Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol 1

I wish that the trend that Shooto and Shootboxing (which still does to this day) started in the 80s caught on here. What am I talking about, you ask? Well Spats of course! The mark of any shootist or shootboxer in the 80s/90s was a handy pair of grappling compression spats. I wish this was the hallmark of the American MMA fighter, as opposed to shouting things like, “Let me bang bro!” or affliction t-shirts.

Randy Couture wore them once in one of his very early UFC fights.

Of course by the time of sayama and billington , wool had long since been replaced with spandex and nylon, so their choice of attire was simply to convey the message that they were actual shootist

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Kakutogi Road Presents: Sayama’s Corner "The Story of Shooto Vol.12"

  • Note: This is a continuation of where we left of last time, as we continue to rappel the depths of all shoot-mysteries. In this case, as we forge ahead with our translation of “Shooting: The Technical Shooting Fight” from 1986.*

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Article 34: Interruption of the match: When the referee needs to interrupt the match to make a signal, he calls “stop,” steps between the two competitors, and with his hands separates them over one meter apart.

Article 35: Free position start: To restart the match from a free start position, the referee spreads his hands and arms to form a position and create a distance of over one meter between the competitors, then extends his right arm with the thumb pointing upwards at chest level and immediately lowers that hand while calling “start” to restart the match.

Article 36: Interruption of ground [grappling]: When the referee needs to interrupt the match on the ground to make a signal, he calls “stop,” and having deliberated whether to separate the competitors or to leave them as they are, and restarts the match with the call of “start” from the position prior to calling “stop.”

Article 37: Out of bounds: During the match when either competitor goes out of bounds, the referee points his hands in the direction of where the competitor went out of bounds and calls “out of bounds.”

Article 38: Caution: During the match, when a competitor is passive, the referee will interrupt the match and, restraining the passive competitor with his hand, calls “caution” while making a caution signal with his other hand.

Article 39: Guidance: During the match when a competitor commits a foul on a level requiring guidance, the referee interrupts the match and, restraining the competitor who committed the foul with his hand, calls “guidance” while making a guidance signal with his other hand.

Article 40: Warning: During the match when a competitor commits a foul on a level requiring a warning or committed fouls requiring guidance twice, the referee interrupts the match and, restraining the competitor who committed the foul with his hand, calls “warning” while making a warning signal with his other hand.

Article 41: Admonition: During the match when a competitor commits a foul on a level requiring an admonition or committed fouls requiring warning twice, the referee interrupts the match and, restraining the competitor who committed the foul with his hand, calls “admonition” while making an admonition signal with his other hand.

Article 42: Full point (Ippon) [decisive move]: When the match is settled with a decisive move by submission or knockout, or when the referee decides that the match can no longer be continued, he projects his right palm forward as if pushing downward and ends the match while calling “that’s it.” Immediately after that he raises his palm above chest level and thrust it toward the winning competitor.

Article 43: Decision: When there is no decisive win within the time limit, the three judges make a decision as to the winner, and in the case of a draw the matter is left to the referee.

Article 44: Method of decision: The method of decision is a 5-point standard deduction system counting equally the number of effective hits in striking, the number of effective standing techniques, and the number of effective ground techniques.

Article 45: Other ways of ending the match: When the match ends in other ways, the referee calls “that’s it” and after signaling the way of winning, he crosses his arms at chest level and calls “end.”

Article 46: End of match: When the winner of the match has been decided, the referee brings the competitor to the center position, positions him at the center zone, facing outwards, and once again officially declares the winner by raising the hand towards the winner.

Chapter 4: Officials/Staff:

Article 47: Official records committee: The official records committee records the result of the match in an official notebook and, taking the total [points] from the judges at the time of decision, swiftly gathers them.

Article 48: Time keeper: The time keeper keeps track of the match time and the [time] limit for ground positions. At the end of the match he signals this by blowing his whistle. For the limit for ground position, he counts [out loud], “ten,” “twenty,” and so on every ten seconds, and when the time limit is reached hits the [musical] triangle.

Chapter 5: Match format:

Article 49: Tournaments or leagues: Matches are done in either a tournament [elimination system] or league [round-robin] format.

Article 50: Classes: Matches are divided into each class by weight: Preshooting: under 58kgs, under 62kgs, under 66kgs, under 71kgs, under 77kgs, under 82kgs, under 88kgs, under 94kgs, under 100kgs, over 100kgs; Shooting: under 66kgs, under 75kgs, under 84kgs, under 93kgs, above 93kgs.

Article 51: Match duration: Ordinarily matches are from 3 minutes to 20 minutes, and in the case of a draw, an extension of 2 minutes to 10 minutes is added for two rounds.

Article 52: Rest period: 1) The rest time between matches for a single competitor should at least be 5 minutes and over. 2) Before the finals [of a tournament], the rest time should be at least 10 minutes and over.

Chapter 6: Winn/loss:

Article 53: Victory by ippon: Matches are for one fall and one “ippon” [decisive move] determines the winner.

Article 54: Victory by decision: In cases where there was no ippon within the limited time period and within the limited extension of the match, a [judges’] decision decides the winner. In the case of a draw, the referee makes the final decision.

Article 55: Standard of judgement: Number of effective hits in striking, number of effective stand-up techniques, and number of effective ground techniques.

Article 56: Down: When as a result of the opponent’s striking attack, a competitor touches the mat from his knee up, or when the strike was obviously effective but he has not completely fallen but is in a dangerous position, the referee calls this a [knock] down.

Article 57: Knockout: When as a result of a striking attack, the competitor is down for more than three seconds even if he hasn’t completely fallen and is in a dangerous position, the referee regards this as a submissive position and calls an ippon [decisive move].

Article 58: Submission: When as a result of a submission technique, the competitor “gives up” or the referee calls “that’s it,” this is a win by ippon.

Standing position out of bounds; ground position out of bounds

Previous Page Partially Translated

Article 59: Indication of surrender: The competitor must communicate clearly to the referee his will of surrender by saying, “I give up,” or by tapping the mat or opponent with his hand.

