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Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA

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*Archives of this series can be found at *

Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.1 "Genesis"

Welcome to the beginning of what may be a long and winding story, as we begin a quest to (almost) completely document the history of modern MMA. Over the course of many chapters I hope to expose myths, answer questions, raise new inquires, and shine some light on how the way of the fist intersected with the art of the armbar, and how we got to be here today. I intend to go through every mma event, (within what is available), in chronological order, from the early 90s-00s, and highlight the various highs and lows, that have led us to where we are today.

Because modern MMA is such a relatively new phenomenon, such an undertaking, while potentially arduous, is possible. The main thing is really deciding on where to start. I debated starting at UFC 1, but the fact is, that so much of modern Mma has roots in Japanese pro wrestling, it seemed like I would be doing a disservice on just skipping over all of the Shoot leagues/events that gave us many of the stars and concepts that would wind up becoming important later on down the road. Although the main point of this project is to cover Vale Tudo/NHB/MMA, to not give a solid look at the events that proceeded it, is to really leave out giant pieces of its tapestry. Therefore, I have decided to start in 1991, right after the collapse of the UWF, in which several pro wrestling organizations sprouted up, in an effort to sell, "real fighting," to a thirsty audience that didn't know any better.

So consider this a prologue of sorts, and thus we will begin in the realm of shoot- wrestling, (which as we will see had their share of actual shoots as well), and we'll also make some detours into K1/Kickboxing, Bjj, etc, since by this point in time the Mma world was so small and blurred that there is a lot of natural overlap within these separate undertakings.

Also, I hope to include media, and interviews from the time period in question, to try and add some of the perspective that was current at the time. I also encourage all of you to add, whatever you know, be it anecdotes, media, interviews, etc, so perhaps we can get a clearer picture together.

So, without further ado, let us look back into the depths of a "sport" with a murky past, and no clear future. A culmination of events that has one foot in the Budo spirit of Samurai long dead, and the other in the more recent shenanigans of carnival performers.

Yes, let's take a journey through time and see what led us to where we are today, as we glimpse down the Kakutogi road, that is simultaneously, both one of the noblest of pursuits, and one of the most vainglorious, (in that it rewards ingenuity, creativity, sheer force of will, and sacrifice, but at the end of the still an endeavor that reduces it's practitioners to a spectacle, fighting to prove oneself has led to many sorrows, as men vainly chase their identity and self-worth in something that can never provide such a thing.

We find ourselves on 3-4-91 as the very first PWFG, (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara Gumi), event is set to take place. Before this took place it's wise to note, (for those reading that might not be familiar with the history), the initial cataclysm that led to Japan's interest in mma, which was the birth of the original UWF. A pro wrestling promotion that started in 1984 as fairly straightforward Pro Wrestling fare, it later evolved into something never seen before, once several key members migrated to it from New Japan Pro Wrestling. Yoshiaki Fujiwara, Nobuhiko Takada, Satoru Sayama (the original Tiger Mask) and Kazuo Yamazaki, found a home with this fledgling promotion, and this prompted the change the orientation of the UWF's wrestling to a more martial arts >

They became the hottest ticket in Japan for a brief period, until infighting over the essence of the product, and a clash of egos between Sayama and Maeda led to it's demise. The contention between Sayama and Maeda arose partly due to philosophical disagreements over what the essence of the UWF should be, with Sayama wanting more of a kickboxing flair, (he had a background in kickboxing), and Maeda wanting it more rooted in submissions.

They would eventually come to blows, when on 9-2-85 the two began what started out as a worked pro wrestling match, but quickly devolved from there. After starting somewhat benignly enough, they started to stop pulling their punches/kicks and were striking each other for real. Eventually they seemed to regain their composure and things went back to normal, when towards the end of the match, Maeda simply gave a super hard kick to Sayama's balls, and forced a disqualification from the ref. Maeda was fired for this, and Sayama quit pro wrestling in disgust. He would later go on to form Shooto, which was the first true Mma organization, and who's history we will be exploring in greater detail down the road.

*Match starts at 7:51*

*The first Shooto event took place in 1989, and while I would love to start this project from there.... I simply have yet to get my hands on any Shooto pre 92. I own most of the Shooto from 94 onward, but if anyone can help provide Shooto materials from 89-93, for the sake of this project, then please get in touch with me.

After the initial collapse of the UWF in 85, most of the roster went back to work for New Japan Pro Wrestling, for the next few years. This was until 1988 when Maeda, yet again, couldn't keep his temper under control and decided to deliver a shoot Muay Thai kick to Riki Chosu's face, supposedly due to jealously of his position within the company. This left NJPW in an awkward spot, as how do you punish someone for doing something that was "legal," within the world of pro wrestling? They opted to punish him by insisting that he be banished to a tour of Mexico for a period of time, but Maeda refused, and opted to restart the UWF, taking a chunk of the roster with him.

They had initial success until an economic downturn in Japan, coupled with disagreements on inter-promotional booking with more traditional pro wrestling companies, led to yet another demise for this promotion. Only this time, several key players splintered off to start their own promotions/vanity projects, and thus the shoot boom was born, and as we continue this story, we will see how this led to forming much of what modern mma is today.

Yoshiaki Fujiwara was a Judoka that transitioned into pro wrestling in the early 70s, and has the distinction of being the first graduate of the New Japan Dojo system. He continued to wrestle for New Japan until the first Uwf incarnation and tried to stay in their good graces after Maeda initially left to restart the promotion in 1988. However, in 1989 he felt the need to continue in the ways of Shoot only this time he brought young talents Masakatsu Funaki, and Minoru Suzuki with him. Perhaps this decision, more than any other, led to mma being around today as we know it, because if it wasn't for Funaki taking an interesting in shooting, (or at least fake shooting), and in turn training a young Ken Shamrock, the Ufc might not exist today. (More on this later).

The beginning of a destiny

So here we are at the Korakuen Hall in the early days of March circa  1991. The show starts of with the seemingly ancient tradition of having  all the performers/combatants enter the ring with much music and  fanfare, as a way to kick off the show. Only this has the legendary  German wrestler extraordinaire, Karl Gotch, as a guest of honor. They  give him a microphone and he said a few kind words about wishing success  upon this promotion. Karl Gotch was a legend in Japan at this time, and  also trained many of the Fujiwara crew, so having his blessing upon the  promotion was surely seen as a badge of realism by the audience.

