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Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.50 "The Wild Wild West"

Discussion in 'Worldwide MMA Discussion' started by Mbetz1981, Nov 24, 2021 at 7:47 AM.

  1. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    *Special Thanks to John Krummel for his help in translation. Also, Mike Lorefice (of MMA/Puroresu mega-center quebrada.net) will have his comments be preceded by his initials. *

    MMA in 1992 was the wild west. A motley crew of misfits were seeking a new home in the uncharted combat-sport frontiers, unaware of just how revolutionary a task they were undertaking. There are many pioneers from this era, some celebrated, and some still in unsung obscurity, but one man was so groundbreaking that he manged to be a key figure in the early years of two different sports. (Kickboxing and MMA.)

    It’s not often that a man has an opportunity to find himself a legend in more than one sport or endeavor, although several notable personalities have tried over the years. Yes, athletes like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are some of the rarefied few that can claim high-level performances in more than one pro sport, but not even they can claim to have completely changed the history of their secondary vocations, especially at the age of 35.

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    Enter Maurice Smith: A fighter so legendary that he not only helped pioneer the fledgling sport of American Kickboxing but gave a performance so iconic, so out of the realm of what was perceived to be possible, that he forever changed the course of American MMA. (With his incredible win over Mark Coleman at UFC 17, which we’ll cover in greater detail in a future column). However, his trailblazing efforts in the late 90s probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t hooked up with the 2nd incarnation of the UWF, and most certainly couldn’t have been possible without his subsequent time in Pancrase.

    Necessity is the mother of invention, and to fully appreciate how these events chained together, one must first understand that the American kickboxing scene of the 80s/90s was the wild west. Yes, you had to be a mercenary in those days to have any hope of making money in a combat sport not named boxing. Maurice Smith was one such example, a native of Seattle Washington, who like the infamous Don “The Dragon” Wilson before him, would fight just about anywhere there was a paycheck, regardless of the rules. Most American kickboxers of that era were leery of trying their hand at Thai or “International Rules” due to the proliferation of kicks below the waist in those styled events, but Maurice’s quest to make a decent dollar led him to competitions around the world. Many of his adventures wound up taking place in Japan, where he was a regular fixture during the late 80s for the All-Japan Kickboxing promotion. Having become a popular figure there, it was only natural that when the Newborn UWF was going through their spree of hosting fake mixed matches between Boxer/Wrestler, that Smith’s name would be eventually considered.

    The day when Smith would get his first taste of mixed fighting occurred in November of 1989 when he was slated to face Masakatsu Funaki for the NEWBORN UWF. However, Funaki injured himself before the event took place and was replaced by Minoru Suzuki. (We’ll cover this in more detail later in this column). Fast-forward to now, 10-4-92, and the PWFG is betting big on that original marquee making a splash this time around, as they now have the daunting task of filling out the Tokyo Dome. So far, Fujiwara and Co. have been on the losing end of the recent wave of pro-boxer stunt casting that these shoot-style groups have been providing, with both their Roberto Duran and Don “Nakaya” Nielson outings having been failures. I suspect that three will be the winning number, however, as Maurice Smith vs. Masakatsu Funaki is a sure bet for a good time.

    ML: Smith got involved in so called mixed martial arts matches because real kickboxing didn’t pay well at the time compared to the much more popular fake pro wrestling, and these “mixed matches” were obviously all theory crafting that existed simply to prove that the fake pro wrestlers were “the true” dominant force in fighting. However, the amazing thing with Smith, just because of his age, skills, and perhaps yes the fact that he had been around both the real and the fake forms of combat, is that he was able to “reemerge” just a few short years later, at a time when it had seemingly been established that amateur wrestling and BJJ were the superior legitimate art forms, and prove the viability of kickboxing at the top level of the new sport of MMA.

    Promotional poster used for this event. Graciously granted to us from the W-Colosimo Archives.

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    Yuki Ishikawa vs. Ryushi Yanagisawa

    Fujiwara has his work cut out for him this time around as having to headline the Tokyo Dome is no mean feat, and honestly, his roster is too thin to be attempting this. Still, this isn’t an insurmountable task, but it does mean that everyone is going to have to bring 100% to the table if they’re going to succeed tonight. Unfortunately, this opening match was digested, so I don’t feel like I can fairly assess it, but I liked what I saw. It had the feel of a lot of the early Pancrase matches where both men were so equal on the mat that they negated each other, but they both gave a spirited and intense effort. Yanagisawa looked sharp on his feet and even punted Ishikawa in the face at one point, but Ishikawa was able to keep most of the fight in the horizontal sphere. I don’t like to rate digested matches, but this seemed like a solid opening, though some might find it dry.

    ML: The editing really took me by surprise, as all of the previous PWFG shows had every match complete from bell-to-bell, and now we get to theoretically the most important and sought out show in the history of the promotion, yet for some reason they not only don’t just make a double tape that they can charge doubled for, but they inexplicably release a single tape that is 15 or 20 minutes shorter than their usual release, rather than at least cramming everything they can into that 2 hours that are available to them. I really expected to like this match, but 30 minutes is just too long for almost anyone to be going in this style, especially rookies. The length, even though we only even saw 11 minutes, mostly just sucked the life out of that match, making what could have been interesting just drag on. What they did wasn’t bad by any means, and sometimes there was useful stuff, but there was just no sense of urgency, so while competent, it mostly just came off as lifeless. This is also sort of match were being a work hurts, as works aren’t necessarily that technically proficient, and are more about the end result, the submission attempt, whereas true grappling it’s more the art of the setup, doing all the little things that need to be done properly to get to the point where victory is a real possibility.

