in the sport.

Christ, sorry that’s an essay. 

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#7 - Nick Diaz vs Takanori Gomi - Pride 33 - Feb 24th 2007

An obvious one. Bit of background to this one as it came right during the death throes of Pride. The promotion was on life support for a bunch of reasons by this point. They were still mega popular and banging out quality shows right towards the very end but there’d been a dodgy and murky side to the promotion behind the scenes for years. The allegations of thrown fights and biased officiating that people like to speculate on were the least of the company’s darker side. A Pride executive being found dead in his hotel room shower was one of the big scandals right when the company were approaching their peak in around 2003. I think I remember reading years ago that it was ruled a suicide but who the fuck knows? That may have been the case but there was also lots of talk about Yakuza involvement in the running of the company and that’s ultimately what’s believed to be a major factor in Pride’s demise.

In June 2006, Fuji TV terminated Pride’s television deal. Pride lost a shitload of revenue because of this and then later that year the Japanese media started running with the story of possible Yakuza links. Pride struggled to get another television deal and tried everything to create some buzz. They even attempted to get Mike Tyson to fight but obviously nothing came of it. By the end of 2006 they’d dropped their Bushido shows and were floundering. You knew the writing was on the wall when Mirko Cro Cop, having just won Pride’s Grand Prix, jumped ship to the UFC. Add to that Rampage had left and Sakuraba had already defected over to K-1’s HERO’S fed earlier in the year. The future looked bleak heading into 2007. But they still had their US show coming up. Pride 33 would take place in Las Vegas and would be only the second time Pride had ventured outside of Japan. And with all the talk of Pride being at death’s door, it was quite telling when these fuckers showed up to gloat.

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For all the company’s woes though, this was a hell of a show. It really was the last great show Pride put on. Being in Vegas, they had to adhere to the NSAC so that was a bit different. 5 minute rounds, no stomps or soccer kicks etc. But they stacked the card up and it delivered on the night in a big way. One of the most interesting things about the card would be the Pride debut of Nick Diaz.

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Loves his weed, does Nick.

Of course, by 2007, Diaz had built up quite a name for himself. He hadn’t yet gone on his big run through EliteXC and Strikeforce, which is the period he’s probably most known for. But he’d already had that UFC stint where he knocked out Robbie Lawler and had those classics with Diego Sanchez and Karo Parisyan. Not to mention the hospital ward brawl with Joe Riggs! Then there were his interviews. He had a bit of a cult following, no doubt. He was just starting to really catch on. He actually came into this fight off UFC wins over Josh Neer and Gleison Tibau so I’m not sure why he ended up leaving the UFC at this time. But he’d said a few times that he preferred Pride’s rules and hoped to fight there. Sadly, he got on board when the ship was already sinking.

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Loves a pint, our Takanori. 

Gomi was in his absolute prime coming into this fight. The best stretch of his entire career. With the exception of a surprising submission loss to Marcus Aurélio (which he avenged in the rematch a few months later), he’d won 13 out of his last 14 fights. And in that period he’d won the Lightweight Grand Prix in 2005 and stopped the likes of Hayato Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Jens Pulver, Ralph Gracie, Luiz Azeredo (underrated fighter from back in the day) and Mitsuhiro Ishida (who looked like a good prospect at the time). Between 2004 and 2006, the ‘Fireball Kid’ might just have been the best Lightweight on the planet. I’d love to have seen a rematch with BJ Penn during that time.

Who’d win, the pothead or the pisshead? 

The pre-fight video here is interesting and actually touches on a possible Penn rematch as well as...Georges St Pierre, Matt Hughes?! Yeah, knowing what we know now, Gomi was about to go on a sharp decline. I think GSP and Hughes would’ve smoked him. To be honest, I think even at his very best Gomi would’ve had fits with those two. I guess he had a shot at tagging Hughes but he’d have been coming up in weight and I just don’t think he’d have coped well with their combination of wrestling and conditioning. It’s cool to think about though. 

