Monday, 27 July 2009

Extreme Fighting Volumes 1-4 - DVD Review

In November 1995, while the Ultimate Fighting Championship was still in it’s infancy, a new mixed martial arts promotion held their first show. The company, known as Extreme Fighting, only held four events. With the popularity of MMA growing in the last few years, the four volumes that were previously released on VHS were later released in a one disc DVD set, at a very reasonable price. So, having had this for quite a while now, and having recently looked back at a couple of old UFC shows, I thought it would be a good idea to finally give this a look-see.

The show begins with one of the many Gracie brothers, Ralph, taking on Makoto Muraoko (although there’s actually no introduction for him). This was a quick one. It quickly went to the ground, where Gracie quickly took control, taking Muraoko’s back, and synching in a rear naked choke. The Japanese fighter didn’t tap, and the referee stopped the fight when he saw that Muraoko was unconscious. Well, it’s the sort of thing you expect from the Gracies, isn’t it?

Next up was Igor Zinoviev against Harold German. Another quick fight saw Zinoviev knock German down early, going in for the kill first with a knee bar attempt, which German managed to escape from, and then with a relentless ground and pound, which German soon tapped out to. So far there’s been just eighty-six seconds of fight action.

Then it was on to Gary Myers against Tom Glanville. This one lasted longer than the first two fights combined, and saw a dominating performance from Myers. After escaping from a triangle attempt early on, Myers quickly got back on top, putting his elbow on the side of Glanville’s head. That particular move almost won him the match, but it was only when Myers rained in a few head butts that Glanville tapped out. A very good performance from Myers.

Gracie student Mario Sperry was next, facing Rudyard Moncayo. You could see that Sperry was a Gracie student from the opening bell, as he quickly used a leg trip to take Moncayo down to the mat. He immediately went for an arm lock, but it wasn’t long before Moncayo reversed positions and took Sperry’s guard - for about three seconds. Sperry was soon back on top, and after a brief flurry of punches Moncayo was tapping. Nice stuff by Perry, but I had the feeling that as soon as they said he was a Gracie student that he was going to win.

The next fight saw Conan Silveira facing Russian fighter Victor Tatarkin, also in this unknown tournament. More Brazilian domination saw Silveira take Tatarkin down early on, and from there he transitioned at will, almost getting a rear naked choke, before taking the back again and unleashing with the ground and pound, with the Russian’s corner throwing the towel in to end the onslaught. This one looked absolutely brutal.

Silveira then made a quick return, facing Gary Myers, making me think that this was actually a part of a tournament, which wasn’t actually announced on this DVD. This was the most even fight on the show so far. It soon went to the ground, and for the first time a Brazilian was on the defensive with Myers taking the guard and going to work. The fight was stopped briefly so the doctors could check on the cuts that the fighters had sustained. This gave Conan the chance he needed to recover, as he soon locked in a standing guillotine choke, with Myers quickly tapping out. We then saw an official give Silveira a title belt, so I guess this was a tournament after all.

And as it turns out, there were actually two tournaments in this show, with Igor Zinoviev and Mario Sperry returning to action in a middleweight final. The Brazilian dominance of the show ended with this fight. Sperry did well again here, and looked great in the mount, but Zinoviev did what nobody expected he would do, and escaped Sperry’s mount. The Russian was soon back on his back, but this time he went for a guillotine choke, which ultimately was unsuccessful. Sperry regained control, and once again looked like he was going to dominate again, until Zinoviev reversed the positions again. Both fighters then got to their feet, with Zinoviev holding on to the cage while Sperry tried to work. After a few moments of this, the fight went back to the ground, and a Zinoviev knee opened up a nasty cut above Sperry’s left eye. The doctor had no choice but to stop the fight, giving the fight and title to the Russian. Definitely the best fight of the first show.

This one began with Jean Riviere facing future UFC star Carlos Newton. Newton was giving away a massive seventy five pound weight advantage, fighting at 205, a lot more than his title winning weight in the UFC. Newton actually did very well here, but in the end Riviere’s weight advantage was too much. While Newton showed some good jiu-jitsu moves, Riviere spent much of the time on top of Newton’s back, firing in the occasional knee. Then, about seven minutes in, Newton had had enough. Fatigue set in, and he tapped out. Good stuff here, very interesting.

Then it was on to the Heavyweight title fight, with Conan Silveira taking on Carl Franks. This one exploded into life after a minute or so, when Conan unleashed with a torrent of blows that rocked Franks, with the referee quickly stepping in and stopping the bout, much to the annoyance of Franks, although I could see why the referee stepped in. Quick stuff, and another example of how the jiu-jitsu guys were kind of dominant back then.

Next up, we skip forward to Extreme Fighting’s third show, with Eric Paulson against Matt Hume. By this time all fights were contested over three five minute rounds, or “phases” as they were called, instead of a straight fifteen minute fight. A very good and enjoyable fight. The first phase was fought mainly on the ground, with both men having opportunities to finish it via submission. The second phase saw both fighters using the stand up game, with both fighters getting in some good shots. The third phase lasted just over a minute. Paulson quickly sustained a deep cut right in the middle of his forehead, with the doctor stopping the fight. A very good fight, but a shame it had to stop in the way it did.

The next fight saw Ali Mihoubi challenging Lightweight Champion Ralph Gracie. As is the Gracie custom, this one went to the ground early. Gracie quickly went for the ground and pound, before locking in the ground and pound. Another dominating performance, and I couldn’t help but feel that Mihoubi didn’t really stand a chance.