The  first man out to the ring is Wellington Wilkins Jr, better known  perhaps as the former tag team partner of Chris Benoit that mysteriously  died of a heart attack on the same day that Benoit was found dead after  committing suicide. Wellington started his career in Canada at Stampede  wrestling, but by the time the 90s rolled around was mainly an opening  performer on the Japanese circuit, wrestling for various promotions. He  hit a bit of a skid, when in the mid-90s he was busted with marijuana  while working for Michinoku Pro Wrestling, and subsequently thrown in a  Japanese jail, and deported. He worked a bit in the states after that,  but never really took off.

Here his opponent is Takaku  Fuke, who wound up being a Pancrase mainstay in a few short years,  amassing a rather abysmal 16-29-5 record, though to his credit was able  to get victories over the great Manabu Yamada, Jason Delucia, and Vernon  White.

The first couple of mins set the overall tone of  what was to come with this promotion. An emphasis on having realistic  looking matches, but perhaps done at the expense of entertainment value,  (certainly when compared to its rivals at the time.) These two worked  well together and, there was a good flow between the two that saw them  obtain and reverse positions on the mat several times, but it was a  fairly dry affair that wasn't going to light any fires. It also was a  bit odd that they chose the ever so realistic "leg-split," as a finish.

The legendary Leg-Split

Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Johnny Barrett.

Fujiwara is up  next, and has always had the unenviable ability to look like he was  pushing 70, regardless of what decade he happened to be in. He was  rather slow and unathletic, but he was someone that you had to have a  certain amount of respect for, as he always patterned his after realism,  (at least realistic by pro wrestling standards), and could sometimes  turn sadistic and become way too stiff in the ring.

His opponent  here is Jonny Barrett, who I'm assuming only was able to find work here  due to his connections to Dean Malenko, because his physique wasn't  doing him any favors here. A huge guy that could have been a replacement  for a Heel of the Month in the Wwf, his size was really the only thing  about him that was of any note.

Not much to say here... Fujiwara  wisely kept most of this on the mat, as Barrett had no discernable  skills on his feet, but that isn't really saying much. After a few  uneventful mins of rolling around on the ground Fujiwara put us all out  of our misery but ending the bout with an Achilles hold. The match was  fairly believable, and thankfully brief, but really wasn't pushing the  needle in any significant way.

Now we get to the first glimpse of  magic in this shoot- world. Ken, "Wayne" Shamrock vs Minoru Suzuki.  Fujiwara should get a lot of credit here, as he was willing to put  himself in the mid-card and allow some of the younger talent a chance to  shine, which was something that eluded a lot of the young Japanese  talent in those days.

Here we find a very young Suzuki facing an  incredible looking specimen in Shamrock, and it's rather amazing to see  that right from the jump, Shamrock was an awesome performer that really  shined in this kind of format. One has to wonder if he had jumped back  into Japanese pro wrestling instead of the WWF in 1996 how his later  career would have turned out, as all he really seemed to get out of his  tenure there, (outside of a fat stack of cash), was a lot of injuries.

This  match opened us all up to a whole new world of possibilities that  "shooting," could provide. While this match was not the smoothest and  being a 30min draw it did have it's fair share of dead spaces, both  fighters did an excellent job of parlaying intensity and frustration,  throughout. They constantly looked for submissions, even in bad  positions, and you could really see an example of a grappling mentality,  before the positional thinking of a Bjj influence crept in.

The  match also had a nice progression to it, as it was mostly submission  orientated in the beginning , saving the flashier stuff like a belly to  belly suplex, and much nastier striking until later in the match, which  gave it natural feel, as if the stakes were getting higher, and it was  time to pull out all the stops.

A little dry in spots, but a  great start to this and a great insight into the fact that maybe...just  maybe.. there was a future paying audience to be found in real fighting.


Next up, is Masakatsu Funaki vs Bart Vale, and was unfortunately  something that was never going to be able to cut it as a main event, let  alone trying to surpass the great match that came before it. Vale was  someone that was already a bit past his prime when PWFG came around, and  while his striking was decent, and his overall work passable, it lacked  crispness, and he wasn't someone that had the stamina to have a long  high-intensity match. Also, his was best served by placing him with  another striker, and it didn't do anyone any favors, by placing him with  a grappling wizard such as Funaki. This match would have been fine had  it been placed early in the card, but as it was, only served to be  anti-climatic.

As it's all said and done, we see a  couple of things. Namely that this promotion had some great talents in  the top end, (such as Funaki, Suzuki, and Shamrock), some passable ones  with Fujiwara and Vale, but the mid to bottom tier of the roster looks  like they all came from the Acme Jobber unemployment line. It makes  perfect sense why they weren't able to make it once most of their  serious shooters left to form Pancrase in 93, as there was really no  point in the promotion any further. Pancrase was probably what this  promotion should have tried to be from the get go, but perhaps that  wasn't possible until this group, and others like it, paved the way, and  opened a door for real Mma to prove viable.

Miamiís favorite son

Here is the event in full:

Now after reading all of this, you were probably wondering, "Yeah, this  is all great, but what was Maurice Smith up to during this time?" Well  I'm glad you asked. Here he was fighting Kees Bessems in Japan at an All  Japan Kickboxing event during 3-30-91 *Mo's fight starts around the  30:00 min mark.*

In other news:

Don  Wilson lost a breathtaking 12 round split-decision loss to Marek  Piotrowski at Odem Arena before a sellout crowd of more than 5,000  people. Wilson's World Kickboxing Association crown was unaffected,  however only the Professional Karate Council's and the Fight Factory  Karate Association's 180-pound vacant titles were at stake.

Piotrowski,  who also recently defeated Rick Roufus, won by a half-point margin on  the judges' cards after a thrilling seesaw bout. Wilson, who normally  fights in the 175 pound class has extended an invitation to Piotrowski  to fight him for his WKA title.

In Modesto California two  kickboxers and a passing pedestrian met in a dangerous way recently. The  two martial artists, sparring at the North Bay Martial Arts Clubm got  into a clinch, then rolled each other out of a third floor window,  landing directly on an unfortunate passerby. The pedestrian was treated  at a local hospital and released, while the two kickboxers were  hospitalized with more serious injuries.

Former Kickboxing  champion Louis Neglia recently hosted the first of several pro-am  kickboxing competitions, featuring three professional and seven amateur  bouts. In the professional matches, Dennis Schuette knocked out Robert  Shandrick in a cruiserweight fight, Roger Heidlebaugh, and Brad Morris  fought to a draw in a middleweight bout, and Anthony Salerno scored a  technical knockout of Peter Olanich in a super-welterweight battle.


