Saturday, 15 September 2007

Pride 27: Inferno - DVD Review

Once again we step out of the world of professional wrestling and into the world of mixed martial arts with another look at the Pride Fighting Championships, with Pride 27: Inferno. Out hosts for the evening are Mauro Ranallo, making his debut as Pride’s play-by-play announcer, and the legendary Bas Rutten.

Mauro and Bas begin by giving us the rundown for the show as our fighters vie for the final four slots in the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. We then move inside the Osaka Castle Hall to get the show underway, with Kazushi Sakuraba getting things going, before we get the parade of fighters.

First up, the first “survival”, or qualifying match, with Ukraine’s Igor Vovchanchyn against America’s Dan Bobish. Igor looked dwarfed by the American, who outweighed him by over a hundred pounds. Bobish really impressed in the first round, using his size advantage and wrestling skill to control the round, although he looked exhausted when the round came to the end. The tables were turned in the second as Igor countered Bobish’s grappling attempts and kicked him to the mat, unloading with a flurry of punches which Bobish couldn’t withstand, with Igor qualifying for the Grand Prix.

The second fight, the second qualifying match, saw Russia’s Sergei Kharitonov against America’s L.A. Giant, in another David v Goliath kind of battle. The Russian proved to be too much for the inexperienced Giant, unloading with a flurry of punches and quickly locking in the armbar submission for the victory in under two minutes.

Then it’s on to Brazil’s Murilo Ninja against Japan’s Alexander Otsuka. The bout is only a few seconds old when Ninja accidentally catches Otsuka with a low blow, which actually breaks Otsuka’s protective cup, and while he takes an age to recover on the mat, it looks like he’ll be unable to continue, especially when a stretcher is brought into the ring. But it is then announced that Otsuka is going to be given longer to rest, and the match is put back to later in the show.

So with the Ninja/Otsuka fight on temporary hold, we move on to Japan’s Kazuhiro Nakamura against Mexico’s Dos Caras Jr, complete with Lucha Libre mask. The first round looked pretty even, with Nakamura trying several submission attempts, and Caras able to get out of each and every one of them. Round two was the complete opposite of the first round, with both fighters getting yellow cards for inactivity. The third round was certainly more action packed, with Nakamura trying for both an armbar and a triangle choke. With the fight going the full three round distance, all three judges gave the fight to Nakamura.

Then it’s back to the Ninja/Otsuka fight. More action packed than the previous bout, Ninja dominated and got the submission victory with a side shock just past the five minute mark.

Back to the scheduled action as America’s Mark Kerr takes on Japan’s Yoshihisa Yamamoto. A quick one here, lasting less than a minute. As Kerr took Yamamoto down, his own head came crashing down onto the mat, knocking him out. The referee stopped the fight as Yamamoto connected with a few punches on his unconscious opponent.

A battle of the Americans next, as Gan McGee goes up against Heath Herring in the third qualifying match. A mixed first round, both fighter preferring the stand up game before going to the mat, and the round ending with Herring trying to apply a reverse kimura, and having to put up with a cut under his right eye. The second round was a stand up battle throughout, with not much happening except Herring getting a cut under his left eye, and having trouble with his contact lenses. The third began with Herring’s right eye swollen shut, and turning things up a notch with a flurry of punches. Another stand up round, Herring looked the better of the two as McGee clearly looked spent as the round and the fight came to an end. Herring won the bout on a split decision, earning a spot in the Grand Prix.

On to the main event, as Croatia’s Mirko Cro Cop goes up against America’s Ron Waterman in the final qualifying match. Waterman controlled things early on with his superior grappling skills, but after Cro Cop managed to escape from the guard position, the Croatian unloaded on Waterman and connected with a hard kick to the head, leaving the referee with no choice but to stop the fight as Cro Cop won his spot in the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

DVD extras come in the form of the usual Pride rules, fighter biographies and photo galleries, as well as post-fight interview with Ron Waterman and Heath Herring, and a gag played on new announcer Mauro Ranallo. The look on Mauro’s face when he is “confronted” by an angry Mirko Cro Cop is really something that shouldn’t be missed.

In conclusion - do I really need to say any more about how impressed I am with Pride? Top notch matches mixed with top notch production values make for a great product overall. As the legendary Stan Lee would say, ‘nuff said!

With thanks to Gray Graham over at Wrestle-Zone UK for getting me a copy of this DVD. Log onto www.fightdvd.co.uk for ordering information.