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Nick Diaz vs Takanori Gomi

Pride 33: The Second Coming

February 24th 2007

Las Vegas, Nevada

They face off and Diaz does actually touch gloves, which you didn’t always see back then. Bas Rutten was long gone and even Mauro Ranallo had fucked off as well by this point. The commentators here are some fucker called Lon McEachern, along with Frank Trigg and Josh Barnett on colour. So yeah, aside from Barnett it’s awful.

Round 1: Diaz comes out trying to pressure in his typical Nick Diaz way and Gomi takes him down immediately. Diaz has a Kimura grip but gets slammed for his troubles. Gomi’s dropping bombs now. This is all in the first probably 20 seconds or so. Gomi’s going to town here with the ground and pound. Ref stands them up, despite Gomi working. Typical Pride. No wonder Diaz preferred their ruleset. Diaz starting to get his boxing going but...

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Gomi fucking waffles him with that patented loopy right hand. Diaz went down like a sack of shit there. He’s still in it enough to defend himself but he’s in big trouble. A lesser chin would’ve crumbled after that. Gomi with more shots on the ground but Diaz is tying him up and minimising their damage as best he can. Back on the feet and they’re both throwing and trying to play to their strengths. Diaz going for volume, Gomi going for murder. Like we’ve seen so many times in Diaz fights though, there’s a point here where it’s like you just see Gomi’s gas tank go from low to empty. With around 90 seconds left of the round, Gomi suddenly looks knackered. He’s still trying to swing but he’s finding only air now and that’s sapping his energy even quicker as Diaz just peppers him with combinations. Not huge shots but he’s landing almost everything he throws and Gomi can’t catch a breather. Trigg’s banging on about him not hitting Gomi hard enough.

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But there’s a reason Gomi’s looking fucked. He was always known for having a granite chin but Diaz is hurting him here. A combination of his own exhaustion and Diaz’s relentlessness and accuracy and it’s killing him.

“Where are Gomi’s hands, where is his defence?!” - Lon McEachern

Same place his cardio’s gone by the looks of it, Lon. Diaz is proper picking him apart now and Gomi’s struggling to stay on his feet and stumbling all over the shop. This is the scene as the first round ends...

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Pretty much tells the story. Gomi’s bollocksed, and Diaz is just getting started. The crowd are lapping this up.

The second round is just about to get underway and we see Gomi in the corner sat on the stool dejected and still breathing heavy as his cornermen work on him. He looks like he just wants to go home and sleep for a week. The camera then cuts to Diaz, who’s already on his feet raring to go...

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Imagine being Gomi and seeing this shit? 

Round 2: Diaz is clearly feeling it now. He’s putting it on Gomi right away here. He’s swarming all over him but Gomi’s still connecting with some big shots. Even a badly winded Gomi is still a dangerous Gomi. Now Diaz has a huge gash under his right eye. It looks fucking horrible.

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Vile. A gassed Gomi did that. Now there’s a serious sense of urgency for Diaz. The doctor has already had a look at the cut and if it gets any worse this one’s going to be called off. Gomi still throwing but not enough. He’s too tired to capitalise on the cut. Both landing good shots here. Gomi shoots in for a sloppy takedown...

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Gogoplata! Gomi’s caught and he’s too exhausted to fight out of it. He taps.

Winner - Nick Diaz by submission. Round 2 - 1:46.

Yeah, it got overturned to a No Contest when Diaz tested positive for weed post-fight but we’re not going to recognise that tomfoolery.

Fantastic fight. It’s mostly Diaz battering him but Gomi’s one punch power made it proper edge of the seat stuff. And between that big right hand that dropped Diaz in the first round and the nasty cut, Diaz was definitely in jeopardy in this one. Then the mad gogoplata finish topped it off. Even to this day, I can’t remember the last time we saw a gogoplata end a fight. Incredible fight all around. Unfortunately it would spell the end of Gomi’s peak though. It was all downhill after this. He’s gone 9-12 since and been finished in 10 of the 12 losses. Between 2014 and 2017, he got stopped in the first round a whopping SIX times in a row! This was one of the pound-for-pound best at one time. It’s an unforgiving game. Today his record stands at 36-15-1. He did break the losing streak in his last fight with a quick KO over Melvin Guillard but that was 2018 and he hasn’t fought since. I don’t think he’s officially retired but he probably should. He turns 42 in a few weeks, despite still looking about 17, and there’s nothing really left to do. The prime isn’t coming back and at least if he stops now he went out on a vintage KO victory. Leave it there, Tak.