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    Joe Sorcoff (Joe Malenko) vs. Georgii Galdava

    Malenko is back! Just in time for a battle of the singlets with newcomer Georgii Galdava. When we last saw Galdava, he was tasked with finding a way to move the immovable object in Johnny Barrett, whereas Malenko had one of the most avant-garde matches in the history of shoot-style with Minoru Suzuki. While entertaining might be too strong a word to invoke here, I did find this to be an interesting look at how grappling looked in the pre-BJJ days. Galdava showed great Greco-Roman chops but didn’t seem to know how to apply a submission while Malenko kept going for basic Gotch-flavored attacks, but without any understanding of how to first secure the proper positioning. This match was short, and both men stayed very active, which kept it watchable, but this is the sort of thing that feels like it would be more appropriate to open up a small show. *3/4

    ML: Mostly Greco-Roman flavored grappling, but they kept moving and changing positions, so it didn’t stagnate. This may not have been the best technical match, but it was at least a very watchable exhibition that had more going on than the rest of the undercard. You would never have known that Joe Malenko was a great show style pro wrestler from this, as he kept it real to the point he was actually the less flashy of the two in this match

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    Naoki Sano vs. Jerry Flynn

    Sano is a most welcome addition to this evening’s festivities, and it’s a shame that it took a Dome show to get him back into the mix. However, this joy quickly turns to sorrow when we discover that this will be a rematch with Jerry Flynn. Flynn has been phoning it in for the last few months, although he had a decent match with Sano back in January. Sano opens things up with some crisp kicking which forces Flynn to become more lively than usual. After Flynn fired back some firepower of his own, it seemed that Sano didn’t want to engage in a footfighting war, so he took things to the mat. The canvas was where the majority of this fight stayed, with Sano showing a lot of intensity throughout. Like the first bout, this was also digested, but outside of the silly ending (a gut-wrench suplex followed by an Americana), it seemed like the most realistic match we’ve seen from Naoki. If that’s a good thing or not is open to debate, but I liked what I saw.

    ML: I am excited to see Sano back, but this is not the best matchup for him, as Flynn has such an obvious advantage in kickboxing that strategically it forces Sano to the mat, where he is obviously not in his most exciting. Of the few times we have had the opportunity to see Sano in PWFG, I don’t understand why, of all things, they are running a rematch of clearly his least interesting encounter. The result was to some extent more of the same, or in other words, there wasn’t really that much going on here, unfortunately. Flynn never really got going, and Sano never showed signs of what made him one of the most exciting shoot style workers in 1991. This match was somewhat different in that it was more balanced than their January match, but the simple, obvious stuff also produced a much better and more exciting match. This one just never really fired.



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    Thanks to the ongoing partnership between Fujiwara and the Acme Greco-Roman Emporium, we get another match featuring a random wrestler that knows how to rock a singlet. This battle was an interesting clash of styles between Vale’s faux-kickboxing and the power of the Grecian ancients that was better than I expected it to be. It wasn’t as intense a showing as last month due to the absence of Takahashi, but not a bad look under the proto-mma hood of yesteryear. Sadly, this was also digested, which is kryptonite to my ranking system

    ML: This actually wasn’t a terrible match, though at the same time, these two also didn’t work well together. The battle of the varying styles seemed to help Vale a little bit, as he was able to use leg kicks to fend Medvedev off, and the threat of the takedown kept him a bit more disciplined in his striking attack. On the other hand, Medvedev didn’t have any real striking defense, and was only going half-speed with his great wrestling, so he just wasn’t really effective anywhere. Overall, Vale was definitely less intolerable than usual, but Medvedev, who I think has actual potential, was not done any favors here.
     
  2. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    Volume 50 Continued....



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    Duane Koslowski vs. Naniev Oleg

    Naniev Oleg, is set to debut his great skills against one of the finest Greco-Roman wrestlers of his generation, Duane Koslowski. I know very little about Oleg, outside of his unfortunate demise via a head kick ko from Yoshihisa Yamamoto at a 1994 Rings event. Right away, Oleg displays what may be the most impressive double-leg entry yet witnessed in this project, all while making the manliest of fashion statements with his neon-pink attire. This was fast-paced and energetic but also felt like what would happen if you had two great wrestlers have a BJJ match, with no knowledge of BJJ. Ok, but with wrestling being the only major component, it felt incomplete. **

    ML: This wasn’t the best match, but I give both guys credit for trying to go beyond their wrestling base in using it to set up submissions, rather than just being content to just lay on one another like most of the early MMA wrestlers. The submission work was rather remedial, but at least they kept moving, and we’re trying to develop the match.

