Author Topic: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA  (Read 25810 times)


  • Getbig IV
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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #50 on: August 30, 2020, 09:59:32 AM »
Kakutogi Road Presents: "Stranger in a Strange Land" The Billy Scott Interview Part 2

MB: If my notes are correct, this was your last show for a while (referring to the 12-21-91 show) and it looked like you were out of action for all of 1992, and all the way into September of 1993.

BS: Yes, the reason for that was a contract dispute. You saw my matches, and saw what I was wearing?

MB: You were wearing a singlet, right?

BS: Yes, a singlet, red, blue, or whatever, but after that they came to me and said we want you to wearÖ *trails off* Ö My idea was to agree to come over for a certain amount of money per fight, and everything was going to be paid for, and they were going to take care of everything, and Sasazaki said ďIf thereís something you donít understand, you come back to me, and tell me, and Iíll take care of it.Ē He told me that in case there was any kind of misinterpretation with anything. So, I get over there about three weeks before the fight, and they told me that they want me to have a different outfit, so thatís where the green came in at, and the trunks, and shinpads. So, I agreed to it, but when they went to pay me, my pay was short $500. So, I went to them and asked them way my pay was short, and they told me that they took out half of out my outfit cost, and I was like, ďNo. You pay all of it. This is what you wanted, not what I wanted. Also, this was around the end of 91, and I had a very young son, that I was paying child support on. They had decided that they wanted me to stay over, and I told them that I couldnít stay, and I already had a return ticket, and I told them that I had to go home. They then told me that I had to stay, and I told them no, and they told me to come back around January 10th (of 1992)

MB: Ok, letís pause there for a second. Now when these guys were dealing with foreign talent, did they typically try and pay per appearance, or did pay a contracted amount per month?

BS: Well, at that time, as far as I know, all foreign talent was paid per fight, there were no long-term contracts at the time. 

MB: So, they pretty much told you, ďWe want you to come in this day, and this is how much weíll pay?Ē

BS: Yep. They pay was per the date, and you could come back or not.

MB: Now, did you see that pay go up as you started becoming more prevalent in the company?

BS: Now after all this, I made a mark for myself. I enjoyed it, and I had made a mark for myself. For me it came down to how I was raised. It wasnít about the $500, rather it was the principal behind it. They were supposed to pay for everything. So, I came back and spoke to Shinji, and told them there was a misinterpretation, and something was wrong, and I was out $500 from my pay, so he told me that he would take care of it. Now at this point I have no contract to return, I donít have anything, because they had per fight contracts at the time, and so Shinji called the main office and they said, ďNo.Ē They insisted that I pay half, so I said, ďFine.Ē They wanted me to come back January 10th, and I already had my ticket to come back on that date, and Iím like, ďI donít have to go back,Ē and theyíre like ďNo, you have to come back.Ē But not without a contract! *Laughs* So what happened during the year of that breakage, and why it was broke for so long, was because we were going back and forth butting heads. Well, finally I had moved over here to Kentucky, and they had kept trying to call my mom, and they got ahold of my mom, and then she tried to contact me, telling me, ďHey I got someone from Japan trying to get ahold of you, thereís someone from Japan that keeps calling over here asking about you.Ē She didnít know why they were calling though, and I blew it off, but after a while I wondered who was continuing to call, so I got in touch with them, and they said that they wanted to meet me and talk to me. So thatís when we met, and they told me that they were interested in me coming back long-term. I agreed, but I told them that they still had to pay me the money that they owed me. They paid me my money and gave me a 3-year contract, too.

MB: Now in the meantime were you thinking that, ďOK. Iím done with professional wrestling, this is over, Iím going to have find something else to do with my life?Ē Or did you think that they were going to break?

  BS: No, to be honest I was at a point where I was in no hurry, as I had set myself up in a good position, and I didnít feel like I was in the wrong, but I still trained, and still did whatever, but what really made everything better for me, is that they also offered to provide a coach for me. A different coach. This was in the contract, and this is where Billy Robinson comes in.

  Billy Scott with Billy Robinson and friendsÖ

MB: Interesting, so when you say coach, are you talking about a coach that is going to be presiding in Japan, or a coach that was going to be in Kentucky?

BS: No, he was going to be in Tennessee. They brought him in from Vegas to Tennessee. (Billy Robinson)

MB: Wow, they actually paid to have him relocate?

BS: Yes, they relocated him, and paid for everything, so that they could have him coach me.

MB: Wow, I was going to get to Robinson later, but this is really fascinating. I had heard about the UWF Snakepit in Japan, but that must have been later.

BS: Yeah, that was later.

MB: Ok, so Robinson is basically living in Vegas, and then they relocate him to Tennessee?

BS: Yeah, the relocated him to Tennessee after I agreed. I donít know when the negotiations took place, but if everything worked out with me, it was going to work out with him.

MB: What was your schedule like training with him? Was it 5 days a week?

BS: We trained 5 days a week, 3 hours a day. That was my life.

MB: Thatís amazing.

BS: And he wasnít just a coach, as far as just coaching wrestling, he was a coach in life. When I first met him, he shook my hand, said he was glad to meet me, and that we are going to be like father and son. When he said that, Iím thinking in my head, ďThis crazy old man, who does he think he is?Ē At the time I thought he was crazy, but as time went on, I learned that what he told me was true.

MB: Well, thatís really awesome, too because there arenít too many people, especially in this country that got to train at the feet of someone that was really was the last in the line of these old catch-wrestling icons of times past.

BS: It was awesome, I enjoyed it. I didnít realize at the time, how lucky I was, and how if I hadnít did what I did at the time, and not refused to come back over the $500Ö..because I could have went, but if I did, then that deal with Coach Robinson, may have never worked out.

MB: So, Robinson was basically your personal trainer 5-days a week?

BS: Yes, 5-days a week, and sometimes, during certain parts of the year, we would train twice a day. It was brutal.  Shinji Sasazaki, he liked to do a lot of running, and in those days, when youíre young, you just do whatever. Whatever Shinji told me to do I did. He was like my boss. I had to look at it that way, because they were paying me for training, and that was my life.

MB: Now when this was happening, did you have any concept of how much of a pedigree this man had with catch-wrestling?

BS: You mean Robinson?

MB: Yeah.

BS: Shit, I had no idea.

MB: So, itís safe to say that you didnít realize how amazing this opportunity was at the time.

BS: No, I did not. When they told me that my coach was going to be Billy Robinson, I was like, ďHuh, whoís that?Ē They told me that they were going to get me the best coach ever. Now Shinji used to watch Robinson when he was a boy in Japan, so Shinji was apeshit about Robinson. So now I have Shinji, and Robinson, and I had another coach named Terry Farr (SP?) he was an American boxing coach who also taught Keith McKnight, who at one time was ranked 6 in the world, and I think that he was even ranked above Mike Tyson, and some of those others at one point in time. So, I we also got to work against boxers, sometimes, so it wasnít like American pro wrestling. A lot of us were busting our assess every day, so we should legitimately shoot if we had to. Sometimes when you were going over, you didnít even know who you were going against. Did you ever see them do the ball thing in the UWFI? Where they put names in.

MB: You mean like a lottery to see who was going to face who?

BS: Yeah, like a lottery. Did you ever see this? So what they did, it was like a celebration thing, they would put all these balls in a sack, and when the ceremony was done, they would toss it out to their fans, as kind of a collectible type thing.

MB: I donít remember a lottery, but I do remember seeing Takada and Yamazaki toss the balls out into the crowd. Now as this is progressing, do you start having more actual communication with Takada?

BS: Oh, no. I never dealt with Takada. He was always in the back. I just dealt with mainly the green boys.

MB: OK, let me back up a second, now the whole Trevor Berbick, and James Warring thing, to your knowledge, were the people behind the scenes pissed at the whole thing? Did they feel like it was a disaster, or were they happy with everything?

BS: No, they were happy with it.

MB: Well, when the Warring match was over, did you find someone and say, ďHey, this is BS!Ē

BS: No, it was already over. To me it was just part of the fight, and now itís over. But at some point I had heard that Warring was favored to win a ten-round fight, and he couldnít understand how he lost the fight, but he understood the rules. The rules were if you didnít engage with me, you would be penalized. All he had to do was engage and stop touching the ropes. Why do you think I threw his ass over the ropes, like I did?

MB: *Laughs* Yeah, it seemed to me that you were getting frustrated more and more as the fight went on.

BS: I was getting frustrated because he wouldnít engage and I was young, and I didnít bust my ass for seven weeks, for nothing, and I was there to prove a point. To me at that time, it was an opportunity for me step up. I was 20 or 21 years old, and I wanted to take advantage of it. Now looking back on it, it was an opportunity from no mans land, but at the same time, my mental state at the time as a competitor was that I busted my ass in training.

MB: Well, youíre a competitive person. You donít want to lose. Especially for the wrong reasons.

BS: Sure, and when somebody comes in there, and the rules were set up that way, and the guy is really not engaging with you, itís just me going in and taking punches, just to grab ahold of a guy, and then all of a sudden you grab the ropes, it becomes a situation where you donít have any satisfaction out of it.

MB: Sure, and the problem was made even worse because he had a lot of reach, as he was a very long guy, and he could pretty much reach the ropes wherever he was. So, I could see why that would be frustrating. Ok, so your next appearance is 9-18-93. Now I tried to do as much research as I could, and I donít know if Iíve been looking in the wrong places, but I couldnít find any footage of it, but apparently the UWFI had an event in Tennessee as part of a boxing event? Is that correct?

BS: Yes, that was club knockout, it was an event that Terry Farr (SP?) did. They used to promote fights, and bring boxers in.

MB: Ok, so it was a boxing event, and they decided to have a couple of UWFI matches as a special attraction?

BS: Yeah, yeah.

MB: Did anyone even have any clue what this was?

BS: No, they didnít but when we went on, the people went apeshit for it! It was crazy, and to be honest with you, that was the first night that I got to meet Coach Robinson.

MB: So you actually got to meet him there?

BS: Yes, I met him there, and it was his birthday.

MB: Now you fought Anjo again, correct?

BS: Yes

MB: And you won?

BS: Yes

MB: Do you know if Anjo had ever been to the U.S. by this point?

BS: Yes, I believe that he used to go and stay with Gene Lydick and Steve Day, out in Atlanta, and Anjo had been to the states, because he had to visit Shinji.


  • Getbig IV
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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #51 on: August 30, 2020, 10:06:42 AM »
MB: Ok, so the UWFI didnít have any intentions of breaking into the U.S. market? This was just kind of a one-off event?

BS: Well, actually when we were doing the mixed fight with Warring, they were wanting to break into the U.S. market. When we were in New York, they went over to Madison Square Garden, and looked at using it as a venue, and we went to a Goldís Gym to do a photo shoot before the fight. They were talking about doing this worldwide, they didnít just want to stay in Japan.

MB: Thatís interesting, not to get off into the weeds here, but I think that has been something that has been a hindrance to other Japanese promotions, for example K1, as there was a time that K1 could have been more worldwide, but it seemed like they wanted to stay in Japan, and so for UWFI to have the ambition to be worldwide, is interesting.

BS: Well, you know the owner of K1?

MB: The original owner?

BS: Yeah, the original owner.

MB: *Thinks for a minute* Kazuyoshi Ishii! *Laughs* He was a good friend of Maeda, too.

BS: Yes, he was. I met him.  Now the word was then, that HE wanted to control everything related to fighting in Japan. He also owned a lot of disco clubs in Japan at the time, and he was using military bases, and using some of the military personnel for security.

MB: Did you ever feel any animosity because you were a westerner, or any bad attitudes or did you think that anyone ever looked down on you?

BS: No, anybody and everybody that I ever met in Japan, they all treated me great.

MB: You never felt like there was any weird politics that you had to deal with?

BS: No, at least if there was, I was never aware of any.

MB: So, the UWFI had global ambitions. Why didnít it go any further, than that match in Tennessee?

BS: Well, right after that match in Tennessee, thatís when the first UFC startedÖ I thought that the UWFI was going to do well, I really thought they would do good with it, but the 93 thing, I think maybe that was just promotional material for the magazines in Japan, and a way to introduce Coach Robinson, and I believe that Danny Hodge was there too, because the first time I met Robinson, I met Danny Hodge, and for my first two weeks of training with Billy Robinson, he had Hodge with him as well.

MB: So, does the UWFI have any executives at this show in Tennessee that are observing it to see what its potential was, outside of Sasazaki?

BS: Iím not sure.

MB: Ok, so this was probably just Sasazaki observing all of this and giving feedback to Japan. When did you first become aware of the UFC, do you remember? Was it when Severn went over?

BS: I think I saw the first UFC cardÖ wasnít Ken Shamrock on that first card?

MB: Yes, Shamrock was in the first event. He defeated Pat Smith in his first match and lost to Royce Gracie in his 2nd.

BS: Ok. So that was it, because I was going to something with the guy that did SavateÖ.Gerard Gordeau, because his brother Nico Gordeau, also fought for UWFI, later on.

MB: Ok, when you saw the first UFC, did that register with you? I mean here we have Ken Shamrock, wom I donít know if you were familiar with him at the time.

BS: Yeah, I had heard of him, because he had did some UWF beforehand.

MB: Yes, he was in the NEWBORN UWF before we went to the PWFG.

BS: Yes, for a short time. When I got to the UWFI, they said something to me about him, and showed me a video of him, and they also showed me a video of Bart Vale.

MB: Did that register, because you had Shamrock, who was a very imposing physical specimen, and he was also trained by Funaki, and Karl Gotch to some extent, and that first fight with Pat Smith, he just obliterated him, but he tried that same move against Royce Gracie while in his guard, and Gracie just used that momentum to ride with him, and then just got off to his side and put him in a lapel choke. When you were watching this, were you like, ďHoly crap! There is something going on here.?Ē

BS: I thought it was neat. I thought it was really interesting it was now MIXED martial arts, because in the years before this, it was only starting to come together. Now back in 93 when this was going on, and I was with Coach Robinson I was now in a long-term contract, so the UWFI was my bread and butter, and they controlled who I fought, and when I fought, and what I did, or didnít do. Like when we went to Israel, and stuff like that.

MB: Now conversely Pancrase started shortly before this UWFI event as well, now were you kind of keeping tabs on what was going on with Fujiwara, and with Pancrase, did you have a feel for what was going on there?

BS: Well, I knew that there was another group going, but I also knew that being an American in another world, you try and make sense of a lot of stuff, and you donít know if your interpretation is correct. Because you would hear different stories, about Maeda, or Suzuki, or Fujiwara, or Takada, or whoever, and you would hear different things about where they were before, but I had no friggen idea about any of that, but over the years you put together the different pieces, and I got to look at some of the stuff you did (referring to the Kakutogi Road columns).

MB: Well, let me put it a better way. When was the first time that you got to see a Pancrase match?

BS: Actually, me and a younger Japanese fellow went to see a Pancrase event with a bald-headed guy that I metÖ *thinking*

MB: Bas Rutten?

BS: Yes! We were all together, and we were near the venue, so we went to meet some guy that brought in fighters from different promotions.

MB: So, did your contract actually end in 1996?

BS: Actually, it was going on even after the UWFI was finished. I didnít find out about the final event, until the day I got there. Can you believe that? *Laughs* Now what happened was they kept paying me even after the promotion ended. They told me just to keep training in case something came up. So I kept training, and they kept paying me.

MB: So, when you saw that Pancrase event, did you think that it was a lot different than what you were doing, or did you find it to be similar?

BS: I thought it was the same, really. You might have people that jump around, and go from one place to another, but that wasnít the way I was.

MB: This now leads to what may be one of the most interesting stories of the UWFI. On 6-29-94 the first Vale Tudo Japan event took place, in which Shooto invited Rickson Graciem as well as other fighters, to compete in a tournament, and he wins, and as I understand it, this prompts Takada and Anjo to what to capitalize on Rickson newfound stardom, and they wanted to book a match with him. The legend goes that they kept trying to broker a deal with Rickson, unsuccessfully, because Rickson didnít want to do a worked match, and felt that is what would be expected of him, and not only that, but Rickson wanted A LOT of money.

BS: A million dollars!

MB: So Anjo decides to go down to Los Angeles to challenge Rickson at his dojo, and to be fair, from what I can gather, I donít think he was intending to actually get into a fight with Rickson, but was hoping that by his showing up, he could goad Rickson into coming into Japan, but it didnít work that way of course. Rickson isnít at the dojo at the time, but he hears about whatís happening, and decides to rush down there, and long story short, he beats the crap out of Anjo. Were you aware of any of this as it was going on, or the lead up to it? How did you hear about this?

BS: Actually, I didnít hear about this until after Anjo went down there. I do remember before this happened though, Sasazaki said something to me about going him planning on going to California, but thatís all I heard, and then sometime laterÖ.. Wait, wasnít Sasazaki with him, when they went down there?

MB: I didnít know that Sasazaki was with him, but I do know that he had some other Japanese people with him.

BS: Originally, they wanted me to go to California, but I didnít know what they were planning. I didnít go, because I didnít know that I needed to go. I didnít hear about it later, until I was back in Japan, and it blew up, and everyone was talking about it.

MB: Well, the story goes, that Rickson had one of his students tape the fight, and of course Anjo loses, and was a bloody mess, but then when he gets back to Japan, he told the press in Japan that he was sucker punched, and jumped, to save face, is what it sounded like. At least that is what has been reported. Supposedly, Rickson hears about this, and has someone contact the press in Japan, to set up a press conference, where he has a copy of the beatdown he gave Anjo played for the press, to dispel Anjoís comments.

BS: Actually, at that time, I think that he thought that Rickson was going to fight Takada.

MB: Yes, I donít think that he ever wanted to challenge Rickson, I think that his intent was just to try and broker a fight between Rickson and Takada. Of course, thatís where the money would have been. These events wind up leading into the formation of Pride FC. Did Anjo come back to Japan, and repeat this story? Was he like, ďHey Rickson was an asshole, and he jumped me.Ē Did you hear anything like this?

BS: No, I never heard him talk about it. All I remember was some of the guys talking about the incident, but I never heard anything about it from Anjo.

MB: Did you think that there was any immediate loss of face to the Japanese public over this? Do you think that this hurt the company?
Billy Scott Interview: Part 2 Continued...

BS: Iím not sure. I donít know what really hurt the company. As an outsider, I couldnít really understand what was going on. You would think as someone that was under contract with them, that there are things that I would hear, or be privy to, more so than any normal person, but not necessarily. *Laughs* Itís like anything else, there could have been something going wrong in the office, or there could have been some problems with the finances. When youíre in that kind of position, you are only going to know what they are willing to tell you.

MB: So, you didnít see or hear anything that would indicate to you that something isnít right here?

BS: No. You have to understand, that time that I went over there, and they told me this was going to be my last fight, I was totally surprised. They didnít tell me anything about closing down. I was like, ďAre you kidding me? What?!Ē It really flipped me out, but it tells you how much they kept us in the loop.

The Aftermath of the Anjo Dojo Storm...

MB: The legend was that supposedly Yoji Anjo had a reputation as a strong shooter behind the scenes, so they had some confidence in him going to California. Do you think there is any truth to that?

BS: No. Anjo was a good shooter, but he wasnít the best shooter.

MB: I think that he proved that with his UFC fights. So in your opinion who were the best shooters in the back?

BS: Tamura was good, but so were all of them. When those guys trained, they trained to shoot. This is what was tough. You saw guys that would do a worked match one week, and then another week over here, he is going to have to do a shoot. Thatís how good some of those guys were.

MB: Yes, the more that I get into this, the more blown away I am by Tamura, that guy was really good.

BS: Very good.

MB: He was one of the few that could excel at a worked match and he could excel at a shoot. When you look at someone like a Sakuraba, here was someone that was great as a shooter, but was ok as a pro wrestler, but Tamura could do it all.

BS: Even when they would do shoots against each other (Iím assuming he means in training), somehow he would pull a rabbit out of his hat and beat Sakuraba. I wouldnít have thought that.

MB: So Anjo didnít have a reputation in the back as being a great shooter?

BS: He was good, but no, he wasnít the best.

MB: And the thing with Anjo, was at least he was still a mid-card guy, so even though he got beat up by Rickson, it shouldnít have killed the company, it wasnít the same as Takada losing, but I still wonder if it wound up hurting the company.

BS: Iíll tell you that I was very surprised with Takada when I saw him and Rickson fight. Going into it I thought it was going to be an awesome fight, but it wasnít the Takada I thought. He was hesitant, and to me it seemed like Rickson was already in his head, long before the match started.

MB: Iíve noticed that with MMA in general. There are times where your watching someone, and you know that they are a good fighter, but you can see them become hesitant, and apprehensive, and that always costs them the fight. Itís not enough to be good, but you have to be good under pressure.

BS: And Rickson is friggen awesome, and Takada was too, I thought, but when it came time for the clash of it, and youíre sitting back as a spectator, and youíre expecting it to be awesome, and it was like, ďShit, that isnít what I expected to see.Ē He didnít kick Rickson like I thought he was going to. Anyone that punches and kicks is going to have enough sense to know that you arenít going to try any kicks above the waist, because you know that your going to have a grappler that is going to take that, and take you down. Of course, you have to stick to low-kicks, and he didnít even do any of that.

MB: I think that he was really nervous.

BS: Yeah, it showed.

MB: Ok. My next question is about Billy Robinson. Did your 5-day a week training regimen with him last for the entire duration of the UWFI?

BS: Yes. Even after the UWFI shut down they still paid Robinson for a while, and they paid me too. Then at some point later, Robinson went back to Japan to do the Snakepit.

MB: When did the UWF Snakepit start in Japan?

BS: Iím not exactly sure on the date, but whenever Robinson left to go to Japan, and Iím not sure when that was, but it had to be around 2000, or maybe shortly before, because thatís the time that Black Belt Magazine contacted me about doing a catch-wrestling video, so they sent me to Tony Cecchine, and some of the moves that he was doing were not freakin realistic at all. Maybe he was a great guy, but some of the stuff he displayed was not realistic. As a salesperson he could sell himself, but the moves he was showing were BS. At least thatís my take on it after having trained with Coach Robinson.

MB: This might be an interesting question. You saw the first UFC in 1993, and you got a glimpse of BJJ, even though it was only a glimpse of it, now by the time 1996 rolls around are you more familiar with it, or is Billy Robinson more familiar with it? What were your guysí opinion of BJJ? In the beginning you had Royce Gracie beating everybody, and Rickson had success, and for most of the 90s BJJ was a force in MMA. Did you ever see this, and think to yourself that you needed to learn it, or that you need to start incorporating it into your game?

BS: No, because thatís working off of your back, and Robinson didnít want you working off of your back. Also, I was in love with catch-wrestling because when I did collegiate wrestling, I loved it, and it was similar to catch wrestling.

MB: Did Robinson have any tools, or contingency plans if you did find yourself on your back? Did he have any concept of a guard, or was that even a thing in Robinsonís world?

BS: Back in the gym we used to have guys come over that did Jiu-Jitsu and different things, and sometimes they would send people that trained in different kinds of martial arts to Japan, to be our sparring partners, and when we sparred with those guys, they were usually supposed to stay with us for seven weeks, and they would only wind up staying with us for seven days, and run back. The majority of guys that came in, couldnít handle it because of the way that Coach Robinson trained, as it was very hardcore.

MB: What was Robinsonís answer to when you wound up on your back, not that you wanted to be there, but did he have any submissons from that position, or what did he teach.

BS: Robinson had submissions, but he really wanted you to stand back up or go for a sweep, and this is when sweeps were not as common as they are now. Sometimes, he would have you overhook the shoulder and get your hips out, and stand back up with your opponent, or push on his head and try and control him that way.

MB: So, in other words, get off your back.

BS: *Laughs* Yes, get off your back.


  • Getbig IV
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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #52 on: September 06, 2020, 07:57:29 PM »
Kakutogi Road Presents: "Stranger in a Strange Land" The Billy Scott Interview: Part 3

Welcome back to the final installment of our interview with Billy Scott. We'll be picking up, right were we left off last time.

  BS: Like I was saying before, we were in a boxing gym, so we would spar with boxers, they wouldnít wrestle with us, but we would spar boxing. Coach Robinson would always tell me to relax. You know, Coach Robinson had an uncle that was a European world champion, too. (Iím assuming that he is referring to Alf Robinson.) Coach Robinson used to box as well, until he was ten years old. He was blind in one eye; did you know that?

  Billy Robinsonís uncle, Alf Robinson, seen here at a boxing booth, with the Lonsdale belt, possibly in Blackpool in the 1930s. Alf was known as a ďcombinationĒ man, as he was able to win money in both events. *Photo taken from the De Braco Archives*

MB: No, I did not know that.

BS: Yes, he was blind in one eye, thatís why he got into wrestling. Also, did you know that Karl Gotch and Coach Robinson used to live together?

MB: No, I didnít know that. Did you ever get to meet Karl Gotch, or did you ever get to train with Fujiwara? The reason I ask, is because to me it sounds like Fujiwara had the same relationship with Gotch, that you had with Robinson. Gotch really took him under his wing.

