After Pride FC held a smaller event called “New Blood,” the promotion returned for another large venue event titled “Return of the Warriors.” The card saw the return of the promotion’s biggest start at the time, Kazushi Sakuraba. In his last appearance, Sakuraba fought an impressive 90-minute battle against Royce Gracie. He gets paired against Renzo Gracie in the main event of this show. From the Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Japan, let’s look back at Pride 10.
Bout 1: Vitor Belfort (7-2) vs. Daijiro Matsui (1-4) (10+10)
Before the first fight, it’s worth noting that this was a large attendance. The Seibu Dome was also an outdoor venue, which is a rarity. Luckily it did not rain that night. Eddie Bravo played colour commentator for this show. Starting off the evening, Vitor Belfort fought Daijiro Matsui. Just two months before, Belfort got his first win in Pride FC, going to decision against Gilbert Yvel. Matsui came into this fight with a three-fight losing streak. Belfort wore wrestling shoes for this fight. Nothing happened in the first minute, with both fighters being hesitant. Matsui shot for a takedown in the second minute. Belfort stuffed it, taking the back of Matsui on the ground. Belfort got to throwing strikes immediately. The punches from Belfort started fast, eventually slowing down. Matsui was able to flip around and get on his back. Belfort got full guard from top position. Belfort continued with punches from the top. Halfway through the round, Matsui started to move around more to avoid punches. Belfort threw punches to a grounded Matsui while he was standing. Matsui flipped onto his stomach, with Belfort holding him in side control. Matsui started to bleed from his nose. Belfort wasn’t throwing strikes from this position, although he continued once Matsui got on his back again. Belfort got on Matsui’s back while Matsui started to move on his knees. Both fighters were quite sweaty, which the commentary said could be because this was an outdoor event in August. Punches from Belfort slowed down again, throwing much less until the round ended.
The second round started like the first one, where neither fighter was very engaging. The fighters were warned by the referee to be more active after nearly three minutes of stalemate. Belfort got a takedown in the fourth minute of the fight. The fighters started to talk to each other from full guard. Belfort was throwing strong punches from top position. They were moved away from the ropes with under five minutes to go. Belfort got into side control in the final minute. He didn’t do much from the position until going back into full guard. Throughout the round Belfort was landing punches to the head. The fight went all 20 minutes, with Vitor Belfort getting the clear decision win.
Bout 2: Wanderlei Silva (12-3) vs. Guy Mezger (24-10) (10+10)
The next fight saw Wanderlei Silva fight Guy Mezger. Silva last fought on a January card, earning his spot as a reserve fighter in the 2000 Grand Prix. He was not utilized for the tournament. Mezger’s previous fight was a loss to Masaaki Satake. They were both quick to engage, a change of pace from the fight before. They clinched up for a second, where Mezger landed a knee to the body. The fighters were matching each other’s aggression. A small cut opened under the right eye of Silva. They clinched up again, with Mezger landing a head kick when exiting. Silva landed a two punch combination that wobbled Mezger. Wanderlei got top position on the ground where he landed some strikes. Mezger escaped bottom position, throwing a knee to the head before they separated. On the feet, they clinched up. Silva landed more punches when leaving the clinch. Mezger was clearly still hurt when standing on his own. A right hook made him even more wobbly. Silva held Mezger with his left hand and threw punches with his right, keeping him in a corner of the ring. He scored with a right hook that dropped Mezger, ending the fight. The hectic few minutes that happened in the fight went in favour of Wanderlei Silva, giving him the win.
Bout 3: Giant Ochai (0-0) vs. Ricco Rodriguez (6-1) (10+10)
The next fight saw Giant Ochai face Ricco Rodriguez. Rodriguez won his Pride FC debut two months before, getting a decision win over Gary Goordridge. This was a real big guy battle. Rodriguez shot for a takedown in the first minute, although Ochai was able to stop it. They went into a clinch in the corner. Rodriguez landed numerous punches after leaving the clinch. Rodriguez shot for another takedown. Ochai was able to stop it, trying for a guillotine choke on the feet. While being held in the choke, Rodriguez slammed Ochai to the ground. Out of the choke now, Rodriguez took half guard. Rodriguez tried for a knee bar in the third minute, with Ochai escaping and getting back to the feet. They got into another clinch in a corner. Ochai eventually tried to do a judo throw, but Rodriguez used the momentum to get his own takedown. Rodriguez had full mount on the ground. Ochai took his back, making Rodriguez try for a rear naked choke. Not fully sinking in the hooks, Rodriguez let got and focused on strikes for a moment. He kept switching between trying for a choke and doing strikes. Getting back on top in full mount, Rodriguez put in a headlock that made Ochai tap out. Smothering Giant Ochai on the ground, Ricco Rodriguez picked up his second win in Pride FC.
