Monday, 26 May 2008

Pride Shockwave 2005 - DVD Review

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a look at the now-defunct Pride Fighting Championship, and if truth be known, there haven’t been many new DVD releases since Dana White and his merry men took over what was left of the company - until recently. So what better way to reacquaint myself with their brand of MMA than with a review of the latest release to hit the shelves, the two disc Shockwave 2005. The announcers for the evening are Mauro Ranallo and Frank Trigg.

We begin with disc one, and after the always impressive parade of fighters, the action begins with Charles Bennett facing Ken Kaneko. Scheduled for two rounds, this one started quickly with Kaneko coming straight for Bennett, who used some great technique as he controlled the early part of the fight, almost synching in the hooks for an triangle. But after Bennett fought his way out of this submission attempt, the American stepped up with his own game, connecting with several blows which Kaneko had trouble in defending. Then, after everyone had predicted a knock out for Bennett, he surprised everyone by getting the win with an armbar submission. This was the first time I’d seen either of these fighters, and Bennett impressed me a great deal here.
It’s an all Japanese affair next with Yuki Kondo tacking Kazuhiro Nakamura. The opening ten minute round was like the proverbial game of two halves. Nakamura controlled the early part of the round, connecting with several punishing blows while in the guard position, with Kondo seemingly powerless against him. But when Kondo was given a yellow card for not fighting, it seemed to inspire him as he knocked Nakamura down with a high left kick, and then taking the guard position for himself. It was then his turn to control things for the remainder of the round.
Round two proved to be as good as the opener, starting in the upright position with both fighters exchanging good shots, before returning to the mat, and Nakamura again going to his ground and pound tactic, with the round ending with the roles reversed, with Kondo in the half-guard, working for position.
Having been somewhat passive in the previous rounds, Kondo took a more aggressive stance in the third and final round, defending against Nakamura’s takedown attempts, and unleashing with a barrage of blows when in Nakamura’s guard. But as the seconds ticked away, both men had their moments on the mat, transitioning from guard to mount to back with almost flawless precision, and with the fight going the distance, it went to the judges, with Nakamura getting the unanimous decision. A well deserved victory for Nakamura in what was a very good contest.
Then it’s on to the big boys, with former WWE star Giant Silva facing Britain’s own James Thompson. This one was fast, and from the opening bell Thompson was all over Silva like a bad smell. His opening flurry knocked the giant down and through the ropes, and after they were brought back into the ring, Thompson knocked him down again, pounding and kicking away at Silva so much so that the referee quickly stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Thompson the TKO victory. All I can say about this one is what a performance by Thompson, who again proved that it isn’t all about the size of the dog in the fight. As for Silva, well, I don’t think I’ve seen one good performance from him yet.
Then it’s the second all Japan fight of the show with Takimoto Makoto and Sanae Kikuta. The first round was a dominating one for Kikuta. Once they went to the mat, Takimoto found it difficult to defend against anything Kikuta did, and once he took Takimoto’s back, it looked like he could get the win as he tried for a couple of rear naked chokes, but he couldn’t quite synch them in as Takimoto defended well, something he did for the entire round.
Round two was fought in the same vein. It began with Takimoto attempting a high kick which only resulted in him landing flat on his back, where Kikuta soon gained control and continued where he’d left off in the first round. It wasn’t long before the referee stepped in though, giving Takimoto a yellow card for non-activity. When the fight was re-started, it was Takimoto who got the take down, but Kikuta soon regained control, finishing the round taking Takimoto’s back and trying for another rear naked choke.
The third and final round saw Takimoto taking Kikuta down, but it wasn’t long before things reverted to type as Kikuta worked his way out and took the full mount, moving from to half guard and to a rear mount with relative ease, and as the seconds ticked away Kikuta went for the rear naked choke again, but he just didn’t have enough time. So with the fight going the distance, it was down to the judges, with Kikuta getting the unanimous decision. An interesting and technically good fight, but this one lacked aggression of any sort.
Next, Aleksander Emelianenko taking on Pawel Nastula. While the last fight seemed more like an exhibition, the first round of this fight was more like a battle, with each fighter looking very impressive. Emelianenko gained control first, before Nastula worked his way out and took control himself, almost synching in an armbar submission, with Emelianenko simply powered out of. It was then the Russian who took control, almost locking in a kimura, but just out of position to apply the hold properly. Then, as the seconds counted down, Emelianenko was able to synch in a rear naked choke to get the tap out victory. This was just what the doctor ordered after the last fight, and a very good performance from both men, and as the old saying goes, it was a shame someone had to lose.
Then it’s the turn of the other Emelianenko brother, Fedor, the Pride Heavyweight Champion as he goes up against the massive Zuluzinho in a non-title fight. Like James Thompson against Giant Silva, Fedor soon had the big man on the canvas following a hard left hand. Zuluzinho soon got to his feet, but was knocked back down again straight away. Fedor then went to work, and after just twenty six seconds the referee stepped in to stop the fight. An explosive display from Fedor here, and again proof that just because someone is big, it doesn’t mean that they’ll make a great MMA fighter.
More heavyweight action follows, and another all Japan fight with Naoya Ogawa and Hidehiko Yoshida. The battle of the judo masters proved to be very interesting, as they began by exchanging blows before going down to the mat. Both fighters then had their moments as they jockeyed for position. Just after the five minute mark was announced, Yoshida quickly locked in an armbar near the ropes, and with no way of escaping, soon tapped out. Very good stuff here, especially from Yoshida.