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    Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Zaour Otarorich

    The Eastern-Bloc amateur hour continues! This time with Fujiwara at the helm. This matchup may be the most incredulous pairing we’ve yet witnessed as Otarorich completely dwarfs Fujiwara and looks like he could be a more muscular body double for Dolph Lundgren. I suppose that Fujiwara played this as smartly as he could under the circumstances, allowing himself to be owned until the climactic finale where he snags the last-minute submission victory. Despite that faint praise, this was terrible for two reasons. Firstly, at any point, Zaour could have turned Fujiwara into a bloody smear anytime he wanted with a couple of hammer fists, and secondly, Fujiwara continued his trend of acting like a clown with all of his silly faces. If Fujiwara can’t take this seriously, neither can I. *

    ML: Chabadze was much a larger, and much younger. He totally dominated with his wrestling, as he should have. Fujiwara was his usual smug, smirky self despite Chabadze being able to take him down at will, and control him to the point Fujiwara was literally at his mercy. Fujiwara did nothing apart from randomly dropping Chabadze with an open hand. The match was rather uneventful, as Chabadze focused on ground control. At some point, Chabadze actually went for a leg submission, and Fujiwara tried to counter with his own leg lock, but Chabadze eventually just fell without Fujiwara ever having anything legitimate, and then just submitted without Fujiwara ever having an actual submission hold either, which just made a really unbelievable match that much more ridiculous. Chabadze was very imposing, and performed fairly well within the limited context of what he was asked to do, but Fujiwara didn’t offer much help, and ultimately just make him look silly. I know Chabadze is rather limited, but the Fujiwara of a decade ago would have actually added something to the mat portions, and seemed a dangerous hooker, rather than just a helpless old man. Bad match.

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    Kazuo (Yoshiki) Takahashi vs. Superman Sattasaba

    After that debacle, I’m excited for this next match, which I suspect will be a shoot. Takahashi must face off against a feared Thai kickboxer for the 1st time this year, and for this, we are pleased. (The last time he challenged himself in a mma fight against a kickboxer was in December/1991 at an All-Japan Kickboxing event).

    The fight starts, and we’re definitely in shoot territory as Takahashi takes a side stance and is very cautiously trying to set up a takedown. Superman was also playing it safe, but eventually, he threw the low-kick, and that’s all it took to entice Kazuo to take action. However, like the “Sultan of Slime” before him, Superman knows the importance of diving into the ropes for safety. After the break, Superman started to get a bit careless with his ring awareness and allowed himself to get too close to the center of the ring. That’s all it took for Takahashi to take him down and finish him. Short fight, but good to see a shoot.

    ML: This was a shoot, and Superman was not as smart as basically any of the other kickboxers we have seen, willingly engaging in the center of the ring rather than a hanging out on the ropes. Takahashi simply waited for his moment to counter by dropping into a takedown, and then Superman was way too far away to just grab the ropes like the usual kickboxers, resulting in the quick submission.

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    Ken Shamrock vs. Don “Nakaya” Nielson

    Two shoots in a row! One has to wonder if throwing Nielsen into the Shamrock woodchipper was payback for his messing up what was supposed to be a worked victory for Fujiwara back in May (see column #35 for more details). Also, this match is worth noting due to it being incorrectly listed in some circles of the internet as the first shoot in the PWFG, and the pivotal moment that inspired Funaki and crew to pursue the glories of real fighting. Hopefully, these series of columns will show the errors of this and other commonly accepted myths. This fight was quick, as Shamrock wasted no time taking Nielsen down and choking him out. This quick squash surely had its intended effect of providing Nielsen the same torment and shame that Fujiwara had to have experienced five months prior. Super quick, but historically important. While this wasn’t the sole impetus behind Pancrase like some have stated, the crowd’s reaction likely helped reinforce the validity of what was stirring inside Funaki’s heart and continued to push the needle further into that realm.

    ML: Another shoot, and essentially the same story as the previous bout, with the kickboxer having less than no takedown defense. Neilsen was able to get to the ropes once, but Shamrock immediately took him down again, this time securing the choke in the center.

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    Minoru Suzuki vs. David Gobediishvili

    I can only hope that this will be the third shoot in a row, which if so, may bring us out of the doldrums of this evening. I’m ecstatic to report that dreams do come true, with this being our third legit offering and the first which was competitive. Suzuki’s wit and athleticism are what saved him from the giant Greco-Roman beast, as unlike most of his encounters leading up to this, Suzuki was getting completely manhandled in the wrestling dept. Suzuki kept getting deposited to the mat and probably would have been finished off if Gobediishvili had better submission skills. The closest David came was when he almost brute-forced his way into an arm triangle, but Suzuki was just too wily, too slippery, and would always find a way to either squirm his way under the rope for a break or manage to stand himself up. Eventually, Suzuki was able to transition his way to a rear-naked choke for the hard-fought victory.

    ML: The first two shoots were too short to actually be of interest beyond the novelty, but this was actually a pretty entertaining match. Gobejishvili was a far superior wrestler, but had no way to finish. Suzuki’s refusal to simply accept the bottom position was the game changer, squirming and scrambling until he eventually escaped. Suzuki’s athleticism and guile couldn’t overcome Gobejishvili’s superior strength and technique to avoid the takedowns, but combined with his speed, heart, and determination, he was at least able to avoid them being the usual death sentence. Suzuki was able to slow Gobejishvili down some in standup with his striking, and his submission technique was good enough that when he finally got a superior position, he was able to end it immediately rather than giving the opponent countless extra chances like Gobejishvili. I’m not sure this is what one could call good, but it’s at least worth watching.
     
  3. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    Volume 50 Continued....