Article 60: Voicing surrender: During the match when caught by a submission hold or hook, if the competitor immediately utters a vocal sound, without any thought, even without the [recognized] indication of “giving up,” the referee will take this to mean surrender and counts it as ippon [full point].

Article 61: Referee’s decision: When a competitor is caught in a submission hold or hook but cannot make the indication of surrender or refuses to, or when driven to a dangerous position during the match by striking techniques, as a duty the referee can stop the match by uttering, “that’s it,” and decide on the winner.

Article 62: Fleeing: During the match if a competitor deliberately goes out of bounds, this will be regarded as abandoning the match and will signify a loss.

Article 63: Fleeing by U-turn: During the match if a competitor turns his back on his opponent and loses any will to fight, this will be regarded as abandoning the match and will signify a loss.

Article 64: Abandoning the match: During the match if a competitor abandons the match, it will be recognized as “abandoning the match” and will signify a loss.

Article 65: Doctor’s stoppage: During the match if a competitor gets injured and the judges decide he cannot continue the match, it will count as a loss for the injured competitor by “doctor’s stoppage.”

Case 1: Doctor’s call: During the match if a competitor gets injured, the judges can interrupt the match and have the certified doctor check the injury on the competitor to decide if the match can be continued or not.

Article 66: Injury: During the match if a competitor gets injured, the judges can decide the winner on the basis of the cause of the injury.

To Be Continued…

Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.40 "Tilting At Windmills"

Editors Note: Mike Lorefice (of MMA/Puroresu mega-center quebrada.net) will have his comments be preceded by his initials.

“Tilting at Windmills” is an English idiom that denotes attacking imaginary enemies, oftentimes from a foolish or romantic naivete. This expression is taken from the classic novel Don Quixote by Spanish author, Miguel de Cervantes. In this novel, a man named Alonso Quixano loses his mind from reading too many heroic romance books, and decides to become a knight in order to restore a more chivalrous spirit to his nation. As he goes about his quest, it’s quickly apparent that he is unwilling (or unable) to see the world for what it is and prefers living in his own illusion.

ML: “Destiny guides our fortunes more favorably than we could have expected. Look there, Sancho Panza, my friend, and see those thirty or so wild giants, with whom I intend to do battle and kill each and all of them, so with their stolen booty we can begin to enrich ourselves. This is nobel, righteous warfare, for it is wonderfully useful to God to have such an evil race wiped from the face of the earth."
“What giants?” Asked Sancho Panza.
“The ones you can see over there,” answered his master, “with the huge arms, some of which are very nearly two leagues long.”
“Now look, your grace,” said Sancho, “what you see over there aren’t giants, but windmills, and what seems to be arms are just their sails, that go around in the wind and turn the millstone.”
“Obviously,” replied Don Quijote, "you don’t know much about adventures.”

Sadly, there are many parallels between this masterpiece of Western literature and the tragic tale of the rise and fall of the UWF-I. Of all the now-defunct promotions that we’ve been covering in our regular columns, the UWF-I was the one that had the greatest chance of surviving to this present day, if not for their many avoidable follies. While you couldn’t reasonably attribute the collapse of any large entity to a mere single cause, it would be fair to say that the powers behind this outfit’s insistence on tilting at their own illusionary adversaries was their greatest hindrance.

The Legendary Lou Thesz

One of the more interesting things that we learned from our interview with UWF-I veteran, Mark Fleming, was how legendary wrestler and NWA icon, Lou Thesz, had come to have a falling out with this promotion. Thesz was one of the greatest pro wrestlers of all time and one of the last champions in its history to be touted more for his genuine wrestling ability than a flamboyant personality or colorful gimmick. By the time that the UWF imploded in late 1990, Thesz had been officially retired since 1979, and had become increasingly disillusioned with the direction that American pro wrestling had been taking in the last decade. When the UWF reopened in 1988, Thesz was hopeful that this would be the future of pro wrestling being taken seriously again, and even had plans of trying to get his protege Fleming a spot in the promotion.

Just when Thesz was working on such a plan, he was informed of the Newborn UWF’s serious financial problems and wisely reconsidered throwing his hat in with them. Instead, he sent Fleming to do a tour with New Japan, while he continued to bide his time. Once the UWF imploded and splintered into three separate leagues, management from the UWF-I contacted Thesz and wanted his full involvement. Thesz was happy to oblige, and committed himself to a full-throttled endorsement of this burgeoning organization. He went as far as loaning out his historic 1950’s NWA belt to help establish their credibility and also spent about one week a month in Japan training their talent in catch-wrestling. He also made various attempts to create interest in America by proposing UWF-I events to take place on U.S. soil, but that never reached fruition.

One of the major problems, however, was the animus that much of the roster and back-office had towards Antonio Inoki and NJPW. People like Yoji Anjo, Yuko Miyato, and others felt like they were held back during their tenures there and this drove much of their desire to be the top promotion. Also, much like the ingenious gentleman before him (Quixote), Takada struck out at his windmills by decrying NJPW and other promotions as fake, even going as far as to grandstand by calling out the champions of these outfits and issuing challenges. (In this case, Mitsuharu Misawa/AJPW, Masahiro Chono/NWA, and The Great Muta/NJPW, respectively).

Lou Thesz would try to convince them to be content being “something different” and not to try and play their game, but they wouldn’t listen, and a major part of their demise was the tons of money that were wasted on guys like Vader, trying to promote theatrical David vs Goliath narratives, instead of building up other members of their roster. Their grandiose pro-wrestling strategy worked well in the short term when they were able to afford guys like Vader, Albright, Kitao, etc, but once Vader became disillusioned with his already considerable pay, and bailed on them, it was all downhill from there. It wasn’t long after he left that Gary Albright bailed for the greener pastures of AJPW, and now they were left without any credible challengers to face Takada.

ML: The Vader/Takada series had run it’s course with Takada winning 2-1, leaving Takada with no challengers. Vader only lost the 2 singles matches to Takada, Takada lost twice to Albright & once to Vader, Albright lost twice to Takada & once to Vader, meaning Tamura, Yamazaki, Kakihara, Anjo, etc. had exactly 0 big singles wins 4 years into the promotion, leaving Takada with no relevant challengers beyond the staling eventual rematch with Albright, who had won their last meeting on 11/30/94. As Takada had the title, this left Gary to finally do the job he should have done to Tamura in the '94 tournament, but he saw his fortunes waning with the promotions attendance, and got out of dodge after sabotaging Tamura’s huge win, granted like anyone intelligent would do when the alternative was to be a “shooter” involved in an interpromotional fued with New Japan and their credibiltity destroying champion Great Muta.