The Mighty Mike Lorefice, (MMA, Kickboxing, and Puroresu scribe  extraordinaire, who's work can be found at, has decided to weigh in, and offer his astute  commentary before weighing in on the 9-2-85 match that we already  covered.

 Here is what Mighty Mike has to say: 7/25/85 Tokyo Ota-ku  Taiikukan: Akira Maeda vs. Super Tiger 16:01. While this has much more  in common with their 1/7/85 match as a conventional worked pro wrestling  match, and is actually far less interesting, I feel it pairs more with  their 9/2/85 sort of shoot as the battle of wills between Sayama &  Maeda was coming to a head outside the ring, even though they still kept  it together inside the ring.


Maeda exerted his will throughout this contest, making it very  submission oriented match, and not a very good one, leading to Sayama  getting his way in the standup oriented rematch. Sayama was largely on  the defensive trying to stay on his feet & then get back up, though  he obviously didn't try very hard at the latter because with Maeda doing  nothing to actually control him on the ground, he could literally stand  any time he wanted to.

The problem with this match is Sayama  needed to make the match interesting, but by just being the good soldier  & telling the story of why he's losing as best he could, he wound  up just going along with Maeda grounding him & putzing around with  his feeble contortions. Maeda had a number of exciting matches during  his career, but was never a particularly good or credible ground fighter  even though that was the that he enjoyed, it was always the guys who  actually knew what they were doing like Yamazaki & Han making the  match, both pulling a few things out of him as well as putting him in  the better role for the audience where he provided some fireworks with  his strikes & suplexes rather than grinding things to a halt as he  did when just left him to his devices.

The match still started  strong as Maeda's efforts to engage in a grappling match with Sayama  were so much more fervent here than on 9/2, actually getting Sayama down  early with his idea of (a very poorly executed) double leg takedown,  after catching a kick, with his captured suplex after catching one of  Sayama's clinch knees, etc. Sayama used more footwork in this one, in  part because Maeda showed little interest in striking with him, but also  didn't deliver on his early promise. Instead of playing the small man  vs. big man game, he increasingly served himself up on a platter by  fighting on the inside with Maeda so Maeda could get him down off a  suplex.

The bout hasn't aged that well because they just keep  going for submissions while displaying no real knowledge of how to get  them, focusing 99.9% on cranking a limb while just laying across the  opponent not doing anything to control any other portion of their body  or help them actually isolate their joint of choice.The match eventually  ended in oh so credible fashion when Sayama missed an enzuigiri &  Maeda clumsily secured that most credible of pro wrestling standbyes,  the Boston crab!

There was very little striking in this match,  and consequently, even though these were the two biggest stars in the  company, the crowd was pretty much dead throughout, which supports  Sayama's tract that the kickboxing base was necessary to the success of  the This was better than watching Hogan flex his muscles or Flair do  another spot for spot performance of his one match, but it's close to  the least interesting Sayama match of the 1980's.

*Match starts around the 16min mark*

Here is is take on 9-2-85:

9/2/85 Osaka Rinkai Sports Center: Akira  Maeda vs. Super Tiger 18:57. A truly fascinating contest where the  clashing alpha personalities of the two dominant forces in the promotion  came to a head inside the ring as they probably battled with some vague  notion of deciding the future direction of the company, and instead  just decided that the company had no future.

Though the U.W.F.  had grown increasingly shoot oriented in the year and a half it existed,  morphing from the humble origins of luchadors & WWF show wrestlers  into something more & more hardcore & legitimate, Maeda &  Sayama were two huge stars that always wanted to win, both in front of  the audience & behind the scenes. It would surely be reductive to  say it came down to a matter of tastes, styles, egos, or whatever, and  that even kind of comes off in the bout they wound up having. Even  though they had something of a shoot, the supposed rift between Sayama's  kickboxing & Maeda's submission grappling still actually didn't  play out, as they ultimately did a match that was essentially in Maeda's  version of Sayama's style.

By that I mean, Sayama wasn't using  the footwork that elevated his worked shoots toward the realm of  believability, nor was Maeda really doing his remedial matwork. It  really looked like Maeda's usual style of striking, except that as they  pretty much stood in front of each other & bombed away, they were  much more violent & aggressive in putting their whole bodies into  throwing faster & harder shots that they weren't pulling as usual.

Actually,  rather than the art of kickboxing that Sayama managed to bring even  though the opponents stood around flatfooted, this fight still  exemplified that main problem with pro wrestling striking, except they  did try to avoid & defend themselves in a basic sort of way, not  exiting the pocket, but at least reacting to the blow they saw coming  & blocking it or maneuvering their body out of the primary damage  range/zone if they could. It's possible Maeda was unhappy that they were  doing Sayama's standup match this time instead of his submission match  as we saw on 7/25/85, but the bout definitely didn't devolve into a  shoot as someone got prickly, as had been the case in the past with  Maeda, they clearly were wailing on each other from the outset.

One  could say this was one of the first Pancrase matches, as they were not  pulling their strikes, but they not only didn't use closed fists, they  were clearly cooperating to some extent at points even though they were  putting each other in danger & trying to legitimately damage each  other most of the time. I shouldn't make it sound like Sayama wasn't  fighting with strategy, he was surely giving up at least 50 pounds and  even though he had superior striking technique & more explosion, he  couldn't just stand toe to toe with Maeda.

He tried to land the  middle kick and circle off to maintain some space, but he was going  backwards too much & clearly didn't have the stamina to fight what  Lyoto Machida would later establish as a karate style MMA fight, so  instead of capitalizing on his speed and movement advantages, Sayama  spent way too much time covering in the pocket while he withstood  Maeda's onslaught & poised for his next offensive. The striking  portions were legit, but neither had any kind of a wrestling base, so  getting the fight to the ground was rather awkward, and that's really  why fights could play out much easier & better in Sayama's style  than in Maeda's, which normally required him to hit a suplex to get  started. Sayama wasn't taking bumps for Maeda, but still conceeded to  ground portions, which basically occured when the person in the  disadvantageous position surrendered further rather than finally  try/work to disengage.