After that quick fight, it was on to Anthony Macias against Allan Goes. Goes was unable to keep up the Brazilian tradition of instant take downs, although he was able to get past Macias’ defence soon afterwards. Goes then went for the ground and pound, and he would have probably got the win had he not gone for a head butt or a fish hook, both of which had been outlawed after the first show. Goes soon reasserted his control, taking Macias down again, but then we got a somewhat confusing ending. After Goes used another head butt, Macias verbally submitted just as the referee was about to warn Goes again. Macias thought the referee had disqualified Goes, and those in attendance weren’t exactly too happy with Goes’ conduct, and I can see why, especially as Goes and his entourage celebrated like he’d won a world title.

Only three fights on this particular volume, all from their third show, beginning with John Lober challenging Igor Zinoviev for the Middleweight Championship. The first fight on the collection to go the distance saw a very good first two rounds, with both guys looking good, but as the fight went on Zinoviev showed his superior ground game, simply smothering Lober, using a tactic that would have seen the referee stand the fighters up a few years later. By the time the third round started both fighters looked exhausted, and they spent the last five minutes exchanging combinations, although they spent a great deal of time just squaring up to each other. So with no judges, the fight was declared a draw, which meant that Zinoviev retained his title. A very solid technical fight, and very enjoyable as well.

Next up, Murakami Kazunari against Bart Vale. Vale had a near thirty pound weight advantage in this one, but it didn’t count for much as Kazunari dominated for the most part. Vale’s only real offence was a straight armbar attempt, countering Kazunari’s standing rear waist lock. The Japanese fighter soon took the fight to the ground, taking Vale’s back, going for a rear naked choke, as well as getting off a few strikes. Vale was soon able to stand up though, and got off a couple of blows before Kazunari exploded with some shots of his own, knocking Vale down with a big left, and following him down for the ground and pound, and with Vale unable to defend himself, the referee stepped in. A very impressive performance from Kazunari here.

Then it was on to Maurice Smith challenging Conan Silviera for the Heavyweight Championship. Conan had had it pretty much his own way in his previous two fights, but came up against a very strong opponent in Smith here. The first round saw Conan on top on the ground, but Smith was soon able to reverse things, taking the mount and putting in some good work, although he received a warning from the referee for head butting. Smith’s kick boxing pedigree came out in the second as he out punched and out kicked Conan, although the Brazilian did manage to tie him up in a clinch against the cage a couple of times. Round three didn’t last that long. After another brief clinch against the cage, Smith rolled off a couple of leg kicks, but a high right kick hit Conan hard on the side of his head. The Brazilian staggered, and the referee quickly stepped in and stopped the fight, revealing a few seconds later that Conan was virtually unconscious. Smith was awarded the knockout win, and the Heavyweight title in a very good fight.

As with Volume 3, this features just three fights, beginning with Todd Bjornthun going up against Allan Goes. The proverbial blink and you’ll miss it affair. Bjornthun went for a left jab, the fight went down to the mat, and Goes quickly locked in a triangle choke for the submission win. Definitely a lot better than Goes’ last performance, and he certainly got a better reception from the crowd here.

Next up, Paul Jones versus Erik Paulson. A very good fight between two evenly matched men, a back and forth affair. Jones began the fight strongly, using a suplex to take Paulson down, and spending the remainder of the first round in the guard. The second round was a little more even. Jones again showed some good grappling while controlling the fight on the ground, although Paulson went for a couple of submissions, and looked like he was going to succeed a couple of times as well. It was the same in the third round as it was in the second, only with the roles reversed as Paulson seemed to have the edge as far as submission attempts were concerned. But with the fight going the distance, and no judges, the fight was declared a draw. If it had been held today, then Jones may have just edged it.

The final fight of the collection saw John Lober taking on Kevin Jackson. They definitely saved the best for last here. Jackson, the former Olympic wrestler making his MMA debut, took Lober down early and dominated him throughout the round. In fact he punched Lober so hard that he damaged his right glove, so there was an even longer gap between the rounds while his corner men went back to the dressing room to get a replacement. The extra rest didn’t do Lober any good. Jackson began the second round in the way that he’d begun the first, taking Lober down to the ground, and locking in an arm choke for the submission win a minute or so later. An outstanding performance from Jackson here, and as I said this was definitely the best fight on the DVD.

In conclusion - this certainly is a very interesting release. Fight wise it really can’t be faulted. There’s some good action on this DVD, and it’s also a good way to see just how much the sport has changed in the fourteen years since Extreme Fighting had their short run.

Production wise, it’s more polished than the old UFC shows I reviewed recently. From the beginning the announcers knew what they were talking about, unlike their counterparts in UFC 1. However, some of the editing was awful. For instance, in Volume 1 there were a couple of fights where the introductions were cut completely. I actually had to look in the results section of Clyde Gentry’s No Holds Barred book to find out who some of these guys were. I also found out from his book that there actually was a four man tournament to crown the first heavyweight champion, but it was difficult to tell this, given the way that Volume 1 was edited. Also, in Volume 2, there’s an interview with a fighter whose fight isn’t even shown. Thankfully, the editing gets a lot better with Volumes 3 and 4.

So in all, if you’re willing to put up with these problems, then you may want to get a copy of this release. It’s available from most of the online stores such as Amazon and Play, and for a very reasonable price. It’s a valuable piece of MMA history from an all but forgotten promotion, and who knows, perhaps one day they’ll eventually release these shows unedited. I’d definitely be interested in getting them!

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