BS: He was very lucky, I didnít know that, but as far as Fujiwara, I went over and did a thingÖ *Pauses* I forget the name of it, but it was USA against JAPAN, (editors note: I didnít realize it at the time, but Scott is referring to an event from the short lived JPWA promotion that featured a stable of wrestlers on Yoshiaki Fujiwaraís team vs a team of wrestlers on Nick Bockwinkleís side.) They had different guys from different places, they had one or two guys from Dan Severnís Dangerzone, they had me, and somebody out of Texas. Anyway, Fujiwara was the Japanese coach, and Coach Robinson was in Japan during that time, I suppose that was the time he was doing the Snakepit thing, but he came there, and I was the only American that won in that entire event, because they did a shoot before hand to determine the winner. Thatís how they did it. Coach Robinson was there with Fujiwara and I was placed with a guy whoís name I canít remember. (Mamoru Okamoto. He was a Japanese pro wrestler that wrestled mainly for the FMW and Battlarts promotions) I remember that the fighters that fought in the last match really wound up beating the shit out of each other. It was America vs Japan, and Fujiwara was the Japanese coach, and the American coach was Nick Bockwinkle, and that was the first time that I met Nick Bockwinkle.

  MB: Itís funny you mention that, because that leads to my next question. You had a layoff in 1992, but Nick Bockwinkle had an exhibition match with Billy Robinson in the UWFI, in 1992. Were you aware of that, or did you see it?

BS: Iíve never seen it. I heard them talk about it, but I never saw it.

MB: Yes, it was an exhibition, and it was fascinating, because even though you could tell that physically they couldnít do everything that they wanted to do, you could still see how sharp they were mentally. They had so much experience, and were amazing at what they did, and you could tell that their bodies didnít want to quite do what their minds wanted them to do, but mentally they were very with it, so it was really good. Ok, so you never got to meet Gotch, did you ever meet Fujiwara over the years, or any of those guys, like Funaki, Suzuki, etc?

 BS: I met Suzuki when I went over in 2011, (referring to his final match at the Hiromitsu Kanehara U-Spirits event) and he seemed like a nice guy, but crazy with the haircut.

MB: In a nutshell, and I realize that this is a complicated question, but how would you describe the difference between catch-wrestling and other grappling systems? For example, catch vs BJJ, or catch vs sambo?

BS: Well, I think you have to go back to the actual individual. You canít say ďcatch is all like this,Ē or ďBJJ is all like this,Ē because you might have one coach over here that is really good at one thingÖ

MB: Like one BJJ coach being really good at leg-locks?

BS: Yes, and actually BJJ didnít really do any leg-locks until the 90s or somewhere in there.

MB: Well, funny story. You know Enson Inoue?

BS: Yeah, I know Enson!

MB: He started out in Shooto, and it was kind of funny, because how he got into it, was he first tried to get into RINGS, or UWFI, or whatever, and he would call these places and they would say things like, ďHow big are you?Ē or ďHow much do you weigh?Ē He didnít realize at the time, that there was a worked element to it, so he was like, ďWhat difference is it, how big I am? Iím good, I can fight.Ē So, he wasnít getting anywhere, so he finally contacted Shooto, and Sayama had him roll with some of his guys to test him out, and outside of getting caught with an occasional leg-lock (because he wasnít used to training in leg-locks in BJJ) he was mostly beating the Shooto guys in rolling. Then Yuki Nakai took a liking to him, and started training with him, and of course Sayama felt like he could use Enson. That planted the seed of BJJ in the mind of Yuki Nakai, although he wasnít really willing to fully devote himself to BJJ, until Noboru Asahi lost to Royler Gracie at VTJ 96, and from there I think he realized that Judo alone wasnít going to be enough, and thatís how he wound up becoming the first BJJ black belt in Japan, and of course he brought a large knowledge of leg-locks to the BJJ game at the time, and of course the Luta Livre guys in Brazil liked leg-locks, and there always seemed to be your random Brazilian BJJ guys that liked leg-locks, so there was always outliers, but for the most part they were looked down upon, by the BJJ community. Helio Gracie thought it was low-class, like it was cheating basically. Only a peasant would lower himself to do this. *Laughs*

  Yuki Nakai: Shooto legend, and the first Japanese fighter to gain a BJJ black belt.

BS: Itís like these tournaments nowadays. For years, when Iíve been here, I would train my students, and they would go to these no-gi tournaments, they couldnít do ankle locks, unless they were at a certain ranked level in BJJ, or you couldnít do anything below the waist, even though you could still do triangles, and armbars, and that really takes away the weapons of a lot of guys. But I donít think you can really say ďBJJ is this, or Judo is this, etc,Ē I think that it really comes down to the individual, if someone is good, theyíre going to be good no matter where they are, because itís all grappling. Itís going to really come down to who is teaching you, and if youíre on your game or not, because any kind of grappling, is good for you. Sometimes Iíll watch different catch wrestling videos, from different people, and some of them, when I compare it to what Coach Robinson taught me, are putting together two moves at the same time, what I mean is that theyíre showing a move as one move, but itís actually two different moves thatís been mixed into one, so thatís why it goes back to the coach.

MB: In my personal opinion, and when I say this, I mean in the context of this time, because nowadays everything is so blended together, so it would be silly to now say that ďBJJ is this, or this art is that,Ē but in the context of the early 90s, to me, and what I saw, was that the Japanese mindset was attack, attack, go, always look for the submission, and it was never too worried about finding and maintaining a superior position, where BJJ had a much more position first approach, and then once your position is correct, then go for a submission.

BS: Yeah, I agree with you.

MB: And a really great match to watch, in terms of this conversation is Allan Goes vs Frank Shamrock from Pancrase.

BS: Yes! Iíve seen that.

MB: Cause, Frank Shamrock is going 100mph looking for submissions, and he cared less about his position, and sometimes that cost him, and sometimes his athleticism got the better of Goes. So, it really seems like a matter of what are your physical attributes, what are you good at, etc. For example, some people are going to be really good off of their back, and I was never one of them, I was like a turtle off of my back, I donít want to be there.

BS: *Laughs*

MB: But some people are really flexible, and are really crafty down there. There is never a one size fits all approach to this. You really have to figure out what your good at, and really kind of play to that. Back to the early 90s though, if you watch some Shooto from that time period, they had the guard, but when someone was using their guard, they were looking for submissions, they werenít stalling, or hanging out there, they were always going for something, and thatís something that I wish was more common in modern MMA. A mentality of ďIíve got to win this fight.Ē

BS: Yeah, now itís a matter of once you got your position, you can just kind of hang out there, and now youíre winning the fight.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #53 on: September 06, 2020, 08:00:26 PM »
Billy Scott Interview: Part 3 Continued...

MB: Do you think that Ken Shamrock was a good representation of catch-wrestling?

BS: I think that he was. Sure, them, Funaki, and a lot of those guys were good with the submission wrestling. There were things that were taught a little bit different with them, but again, that goes back to your coach, and how you were taught.

MB: What do you think of Erik Paulson?

BS: I think that heís awesome. I think that heís brilliant, to be honest with you.

MB: He was a fascinating character to me, because he was in Shooto before the first UFC, and he actually got his start, I think, in Jeet Kun Do, or Tae Kwon Do, so he had a striking base, but then he started training with Rickson Gracie, and then he goes to Shooto, and learns from Sayama, so he has all this different knowledge, from all these different places.

BS: And he puts it into perspective, I think he does really good with it. There has been so many times, where I just go through stuff, and thereís Paulson. So, yes, he has a great background in everything. Iíve never met him, so he could be an awesome guy, but technique wise, heís great.

MB: What are your thoughts on Dan Severn? Did you get to hang out with him in your UWFI days?

BS: Yes, Dan and I are friends. Iíve brought him over here for seminars, and heís a really great guy. To me heís a great wrestler and a great guy.

MB: And from what Iíve seen of him, he seems like a good teacher.

BS: Yes, he is good, from all that heís done over the years. Also, as a big guy he knows how to do the big guy stuff, too. He knows how to ride, and put his weight on you, and how to wear you out, and he doesnít get in a hurry, and that comes with experience. Once he gets a good position, he is going to try and keep it and wear the other guy out. He was a great teacher too. So was Steve Nelson.

MB: What was Lou Thez like? Did you ever get to meet him?

BS: I met Lou Thez a few times, mainly on a plane. I didnít really get to talk to him much, though. He would speak at some of the UWFI events, and his belt was over there for a while. I saw Danny Hodge more than I saw Lou Thez.

MB: What was Billy Robinsonís opinion of Karl Gotch, and Lou Thez?

BS: He always spoke well of both of them, but Robinson was someone that would tell you up to a point, how he felt about you, but at the same time he wasnít someone that would speak ill of someone that he didnít like. From what I recall though, he always spoke well of Thez, and Gotch.

MB: Did he ever speak in terms of something like, ďHey, one-time Gotch showed me this move right here,Ē or ďI learned this from so and so?Ē

BS: No, not really, he just mentioned things like how he lived together with Gotch at one point, or how he got his eye injury. I never got met Gotch, I would have liked to.

MB: Like I mentioned earlier, you remind me a lot of Fujiwara, because I just watched an interview that was put out recently, where Fujiwara just talked about his relationship with Karl Gotch, and how he was like a 2nd father to him. It didnít start that way, but over time, they built that kind of relationship.

BS: Yeah, thatís what I had with Coach Robinson.

Billy Robinson and Karl Gotch, taken from a match in 1971.

MB: You were one of the very few people to have worked with both Kiyoshi Tamura, and Kazushi Sakaraba. Which person impressed you more in a pro wrestling sense, and who impressed you more in a MMA sense?

BS: To me, as individuals, Tamura was the quickest as far as getting positions, and stuff like that, and to a point I would put him above Sakuraba, as far as quickness, but either way, it was going to be good.

MB: Did Sakurabaís future MMA success surprise you? Were you surprised when he started beating all the Gracies?

BS: No. I worked with him, and did some stuff with him, and I knew that he was special. Sometimes you just know when you have a guy thatís special. A lot of guys are special, but sometimes, like Coach Robinson used to tell me and Gene, ďYou guys are ten years ahead of your time,Ē so what that meant to me was that you can be good now, but four or five years later, times can change, so you just never know. Sakuraba made a hell of a career out of himself, and Tamura has done the same to, to an extent, but maybe not to those from the outside looking in.

MB: For people that really know MMA, they know that Tamura is amazing, but he doesnít have that name recognition with casual fans, but he beat Renzo Gracie, and he beat Pat Militech, and those are big wins! I guess to me, and this is just my opinion, I think that Tamura was probably more well-rounded in MMA, Sakuraba really had the number of other grapplers. He beat Carlos Newton, several Gracies, but he always seemed to have a problem with strikers.

BS: To be honest with you, the majority of the time, standup seemed to be the weakness of the Japanese. It was their kryptonite, but grappling was like 2nd nature to them. 

MB: Well, letís ask you this. Itís 1996, and you have to have a full-blown vale tudo match with either Sakuraba, or Tamura, who do you choose? Which one do you think you would have a better chance against?

BS: Pick a stick of dynamite, either one. *Laughs*

MB: *Laughs* Fair enough. How did Kingdom come about? Who started it?

BS: Actually, my contract was still in effect when the UWFI ended, so they told me not to worry, that they were still going to pay me, and they told me that they were going to open up another league, so I continued to train, and when I came back I fought Larry Parker, who was doing quite a few things at the time as well.

MB: Yes, and later on, he became a bit of a journeyman in MMA. Ok, at this point are you weighing your options, I mean Kingdom is rising up, but Tamura has gone to Rings by this point, and heís having success there, and you have the UFC going on. By this time, were you interested in trying the UFC?

BS: No, because around the time of the Larry Parker fight, I was close to 30 years of age, and around 30-31, I began thinking about longevity, and this is what I had been doing for my whole life, so why stop now? Also, I had always wanted to open up a gym, and I knew that I had to find something that I could do. So, I started a job around the year 2000, and that gave me medical insurance, and then I opened up a gym in 2007. So I go to work at my main job, and then I come here, and I get to deal with my students and teach what Coach Robinson taught me, and I can make a difference in their lives.

MB: Did the UFC ever reach out to you, or make any offers?

BS: No, they never reached out to me.

MB: What about the pro-wrestling side? Did New Japan ever say that they would like to do something with you?

BS: Not New Japan, but there was another group that reached out to me, that I did something for, but I canít remember the name of itÖ

MB: Do you mean U-Dream?

BS: Yes, U-Dream.

MB: I have that event, but it seemed like it was only a one-time thing.

BS: Yeah, one event, that was it.

MB: Yeah, you were there, and Enson Inoue was there, but I guess it was a one-and-done kind of deal.

BS: Yes, and after you do something like that, you realize that you are beginning to get up in age, even though I was only 30-31, I knew that I had to start thinking about myself, because I knew that if I kept trying to do this for several more years down the road, that I could get injured. At this point, I just started looking at things differently.  Now if I was 21 years old, or 23, or 24, then I would have loved it.

MB: I donít know if regret is the right word, but do you ever look back and wish that you didnít come on as soon as you did? Do you wish that you were able to get into MMA more into the late 90s or early 00s?

BS: Itís like anything else. You talk to boxers that used to box in the 80s or 70s, and you show them MMA now, and theyíre like, ďHoly Shit, I wished we had that then!Ē Of course, you say that, until you actually get in there, and start getting hit! *Laughs* Then youíre like, ďWhat the hell did I just get myself into?Ē

MB: Until your orbital bone is broken? *Laughs*

BS: *Laughs* Yeah, like ďMaybe, I should have thought this through!Ē You know what, though? Out of this whole thing, in my experience of getting in front of over 50,000 people, and to be able to experience walking out to that, or to experience meeting the people that Iíve met, and to be able have the best coach, that I could have ever had in my life, and not just about wrestling, but about lifeÖ It was awesome.

MB: Yes,and hopefully, and maybe you already have, but youíll get someone in your life down the road that you can mentor, because depending on the circumstances, you can reallyÖ.. I donít want to say something clichť like you could save someoneís life, but maybe if you have someone that is going the wrong way, you can help give them something, like discipline, or by being a father figure in their life.

BS: Yes, Iíll tell you right now, that Iíve been here 13 years, and over those years Iíve gotten to meet with so many different kinds of people, and Iíve even had therapists send me people that have issues with their anger, and they go through a program with me, and if I can do something to change, or help them, then that is really rewarding.

MB: Absolutely. Now, what was the philosophy behind Kingdom? To me, when I look at Kingdom, I see the shoot-style taken to its extreme, and probably pushing that concept as far as it could go, without getting into full-blown vale tudo. Did any of you guys prefer to be shooting at this timeÖ *pauses* I guess what Iím trying to say, is that Kingdom was still mostly worked right? There was still a lot of pre-determined outcomes?

BS: If anything was pre-determined, I didnít know about it. As far as I know, it was a straight shoot.

MB: Ok. Let me put it this way. Funaki left Fujiwara because he wanted to shoot. And towards the end of his run in the PWFG, they were going hard, and for lack of a better word, I would say doing what I like to call a ĺ shoot, where they are sparring, and not everything is choreographed, but there is still a pre-determined finish, and they still chose who they were going to put over.

BS: Anything that has to do with money, and I donít care what it is, if itís baseball or basketball, or whatever, if it has to do with big money, there is going to be some kind of fix, or setup, at some time or another.

MB: Sure, even pro wrestling, going back to the 20s, was real, until they figured out that they could make more money by controlling the outcomes. But Funaki started Pancrase, because he wanted to be in an environment where he could shoot, and Shamrock was the same way, he thought that what they were doing in the PWFG was fun, but he really wanted to test himself, and other guys like Takahashi, and Fuke, and some of those other guys, also left. It seemed like they wanted to prove themselves. Did anyone in any of these other promotions, that you know of, feel the same way? Did you guys ever feel like you really wanted to just go out there and go 100%?

BS: Let me put it like this. You had Tamura, and Sakuraba, and Nakano, and when they trained, they TRAINED. Let me put it like this, when we went to Israel, they brought a female Judo player, who I think was a gold medalist (possibly Yael Arad?) We were at a TV Show where they were interviewing us, and when they interviewed her, she said that she really doubted some that some of the throws, or some of the things that we were doing could be done, and when they asked me what I thought of that, I told them, that even though she was very talented, that anyone can do different things at different times, and just because she canít do it, doesnít mean that others canít do it. But there were things that were set up, and there were fixed fightsÖ

MB: Iím not saying ďworkedĒ in a derogatory way at all. To me, part of this project is trying to see how this all started and how it morphed into where it is now. A good example would be RINGS. When it first started, with a few exceptions, it was mostly worked, until about 95, and then from 95 forward, they would have at least one, and sometimes more, shoots on every card and then by the time 98-99 rolls around itís a whole new promotion, but there was that entire weird evolution where it went from one thing to another.

BS: Well itís like this. When they started doing fights around here, I had amateur fighters, and we would go to different venues, and the regulations are a lot better today then it was then, as back then sometimes you would show up to an amateur fight, and the other guy would have no training at all, and was probably going to get hurt, but they wanted to have tournaments, they wanted to structure it in a way that pleased the crowd.

MB: I remember reading, that one time the Dynamite Kid, when Sayama was talking about his shooting concept with him, told him that no in in their right mind was going to pay just to see them shoot, and roll around on the floor, and from what I understand, Funaki, and Shamrock were told the same thing, that no one would pay to see people shoot.

BS: Do you remember when that one guy came down? *Pauses and things* I think he was a WWF world championÖ

MB: Bob Backlund?

BS: Yes, Bob Backlund. Do you remember when he came down, and faced Takada?

MB: And the fight lasted a minute? Yes, that was horrible.

BS: Yeah, it was horrible.

MB: They almost rioted, didnít they? Didnít Yamazaki have to go out, and calm them down?

BS: Yes, it was. They had to send out Yamazaki to kill it. I think that might have been one of my first times over there. I remember it happening, and it goes to show that they expected more, and they got less, just like when Takada and Gracie were fighting, you expect more, but you got less.

MB: Sure, but at the same time, I suppose they got more with Sakuraba, because no one could have expected him to become a superstar Gracie-killer.

BS: No, but he would do crazy stuff like cartwheels, or stuff just because he could.

MB: Yes, he was very creative.

BS: Yes, very creative. He would do things, and you would be like, ďWhy the hell did he do that?Ē Like just chopping somebody. *Motions with a double karate chop* Just clowning around.

MB: What are your thoughts on current MMA? Do you like it, or do you watch it?

BS: I watch it sometimes, but I donít buy the PPVs. Sometimes I see fighters, or fights that Iím really impressed with, but I donít pay to see it. I like Bellator better than the UFC.

MB: Do you think that Japanese MMA could ever be big again?

BS: I think it could, but when the UFC bought out Pride, it would have made more sense for the UFC to keep Pride around the Japanese equivalent to the UFC , and have them build up their fighters throughout the year, and at the end of the year have the champions from the UFC and Pride face each other. That would make money.

MB: Sure! Of course, there was the Yakuza scandalsÖ Were you aware of the Yakuza in your UWFI days?

BS: Yeah, you could see them. Definitely. Anytime you were at a big event, or anytime there was money involved, you could see them. Or you would be at a venue, and they would say that itís sold out, but itís only ĺ full, and you wonder where everybody is at, and then you go outside, or go somewhere to get something to drink, and they are out there scalping tickets, so yeah, it was a big thing over there.

MB: Ok, so when Kingdom was trying to get off the ground, they had a brief partnership with the UFC, for the first UFC Japan event, and from what I understand Hiromitsu Kanehara was supposed to be in the tournament that night, but was injured in training, so they substituted him with Sakuraba. Did you know about any of this, or did they approach you, and ask if you were interested in being part of this?

BS: No, I didnít know about any of that. I knew that Sakuraba had a fight over there, against Conan , right?

MB: Yes, he fought Conan (referring to Marcus ďConanĒ Silveira) in one of the strangest occurrences in MMA history, because as he was fighting Conan, Conan was really laying some hard punches into him, and honestly to me it looked like he was going to put Sakuraba away. As Sakuraba was getting wailed on, he dropped for a low single leg, like he always did, and the referee John McCarthy thought he was knocked out, and he called the fight. Then Tank Abbott wound up breaking his hand on Yoji Anjoís face, so he couldnít continue either, so it was just a big mess, so they wound up putting Sakuraba back in there against Conan again, and this time he armbars Conan, no problem.

BS: That was pretty much how he got started wasnít it?

MB: Yes, although it wasnít his first MMA fight. His first MMA fight was against Kimo Leopoldo, at a Shootboxing event, of all things, and Kimo pretty much dominated him, but that isnít taking anything away from Sakuraba, as Kimo was huge, and roided.

BS: And thatís another thing, is you have people say that was his first shoot. It may have been his first shoot in the UFC, but there have been many a shoot between those guys over the years.

MB: Yeah, losing to Kimo, who outweighed him by a ton, is no shame, but yes, UFC Japan was his first claim to broader MMA fame.

BS: Oh yeah. I remember seeing that, and I thought it was awesome. He was given an opportunity, and he made the best of it.

MB: Well, thank you for your time. It was an absolute pleasure!

If any of you out there would like to learn from someone that was a direct disciple of catch-wrestling legend Billy Robinson, then please go check out his gym, located in Smithís Grove KY at 126 N Main St, Smithís Grove KY.

He can also be reached for seminars at (270) 392-6759

Note: If you head over and join our Patreon, you will get access to some goodies in this interview segment, that are not available here. It can be found over at


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #54 on: September 10, 2020, 06:43:05 AM »
Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.18 "Pistols at Dawn"

At one point in Dostoevskyís excellent short story, White Nights, the nameless narrator muses, ďBut how can you live and have no story to tell?Ē This question is deceptive in its simplicity, as we the more we ponder how we got to where we are today, the more we realize that we must continue to mine  the past in a quest to find our shared history. So, we return to the embryonic stages of modern MMA, seeking answers, hoping to one day alleviate our existential quandaries. In this case, we have arrived at the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, an indoor sporting area that goes back to the year 1952, and is perhaps best known for their annual sumo tournaments, though they do hold numerous pro wrestling events, and even hosted Rizin as recently as 2019.

It is 11-7-91 and the UWFI is flirting with disaster once more, as they insist on giving Bob Backlund a chance towards redemption, putting him the in main event with Nobuhiko Takada. It wasnít quite two months back that we saw one of the most brazenly awful matches thus far, when Takada/Backlund didnít even last a full two minutes before Backlund collapsed in agony, feigning an injury to one of Takadaís kicks. This was such a disappointment, that they somehow managed to inspire the usually reserved Japanese audience to the point of a near-riot with its ineptitude. Thankfully, this debacle set the bar so low that anything they do this time around is bound to be a stark improvement.

We are greeted to an opening montage of Takada solemnly preparing for his bout with Backlund, as a song that I can best describe as what would happen if Vangelis had collaborated with Kraftwerk, for the Chariots of Fire soundtrack. This effort may have been effective had they not completely squandered any good will, or possible heat, that a matchup like this could have generated with their farce of a previous outing. After a 14min, strobe-light laden introduction, we are ready to begin our first bout, between the seemingly unstoppable Makato Ohe, vs David Cummings. This is shaping up to be a possible treat, as Cummings is the first opponent that Ohe will face in the UWFI that is already an established veteran of the sport, having started his career around 1984, and over the course of 22 years, won titles in 8 different organizations, including the ISKA, WKA, and KICK. His 7 years of professional experience is sure to be helpful here, but Iím still concerned about his chances, as most of that experience is presumably in the shiny-pants American style, where kicks below the waist are forbidden, and must only be spoken of in hushed tones.

Multiple Time Kickboxing Champion: David ďThunderĒ Cummings

Cummings doesnít waste any time going right at Ohe, and is predictably met with some low kicks, but they donít seem to phase him. Cummings backs up a bit from his initial assault, and tries a low kick of his own, but it is easily checked by Ohe, who is sure to have much more experience in such matters. We are seeing a good contrast in styles as Cummings is showing some good boxing combinations, and fast footwork, whereas Ohe is employing the traditional Thai Rock Emí Sock Emí Robot approach. Cummings is doing a good job dancing around Ohe while getting some punches in from a distance but canít seem to stop any of Oheís kicks. This goes on for a few more moments, when out of nowhere Cummings hits a beautiful jumping/spinning back kick that floors Ohe and knocks him out completely. Cummings obtains victory over the so-far undefeated Ohe, in only 1:25 into round 1.

Score this as a great win for American kickboxing. This took place in a brief era before the rise of K1 (89-93) where we were just starting to see more of the American Karate styled kickboxers fight under Japanese/Thai rules, and most of the time it would consist of the American fightersí style looking superior, until they were just demolished by the inability to deal with low thigh-kicks. Here Cummings seemed to face the same problem, but it didnít matter, as he still had Oheís number, and pulled off a great victory. Good (albeit short) fight.