The mat wasn't really a threatening  position for either though, as when you add no BJJ background to no  wrestling background, they weren't doing much beyond playing footsies,  and when you combine a sweltering building with the stress &  overexertion of actually trying to make things work without the usual  cooperation, I think Sayama was mostly just happy to get a break while  Maeda muddled around, daring him to actually come up with something to  make him regret that decision. Unlike the standup where there was a very  obvious difference in how aggressive they were landing blows, they  didn't appear to be be applying any more pressure than usual when they  actually had something of a submission, and the audience was dead silent  as they were throughout the 7/25 match.

As they spent more and  more time delivering comatose inducing matwork, you almost forgot that a  few minutes ago they seemingly wanted to kill each other on their feet.  One would actually have thought that they were getting along again  until Maeda grabbed the rope to get the bout returned to their feet, and  proceeded to knee Sayama low for no apparent reason, leading to the DQ.  It's almost certain that Maeda was supposed to lose given he defeated  Tiger in their previous match, so one can deduce that Maeda may just  have been looking for an out, as he should have been growing calmer, if  anything, given they'd gotten away from actually shooting on one another  and there was nothing new to give him a reason to pull a stunt.

However,  one can't be certain from the camera angle if the knee clipped the  groin or not, so it's perhaps as likely that someone finally did enough  damage with a legitimate blow to make whatever the planned finish was  irrelevant. Maeda has always been a shady character, but from what I can  see, I'm leaning toward Sayama just claiming it was a low blow. Maeda  was subsequently reprimanded & never worked for the promotion again.

The  workers, who were already resentful of Sayama for being the booker  & primary creative force in the promotion didn't side with him  though, and while he did step in a U.W.F. ring six more times as this  was playing out, he quit the promotion and then pro wrestling entirely.  U.W.F. never ran another show after Sayama's final appearance on  9/11/85, with Maeda & co. returning to New Japan for the next 2 1/2  years before taking the next step toward blending the barrier between  fake and real fighting. Very good match.


And just in case you were wondering what Dave Meltzer had to say about any of this:

 "Yoshiaki Fujiwara's version of the new UWF opened on 3/4 in Tokyo's  Korakuen Hall before a packed house of 2,306 fans. Karl Gotch made an  appearance at the show and announced that he was staying in Japan for  two months to train the young wrestlers for this group, which got the  biggest pop of the night. Results of the show was Wellington Wilkins Jr.  beat Yasuhiro Fuke in 12:00 with a leg split submission, Fujiwara made  Jumbo Barretta submit to a toe hold in 7:12, Minoru Suzuki went to a 30  minute time limit draw with Wayne Shamrock (Vince Tirelli) and the main  event saw Masaharu Funaki make Bart Vail sibmit in 17:36 to a chicken  wing cross face.

*Archives of this series can be found at *

Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.2 "Takada Rising"

With the inaugural PWFG event behind us, we now move on to the first offering from UWFI, and straightaway we can see the difference in essence between these two promotions. While PWFG was about presenting a product heavy on realism, and lacking in entertainment value, we see no such qualms here. In fact, this is the exact opposite approach: Entertainment First!

Yes, this is much stiffer than your standard pro wrestling fare, but we will see that entertainment is the foremost concern here. While this was definitely the flashiest/least realistic of the shoot style promotions, it was by far the most important in the evolution of mma, thanks to it's leader Nobuhiko Takada

We can all laugh now, with the benefit of hindsight, (after all we've all seen this man completely embarrass himself in an mma ring,) but at this point in time he was THE STAR. Aikira Maeda was already towards the end of his career, (and towards the end of having a usable knee), Fujiwara was never going to be more than a cult figure, and while Shooto was producing great fighters, even in 1991, it wasn't going to produce any well known stars.

Yes, Takada was the face of "Real" fighting in this era, at least until Yoji Anjoh ruined everything and issued a challenge to Rickson Gracie that he had no chance of backing up, (more on that later of course).

We now find ourselves, once again, at the infamous Korakuen Hall, home of all things mma and wrestling in Japan. We are treated with the best theme song to ever come out of Japan, (the UWF theme of course!), and no Japanese event would be complete without the entire card of wrestlers coming out to the ring to be introduced to their enamored public. Right away we see a big contrast with the production values of this and the PWFG, whereas both used a fairly small venue in the Korakuen hall, this has the feel and presentation of a big event, while the PWFG felt like it had three hours to spare in a high school gymnasium.

Random Worker...hoping this will all pay off one day.

We are now treated to an introduction to the rules, courtesy of two random hands, that were probably fetching Gatorade and towels just 20 mins prior. Still, thanks to their sincere efforts, we learn that the UWFI will not be home to such tomfoolery as, headbutts, elbows, kicks to the head of a downed opponent, and head stomps. The thirst for Pride rules has not quite caught on yet, it seems.

After that's all done we get a couple of interviews, and an introduction to one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time, and a very solid, underrated, mma fighter, in Kiyoshi Tamura. Who was by far the better pro wrestler compared to Sakaraba, and IMO, a better overall mma fighter than Sakaraba as well, although that opinion might get me tarred and feathered in these parts. Really, his only downfall was that he seemingly had the personality of wet bread, whereas Sakaraba was always humorous and engaging.

Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Masahito Kakihara

Things start off quick with Tamura and Kakihara feeling each other out, and it's not long before Kakihara lays in a very nice, and stiff combination of palm strikes to Tamura, who instantly shoots in as a response. Kakihara pulls guard, while attempting a guillotine choke, but Tamura quickly passes guard, and goes to a side mount, and wastes no time attempting an armbar.

The armbar attempt didn't work, so after being stood back up by the ref, Kakihara goes right back into some suprisingly crisp striking, in which Tamura shoots in again, after eating a palm.

So we are already seeing a nice match that establishes Tamura as the better grappler, vs Kakihara, as the superior striker. Where Pwfg started things off with a very realistic, albeit dry, opening, we are instantly getting a highly entertaining bout, that must have played very well to a naive audience that didn't yet know what a shoot really looked like.

The seesaw battle continued for the duration of the match until Tamura was able to secure an ankle lock. The match was always fast paced, and very stiff. In fact this was much stiffer than I expected it to be. It also contained lots of beautiful Tachi-waza from Tamura. While it being a work is no question, this was a very entertaining match, and a great way to kick this promotion off.

In the ankle is safe.

Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano vs. Yoji Anjo & Yuko Miyato

Yamazaki  was a wonderful pro wrestler that never really became the star that he  should have. He was one of the very first of the shoot-style guys to  really incorporate a lot of feints and parrying into his style, and  always made his opponent work for their offense, as opposed to the usual  pro wrestling, "I'm just going to stand here and let you do what ever  you want," style.