Disc two begins with Dan Henderson against Murilo Bustamante in the final of the Bushido Welterweight Tournament. The first round was a rather interesting affair. Henderson looked good early on, but soon found himself out fought by Bustamante, who controlled the majority of the round, especially when Henderson decided that his best plan of attack was to lay on his back and try and score with up-kicks, which wasn‘t wise when Bustamante connected with two kicks to his head. Henderson, however, did regain control towards the end, ending the round on top on the mat.
The second and final round began quickly for Henderson as he took Bustamante down, although he was reluctant to fight when Bustamante tried to use the same tactic that he had in the first round. With the referee calling Bustamante to his feet, the boxing began, with Bustamante opening up a cut underneath Henderson’s left eye. A right hand and a knee then knocked Bustamante down to the mat, where Henderson tried to gain side control. Henderson connected with a few good knees on the ground, before the fight ended with both fights on their feet and exchanging blows. So with the fight going the distance, the judges awarded the fight to Henderson via split decision. Henderson was the tournament champion in a very enjoyable fight.
It’s another all Japan affair next, with Takanori Gomi taking on “Mach” Sakurai in the Bushido Lightweight Tournament final. This one was a belter. After the initial feeling out process, in which both fighters connected with some good blows, the fight went to the mat, where Gomi took Sakurai’s back and unleashed with the ground and pound. Sakurai was soon able to roll over onto his back, but Gomi’s onslaught continued. Somehow, Sakurai got to his feet, but as he began to stagger around the ring Gomi continued his attack, and the referee soon stepped in to stop the fight. A brilliant performance from Gomi, becoming the first Japanese fighter to win a title in Pride.
The battle of the Japanese fighters continues with Kazushi Sakuraba against Ikuhisa Minowa. Round One began quickly here, with Minowa unloading with the blows, before Sakuraba took them down to the mat and almost synched in a guillotine choke. Then things slowed down quickly on the mat, with the referee giving Sakuraba a yellow card for non-activity while he stood both fighters back up. Both fighters then exchanged submission attempts, Sakuraba with the Americana and Minowa with an ankle lock, before Sakuraba showed his skill with some neat transitions before taking Minowa’s back, where he tried in vain to get a rear naked choke. Minowa was eventually able to escape, and as the seconds ticked away, Sakuraba locked in the kimura. Minowa held on for as long as he could, but with just twenty seconds later he submitted. Another fine performance from Sakuraba, and from Minowa, two fighters who put on a great fight.
A fight between two old K-1 fighters next, with Mark Hunt facing Mirko Cro Cop. Something of a surprise for this fight as Cro Cop came in wearing wrestling boots. As was expected with these two, there was no mat work in the first round as both men preferred to slug it out. Cro Cop started off with a few good kicks, and relied on this tactic throughout the first round, but as time went on Hunt began to gain control, almost stalking the Croatian as they moved around the ring. There were a few clinches, but it was all kicks and punches here.
It was the same for the second round. There were a few clinches, but again both men preferred to kick and punch. Cro Cop connected with an explosive axe kick that was so fast it would have got him a ticket for speeding, while Hunt continued to stalk Cro Cop, at one point showing great agility when he attempted a spinning back kick which almost connected, while his body shots took their toll.
The third began with Cro Cop unleashing his most powerful weapon, the left high kick, twice, which rocked Hunt a little. But the New Zealander was able to come back with a few good shots of his own, and continued with his game plan, which seemed to be working as Cro Cop looked frustrated. But Hunt began to feel frustration of his own as Cro Cop walked away every time Hunt scored with a combination. Then, right towards the end, they went to the mat, and the fight ended that way as the final bell sounded. The judges gave the split decision to Hunt, and even though I’m a Cro Cop mark I would have to say rightfully so. Hunt fought the perfect fight here, not phased by the power of the Croatian in a great stand-up fight.
The final match of the show sees Wanderlei Silva defends the Middleweight title against Ricardo Arona. A lot of history behind this one, as Arona handed Silva his first defeat in nineteen middleweight fights in Pride during the middleweight tournament a few months before. The first round was a bit of a mixed bag. It started off quickly when Arona took Silva down, but after Silva escaped from Arona’s mount, the challenger seemed more intent on attacking Silva from his back. But the only problem with this tactic was that he wasn’t very active, and because of this the referee stood him up on more than one occasion. But apart from this, both guys had their moments, with Silva almost enjoying most of what he did.
Round two was much more action packed, with both fighters spending time on their back, with Silva the most successful. Arona was able to do some good work in the guard at first, but there was one moment where Silva used tremendous strength to simply push Arona off him. After Silva got the mount on Arona, the referee gave Arona a yellow card for non-activity as he didn’t respond to any of Silva’s attack. The round ended with Arona taking Silva back down to the mat.
The final round began with Arona taking Silva down early, and the challenger looked good as he went to work, moving from position to position. But Silva wasn’t doing anything in return, and was given his own yellow card when the referee stood both fighters up. It was only in the last minute of the round that Silva went to work, going for the ground and pound in the mount, and indulging in some trash talk as the final bell sounded, and as the fight ended it was difficult to tell just who had won, so it was no surprise that the split decision went in favour of Silva, although Arona could have felt unlucky here.
As there’s no DVD extras on this collection, let’s cut straight to the chase.
In conclusion - when Pride ceased promoting in Japan for various well-known reasons and were subsequently brought by Dana White and the UFC, I was deeply saddened. I hadn’t seen many Pride shows at that point, but what I had seen had impressed me, and I enjoyed watching their product a great deal.
This is the case with Shockwave 2005. It’s a great show, and there wasn’t one fight on this show that I didn’t enjoy in some way. But it wasn’t all about the fighting though. The production values were excellent. Mauro Ranallo once again proved what a great play-by-play guy he is, and although I did miss Bas Rutten’s commentary, Frank Trigg was a more than able replacement for the likeable Dutchman.
So Pride Shockwave 2005 comes highly recommended. If you haven’t seen any Pride shows before, then this would be a good place to start.