You know the deal with Diaz. He went on his best stretch of his career after this. He became Strikeforce champ and scored wins over Frank Shamrock, Scott Smith, Marius Zaromskis, Hayato Sakurai, KJ Noons, Cyborg Santos and Paul Daley along the way. Returned to the UFC in 2011 and started off well battering BJ Penn in an exciting fight. But he lost decisions to Condit and GSP and seemed to completely lose interest in fighting after that. Only returning for that weird and wonderful fight with Anderson Silva in 2015. One of the oddest fights ever.

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That’s been it for him. There’s been a few teases of a return over the years. Off the top of my head I recall reports of the UFC offering him fights with Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler a few years ago. And there was a lot of talk of him fighting Michael Bisping at one point. According to Dana, he just never responds. Doesn’t turn down the fights, he just doesn’t even acknowledge them at all. You never know what Nick Diaz is going to do. There was a time when I’d have killed to see him come back. I’d have been all over any of the above fights at the time. Especially the Lawler rematch and Bisping. But after watching the few interviews that have popped up over the last year or so, I really hope he never fights again. He seemed absolutely bollocksed. Even more incoherent than usual and it’s clear he’s got issues of some kind. The last thing he needs to be doing is getting punched in the head.

But yeah, I’ll leave it on a more lighthearted note. Here’s an interview with Diaz from just after this Gomi fight. It’s a bit of a classic...

“That little guy...he’s fuckin’ doing some Hadouken fuckin’ punch in there to me.”

As for Pride, of course, within weeks of this show it was confirmed that Zuffa had bought the company. According to Rogan, Pride done them up like a kipper...

😂

Edited by wandshogun09
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1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

A Pride executive being found dead in his hotel room shower was one of the big scandals right when the company were approaching their peak in around 2003. I think I remember reading years ago that it was ruled a suicide but who the fuck knows?

The official ruling was suicide. However, many believe that Sakakibara's Yakuza faction had Morishita killed. Dream Stage was in debt to Sakakibara's Yakuza faction at the time. After his death, Morishita's shares in Dream Stage ended up in Sakakibara's hands and he assumed Morishita's role as Pride's front man. 

1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

In June 2006, Fuji TV terminated Pride’s television deal. Pride lost a shitload of revenue because of this and then later that year the Japanese media started running with the story of possible Yakuza links.

Aye, a lot of people believe that Fuji TV cancelled Pride because of the media stories, but that wasn't the case. Instead, the Japanese police approached Fuji and told them to terminate Pride's contract with them. 

1 hour ago, wandshogun09 said:

Who’d win, the pothead or the pisshead? 

Apparently Gomi spent fight week getting hammered in Vegas, which probably explains why his cardio was so poor against Diaz. 

 

Edited by jimufctna24
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#6 - Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama - Pride 21 - Jun 23rd 2002

Right then. You’ll all have seen this fucker. If not, why not? An all time classic right here. No real backstory to speak of. There often wasn’t where Pride was concerned. A lot of times they’d just throw names together that sounded either fun or ridiculous or both. This one fell into both categories.

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Frye was 37 years old with a 15-1 record. The only loss was to Mark Coleman back at UFC 10 in July 1996. Since then he’d gone on to win the Ultimate Ultimate ‘96 tournament, submitting Tank Abbott in a wild 90 second shootout, before taking his brand of Stars and Stripes covered arse kickery over to Japan. He was coming into this fight off a big win over Ken Shamrock at Pride 19 in the February. It was a bit of a grudge match and gained some media attention so in winning that fight, Frye was riding high here. But typical of Pride, no rhyme or reason to their matchmaking, they chucked this big sod at him...