Yoji Anjo is  familer with many of you, for his many embarassing forays into MMA, but  truthfully he was a great pro wrestler, and had some legit fighting  skills. He had a background in Judo, and Muay Thai, and was considered  by the rest of his UWF alum to be the best shooter they had, (hence his  going to Los Angeles to challenge Rickson Gracie), he also had cardio  for days, as he seemed to prefer long matches, and never showed any  signs of gassing out.

This being a  tag-team match already strains credulity in and of itself, and also  shows that this promotion was again, the most rooted in standard pro  wrestling, as compared to the other main shoot leagues at the time.  Rings, probably, never would have even considered putting up a tag team  match, yet here we are. To be fair, this match was highly entertaining,  but really...  will just feel like stiff pro wrestling to a modern  audience.   Anjo & Miyato were the winners via KO at 22:57.

Nobuhiko Takada vs Tom Burton

Tom Burton was a Journeyman Pro Wrestler  having worked for various American promotions, (including the Wwf),  before really finding a bit of a home in Japan. His greatest  accomplishment was perhaps a non-title victory via knockout, against  Kazushi Sakaraba at the 1994 best of the world tournament. He  unfortunately passed away in 2010.

Here we are introduced to him, via a promo where he says that American  Wrestling is the best, and he is unimpressed with the Japanese  wrestlers, specifically Nobuhiko Takada. He comes across like a much  more genteel Mark Coleman, and like Coleman, will probably not be  allowed a victory over Takada, either.

Another Gaijin...ready for the woodchipper

Takada's double chin...cutting a promo.

Apparently Takada did not deem it necessary to get into fighting shape here, instead opting for a more muscular dad bod.

Both fighters  come out to a light muzak synth beat, that would be great in any  elevator from the 90s, and after the referee does his due diligence by  checking for foreign objects, we get underway.

The match  starts off with Burton executing some basic mat wrestling to good  effect, while Takada unsuccessfully tries to pepper Burton with high  kicks. After one such failed kick, Burton takes Takada down, and goes  for an awful looking armbar, (which is probably my biggest gripe against  Shoot-Style is the plethora of mediocre armbars), which is promply  dismissed, and turned into an ankle lock counter.

This forces a  rope escape, in which both fighters start with fifteen points, and with  each submission escape, or getting knocked down, they are deducted a  certain amount of points.

Burton then  takes him down again and tries to Americana his way to victory with all  the horse-meat rage he can muster, only to have it reversed on him,  leading to another rope escape.  Takada then throws some more useless  high kicks, which allow Burton to take him down again, and go back to  some basic mat work, before busting out the realest of real submissions:  the camel clutch!

This most  fearsome of holds causes Takada to take his first rope escape, in which  he promptly returns the favor with some kind of wrist-lock armbar  combination. He then starts to unload on Burton with thigh kicks, and  palm strikes, landing quite a few before being taken down to the mat  again. Takada then did something that I actually thought was a cool  technique, he kept hip escaping until he was able to torque himself into  the right angle to attempt a toe hold. This actually looked like  something that might be doable in a real Jiujitsu match, under the right  circumstances, and will probably be one of the few times I will witness  impressive waza from him.

They continue  in a back and forth fashion for a while, until Burton hits a couple of  nice suplexes on Takada, only to simply walk over and slap on the  laziest single leg Boston crabs I have ever witnessed.
 Not to be undone there, he then attempted a slightly less lazy double leg Boston crab, which of course gets a rope break.

Takada then decides his had enough, and after slapping his opponent a few times, executes a super flashy suplex, followed by a much better looking  Boston Crab, and wins the fight. This was a rather silly, but  entertaining match, that basically showed Takada in a nutshell. A  Charismatic Pro Wrestler that really gave the impression that he had no  idea how to really fight.

Conclusion:  Fujiwara and Aikira Maeda were both Pro Wrestlers that  never fought for real either, (to the best of my knowledge), but both at  least seemed like they had a good understanding of fighting, and could  probably handle themselves against most people that lacked serious  martial arts training. We could also see why this promotion was such a  hit in Japan until Takada and Anjo foolishly exposed themselves by  insisting on challenging Rickson Gracie, as it had undeniable  entertainment value. Like PWFG, the roster was a bit thin, but everyone  here could have a fun match, and it showed.

Here is the event in full:

In other news:

Rorion Gracie was working tirelessly to spread and market BJJ, here is a transcript from a letter he sent to Black Belt Magazine. It was published in the April 91 issue.: "What made Gracie Jujitsu the worlds most effective form of self defense was the strong determination of my father, Helio Gracie. to perfect a system that would satisfy his self defense needs in spite of his small stature. The simplicity and effectiveness that resulted from that quest have changed the lives of thousands.

Bigger and stronger opponents have provided a realistic and necessary testing ground for over half a century. The techniques that my brothers and I share have been successfully proven and we have absolute confidence in them. That's the only reason we teach them.

The Gracie challenge is a belief that we are indeed teaching the best system in the world. Consequently we have a moral responsibility to ourselves, as well as our students, to keep the Gracie Challenge standing. The fact is we are not cocky or boastful, like some jealous characters describe us, but instead we feel the need to alert people interested in finding out about a truly effective form of self-defense.

They can use the Gracie challenge to put pressure on their incompetent instructors, who should have the dignity and courage to admit how limited their systems really are. Unless, of course, those instructors want to step forward and prove us wrong. Nothing worries the rats more, than the cats meow."

*Vol.2 Continued*

What did Mike Lorefice (of fame!) have to say about this? Let's check in with him.

"Though UWF split into three different promotions, what you really ended up with is Maeda doing his own thing, Fujiwara maintaining his top proteges, and UWF just reopening under slightly different name with a style that was even friendlier to both pro wrestling fans and to top star Nobuhiko Takada. UWF-I obviously missed the name value of Maeda, who was the #1 player in the sport, as well as the promise of Funaki, who had quickly cracked into their top tier and had seemingly unlimited potential both as a fighter & as a draw, but there should never have been any real doubt that they would succeed, at least in the short term.