With financial disaster now looming, they started brainstorming and came up with an idea to try and co-promote shows with NJPW. This wound up being the final straw for Thesz, who saw NJPW as another hokey federation, not far removed from the WWF, and as a result, he withdrew his support and took his belt and credibility with him. NJPW’S head booker, Riki Choshu was delighted to exact revenge on Takada’s prior mocking, and gladly agreed to their offer to co-promote, with the condition that he had full control of all the booking decisions. Inevitably, this led to the doom of the UWF-I as most of their roster was booked to lose in a feud with the stars of NJPW. Only Takada and Kiyoshi Tamura seemed to escape unscathed. Tamura, because he abandoned the sinking ship for Maeda’s RINGS, which was wise as he quickly became the top ace upon his arrival and Takada as he won the NJPW IWGP Heavyweight title and saved face until his disastrous encounter with Rickson Gracie in Pride FC.

ML: Takada was dead in the water from the moment he submitted to Muto’s jokey figure 4, the fact that he won the rematch was virtually meaningless at that point. Yamazaki wisely joined NJPW, where he was at least on the right side of the UWF-I’s demise, and less wasted, relatively speaking. Tamura focused on shooting, getting a win over Pat Smith in K-1, but was largely absent during the next year in order to avoid all of UWF-I’s drubbings at the hands of NJPW.

Still, as of now (7-12-92) we can still bathe in the glories of false bravado, as Takada is still shining as the Knight-Errant of U-Style, so let us now indulge in the latest chapter of Kakutogi History.

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First, we must rejoice as footfighting master Makato Ohe has returned! We haven’t seen him since February when we won a tough contest against Pat Kane. Here he must face Fernando Carlos, who as of press time, I’ve been unable to learn anything about. The fight starts, and Carlos looks nervous but also looks to have some power behind his kicks, so this should be interesting. Ohe’s experience is on full display, as he is constantly using his lead hand to gauge the distance between him and his opponent, only throwing a kick when the timing is correct. Carlos spends most of the round fleeing from Ohe, but isn’t without his own tricks, at one point landing an awesome sidekick against Makato. Round 1 ends with Carlos having spent most of his time tied up in the cinch or running in circles.

Round 2 begins, and Ohe wastes no time establishing a perfect distance to unload his kicks, and quickly switches to a clinch attack at the slightest adjustment from Carlos. Just when I think that we are going to see a one-sided clinic from Ohe, Carlos starts getting back into the game, not by his general skills, but rather his power and unpredictability. Carlos sneaks in some powerful spinning kicks and seems to be throwing off One with his unpredictable style. Still, he is likely on his way to losing this fight, but his bizarre approach combined with power might give him a sneak victory. Another strong round for Ohe.

Ohe continues to outclass Fernando early on in round 3, but Carlos pulls out a nice sidekick/spinning back fist combo that forces Ohe back to the cinch. Therein lies the problem, as Carlos has enough tricks to make Ohe work for his pay, but lacks enough solid fundamentals to sustain any significant offense. He was able to land a nasty jab right down the pipe, flush onto Ohe’s chin, but that was the end of his offense. Ohe dominated the rest of the round, including scoring a knockdown.

Round 4. Carlos is going to need a miracle to even survive this next round, let alone win the fight. While he doesn’t seem to have any divine intervention on his side, he does have a nice sidekick, which seems to be an ongoing bane for Ohe. Carlos landed more in this round than the preceding three, but could never chain enough together to hurt Ohe.

Final round. I was expecting Carlos to go out guns blazing, but it was Ohe that turned up the heat. He was unloading, trying to quickly put an end to this fight, but Carlos was able to prolong his lifespan with a beautifully timed spinning back kick. Of course, there was no follow-through from Fernando, so it only served as a stay of execution. The round ends, and Ohe wins with a massive score advantage. A somewhat interesting fight, as you kept looking for Carlos to pull a rabbit out of his hat, but disappointing that it was pretty much a one-way street for Ohe. I hope that they get a stronger opponent for him next time, as he often times has the best-to-2nd-best match of the night.

ML: Carlos focused on being very flashy, almost in a fan aping Rick Roufus sort of manner. He didn’t set any of these attacks up, so Ohe had no trouble blocking them. Ohe let Carlos tire himself out, then began to walk and down, backing him into the ropes and then working his clinch game. Ohe scored a knockdown with a couple clinch knees in the third round. Carlos just had too much punishment to the midsection, and was never able to get himself back into the match. The match was not competitive enough to be particulary compelling.

It wasn’t just pride or financial recklessness that caused the downfall of the UWF-I. No, we must also give a special shout-out to sheer laziness, as nothing embodies that ethos more than what we are about to witness. Yes, it is time for a rematch between Hiromitsu Kanehara and Yoshihiro Takayama, and if Masakazu Maeda hadn’t retired a few months ago, we would probably be seeing the 8th match in a row between him and Kanehara, with Kanehara surely being booked to go over for the 8th time in a row. It was simply a matter of complete serendipity that constantly booking those two gave us one of the greatest series of matches in pro wrestling (shoot-style or otherwise), but now that this apathy has moved over to Takayama, we are all the worse for it. Not that Takayama did a bad job last time, in fact, he gave a very spirited showing, but he is nowhere in the same league as better Maeda or Kanehara, and we don’t need to see an endless series of matches between these two, but I fear that we will.