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Yoshihiro Takayama. 0-2 in MMA with stoppage losses in Pride to Kazuyuki Fujita and Semmy Schilt. Of course, Takayama was better known as a pro wrestler. He worked pretty much everywhere there was to work in Japan. All Japan, New Japan, UWFI. But like I said, in MMA he was another example of the typical Japanese ‘throw him to the wolves and see what happens’ matchmaking. They loved doing that with their pro wrestlers over there. More often that not with brutal results. Look no further than Yuji Nagata, who they actually fed to Fedor and Cro Cop in his first two fights, for fuck’s sake! He lasted a minute and change combined with those two and, funnily enough, that was it for Nagata in MMA. I think, as well as them just loving a freakshow, Sakuraba’s success also led to a lot of that. They were always looking for that next big pro wrestling - MMA crossover star. But the difference was that Saku already had an extensive grappling background in amateur and catch wrestling before he even became a pro wrestler and he had trained a lot under Billy Robinson. The foundations were already there and he just built on them. And that combined with his natural charisma and likability, and him being so ahead of his time compared to the style we were seeing in MMA in the late 90s, he was really a one-off. I think the Japanese were always chasing that ‘next Sakuraba’ for years after he declined. Which is also probably a big part of the reason they kept bringing Sakuraba back to fight long after he should’ve packed it in. There was simply no-one you could replace him with. But it didn’t stop them sacrificing pro wrestlers to some of the most deadly fighters in the game back then. 

Anyway...

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Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama

Pride 21: Demolition

June 23rd 2002

Saitama, Japan

The show opens up with the usual Quadros and Rutten shenanigans.

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The show is called ‘Demolition’ you see. We don’t get Ax and Smash, but we do get Bas swinging a giant sledgehammer about. This is what I loved about Pride. Not saying this approach would work now in the days of the big TV deals with ESPN and shit, but back then in 2002, it was a breath of fresh air. I loved both the UFC and Pride but Pride definitely seemed to have more fun with it and really ran with the idea that MMA should be presented as a spectacle and the fighters were the showmen.

Onto serious business though, Bas mentions that this was supposed to be the big rematch between Frye and Coleman but Coleman got injured. OK, maybe forget all that about Pride matchmaking. I mean, my point still stands but I guess Takayama stepping in makes a bit more sense with the context of the original plan of Frye vs Coleman 2 falling through.

On we go.

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Crowd is buzzing already for the face-off. While Quadros calmly talks about Takayama’s “Rod Stewart hairdo” and informs us that Takayama told them he wanted to be a rock and roll guitar player as a kid. You’ve learned something new today. Class dismissed.

Round 1: The bell rings, the fight starts and the laughing stops.

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Well, I say that but I was pissing myself at this the first time I saw it. Maybe the most batshit crazy opening minute of a fight ever. What Takayama lacks in skill and technique he makes up for in abundance with toughness and pure fearlessness. He doesn’t give a fuck. He hits a bit of a belly to belly suplex and knees Frye square in the gob as he’s getting up...

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And they’re off again. Takayama wants that first win bad. Crowd is going berserk. Tak’s eye is all swollen up. Looks like Bas swung that hammer at it, it’s vile. He’s actually not doing too badly here though, he’s been giving as good as he’s been getting and now he’s using his size and weight advantage in the clinch to control Frye and catch a breather.

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“That mouse has turned into a rat under his left eye.” - Stephen Quadros

Hold on. Wait one titty fucking minute. So this is where Mauro stole that line from? I’ve watched this fight countless times over the years and don’t remember this. Fuck sake, Quadros. So you’re to blame.

Both punching from the clinch now and some solid knees from Takayama. The crowd is cheering with every strike he lands and I must say, even Frye has a look on his manly, moustached face at times that says ‘man, this was supposed to be easy’. Takayama’s game as fuck if nothing else. But Frye’s turning up the heat now. He’s got big Tokyo Rod in the corner, they’re in a sort of collar and elbow tie up and Don’s just blasting away with big right hooks over the top. There’s a brief time out while they try to piece Takayama’s face back together and Quadros casually talks about the Pride video game.

