Welcome to another episode of “Throwback Thursday.” Today, we continue our watch of 2002 by viewing Pride FC’s “Armed and Ready” card. This show took place on April 28th at the Yokohama Arena in Yokohama, Japan.
The main attraction to this card was a superfight between Pride FC’s top dog Wanderlei Silva and K-1 stand-out Mirko Cro Cop. That’s headlining a card that has seven fights as a whole. Wild to see shows with only seven fights!
Whether you’re taking a trip down memory lane or experiencing this event for the first time, join me for this show.
Sapp Makes His Debut Against A Much Smaller Yamamoto
The card started with a more cinematic intro than we’re used to. Bas Rutten and Stephen Quadros were dressed as spies of some sort, entering a conference room with a briefcase. After introducing the card, they open the briefcase and guarantee others in the room that what is in it is a big deal. To Quadros’ surprise, Rutten packed his instructional DVD in the briefcase. This was a humorous intro that was shockingly high budget.
The card kicked off with the debut of someone we’re set to see a lot more times in the future. Bob Sapp fought under MMA rules for the first time at the event, facing Yoshihisa Yamamoto.
Sapp, a six-foot-five heavyweight, was incredibly larger than Yamamoto. Sapp overpowered a helpless Yamamoto and backed him up with punches. The fight was eventually stopped after a trio of hooks from Sapp dropped Yamamoto and ended the fight.
We’re going to see Sapp again, however, most of his career in the 2000s took place in kickboxing promotion K-1.
Jackson With A Slamming Performance
Rampage Jackson returned on this card, facing Masaaki Satake.
Jackson’s previous appearance was a loss, as a low-blow 14 seconds into his fight against Daijiro Matsui caused the bout to end. Now four months later, Jackson is mad about that fight. In an interview for the international broadcast, Jackson said Matsui “b***** out.” Anyway, he’s back to fight.
Satake was one of the least successful fighters in Pride FC at this time. Entering this bout, his Pride FC record was one win and five losses. So as you can expect, he wasn’t successful in this fight.
Jackson slammed Satake twice in the fight, with the second time causing a hard injury for Satake. He was visibly hurt once hitting the ground, grabbing his back. This caused the referee to end the fight, giving Jackson the win.
Jackson was relatively successful in the fight before then as well, landing ground and pound and strikes from clinch positions.
Nogueira Needs Only Seconds
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira had a dominant Pride FC debut in the next fight, submitting Yusuke Imamura in just seconds.
Nogueira pulled guard with a guillotine choke just seconds into the fight. Imamura tried and failed to escape the choke, but eventually tapped out to end the fight.
Imamura was thrown into a real mismatch here, and his lack of skills showed. The choke didn’t seem that bad and could have been escaped, but it took Imamura out of the fight. But let’s not take away from Nogueira, who was earning just his third win of what would later be a storied MMA career between Pride FC and UFC.
Two of the Better Matchups on the Card
After three real squashes, we got one of the better fights on this card. Hot off a successful Pride FC debut, Ricardo Arona returned against Dan Henderson, who was on a three-fight winning streak.
Arona had a pretty good performance in this fight. Most of his showing came from ground control against Henderson, although there were also some hectic moments. He was able to score a knockdown briefly in the opening round, hurting Henderson with a left hook while in the clinch.
In what was easily one of the best fights on this card, Murilo Rua scored a unanimous decision win over Mario Sperry.
By the time the fight came to an end, it was clear that Rua was the winner. However, en route to that outcome, Rua worked through a competitive fight against Sperry.
Rua was able to have most of the control time in the fight, although Sperry was at times able to reverse positions.
The best moments on the feet were all from Rua. The fight nearly got stopped in the opening minute, as a right cross from Rua folded Sperry during a back-and-forth exchange. In a later round, a left cross dropped Sperry, and a stomp followed from Rua. Somehow, Sperry got right back up to his feet.
This was easily Rua’s best win in Pride FC thus far.
Heel Otsuka Takes A Beating
The co-main event saw Sanae Kikuta pick up a dominant win over Alexander Otsuka. This was a sleepy fight that saw Kikuta land ground and pound throughout, bloodying the face of Otsuka.
Kikuta had Otsuka in trouble with an armbar late, but besides that, he wasn’t able to come close to ending the fight. Instead, he cruised to a decision win.
In an odd move after the fight, Otsuka offered to share the hand of Kikuta but then refused to actually shake his hand once the motion was accepted. What a heel! Or just a sore loser.
While this was a win for Kikuta, we won’t see him in Pride FC for two more years.
The Collision of Two Stars
The main event of the card saw Pride FC Champion Wanderlei Silva face Mirko Cro Cop in a special fight. This was Cro Cop’s second appearance in Pride FC, but certainly not his last in the promotion.
At the time, Cro Cop was a talent signed to K-1. He primarily fought in kickboxing bouts, with his fight against Silva only being his fourth bout under MMA rules.
As we know, Pride FC was always open to adjusting the ruleset for bouts. This matchup had special rules, being five three-minute rounds. This was likely to accommodate Cro Cop’s style of fighting in three-minute splits in kickboxing (I’m just assuming here).
Also as a special rule, there were no judges for this fight. Because of this, it was ruled a draw after it went the distance. Neither fighter was in huge trouble during the fight, although the bout felt like a moral victory for Silva by the end.
Silva’s earned numerous takedowns in the bout, and his striking was certainly on display as well.
Alright, I’m about to do a huge reach. Bare with me. This fight very much reminded me of when RIZIN talents Kyoji Horiguchi and Tenshin Nasukawa fought in kickboxing. Like that fight, this bout felt competitive but also didn’t feel like it was for any major marbles. Silva’s belt wasn’t on the line, and it was clear that Cro Cop was heading back to K-1 after this fight. But while there were no major repercussions for this fight, they were still certainly trying.
Four years later, these two will fight once again. As many know, that fight turned out to be even more electric than their first meeting.
NEXT WEEK: UFC 37: High Impact