 ML: Cummings isn't the usual greenhorn UWF-I feeds to Ohe, he began  training in karate & boxing at age 4 and wrestling at age 5,  wrestling in college even though it was secondary to his striking  ambitions. Despite being an American fighter in the dark kicks above the  waist era who has an extensive background in the limited art of boxing  (almost 90 amateur fights), he specialized in muay thai, where he relied  heavily on knees and elbows. He wound up winning something like 13  "world" titles and being inducted into the WKA Hall of Fame. To me, this  whole fight was just him setting Ohe up. He knew Ohe was going to be  focusing on his own offense, and trying to work him over with low kicks,  so Cummings focused on using his speed and footwork to create distance  then score from the outside while forcing Ohe to chase him, thus pulling  him into his strikes. The first time Cummings  landed the jump spinning  heel kick, Ohe was stationary, but because Ohe was so concerned with  closing the distance and getting his own shots in, Cummings was soon  able to time Ohe coming in, and the added momentum on the jump spinning  heel kick put his lights out. Cummings was really impressive here. I  mean, Miyato doesn't land 2 of these kicks from a standing position in a  minute and a half, and that's with the opponent just letting him do it.

The Kick That Ended EverythingÖ



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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #55 on: September 10, 2020, 06:46:17 AM »
*Vol.18 Continued....*

So, despite my many lamentations and wailings throughout the night, the UWFI continues to be a harsh mistress and insists on giving us more tag-team matches, if for no other reason then to give their roster something to do. In this case itís Kiyoshi Tamura/Yuko Miyato vs Tom Burton and Yoji Anjo, but at least this is off to a fast clip as Anjo and Miyato immediately go at each other with a sense of urgency, with Anjo giving Miyato plenty of kicks, and even a nice Ippon-seoi-nage (or one arm shoulder throw, if you prefer).

Not long afterwards, Tamura was tagged in, and we got to see further evidence why he was a once in a lifetime kind of talent. Shortly after getting in the ring, Tamura wasted no time in engaging Anjo, and in one breathtaking display, shot a beautiful low single-leg takedown (the kind that Sakuraba later became famous for) and was able to convert that attempt into almost taking Anjoís back with a rear naked choke, with such a grace and fluidity, that has to be seen to be believed.  The rest of this match was simply off the charts in terms of entertainment value. Everyone did a great job, and even thought Iím tempted to complain that there still isnít much of a point to a tag match (within a promotion that doesnít so much as have any titles to vie for) such objections would ring hallow, as all the performers here gave a 100% intensity, that was riveting from start to finish, and I suspect that this will be the match of the night.

 ML: Tamura is sometimes criticized in his younger years for being too  showy, but I'd counter that his flashy aspects are actually some of the  most realistic moments in his matches because the scrambles are so fast  and explosive that both fighters wind up mostly just reacting to one  another. Take, for instance, the amazing opening sequence Tamura does  with Anjo where Tamura tries to take Anjo down in stages, first getting  the clinch but with overhooks, so he has to switch to an underhook, but  that high bodylock takedown would now be  too predictable, so he drops  down after the leg instead. Meanwhile, Anjo keeps pivoting and  scrambling, and tries to counter with a knee to the face, but Tamura  avoids by dropping down to the right, and continuing to scramble until  he gets behind Anjo and sweeps his leg with his arm. Other than that  amazing sequence, the match has a lot of feeling out and thwarting one  another early, establishing the strategies that Anjo & Miyato want  to strike, while Tamura & Burton want to grapple. The action picks  up during Tamura & Anjo's 2nd encounter, when Anjo gets a knockdown  with a high kick and Tamura gets trapped in the corner because he's  still not recovered when the ref restarts, with Anjo, who already kicked  him in the balls, getting a somewhat dishonorable knockdown with a knee  in the corner rather than respecting the ropes. A fired up Tamura  answers with this neat hybrid between a swinging neckbreaker and a snap  suplex and starts stomping Anjo's face then soccer kicks him until Anjo  escapes to the floor. Even though the tag match format negates some of  the intensity, urgency, and believability, Anjo's shenanigans and  Tamura's fire help negate that, and this wound up being quite the heated  affair. One problem with the UWF-I is in these matches where they try  to start off showing it's difficult to make things work, they tend to  then go too far in the other direction trying to be super entertaining  in the later stages to make up for it, and certainly by shoot style  standards they were kind of spamming throws in the 2nd half. Tamura vs.  Anjo was great, and the other stuff was fine to good, with the  interrupted flow of the tag format being more of a liability than the  other guys not being Tamura. Burton doesn't have the speed or body  control to work the sort of match these guys were really trying to do,  but he stepped up his game as much as he was capable of. His peak level  is still nowhere near that of the others, but I prefer to credit him for   probably reaching it here, whereas Miyato is actually the one who  could have delivered a little more than he did. The finish was pretty  lame with Anjo countering Tamura's  rear naked choke attempt into a sort  of reverse wakigatame where Tamura was lying on his back. This might  put a little pressure on the wrist or elbow, I guess, but is even that  much less likely than  the regular cornball version to either be a  maintainable  position or actually put enough pressure on an improperly  isolated joint while one has the catch to force a submission.  Nonetheless, while no one is going to confuse this with Ozaki &  Kansai vs. Yamada & Toyota 11/26/92 or Kawada & Taue vs. Misawa  & Akiyama 12/6/96, this was by far the best shoot style tag we've  seen in their brief history. ***1/2


Next up, itís Tatsuyo Nakanoís turn to be thrown into the giant woodchipper that is Gary Albright. Before the match starts there is a lot of mean mugging and posturing from both men, but Iím sure that even Nakano, as big as he is, fears that he could be devoured much like the citizens of Arborville California were in 1988, when a mysterious blob ran amok, killing a confirmed 36 people. The fight starts and Nakano is able to provide one of the first moments of successful offense against Albright as he was able to secure a takedown from one of Albrightís kicks, but it was for naught, as Albright quickly gained side mount, and proceeded to lay on Nakano while looking for a pitiful hammerlock attempt.

The inactivity continues, until Nakano is at last able to break free from the weight of the behemoth but is quickly punished for this by a mighty slam where Albright simply chucks him over his head. As impressive as this looked, it didnít seem to phase Nakano too much, as he simply got right back up, only to have Albright take him right back down again. A funny sequence happens next, when Albright starts palm striking Nakano in the back of the neck, and a voice from his corner (manager perhaps?) starts yelling, ďHit him a couple more times! Hit him a couple in the face Gary!Ē and then a little later he even offered a ďDo a piledriver!Ē Apparently, no one notified Albrightís entourage that this was a work. At the 5min mark Nakano decides he has to go after this monstrosity with some gusto, but for all his rage, he was met with a suplex from hell, and was put out of his misery only a min or so later.

 I wonít lie, I enjoyed this way more than I probably should have. Yes, it was all pro wrestling theatrics, but so far itís working very well, as at a tad under 7mins this was the right length to be entertaining without wearing out its welcome, and they have given Albright a good gimmick with strong booking to make it work. I donít know how long this act will stay fresh, but for now it gets a thumbs up from me.

 ML: Well, this was as lifeless and uninspired as an Arthur Penn flick.  They laid on the mat, barely moving and not seeming to put any actual  energy or exertion into holding an arm or the neck for the majority of  the match. Albright threw one suplex 5+ minutes in, but basically  nothing happened until the final seconds where he landed  an elbow and  a  belly to belly suplex to set up an improperly applied rear naked choke  win. The only positive is Albright was less into his pro wrestling  snarls today. 

  The Suplex From HellÖ.

Speaking of stories to tell, we would be remiss if we didnít take some time out for a moment of silence for Kazuo Yamazaki, as his story would surely be in the vein of a Shakespearean tragedy if made into a major motion picture, as his last chance of being a preeminent player in the wrestling world came to an end at the prior UWFI event, due to a having to job to Takada in what was a glorified squash match, due to the bizarre insistence that Takada must be shown as an unstoppable force. Yes, he will surely be around for a few more years to come, but any real chance for him to rise to the top where his talent should have surely taken him, is now forever in the rearview mirror. Thankfully, we at Kakutogi HQ will continue to document his greatness for future generations to witness, and if their prior match is any indication, we are sure to have a treat on our hands here, as a rematch between him and Billy Scott is about to take place.

Things start off slow as both feel each other out with low single leg attempts, and some cautions circling, until Yamazaki draws first blood with a nice low kick to Scottís thigh. Scott was then able to secure some nice takedowns, including a low single leg, and a firemanís carry, but Yamazaki was simply too crafty to be kept on the ground for long. Shortly after this, Yamazaki scores two knockdowns on Scott in rapid succession, with some beautifully timed kicks, one high, and one to the midsection. The next few mins show us that Scott is very solid with his takedowns, but is lacking some finesse in the submission department, as the only ones he seems to know are variations of an ankle lock or Boston crab. There is one amazing sequence where Yamazaki counters a belly-to-back suplex by grabbing Scottís right leg, while Scott was about to execute the throw, and turned it into a kneebar attempt. The match continues to be hard-fought by both men, until Yamazaki wins at the 20:17 min mark via kneebar.

I would rate this a solid 3 out of 4 stars, as Scott is excellent for a rookie, but needs more depth in his submission and striking games before he can really be a threat to someone as skilled and versatile as Yamazaki. Due to the skill disparity Yamazaki had to carry Scott for a lot of this match, which starts to become more obvious in a 20min format, but Scott has only upwards to go, and is one of the best gaijins that we have covered so far, which is all the more remarkable considering this is only his 4th match.

 ML: I wanted to like this more than I did. While Scott is a great  rookie, going 20 minutes already is a tough ask. Their first match was  better largely because     12:39 is a more reasonable length for a wrestler who is learning. This  was good when they stuck to the obvious story of Yamazaki's kicks vs.  Scott's wrestling, but mostly they defaulted to a battle of leg locks,  seemingly because Scott was still learning the submission game. The  finishing sequence was tremendous with Scott trying  to grab Yamazaki to  stop his kicks, but Yamazaki doing a go behind into a German suplex  attempt. Scott resisted on the way up, so Yamazaki let him down into a  schoolboy then dropped into the motif Achilles' tendon hold, but Scott  stood right out and tried to go into a half crab. Yamazaki tripped him  up though, and finally got the knee bar in solid for the win. The rest  of the matwork was kind of kind of slow, with Scott not being at his  best and Yamazaki not being at his most motivated coming off the  crushing debacle last show. 


Now, the finale. A rematch that absolutely no one was asking for, as the last one was such a fiasco that Sapporo almost had a riot on their hands, but that isnít going to stop Takada and Co. from trying again. The referee spends what feels like ten mins going over the rules with Backlund, who somehow managed to run the gauntlet of human facial expressions in that span of time, and we are off. Backlundís goofy mannerisms aside, this is already better than the last outing (though thatís not saying much) as they spend some time feeling each other out, and Takada shows some impressive sprawling technique as he stuffs one of Backlundís double leg attempts by putting his right arm around Backlundís neck, while putting his right knee on the ground and the same time, and was really shifting his bodyweight into Backlundís neck, preventing his ability to torque, and effectively nullified the takedown.

The rest of the match was mostly both men jockeying for a toehold or ankle lock with a decent crescendo towards the last couple of mins. This match was mostly free from strikes, until the end, which was a positive, as this allowed a format for Backlund to come off credibly, if a bit outdated. Backlundís strikes towards the end looked hokey, but he did hit an excellent double underhook suplex that sent Takada flying across the ring. The match ended with Backlund hitting a German suplex, that Takada shrugged off, and responded with an keylock for the win.

This was ok and had this been the original match between the two, I donít think too many would have complained. Backlund has the amateur wrestling chops to look decent in the grappling portions, but there is only so much you can do with him, as his lack of submission, and striking knowledge, plus age, prevents him from being much more than an occasional special attraction. Still, taking away their first match out of the equation, this was a fine, if forgettable main event.

 ML: Backlund is one of those guys I really want to like because his  skills are based in realism, but can't because his mannerisms are based  in Doinkism, which totally negates that. When you are just acting like a  WWE clown, you are also wrestling like one whether you are doing a  perfect double leg or just poking the opponent in the eyes Three Stooges  style. The first Takada/Backlund from 12/22/88 was the first worked  shoot I saw, it was one of those matches hyped as  so great it must be  seen to be believed, that I ended up with because someone tossed it at  the end of kind of an Ultimo Dragon tape. It didn't really capture my  imagination at the time, still just feeling more like spectacle, and in  that case I'd rather see more of Ultimo doing backflips. I've liked it  more and less at times since then, but nonetheless, it's by far their  most famous match. It's definitely the best for the crowd, which I could  care less about, but it's an electric atmosphere partially because the  outcome is in doubt with Takada having lost to Maeda & Yamazaki  earlier that year before coming back & beating Maeda on the previous  show to finally get a big win in UWF. Though the first half had a lot  of dead spots, there's some things to enjoy in the match as  they did a  lot in the 2nd half to make up for it, with Backlund's bloody nose &  Takada's bruised face giving it some extra aura. I just never believed  in the match for a moment, as it was the same old crap with Backlund  just standing there letting Takada do his bag kicking routine on him.  I'm going to take the unpopular opinion and say that this third meeting  is actually their best match because they shockingly made an effort to  avoid what the opponent was trying to do. One of the biggest problems  with Takada is it never feels like he works for anything, but that's   not the case here, there's movement, there's countering, there's even  some craftiness. While there are less kicks, they are more exciting and  feel more earned. There are still a lot of issues here, but  comparatively speaking, there's a lot more effort put into making an  attack good here, which allows the match to rise to the level of being  interesting even though it's a bit slow and dry compared to Takada's  most famous flashy firework showcases. The usual lazy Takada lockup  instead sees Takada utilizing it to land  fast body punches that open up  the backdrop that he'd normally just go into naked. This is the first  match we've reviewed that Takada actually seemed motivated for, and  Backlund was also easier to take, as he toned down the goofiness quite a  bit. The finish was even pretty good with Backlund  hitting his famous  doublearm suplex then barely getting Takada over for the resisted UWF  style German suplex only to have Takada swing into the chickenwing  armlock upon impact for the submission. *** 

Overall, this was a very solid event, and to my surprise the tag-match was the blockbuster of the evening. In an MMA sense, the only thing that really advanced here, was Billy Scott gaining some more valuable experience, but they continue to provide the goods from an entertainment standpoint.

 ML: This felt like a big show, with even Takada actually, finally  showing up. Only Albright's match was a waste of time, but then it was  really designed that way. Scott, though obviously losing again, showed  enough to earn a martial arts  match against the current IBF  Cruiserweight boxing champion James Warring on the next show. Meanwhile,  Mr. Bob showed enough  that he was soon Repo'd to go back to annoying  the hell out of me with his silly mannerisms in the circus, taking on  the Repo Man who gives Alex Cox & all of pro wrestling a bad name.

Want to see this event in full? Head on over to and you can access extra goodies not included in this version.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #56 on: September 10, 2020, 06:49:29 AM »
*In other news*

Lou Negila recently hosted a kickboxing event at the Christopherís Supper Club in Brooklyn NY. This night had a capacity crowd as they featured several amateur bouts, and three professional fights under the KICK (Karate International Council of Kickboxing) banner. KICK champion Dennis Schuette lost his title to challenger Henry Nieves, who was able to win by decision after a strong early lead. This now places Nieves record to 15-2-2 and drops Schuetteís record to 13-3. Also, Jimmy Fusaro was able to defeat Mike Sexton and Dimitry Andreyev knocked out Al Jordan in the first round.

Jimmy Fusaro (right) Vs Mike Sexton

We are happy to report that after days of scouring the black markets of Moldova, we were finally able to hit paydirt in one of Chișinăuís back alleys and were able to procure some rare Shooto artifacts. One of them was an original VHS master copy of the 3-17-90 event, and we are excited to be able to report its contents to our readership.

We popped in the cassette to be greeted by this wonderfully soothing graphics title that was probably created with Abacus Softwareís wonderful program: Screen Graphics 64, available at fine Commodore retailers everywhere.

The event took place in the Korakuen Hall, and we are greeted to Satoru  Sayama coming into the ring to give a demonstration while they suit up  one of his subjects in an apocalyptic space mask and bullet proof vest.  After several minutes of giving a general breakdown of this new sport of  shooting, our first official match begins between Manabu Yamada and  Takashi Tojo, and this will be the debut for both men. If you haven't  already, you should go check out our coverage of the 7-7-90 Shooto event elsewhere on this Patreon where we go into a lot more detail about Yamada's career. 


Right away we can see that Yamada appears to be in fantastic shape,  although he doesn't seem to be as carrying as much muscle mass as he  would in later years. Yamada starts the fight by throwing some kick  kicks, but is too aggressive and presses himself right into a beautiful o-goshi hip toss. They both get back up, and Yamada hits Tojo with a stiff jab, and follows up with a tasty koshi-guruma  (hip-wheel) of his own. Tojo tries to get back up, when Yamada puts him in a fireman's carry (or kata-guruma   in judo parlance) but instead of throwing him, he jumps backwords and  slams his Tojo from this position. It looked great, but only served to  make Yamada lose his position and would have probably been a major  setback for Yamada if the refs in these days weren't so quick to call  for a restart after ne waza exchanges.

After eating a harsh spinning backfist from Yamada, Tojo gets the  fight back to the ground, and secures an armbar, but Yamada was able to  lift him up and spike him on his head to counter out of it. Round 2  shows both fighters landing some nice shots against each other, and at  one point Tojo almost locked in a crucifix submission which was very  impressive. Round 3 saw Yamada unload some nasty strikes to Tojo, but  would always be taken down to the ground and neutralized before he could  finish the job. This fight was awarded a draw by the judges, and that  is perhaps the fairest decision that could be rendered here. Yamada got  more strikes in, but he was never able to get more then a few going  before being threatened by a submission from Tojo. Great debut from both  fighters, and Yamada is showing, even at this early stage, that he is a  powerful and dangerous striker.

ML: We can quickly see the difference here between the wrestling  & BJJ based MMA that would dominate the mid 90's, and this prototype  version that was based more around judo & karate, in other words  the combat disciplines that were prevalent in Japan at the time. This  style was fairly entertaining because they would strike their way in  then try to throw each other off the lock up, and if that worked, dive  after submissions on the ground because they didn't understand/care  about controlling. Yamada gave up the reach here, and had even less  wrestling, so while he landed a big shot now and then, what tended to  happen is he'd miss a big shot to get inside, and then if one of them  didn't hit a throw, Tojo would weigh down on Yamada, especially if  Yamada tried a double leg, and wind up coming down on top, with Yamada  on his knees. This didn't stall the fight out though because, like I  said, neither cared about control. I would have given Tojo the decision  based on the way we look at things now, but these early Shooto matches  tended to be ruled draws if it wasn't decisive, which this wasn't.  Overall, an entertaining match with some nice throws.

Next up is Noboru Asahi vs Tomoyuki Saito. The fight starts with  Asahi briefly looking like a proto-Imanari as he goes right to his back  looking for a leglock, but is quickly stood back up by the ref. He then  shoots in with a sloppy single-leg and finds himself in Saito's guard,  and you could see Saito briefly go for a Kimura from the guard before  changing his mind and deciding to attack the leg of Asahi. Now more than  ever, I'm convinced that this totally blows the modern narrative out of  the water that states that only in recent times has MMA been in a  well-rounded advanced stage. This is 1990, several years before the  first UFC, and before Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was known in Japan, and we see  well-rounded fighters with proper conditioning utilizing active  aggressive guards, sharp submissions, and strong judo. The only thing  lacking is the positional mentality of a BJJ player, but arguably your  average guy in Shooto at this stage was way more well rounded then your  average BJJ blackbelt, even though that may not have translated into a  win between the two necessarily.

Most of round 1 saw Asahi being a one-trick pony, as he would  constantly shoot in with a low single leg, and then try and go for a leg  attack off of it. He finally mixed it up, and after another low single,  he baited Saito with a leglock, but quickly transitioned to an armbar,  and caught Saito completely unaware. Slick tactic from Asahi.

ML: Asahi has a much higher level of amateur wrestling than we've  been seeing from the Japanese fighters in the worked shoot leagues.  What's exciting about him though is he isn't sticking to the textbook.  There's a great sequence early where Saito defends his initial single  leg, so instead of adjusting for the 2nd, 3rd, etc. takedown attempt as  you'd see now from fighters whose goal is simply to blanket the  opponent, he instead gets creative and gets off to the side, isolating  an arm and trying to step essentially backwards over Saito's head to  take him down into an armbar. This fails, but as soon as Asahi hits the  canvas, he switches to a leg lock. This fight was one-sided, but Asahi's  persistence and perhaps innovation in setting up the arm & leg  submissions was impressive.

Now we have Kenichi Tanaka vs. Tetsuo Yokoyama. This will be  Yokoyama's third bout as he lost to Kazuhiro Sakamoto at the 5-18-89  event and drew with Tomoyuki Saito on 7-29-89. Yokoyama threw a kick and  was quickly taken down by Tanaka who immediately pulled off a nice  reverse Achilles hold for the win.

Next is Kazuhiro Kusayanagi vs. Kaoru Todori. Sadly, Kusayanagi is  probably best known, if known at all, for his losing effort at Vale Tudo  Japan 94' to kickboxer David Levicki. This would be his third match in  Shooto, and he is coming in to this with a 1-1-0 record. Kusayanagi  quickly took Todori down and although he fought the attempt valiantly,  he eventually succumbed to an armbar, and was never seen in an MMA fight  ever again.

Lastly, we have Kenji Kawaguchi vs. Yasuto Sekishima. It's mind  boggling to think that this will be Kawaguchi's 5th professional MMA  fight, and its only March of 1990. Kawaguchi had a long career, mostly  spanning from 89-99, and was undefeated for the first 5 years of  competition. It's also interesting to note that in 1990 Shooto had a  similar setup to modern MMA in that normal fights were 3 rounds and main  event, or championship fights were 5 rounds (although I believe these  were 3 minute rounds vs the current standard of 5 minutes).

Strangely this fight was a somewhat muted affair. Both fighters  played it very cautious throughout, and while Sekishima was able to get  several throws off of a clinch, he could never really capitalize on  them, and they usually only served as a way for Kawaguchi to lay on him,  for a few moments waiting for the ref to restart them. One of the few  early Shooto fights to be a bit of a dud. The fight resulted in a 5  round draw.

ML: I thought this fight was pretty good. The level here was so much  higher that it was less purely exciting, but it's more interesting when  the fighters really have to work to get things off, use their fakes and  time things well. If there was a downfall of the match it's that  Kawaguchi was the better striker, but Sekishima didn't seem to have many  options in the takedown department. Sekishima knew he had to rush  Kawaguchi and try to make something happen to avoid getting picked apart  by low kicks that would make it that much harder for him to charging  in, but that put him in the position of repeatedly  trying for a belly  to belly suplex. Granted, this  was a lot more exciting than a single or  double leg, but mostly just backfired on Sekishima, especially once  Kawaguchi knew it was coming, causing Kawaguchi to come down on top.   Kawaguchi wasn't really looking to exploit the position because he  wanted to beat up Sekishima's lead leg some more, so the fight would  quickly be restarted. Generally it was Sekishima trying to make things  happen because he respected the danger of Kawaguchi's standup, but even  with Sekishima doing his best to avoid exchanging, Kawaguchi had a  knockdown in the 3rd. I would have given every round to Kawaguchi, but  Sekishima had a lot of heart & determination.

While this won't be confused as a legendary event anytime soon, it  did give us a legitimately good fight with Manabu Yamada, and it also  served as a fascinating look at early MMA. It's incredible to see how  much, and yet, how very little it has really changed over the last 31  years. If anything, Shooto was always on a higher plane of existence for  roughly the first decade of MMA's existence, while the rest of the  world played catch up, but because most of their great fighters were  from lighter weight classes, and not having anyone with direct ties to  professional wrestling outside of Sayama, these factors surely hurt its  ability to really stand out and be given the credit it deserved.

ML: The important takeaway from this show is that it was light years  ahead of UFC 1, and hell probably UFC 10, despite taking place more than  3 years earlier. There were a couple quick fights, but I still think  it's fair to conclude that everyone had trained a good amount both in  standing and on the ground. We saw striking, throws, takedowns,  submissions, maybe not from everyone, but I firmly believe that's  because there was varying skill level not so much varying skill  comprehension. I didn't see one fighter here who was a Neanderthal  completely out of shape barroom brawler like Tank Abbott. There was no  one who was just a boxer like One Glove Jimmerson, just a sumo wrestler  like     Teila Tuli, just a cheater like Gerard Gordeau... These guys all came  from gyms that understood training their entire concept of the game, and  yes, that really didn't include BJJ, but they had their own offensive  oriented system of ground fighting that, while less consistent and  reliable in a real fight, was at least far more entertaining to watch.

Still better than Reebok gearÖ

Witness this insanely rare event...only at


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #57 on: October 07, 2020, 05:03:11 PM »
Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol. 19 "Ashes and Stardust"

*Note: Mike Lorefice's comments will be preceded by his intials.*

In our last correspondence we at Kakutogi HQ briefly talked about our harrowing journey, where we were dodging Interpol agents around the back alleys of Moldova, all while searching for ancient tomes full of passion and wisdom, fearful that at any moment our quest would be cut short by a one-way trip to an unlit cell in Stockholm. Thankfully, not only did we avoid the international authorities, but we were able to make it back with not one, but two VHS masters, of early Shooto. We covered the 3-17-90 event in chapter 18, so we will now take the time to offer a glimpse inside this unreal scroll and reveal the contents therein.