They restart, the ref shouts ‘FIGHT’ and here we go again.

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Jaysus.

Takayama’s trying his heart out, bless him, but Frye is getting the better of it. Mad to think this has only been going 5 minutes or so. They look like Balboa and Drago in the 15th round. Takayama tries that belly to belly again but it doesn’t work this time and Frye has landed on top in the mount. He’s punching away and it’s clear Takayama has neither the skills or the energy to get out of this position. He’s taking shots and the referee mercifully steps in and waves it off.

Winner - Don Frye by TKO. Round 1 - 6:10.

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Still as insane as it was the first 46 times I watched it. There’s talk from Quadros at the end that Frye wants to fight Mike Tyson in a boxing match. Remember this was the same month as the Lewis vs Tyson fight so fighters attaching their name to that circus was inevitable. I don’t doubt for a second that Frye was serious though. He’d have done it in a heartbeat if it was possible. Feared no man with a hole in his arse. His next fight was evidence of that when he jumped in with Jerome Le Banner under K-1 rules. Frye always had a set of bollocks on him. Sadly though, I think that loss to Le Banner finished him as any kind of top level fighter. He was already late 30s so he was on borrowed time anyway but that KO was among the most brutal I’ve ever seen and then upon returning to MMA, Frye immediately went on a slump. He was 15-1 before the Le Banner fight. He lost 3 in a row straight after it and never got back on track. He did get his rematch with Coleman at Pride 26 in 2003, but it was a clear win for Coleman again.

Takayama looks absolutely bollocksed.

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He did actually fight again after this. Somehow got submitted by Bob Sapp in his next fight in December 2002. Then didn’t fight again until 2013, and finally got his first win, knocking out some fucker called Hikaru Sato with a slam. Haven’t seen it but I’m assuming it was a work. Even by Japanese promoter standards, I doubt they’d have thrown Takayama into a legit shoot fight given his health issues before this. Work or not I don’t care, I’m just happy that Takayama got to finish up on a W. Final record stands at 1-4. Legend.

There was a Frye vs Takayama 2. Well, kind of. In a movie...

Sadly, Takayama’s had all kinds of health problems over the years. He had a stroke in 2004 after a match with Kensuke Sasaki during New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament. I remember watching that match on The Wrestling Channel way back. It was hard hitting to say the least but Takayama’s career continued until 2017 when he suffered a spinal injury which left him paralysed from the shoulders down. Such a sad end to the big man’s career. I’ll always have fond memories of Takayama. This fight with Frye being the obvious main one but I remember loving his match with Kenta Kobashi in NOAH and various tags he was involved in. Always enjoyed watching him. This photo is both awesome and sad at the same time.

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Poor fuck.

But yeah, ending on a lighter note, Frye vs Takayama’s one of those fights everyone can appreciate. My wife never watches fights and even she took one look at it earlier in passing and made me rewind it so she could watch it with me. First full fight I can recall her watching in forever and, while she mostly watched through her hands, she stayed with it until the end and was clearly sad that “the big Pat Butcher looking one” got beat up. My 13 year old nephew saw it on one of them ‘Top 10 beatdowns’ videos you see on YouTube a while back and was in hysterics laughing at it as well. Fun for all the family. 

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16 minutes ago, wandshogun09 said:

The show is called ‘Demolition’ you see. We don’t get Ax and Smash, but we do get Bas swinging a giant sledgehammer about. This is what I loved about Pride. Not saying this approach would work now in the days of the big TV deals with ESPN and shit, but back then in 2002, it was a breath of fresh air. I loved both the UFC and Pride but Pride definitely seemed to have more fun with it and really ran with the idea that MMA should be presented as a spectacle and the fighters were the showmen.

100% agreed. 

I don't think it would work today though. Not because times have changed, but because today's version of Quadros/Bas would probably be something dire like Schaub/Rogan or Goldberg/Big John. 

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