Pride FC, the mixed martial arts company based out of Japan, is quickly becoming more familiar to fans of “the savage science” as some of us at TSS like to call it. The company held its first American card on October 21st and it turned out to be an intriguing one on many levels. Pride FC: “The Real Deal” featured their finest talent as they made their debut at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
The main event was spectacular and unfolded into an interesting situation afterwards. Mark “The Hammer” Coleman was beaten to a pulp by perhaps the greatest practitioner of the sport, one Fedor Emelianenko out of Russia. Emelianenko, 30, looks as ordinary as your local barkeep or butcher yet is arguably the most complete fighter in the mixed martial arts universe. Whether it’s grappling, wrestling or striking, the virtually undefeated world champion may not have the ripped abs of the typical MMA star but for now, you may consider him the Ali of the sport.
Yes. He’s that good.
Coleman, 41, a former UFC Champion and Pride Grand Prix winner didn’t stand a chance. He immediately rushed the Russian in an attempt to bring him to the floor where Coleman, a former amateur wrestling star, excels. Coleman, who showed tremendous heart in this battle, tied up Emelianenko with hopes of getting him to the canvas. Emelianenko was pecking away with efficient punches every time he got a chance. He eventually broke loose and landed some hard shots to the face of Coleman that turned him into a bloody and swollen mess. The fight eventually went to the mat, much to Coleman’s detriment, where he was caught with an arm bar ending all matters as a very beat up Coleman opted out of battle in the second round at 1:17. It was another brilliant performance by Emelianenko whose work should be studied by all combat sports enthusiasts.
After the fight, a surreal scene unfolded. Coleman was graciously thanking people on the microphone and noticed his daughters in the audience crying their eyes out. Coleman called them in to the ring. The daughters, seemingly between the ages of 7 to 10 years old, ran into the ring crying for their disfigured father who beckoned them into his arms. “Daddy’s okay,” Coleman said to his girls. The crying subsided momentarily after Coleman’s assurance. The tears would start up again once they took another look at their father’s severely injured face. Coleman picked up his inconsolable girls and introduced them to his conqueror for the night. The cyborg-like fighting machine greeted the Coleman girls with a friendly smile. It seemed to work. Still, it makes one wonder why a fighter would bring their kids to watch them participate in a brutal sport like MMA.
Kevin “The Monster” Randleman is part of the aforementioned Mark Coleman’s camp and also excels at the ground and pound technique. He proved it when he knocked out the highly regarded Mirko “Crocop” Filipovic in 2004. Randleman, 35, squared off against Brazilian Jiu Jitsu prodigy Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Rua, 24, is one of Pride’s rising stars and its 2005 Grand Prix champion. Randleman shot out for the take down and successfully took Rua to the ground. Rua is one of the best in the business fighting from his back. Like an Amazonian boa, he maneuvered himself and positioned his opponent into an ankle lock which Randleman fought off only to end up leg locked instead. Randleman tapped out in serious pain at 2:35 of the first round in an impressive win for Rua.
American wrestler and former UFC champion Josh Barnett defeated Pawel Nastula of Poland by submitting him via heel hook. Nastula is an accomplished Judoka who holds a 1996 gold medal. The fight started out with a clinch against the ropes as both men fought for position. Nastula powered Barnett to the mat and went to work on him sneaking in punches as often as possible. Nastula was dominating the action when all of a sudden they were brought to their feet by the referee much to the Polish fighter’s chagrin who had a nice side mount going.
The fighters got back to their feet and Nastula again put the clinch on Barnett. Nastula took Barnett down and worked him over effectively. Barnett tried for a tight knee bar just before the bell rung and held it to the point where it clearly affected Nastula who seemed slightly injured from then on. Barnett came out for the second round reenergized, sensing his prey was wounded. He initiated a clinch and landed some hard shots to the face. Nastula hurt Barnett with some head shots of his own then slammed him to the canvas. Nastula was working his ground game effectively when Barnett reversed the position and quickly applied a heel hook that made Nastula submit. An exciting battle that ended in controversy since Nastula was one of two participants for the night that were found to have banned substances flowing through their veins for their encounters.
390 pound former boxer Eric “Butterbean” Esch faced off against kickboxer Sean O’Haire. The 290 pound O’Haire started off by throwing some impressive looking kicks that almost hit their mark. He should’ve stuck to kicking instead of trying to exchange hooks with Esch. Esch trapped the South Carolina native with a left hand and belted him with numerous uncontested short rights that made his opponent crumble to the canvas at twenty nine seconds of the first round. Amazingly, “The Bean” is now seven and two and making some noise in the sport. O’Haire loses in his Pride FC debut.
Dan Henderson, 36, dominated Vitor Belfort on and off the ground to win a unanimous decision. Belfort, a fighter who made his name fighting for the UFC, is known for his excellent boxing abilities and Jiu Jitsu. Although still young at 29, Belfort is not the same wunderkind we saw annihilate Wanderlei Silva in 1998 with his blazing fists. He seems battle weary at this point in his career. Dan Henderson, on the other hand, is a resilient wrestler-striker who’s in his prime and known for his hammer-like right hands. Henderson took the fight to the ground from the very first second and maintained his top position for most of the bout. Belfort had his moments but Henderson punished him for most of the time in what was a complete domination of the Brazilian. Days later, a banned substance was also discovered in Belfort’s system.
Phil Baroni, who is tabbed “The New York Bad Ass”, is known for quick fists and spectacular one punch knockouts. Standup warfare was expected since he was facing Japanese Cruiserweight boxing champion Yosuke Nishijima. Nishijima went for the punch and Baroni surprised fans by immediately slamming his opponent to the ground for several submission attempts. Baroni’s ground skills were obviously superior and he took full advantage. Nishijima’s lack of ground skills cost him as Baroni submitted him by arm bar in very un-“New York Bad Ass” fashion. The end came at 3:20 of the first round. You want to dislike Baroni due to his “badder than thou” attitude but his performances and enthusiasm can’t help but win you over.
Japan’s Kazuhiro Nakamura proved too versatile for Canadian Jiu Jitsu artist Travis Galbraith. Both men started out brawling with Nakamura landing a hard kick to Galbraith’s jaw. A left hand by Nakamura dropped Galbraith and forced him into a defensive guard. The action heated up when Galbraith tried for a leg lock which Nakamura escaped. Some nice exchanges ensued that got the crowd roaring. The end of the first round was looking good for Galbraith but Nakamura used a tremendous hip throw to steal and punctuate the round. Nakamura is a Judo specialist and for those that doubt its efficacy within mixed martial arts, this fight is a great example of Judo’s application. The second round came and started with an exchange of punches. Eventually Nakamura landed a knee to Galbraith’s chin during a clinch that put him on the canvas where Nakamura continued to rain down punches. Nakamura battered Galbraith into a second round TKO that came at 1:16.
In the opening bout, Joey Villasenor was obliterated by Robbie Lawlor at 1:22 of the first round. Lawlor landed a kick to Villasenor’s face then followed up with a perfect knee to the chin that sent a dazed Villasenor to the mat with Lawlor on top of him landing more shots as the referee jumped in and put a stop to the beating.
For more info on Pride FC go to www.pridefc.com.