Bout 4: Gilbert Yvel (22-5) vs. Gary Goodridge (10-11) (10+10)
Both coming off of losses, Gilbert Yvel and Gary Goodridge fought in the next fight. Nothing happened for a few seconds until Yvel landed a head kick, knocking Goodridge out cold. After a slow and drawn out loss on the last show, Gilbert Yvel bounced back with an explosive win. Goodridge was unconscious for quite a while, staying on his back for a few minutes.
Bout 5: Igor Borisov (0-0) vs. Mark Kerr (12-1) (10+10)
Coming back from his first loss as a pro, Mark Kerr fought Igor Borisov. This was the first professional fight from Borisov. Kerr landed a leg kick to start the fight. Kerr got a takedown in the first minute of the fight. Kerr eventually tried for a neck crank that made Borisov tap out. Mark Kerr got back in the win column with a one-sided performance. This was the last professional MMA fight for Igor Borisov. Kerr was stretchered off after the fight.
Bout 6: Igor Vovchanchyn (42-3) vs. Enson Inoue (10-4) (10+10)
Igor Vovchanchyn was coming off of a win at Pride 9, and now was put against Enson Inoue, who lost to Mark Kerr before. Inoue wore white long pants for this fight. Inoue ran at Vovchanchyn at the start, throwing punches before a clinch. They both threw wailing punches when leaving the clinch. Inoue was thrown to the ground with Vovchanchyn on top. Vovchanchyn took half guard after Inoue rolled around. Vovchanchyn was bleeding a little. Vovchanchyn went into full guard. Inoue tried for a triangle choke from the bottom for a second, although it did not work. Inoue went for an armbar, but couldn’t get far with that either. Vovchanchyn started to open up with strikes from the top. Inoue had some of his own strikes, although it was mostly Vovchanchyn. They were moved away from the ropes after slowly moving towards them for a while. Vovchanchyn kept top position for most of the round. Vovchanchyn passed guard with one leg, not being able to get full mount entirely. In half guard, Vovchanchyn started to land with very hard hammerfist strikes. Inoue was shelling up. Vovchanchyn continued with the strikes, getting into full mount. Inoue survived the round. After the bell went, Inoue stayed on the ground for quite a while, with his corner essentially carrying him to his corner. Instead of being on a stool, Inoue was sitting on the floor in his corner. After being checked out by doctors, the fight was called off, giving Igor Vovchanchyn the win.
Bout 7: Kazunari Murakami (4-3) vs. Masaaki Satake (1-3) (10+10)
The next fight saw Kazunari Murakami return to Pride, fighting Masaaki Satake. Murakami appeared on the first Pride show, not appearing again until this show. To start the fight, Murakami initiated a clinch. They went into a corner while in the clinch. After being in a clinch for a minute or so, Murakami got a takedown. When they went down, Murakami already had full mount. He was able to switch to the back of Satake. Satake was able to get up and escape the position. Murakami clinched up again, trying for another takedown. They went into a stalemate in a corner. The referee eventually took them out of the corner, forcing them back into striking. Satake scored with a kick to the body and a leg kick. Murakami clinched up, but Satake used momentum from coming off of a corner to get a takedown. In full mount, Satake landed lots of punches, mostly hammerfist strikes. This continued until the referee was confident that Murakami would not answer. After two losses in a row in Pride, Masaaki Satake finally got back in the win column. This was the last fight that Kazunari Murakami had in Pride FC.