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    Back in the younger days of my misspent youth, when I wasn’t scouring the globe for rare punk rock albums or relics of Italian trash-cinema, I could easily be found at the “Special Interest” section of my local video store seeking out new pro wrestling/UFC videotapes. Needless to say, when a copy of UFC 14 hit that dusty bottom shelf I quickly rented it and took it home. In those days Mark Coleman was in the midst of terrorizing the NHB world with his takedowns, headbutts, and dinabol-fueled interviews. While I’ve come to respect him a lot more in recent years, due to his work ethic and subsequently found humility, at the time I couldn’t stand him. Yes, I was hoping that someone, anyone, even the corn dog vendor, would beat him and silence anymore talk of American wrestling being the only way forward in this new sport. Sadly, because of my ignorance and the infancy of the internet, I was unaware of who Maurice Smith was and simply thought that this was yet another kickboxer that was going to get mauled in an epic display of roid-rage. I wasn’t the only one that was thinking this, as almost none of the active fans of that time had any hopes of Smith winning, either. I was absolutely delighted and shocked when I saw Smith use his cardio and an active guard to outlast the wrestler’s initial onslaught and take the victory. Many modern fans don’t understand this, but the general sentiment at the time was that the UFC was a grapplers game and that strikers had no chance. Smith proved the world wrong and opened a lot of eyes that day, and it probably never would have happened if it wasn’t for his time in the PWFG/UWF. (Which is what led to him being offered matches in Pancrase, training with Ken Shamrock, creating the Alliance with Frank Shamrock, etc.)

    Crazier still, was that this match between Funaki/Smith wasn’t even supposed to happen. Unlike their rivals in the UWF-I, who actually tried to get relevant boxers whose defeats would mean something, the PWFG was content with some old-fashioned lazy stunt casting. Yes, if the debacle with an out-of-shape Roberto Duran wasn’t enough, they were attempting to use this event to feed Tommy Morrison (of Rocky V fame) to Funaki. Thankfully, Morrison got an offer to fight George Foreman and wound up declining the PWFG’s invitation. If it wasn’t for Morrison not wanting to risk his body on some pro wrestling shenanigans, then the American MMA landscape might be very different today. At least it would have taken a lot longer for the American public to figure out the validity of high-level kickboxing combined with cardio and the ring savvy to make that approach work.

    The fight starts with Funaki trying to get inside the clinch range with Mo but eating jabs every time he gets close. This forces Funaki to try and resort to low kicks to push some offense through, but the experienced kickboxer that Smith is, checks them easily. Funaki’s only chance is to take Smith down, but I suspect that he’s avoiding that to try and give the fans their money’s worth. As a result of Funaki’s patience, Smith got a great round, and Funaki took some nasty shots to the midsection.

    Funaki finally pulled the trigger in round 2 with some double leg attempts, only to find that the momentum of those attacks kept forcing Smith into the safety of the ropes. This round was pure win for Maurice.

    Round 3 saw Funaki sneak a few palms strikes in but had to eat a lot of hard shots to his body. Smith isn’t trying to knock him out but isn’t pulling his punches either, so Funaki is earning his pay tonight.

    Round 4 sees Mo finally score a knockdown off a body blow.

    The crowd goes nuts in round 5 which prompts these two to start dialing it up. Funaki finally gets Smith in the center of the ring on a couple of occasions, but Smith’s reach is too great, and he managed to find safety in the ropes both times. This was declared a draw and was a lot of fun to end a somewhat blah evening.

    ML: A show saver. Smith fought in his usual kickboxing gloves, and Funaki mostly accomidated him in a striking match, which made for an entertaining contest, but at the same time was somewhat inexplicable from a strategic standpoint, especially with Smith likely being basically helpless on the ground due to the gloves. Smith gave a great performance here, really a natural in that he knew how to still fight like it was a real fight, using footwork, feints, and movement while landing very solidly, just not hard enough to actually KO Funaki. This was perhaps the most credible real fake work we have seen so far from a striker in a pro wrestling setting. Funaki is actually a very slick mover for a pro wrestler, and that combined with his quickness and ability to duck and dodge blows really helped him credibly hang with the kickboxing champion. Smith won the first round because it was entirely standing, and started landing more in the 2nd round, doing a nice job of utilizing body hooks, but Funaki answered him to some extent. Smith put Funaki down with a front kick at the 2nd round bell, but there was no count for whatever reason. Funaki finally tried for some takedowns in round 3, with a very exciting portion when he finally succeeded. Funaki nearly had a takedown a minute into the 4th, but Smith turned to land on top, and immediately grabbed the ropes as Funaki tried to sweep. Smith scored a knockdown soon after the restart. The 5th round was the best because Funaki was able to manage a bit more standing offense, which then helped open up the takedowns, including 3 in the closing minute. Smith would struggle mightily and dive to the ropes, as you always get with these matches, but the thing is this match wasn’t all about that and they mixed those frustrating failures with some takedowns in the center of the ring (thus Smith wasn’t portrayed as a guy that would lose immediately if he didn’t have the ropes to bail him out). Though no one really succeeded in any major techniques, the match was really good, a bit too much of a sparring feel, but a high workrate without the usual groan testing moments you get in these sort of contests. It was definitely more realistic than you’d expect, but Funaki could have used a near submission rope escape, which would have gotten a huge reaction, as ultimately he was largely owned by a superior standup fighter and would clearly have lost the decision badly had their been judges. ***1/2

    Conclusion: First the good news… this was a lot better than the last couple of PWFG events we witnessed. The bad news is that it still had more dry spots than a marathon of La Femme Nikita. I was very happy to see three shoots, even if only one of them was reasonably competitive and the main event was a lot of fun. This is an event that can be easily recommended on a historical level, but I couldn’t say that it’s entertaining enough to stand on its own merits.