Right away this glorious cassette tape is delivering the goods, as we are greeted to a wonderful montage while Passion from Andrew Blythe plays in the background, and this is a truly exquisite experience, as this would be the perfect track for a late 80s martial arts revenge flick, in which the reluctant protagonist decides to get revenge from the evil horde of ninjas that killed his brother, because he knew too much about their network of illicit cocaine distribution. The introduction ends with a wonderful screen display that says SUPER FREE FIGHTING over a red backdrop. It would appear that the producers have moved on from the Commodore 64, and are now taking advantage of Broderbundís legendary Dazzle Draw, which is a raster graphics editor that can take advantage of the full 16 color spectrum that enhanced Apple IIe computers can provide.

Even 1 Ĺ years after the first professional Shooto event, Satoru Sayama is still starting these shows by giving an introduction with his students, but what is most remarkable, is that instead of just keeping this demonstration limited to the basic rules, he is also going in depth on technique, proper fighting stances, etc, and is basically conducting a mini training seminar. As Iím watching this Iím reminded of an interview with Bret Hart, where he said that his fathers biggest joy and passion was teaching real shoot holds to anyone that would listen, and I believe that Iím seeing a kindred spirit here with Sayama. Surely, most of the crowd has a general grasp on whatís going on by now, so having an introduction to every event is probably unnecessary,  but you can see a certain joy when Sayama explains techniques to the crowd, and there is no doubt that starting this new sport had to be a labor of love, as he left behind a life of endorsements, tv commercials, and basically being the Japanese equivalent of Hulk Hogan, to do something as crazy as start a promotion based around real comprehensive fighting, and if that wasnít enough, he had no real precedent to base this endeavor off of outside of what existed in the world of pro wrestling. He wound up paying a hefty price for following his passions, as after leaving the UWF, and writing his autobiography, entitled, Kayfabe (where he supposedly exposed the secrets of puroresu) he wound up largely being persona non grata to the Japanese pro wrestling world, and wound up having to return to work in pro wrestling events in the mid to late 90s, past his physical prime, and lacking in finances, as he was ousted from Shooto in 1996 due to disagreements with the board of directors.

First up, we are greeted with a graphics title letting us know that we will be having a match between Kenji Kawaguchi vs. Yuji Ito, and what I find particularly interesting about this is that they list the respective gyms of both participants, in a way that became popular in the late 90s/early 00ís with promotions like King of the Cage, Gladiator Challenge, Extreme Challenge, etc. This is amazing that as far back as 1990 there were effectively different MMA gyms in Japan, trying to compete with each other within the Shooto system. The match starts off with both fighters trading unchecked thigh kicks, but with Kawaguchi seemingly having the power advantage, between the two. Ito is fast enough to sneak in some stiff jabs, but there is a considerable gap between the athleticism of both men, and he is having trouble dealing his opponents explosiveness.

One negative to this early Shooto, is the complete lack of time on the ground that is allowed. Whereas the Shooto Iíve witnessed from 94-96, the refs were much more liberal about allowing time for the fights to play out on the ground (though they wouldnít be afraid to stand things up for a lack of action) and starting around 97 or so, they moved to more of a PRIDE FC format of not standing up fighters at all, and moving the opponents back to the center of the ring if they got too close to the ropes. This kind of rhythm feels a lot like a judo match, in that you had better sink in a submission right away once you hit the ground, or you are just going to get stood right back up.

Round 2 goes right into a total slugfest as both fighters just start letting the swings fly, but again, while Ito is landing just as much, if not more strikes, his punches donít seem to contain the same power that Kawaguchi has. Still, Itoís barrage may be working, as after one such exchange, Kawaguchi fell to a knee, and then seemed to go for a lazy kneebar attempt, to try and buy some time. Just when I think that Ito has a chance in this fight, Kawaguchi floors him with a nasty left hook, that scores a knockdown. Ito barely manages to get back up, and is knocked right back down, but is able to stand back up right before the bell rang.

Round 3 sees Ito go out on his shield, as he wastes no time going after Kawaguchi, but his power simply isnít there, and is quickly knockout with a counteroffensive. Fun match.

 ML: Ito has an awkward striking style where he wants to fight on the  inside so he can throw a short right punch or a right elbow, which kind  of looks the same because he's throwing both with a bent elbow, to the  point I'm  not sure if he's got great disguise or is just following  through with the right arm until some part of it connects. The first  round was pretty even, but Kawaguchi made adjustments in the 2nd,  deciding that if Ito was going to keep coming in to try for the phone  booth fight that he'd either counter by dropping down into the takedown  or by timing him coming in, dropping Ito with a left hook. At the end of  the round, Kawaguchi had another knockdown with a right hook for a  middle kick. Kawaguchi tried to take it to Ito in the 3rd, but Ito hurt  him countering with the bent arm right. However, as both  kept swinging  wildly, Kawaguchi wound up knocking Ito out with a left hook a few  seconds later. Not the best technical match you'll ever see, but an  entertaining match that I think you could consider a good match via  initial  MMA standards. 


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #58 on: October 07, 2020, 05:06:23 PM »
*Vol 19 Continued...*

Next we have a delightful title card informing us that the upcoming bout will be for the inaugural welterweight title, and is featuring Kazuhiro Kusayanagi of the Super Tiger Gym Saginuma (with a background in judo and wrestling) vs Tomonori Ohara of the Kiguchi Shooting Gym (with a background in boxing.) Round 1 is almost underway, and we can see that the most fearsome weapon seen today will surely be Oharaís Joe Dirt styled mullet. This round was mostly a kickboxing affair with Kusayanagi moving in and out, effectively using his jab to measure distance, and pelt his opponent with low kicks and punches. Oharaís footwork was in place, but he seemed tentative, and while he would unload a nice shot to his opponentís body, he simply spent most of the round taking kicks to his leg. The end of the round saw Kusayanagi change his pattern and sink an armbar onto his opponent after a beautifully timed double leg, but the bell rang before Ohara had to tap.

Round 2 saw Ohara starting to loosen up a little bit and starting to counter Kusayanagiís forward charges with some stiff jabs to the face and body. This pattern went on for a while, until Kusayanagi opted to take the fight to the ground and was able to get an interesting submission attempt going, which was a combination of a leg-scissors and a triangle choke. It seemed that he had finally got the choke secured, in addition to trapping the elbow joint, but again Ohara is saved by the bell, just as the submission was getting too tight to fight out of.

Round 3 was much better for Ohara as he completely dominated by stuffing multiple takedown attempts from Kusayanagi, and landed shots at will throughout the round. Someone must have had a pep talk with Ohara right before round 4 started, as he came out very aggressively and kept the pressure on Kusayanagi until he dropped him with a powerful right. This was a remarkably interesting match, where we got to see a fighter get better and more confidant throughout the rounds, to win a fight in a dominant fashion. I would not have given the fighter that I saw in round 1 any chance of winning this fight, but once he found his confidence, that was all it took to make Kusayanagi leave the building on a stretcher.

 ML: Hesistant was the name of the game here. Ohara wanted to strike, but  Kusayanagi was just waiting for him to commit to something to drop into  a double leg, and the fear of the takedown pretty much negated the  action. Ohara would land a decent strike now and then, but definitely  didn't get the better of the 1st two rounds, probably getting saved by  the bell from  Kusayanagi's armbar in the 1st, and getting controlled a  lot longer in the 2nd while Kusayanagi tried to invent some sort of odd  Americana variation that likely doesn't exist for a reason. Kusayanagi  was trying to be more aggressive in the 3rd in that he was willing to  shoot, but he was doing so from too far away so as to not engage in any  striking he didn't need to. Ohara wound up hurting him kind of on a  fluke as Ohara threw a wild long right at the same time as Kusayanagi  threw a right kick, and somehow Ohara recovered quickly enough to get a  left in while Ohara was still resetting himself. Ohara opened up after  this, suddenly throwing lead power straights, and although Kusayanagi  survived the round fine, Ohara stayed aggressive and was rewarded with a  knockout landing a long right straight at the same time Kusayanagi  tried to throw a right kick. While the 1st half of the match was bad, at  least Ohara was eventually willing to bring it, and was thus rewarded. 

Now it is time for the final battle of the evening, as we are to see the Shooto Middleweight Title on the line, as defending champion Yasuto Sekishima must face off agaisnt number one ranked challenger Naoki Sakurada. Sakurada appears to be a rather short fighter in the vein of a Henry Cejudo, and is probably the kind of fighter where it is a nightmare to try to shoot in deep enough to overcome an insanely low center of gravity. Surprisingly, Sekishima was able to take down Sakurada several times this round, but it was more a matter of him leaning on him and falling down, as opposed to any actual refined takedown techniques. This round was very even, with both fighters aggressively going at one another, without a clear-cut winner.

The rest of the match saw both fighters aggressively pursuing what was essentially a boxing match, with a few kicks and takedown attempts sprinkled in. Sakurada was a powerful bundle of compact energy, where Sekishima was long and used his range well. The deciding factor may be Sekishimaís takedown defense, as his opponent has the physical stature to make blasting a double a seemingly easy proposition, every time he tried, he got instantly stuffed, and put into a bad position. The fight went to a draw, and Iím not sure if Shooto has judges at this point or not, but I felt that this was a fair decision. While this would have been ruled a win for Sekishima under modern rules, due to his getting several takedowns in the 5th round (none of which accomplished much) but neither fighter was able close to finishing the other, or do any significant damage. Good fight with lots of effort on both fightersí parts, despite the lack of a finish.

 ML: Sakurada was the better boxer, but was definitely giving up some  reach. Sekishima had better kicks and knees, but had a hard time really  utilizing the knees, as Sakurada kept him from getting the clinch, and  would drop down into a double leg. The match was competitive and wasn't  dull, but at the same time didn't have many big moments. Sakurada  started to get going in the 4th when he brought the jab down to the body  then would follow with the right to the head. Sekishima didn't like  this new Sakurada combo, and became a takedown machine in the 5th,  dropping really low for the double leg as soon as Sakurada made a move  forward. 


Overall, I felt this was probably the best Shooto event we have covered so far, in terms of total top-to-bottom quality. Iím excited to try and locate the rest of the missing gaps in our archives, and hopefully -we will be able to chronicle them all. If not, we will return to check in on Sayama and crew for the 11-7-92 event.

 ML: These fighters aren't technically perfect, but again, everyone is in  shape & more or less well rounded. I think if you asked someone who  just watched American MMA to guess what year this show was from, they  could easily place it in 1997 or 1998.

If you want to see this incredibly rare piece of MMA history...then head on over to and join the revolution. By joining you are helping two combat sports enthusiasts, fully document a sport that was in dire need of some discovery!


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #59 on: October 17, 2020, 04:51:35 PM »
Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol. 20 "K1 to the Rescue!"

*Mike Lorefice's comments will be prefaced by his intials.*

It has been about three months since we last witnessed RINGS with their threadbare group of hired mercenaries, and many unanswered questions have been left to us. Will Akira Maeda recover from his knee injury? Will his budding career as a prestigious interviewer/commentator take him away from the shoot-realms, for good? And perhaps the most pressing question of all, will Kazuyoshi Ishii and his ensemble cast of Sediokaikan Karate stars be able to save the day, and give purpose to this worthy endeavor? The moment for these truths to be revealed is upon us, as the 1991 RINGS ASTRAL STEP FINAL BLAZE UP is about to start, and we will either witness a fiery crescendo taking us into greater realms of unobtained glory, or we will merely witness dying embers, where a mighty structure once stood.

It is 12-7-91 and the action is set to take place within the Tokyo Ariake Coliseum, in what is sure to be an electrifying evening. The Ariake Coliseum is a large 10,000 indoor arena, most famous for being a preeminent tennis venue (slated to host the 2020 tennis Olympic games) and is one of the only tennis venues to boast a retractable roof. Things open off with a wonderful montage that introduces the various matches that will be seen later, and as Iím watching this, the tawdry graphics make me momentarily forget where I am, and Iím getting  that sense of impending doom that I will soon be whisked away to the Mega-Man level selection screen, where I will once again have to do battle with my old nemesis Cut-Man.

  After I snap back to reality, I begin to realize that this will surely be a make-or-break evening for this outfit, as out of the three shoot-style promotions that we have been covering so far, Maeda has had the most grandiose concept out of the three, but we have consistently seen the execution fall short of his vision. Using established martial artists in worked shoots was an innovative idea, and having them hail from different countries and fighting backgrounds solidified the illusion of credibility and sport-like atmosphere more so than his contemporaries, but so far this reliance on rookie foreign talent (who had no experience working matches up to this point) and only one native star in Mitsuya Nagai (who had a background in Shootboxing, before moving to pro wrestling) has put this entire operation in a state of peril, where the promotion is completely dependent on the drawing power of its founder, Akira Maeda.

 ML: The difference between RINGS and the other two U.W.F. off shoots is Maeda has followed the format of the big U.W.F. shows using foreign martial artists who are good to exceptional in their real fighting discipline but have little to no training working matches while PWFG & UWF-I have followed the format of the small U.W.F. shows, trying to run a monthly promotion that mostly relies upon solid bouts between the natives, with a couple foreign regulars sprinkled in. RINGS, right now, is not capable of running even small shows without Maeda, which PWFG has done without Fujiwara and UWF-I could do without Takada, because these promotions have a number of other more useful natives, but those promotions don't seem to have the guts Maeda does to promote something major. Though in retrospect the case could be made that Volk Han is the greatest shoot style worker of all-time, sambo isn't a sport that has a worldwide following, or is really even practiced in Japan, so no matter how great a champion Han was in that discipline, he's still some dude that literally no one in the arena has seen fight in any style, meaning Maeda is literally responsible for selling lets say 95% of the tickets on his own.

 The ring announcers spend several minutes talking about sambo before segueing to a pre-recorded interview between Akira Maeda and Mike Tyson. For those that have been faithfully following this column, you will know that we have reported that for the last few months Akira Maeda has become a bit of a celebrity interviewer and analyst for the Japanese WOWWOW network (similar to HBO in the United States) and if this wrestling thing winds up not working out, at least Maeda seems to have a comfortable career parachute waiting for him in the broadcast world. Surprisingly, Maeda seems to have excellent English when he thanks Mike Tyson, but still asks questions to him in Japanese, while they have an interpreter repeat it back to Tyson. A question (presumably about his recent loss to Buster Douglas) is presented to Tyson from Maeda, and Tyson offers up a somewhat poignant response about how he isn't mad that he lost, but is having trouble dealing with that fact that he didn't prepare properly or give his best. Who knew that Tyson, in his own simple way, would be tapping into the ancient Greek philosophical concept of akrasia , which loosely translated, means a weakness of will, or lack of self-control?

Kakutogi Makes for Strange Bedfellows...

After this we are next taken to another interview, this time between Maeda and Evander Holyfield. We only get the Japanese form of the question, but it appears that Maeda asked Holyfield about his thoughts on Karate, to which he responds that he was in tune with Bruce Lee and karate when he was younger, and currently his kids are showing an interest in Karate, due to the Ninja Turtles. Then if that wasn't enough, we get an absolutely hilarious clip of George Foreman saying that when he got into shape, he was going to add Ahh-kee-dah Mah-eee-dah to his training style, and this simply has to be seen to be believed.

 ML: The Foreman interview was more '80's pro wrestling than almost anything you've ever seen in pro wrestling, though the funniest part was contemplating Foreman actually getting into shape some century.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #60 on: October 17, 2020, 04:53:22 PM »
* Vol 20 Continued.... *

No time is wasted after the Forman clip, and we are taken straightaway to our first fight, which will be a THUNDER BOUT between Koichiro Kimura and Grom Zaza. This will be the RINGS debut for Zaza, and the first recorded Rings match for Kimura, who previously had a untelevised dark match at the inaugural Rings show against Hideki Hosaka. Before Rings, Kimura was working for the FMW and W*ING promotions before coming to RINGS and had even competed for the FMW light heavyweight title. To a modern MMA fan he is known (if at all) for his segments in the 1999 documentary Choke, where he gave an emotional interview after his loss to Rickson Gracie at VTJ 95, where he said that he was now convinced in the power of BJJ, and before this particular loss he simply thought it was a mixture of judo and wrestling, but now came to understand that it was more than that. When he is occasionally mentioned on MMA forums, itís usually by people trying to downplay Rickson Gracieís MMA career, where they will list him as an example of an inferior opponent, but truthfully he was a man of greater credentials then what he is commonly given credit for. He was a former S.A.W. champion going into VTJ 95 (S.A.W. being an acronym for Submission Arts Wrestling, which is form of no-gi submission grappling started in the 80s by Hidetaka Aso, who was a student of Karl Gotch) and he was also a pioneer in womenís combat sports, as he started both the Japanese WMMA promotions AX and G-Shooto.

 ML: I'm all for downplaying the paper career of the sandbagger Rickson, who beat a small assortment of pro wrestling based newcomers, hasbeens, and never weres, none of whom really won any matches afterwards, with his crowning achievement being taking out a fighter who had already been rendered half blind. Sure, someone had to win those VTJ matches, but they already knew what worked for Royce Gracie in the UFC, and still stacked the deck even more massively in his brother's favor, to say the least. After that, he only took a couple fights that both paid huge and were even more obvious wins given Takada was arguably the worst MMA fighter in history & Funaki was totally broken to the point he promptly retired after his bad knee gave out during the fight, leading to the finish, though Rickson still had to get as many different strikes as he could get away with rendered illegal, just in case Funaki might still be healthy enough to get lucky.


On the other hand, Zaza "Grom" Tkeshelashvili is a Georgian freestyle wrestler that was good enough to be included in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, and wound up holding shoot wins over Ricardo Morias, Travis Fulton, and possibly Volk Han (from a late 1999 match, whoís shootiness I canít confirm or deny at this time). This match will take place about 8months into Georgiaís independence from the Soviet Union, so it is fascinating to see this early example of eastern European integration into international sporting endeavors, outside of an Olympic context. The match starts off with a young, and very lithe looking Kimura quickly moving around, while rocking his S.A.W. attire. Right away, we see Kimura moving well and getting a takedown off of some very weak pitter-patter kicks from Zaza, who got much better as his career went on, but here is still probably unsure on how hard his strikes are supposed to be. Right away we see an interesting technique from Kimura, who attempted a Kani-Basami (scissors-throw) off a single-leg attempt from Zaza, and having failed that, he instantly shifted it into an inventive kneebar entry. Zaza keeps a fast pace with many throws and takedowns, but only seems to have a tenuous grasp of submissions. Kimura on the other hand looked good throughout, and Iím left with the impression that had he chose to continue to continue his career in the shoot-style world, then he could have been known as one of its major players, but he only stuck around Rings until the end of 1993. He spent the rest of his career afterwards, mainly working in less realistic leagues, most notably as Super Uchu Power in the DDT promotion. The match ends at the 24:46 mark, and this was way too long a match time for two rookies, especially Zaza, who kept a fast pace, but never allowed the match to breathe, or really allow Kimura to get much offense in, as he kept spamming takedowns/throws. Still, not a bad showing for two novices.

 ML: Worked shoots aren't really meant to go 25 minutes, and while the very best guys can pull them off, even their intensity and speed are somewhat diminished. These are rookies, and Maeda should know better that even in traditional pro wrestling, which is much more conducive to padding, rookies are going 5 or 10 minutes. There were some good moments here such as Kimura countering the takedown by dropping down into a scissor and elevating Zaza over into a kneebar, but how many times did we need to see Zaza punching his way inside then dropping into a single leg? We also saw what I believe is our first and second STF's before Zaza won with a shoulder lock. I don't want to make this sound bad, these guys did quite well, especially given the booking they were strapped with, but the match would have been better if it was even slightly competitive and much shorter, especially because the former didn't play well with the later. Kimura was crafty, but he was almost always on the defensive, trying to counter the shot with some sort of leg scissors.


Next, we have an AQUA BOUT with Nobuaki Kakuda vs. Herman Renting, and this will be contested as five 2-min rounds, as opposed to one 30min round. Kakuda is a welcome addition here, as he is coming into this as a sediokaikan karate champion, that has a reputation as fan-favorite, and always gives 100% in every one of his fights. It remains to be seen how he will fare here in this kind of environment, but this is the kind of talent infusion that has the potential to add some welcome verve to the proceedings. This will be Rentingís 4th Rings bout, and he has been getting a little better with each outing. Both fighters merely circled each other in the first round feeling each other out, with hardly any strikes being thrown from either fighter. Renting is the first to engage halfway through round 2, when he barges over to Kakuda and puts him in a variant of a guillotine choke, but quickly finds himself entangled in the ropes. The ref calls for a break, and Renting refuses at first, but eventually lets the hold go. I couldnít tell if he was penalized for this, as it appeared that the ref was saying something to the judges table, and he did look like he was searching for a penalty card, but didnít actually pull one out, so Iím not sure what to make of it.

Not much happened in round 3, and round 4 saw the first rope escape when Renting attempted another Guillotine off of a single-leg attempt from Kakuda, where they wound up immediately falling to the ground, and Kakuda twisted away from the choke, into the ropes. Shortly afterwards, Renting came charging in again, this time with a simple rape choke against Kakudaís throat, which saw him get reprimanded by the referee, but again, it doesnít seem like he is actually getting any real penalty for this.  In round 5, Kakuda starts to offensively press Renting for a brief moment, but quickly goes back to a more tentative approach, throwing a kick, and then quickly backing off. In one such exchange, Kakuda threw a kick, took a couple of steps back, and wound up taking a palm-strike from Renting that looked like it hit way harder than Renting probably intended. The ref does not call for a knockdown, seemingly knowing that something was wrong about this, and allows Kakuda to recover in his corner. The fight is over shortly afterwards and is ruled a draw. This was quite disappointing, as I had high hopes for Kakuda. This match would have had great potential for a shoot, in the sense of a classic grappler vs striker setup, but even if you insisted on working this fight, five 2-min rounds was not the way to do it. In every round, just when it seemed like something was about to happen, the round ended, so we actually got very little here, in what should have been an entertaining showing. Also, these two guys were in good enough shape that having a standard Rings match shouldnít have exposed any cardio limitations, so this didnít wind up making a lot of sense.

 ML: This was one of those fascinating, technically excellent fights we would eventually get from karate fighters such as Lyoto Machida in MMA. They fought this very very realistically, with both fighters using a lot of fakes and feints and paying close attention to their footwork and balance, which really surprised me because while that's Kakuda's style as a karate champion, Renting managed to be almost equally disciplined even though his strategy was to merely avoid getting his legs chewed up & find openings to rush Kakuda so he could wrestle him. It was the sort of hard gym sparring we'd later get from Pancrase, really close to being a shoot even though they didn't have much impact on their strikes. The way they moved, defended, and attacked with aggression and urgency though, there was nothing you could say was outwardly or obviously fake here. Some people will hate this match, but I would say that it's one of the best I've seen when it comes to footwork and maintaining a realistic and intense striking environment. If you're looking for actual action, the match was certainly rather lacking. While I enjoyed this bout, the problem was they never actually lit the wick. The first three rounds could have stayed the same, but Kakuda needed to bait Renting into a mistake and lay him out with a high kick or step knee at some point. Instead, the only big spot was an illegal punch to the face by Renting in the 5th, RINGS rules only allowing for open hand strikes to the head at this point. As it stands, while it was incredibly promising and really light years ahead of what was going on in UWF-I & PWFG at this point (outside of Ohe's kickboxing shoots), it also never actually delivered on its promise, which was odd given that Kakuda was both a big enough name in Japan within his circle and obviously an actual native who could have been a draw on his own or opposing Maeda. It seems like Maeda wasn't willing to commit at all to these Seidokaikan guys, at least not yet, because he didn't control them.

The aqua sources that we just ingested were akin to the renowned springs flowing out of Flint, MI, so hopefully this heaping dose of Earth will settle our stomachs. We now have renowned judo ace, Chris Dolman facing Tiger Levani. As of press time, I have been unable to find out much about Levani other than he is apparently of Greek descent, and it does not seem like he did much outside of three Rings matches. The match starts off with some laughably weak strikes, possibly the lightest that we have witnessed so far, which makes me wonder if Tiger was possibly a student or acquaintance of Dolman and did not want to risk actually hitting him. Thankfully it wasnít long before the grappling started as Tiger attempted an ippon-seoinage (one arm shoulder throw) and Dolman executed a beautiful counter where he simply attempted a rear naked choke from the standing position, and makes me wonder if we should be seeing more variations of this, as a way to negate throws in a modern MMA context? Tiger fell to the ground after this, and Dolman wasnít able to finish the hold, and Tiger seemed to be extra careful not to hurt Dolman (strikes are still legal on the ground) as he transitioned around him to attempt an armbar on a turtled Dolman. The inevitable dueling leg-lock battle soon followed with both men failing to destroy the footsies of the other. The rest of the match followed in the same pattern with one of them gaining a takedown, preceded by some truly awful punches/kicks, and then usually a leg attack. It finally ended with Dolman taking Levani repeatedly to a corner and kneeing him until he left himself open to a sloppy guillotine choke, for the victory.