Bout 8: Kazuyuki Fujita (4-1) vs. Ken Shamrock (24-5) (10+10)
After winning his return to MMA in May, Ken Shamrock returned to fight Kazuyuki Fujita. Fujita was coming back from making it to the semi-finals of the Pride 2000 Grand Prix. Fujita had a takedown attempt stuffed to start the round. Many more takedowns were stopped. In a clinch, Fujita landed a few knees. In another clinch, Shamrock was put in the corner. After holding on the rope to resist a takedown, Shamrock was given a yellow card. They resumed in striking after the card was awarded. They clinched up again, where Shamrock landed quite a few punches. One of the punches knocked the mouthguard of Fujita out. Fujita was quite wobbled, falling down after being shoved. Back on the feet, Fujita was put in a guillotine choke. He eventually popped out of the position. Fujita had another takedown stopped. After leaving another clinch, it was clear that both fighters were quite tired. Fujita landed a knee to the groin in a clinch, causing a pause in the fight. In another clinch, both fighters scored with knees. Shamrock was put in the corner by Fujita, and at that point his corner threw in the towel. It didn’t seem like Shamrock was in much trouble. Despite being upset by the stoppage, Kazuyuki Fujita did bounce back from his first loss as a pro.
Bout 9: Tokimitsu Ishizawa (0-0) vs. Ryan Gracie (0-0) (10+10)
Before the main event, Ryan Gracie and Tokimitsu Ishizawa made their professional MMA debuts. Gracie comes from the Gracie family. Gracie got a takedown in the first minute. Ishizawa tried for a guillotine choke from the bottom. Gracie stayed in the position for a while, Gracie popped out of the choke eventually, standing up and throwing very fast punches until the referee got in the way. Ryan Gracie made a splash with his quick debut.
Bout 10: Kazushi Sakuraba (9-1) vs. Renzo Gracie (9-1) (10+10)
A clip was shown that showed Renzo Gracie celebrating the win from Ryan Gracie. In the main event, the rivalry between Kazushi Sakuraba and the Gracie family continued, with the Japanese star facing Renzo Gracie this time. Gracie opened the round with a kick to the body. Gracie clinched up, putting Sakuraba in a corner. Gracie pulled guard and Sakuraba went down with him. Sakuraba stood up, and Gracie sprung up as well before Sakuraba did anything. Gracie landed a few leg kicks on the feet. Gracie went to the ground after charging forward with strikes. From the feet, Sakuraba landed some leg kicks to a grounded Gracie. Gracie eventually got to stand up. Gracie shot for a takedown in the fourth minute, with Sakuraba being able to avoid it. The striking on the feet was slow paced, with the fighters exploding with combinations every once in a while. Gracie clinched up again in the sixth minute of the first round. In the body lock the fight hit a stalemate. The referee eventually split them up, bringing them back to stand-up. In the final minute of the round, Sakuraba threatened to do a double arm chop. The first round ended on the feet.
Sakuraba got a takedown early in the second round after Gracie came forward with punches. Sakuraba stood up while Gracie was on his back. While standing, he threw many leg kicks, including a spinning back kick to the thigh of Gracie. Sakuraba did a somersault, grabbing a leg of Gracie before losing a hold of it. Gracie got back up after being on the ground for a few minutes. Sakuraba got another takedown, although this time he actually went down with Gracie. Sakuraba stayed in full guard for a few minutes. Sakuraba got back to his feet with Gracie still on his back. Gracie got up a few seconds later. Sakuraba shot for a takedown, although Gracie actually stopped this one, landing a knee to the body. Another attempt was stopped. Sakuraba got a single leg takedown, going to his feet while Gracie was down. Sakuraba turned around, making Gracie take his back while standing up. Sakuraba was thrown down by Gracie. They got back up, where Sakuraba spun around and set up a kimura. They went to the ground, where Sakuraba kept cranking the arm until it popped out of position, making the referee end the fight. In the very last minute of the fight, Kazushi Sakuraba dethroned another Gracie with quite the gruesome image being planted into viewers around the world. After the fight Renzo Gracie got on the mic, complimenting Sakuraba by saying he is the Japanese version of the Gracie family. Before the broadcast ended, the commentary team declared Kazushi Sakuraba as the greatest fighter in the world.
Pride FC returned on October 31st with Pride 11: Battle of the Rising Sun. In the main event, Kazushi Sakuraba fought Shannon Ritch. Before that show however, UFC had another titled UFC 27: Ultimate Bad Boyz. In the next episode of Flashback Friday which airs tomorrow, we will take a look at UFC 27.