The match starts, and both men go full blast on each other, where both are seen unloading a furious series of kicks/palm strikes. Kanehara looks super impressive and urgent while doing this, whereas Takayama looks like Giant Baba opted for a career in shootfighting as opposed to pro-wrestling. Takayama is putting forth real effort, but his movements and cadence are very awkward and are almost always slow as a result. Still, he is huge, and his size is a considerable obstacle for Kanehara to deal with. Eventually, Kanehara lands enough hard kicks and slaps to chop the giant down, but he is unable to control him on the mat, so Takayama is able to easily get back up. Takayama then has a nice sequence where he forces several hard knees to Kanehara, eventually putting him in survival mode. Kanehara switches tactics from trying to stand and bang with his taller foe, instead choosing to go for a low single/ankle lock entry, but since he couldn’t completely roll Takayama, he resorted to incessantly slapping him in the face with one hand while turning him with the other. The rest of this fight was a mixed bag. Kanehara looked awesome throughout, with lots of nice nuances to go with his incredible output level. Takayama also gave a herculean effort, but like last time, his results were uneven. Sometimes he would land some heavy shots, which you could tell rattled Kanehara, but most times he just looked like Gulliver, an oafish giant in the land of us mere mortals. On two occasions, he also had a laughably bad dropkick that missed completely and caused a chuckle from the audience. Overall, this was still a very intense, fast-paced, and stiff work, with very little cooperation. The main issue is that Takayama’s physical limitations preclude him from being the best choice for this kind of match. Had we never seen better Maeda’s stellar output, then this would come off as much more impressive, but because this is following that insanely great series, this just feels like leftovers. Still, between the constant action, and the incredible beating that Kanehara put on Takayama, I would give this a solid recommendation. *** ¾

ML: Takayama is the bane of Kanehara’s existence, as UWF-I is now insisting on ruining what would likely have been the best rookie year ever by booking 4 matches in a row, and 5 total, against the giant klutz, who somehow managed to look considerably worse than in his debut on the previous show. This was just plain bad no matter how much Kanehara tried to salvage things. By the end of this disaster, even a chant of “Give me Johnny Barrett or give me death” may not have seemed wholy unreasonable. Kanehara tried to utilize some footwork because it would be ridiculous to just stand in the pocket with an opponent who has such a huge size and reach advantage, but Takayama was practically tripping over his own feet trying to chase him. Takayama threw some good clinch knees, but his palm strikes were so slow and wide, and overall, he was far less energetic than in their previous match. Takayama managed to Jon Jones Kanehara, and as they have no rules in place for a eye pokes, Takayama decided to proceed by attempting something that could, I suppose, be called a dropkick through the loosest definition of the hold. It was apparently so impressive that Takayama had to try it again later! Kanehara managed to catch Takayama’s right kick, then drop him with his own right high kick, which would have been cool if Takayama didn’t take a corny WWE pratfall. The match was officially a trainwreck when they followed by, I want to say charging at each other with movie kicks, but more accurately Kanehara covered more than half the distance of the ring in the time to Takayama managed to take a solitary step. Kanehara got his submission game going, but Takayama is so long that even though the submissions were applied in the center of the ring, if he could make any progress at all, he was already to the ropes. Kanehara then tried to win with a series of high kicks, which Takayama was ruining with ridiculous bobblehead selling. The fans were laughing more during this contest then they do during most actual comedy matches, despite every attempt being made to do a serious and intense, all out war. It was just atrocious despite Kanehara being excellent at whatever didn’t require Takayama to do anything, and there being a good moment here and there in spite of Takayama, who is already giving JT Southern serious competition for the worst worker in UWF-I history (imagine if he didn’t have an opponent as amazing as Kanehara to cover for him). Thankfully Kanehara did eventually win, but we knew that coming in.

As if we needed yet another example of how Miyato’s booking was akin to pile shuffling a bunch of named index cards and randomly dealing them out, here we have a tag match between Yoji Anjo/Mark Fleming & Tatsuo Nakano/Tom Burton. Many of you will recall that only two weeks ago we saw Fleming team up with Nakano, but apparently, the bonds of friendship have been broken and we didn’t even get a vignette showing Fleming going through a barbershop window to signify the break-up.

The match starts with Fleming vs Burton, and neither waste any time charging into each other. You can tell that neither man knows how to strike with the plethora of standing hammer fists that they unloaded, but they are intensely jockeying for position, and it’s impressive to see Fleming manhandle someone as big as Burton down to the ground. Burton couldn’t stop Fleming from dictating where the fight took place and even suffered the indignity of some hard soccer kicks when he tried to fish for a sloppy toe-hold.

Nakano replaces Burton, and surprised me with some nice judo, which served to both snap Fleming down to the canvas and flummoxes him in the process. It’s always interesting to see how someone with a pure wrestling base can be taken into deep waters when having to deal with circular motion attacks. Things started to stall out until Fleming tagged Anjo, and Anjo proceeded to wake everyone up by slapping the stuffing out of Nakano. He was on fire until, as is his normal custom, he botched an o-goshi throw, giving Nakano the opportunity he needed to slap on a rear-naked choke. The rest of this was good, but not quite to the tier that we saw last time, due to there being too many big men. Everyone was competent, but only Anjo had the athleticism to force the action to kick into overdrive. Still, there were some gems to be found here. The judo vs wrestling dynamic between Nakano/Fleming was interesting and Anjo was the life of the party whenever he showed up. Not bad. A solid ***1/4

ML: Anjo was on fire here, but he didn’t have tons of help. Nakano finally stepped it up quite a bit, and was actually good here. He did some intense striking sequences with Anjo that were clearly the highlight of the bout. Unfortunately, that left the pairing of Fleming vs. Burton, which wasn’t ideal given both are mainly just amateur wrestlers who benefit from quicker and more dynamic opposition. Being a doubles match did help both of them be more explosive when they were in the ring, but I didn’t care much for either here. This was definitely better than the 1st 2 matches, but certainly nothing to write home about, and randomly ending out of nowhere didn’t help.

Masahito Kakihara is flying high from his first high-profile win from two weeks prior, as the fastest hands in the East was able to best Mr. 200%, Yoji Anjo. Here he must advance to face Yuko Miyato, who may be the laziest of bookers, but has been a stellar performer thus far in 1992. The match starts and Kakihara surprises me by not unleashing his palms, but rather, seeks to advance with some cautious high kicks. About two of these go through until Miyato pulls off a beautifully timed low-kick counter, and this is already shaping up to be a great bout.