I find this putting me in a situation where it is hard to assess the ability of Levani. He clearly shares the same Sambo/Judo style as Dolman, and moves like he has a repository of knowledge and experience, but his refusal to put anything behind his strikes (even by pro wrestling standards) really ruined any chance for him to shine. From what I can tell, he has two other matches in Rings, with one against Masayuki Naruse, and the other against Chris Haseman, so he never had the opportunity to learn and grow. From what I saw however, I would imagine him being more useful than a Tariel Bitsadze, who was the living embodiment of molasses, and still was heavily used by Maeda in the years to come. Dolman did not help matters here either, with his unusually soft strikes also, but that may have had to do with respecting Levaniís comfort level. This could have been a decent match had they attempted to put some more realism into it.

 ML: The striking in this match was so soft if was farcical. It was so bad that it felt like you were watching a spoof that was designed to finally, once and for all, prove pro wrestling was indeed fake. The only saving grace is they didn't do that nonsensical Kurt Angle bobblehead selling. Dolman getting a knockdown in the corner with a 2 inch low kick to Tiger's kick pad was definitely the most shameful moment of the night. Dolman is almost certainly the worst shoot wrestler working in '91. In his prime, he theoretically might have been one of the best in an actual shoot, but at this point he moves like an 80-year-old who had both knees replaced a few times. The grappling in this match was passable, and luckily there was more of that than the striking, but Dolman just moves so slow that it's just painful to watch.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #61 on: October 17, 2020, 04:54:51 PM »
* Vol 20 Continued.... *

Now it is time for an AIR BOUT with everyoneís favorite cheatyface, Willie Peeters, and Dick Vrij. Peeters has been one of the most interesting Rings characters so far, for his willingness to really go hard against an opponent, even when it was arguably inappropriate to do so. This trait may have been uncouth, but at least you felt like you were in a fight when watching Peeters work, so this match against Vrij should be entertaining. Peeters digs deep into the tae kwon do well, when he opens things up with a flying reverse turning kick, which fails to connect, and causes Vrij to respond by tossing Peeters like a collegiate weight discus. Not long after, Peeters lands another spinning kick to Vrijís ribs, and after a moment of wincing the human cyborg kicks Peeters up high, near the head, which scores a knockdown. About eight more minutes of zaniness ensued, and despite not being the least bit realistic, this may be the most entertaining Rings match that we have witnessed so far. Peeters was all over the place, almost resembling a Warner Bros cartoon at times. His strikes would oscillate from not connecting at all, to possibly being too stiff, and the evil henchman cyborg vibe that Vrij gives off really played into the theatrical value of it all. There was one funny moment where Peeters had Vrij on the ground and after a liver kick, he followed up with a downwards punch, that missed by a mile, but the Japanese audience thought it connected and started going crazy over it. The match ended with a loss of points for Peeters, who suffered one too many knockdowns.

 ML: Peeters was really psyched up here, and had the place rocking. This wasn't one of his better performances though, as he backed down from the stiffness against the more powerful opponent the way bullies tend to do, and was really lacking discipline and just all over the place. I liked that he was trying to pounce on any opportunity to catch Vrij prone to the point he had to stop himself in the midst of several blows that would have been illegal, but whereas previously it could have been argued that he hit too hard, today he was barely connecting too often. The big problem was that they were doing really overexaggerated pro wrestling selling, with Peeters even jumping when Vrij kicked him so it would supposedly look like he was blown off his feet. Vrij just did his thing, as limited workers tend to do. He was more on his game than Peeters, but there's really nothing to his game. At least Peeters, goofy as he was, was interesting because, for better and worse, he was making things happen, while Vrij was just doing his shadowboxing against a live opponent.

Ric Flair used to call himself the dirtiest player in the game, but that is surely because he never knew about Gerard Gordeau. Truly one of the most reprehensible characters (at least inside the ring) in the history of MMA, due to his various scummy antics (most notably eye gouging one of Yuki Nakaiís eyes at VTJ 95, thus causing permeant blindness) this will be our first time covering him, though Gordeau himself was quite experienced at this point, having been the 1991 World Savate Champion, a highly experienced Kyokushin karate practitioner, and a fixture within the Dutch kickboxing/martial arts scene. He even had at least one professional MMA fight in 1989 (which we will cover later) where his ability to cheat was so profound, that he somehow managed to get disqualified in a ďNo Rules Fight.Ē Here he will be facing Mitsuya Nagai in a UNIVERSE BOUT which will consist of seven 3min rounds, which on paper sounds like a good matchup due to Nagaiís background in Shootboxing.

 ML: Ric Flair thought the G1 Climax was the G-Eye Climax even while he was competing in it, so his credibility is as suspect as the believability of his matches where he did that corny faceplant every time, yet the useless ref never stopped it. While we are on the topic of Rickson Gracie's easy tournament wins, I guess we should point out that it was Gordeau's antics in handicapping Nakai that ultimately cemented Gracie's reputation. While, in fairness, Gracie would likely have defeated Nakai anyway, WCW's top shooter, the dreadful Sgt. Craig Pittman, who on top of everything else had 100 pounds on Nakai, still managed to fall prey to an armbar.


The fight starts off with Gordeau throwing a very crisp kick to Nagaiís midsection, but is quickly taken down, and scrambles to the ropes as if his life depended on it. They get back up and feel each other out, when Gordeau engages again, and at one point in the midst of the barrage, Nagai starts to complain to the ref about getting a close fist punch to the face, but Gordeau simply took this time that Nagai was spending to attack him some more. The ref wound up breaking it up, but way after the fact, and did not penalize Gordeau for this either. Round 1 ended shortly afterwards, and while I am still keenly using my shoot detector to try and assess this fight, nothing in round one so far has looked fake to me.

Round 2 sees Gordeau slowly try and back Nagai into a corner, and after eventually succeeding starts briefly unloading on Nagai which opens up an opportunity for him to sink in, what appears to be a deep guillotine choke, but for some reason the ref calls for a break, which serves to confuse both Gordeau, and myself, as I canít tell what could have been illegal about this. Nagai took a walloping for the rest of the round. He was able to take Gordeau down a couple of times, but it only led to restarts from the ref for getting entangled in the ropes in one instance, and Gordeau just opting for a quick rope break on the 2nd. This is continuing to look like a shoot, but I am reserving judgment until this is over.

Round 3 was more of a beating to Nagai. At this point his only defense seems to Gordeauís striking seems to be the takedown, but he canít manage to accomplish anything useful once the fight hits the ground. A very lopsided round against Nagai.

Round 4 sees Gordeau win at the 34 second mark, by countering a weak takedown attempt from Nagai with a guillotine choke. The ref once again broke the guillotine for an unknown reason, but this one seemed to be completely sunk in. After the break Nagai just crumpled to the ground afterwards with a nosebleed, looking completely exhausted, and the ref called the fight. I am now completely convinced that this is the first shoot that we have witnessed from Rings, and I admit that I am surprised. I had a suspicion that this would be a good fight on paper, but was fearful that it would be another hokey work, but this turned out to be an interesting early example of MMA, although I would have guessed that Nagai would have been a tougher opponent than he was. Not the best fight in the world, from a modern perspective, but in the context of its time, entertaining, and historically interesting.

 ML: Gordeau is definitely shooting on Nagai. Nagai seems to be in the mode we saw from Kakuda & Renting of approaching things as a real fight, but at the same time not really putting much on his kicks. Nagai quickly sees that Gordeau has a big power advantage, in addition to obviously having more technical skill on his feet, and becomes increasingly tentative to commit to his strikes, which could account for his wimpy leg kicks, settling for just going for takedowns. The fight is all one-way traffic for Gordeau, as Nagai can't keep him down for more than seconds. Nagai still seems to be doing some pro wrestling selling, and just gives up early in the 4th, refusing to get up even though the ref again breaks Gordeau's guillotine choke, as apparently they are illegal for some reason.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #62 on: October 17, 2020, 04:57:58 PM »
* Vol 20 Continued.... *

Now, we get to learn that fire is somehow of a greater nobility than the universe in the great pantheon of Rings dimensions, but the esoteric secrets donít stop there, as we are also able to glean from the preceding picture that Hans Nyman could have been one of the zombie extras in Return of the Living Dead. This will be Nymanís debut in Rings, and we should all enjoy his work while we are able, as he was to meet a very saddening end in 2014 when his life was cut short by automatic fire, while sitting in a car parked outside of his gym, in what was presumed by local Dutch authorities to be gang hit. His opponent will be Masaaki Satake, a Seidokaikan Karate powerhouse that went on to be one of K1ís huge stars in its early years, and is here now, thankfully on loan to us from the mighty Kazuyoshi Ishii. Round 1 saw Satake attack Nyman (or Nijman as his spelling is now more commonly known) from a variety of angles, where Nyman only seemed to have a strong push kick as a response. This was still a feeling out round for both men, but Satake is looking sharp, but it remains to be seen how his ne-waza skills will fare.

Round 2 saw Satake fight a textbook Sediokaikan style, by entering into phone booth range, and just wailing away with body shots. Nyman was able to hit an occasional push kick, or punch to the body, but he simply doesnít have the tools to be competitive with Satake in the stand-up arena, which puzzles me, as to why he hasnít really tried to take this fight to the ground.

Round 3 starts, and I am starting to realize that Iím not watching a match with normal Rings rules, but rather a straight up karate match. This is basically playing out like any Sediokaikan match, but instead of splitting the rounds up into Gi, non gi, etc, it is simply a straightforward karate bout, sans the gi. Needless to say, Nyman spends the rest of this round getting beat up, as he isnít in the same league as Satake. The rest of the fight was no different but was strangely ruled a draw. I was excited when I was under the pretense that this would be a standard Rings bout, but am now disappointed, as this really only served to be an exhibition, where a shoot, or even a worked-shoot from someone like Satake during this stage of his career, would have been welcome, and interesting. This wasnít bad as much as it was pointless.

 ML: This was probably the most ass Satake has ever kicked, or at least I hope so. He kept a high pace here against his slow, not particularly athletic opponent, mostly landing kicks that I'm not sure whether I should call middle or low given they connected to to the upper thighs or glutes, in other words the places you would never target that happen to have the most padding. Satake had a surprisingly high output, but nothing either fighter was throwing had any real impact, not even to just mix things up and make it seem like something actually scored big. Or I guess I should say that nothing Satake was throwing, because while Hans was able to hold off Satake briefly with his front kick, once Satake got inside he had such an advantage in handspeed, despite never being a heavyweight who was known for quickness, that Nyman basically gave up even trying to get any strikes off, and would instead try to either upend Satake or push him back but without throwing the front kick or anything that would maintain distance behind it, so Satake would just walk back in and continue to plug away at him. While way better than Dullman's match, this was pretty bad.

Now, for the moment that will forever change the course of Rings, and have an incalculable affect on all things in the shoot-realms for many ages to come, yes we are about to witness the professional debut of Volk Han (real name: Magomedkhan Amanulayevich Gamzatkhanov) who wound up being one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time, by helping to cement the shoot-styleís status as being the very apex of what professional wrestling could achieve as an art form. Han had a background in collegiate wrestling before joining the Russian military, which is where he began learning sambo, and was even a three-time Russian sambo champion in the 80s. At some point in 1991, Akira Maeda discovered him, and in what was surely one of his shrewdest moves, he convinced him to come over and compete in his promotion. I have to wonder how that initial scouting session went down, as Han is right away thrust into a main event spot, despite this being only his first match, so surely Maeda saw something special in him, right from the get-go.  An encyclopedia size volume of books could surely be written about him, so we will let it suffice to say that we will continue to talk more and more about him in the days to come.

Hanís arrival couldnít have happened a moment too soon, either, as Maeda has been hurting for not only some depth in his roster, but other legitimate stars outside of himself, and while no one could have known to the extent that Han would be a great asset to this company in the years to come, looking back we can see that Rings may not have made it to its best years of 96-99 had he not shown up when he did. Here he is set to face Akira Maeda, whoís knee condition is still an open question, so this may have an effect on his performance.  Han starts to come out to the Ring, and we can see that he was being groomed for greatness right away, as they gave him one of the best theme entrances of the era, with a grandiose synthesizer intro, that sounds like what would happen if you were to mix the Phantom of the Opera with something from Brad Fiedelís work on The Terminator soundtrack. Maeda comes out next, and the crowd is absolutely in total rapture. Maeda could be wrestling a mongoose tonight, and I donít think it would affect how over he is with the crowd at the moment.

The fight has started, and the first minute is quiet, with some feeling out between the two men, before Han hits a tobi-juji-gatame (flying armbar) well before it become the cool thing for Carlson Gracie students to do. This breathtaking maneuver may not be the best opener for the purposes of realism, but it is done with such verve, that we must allow its indulgences. This leads to an instant rope break, and the fight is back on the feet. Maeda then throws some high kicks, forcing Han to distance himself a bit, before stalking his way up to Maeda and hitting the 2nd kani-basami of the evening, which is now banned from judo competitions for its perceived riskiness, and whenever I think of this, I canít help but remember how Joey Styles would incessantly lie to the ECW audience everytime Taz would show up, and say that the kata-ha-jime (Tazmission) was ďBanned in judo, but legal in ECW!!!!!Ē Han attempts a heel-hook off of this, but Maeda was successful in rolling into the ropes, prompting a restart.

The next several mins sees Han attempt just about very leg attack one could think of (and perhaps many that no one has thought of) and also marked the debut of his infamous rolling kneebar, that we have all come to cherish. Maeda winds up pulling a win out of nowhere by securing a toe-hold while tangled up in a human leg-pretzel with Han, and serves to remind me why I gave up my Twister addiction a long time ago.


ML: I remember reading an old movie review where Roger Ebert talked about asking the all-time great actress Isabelle Huppert how she got into cinema, and she simply stated "I walked up to the studio door in Paris, knocked, and said, 'I am here.' " You didn't know whether to believe her, which made the comment all the more intriguing, but it spoke to her innate self confidence that the world would be forever improved because she would always find ways to do atypical and special things. It made me think of Han, this exotic, Spock-like Russian coming out to the ominous, spine tingling pipes of Jean-Michel Jarre's Second Rendez-vous, and rather than singing the Cara Mia and getting pelted with boos if not objects as Russian wrestlers were theoretically supposed to do, carrying one of the handful of top stars in Japanese wrestling to his best match in quite some time in his own debut. Han's debut may have been the best pro wrestling debut ever up until that point in time, and arguably has only been surpassed by Megumi Fujii's debut against Mariko Yoshida on 5/24/03, which is one of the greatest quasi shoot style matches ever, again just a super special talent who did things her way rather than the way they were supposed to be done.

In one match, Han already proved himself to be one of the couple best performers in the genre, and he was just getting started. What made Han special is he somehow seemed to understand how all the styles of actual MMA worked despite there being little to no actual MMA yet, but he also brought a really flashy and innovative version of sambo, a style almost no one other than practicioners had seen outside of Russia, rather than trying to assimilate to the accepted chicanery that passed for shoot wrestling. Han was super exciting, with a vast array of submission holds that relied on large and/or small joint manipulation. He was either going to move you himself, for example his rolling leglocks, or twerk on your wrist or ankle until you were forced to move into an obvious position to alleviate the pressure, which he was ready for, and could thus adjust quickly or switch off to another submission. The whole chaining of submissions is something that would eventually form the basis of the Japanese shoot style in the no ground punching era, but we hadn't really seen it yet in pro wrestling, where they preferred to do a lot of corny struggling under the false notion that people couldn't recognize the danger of a submission unless the fighter in trouble was bawling like a 5 year old.

Though Han's background was in submission, we immediately see him putting his energy toward employing actual, legitimate kickboxing footwork and feints that are maybe not quite up to the level we saw earlier from karate legend Kakuda, but otherwise set him apart from the pack, even though this isn't what he's been doing all his life. While Maeda is theoretically the better standup fighter, he can at least knock you out if you are expecting him to be working with you rather than taking a cheap shot, the artist formerly known as Kwick-Kick Lee can't manage to touch the nimble Han, who is able to back away from his kicks with ease, as well as get in & out of range quickly enough to incite him with slaps to the face and his own low kicks without taking counterfire. Of course, Han's real plan is to grapple, and while it's true that hitting a flying armbar as the first move of a match may not be the most realistic, it certainly speaks to the self confidence, guts, and out of the box thinking of Han to go out there and do this not only as the start of the match, but of his career. I had never seen a flying armbar before this, it was a jaw dropping what is this, and more importantly who is this kind of moment.

While it's important to focus on what Han is doing, what's actually more telling is how that is forcing Maeda to step up his game in so many ways. Maeda is forced to use more footwork himself, to be quicker with his attacks, and to try to chain them together because Han isn't just going to stand there for him like a doofus. Sure, the match is a work, but there's really varying levels of what the opponent is going to allow you to get away with, and Maeda not only sees that Han's standard is high, but just being a proud athlete who wants to win because he's better not because he's running the company, he is pushing himself to earn some and get some over on Han. Suddenly, we see a great sequence from Maeda where he isn't merely content to land a snap suplex, but is up like lightning trying to grab an appendage and drop into a submission, in this case an armbar, before Han can stabilize. This was the first time all year that Maeda looked good.

Han's matches are built around the high spots, which are plentiful, but he is able to get away with that more than others because he doesn't half-ass the basics of fighting, the positions, or the execution of the moves. In addition to understanding spacing on his feet, he's already using the mount and the guard on the ground, and chaining his submissions to try to catch the opponent off guard or just beat their defenses by being proactive and reacting quicker. Han may be selling because he still reacts quickly when Maeda does something, but used to 5 minute sambo contests, he appears to have completely out of gas down the stretch, holding his hands on his knees the way Mark Coleman would go on to make famous in his historic loss to Maurice Smith at UFC 14. This does allow Maeda to get a spinning wheel kick in for a knockdown. Han is able to answer with a suplex to set up one of his rolling cradle sort of leg locks, but Maeda is able to stop the roll and use his left leg to block Han's lock, thus getting the better position on the mat to crank on the ankle, with a desperate Han realizing he's left with nothing but to tap in disgust then cover his face with his hands in embarrassment and shame. ***1/2

Conclusion: While this wasnít anywhere close to Hanís best match, it was a remarkable debut for a rookie, and also served to show that Rings had a new major player on the scene, and gives us hope that there are a myriad of new possibilities, for this promotion leading into 1992. Taking this match and viewing it in isolation, it wasnít as good as the top flight stuff we have been seeing in the PWFG and UWFI, due to it being overly flashy, and possibly with Maeda only being able to do so much. But in the context of its time, this was a much needed breathe of fresh air, and is possibly the best match Rings has put out so far, if you are ok with its over the top sensibilities. As for the rest of the cardÖ.it was a mixed bag. It was the best Rings card we have seen so far, with a fun match between Peeters and Vrij, and with a full shoot between Gordeau, and Nagai, also added an interesting, and historically important element to it, but really squandered the debuts of Satake, and Kakuda, along with the poor match that was Dolman/Levani. Still, this was a major step up, and shows us, that despite the flaws, and despite the fact that they arenít close to the overall output of their rivals, they still feel like they have the most potential, and that is saying something.

 ML: Han vs. Maeda was actually quite a bit better than I remembered. I would rank it as easily the best RINGS match of the year, and more or less above anything that doesn't involve Tamura or Suzuki. That's really secondary though to the arrival of Han giving people a much needed reason to watch RINGS, which, had it continued along the lines of their 1st two shows or what we saw on the undercard, would have remained mostly, if not completely skippable for anyone beyond completists such as ourselves.

*If you would like to behold this event in full, and feel good about supporting two scrappy MMA historians in the process, then head on over to Join the shoot-revolution! *


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #63 on: October 17, 2020, 05:00:14 PM »
* Vol 20 Continued.... *

*Kakutogi Rewind*

We mentioned the MMA fight that Gerard Gordeau had in 1989, and now we will dig through our vaults and give this rare gem, some much needed coverage. There had actually been a smattering of NHB/MMA fights throught the 80s in Holland, all of which were connected to Chris Dolman and his gym, and some of them wound up on the early Panther Productions: Ring Wars series. In fact, there is supposed to be a Pankration tournament that Chris Dolman held in 1981, that was a NHB tournament won by one of the bodyguards of Klaas Bruinsma, a famous Dutch drug lord.  Supposedly this event made its way to the Panther catalog, which hopefully we at Kakutogi HQ will be able to track down one day. To make matters more intriguing, some of these old Dutch events would have the words ďNO FAKESĒ flashing on the screen when a legit match was going on, which probably had something to do with weird laws enacted by Holland, that wanted something like that clearly labeled.

In any case, here we are with Gordeau, and his opponent Dick Veldhuis who is represented by the infamous Chakuriki gym out of holland, whereas Gordeau will be cornered by the Vos gym, who was also home to Ernesto Hoost, for several years. I am still trying to dig up more information about Veldhuis, but the only information that Iíve been able to learn is that he had a fearsome reputation in the village that he grew up in. Veldhuis certainly looks like he means business with an imposing physique, and a wrestling singlet, which is considered to be a universal symbol of badassery.

Gordeau tries to start the fight by shaking hands but is quickly pelted in by a low kick from Veldhuis in response. For any chess nerds out there, this could easily be a new opening, simply known as ďSportsmanship Gambit: Declined.Ē The rest of the fight sees Veldhuis wisely rush Gordeau into a corner, which served to smother him, and prevent him from doing much. Then the fight ended, in what may be one of the most bizarre finishes that Iíve ever seen in over 25 years of watching combat sports, in which Veldhuis charged Gordeau into the corner again, and got Gordeau to turn his back from some knees, and it looked like he was going to attempt a rear naked choke, when the ref called for a break. As Veldhuis was breaking, Gordeau hit him in the side of a head with a quick elbow when caused an instant knockout, and Gordeau was disqualified. In full speed it simply looks like a phantom punch, and would make one think that this might be Veldhuis taking a dive, but upon watching the replay a good 235 times, one can see that Gordeau did land a clean elbow into the Veldhuisís temple. Itís bizarre that the ref would call for a break in the first place, especially in a ďno rulesĒ match, and when Veldhuis was winning, and possibly about to end the fight with a choke, but perhaps the ref was going to call for a break whenever it got close to the ropes. I can only assume that Gordeau was disqualified due to striking his opponent during the break, but I am not certain. What I am sure of though is that Gordeau was a cheater from day one, and this video helps dispel any current Zuffa narratives that MMA magically started to exist once the Fertitta brothers bought the UFC 2001

 ML: This had a real pro wrestling grudge match feel, and was never really under control, which would have been great had they managed to manufacture this in a work, but isn't exactly what you are looking for when you are promoting one of the first shoots. It mostly just seemed like a couple punks having a street fight with a ref, who was either out of his depth and/or trying to enforce rules that didn't actually exist. Shockingly, the fighter who was being a dick from the outset was Veldhuis, who denied a surprising gesture of sportsmanship from Gordeau, and worked him over in the ropes after something of an accidental low blow then headbutted Gordeau when the ref was trying to break. Veldhuis caught a front kick on the restart, and slammed Gordeau then kicked him when he was down. Gordeau could do some things with his feet when he actually had space, but Veldhuis was much bigger and stronger, and just wanted to smother Gordeau by mauling him in the ropes. When the ref went to break them up again after Gordeau had surrendered his back, this time it was Gordeau who took the cheap shot, knocking Veldhuis out with a back elbow as the ref was yanking Veldhuis off by the arm. Presumably, since the break had already been called, the knockout was nullified and Gordeau was DQ'd given Veldhuis obviously couldn't continue. Perhaps only a fighter as dubious as Gordeau could manage to get DQ'd even in a match that claimed to have no rules.

*In Other News *

The upcoming match between Nobuhiko Takada and Trevor Berbick is currently getting major news coverage in Japanese media. The UWFI has even gone as far as to spin this to their native media outlets that this is a major topic of interest in the United States as well, and various networks are fighting over who will have the rights to cover this event, which of course, isnít true. The UWFI recently held a press conference in New York on 10-29-91 to announce this event, and also included Billy Scott, and his scheduled opponent Ernest Simmons, who will be a replacement for James Warring, who couldnít come to terms with the UWFI on a contract. Berbick is possibly best known, as the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, whom he defeated in 1981, and effectively ended his career. The UWFI has declined to have any live coverage of this event, as they are calculating that the profits of home video sales will exceed what they can get in television rights.

Business for the UFWI has been heating up. They were able to sell out in the first 15mins for their 10-6-91 card at the Korakuen Hall, and they almost sold out their 11-7-91 event with an estimated 6,200 people.