    ML: For what we have been getting from PWFG this year, this was at least a more interesting show with a lot of new faces, hence new matches, and a PWFG match of the year candidate in the main event. For by far the biggest show in the history of the promotion, it was still rather lackluster, but in their defense that was partly because they boldly had 2 of their biggest stars, and 3 of their best workers in actual shoots. Overall, the show is definitely more interesting as a curiosity than any type of must see show, but that could be said for a lot of Dome shows. This really came out of nowhere, as PWFG had been very cautious & repetitive all year, and I at least commend their daring in somehow getting a supposed 40,000 fans to watch a quasi MMA type of event in 1992.

    *This entire event along with thousands of hours of other mma/kickboxing/wrestling/combat-sport footage can be found over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad *
     
  4. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    Volume 50 Continued...

    *In Other News*

    Our most excellent translator, John Krummel, was kind enough to look into this event and was able to find some interesting information about one of its participants (Don Nakaya Nielsen) from an interview he did right with a member of the Japanese press right before his death.

    Here are his translations/comments: “I just came across some interesting information on the Nielsen vs Maeda proto-mma fight in New Japan in the 1980s… This is from a Japanese youtube talking about the last interview of Nielsen with a Japanese press/journalist before he died and when asked about his fight with Maeda, whether it was a work or shoot… he said it was a business fight, that is, the ending was left undetermined, but he was told that if he wants to get paid he must not KO Maeda… Otherwise, it was not determined… He said that at one point early in the match his left jab did hit Maeda hard and almost KOd Maeda and he thought “oops!” and after that was more careful about not hitting him too hard. But the ending and winner were left undetermined, so it could have gone either way. As for the finish, he said that he tapped out because it did genuinely hurt him… Anyways, I thought it was interesting… This interview happened 30 years after the fight, but more recently Nielsen died in Thailand, after working as a chiropractor for a couple of decades and running his own practice after retiring from fighting.

    For Maeda vs Nielsen, it also seems that New Japan wasn’t too keen at the time on protecting Maeda, hence left the ending undetermined, because they wanted the Inoki vs Spinks fight on the same night to look better and Inoki himself look better with Inoki winning vs Spinks; and that was a time when among UWF guys who had returned to New Japan, Maeda was especially disliked by the New Japan wrestlers for being too stiff (hence later he gets fired for his stiff kick against Choshu)… they tried to get Andre the Giant to shoot on Maeda, to “teach him a lesson…” But the Inoki vs Spinks fight ended up being a disaster that the fans hated while the Maeda vs Nielsen became the crowd-pleasing fight of the night, and this pivoted Maeda into even greater popularity… While New Japan wasn’t sure what to do with Maeda because many of the wrestlers couldn’t trust him to work cooperatively (especially Inoki… they even set up the IWGP tournament at the time so that Inoki would not have to face Maeda in a singles match), all such controversies ended up raising Maeda’s popularity even more so that when he got fired he had no problems getting backers/sponsors to help him start the new UWF.

    In light of these comments, it seemed good to me to crack open the vaults here at Kakutogi HQ and examine this fight:

    Right away, there is a palpable tension in the air, and I’ve never seen Maeda look this pissed off. Interestingly, Karl Gotch is in Maeda’s corner tonight. If I hadn’t had just read Nielsen’s comments, I would never have guessed that he was trying to avoid knocking Maeda out. This battle felt like a shoot from the get-go, and it was easy to see where Nielsen almost knocked Maeda out with a left jab right down the pipe. He also came close to taking Maeda out a 2nd time with an upkick to the face (a la Renzo Gracie vs. Oleg Taktarov).

    Round 2 shows that Maeda discovered the perfect answer to the sidekick when he simply grabbed Nielsen’s lead leg and swept him by attacking his support leg. Nielsen seems to back away from using any more punches, opting to make this a kicking battle, which Maeda seems to be getting the better of. Maeda shifted to trying to take Nielsen down via a double-leg, but to my surprise, Nielsen had a great sprawl and was able to stuff his attempts. During the 2nd failed takedown, Maeda shifted off to Nielsen’s side and locked in a straight/Fujiwara armbar. If we discount the fact that Nielsen was trying his best (and hilariously almost didn’t succeed) to avoid knocking Maeda out, then I would decree this a shoot. Whatever it was, it was super entertaining, and it’s easy to see how Inoki got upstaged.

    This match took me off guard by really highlighting what a diverse martial artist Maeda was when he was healthy. He was outkicking Nielsen at times, and he had grappling tools at his disposal as well. It’s a shame that he didn’t shoot more, although it’s easy to understand why he didn’t as the success of RINGS was completely based around him, and I’m sure he couldn’t risk it (not to mention his bad knee).