Kakihara continues his subdued strategy of sticking and moving with low-kicks only letting a few palms-loose when Miyato gets within range. Eventually, Miyato figures that his opponent isn’t going to bang recklessly with him, so he executes a tasty fireman’s carry takedown, but Kakihara wants nothing to do with the ground and quickly scrambles back to his feet. Miyato changes tactics and starts to initiate from the clinch, eventually getting Kakihara back to the mat, but all it yielded him was having to succumb to a kneebar attack. He got his comeuppance as soon as they stood back up, however, with an incredible slap that landed flush on Kaihara’s face.

After this humiliation, the Kakihara that we all know and love, returned and tried to blitzkrieg his way towards Miyato, but was swiftly put back down with a spinning low kick. This set up the end as Miyato quickly choked Kakihara out for the win, right afterward. This was an excellent match, and probably the first of its kind for this promotion. It combined the strategy and awareness of two seasoned fighters without losing any intensity or entertainment value. A lot of matches in the UWF-I have been fast-paced, and Yamazaki always brings some subtle psychology to the table, but this was possibly the first time that we saw the two married together. My only gripe with this is that it was too short. Another 5-7 mins would have been perfect, but even with that flaw, this was excellent. ****

ML: Kakihara hasn’t had much chance to have good matches so far, so I was really excited about this match up. It was entertaining while it lasted, with some impressive explosive bursts, but unfortunately it was much too short. There was a great Tamuraesque sequence where Miyato had Kakihara in something of a standing guillotine, but Kakihara did the drop to a knee go behind into a leg trip, then swung into a kneebar. Despite some nice back and forth, I expected the standup to be a little better than it actually was. I actually thought Miyato might lose because he has taken it upon himself to be the one to elevate the bottom of the card guys, but unfortunately, Kakihara ultimately seemed a long way away by the finish, which was little more than a glorified chinlock. Definitely would have been a good match had it gone 10 minutes instead of 6, but at this length it’s merely in the worth watching category.

Now we must continue to witness Nobuhiko Takada travel down the path of humiliation that’s been set before him, having lost the right to be called “Best in the World” to the massive Gary Albright. Here he will engage in another act of pointless aggression as he is set to face Mid-South/WCCW veteran, Steve Cox. Cox came to the UWF-I for a brief layover period, in between his time at Global Force Wrestling and the American independent wrestling scene. This was probably only intended to be a quick paycheck for Cox, and serve as some fresh cannon fodder for Takada.

Cox is athletic and keeps the pressure on Takada with some solid wrestling, but the extent of his submission knowledge seems to be going for a keylock. After 6min of being mostly matwork, Takada throws a couple of kicks and ends it with a submission. This wasn’t terrible as much as it was pointless. *3/4

ML: The Southern amateur wrestlers just keep a coming, and this continued the formula of short Takada matches where they hit the mat early, only to have very little occur. It didn’t take long before I wished Cox had instead been recruited by a Repo Man, but he was at least working on the ground, unlike the opposition. After about six minutes of nothing, Takada got up and threw a handful of low kicks that made Cox vibrate like he was Abdullah the Butcher in the electric chair, then dragged Cox down & armbared him for the win. Lame match.

Now for the main event: Kazuo Yamazaki & Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Gary Albright & Mark Silver. It’s a contest with no stakes or meaning, but any chance to see Tamura shine is a good one. Things start with Tamura toying with Silver, allowing him some offense, knowing that Silver isn’t likely to ever put him in any real jeopardy. It was fun to see Tamura play with his prey and instantly turn a switch on and dominate Silver when he chose to. Humiliated and in over his head, Silver brought in the Albright-monster. As quick as Tamura is, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone up to the challenge of being smothered by such a beast. Gary spent a considerable amount of time laying on Tamura before forcing a rope escape via a reverse keylock.

Yamazaki fared a little better, scoring on Albright with a heel-hook, and punishing Mark Silver in a variety of ways. The rest of this match was disappointing because Albright spent very little time in the ring, forcing Silver to handle the bulk of the workload. Tamura and Yamazaki did all they could with him, and while it was ok, Silver’s slowness and inexperience prevented this from ever achieving liftoff. Not bad, but could have been much better, having someone stronger than Silver to build around. *** 1/4

ML: Silver, who has been somewhat hit and miss, got his first main event here, and was able to step it up and allow Tamura & Yamazaki to do their thing. This was mostly grappling based, and in his element, Silver was able to react to those two well enough to more or less keep up. Albright, on the other hand, just ground the match to a halt by simply weighing on Tamura in a fashion that would make Tom Erickson proud. The story was that while Silver was mostly owned, he allowed his team to get way behind because he was too proud to tag. This allowed Albright to be the monster superhero hitting his big suplexes for the splashy finish, but at the same time, it allowed there to be an actual compelling competitive match beforehand, and deliver the most useful action on an otherwise lousy show. Yamazaki certainly wasn’t too proud, as when he got a knockdown on Silver with a middle kick, he then fired off a deadly high kick as soon as Silver was back on his feet even though the ref was still checking him out & hadn’t restarted the contest. Yamazaki, in particular, did a good job of making it look like he was shooting on Silver in the pro wrestling sense with these sort of cheap tactics, and Silver almost ran out of points trying to get revenge, finally hitting a uranage on Tamura and tagging at 19-2. Albright then proceeded to do his usual 30 second suplex rampage for the win, but but at this point that wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened, though obviously this was another missed opportunity to get Yamazaki or Tamura a semi relevant win by defeating Albright by beating Silver. ***

Conclusion: A very solid show that is recommended, but not quite in the must-see tv category. The only bad match was Takada/Cox, and even that was over so quickly to not be offensive. The problem is that they have set the bar so high with their great moments that a lot of this only felt like they got halfway towards those past glories. Still, a lot of good to be found here. Knight-Errant Takada is safe for now, the only question now is who is going to fulfill the Sancho role, and guide Takada back to reality? (Yamazaki perhaps?) Time will tell….