*If you would like to see Gerard Gordeau in an MMA fight...all the way back in 1989 then head on over to


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #64 on: October 23, 2020, 02:59:28 PM »
Attention! I was recently interviewed by WE ARE RIZIN! about the Kakutogi Road, and various MMA topics. If you, or anyone you know, would like to learn more about this project, then here is a link to that podcast:


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #65 on: December 15, 2020, 06:08:47 PM »
Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.21 "Perpetual Motion"

*Mike Lorefice, of the excllent MMA/Puroresu website will have his initials precede his comments. *

We have now made it to the end of 1991, and the UWFI is set to take us into the next stage of shoot-glories, as they are seemingly no longer content to just keep their vision contained within Japan, but are now seeking world domination, as any great concept is wont to do. We are just coming off having covered the year end RINGS extravaganza, but as they say, ďHe who laughs lastÖ.Ē

It is 12-22-91 and this is the first time that we will be at the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall, which is located in the Sumida ward within Tokyo, Japan, and is one of the countries preeminent venues for Sumo. It also has a history of holding special events for pro wrestling and has been host to the finals of New Japan Pro Wrestling's annual G1 Climax tournament as well as the Sakura Genesis and King of Pro-Wrestling events. Tonight, it will be containing the final apex of all things shoot related in 1991, as the UWFI hopes to end the year with a PR stunt, that will either wonderfully showcase the superiority of their brand of wrestling, or will backfire horribly. As we have covered in previous columns, the UWFI decided to book a fight between its premier star, Nobuhiko Takada, and the last man to face Muhammad Ali in the ring, Trevor Berbick, as well as schedule a bout between Billy Scott and James Warring. They also decided to branch out, and held a press conference in the United States on 10-29-91, in New York, to announce the Takada and Scott matches and then proceeded to hype this up within the Japanese media where they tried to play it off like this was of great interest to the American sports outlets, when in reality it gained little to no attention within the United States at that time.

Thanks to an interview that we did recently with Billy Scott (which you should check out right now, if you have not done so) we were able to learn a lot about this event, and one of the things that Scott shared with us, was that by this time the UWFI had genuine ambitions to go global and move into the American market, and while that didnít wind up happening, it is interesting to note that they had the desire to do so whereas the PWFG seemed content in being a low-key promotion, and while Rings certainly had international ambitions, the United States never seemed to be part of them until the final couple years of the promotion.

The first match of the evening will be between Hiromitsu Kanehara and Masakazu Maeda. Kanehara was an absolutely fantastic talent and may be one of the most underrated figures from this era. Like Tamura he was excellent both as a pro wrestler and a shooter, although to the unlearned his MMA record might indicate otherwise. While his 19-27 win/loss stats are true, further examination shows that he often faced a murderers row of opponents in their primes, and gave many of them a very hard time, including Ricardo Arona, Matt Hughes, Dan Henderson, Mirko Cro Cop, and Wanderlei Silva. His best win was possibly his hard-fought victory against Jeremy Horn in the A-Block of the 1999 King of Kings tournament, for the RINGS promotion. In the days to come, we will look forward to covering him in more detail.

This will be the debut for Maeda as well, and strangely he only wrestled a total of 6 times, all within the span of a year, and all against Kanehara. The match starts with Maeda taking a light-on-his-feet kickboxing approach and throwing some crisp high kicks towards Kanehara, but couldnít maintain the offense for too long before being taken down and put into an ankle lock, thus deducting a point via a rope escape. What followed next, was another 14 minutes of what turned out to be a very well rounded and nicely paced match. There was plenty of everything here, submissions, striking, suplexes, and reversals, but everything was blended together well, and turned out to be a great way to set the tone for the evening. You could tell that Kanehara was the better of the two men, and was carrying Maeda by allowing him some offensive moments, but Maeda gave a good showing of himself, and makes me wonder why he never did anything outside of wrestle Kanehara, as he seemed to have enough potential to grow into being a solid talent. The match was ruled a draw, despite Kanehara being ahead on points 9-4. Unlike Rings, which will award the victory automatically to the fighter ahead on points, apparently the UWFI defaults to a draw if the contest goes to the time limit.

ML: The exciting thing about this show was not the dopey boxers, but  rather the bright young talent on display with the return of Kakihara  and the debuts of Kanehara & other Maeda. While Kanehara tends to  not be well respected in MMA because people know him from losing to guys  who often had 50 to 100 pounds on him, he was immediately quite good in  works, and surely would have had a more reasonable MMA career had he  started sooner & had a 145 pound division to compete in, rather than  taking on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko CroCop, Ricardo Morais, &  Alistair Overeem. Maeda's career didn't last long, but this was the  classic undercard fued of the early UWF-I days, with their bouts in  early 1992 already becoming highlights of the promotion, if not stealing  the show entirely.

Right away we can see Kanehara using the  more evolved level of  grappling that Tamura employs that revolves around chaining quick,  deceptive movements. He's changing levels, trying to fake Maeda out so  it's more difficult for him to win the scrambles. Maeda is more of a  striker, and Kanehara keys on his kicks, looking to catch one to  initiate a grappling exchange. What's so impressive about Kanehara is  his confidence. Maeda, while certainly already decent, is more hesitant  and prone to hedging on his strikes, whereas Kanehara already works like  a veteran, pulling off high level sequences as if they're second nature  because he's been doing them all his life.

In traditional pro wrestling, it's easy to tell the rookies matches  as they are either really basic or just kind of short and limited, but  none of those characteristics are present here. It's more like Kanehara  is out to steal the show, and truly believes he's capable. They go  through most of the points, with Kanehara  mounting a 5 point lead  despite Maeda having a few knockdowns with flying knees and palm  strikes, but being unable to put Maeda away before time expire for the  draw. Forget about this merely being a  great debut or even rookie  match, although Maeda could use a little more menace on his shots, this  was one of the better worked shoots of the year. Kanehara would be an  easy pick for rookie of the year, if not for the beyond exceptional  competitioin of Volk Han. ***1/4

Next up is foot-fighting phenom Makoto Ohe vs. Vince Ross. One must  wonder what Ohe's state of mind going into this was, as he suffered his  first loss last month via a devastating spinning kick delivered to his  midsection, courtesy of David Cummings. Vince Ross is a WKA Canadian  champion, so I can see him as being another interesting opponent for  Ohe, and I suspect that he will give him a hard time, if he can survive  Ohe's low kicks long-enough to box with him. Ohe comes out aggressively  against Ross from the onset, pelting him with thunderous kicks, which  caused Ross to quickly clinch up, and to his credit, fight back with  several stiff knees once inside. After the break, Ross seemed to  cautiously push forward towards Ohe, really trying to time his next  attack, which seemed to give Ohe some pause. While Ross does not seem to  have anywhere near the kicking acumen that Ohe has, he is doing a good  job of being patient, and throwing some nice bombs from a distance. Ohe  was the first to score a knockdown however, when he caught a slow kick  from Ross, and pelted him in the jaw for his trouble. Ross gets up,   doesn't appear to be hurt, and round 1 ends.

Round 2 starts and it would appear that Ohe got a major boost of  confidence and is starting to smell blood in the water. He aggressively  attacks Ross, who conversely seems to have lost the poise he had in the  prior round. Ohe continues to maul Ross, when out of desperation he  starts throwing some wild uppercuts, in which one lands, knocking Ohe  down. Ohe now appears to be dazed, and is acting much more cautious now,  circling around Ross and is attempting to avoid him. Ross keeps  pressing forward with punches, which are now much harder to land now  that Ohe is on the defensive, and just when it seems like he may be in  danger of punching himself out, he winds up breaking through Ohe's wall,  and knocks him down again, this time for good with another uppercut.  Good fight, with an unexpected ending. I really thought that Ohe was  going to murk Ross in round 2, and he almost succeeded, but Ross's  desperation uppercut was all it took to turn things around. This is  another case study in the ancient style of North American kickboxing,  and shows that despite his amateur kicking abilities, his strong boxing  was enough to succeed against a much more well-rounded fighter like Ohe.  This is now the 2nd victory in a row for shiny-pants footfighting in  the UWF-I, and I give the matchmakers credit for giving Ohe another  decent opponent.

ML: Ohe has a real opponent again in Vince "The Rocket" Ross, a  Canadian kickboxing champion who  lost a WKA Welterweight Title  Unification match to the American champion Hector Pena in Los Angeles at  the start of the year. While Ohe is clearly the better athlete and more  powerful striker, Ross does a good job of befuddling him, using the jab  to keep distance. It feels like Ross is really looking to counter and  is content to bide his time, but at the same time, because Ohe is  usually at the end of his jab, Ross is able to rack up numbers on him.  Ohe gets a quick knockdown, but never really got going or found any sort  of consistency. In the little time actually spent fighting inside, Ross  was able to drop him twice with uppercuts, finishing Ohe off the 2nd  time.

The Final Blow For Canada!


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #66 on: December 15, 2020, 06:10:10 PM »
*Vol 21. Continued.... *

Next up is Jim Boss vs Masahito Kakihara. We havenít seen Boss since the 7-30-91, and it would appear that he has been making good use of his time, working on improving his mullet game since we last saw him. Kakihara on the other hand, has not been with us since the inaugural UWFI event where he had a good match with Tamura. The match starts with Kakihara lighting Boss up like a Christmas tree, with the stiffest palm strikes we have seen so far in this promotion. It only takes a few seconds of this barrage to cause Boss to suffer a knockdown, and for a moment Iím wondering if we are going to have a shoot on our hands. That turns out to not be the case, as Kakihara lets Boss take him down once the fight restarts, but once it does hit the ground, Boss lays into Kakihara with some very stiff forearm shots, followed with a hard suplex, and a soccer kick to the back of Kakihara.

Kakihara gets back up and once again completely lays into Boss with some more 100% stiff palm strikes. After the restart things go back to normal and Kakihara allows Boss to take him down again and attempt a rather pitiful armbar. Kakihara grew bored of Bossí slow motion attempts to take his arm, and counters this with a fierce heel-hook, causing a rope-escape. To add insult to injury, Kakihara kicks Boss in the head once the fight is restarted, which now ends the fight altogether.

This was probably the most unique fight that we have witnessed so far in that it was a work, but with the striking (outside of the final knockout kick, which was pulled) being 100% stiff to the point that itís clear to see why this type of fight wasnít attempted more often, as striking this stiff in a work could possibly lead to unexpected outcomes, where the wrong person could easily get injured or knocked out. That said, this was super entertaining, albeit short.

ML: This was as it should have been, the clumsy stiff Takayama holding  the ropes open for the hyper energetic Kakihara, who immediately ignites  the crowd and incites the opponent with a blistering series of  lightning fast palm strikes. Boss answers with a suplex, and soccer ball  kicks him to extract some revenge and get over as the heel, pushing the  ref out of the way when he's warned for his shady tactic. Boss'  wrestling was still unconvincing, and the ground has never been  Kakihara's strength anyway, so the few times Kakihara surrendered  takedowns weren't the bright spots of this short match that Kakihara won  with a high kick, but Kakihara got over big in his return, establishing  himself as a fiery competitor with Jeff Speakman-esque skills.

Next up, is Tom Burton (who it appears was forcibly pulled away from the squat rack, just long enough to get this match underway) vs Yuko Miyato. This should turn out to be the classic tale of the swift vs the strong, as Miyato looks like The Flash compared to Burton, but of course canít match his size or strength. This wound up not being the case, mainly due to Burton. He looked fine when it was standing, or when he was throwing Miyato around the ring, but when the fight did go to the ground, he seemed very hesitant, and wound up coming across as very slow, and awkward, as a result. Miyato did not do much to help this situation, as not only did he look bored throughout, but did things like at one point hitting laughably unbelievable suplex on burton, as well as a very poor armbar attempt. The ending turned out to be decent as Miyato hit an explosive Ippon-Seoinage (one arm shoulder throw) and followed up with a quick armbar which ended the match. This was unfortunate as Burton was looking a lot better the last time, when we saw him during his tag-match at last months event, but here he seemed to regress back to his lumbering ways. The match was quick at 7min and would have been fine as an opener to a different card, but since we are coming off three exciting fights, this wound up killing the momentum.

ML: This match was fine. It suffers from the same old problem that never  seems to bother any promoter, in that it's really obvious that these  guys have neither the grappling talent of Kanehara nor the striking  talent of Kakihara, yet we are  supposed to care more about this match  between performers who have been rendered second rate by the guys who  came on before them because they are bigger names. Miyato is a guy who  can  rise to the level of the best performers, but also fall to the  level of the inferior ones. I thought he did fine here, though because  the match wasn't that long, both could have been a bit more energetic.  The biggest issue is that they didn't so much work together to develop  interplay in any of the aspects,  Miyato just showed off in standup then  Burton slammed him down then grinded him on the canvas. This was  decent, but it's not strengthening  Miyato's bid for a slot in  the top 5  shoot workers of the year list.

Now we will hopefully see a better example of monster vs machine in Kiyoshi Tamura vs Gary Albright. The match starts and right away this is looking much sharper than the preceding match, as both are moving smoothly and logically. Albright starts by using Tamuraís forward momentum to catch him in a big slam, but Tamura will never stay in one position for long. Albright tries to keep Tamura pinned down, but Tamura is slithering and cartwheeling out of whatever predicament that he is finding himself in. Tamura was keeping the pressure on with inventive kneebar attacks until Albright drew first blood with some kind of weird neck crank that cost Tamura a rope escape, and was immediately followed up with one suplex after another, that eventually cost Tamura all of his points. Surprisingly, I found this to be rather fun. Tamrua did a great job making Albright look good, and like he belonged in the same ring as him, and even how he lost had a nice logic to it. Tamura was able to make a good showing of himself as the quicker, and more superior grappler, but one that succumbed to the power of an endless wave of suplexes from an uncaring behemoth. While this was total pro wrestling theater, it worked well, and was light years better than the Burton/Miyato match.

ML: The first of many matches that kept Tamura from ever being the  man in UWF-I. He always had the best matches, and got great reactions,  but they never let him beat Takada, Vader, or Albright, so they  ultimately never had any more big matches once Takada vs. Vader &  Albright ran their course. This particular loss to Albright wasn't  terrible, especially since it soon sent Albright into a big main event  with Takada, but growth isn't shown when people are still just beating  and losing to the same people 3-4 years later, as was the case in this  promotion.

This never felt like a Tamura match, as Gary is too lumbering to  really work with him. At least it wasn't another cartoon, as Albright's  previous matches had been. Tamura made Gary work a little, but basically  was only allowed to resist what Albright was trying to do to him, and  even then he mostly just did his job, which unfortunately was simply to  make Albright look good. Tamura had a counter or two, but Albright was  always dictating, and it was clear that he was simply too big for  Tamura, again, glass ceiling. This was the worst match so far as it was  neither competitive nor compelling in any way, and obviously Tamura  should never be in the worst match on any show.

There comes a time in every zebra-warriors life, where they have to come face to face with the circus performer that wishes to enslave them, and now that moment has arrived for Yoji Anjo, as he must face Bob Backlund for the first time. Backlund had the dubious talent of somehow being able to offset his serious amateur wrestling persona with facial expressions that would cause other WWF characters like The Mountie, or Mantaurto accuse him of being too over the top. Things begin with the ref explaining the rules to the two contestants, and Backlund spends a seeming eternity with the ref differentiating between his elbow and his forearm. After the kinesiology lesson is concluded, the match is underway with Anjo rushing Backlund and attempting an enziguri kick that misses completely. Anjo continues to press the attack, this time with some rather stiff slaps to Backlund, and while he attempts a throw, Backlund was briefly able to counter with an abdominal stretch, which he tried to complete on the ground (at which point it would have been similar to a modern day ďtwisterĒ a la Eddie Bravo) but Anjo scrambled and escaped. The rest of the match was mostly Anjo in high-octane mode, constantly pressing the action to Backlund. Outside of a few occasions where Backlund was able to get a positional advantage, it most mostly a one-way showing in Anjoís favor as Backlund simply does not have the submission or striking acumen to make a very diverse showing. This wasnít bad, thanks to Anjoís boundless energy, and because he wisely chose to make most of his strikes rather stiff, but Backlund is too late to the shoot-style party to really contribute a lot, outside of his name value. The match ends when Backlund counters Anjoís judo with his chicken-wing submission, which may sound good on paper, but it wound up looking as out-of-place as a wino invited to a Hamptons cocktail party , in what was an otherwise decent match.

ML: Kind of an odd match. Anjo tried really hard to make it good,  blitzing Backlund from every direction. Backlund really had a hard time  figuring out what Anjo was going to do, or keeping up in any way. He was  never able to put his stamp on the match, for better and worse. The  match probably wouldn't have been as good if Anjo let Backlund to his  shtick, but shooting also isn't a style that really works as a total one  man show. Ultimately, this was okay, but not as good as Backlund's  previous match with Takada, even though Anjo has been worlds better than  Takada this year.

Now it is time for what Iím hoping will be the best match of the evening, a bout between all-around-awesome Kazuo Yamazaki, and Tatsuyo Nakano. We at Kakutogi HQ have been spending the last few months mourning the career-ending squash that Nobuhiko Takada put him through at the 10-6-91 event, and as acceptance is the final stage of recovery, I have now learned that I must simply accept that from here on out I can only look forward to Yamazaki putting forth a great showing within the confines of being a mid-card player, as any hopes of him being a top star are now dead and buried. The match starts with Yamazaki slyly stalking Nakano, slowly approaching his prey before landing a thunderous snapping kick to his midsection. This immediately prompts Nakano to take his chances on the ground, and after quickly taking Yamazaki down to the mat, we get a protracted leg-lock battle that comes to a crescendo when Nakano is able to eke out a STF crossface, but opts to give up the hold and stand back up.

After the restart Yamazaki subtly tempts Nakano with his right arm, in a gesture to initiate a tie-up, but as soon as Nakano takes the bait, he is swiftly kicked for his trouble. He goes back to the same trick a second time, but Nakano wisens up, and simply grabs the next kick, and takes Yamazaki back down to the mat. This time Nakano forgoes the leg-attack strategy and seems to eventually consider an armbar attempt from the mount position, but wisely decides to change his mind, and simply kicks Yamazaki in the ribs as he stands back up. Yamazaki continues to press the attack with more sharp kicks, landing a nice one to Nakanoís midsection, but like last time, missed on the follow up, where he aimed another kick at Nakanoís head, only to get taken down again.  Nakano wound up landing in a rather awkward position, which gave Yamazaki an opening to slap on a rather evil-looking toehold but was too tangled up to get enough space to properly torque the hold for a finish. This led to a futile effort, and Nakano was able to simply rotate out, and stand back up.

The rest of the fight continued to be a contest between Yamazakiís sneaky (but not always successful) kicking vs Nakanoís takedown skills and strength. Only the 2nd half of the match started to see a natural escalation of the violence and output of both men. Yamazaki wins at the 13:23 mark with an armbar. This was an excellent match in my opinion, due to the subtly involved as opposed to any flashiness. This wasnít the kind of sound and fury you would see in a Tamura or Volk Han match, but rather a nuanced simulation of what would later become your typical wrestler vs kickboxer style shoot (albeit far more entertaining). Yamazaki would try and craftily time his kicks but would only succeed about 50% of the time before getting forced to the ground by Nakano. While Yamazaki does not possess the slick athleticism of a Tamura, his cerebral approach to this style is very welcome, and caused the pendulum for this evening to swing back up from the last two matches.

ML: Yamazaki has seemed something of a fish out of water in UWF-I, as  all the other guys who have backed off entertainment in favor of realism  went to PWFG. Nakano has been rather uninspiring this year, and is one  of the least realistic of the UWF-I performers, simply because he hasn't   modernized his game from what he learned in judo & pro wrestling.  This was also a rather odd story  from Yamazaki in that Yamazaki is  actually better on the mat than in standup while Nakano is better in  standup than on the map, but they mostly reversed those roles here with  Yamazaki chipping away with low kicks, but Nakano catching them or just  waiting for an opportunity to clinch and throw Yamazaki so he could work  his limited submission game. Yamazaki did a good job of countering  though, and managed to keep Nakano in a more credible mode, with Nakano  picking a few good opportunities to gamble on pro wrestling, such as an  elbow drop attempt when he got off the mat quicker. This was a good  performance from Yamazaki, and I found the match interesting, but  the  failing was that they weren't able to make it feel intense or urgent  enough to connect with the crowd until the finishing sequence, so it  came off rather flat even though it was technically a lot better than  anything but the opener. Their 5/4/90 match was much better because it  was really hard fought and much more consistent, with Nakano doing some  headbutts from the top & getting his bloody nose early, among other  things done to keep  the bout steadier and seeming to be an important  hard fought almost grudge battle they had to dig deep for, which  kept  the audience engaged throughout.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #67 on: December 15, 2020, 06:14:17 PM »
*Vol 21. Continued... *

Now for a historically important match in the annuls of MMA history, the bout between Billy Scott vs James Warring. We could not have interviewed Scott at a better time, as he really shed a lot of light on the events leading up to this fight, as well as the next bout between Takada and Berbick. These last two fights of the evening were basically a publicity stunt that may have been the first major competitive move by the three shoot-style promotions to move the needle and get some notoriety outside of their normal circles. While the PWFG had already beat the UWFI to the punch with a legit shoot between a kickboxer and wrestler with the Lawi Napataya vs Takaku Fuke, you would never have known it at the time, had you been living outside of Japan, unless you were one of the very few connected to the prevailing tape traders of the day, and happened to get your hands on a fresh VHS copy of that particular event. Even that Fuke/Napataya match was just kind of thrown into the middle of the card without any fanfare, so it wasnít like Fujiwara was trying to make a major statement with it, but probably just assumed that his wrestler with some Gotch-styled shoot training would easily dispatch of the kickboxer, not realizing what he really had on his hands. The UWFI didnít really understand what it hand on its hands either (as we are about to see in greater detail) but at least they understood it was a unique spectacle, and were wise to try and promote as such, even if the results didnít quite go they way they intended.

ScottÖin full Rambo-Mode

After various clips of press conferences leading up to this evening,  and a heartfelt introduction from Lou Thesz, we are underway with round  1. The round starts and right away Scott is pelted with a couple of low  kicks that seem to take him by surprise. Warring goes for a third kick,  and Scott wisely takes him down and attempts an ankle-lock but Warring  wisely scrambles towards the ropes like a wounded animal. I am already  seeing how this is going to be another disaster in the vein of the  Napataya/Fuke match, as having unlimited rope escapes is going to make a  tremendously long evening for everyone involved. At least the UWF-I is  using a much larger ring than the one that the PWFG used, but this is  probably going to be offset by the extraordinarily long reach of  Warring, who will probably be able to scramble to the ropes from just  about anywhere, unless Scott can manage to get him right in the center  of the ring. The rest of round 1 sees Scott continue to take more  punches and kicks, until he is finally able to secure a single leg for a  takedown, but by the time he is deep enough to get him down, Warring is  able to get his arm around the ropes. I do have to say that while this  isn't going to win Warring any points for excitement, he is utilizing a  very sound strategy here, and I'm also impressed with his stance. He is  taking a fairly low kickboxing stance, leaning forward on his lead leg,  which not only gives him a good base making it more difficult for Scott  to shoot in, but will also increase his ability to sprawl. This is  something that Warring figured out all the way back in 1991, while the  first several years of the UFC saw kickboxers and traditional martial  artists fight grapplers standing straight up, which is a terrible idea.  Round 1 ends with Scott getting knocked down with a right hook, but the  bell rings right after he gets back up.

Round 2 starts, and Warring is continuing to use his extensive reach  to keep jabbing Scott in the stomach. Finally, Warring works up the  nerve to start throwing some kicks, and Scott uses it as an opportunity  to press the takedown, but to Warring's great credit, he is doing a good  job sprawling, and is forcing Scott to work hard to complete the  takedown, which is also causing Scott to have to push him closer to the  ropes in order to do so. Now it's clear that Scott has no way of winning  this match within his current skill set. He would have to be able to  stand and bang with the far better striker in Warring, which isn't an  option, or if he was versed in judo as opposed to wrestling, he might be  able to set up a throw, or circular based takedown which would be more  likely to get the fight to the center of the ring, but that isn't in the  cards either, and lastly if he had a background in BJJ (which isn't  even on the radar yet) he could pull guard, and try to work a submission  off of his back, but that is also out of the question. You can clearly  see that the UWF-I made the same error in judgement as the Fujiwara  group by not realizing the absurdity of having unlimited rope escapes in  a mixed-fight, only this is a much more high-stakes showing, and the  risk of embarrassment to the organization is much higher. Round 2 ends,  but not before Scott was able to get a takedown, and briefly put Warring  in a rather nasty looking toehold that looked like it could have done  some damage, before Warring was able to get another rope escape.

Round 3 saw Warring moving much more cautiously than before, and I  have to wonder if that ankle-lock/toehold that Scott put him in during  the last round may have hurt him more than he is letting on. During our  interview with Scott, he mentioned having heard several pops when he had  Warring in that hold, before the rope escape, so it is entirely  possible.

Round 4 further convinces me that something happened to Warring, as  he simply isn't engaging with the same aggressiveness as the first two  rounds. He is still able to land a few low kicks, and even landed a nice  side kick at one point, and was able to get off a few punches, before  backing off once Scott responded with a missed double-leg attempt.  Warring is fighting very safe, but Scott isn't helping matters, as the  only time he seems to be willing to engage is to try and takedown off of  close-range punches from Warring. Scott really needs to start getting  inside and fighting from the clinch, but I understand his  apprehensiveness trying that against a skilled boxer like Warring.