    ML: This classic contest did a ton for Maeda, proving his ability in a shoot that blew Inoki’s “shoot” out of the water on a show that drew an amazing 28.9 prime time rating. Nielsen was at a decided disadvantage here in that he was both trying not to win because he wasn’t allowed to knock Maeda out, as well as, of course, trying not to lose, while Maeda presumably had free reign to do anything he wanted to win. Though this match is in the gray area due to promoters shenanigans, as so many matches that are considered to be completely legitimate really are (and lets not even talk about gambling…), they definitely were not faking what they were actually doing, so define it however you like. The important thing is it’s an awesome match with an amazing atmosphere. Maeda was incredibly over, and this had a ton of heat, with Nielsen doing a great job of playing charismatic heel in an arrogant, annoyingly overly self confident huge presence kind of manner. The intensity and ill will were off the charts, really taking things to the next level. Nielsen was so much quicker, more athletic, and flexible than when I’m used to seeing him 3 or 4 years later, at this point he’s much a lighter, and really has the speed to pull off some of these flashy movie kicks that he was trying. The problem for Nielsen was not so much that Maeda would punish him for his flashiness through return fire, but for instance, Nielsen has never been in a situation before where the opponent catches a high kick and drops down into a kneebar. Nielsen can do things that Maeda never sees in pro wrestling bout, for instance, one of his best techniques was kicking the body then following with a quick left straight to the face, which Maeda was never ready for, so conditioned to the pro wrestling world where even the “best” strikers are notorious for never using any actual striking combos unless it’s the same exact sequence in every match. The match was super exciting, largely because any mistake seemed crucial, with Nielsen, for instance, diving for the ropes with life or death urgency anytime it hit the mat. Nielsen had no real submission training/defense, so Maeda was almost immediately able to threaten with a variety of submissions anytime it hit the canvas. Maeda went all out to pounce on every opportunity to submit Nielsen, which in some sense annoyed the hell out of me because the thing that ruins his normal matches is that he just durdles around with no urgency on the mat, mostly just killing time. Mixed matches in New Japan have traditionally been horrible, so seeing something so competitive and exciting with this level of heat, drama, intensity, and excitement was more or less a revelation. I mean, sure Inoki vs. Willie Williams existed, but that was more great for Williams being an amazing athlete who was able to throw incredible karate at Inoki than for anything Inoki could must or the actual back & forth. Nielsen’s performance was perhaps not as good as Williams, but definitely among the best for a name from another sport coming into pro wrestling, and Maeda was definitely much better than Inoki, able to somewhat hold his own in standup, as well as find ways to get the fight to the mat, rather than just trying to squirm around on his butt to avoid the areas where he was at a disadvantage, and thus the fight in the process. This match had an amazing aura, but the actual action was also able to stand up on its own. There were a couple moments that particularly stood out, the round ending while Maeda had Neilson trapped in a wakigatame, and the finish because of Nielson’s dramatic pained expression. I am not certain I buy that the finish wasn’t pre-determined. On one hand, Nielsen did expend a ton of energy trying to kick his way out of the kneebar (rather than just get to the ropes as he had been doing all night), on the other hand, once Maeda switched to the half crab, Nielsen basically just gave up despite being incredibly close to the ropes (and now being in a far less dangerous hold). ****1/2

    *This amazing pre-UFC shoot between Don “Nakaya” Nielsen and Akira Maeda along with the infamous work-turned-shoot between Maeda and Andre the Giant can be found over at www.patreon.com/Kakutogiroad *
     
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  5. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    Volume 50 Continued...


    • Here are our translators comments about the aforementioned video*

    "Also here are my thoughts and transcriptions from the Maeda vmeo video you sent:

    Commentator on Maeda vs Andre: “The match between Andre and Maeda have been discussed by all sorts of people in media over the years. Maeda began the 1st UWF in April of 1984, but which had difficulties in both management and sales, and thus he returns to New Japan in December of 1985. And the Maeda vs Andre incident occurred in the IWGP Champion Series of April of that year. But ever since Andre has passed away, Maeda has refused to make any comments about the match. There’s a version of this match that was recorded live, but TV airing of it would have lowered Andre’s value since the match ends with Andre lying on his back to abandon the match. So that’s probably why the video was stored in the storage room of the TV station. It is evident, as anyone can see, that Andre from the very start of the match, had the intent to “break” Maeda, or injure him, or otherwise embarrass him. At that time, Maeda had been throwing hard kicks within New Japan to the faces of Inoki, Fujinami, Kimura, and so on, which from Andre’s perspective, were too stiff; and so many see this as Andre’s punishment of Maeda. And you could see Maeda’s confusion as well as his knack as a prowrestler as he tries to figure out what’s going on and what to do. That’s also a highlight of this match.”

    During the match, the TV commentator says that Andre had been saying that the UWF army [that was feuding with NJP within New Japan at the time] was annoying him… [who knows if this comment was an angle or shoot] and also that the kicks of UWF wrestlers for him are like flies and nothing more.

    My impressions: Andre’s full nelson looked painful… eventually Maeda, not knowing what to do, starts kicking Andre hard,… and then the boss of New Japan, Inoki comes out, and he looks pissed and Hoshino standing next to Inoki, who I think did the booking at that time, also looks pissed… at that point you could see Maeda talking to Hoshino and Inoki… (it seemed like he didn’t know what’s going on as Andre was not working with him so he’s telling them…) As a prowrestling match this is a disaster, but as a potential shoot, this is interesting to me… So then Inoki enters the ring, probably as a way to create some kind of prowrestling story/angle to the match., but is told to leave the ring by the ref… Then later you see Fujiwara outside of the ring threatening Andre’s manager Wakamatsu, probably also in an attempt to create some kind of story. You could also see Maeda talking to the referee, telling him Andre is not working with him…then it ends with chaos when Inoki enters the ring and the UWF guys enter the ring to face off Inoki… (unless they’re really pissed off at Inoki for allowing this or even ordering this to happen…) but as a work it doesn’t make much sense in the story line as Andre doesn’t fit into either side (UWF army vs NJP army)… and the ref stops the match as a “no contest”.