There was enough depth on the UWF-I roster with two of the UWF's three top fighters in Takada & Yamazaki, two of the most promising young fighters in Tamura & Kakihara, and you still had the solid, good working mainstays such as Anjo & Nakano that had made the UWF a promotion of hard workers that you watched from opening bout to final. That's not to say they didn't have issues though, as they were simply short a few wrestlers. While they could fill out the cards with random foreigners, these guys weren't even names in America much less Japan, and you couldn't just throw your every day stomper & eye gouger into this style, it was a paired down style, but that often made it tougher to do rather than easier. While the first year of PWFG was likely the best in the history of the promotion, the first year of UWF-I was rough because they neither did anything useful with their best worker, Yamazaki, nor built any other native into that #1B role he needed to fill if they wanted to actually promote big shows & keep fans showing up. Instead, they just had everyone toil in the midcard while Miyato rolled out Takada vs. some random foreigner on top, which was often really the worst situation for both Takada and the foreigner as the fans wouldn't take the opponent seriously & while Takada did flashy pro wrestling things extremely well, he wasn't the sort of highly adaptive opponent you wanted to be leading you through a "new" style.

Giving their brightest new lights the opportunity to usher in the new era of shootfighting was a great way to start the new promotion. Tamura and Kakihara did themselves and the promotion proud with a crisp and energetic contest. As is always the case with the early shoot style, the standup was a lot more credible than the mat because kickboxing and muay thai were well established sports, while judo and amateur wrestling had their place in the Olympics, but had never been deemed entertaining enough to be ticket selling sports, and thus the fighters were probably less encouraged to fully utilize what knowledge of them they had or really develop those styles. Instead, they just incorporated the spectacular end game of the throw rather than teaching the audience to be patient while they set one up. When all else failed, they could always get the bout to the canvas with a good old fashioned leg scissors, as Kakihara did here.

This was a good match but obviously nowhere near their best work. One has to keep in mind that Tamura was out from 10/25/89 when sloppy Maeda accidentally fractured his orbital with a knee until the final UWF show on 12/1/90. Then there were no shows for the next 6 months as everyone reorganized, so this was only the 7th match of Tamura's career, which still put him 2 ahead of Kakihara, who debuted on 8/13/90. What Kakihara had right from the outset was a very infective, wild passion. He may not have been cut out for real fighting, but if he were, he would have been one of those high risk all action fan favorite fighters who goes for bonuses and finishes, one way or the other, rather than just trying to win safe. Kakihara certainly had his routine, but he may have been the only wrestler that, no matter how many times you saw him engage in those rapid fire palm barrages or wild kicks, you still felt his match was legitimately getting a bit out of control. Tamura was a good compliment to him because he could ground him just enough that they could strike a balance between an out and out highlight real and a technical fight.

22 years before Scott Smith failed to become one half of MMA's first tag team champions in Gladiator Challenge, UWF-I debuted the doubles style. While tag team wrestling obviously differentiated them from their rival shoot leagues, it mainly just made the promotion seem that much more like the plethora of rival pro wrestling leagues, with the whole ring position & exchange game largely just being a credibility straining distraction. There's just an odd tension when the goal is sort of to get on top of your opponent, except since there's no real ground control you'll lose that position and be in danger of submitting almost as fast as you gain it, and then wish you were standing so you could make the tag. Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano vs. Yoji Anjo & Yuko Miyato otherwise sounds good on paper, as none of these four are less than good workers, but while not dull, it never seemed like anyone's match or found its rhythm. Miyato was a much better wrestler than booker, and you already saw things going greatly awry as instead of Yamazaki being set up to finally getting his wins over Takada so they'd have two main stars and a lights out main event program, Yamazaki, who basically only lost to Maeda & Takada in UWF, was already jobbing to a perpetual midcarder in Anjo. Having an upset on the first show to shake up the old pecking order & establish new challengers is not a bad idea, but Anjo proceeded to lose to Nakano on the next show, and went on to post a whopping 1-5 record in singles that year.

Having grown up a dedicated daily viewer of GWF on ESPN despite it pretty much only being good for the Lightning Kid vs. Jerry Lynn or Chaz Taylor matches in the early stages of the promotion, I was shocked to learn that the "brother" of Mike "I'm Not Crazy" Davis headlined the first UWF-I show, and was considered a serious tough guy in Japan. Burton was an amateur wrestler who was trained professionally by 2-time Olympic wrestler Brad Rheingans. His background allowed him to just be thrust into a UWF-I match, but it's likely he was the only fighter on the show with legitimate training in the discipline, so it didn't really help him as much as newer fight fans who are used to wrestling being the prominant discipline in real fighting would suspect. This match was okay, definitely better on paper than in actuality as the strategy of Burton controlling by grounding Takada but Takada thrilling the crowd with a flashy flurry of kicks when he could get back to his feet was sound, but the work was just so loose and no one took Burton the least bit seriously. Takada gave Burton a lot of control time, but there isn't much drama when one guy is basically toying with the other and will win when they got bored."

And we must also see what Dave Meltzer had to say about this as well...."The April issue of Kung Fu magazine has a story about former wrestling great Satoru Sayama's attempt to start his own sport called "Shooting." Sayama's sport, which according to those who have seen it, is legitimate in that the foes don't work with one another, combines punching, kicking, wrestling and judo throws and wrestling submission holds. The match can end with a knockout coming from a throw punch or kick or a submission coming from a wrestling hold. The concept is to employ all the martial arts into a competitive sport situation. There are now two martial arts schools in Southern California that teach Sayama's shooting as a competitive sport.

Nobuhiko Takada's UWFI had a press conference on Friday, {5-1-91} to announce the debut card in two weeks. Both Yoshiaki Fujiwara (PWF head man) and Seiji Sakaguchi (New Japan vice president) sent flowers to the press ceremony, which had several famous sumo wrestlers including a Grand Champion in attendance. Naoki Sano was also at the party and challenged Takada to a match in the future. This makes it appear that SWS is going to have a loose affiliation with Takada's group as well.

The next two weeks will be very interesting because all three versions of the formerly red-hot UWF promotion have cards. Nobuhiko Takada's UWFI debuts on Friday night in Korakuen Hall and all 2,000 tickets were sold out within 15 minutes of them going on sale weeks ago. Akira Maeda's "Rings" debuts the next night at the 17,000-seat Yokohama Arena. I've heard tickets are selling for this show, but as of a few days ago, there were still ringside tickets remaining so this isn't the "hot" ticket Maeda once was. In addition, the PWF (Pro Wrestling Fujiwara-group) runs Korakuen Hall on 5/16.