Scott seemingly read my mind and became way more irritated and  aggressive in round 5. He wisely pushed Warring into the corner and  starting laying into him with some palm strikes, before attempting a  standing guillotine choke, but was quickly broken up by the ref when the  two of them starting to spill out of the ring.

Round 6 sees Scott continuing to employ the corner strategy, but is  more cautious this time, which allows Warring to keep him at bay with  more low jabs, and an overhand right. Scott eventually gets the  takedown, but again is useless as it just forced Warring into the ropes,  for the instant break.

Round 7 begins with a gravelly American voice yelling, ďGet em' in  the center Billy!Ē of which I wholeheartedly agree. Scott is getting  clearly frustrated at this point, as now when he presses Warring into  the ropes he does not bother with a break until completely forced off by  the referee. Warring landed several unanswered low kicks, and a couple  of nice punches, before Scott lost his composure and threw Warring over  the top rope, and out of the ring. The round ends right afterwards.

Round 8 starts with Warring landing a couple more low kicks, before  Scott just shoves him out of the ring again, and now I'm beginning to  wonder if Scott doesn't even care about winning this fight anymore, as  much as he just wants to irritate and fluster Warring. The rest of the  fight sees Scott determined to see how many times he can force Warring  out of the ring and make him eat a couple of shots before the ref is  able to stand them back up. The fight ends at the end of the tenth  round, with both sides claiming victory, but the actual 2-1 split  decision going to Billy Scott. As much as I like Scott, and am glad that  he won, I have to be objective and say that the fight should have  probably been awarded to Warring, as he simply landed way too many  strikes, to be offset by Scott's occasional takedown. Of course, I am  not sure what the exact judging criteria the UWF-I was employing here,  but I think any modern reading of this fight would support my  conclusion.

While I would not blame anyone for accusing this fight of being more boring than a midnight marathon of Manimal,  I found it to be quite fascinating on a historical level. It  entertained me the same way that a chess match would, and we have to  give it some credit for being the first (and likely one of the very few  that we will witness) shoot in the UWF-I. Warring fought a smart match,  and used the rules to his advantage, while Scott simply didn't quite  have the toolbox yet to overcome the rules handicap and his opponent's  approach. If his grappling were at the level of a Funaki or Suzuki, he  would have probably been able to get a clean win, but otherwise he was  placed with an impossible situation, and really we should blame the  brass of the UWF-I for putting him in this position to begin with. To be  fair, Scott did reveal in his interview that the only way that Warring  would take this fight is if it had unlimited rope escapes, so credit to  Warring for being smart enough from the outset to have an idea of what  he was getting himself into, but surely the powers that be could have  found another worthy opponent that would have agreed to a more sensible  limit of 10 rope escapes.

ML: Warring was arguably one of the better martial artists of his  era, though that was an era where the only way to actually make money,  at least in America, was boxing, so we'll never truly know. Though  Warring was the current IBF World Cruiserweight boxing champion, and surely could have had a more  impressive bank account simply from defending that title, he continued  to  compete in kickboxing, where he at some point held titles from at  least the WKA, KICK, PCK, and FFKA. Warring  was also trained in karate,  which along with boxing he would later officiate. Even though he was  past his prime at nearly 37,  he made it to the final of his lone MMA  event, WCC 1 on 10/17/95, losing to the legendary Renzo Gracie. Though  Warring never fought Ali or Tyson like Berbick did, he was not only a  much more well rounded martial artist, but also still on top of his game  at this point, whereas Berbick was 37 and had lost his recent big  matches to Carl Williams & Buster Douglas, taking him out of serious  contention for the boxing titles people have heard of.

Warring really understood distance, and just fought a great game here  to totally neutralize Scott. He kept putting out the jab to keep Scott  away, and would follow it with a big right when he was able to get Scott  to bite on it, quickly showing he could drop Scott with a single  connection. Warring was not afraid to use his low kicks, and did a nice  job of peppering Scott's lead leg to reduce his ability to shoot. Scott  needed to do something to distract Warring so he could get a takedown,  or at least earn Warring's respect so he had to consider the threat of,  well, anything. Unfortunately, whereas Warring's jab was good enough to  force Scott to deal with it, Scott was unwilling  to engage Warring in  striking at all, which really limited his ability to do anything given  Warring was too smart to overcommit. Most of the time, Scott just kept  his hands up & did his best to defend.

Warring fought a good 2 rounds, but Scott was able to get an ankle  lock of a takedown at the end of the 2nd, and even though Warring  immediately got the ropes, Warring's ankle was clearly injured, thus  limiting his mobility and ability to bounce and put weight on it for the  rest of the fight. Warring did his best to disguise this, but was much  more flatfooted after this, and was no longer attacking on more than a  stay slightly active level, but Scott still refused to go on the  offensive the next 2 rounds, so he continued to lose round after round,  even though Warring's output was down to Mayweather level.

Scott began to turn the fight in the 5th when he finally rushed  Warring into the corner, getting a guillotine after the ref ignored  Warring's rope grab, though they went through the bottom rope so it was  quickly broken. Scott finally caught a kick in the 6th, but Warring just  grabbed the ropes. It quickly became clear that whatever the rules were  supposed to be, Warring wasn't going to get warned or docked or  anything for grabbing the ropes, so Scott really had no chance of  winning the fight the same way Takaku Fuke had no chance of beating The  Sultan of Slime. Scott seemed to realize this too, and stop caring, even  though the crowd was rooting for him, he essentially played heel, just  holding on to his submission attempts despite the ref doing his best to  ignore Warring grabbing the ropes then taking his time urging for  sportsmanship. The crowd was as frustrated with Warring taking the  logical  way out as Scott was though, and only grew more against  Warring.

The high takedowns were working for Scott in the sense that he could  drive Warring into the ropes, but then he only had a few seconds to go  for a guillotine before the restart, so it still couldn't amount to  anything. The frustration built, and when Scott finally was supposed to  break despite having lifted Warring onto his shoulders, he instead  tossed him over the top with the suisha otoshi. If this was contested in  a cage, or had penalties for rope breaks, Scott would have won the last  6 rounds. However, the way the rules were set up, he basically wasn't  allowed to get more than a second of legal offense in, with most of his  threatening and damaging being after he was supposed to break. Scott did  get in a good knee to the midsection in the 10th, but basically even  though he did the best he was allowed to in the final 6 rounds, Warring  got to get in as many shots as he could before Scott pushed him across  the ring only to be restarted. Scott nonetheless was awarded the Bisping  decision, and perhaps having the judges on their side was one of the  reasons UWF-I was willing to risk Takada shooting.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #68 on: December 15, 2020, 06:15:12 PM »
Now we have the main event, another mixed fight between Nobuhiko  Takada and Trevor Berbick. The fight starts with Takada throwing a low  kick, which completely baffles Berbick. Berbick immediately has a look  of confusion, and complains to both the ref, and Takada, that there is  not supposed to be any violence below the waist. The rest of this very  brief fight consisted of Takada continuing to wail away against Berbick  with more low kicks, and Berbick continuing to look completely puzzled  as to what he got himself into. He finally had enough, left the ring,  cussed Takada out, and claimed they changed the rules on him. If It was  not for Billy Scott and his insightful interview, I would have probably  gone the rest of my life pondering the outcome of this fight, but thanks  to his insightful ways, I now understand that this was due to the  scummy antics of his lawyer and manager. According to Scott, Berbick was  adamant to his team that he did not want any low-kicks to be part of  the fight, and was given assurances that they would take care of it, and  behind his back they went ahead and worked out a deal with the UWF-I to  allow the kicks, because that's the only way that they would also get  paid, as the UWF-I wasn't willing to put on a fight that wouldn't allow  low-kicks. In fact, I will go ahead and quote that portion of the  interview, here is a small excerpt of what Billy Scott had to say about  this: ďNow the thing with Trevor Berbick against Takada, I do know that  when we were in New York at that press conference, Trevor mentioned that  he didn't want to have anything to do with kicks below the waist, and  that's why during that fight you could see him waving his arms, and  looking shocked. Now this is how bad people areÖ.when we were at Mickey  Mantle's restaurant, where the press conference was being held, his own  people kept telling him that they would take care of it, and make sure  that the fight had the stipulations that there wouldn't be any kicks  below the waist, but the Japanese didn't want any of that, they wanted  their style of fighting, against a boxer like that. They saw Trevor, and  they saw someone with a big name that they could use, but had Trevor  known that the fight was going to have kicks below the waist, he never  would have taken it.Ē

With all that said, it would be hard to blame Takada or the UWF-I for  this fight, when it was Berbick's own people that sold him out, but it  still led to a bizarre finish to this event.

ML: The rules for these wrestler vs. boxer matches are the main  subject of controversy and debate. Before the fights, Miyato & Anjo   demonstrated what you weren't supposed to be able to do, which was  strike the face with a hand or knee from top position (though the fights  never actually got this far), grab the ropes to avoid the wrestler  taking you down, and scoot around on your butt like Inoki did to Ali so  the boxer can't  really punch the wrestler. There's no mention of low  kicks, and Warring threw tons of them in the previous bout. There's also  seemingly no teeth to any these rules, as Warring was able to grab the  ropes at will without so much as a warning.

The controversy began before the fight even started, as Berbick   dictated to the ref & Takada that he can't be kicked below the waist  while the ref is going over the actual rules, just stating no elbows.  This was supposed to elevate Takada's  stardom, not just be a McNugget  gold grab, so it would make absolutely  no sense for UWF-I to put Takada  in a shoot without allowing low kicks. Low kicks  had always been legal  in any Japanese kickboxing or karate contest, and they're  basically  the only thing Takada was  good at that could help offset Berbick's far  superior punching. You need the low kicks to be available to get the  high or middle kick through when your punching is not a threat, and  while Takada's  wrestling and grappling were above Berbick's probably  never trained them at all level by default, it's doubtful that they'd be  worth anything when a larger man was really trying to beat on him,  especially with unlimited rope escapes. If Takada didn't know this  already, Berbick's petitioning were  a gigantic  cue to Takada to just  go right after the legs, and Berbick immediately started complaining to  the ref, who failed to  enforce the nonexistent rule. Berbick never  actually tried to fight, or defend himself against the kicks, which made  Takada's life incredibly easy. Instead, Berbick  just stopped after  each one to complain, got no love, complained some more, then went back  in his boxing stance, wash, rinse, repeat. Even a 2 year old would have  wised up after the 2nd or 3rd kick, but this went  on for nearly 3  minutes. Where Takada wound  up looking like a dick is when Berbick  grabbed the top rope, thinking he was now safe to  complain to everyone,  but Takada still kept attacking him anyway while the ref tried to  wrestle Berbick's arm off the rope. Because Berbick was just standing in  the corner arguing while holding the top rope for "safety", Takada was  even able to get cheap shot  high kick in. This was all about as  difficult and honorable as  stealing candy from a baby. At some point  you thought Berbick would try to fight, but after taking so many kicks  he didn't try to defend at all, his leg was probably too compromised to  be of much use. After Berbick escaped the ring since the ropes weren't  being honored, you could  hear him bitching to his seconds "it's not in  the rules, nothin' in the rules" and they respond "I told them", which  seems to support the theory that Berbick himself didn't agree to low  kicks, but UWF-I also didn't agree to Berbick's people's petition to  actually make them illegal. Overall, Berbick just looked like a whiner  & a pussy, and while Takada mostly looked cheap & opportunistic,  if you want to be nice, because Berbick handled it so incredibly poorly  and allowed Takada to emerge complely unscathed by never even firing a  punch, Takada wound up looking like Superman with the mighty boxer  cowering in fear to the point he had no option but to just run to the  hills, run for his life.

Conclusion: Overall a great night, and a solid way to end the year.  This was probably an inverse of what we saw in the year end Rings event,  in that most of the undercard for that show was middling, where most of  fights leading up to the main event were solid, but we were let down  with an absolutely bizarre ending (though it wound up being possibly the  only televised shoot victory that Takada can claim) that was preceded  by an interesting and historically important fight between Warring and  Scott, but one that will put most people to sleep outside of myself, and  a few others. In other words, the UWF-I put on a much more entertaining  event top-to-bottom than Rings, but Rings, especially with the arrival  of Volk Han, seems to have a lot more potential in its trajectory,  whereas it seems like the UWF-I is doomed to be treading water if they  continue to tether all of their hopes into Nobuhiko Takada. Still, I  found this to be enjoyable overall.

ML: If Berbick would have actually just fought, UWF-I would likely  have been dead in the water, or at least had to think about doing things  that normal wrestling leagues do, such as promote more than one  wrestler. However, by running away from a guy who he likely would have  destroyed even with the rules not being in his favor, Berbick instead  created the legend of Takada as a guy whose kicks are harder than a  baseball bat that only the toughest UWF-I fighters were even willing to  try to stand up to. Outside of beating Antonio Inoki, no win over anyone  within the current spectrum of puroresu would likely have done near as  much for Takada's myth, not because Berbick was worth that much on his  own, I think if Takada just knocked him out in 30 seconds it wouldn't  have done nearly as much as it wound up doing, but because this  heavyweight champion boxer just cowered in fear at the idea of  essentially just doing a kickboxing match that he wound up  just  quitting rather than even mustering the courage to risk trying. Takada  was a star before this to be certain, but I think this is really what  made him a big show draw. Berbick just gifted him that aura &  mystique. Although UWF-I still weren't as adventurous in their arena  bookings as RINGS was, after this they were  not only able to run  Yokohama Arena, Nippon Budokan, & Ryogoku Kokugikan, but they were  selling out even these big shows.

*This event along with many other amazing treasures, can be found over at *

    *In other news*

It is being reported that the PWFG is planning on running a card on  3-20-92 at the Knight Center in Miami with Minoru Suzuki, Masakatsu  Funaki, Yusuke Fuke, Jerry Flynn, Duane Koslowski and Wellington Wilkins  being scheduled to appear. This may be a response to being beat to the  punch by the UWF-I, who was  in New York in  October for a press  conference for their 12-22-91 event, and have also been rumored to be  scouting out the Madison Square Garden arena as a possible future venue.

Akira Maeda's RINGS promotion drew 10,250 on 12-7-91 at the Ariake  Coliseum, which is impressive as the venue only has a 12,000-seat  capacity, and it's being reported that very few comp tickets were given  away for this event. Also of note, Koichiro Kimura recently quit the  W*ING promotion to be with this outfit, and also adds some grappling  credence to the promotion as he is also a current S.A.W. (Submission  Arts WrestlingÖa submission grappling promotion started by former Karl  Gotch student, Hidetaka Aso) champion.

A study was recently done in Los Angeles by a Dr. Bernd Weiss in  which he claims to have proven that punches from 1st and 2nd degree  black belts from shotokan  karate have more deadly force  against someone wearing body armor than a round fired off from a 9mm  pistol. The study was conducted because Weiss ran into a lot of police  officers that felt that their body armor would protect them from strikes  from an assailant in addition to bullets. Weiss claims that a  well-placed punch can do more than three times the damage than a round  from a 9mm from a distance of 7 feet. According to Weiss, body armor  gives its wearer a 33% greater chance of surviving a bullet attack, but  that one is 18 times more likely to face an unarmed assailant. Weiss did  not give a statistic on what the odds of being attacked by an unarmed  2nd degree karate black belt are, however.

Ramon Dekkers recently fought Sakmongkol Sitthichok at the Thailand  Lumpinee stadium on 11-26-91 for the vacant IMF World Welterweight  Title. Dekkers has been garnering quite the reputation in the last year,  as he has made a concerted effort to face Thai champions on their home  turf, and under their rules. He was even able to defeat infamously heavy  puncher Superlek Sorn E-Sarn in August of 1990, where he acquired the  Lumpinee Stadium Lightweight championship. While he did wind up losing a  hard fought 5-round decision, he put up a great fight, and is destined  for greatness if he continues in his winning ways.

*You too can see Ramon Dekkers run amok in Thailand over at *


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #69 on: December 21, 2020, 10:35:07 AM »
1991 Shoot-Wrestling Year In Review: UWF-I

*Mike Lorefice (of the excellent MMA/Puroresu emporium will have his comments preceded by his initials. *

 MB: A new dawn is upon us, beckoning us into unexamined dimensions, a journey that is constrained only by the limits of our imaginations. Yes, 1992 has arrived, and we have successfully navigated through the first year of documenting an endless ocean of shoot-history and are now looking forward to what awaits us on the horizon. This humble scribe was surprised at overall depth of quality that 1991 had to offer. Yes, there have been some growing pains, as is to be expected when any new concept is birthed, and there were some outright stinkers along the way, but when examining the totality of everything, we are left with the conclusion that while there is still plenty of room for refinement and growth, the core value of what we have been witnessing is far greater than what a modern pundit would have you believe.

So now we will take a moment to break down the highlights of 1991, and we will start with the UWF-I.

ML: UWF-I was better and more interesting in 1991 than I remember it being. Takada doing nothing of note, Yamazaki having a rather uneventful year that saw him reduced from part time main eventer to full time afterthought, a lot of my favorites barely wrestling or not being there yet, and the small shows with just a few matches were things that had stood out to me.

Obviously, the ascendance of Kiyoshi Tamura from injured reserve to one of the handful of best pro wrestlers in the world was huge, though he obviously has more memorable years later on that overshadow 1991 in the grand scheme of things when you are simply cherry picking matches. You get a much different perspective looking back sequentially, and seeing how Tamura really defined the style of his matches, and elevated the level of the other performers he was involved with to reaches they never approached on their own.

Elevating the opposition had previously been the signature of Yamazaki, but while his thoughtful style still produced different and perhaps unique matches in the UWF-I cannon, it was clear he was largely at cross purposes in this league as he had made a shift to more patient and realistic martial arts oriented matches, while most of the rest of the natives had moved away from even the realism of the U.W.F., such as it was.

Beyond the positives of instituting a regular legitimate kickboxing match and having a couple actual shoots, UWF-I in 1991 was overall more realistic than U.W.F. was in 1990 because the new faces either had an actual martial arts background or were trained for shoot wrestling rather than New Japan, usually both. Tamura & Kanehara upped the level of the grappling considerably with a quick scrambling style based on chaining attacks while Kakihara brought a speed and intensity to the striking that we hadn't seen. The level of amateur wrestling was certainly much higher, as all the Americans had a solid base, and we began to see legitimate takedowns creep into the game of the Japanese fighters rather than needing a suplex or a judo throw to get the match to the canvas. Billy Scott was certainly the leading light of the American camp, as he was by far the best athlete, and was able to absorb and implement the teachings of the great Billy Robinson into a style that was similarly active and kinetic to what the better young Japanese workers were trying.

Though Yoji Anjo had been a solid, reliable time eater throughout the 2nd U.W.F., his stock rose here as the general jack of all trades who could deliver the match that was needed rather than just rehashing what he was most comfortable with. He was still much better as a follower, but his adaptability and diversity allowed him to add to all his matches no matter what role he was in.

MB: I have been pleasantly surprised, if not outright flabbergasted at how advanced Tamura was, right from the start. My only experience with him before starting this project was some of his late 90s work in RINGS, and while I thought he was great, I preferred him in shoots, as I sometimes thought that his flashiness in his worked matches was a distraction, but I have now been opened up to just how great a talent he was, as seeing his speed, fluidity, and elevated concept of shooting, as far back as early 1991, you could tell he was simply on a different plane of reality, compared to his contemporaries. To me, he was the overall highlight of 1991, by a wide margin, as even though he hasnít really been booked in the best fashion (due to the current insistence on setting up Albright as the monster nemesis that will eventually face Takada) he has always been a living highlight reel, and leaves his stamp every time he is featured.

Yamazaki on the other hand, is a man out of place, and sadly would have been better served in the PWFG, or even RINGS. His cerebral, methodical, and nuanced style is out of step with where the UWFI is, and wouldnít be a major problem if they had the foresight to use him correctly, and had given him the win against Takada at the 10-6-91 event. Had Takada been willing to swallow his pride for a brief moment, that could have opened up all sorts of booking avenues, and possibilities down the road, and wouldnít have hurt him in the long run. But there is an ancient and true maxim that goes, ďHe who lives by Takada, must die by TakadaĒ and that really is the story of the UWF-I in a nutshell. By booking him as an invincible superman, surely tapped into some kind of nationalistic fervor that paid off in the short-term, it all fell apart once real shooting became more mainstream in Japan, and Anjo embarrassed the promotion by issuing a challenge to Rickson Gracie, that he couldnít make good on. To be fair, there had to be more issues going on than just Anjoís antics as money problems and Yakuza ties were/are very common in Japanese pro wrestling, and while unsubstantiated, there has been speculation by some over the years that whenever a pro wrestler was put in Pride FC, it was due to having to repay Yakuza debts, and may have been why Takada allowed himself to be embarrassed by Rickson at Pride 1, and 4. Regardless, the UWF-I would probably be around today, had there been some more thoughtful booking, and no one was possibly more hurt by this lack of foresight, than Yamazaki.

Anjo should probably get some kind of MVP award, as he is turning out to be the Arn Anderson of the shoot-style world, a title he will surely hold until Tsuyoshi Kosaka arrives on the scene. Anjo has enough skills that he can pretty much do what ever needs to be done, and he has the cardio necessary to have a long match if needed. He can flow between both the shootier aspects, as well as the more pro-wrestling orientated spots, and while he isnít going the be the best in either, his versatility makes him one of the UWF-Iís greatest assets.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #70 on: December 21, 2020, 10:39:08 AM »
1991 Shoot-Wrestling Year In Review: UWF-I continued...

Top 5 wrestlers in the UWF-I for 1991:

ML: 1. Kiyoshi Tamura. Tamura set the bar for pro wrestling grappling about 10 times higher with his explosive style that really brought scrambling and chaining attacks into the pro wrestling game. He made the matches much less predictable by introducing complex, fast paced sequences that continued far beyond the single action/reaction based style that was previously in place, greatly increasing both the intensity and the level of difficulty by extending both the length and the scope. Now it wasn't simply the first attack that you had to defend, but rather each attack was as much an attempt to succeed with the takedown or submission or control gain as it was a diversion to get the opponent off guard for the subsequent attempt, if the previous one didn't work. Though none of the other performers were near Tamura's level, he was able to bring them into his new universe and raise their game to levels they didn't attain with anyone else. Basically everyone who worked with Tamura also had their best match with him, which is the mark of a truly next level performer. In this case, it's partially because the opponents were forced to work so much harder & faster to try to simply keep up with Tamura and prevent him from outclassing them to the point of embarrassment that the best they had emerged. Certainly, a great deal of skill, precision, speed, and body control is also required from the opponent to pull off the style Tamura wanted to work without a hitch, and they too deserve a lot of credit, as the Kazuchika Okada's of the world would have just laid on the mat looking clueless and letting Tamura just do whatever he could to their corpse rather than engaging Tamura in his interactive, back & forth jockeying.

2. Yoji Anjo. My recollection of the original U.W.F. is that Anjo tended to blend in with the other solid undercarders, separating himself, if at all, by his ability to sustain his level for longer durations. In 1991, there's definitely a distinctive difference between Anjo and the likes of Miyato and Nakano, as Anjo can both add a lot to a match where he's the follower as well as actually carry a match. Anjo may not be great, but he's really reliable. He can do any style, at any length, and while he doesn't always succeed, his matches don't feel formulaic and, at worst, have some interesting aspects. As the top dick in the promotion, he's able to pull the otherwise largely missing grudge aspects out of his opponents, these shenanigans again differentiating his matches from the rest.

3. Kazuo Yamazaki. While 1991 was probably the worst year of Yamazaki's career since at least 1983, he's still one of the only shooters who will always stand on his own feet and craft a match. Though I'm ranking Anjo ahead of him, it's due to the great work Anjo did against Tamura, an opportunity Yamazaki wasn't granted, and it should be noted that Yamazaki was, of course, the one laying out the good, if somewhat disappointing match he and Anjo had. Yamazaki & Funaki were very similar this year in that they made a conscious choice not to be flashy. As such, I think their actual talent greatly exceeds their end results, but I also respect this decision, and can say that their matches hold up a lot better as quasi shooting because of it. Yamazaki didn't have nearly as many good opportunities as in years past, and while he also didn't make the most of them, he was still a very interesting watch because he's a thoughful performer who has the courage to work outside the expected.

4. Yuko Miyato. Miyato is the best follower in the league. Left to his devices, he's basically a one trick pony who just wants to play the underdog and get in 1 or 2 Hail Mary spinning solebutts that won't actually win him the match anyway, but Tamura got him to improve his matwork considerably, upping the number of counters and reversals and just doing things faster to maintain the intensity and viewer interest. As a consequene, Miyato was generally more well rounded this year, and in spending much of his time working with the more capable workers who were also more toward his equals in standing, he seemed better positioned to display a more diverse & technical game.