    Commentator on Maeda vs Nielson: “One unforgettable match in Maeda’s wrestling career is his fight with Don Nakaya Nielsen, which happenned his first year of returning to New Japan. After his fight with Andre in April 1986, the top 3 drawing stars of the promotion were Inoki, Fujinami, and Maeda. The match happened during that period. There is the scene towards the beginning where Maeda receives a straight punch to his face and loses consciousness [Maeda later stated he doesn’t remember that portion of the match]. Later when Maeda grabs Nielssen’s achiles tendon or knee, Nielsson feeling that he can break or dislocate his bone, kicks Maeda’s face really hard with his heel and tries to escape. This same movement happened many times, but the way he kicked Maeda looked very dangerous and if he had hit Maeda with those kicks, it’s certain Maeda face could have been fractured, and that made this a thrilling and exciting match that was clearly different from the previous mixed martial arts matches of Inoki in that you could see how they were experiencing the pain. Also Maeda received absolutely no knowledge of Nielson prior to the match to prepare himself. So it was a match where you could feel New Japan’s attempt to squash Maeda [intentionally not giving him any information about his opponent before the fight… also if this truly was a shoot without telling Maeda it would be a shoot (or at least a half shoot, since it seems they told Nielssen to not knock him out)]. Despite that, it had become one of the noteworthy memorable top fights that establishes Maeda’s nickname as kakuto-ō (“fighting king”) and his value… In that sense this match is very important.”

    My impessions: Wow, there’s Karl Gotch! Maeda is wearing a mouthpiece [which is different from normal prowreslting matches]… They said Nielssen was a student of Benny Urquidez. He’s hitting Maeda pretty hard, not just the one punch that hit him really hard but other ones too… And the way his trainer/second (Blinky Rodriguez, Benny’s brother-in-law (husband of Benny’s sister)) is talking to Nielssen, it does look like they were taking this fight seriously (even if Nielssen was told not to KO Maeda)… And Maeda does look like he’s seriously trying to get him in the arm submissions in (I think it’s round 3) and Neilssen desperately fighting to get out… All of this looks real (compared to Maeda’s UWF and Rings matches). Nielssen did hit Maeda pretty hard several times and if he was permitted he could have KO’s him perhaps… On the other hand Maeda’s sumissions (arm and leg locks) seemed like real attempts too…At first when I saw the finish earlier on Youtube, I thought the Boston Crab ending looked suspicious, but now watching the whole fight and how it happened, I think it could be real, as he was going for the achiles or heel lock at first, then slipped as Niellsen tried to escape, and then he caught the knee to lift into a Boston crab (and it’s happened even in MMA occasionally)… so it does look convincing now (and that’s also confirmed by what Nielssen said in that interview I told mentioend that the finish was unplanned). Karl Gotch looked pleased. (Also from what I read this match catapulted Maeda into even greater stardom and the contrast with the main event of that night, Inoki vs Leon Sphinx, which the audience evidently was very disappointed (which according to what I read had a lot to do with Sphinx’ bad performance…) was too clear. If the rumors that New Japan was trying to squash Maeda with this fight were true, it really backfired on them… "

    Kakutogi Rewind

    Also, now would be a great time to hop in the DeLorean and set the coordinates for 11-29-89 for a look at Maurice Smith vs. Minoru Suzuki. This fight took place at an interesting huge Tokyo Dome event that the Newborn UWF put out entitled U-Cosmos. This show was an intriguing time-capsule of proto-mma as the main theme of the night were mixed style matches, or mma matches if you prefer, but of course in a worked context. It was trying to set up the flavor that some of the early UFCs had, in that it was trying to present a style-vs-style match-up, but from today’s vantage point, it felt a lot like an early sketch of what RINGS format would later take on. An important note as we go into this, it has been reported in some corners that this was a shoot, which I highly doubt, but we will go into this viewing with our shoot-radars attuned for any abnormalities. Our good friend William Colosimo asked Maurice Smith, Minoru Suzuki, and Masakatsu Funaki (who was to be Smith’s original opponent) about the worked/shoot nature of this bout. Funaki told him it was worked, Smith told him it was real, and Suzuki refused to answer the question.

    Legendary Oklahoman fighter Dale “Apollo” Cook will be in Smith’s corner, which can only be a portent of future awesomeness. An injured Funaki, complete with a Mike Reno sweatband, will be in Suzuki’s corner, and it’s awesome to think that he will be doing the same thing for Ken Shamrock in four years at the inaugural UFC. Round 1 sees a great performance from Smith, who prevented Suzuki from just barging in with a takedown. Smith patiently engaged with Suzuki, firing off multiple kicks from the side-stance, but wasn’t reckless and timed his attacks well. There was a great moment where Smith killed Suzuki’s first double-leg attempt with a perfectly timed left hook. Later on, Suzuki eventually got Smith to the mat, but it was to no avail as Mo instantly tangled himself up into the ropes for an escape…

    Round 2 saw Suzuki get completely outclassed by Mo. He took plenty of unanswered punishment from Smith, and every one of his takedown attempts were stuffed by some nice sprawling technique.

    Suzuki gets his first takedown in round 3, where he winds up in Smith’s very primitive half-guard. It was nice to see that even at this early stage, Smith understood hip movement and sort-of-shrimped his way to the ropes for the break.