ML: This was such a huge step backwards I don’t even know where to begin. Almost every UWF-I show we’ve seen this year has had three or four good matches, this barely had one. The booking made no sense, as always, but was finally dramatically hampering the quality of the matches. Yamazaki & Tamura couldn’t even finish off Silver in almost a handicap match. Masahito Kakihara went from beating the much higher ranked Yoji Anjo in 10:12 to getting mostly schooled by Miyato in 6 minutes. Kanehara was again wasted with Takayama, Fleming & Burton could only negate each others strengths. Perhaps only a Glacier could cool a promotion off faster than Miyato’s thoughtless booking, and unfortunately, one is arriving on 8/14/92.

*Come and relive this entire event with us over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad.com *

In Other News

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On 7-7-92 we were treated to another tribute to deceased cartoonist, Ikki Kajiwara. Kajiwara was a seminal figure in the world of Japanese comics, being the author of many popular manga series, most notably Tiger Mask . Much of his work revolved around heroism and martial arts and had a lot of influence within the puroresu sphere. Since 1988, there have been several events held in Japan in an effort to honor this man, and what’s fascinating about them is that they feature a wide variety of styles. Karate, Shootboxing, Kickboxing, Pro Wrestling, and martial arts demonstrations/exhibitions have all been featured on their cards, which have made them a fun one-stop-shop of Kakutogi delights. Mike will now discuss the most interesting matches on this year’s card.

Bantamweight Title: Katsuhito Funatsu vs. Hiromaki Tamaki 5R. Tamaki applied a ton of pressure with his feet, but Funatsu applied far more useful pressure with his fists. Funatsu had the reach advantage, so Tamaki was super aggressive trying to close the distance. However, it didn’t do much good, as Funatsu was perhaps even more aggressive with his counter punching, doing a great job of sniping him with hard punches and middle kicks then backing away to make Tamaki chase him some more. Tamaki showed a ton of heart and determination to keep his stategy up for 5 rounds. I don’t know how he maintained that pace given all the hard shots he was eating. Entertaining and action packed, but ultimately quite one-sided. Good match.

All Japan Flyweight Title Match: Eiichi Fukutomi vs. Akira Yamamoto 5R. Intense, hard fought contest. Despite being a very undersized fighter, Fukutomi had a great front kick that he based his kicking offense around. Due to Fukutomi backing Yamamoto with the push kick and being a great mover, Yamamoto was constantly forced to close the distance despite having a considerable reach advantage. When things went well, Yamamoto would work his way into the clinch and let his knees loose, but mostly if Fukutomi couldn’t back him, he’d land his middle and/or low kick and circle off. Yamamoto had some success with the left step knee, but mostly he would fake it and try to use it to set up right hand or high kick. This match was competitive, but for the most part Fukutomi just wasn’t there to be hit, so I thought he clearly won despite the fight being ruled a draw. Good match.

*This entire event can be relived with us over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad *

It’s being reported that the PWFG was planning on having another event in Florida with the success of their last one, but that the death of head booker and talent coordinator, Masami Soronaka, has put an end to those plans. The main event was reportedly going to have been Joe Malenko vs Minoru Suzuki.

Akira Maeda is set to face Willie Williams (a famous American karateka) in a “Loser must Retire” match at the next upcoming RINGS event. Since Maeda’s retirement would surely mean the end of RINGS at this early stage, this obviously means Williams must lose.

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Book update: interview 21 was done like a week ago, interview 22 was done minutes ago, and interview 23- the last interview (I hope!) for my books on PWFG/Pancrase (with a sub focus on Lion’s Den and early UFC) is tentatively set for next month (it’s a Japanese interview subject).

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HAYATE (疾風). A Japanese word that can mean hurricane, gale, tempest, or blast. There is also a connotation to the word that implies a suddenness, which is appropriate for what we are about to witness. Forces beyond all mortal comprehension are set to collide within the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium this evening, and we are fortunate enough to have a bird’s eye view. The date is 7-16-92 and FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS is set to offer up a main event featuring legendary 70s karateka, Willie Williams, and Akira Maeda. RINGS has been the most intriguing of the different promotions that we’ve been covering these last few months, not that they’ve necessarily been the most entertaining, but they have by far been moving the closest to full-blown MMA compared to PWFG and the UWF-I. They went as far as to have four (pre-UFC mind you!) shoots last month, so come and join us, as we witness the next chapter in the ever-unfolding saga of MMA history. In this latest offering, we will witness another 3 pre-UFC shoots, along with a fantastic showing from Volk Han. Also, we cover the original meeting between Antonio Inoki and Willie Williams, as well as a kickboxing event from 7-12-92, featuring Stan “The Man” Longinidis vs Grant “The Bomber” Barker. There is almost 10 hours of bonus footage in this volume!

This can all be found over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad

Just to recap:

For only $10 a month you get to:

Follow along with MMA from the beginning (in this case March of 1991)

Almost every column/post has 2-6 hours of rare bonus footage that is usually not available publically. (There is approximately 129 hours of footage on our Patreon, and more is added every month).

We also cover a lot of kickboxing history along the way, and of course, add footage of those events whenever possible.

We include a lot of contemporaneous media/news sources to coincide with our columns, so you can follow along with the media coverage of that era, also.

Every Tue we include translations of rare MMA materials into English. Right now we are translating Shooto: The Technical Shooting Fight from 1986 into English, and when that is complete we have many other treasures that will be translated.

We have exclusive interviews with figures that were there, and one of the major goals of this project is to interview many of the Japanese/Dutch/Brazillian personalities that were important to the development of MMA, many of which, have been ignored by western media.

You also get a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that you are helping MMA history to be adequately covered by people that actually care about it.

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Can confirm the patreon subscription is worth it just for the videos.
Speaking of videos, behold

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Zangief Returns!

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I’m streaming some rings today

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So, I’ve been thinking of sweeting the pot. As if we didn’t offer enough of a wallop for a measly 10bucks a month, I’m considering offering up my entire MASSIVE collection as a regular bonus feature for the Kakutogi Road Patreon. That would mean many thousands of hours of MMA/Kickboxing/Puroresu/Karate/Classic American Pro Wrestling/etc that go alongside our regular colums, rare translations, etc.

If there is some serious interest in this, then I could possibly be persuaded.

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oh shit yeah

“Seeing Tiger Mask for the first time as a kid had an amazing impact on my heart. Jumping and flying, all his movements were so beautiful… I was completely blown away.”