5. Hiromitsu Kanehara. Kanehara only had one match, but he already showed more ability to carry a match than probably anyone other than Tamura & Yamazaki. Granted the sample size is incredibly small, but he's arguably already the 2nd best grappler, and 3rd best overal worker in the promotion behind those same two. One could make a case for Scott, who was around most of the year, and as such even had a better match with Anjo, but Kanehara was really able to display next level chain grappling skills even against a fellow newcomer, whereas Scott had the benefit of being carried by the 2nd & 3rd best workers in the league.

MB: While any comments I add here, are strictly academic nitpicking, I will go ahead and offer my thoughts.

1: Kiyoshi Tamura: There really isnít any argument here, as Tamura is clearly ahead of of everyone, in terms of his raw talent. You could argue that Yamazki is more experienced, and employs a greater psychology to what he does, and I would tend to agree, but the speed, athleticism, and outright freshness, of what Tamura has brought to the table so far, has been nothing short of a game-changer. From what we have seen so far, it isnít surprising that this man went on to have, what is arguably the greatest pro-wrestling match of all time, against Tsuyoshi Kosaka in 1998.

2. I respect and can agree with Mike Loreficeís decision to put Anjo in the 2nd spot, though I would personally place Yamazaki here. While itís true this has not been a good year for him, this is due to the garbage booking he has been saddled with, and not a reflection of his talent. Nothing can be taken away from Anjo for being the most versatile talent the UWF-I is employing at the moment, but that again is due to how everything is being layed out by the UWFIís management. Yamazaki is still the best talent in the game at this point, if we count not only his skills, but his experience in this style, but we all know that he is about to be eclipsed by the rising stars of Tamura, and Volk Han. Even then, neither Han, nor Tamura, had quite the methodical and oft times, cerebral approach that Yamazaki did, and while that didnít translate into the raw entertainment value that those two provided, I do feel like Yamazakiís best moments translated better into the actual essence of shooting.

3. Again, the 2nd and 3rd slots could easily be interchanged here, without any complaints from me, but I would put Anjo in this spot. His cardio, and versatility are without question, though his results have been uneven. Still, he always brings something interesting, even when it doesnít quite click.

4. Hiromitsu Kanehara. Though it may be incredulous on my part to put a one-match rookie in the 4th slot here, I feel like I have been more impressed with that one match, then I have with anything MIyato has done. Donít get me wrong, Miyato is a solid talent, that is quite malleable, but my main issue with him, is he like Nakano, hasnít evolved at all since the NEWBORN UWF, and feels a bit dated, whereas Kanehara feels like part of a fresh new generation that is going to take us to the next level.

5: Billy Scott. There is no doubt that Scott has a long way to go, in terms of refining his striking and submission skills, to be able to match many of his peers, but what he has in spades, is a very believable gravitas that surrounds him. Right away you feel like this is a serious athlete, that is going to be a threat to be dealt with, and he has carried himself very well, especially for a rookie.

UWF-I Rookie of the Year

ML: 1. Hiromitsu Kanehara

2. Billy Scott. Though Burton had a couple of strong matches by virtue of Tamura's wizardry, Scott was clearly the bright spot among the foreigners, a fiery, intense, and energetic hard worker who soaked up the technique imparted to him and improved with each showing.


1: This was a very tough call for me, but I will agree with Lorefice on this. Though I was tempted to pick Scott, by default to him having more output this year, I canít deny the incredibly skills and poise that Kanehara showed. While Scott felt like a rookie (albeit a very talented one) Kanehara felt like someone that was a seasoned pro, right from the jump.

2. Billy Scott: Scott has nowhere to go but up, as he is probably the best westerner, we have seen in any of these promotions, outside of Ken Shamrock. With some more time, and refinement, he will be a major force to be reckoned with.

Top 5 matches in the UWF-I for 1991

ML: 1. 7/3/91: Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Yoji Anjo

2. 8/24/91: Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Yuko Miyato

3. 6/6/91: Makoto Ohe vs. Rudy Lovato

4. 10/6/91: Kiyoshi Tamura & Yuko Miyato vs. Tatsuo Nakano & Tom Burton

5. 6/6/91: Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Tom Burton

MB: 1. 7/3/91 Kiyoshi Tamura vs Yoji Anjo: I have to agree that this was the best thing that we saw from the UWF-I. A great match all the way around, and a serious notice to the entire combat-sports realm, that Tamura is a serious talent, that canít be slept on.

2. Makoto Ohe vs Rudy Lovato: This was probably my favorite match of the year, but since it was strictly a kickboxing match, Iím not sure if it is fair to put it at the number one spot. In cany evert, it was a total blitzkrieg from start to finish, and will forever be a timeless footfighting classic.

3. For reasons that Iím not quite sure that I can articulate, I found the 11-7-91 Tag match to be one of the very best of the year, out of this promotion, putting it slightly ahead of the 10-6-91 version with Nakano. This completely shattered my expectations, and even Tom Burton looked good in this one.

4. Tamura vs Miyato. Another great match, with Miyato providing a fast, and capable foil to Tamura. He didnít have the smug heelishness that Anjo has, but he made up for it with great urgency, and really helped to make this a great match.

5. Yamazaki vs Anjo. I liked this more than my man Mike Lorefice, but I thought this was a great paring, whoís only real downfall was the lack of time they gave them. The almost 12 minutes that they had to work with were great though, and again, if not for the bizarre booking, we would have possibly had a MOTY candidate, had they been giving the proper amount of time to space this out.

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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #71 on: December 22, 2020, 04:34:04 PM »

*Mike Lorefice, of the excellent MMA/Puroresu website will have his initials preceded by his comments. *

1991 Shoot-Wrestling Year In Review: PWFG

ML: PWFG got out of the gate quickly and felt like the best of the worked shoot leagues for much of the year. They had the opportunity to not just be about one great talent, as initially, that balance was there where even though Minoru Suzuki was the clear standout performer, it wasn't about who was fighting Suzuki, but rather which combination of Suzuki, Ken Shamrock, Naoki Sano, & Masakatsu Funaki we were getting. Unfortunately, that big 4 was based around borrowing Sano from SWS, which seemed very feasible given both companies were owned by Megame Super, and their president was a big pro wrestling fan who kept urging the PWFG guys to come fight in SWS. This working relationship quickly unraveled to a large extent when Suzuki's 4/1/91 match with veteran Apollo Sugawara turned into a shoot, resulting in essentially the same finish as the famous Takada/Berbick match, with the fight ending because Sugawara just said the hell with it and up and left the ring. Sano may not have been the best shooter, but was a talented enough pro wrestler that he had the Match of the Year and best junior match up until that point with Jushin Thunder Liger on 1/31/90. While UWF-I had some misses, they did a much better job of rounding out their roster as the year progressed, whereas Sano's loan running out left a big hole in PWFG which they never managed to fill.

Minoru Suzuki's technical skills were actual below Masakatsu Funaki's, but he grasped the urgency and intensity necessary to make the style effective and appealing a lot better, as well as that speed is more important than absolute precision. There was a real sense of danger in his matches, this feeling that you always had to be on guard. This played into Ken Shamrock's strengths well, as Shamrock not only played the wild powerhouse, but proved to be someone not to mess with when he (cheap) shot on rookie Kazuo Takahashi.

Funaki held down the credible end of the spectrum, showing a technical precision and grasp of the positions that clearly separated him from the rest of the league. That understanding didn't always make for the most entertaining matches, as his position before submission style was way ahead of its time, but also plays a lot better when winning is up to the fighters rather than the whim of the booker. While it sometimes felt Funaki was sacrificing himself for the development and advancement of the craft and others felt like he was the precursor to GSP in just being out there to win no matter what it looked like, he was, perhaps surprisingly, able to prove this style viable, and always came off as the top star of the promotion whether Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Suzuki, or Shamrock liked that or not.

Fujiwara seemed very interested in realism for one show, but it's almost as if he realized he simply couldn't keep up with the way the style was developing, and quickly descended into just goofing around for cheap giggles when he wasn't bullying the opponents he knew possessed neither the standing nor the balls to call him on it. While his promotion was the most realistic of the 3 as a whole, he was increasingly painful to watch, and almost came off as a shoot style version of a comedy wrestler, with his matches being so lame you just waited to see what antics he would pull.

MB: PWFG was the best overall product out of the three shoot-style promotions in 1991, and probably had the highest percentage of must-see moments from this year, but in retrospect itís also easy to see why this promotion didnít survive after the great exodus of talent in 93 over to Pancrase. Throughout 1991, you can see some of the performers here, continually edge closer and closer to real shoot territory, which indicates that somewhere buried in the collective haze was a desire to push the envelope and really fight for real. Also, as Lorefice pointed out, not having Sano around for most of the year was to their detriment, as they really needed another 2-3 high caliber guys to really be an unstoppable force. That is one of the unfortunate aspects of the UWF splintering off into three separate promotions, was the thinning out of the talent pool, as we can see a huge disparity between the higher tier of Funaki, Shamrock, and Suzuki, vs the lower end, like Wilkins, Kiroware, and the man whoís name should never be uttered, Johnny Barrett. Imagine if someone like Yamazaki had migrated to the PWFG as opposed to the UWF-I, that alone could have made a huge difference in rounding out their roster.

Fujiwara is really the odd man in this equation. I think that he has realized that he is perhaps in over his head, as there is no way at his age, or athletic ability, he is going to hang with the kind of matches that we are starting to see take shape, but to his credit, he seems to be ok with not having the entire focus of the promotion be around him, as he has been willing to have matches in the midcard, or miss an event if need be, whereas there is no way that the UWF-I will allow their league to be about anything other than Takada, and the particular monster-of-the-week that he will be slaying on that month. As long as Fujiwara has a strong roster, then he will be able to get away with the clowning antics that we have seen from him, but if he starts hemorrhaging talent, then itís going to be painfully obvious to all, that he canít carry this promotion.

Still, things are looking good for them going into 92. They were able to acquire Duane Koslowski, who seems to be a great talent, that can only get better and better, Takaku Fuke, who stole the show with his epic match against Jerry Flynn, and then proceeded to get a good match out of Bart Vale the next event, and Kazuo Takahashi, who still has a ways to go in rounding out his striking and submission skills to match his great wrestling, but has so much heart, and verve, that he is awesome a welcome addition.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #72 on: December 22, 2020, 04:39:30 PM »
PWFGís Top 5 Wrestlers in 1991

ML: 1. Minoru Suzuki. Suzuki did the best job of transitioning from the pro wrestling style to the shoot style, just having a better grasp of what made both tick from a viewer standpoint. He combined the urgency and intensity necessary to make the matches work as "shoots" with the more subtle brand of entertainment of pro wrestling where actions and affectations that aren't necessary but also aren't unreasonable are thrown in for dramatic purposes, finding an exciting balance between the credible and the energetic. Even when he was doing somewhat nonsensical things such as trying to work in his dropkick, his matches still overall felt like epic struggles where you couldn't let your guard down for a second. As we are seeing with Tamura, being fast and explosive are far more important to the quality of worked shoot style than absolute technical precision because ultimately you are still getting away with something, it's just that the less time you give the audience to identify that, the more difficult it becomes for them to see the holes. Suzuki had excellent speed and footwork in standup even though that wasn't the strength of his game, and was the only fighter who won two shoots, a planned one where he relied on his grappling to beat Thai fighter Lawi Napataya and an unplanned one where he relied on his footwork and handspeed to humiliate SWS' Apollo Sugawara.

2. (Ken) Wayne Shamrock. Shamrock's intensity and work ethic were his best attributes early on, but despite having some of his best matches at the outset, he clearly improved a lot over the course of the year, particularly in the striking department. Shamrock benefitted from having the best run of opponents, but even when he was carried by Suzuki & Funaki, he added a lot to the matches and always felt like a distinct talent. He really began to hit his stride with the Suzuki rematch, with his improved familiarity and confidence allowing him to work a more decisive, aggressive, and assertive style with strikes that were now solid, if not even impressive.

3. Naoki Sano. Sano was a great, albeit overly reckless pro wrestler who was willing to go the extra mile. He had a learning curve, and clearly had a lot more potential in this style than he was able to reach this year due to spending most of it in his home promotion, SWS, taking on Americans that were neither juniors in style nor in weight, finally claiming the inaugural SWS Light Heavyweight Title from an overroided Model. On talent alone, Sano was probably the best follower we saw in this style in 1991, immediately having a memorable match with Shamrock, a match of the year with Suzuki, and a couple of good, more technical and less competitive matches in SWS with Funaki. Sano went 1-2-1 in his initial important run, but with Megame Super having deemed it too danger to have interpromotional matches with PWFG on SWS's shows after the Suzuki/Apollo debacle, Sano wound up only making a few more appearances in a filler role. This was really a shame because he'd clearly improved a lot in the style in just a few matches, and I feel like he could not only have reached another level himself, but helped the stars of this promotion get there too.

4. Masakatsu Funaki. Funaki had his own break them down style, and being positioned at the top of the cards, he was able to carry his opponents through it, or just smother and thwart them. Sparring was important to the PWFG wrestlers dojo preparation, and was definitely influential toward Fujiwara & Masami Soronaka (though he didn't see most of them since he lived in Florida & was only in Japan when the events were close) determining the results of the matches in the sense that while they had to keep the fans happy, everyone knew who was really better, and thus should win. My sense is Funaki either thought the matches should be as realistic as possible or really wanted to win at this point, or both, and mostly continued to implement the positional grappling he dominated with in training, rather than somewhat switching into entertainment mode when the bell rang. Funaki arguably had the most charisma of anyone in the shoot game when he wanted to, but increasingly it was instead his calm & confident demeanor that set him apart. He had the best technical and positional understanding of all these guys, and nothing was going to fluster or sidetrack him because technique trumps emotion. While some of his matwork looked like Takada's on the surface, in other words just laying in wait, Funaki actually had a plan and things going on, and was able to implement this trap setting style where he exploited minute advantages and adjusted to stuff the opponent's escapes until he created the opening/forced the mistake, rather than literally doing nothing in hopes that the opponent would eventually bail him out one way or the other as Takada did. Funaki also had tremendous hand speed, but unlike Kakihara, who made a career out of that, was largely reticent to display it in more than brief flashes, being more confident in his ability to dominate on the mat. I respect that Funaki was very much working for everything and out to show that nothing comes easy when the opponent is actually (or at least theoretically) trying to resist, but he was often frustrating because it always felt like, in the best of times, he was good when he should have been great.

5. Yusuke Fuke. Fuke was one of the only workers to participate in an actual shoot, and was even able to demonstrate ideas that were otherwise almost completely absent from the pro wrestling spectrum such as distance control, getting in and out, and checking kicks in some of his works. In some ways his technique was better than even Funaki's, and one could argue that, despite being an undercarder who only had 3 matches under his belt prior to the U.W.F. split, he did the most this year to advance the sport of pro wrestling toward legitimate martial arts. It's unfortunate that he's positioned with guys that never deliver, Bart Vale & Wellington Wilkins Jr., as he's the only one who seems to have the potential as a worker to to fill the hole left by Sano.

MB: 1. I agree that Suzuki was the best performer this year, as his understanding of intensity is unrivaled. Whereas Funaki is sometimes too patient, and Ken is still finding his rhythm, and sometimes wavers in his approach to a match, Suzuki seems to understand that this is supposed to be a fight and acts accordingly. It also helps that out of all the performers, Suzuki probably won the lottery in the matchups department, as everything that was in, was able to showcase his skills and put him in a favorable light, as the lowest tier fighter he had to face was Bart Vale, and even though he had to do a 30min match with Fujiwara, he was able to put enough intensity into it, that it still came off better than Funakiís match with him. He was also able to avenge the good name of the PWFG, and professional wrestlers everywhere, when he defeated the Sultan of Slime, in a shoot.

2. Ken Shamrock. I had an internal debate between him and Funaki for this spot, and while Funaki clearly has more experience, and skill at this point, Shamrock had been put in several great matches, while Funaki was poorly utilized for the first few months. Shamrock would have taken this in spades, had he not showed a streak of unprofessionalism, with him putting very little effort into his match with Wilkins, which resulted in a mediocre offering, and taking a huge cheap shot against Takahashi during their fight. His fight with Takahashi was one of the most entertaining of the year, for what it was, but soccer kicking your coworker in the orbital that you has to work every month alongside you, was a jerk move, that was completely unnecessary, especially when you would have easily won the fight without resorting to that. Still, it is obvious that PWFG has a tremendous talent on its hands, and if he can be properly cultivated, could very well be on his way to superstardom.

3. Masakatsu Funaki. This is where I will deviate from Lorefice a bit, and put Funaki in this slot, instead of Sano. Had Sano done more in the PWFG during this year, I would put him here easily, but for me itís a combination of Funakiís skill, being active for the entire year, and most importantly, we have seen him really start to hit his stride as this year as gone on. While he was straddled with questionable booking for the first three months, having to deal with Vale, he whoís name cannot be uttered, and being forced to have a lackluster match with Fujiwara, he hit a home-run with his bout with Shamrock, and has really started to showcase his own style with his matches with Koslowski, and Takahashi. His matches with those aforementioned two, have probably been the closest to emulating real shoots, that we have seen from anyone, and while that isnít the flashiest way to go about things, when put into context, he was basically inventing a new approach before our eyes, and wound up pushing this entire affair closer and closer to real MMA, and for that I have to give him a lot of credit.

4. Naoki Sano. Sano was fantastic, and his only real drawback was not having enough experience in this style to carry an inferior opponent like Bart Vale. His match with Shamrock had an awesome look of two juggernauts colliding, as both menís physiques helped make the aesthetics of the match work in a way that you canít achieve when Shamrock is facing someone that he outweighs by a huge margin like a Suzuki.  Sanoís athleticism and raw energy could have seen him being one of the best, had he stuck around, but the fracturing of the working relationship between SWS and PWFG prevented what could have been lighting in a bottle.

5. Takaku Fuke. Fuke was probably the one that most surprised me out of this bunch. I never really gave him much thought before this project, and Iím now seeing the errors of my ways. Not only did he have the guts to have an actual shoot against a slicked up Thai kickboxing champion, but showed a surprising amount of shrewdness in how he dealt with him, as he would time his shots wonderfully, and showed a good understanding of distance. He would also take that same understanding and employ it into his works, and put those skills into a great match with Jerry Flynn, and somehow made a 30min match fly by like a breeze, which is not easy for anyone to do, quite frankly. He proved himself to have the skills to be a great go-to guy in the midcard, where you can kind of use him in different capacities.

1991 PWFG Rookie of the Year

ML: 1. Kazuo Takahashi. Takahashi was the best amateur wrestler among the natives, and although that was mostly all he did, he was a really tough guy who helped to modernize the transition game, getting PWFG away from the U.W.F. style of initiating grappling via suplex or throw.

MB: There isnít much to say here other than ďditto.Ē Takahashi was awesome, and was really the only rookie outside of some of the westerners on loan from the Acme Jobber Academy.

Top 5 1991 Matches in PWFG

ML: 1. 7/26/91: Minoru Suzuki vs. Naoki Sano

2. 9/28/91: Wayne Shamrock vs. Minoru Suzuki

3. 3/4/91: Wayne Shamrock vs. Minoru Suzuki

4. 10/17/91: Yusuke Fuke vs. Jerry Flynn

5. 5/16/91: Naoki Sano vs. Wayne Shamrock

MB: This is an almost impossible task, as there were several great matches from this outfit, and several of them could easily be interchanged without blinking an eye. In fact, if you were to ask me tomorrow, or even 30min from now, I may have a different perspective, but for now, this is where I would put the top 5 matches.

1. 7/26/91: Minoru Suzuki vs Naoki Sano. This was a shoo-in as the combined energy and reckless abandon that both showed was the best thing to happen this year. Timeless classic.

2. 10/17/91: Yusuke Fuke vs Jerry Flynn. This may seem like a crazy choice to put in the number 2 slot, and maybe it is, but I canít get over how impressive it was seeing Fuke unleash a torrent of energy for the entire 30mins, and winding up with a match that never felt like it was dragging. As good as the Shamrock/Suzuki matches were, they both had their share of dead spaces, but this felt like a nonstop blitz, and Fuke really showcased the nuances that are needed in simulating a wrestler vs striker match, like distance, and setting up your takedowns.

3. 3/4/91: Minoru Suzuki vs Wayne Shamrock. I could easily interchange this with the 9/28/91 battle, depending on what day you catch me, but for me I recall my first impression of both matches, and being more captivated by this one. This had more dead spaces, but perhaps the thing that moved the needle for me was the crescendo. Everything led to an explosive climax, much like reaching the top of a roller coaster, and then plunging downwards after the long ascent to the top, and while that isnít the most realistic in terms of a real fight, it made for great drama.

4. 8/23/91: Masakatsu Funaki vs Wayne Shamrock. I know that Mike Lorefice doesnít rate this as highly as I do, and maybe heís right, but for me this match abounded in intensity. Both were utterly convincing in their portrayals of wanting to destroy the other, and even in the dead spaces, it seemed like they were jockeying for position, looking for an opening. This also saw a marked improvement in Kenís striking, and Funaki didnít slouch in the kicks that he was giving Ken either. Sometimes a match just hits you the right way, and for me this was a winner.

5. 5/16/91: Naoki Sano vs. Wayne Shamrock: Great match with tons of energy from both men. There were still some rough edges from both men, as Kenís striking would improve in the following months, and Sano still has to rely on some puroresu tricks, but this was great, especially considering how early on this took place.


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #73 on: December 22, 2020, 09:05:43 PM »
@Matt C - Is this your gimmick?   :D


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Re: Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA
« Reply #74 on: January 02, 2021, 11:48:22 AM »
Kakutogi Road Presents: 1991 Year in Review Part 3 FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS
*Mike Lorefice (owner of the fantastic MMA/PURO mecca will have his comments preceded by his initials. *

ML: RINGS didn't really run enough shows to warrant a year end list, but at the same time, it feels a bit silly doing UWF-I & PWFG but excluding them. While RINGS was largely just Akira Maeda at this point, and Maeda was largely just broken this year, they somehow, eventually managed to navigate their way from a one-man show to the best, and by far the longest lasting of these three shoot promotions. Their beginnings were incredibly humble, but in a sense having Maeda meant more than having a half a roster of good workers, as their 4 shows were all big events due to him, and based on the padded figures they drew 32,250 or an average of 8,063 per show, easily more total fans that PWFG drew in their 7 shows and only 5,800 less than UWF-I drew in their 11 shows.

RINGS didn't carry wrestlers over from U.W.F., and 5 months wasn't enough time to get trainees ready, but Maeda knew that bringing in the foreign martial artists was what differentiated the U.W.F. major events from the monthly Korakuen Hall shows. He exploited the contacts he already had with places such as the Netherlands, as well as establishing new ones in places such as the USSR. Obviously, professional fighters and gym owners having friends, students, and training partners, hence the Fighting Network was hastily hatched. This plan had several faults, most notably that the Netherlands leader, Chris Dolman, was already 46-year-old and moved like he had two knee and hip replacements and was fighting his way through quicksand.The value of RINGS this year was in introducing a number of new fighters. While results varied, in the end my rookie of the year list is almost identical to my top 5, and that bodes really well for their future.

RINGS future finally began to take shape with the arrival of the immortal Volk Han on the final show of the year. If I were ranking purely on skill rather than putting some merit into the quality and quantity of the overall output for the year, Han would already be #2 overall shoot stylist, which is remarkable given he had no pro wrestling matches, or probably really even training before facing Maeda in the year end main event. But that lack of training was likely a blessing, as he brought with him none of the bad habits the majority of shooters carried over from the New Japan dojo, and thus totally came at shooting like he would a real fight. That's not to say he ignored the entertainment aspects, if anything he might be too steeped in them, but he approached the fight from the basis of an actual active live opponent doing their best to resist his attacks rather than standing around doing their best to make them as easy for him as they could possibly get away with. There's a solid undercurrent of realistic positioning and movement to his fights that isn't present in many other bouts that aren't going for realism at the expense of all else, which allows his crazy inventive grappling to seem a lot more earned.

MB: Itís quite remarkable knowing that Rings would go on to become one of the most important MMA orgs in history when one looks at their 1991 output in isolation. In fact, if you were to only view their events from 91í you couldnít be blamed for thinking this promotion was doomed to last only another year or two treading water. Fortune favors the brave however, and that is something that Maeda in the courage to just brazenly go big in everything that he did, even if he didnít have the talent to pull it off at first. He also benefited from a willingness to keep his ego in check (at least to some degree) for the good of his company. We saw this when he put Dick Vrij over in what was only the 2nd event, and we would see him continue this from time to time, as needed. Compare this to Takada, who couldnít even find it in his heart to put over Yamazaki, who he had not only lost to before, but would have been an excellent move at that point in time, for the long term health of his promotion.

The year-end events of RINGS and the UWF-I were quite revealing in showing us that where one company was destined to be ablaze for the short-term, eventually the ancient maxim would hold true which states that those who live by Takada, are doomed to die by Takada, and that is eventually what happened when Anjo exposed the outfit by getting destroyed by Rickson Gracie, and Takada putting the final nail in shoot-style by losing to everyone that they couldnít successfully bribe on his behalf. On the flipside, we saw that while RINGS was very raw and in need of refinement, the concept was strong enough that it could only get better and better in time once the talent pool was acquired.