The big news this week was the debut of Nobuhiko Takada and Akira Maeda's new promotions. Takada's group debuted before a sellout 2,300 fans at Korakuen Hall on 5/10, with all tickets sold out in something like 15 minutes the first day they went on sale. The group, called UWF International or UWFI for short, is the closest thing to the old UWF which had a two-year run as the hottest promotion in the world before fizzling out as shooting stars are wanton to do because of problems between Maeda and office boss Shinji Jin.

The show wasn't really very good, but what remains of the legion of UWF fans were there and felt good about being there. Takada grabbed the house mic before the show and said the group was the only one left "with the feeling of the UWF" which got a big pop. The card itself consisted of three matches, a prelim match between Masato Kakihara and Kiyoshi Tamura, won by Tamura. Then came a "doubles" match (tag team) with Shigeo Miyato & Yoji Anjyo beating Kazuo Yamazaki & Tatsuo Nakano with the surprise finish of Yamazaki doing the job when he was knocked out by a series of kicks from both guys in 23 minutes.

This was different from the old UWF, which didn't have any tag matches. The rule were that a guy couldn't tag out while in a submission hold unless he got to the ropes or was able to break the hold. It was different since Yamazaki is really the group's second biggest name and he did the job. The main event saw Takada beat Tom Burton (who worked as a Dirty White Boy in Memphis some months back) with a boston crab in 10:46. The match was disappointing to most because Burton really had no idea of the style and Takada was giving him lots of openings and trying to carry him for ten minutes but the fans saw it as Takada could unload on him and beat him at anytime.

At the 10 minute call, Takada seemingly proved them right because he got a quick win at that point. After the match in the press conference Takada apologized and said "my opponent was poor." They also confused fans by instituting new rules. On the scoreboard, each man starts the match with 15 points. You lose three points every time you go to the ropes to break a hold, and lose one point every time you get suplexed. The match can end with a pinfall (which almost will never happen), a submission (usual finish), knockout, five knockdowns or if a man's point total goes down to zero.

When the press asked Takada after the show what his goal a year from now was, he said honestly, "I'm only thinking about one card at a time." In the sense that they drew the full house so easily, the card was a financial success. But the truth is, it has been so long since there has been a "real" UWF show in Tokyo, which was the home base of the UWF, that the first house was easy. Whether this group, with only eight wrestlers and access to only no-name Americans can book shows that will draw over the long haul or be able to draw outside of Tokyo is another story. The next show is 6/6 at Korakuen Hall with Takada vs. J.T. Southern on top."

*Archives of this series can be found at *

Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.3 "Enter the Astral World"


It's that time once again, as we pick up where we left off, lonely sojourners on a road less traveled. Yes, the Kakutogi highway is beckoning us once more, and we thus must answer the call. When we last convened, we had just witnessed a truly cataclysmic moment in the space time continuum, as the forces that kept the UWF together fractured into several directions and are each spiraling towards their own path to nobility.

Yes, we all witnessed the birth of the PWFG and the UWFI, and now we get to behold the beginning of what is in this humble scribe's opinion, the finest of the Pre/Quasi Shoot Leagues: Fighting Network Rings.

While Nobuhiko Takada's effect on the sport of MMA is undeniable (due to his shenanigans with Rickson Gracie being the impetus behind Pride FC) the total influence that Rings had on what is now MMA, is probably far deeper than most casual observers have initially perceived.

As we continue to go through this series, we will see events unfold, stars rise, and narratives form, from the most unlikely of sources. An outfit that seemingly would never be more than a pro wrestling farce, wound up evolving to be a home for many of the personalities that created an impact that's still felt to this day. For example, where would modern MMA be without Frank Shamrock meeting Maurice Smith, and Tsyoshi Kohsaka, thus starting one of the most bleeding edge teams of it's day and becoming the prototype of what a modern mixed martial artist should be? What would our current landscape look like today if Fedor Emelianenko (under the watchful tutelage of Volk Han and the rest of the Russian Top Team) didn't have a place to hone his brutal craft, in his formative years? How would current striking theory look like without all the various Dutch/European kickboxers that were closely connected to Rings, and had a training system/platform to hone their abilities, in-between local events, and K1 competitions?

Hopefully, all these, and many more questions will be answered, examined, and discussed as we continue along the Kakutogi Road.....

Date: 5-11-91

Location: Yokohama Japan (Yokohama Arena)

11,000 Estimated in attendance.

We are at first greeted to a plug from the WOWWOW network, while a hard drum machine beat (that wouldn't be out of place on an early Boogie Down Productions album), plays in the background. We are then introduced to a montage of the bouts to come. (FIRE, WATER, EARTH, and UNIVERSE respectfully). Thankfully Akira Maeda quickly shows up in a suit, otherwise I may have accidently thought I was relapsing into my old Captain Planet addiction (no I shouldn't have to apologize for wanting a green mullet, it's totally ok).

After some routine pleasantries we are greeted to prior footage of Judo Ace Chris Dolman giving an exhibition with Dick Virj (who as legend has it once gave 6x time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates a stiff beating for organizing a bodybuilding competition in the Netherlands without "permission.")

"Cold as Ice" by Foreigner blasts through the speakers during this display, and yes, it's every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. After this, Maeda starts kicking some pads while a lowly (and surely underpaid) lackey holds them in fear and trepidation. Dolman beholds all of this in disgust, knowing that surely such an underling isn't worthy of Akira's ministrations.

Only Dolman was found worthy....

Fast forward to present: We are now moving to the opening ceremonies of this event, which has the entire ensemble coming to the ring to the Hip-Hop version of the Rings Theme. This manages to be the very quintessence of 90s positive rap spectrum, which makes me wonder if Maeda spent his free time proudly wearing Cross Colours t-shirts, while breaking out his vinyl copy of De La Soul's 3 feet high and rising.

After this tasteful foray, we are now ready for business, in this case: Herman Renting vs Pieter Smit. Renting was a Dutch heavyweight fighter, who is perhaps best known for losing to Akira Shoji via Armbar at Pride FC #11. (There is of course no shame in that, as last I heard Shoji is forever eligible for Grand Cordon status, due to his being considered a national treasure in Japan.)