Kazushi Sakuraba about his chilhood hero Sayama.

burningtiger

Even though this project is about covering MMA history, I’ve been wanting to go through and cover Sayama’s classic early 80s NJPW matches, because they really are special. If I have time, I might try and get the first volume done this month.

Kakutogi Road: The Complete History of MMA Vol.41 "Stormblast"

Editors Note: Mike Lorefice (of MMA/Puroresu mega-center quebrada.net) will have his comments be preceded by his initials.

HAYATE (疾風). A Japanese word that can mean hurricane, gale, tempest, or blast. There is also a connotation to the word that implies a suddenness, which is appropriate for what we are about to witness. Forces beyond all mortal comprehension are set to collide within the Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium this evening, and we are fortunate enough to have a bird’s eye view. The date is 7-16-92 and FIGHTING NETWORK RINGS is set to offer up a main event featuring legendary 70s karateka, Willie Williams, and Akira Maeda. RINGS has been the most intriguing of the different promotions that we’ve been covering these last few months, not that they’ve necessarily been the most entertaining, but they have by far been moving the closest to full-blown MMA compared to PWFG and the UWF-I. They went as far as to have four (pre-UFC mind you!) shoots last month, so it will be interesting to see if they continue in this direction. This will also mark a new addition to our columns in that we are having our resident Japanese translator, Hebisasori, examine these events beforehand, in the ongoing quest to provide any interesting shoot-truths that may be missed due to my woeful inadequacy in understanding Japanese.

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The festivities begin with all the competitors being weighed in, despite the lack of any weight classes, or even titles for that matter. Perhaps, RINGS has no need for any formally recognized titles, for Maeda is its eternal champion, as well as its raison d’être, and anything more would be superfluous. After the weights are tabulated, we are given a look at pensive Maeda, who is solemnly kicking his pads knowing that his hour of reckoning will soon be upon him. He must face one of his fellow Sediokaikan brethren in Williams, a man that he surely looked up to when he was merely a young aspiring karate practitioner in the 70s, so this trepidation is to be expected. While longtime MMA fans will probably not have many fond memories of Williams (who was already 41 when he joined RINGS) due to many of his slow and awkward matches, he truly was a force of nature in his prime as Mas Oyama’s (Kyokushin karate founder) main American protégé. Like his master before him, he also made a name for himself fighting a bear, going as far as to earn the nickname, “The Bear Killer” in Japan. Even though he’s had three fights in RINGS leading up to this, one was a shoot where he still looked solid, and the other two were works that ended quickly, so he still had a lot of name value in Japan, going into this fight.

The evening will begin yet again in shame, as we are going to the same well for our third helping of Yoshihisa Yamamoto vs. Masayuki Naruse. I probably have no right to complain, as at least this doesn’t involve Takayama, but on the other hand, it doesn’t involve Kanehara either, so maybe I have a point in grousing. Still, the last two matches between these two were fine, if overlong, so the potential is here for a great match if they turn the intensity up. The match starts with some light kickboxing fare before Yamamoto takes down Naruse with ease and puts him in an ankle lock. After the escape, this pattern continues for a couple more minutes, and while fine enough, I keep waiting for some ill-intentions to be put behind some of their efforts. Eventually, Naruse turned up the volume and kneed the stuffing out of Yamamoto after being on the receiving end of a spinning back kick. Then our first interesting waza of the night appeared when Yamamoto put Naruse in something that I can only describe as a shoot-style version of a figure-four, which was cooler than that may sound on paper.

Yamamoto Sylin’n’Profilin
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The rest of the match was a nice blend of grappling/striking, with some inventive submission attempts from both men. This was their best match yet, however, the only missing ingredient was that the first half lacked intensity but did heat up as it progressed. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the amazing series that Kanehara/Maeda put forth, as when they would go, it felt like their lives were on the line and nothing could stand in their way of outdoing the other, but here it oftentimes felt too polite. *** ¼

ML: Akira Maeda has become as lazy as Yuko Miyato, booking the same rookie match to open every show. Normally, I would want to see the great fighter in Hiromitsu Kanehara over the two decent ones in Yoshihisa Yamamoto & Masayuki Naruse, but Yoshihiro Takayama is so ungodly awful that this is clearly the more competent matchup of the two. This was another fine bout, but the intensity was so lacking it seemed more like an exhibition to show off some cool kicks and flashy combos. Yamamoto’s size advantage helped him a lot in the takedown department, but then he was also a lot more dominant on the mat than I expected him to be. Technically speaking, their standup, which Naruse has the advantage in when he can overcome Yamamoto’s reach, was much more evolved than their matwork, but both continued to show a lot of potential. It wasn’t exactly shocking to see these two go the distance given their other two matches were 15 minute draws as well.

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Next up is Nobuaki Kikuta vs. Yukihiro Takenami. Kakuda is coming into this having lost a hard-fought shoot last month against Mitsuya Nagai, where Nagai was awarded a decision victory. I have been unable to discover much about Takenami, other than the fact that he once fought against Ernesto Hoost.

Before the fight, Kakuda gives an interview where he explains that he has been very disappointed with himself as he feels that he has been failing his fans by not obtaining a significant win in a while and that this fight is important to him to get back on track. It then cuts away to Akira Maeda talking about how his middleweight division is shaping up to be very interesting. This indicates to me that there must be more than meets the eye when it comes to any kind of formal weight classes. I don’t recall ever seeing any indication of weight classes being used in RINGS, but between the weigh-ins and Maeda talking about a middleweight division, it at least shows that this was a consideration of his at one point. I’m not exactly sure what to make of it, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

The fight starts and we can instantly see that this is a shoot, and Kakuda means business. He has a possessed look about him, and whatever one can say of his eventual gatekeeper status in late 90s K1, this man was all heart. Takenami tries to cautiously feel Kakuda out but is eating several hard kicks for his trouble. Takenami eats another thunderous kick to his ribs when he decides that the ground is the much safer place and takes down Kakuda rather easily with a headlock throw. Sadly, his submission credentials seem to be of the “grab the head and squeeze” variety, which only works if you’re Mark Coleman. The rest of the round saw Kakuda get easily taken down by Takenami, but was never put in any trouble, due to the lack of any follow-up.