    Round 4 saw Suzuki take a lot of kicks before being finished with a stiff jab to the temple. This bout was almost all in Smith’s favor as Suzuki was only able to briefly get Mo to the mat. This was stiff, interesting, and a great historical artifact, but I’m thinking that it was worked. At least it seemed like Suzuki was around 85% of the edgy energy that we usually see from him in a shoot, but I don’t think the outcome would have changed even if this was a full-blown shoot. Having unlimited rope escapes between these two almost guarantees a victory for Smith. *** 3/4

    ML: Clearly a work, with a very low volume from both, instead focusing on using their strengths to threaten one another. This wasn’t a traditional “good match”, but it was certainly an interesting one that worked more because they were smart than because they were “exciting”. Even though it was light gym sparring, in a sense because they were so inactive, they were able to do a better job of building up the illusion of danger, and thus the anticipation for the big shots/takedown then if they actually let loose like we wanted them to. Suzuki’s nose being busted open early aided in the misconception they were conjuring. Suzuki worked from a side-stance, and largely focused on countering into a takedown, but would push forward with palm strikes or a a side kick now and then to keep Smith off him. He honestly wasn’t that competitive, which was to be expected given he was a 2nd year fighter going against a big name world kickboxing champion, he was simply enough of a threat that it wasn’t a given that he wouldn’t get a submission at some point. Smith wasn’t going to throw bad strikes, he was going to instead to show how he would do it if it were real, using the fake/feint then landing a gotcha body or leg shot that was at least crisp enough to be passable, but certainly no threat to knock Suzuki out or anything. Ironically, Smith’s knockout with a right straight was the least credible aspect of the entire fight, partially because Suzuki suddenly did some buffoonish overexaggerated pro wrestling selling. While this certainly isn’t the match you want to seek out from either of their careers, I think it worked for what it was, and they did a good enough job of making it a unique match that it is worth checking out. ***
    *The entire event which includes Maurice Smith vs. Minoru Suzuki can be seen along with gobs of other stuff over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad *
     
  6. Mbetz1981 Blue Belt

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    Our amazing list of pre-UFC shoots continues to grow with the addition of 4 more shoots! 3 from the 10-4-92 PWFG event, and one from the revelation of Akira Maeda vs Don "Nakaya" Nielsen being a shoot.(This list excludes any/all Shooto fights, as those were all-shoot.)

    Here is the latest list:

    Akira Maeda vs Don "Nakaya" Nielsen (A rare shoot/MMA fight on a NJPW card. Date was 10-9-86)

    Freek Hamakers vs. Charlie Lieveld (A Free-Fight that took place on 11-20-88 at a Dutch kickboxing event)

    Gerard Gordeau vs. Dick Veldhuis (A Free-Fight that took place on 2-19-89 at a Dutch kickboxing event)

    Yusuke Fuke vs. Lawi Napataya (PWFG 7-26-91)

    Minoru Suzuki vs Lawi Napataya (PWFG 8-23-91)

    Ken Shamrock vs Kazuo Takahashi (PWFG 11-3-91)

    Nobuaki Kakuda vs Herman Renting (RINGS 12-7-91)

    Gerard Gordeau vs. Mitsuya Nagai (RINGS 12-7-91)

    Minoru Suzuki vs Takaku Fuke (PWFG 1-15-92) This was a shoot, but there were no strikes. It was similar to a ADCC match.

    Billy Scott vs James Warring (UWFI 12-22-92)

    Nobuhiko Takada vs Trevor Brebick (UWFI 12-22-92)

    Mitsuya Nagai vs. Koichiro Kimura (RINGS 1-25-92)

    Nobuaki Kakuda vs Rob Kaman (Rings 1-25-92)

    Masaaki Satake vs Gerard Gordeau (Rings 1-25-92)

    Adam Watt vs. Hans Nyman (RINGS 3-5-92)

    Nobuaki Kakuda vs. Rudy Ewoldt (RINGS 3-5-92)

    Masaaki Satake vs. Fred Oosterom (RINGS 3-5-92)

    Gus Garcia va Richard Carle (PWFG 3-20-92)

    Ozzie Alvarez vs Pedro Goderich (PWFG 3-20-92)

    John Lana vs Herman Cicedo (PWFG 3-20-92)

    Pieter Smit vs. Mikoki Ichihara (Sediokaikan/RINGS 3-26-92)

    Herman Renting vs. Yoshinori Nishi (Sediokaikan/RINGS 3-26-92)

    Naoyuki Taira vs. Eric Edlenbos, (Sediokaikan/RINGS 3-26-92)

    Maurice Smith vs. Masaaki Satake (Sediokaikan/RINGS 3-26-92)

    Yoshinori Nishi vs Willie Peeters (RINGS 4-3-92)

    Kazuo Takahashi vs Yuki Ishikawa (PWFG 4-19-92)

    Kiyoshi Tamura vs Mathew Saad Mohammed (UWF-I 5-8-92)

    Minoru Suzuki vs Yuki Ishikawa (PWFG 6-25-92)

    Yoshinori Nishi vs Peter Dijkman (RINGS 6-25-92)

    Mitsuya Nagai vs Nobuaki Kakuda (RINGS 6-25-92)

    Naoyuki Taira vs Eric van der Hoeven (RINGS 6-25-92)

    Masaaki Satake vs Willie Peeters (RINGS 6-25-92)

    Nobuaki Kikuta vs. Yukihiro Takenam (RINGS 7-16-92)

    Chris Dolman vs Buzariashibili Ramaji (Rings 7-16-92)

    Masaaki Satake vs Peter Oele (RINGS 7-16-92)

    Yoshinori Nishi vs. Greg Douglas (Sediokaikan-Kakutogi-Olympic-II 7-30-92)

    Koichiro Kimura vs. Masayuki Naruse (RINGS 8-24-92)

    Kazuo (Yoshiki) Takahashi vs. Superman Sattasaba (PWFG 10-4-92)

    Ken Shamrock vs. Don “Nakaya” Nielson (PWFG 10-4-92)

    Minoru Suzuki vs. David Gobediishvili (PWFG 10-4-92)
     
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