Back to the action: Things are underway, and after both fighters give off some weak striking attempts, Renting get the first takedown with an awfully genteel throw (where he just sorts of lifts his opponent with no resistance) that immediately shows the worked nature of this bout. The fight is a very grappling heavy affair, with a lot of position changes, and leg lock attempts, but it's readily apparent that they really haven't figured out this yet. Compared to standard pro wrestling of the day, it's amazing, but coming to this after witnessing the debuts of PWFG and UWFI, we see that it may take some time for this outfit to really find it's tone, as the competitors so far seem too unsure of exactly how stiff they need to be when they strike, and change their positions way too often on the ground. This has the effect of neither having the dry realism of PWFG or the high-octane fun of UWFI, and kind of lands somewhere in the middle of the two. This match was mostly a meandering affair as the competitors spend most of the time playing footsie. The two redeeming takeaways are the tachi-waza of Peter Smit (he hit a couple of nice Harai-Goshi throws) and the finish. After a rather sloppy armbar attempt, Smit hits an Omoplata/straight armbar variation, which would probably make this the first appearance of such a submission in the shoot- spectrum.

Next up is Willie Peeters vs Marcell Haarmans in the WATER BOUT

Willie Peeters, who in later years will be known for his cheating antics, and steroid assisted physique, is looking surprisingly fresh-faced and horsemeat free here. He faces off against Marcell Haarmans, who still remains a mystery to me. Th action starts off with a couple of stiff knees from Peeters, who immediately goes for a hip throw, only to fail, and get deflected into a very nasty looking Bully Choke (think of how Carlos Newton beautifully finished off Pat Miletech at UFC 31). This is already leagues better than the last match, and is making me wonder if this card is about to turn around from its lackluster first match. Peeters manages to explode and twist out of the chocke and answered with a very stiff elbow to his downed opponents' midsection. This is an odd sight, as Rings become notorious for not allowing any striking whatsoever on the ground, but apparently that rule hasn't gone into effect, as of yet.

Peeters kicks his downed opponent some more, before the ref intervenes and allows Harrmans to stand up. They engage in a clinch and trade some hard knees, before Petters executes a very explosive headlock takedown, which leads to Haarmans taking a rope escape, and both getting stood back up. Peeters then channels his inner Shane Douglas with a belly-to-belly suplex that sees its momentum quickly reversed by Haarmans and causes Peeters to fail like a fish which grants him a break from the ref (without having to use a rope escape). After some terse striking exchanges, Haarmans catches one of Peeters kicks, and makes him pay by taking him down and doing what any self-respecting wrestler would do...assault his opponent with a single-leg Boston Crab! This most fearsome of submissions costs Peeters his first rope escape, and perhaps his dignity. They exchange in more striking which continues to see Peeters land a lot of stiff shots, even while his opponent is on the ground. The back and forth continues until Peeters wins with what appears to be a very stiff high kick to his opponents head.

While this match is clearly a work, and the kick did seem to be the intended finish, it does seem like Peeters is prone to taking some liberties with how hard he has been hitting. I'm beginning to think the stiffness just stems from Petters being a jerk (which we will see much more of in his actual shoot career).

This was a fun match, perhaps due to Peeters unprofessional antics, but was still a nice change from the first bout.

Now he have the EARTH BOUT, which starts off with a rather dapper Dolman, saying that no American professional wrestler wants anything to do with Kazmaier, apparently to show us that only he has the requisite courage to face such a monstrosity of a man. Kazmaier was a best known for his achievements in Powerlifting and Strong Man competitions, but he tried his hand at pro wrestling in the late 80s/early 90s, his most notable success being a short stint in WCW in late 91, in which he chased Lex Lugar for the U.S. Heavyweight title.

This bout will be seven 3-minute rounds, as opposed to 1 30-minute match, perhaps owing to Kazmaier's cardiovascular limitations. Round one was fairly uneventful, outside of a nice hip throw from Dolmamn. Dolman's credentials were never in doubt as he was a multiple champion in both Sambo and Judo, but even at this early stage, he was well past his prime, and moves like molasses. Things picked up a bit in round 2, in which Kazmaier went into full Zangief mode, and started throwing some super-slow, super-heavy hands, and was able to force a knockdown after a gut shot to Dolman. The action proceeds a brisk brisk as these two can move, and the round ends with Kazmaier in the middle of trying to neck crank/choke Dolman into submission.

Nothing interesting happened in rounds 3&4, and all were thankful in round 5 when Dolman ended this tripe with an armbar. The finish was actually neat, as Kazmaier tried a modified powerbomb to get out of it, but Dolman held on before eventually securing the submission.

Ugh. Hopefully the UNIVERSE BOUT will cleanse our palate, and take us all into the shoot-stratosphere that we so long to abide in.

First, we get Dick Virj who looks like he would have been an excellent ending boss to a Double Dragon game, saying things in Dutch, that I do not comprehend. Maeda on the other hand goes out before the match, and finds another underpaid young man, and proceeds to kick him, which was always my preferred method of warming up. They come out to the ring, and if we learn nothing else today, at least we go away knowing that Maeda was OVER. The crowd is totally into this/him, and it probably shows us that Maeda was important to MMA history, if nothing else, then by his simply existing, as he was the de facto reason this promotion existed, and got any attention at all, let alone lucrative tv contracts.

The match is now underway, and this will be 1 round with a 45 min time limit. (Which is hysterical as neither man could probably put in half that time.) The match gets underway after an intense staredown, and we're off. Maeda feels out Virj with a few kicks before taking him down, and attempting an Armbar, which Virj escapes. They then proceed to slug it out, with Maeda actually taking some rather stiff kicks from Virj. It would appear that Maeda is really wanting to put this show over and is willing to take some punishment as a result.

The fight is well paced, with plenty of back and forth striking action, and when it did hit the ground, they didn't spend all day looking for a reverse toe hold but moved things at a fast clip. The match ends with Maeda catching a kick and doing the only thing that one would do in such a situation, breaking out the single-leg Boston Crab, and securing the win.

What's the takeaway here? This show (other than the surprisingly entertaining last match) was pretty weak sauce, as much as that pains me to say it. Maeda has definitely nailed the best presentation as in terms of presenting it as a legitimate sporting contest, with the international flavor, and using real martial artists, instead of random jobbers from the most obscure corners of American professional wrestling circles, but the actual execution is lacking. It's to be expected though, as they are in a position to be trailblazers, they will of course have some growing pains to try and figure out what they want to be. The most fascinating thing about all of this, is to know that they eventually morph into a full blown MMA promotion, and we are ever so fortunate to be able to take part in the journey.

Here is the event in its entirety:


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