Round 2 starts and is over quickly as Kakuda just kept blitzing Takenami, knocking him down 3 times in less than 2-mins. Takenami was able to get a desperation double-leg takedown, but in vain as it was too close to the ropes. Interesting shoot that would have been better with a more seasoned opponent than Takenami. Kakuda lacks any takedown defense, which makes him a good pairing for a striker vs grappler matchup, but Takenami simply didn’t have the toolbox hand with Kakuda. After the fight, Kakuda shakes Takenami’s hand and tells him that he hasn’t felt that scared in a long time and gives him a show of respect.

ML: This match showed the shooting experience of Kakuda, who used his movement to take apart the debuting street fighter by just low kicking then getting out of range. Takenami still had some success in the 1st with the kubi-nage, so in the second round Kakuda became much more aggressive, coming forward and just destroying what was left of the leg for the quick finish from the third knockdown. An enjoyable shoot, though not super competitive.

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Now we get a very entertaining & stiff-work between Mitsuya Nagai and Willie Peeters. Both of these men are coming off tough shoots last month as well, Nagai having fought an excellent fight against Kakuda, and Peeters, who somehow got a draw against Masaaki Satake through his many spectacular temper tantrums. We know that if nothing else Peeters will find a way to entertain us, so we are always happy to see him.

The fight starts rather slowly with Peeters once again going for a bodylock, only this time he seems to confuse kneeing his opponent with doing the running man. Nagai then goes for his own bodylock, followed by a kneebar entry, but Peeters is simply too big and easily powers out of it. After some sparring, we get our first notable moment when Peeters hits an excellent belly-to-back suplex, but one that availed him nothing as it put Nagai in a position to lock in an inventive ankle-attack, prompting the first escape.

Round 2 starts with Peeters hitting his patented koshi-guruma (headlock throw), but unlike last month he isn’t taking 5 mins to congratulate himself. Sadly, Peeters has been on the cusp of proper etiquette this entire time, which isn’t the Willie that we’ve all come to know and love. He’s definely not showing the intensity he would in a shoot. Peeters got a crude choke off a scarf hold, but after the break, Nagai landed a glancing high kick to Peeters’s head which scored him a knockdown. Another interesting moment was when Peeters sunk in a deep guillotine choke, where Nagai’s answer was to collapse into a ring post, forcing a break.

Round 3. Peeters wastes no time falling on top of Nagai and slapping on a strange neck crank that looked like it was going to cause Nagai’s cranium to explode like a grape. To my utter amazement, Nagai hung on until the ref called for a break as the action was getting too close to the ropes. Another headlock takedown ensues, but Nagai is very clever (and flexible!) and is able to use this angle as a way to initiate an armbar, which forces Peeters to quickly let go of his head and reposition himself. Good round.

Round 4 starts with Peeters shocking me by connecting with a reverse roundhouse kick. Not to be undone, a stunned Nagai responds with an incredible rolling kick of his own that floors Peeters. Major points have to be awarded to Nagai for his completely gonzo attitude here. Nagai tried it again for the 2nd time which missed completely but did succeed in bringing out the jerk in Peeters, who in a fit of embarrassment, tried to head stomp Nagai while he was down on the canvas.

Final round. Nagai decides to go for broke and comes charging in towards Peeters, but unlike Nishi and Satake before him, Nagai has no defense for the headlock takedown. Peeters is able to stifle Nagai’s momentum but does eat some hard kicks in the process. Nagai’s main problem at this point is that he seems too gassed to maintain a long enough offense to put Peeters away. Eventually, the bell rings, and Nagai auto-loses due to having taken more escapes. An incredibly fun fight and an amazing show of heart from Nagai. Peeters was oftentimes manhandling him, but his creativity and willingness to take risks put a lot of pressure on Peeters. During the post-fight interview, Nagai said that he hasn’t been training much lately, and this cost him his stamina. He then vowed to train harder in the future, to prevent this from happening again. ***3/4

ML: Peeters actually managed to behave himself in his very flashy work filled with suplexes, throws, and spinning kicks. They earned high marks for style points, but it was a bit lacking both in substance and in urgency in between the highlight reel maneuvers. As no Peeters match could be without some level of chaos, he accidentally walked to the wrong corner after the second round. It’s funny how people’s ideas of what works and doesn’t work change over the years. For instance, Peeters hit an overhead suplex out of a standing arm triangle, but immediately transitioned to a headlock, as if that was the real submission of the two. Some goofiness aside, this match is a lot of fun, with constant action both in standup and on the mat. Things were competitive in standup, where the low impact even on the knockdowns was somewhat surprising, especially for Peeters, who fought like he’d finally been warned about hitting too hard. However, Peeters really dominated the throw game, and generally had the positional advantage on the ground, though he fed Nagai his leg for a kneebar that forced a rope escape. Peeters clearly won the match, and RINGS actually awarded him the decision rather than their usual full time draw. ***

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It’s time for the Return of the Fly ! Only, instead of Vincent Price, we will have to settle for Dick Vrij. Here, he must take a break from punting the groins of Japanese natives long enough to face his best friend and partner in crime (in both the figurative and literal definition), Hans Nijman. When we last saw Nijman, he was on his way to having a surprisingly good match against Akira Maeda that ended far too quickly, but today this went exactly as you would expect. Mostly a lot of slow-motion faux-sparring, with terrible submission attempts from both men. Thankfully, when it hit the mat they wouldn’t spend too much time there, but they didn’t really make up for it on their feet, either. They could have at least gone for a fast-paced kickboxing style of work, but they were just too lazy to make this worthwhile. *3/4

ML: I was expecting more striking from this battle of Dutch kickboxers. Although neither are anywhere near to being good workers, and they ventured to the mat more than I was hoping, this wasn’t bad so much as just uninspired because it was a low energy and intensity heavyweight bout without much movement. This would have been a good candidate for a 5 minute match rather than the 10 they gave it, and maybe then they would have displayed a few bursts of something that resembled energy or enthusiasm?

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It seems that things have gone from bad to worse as Chris Dolman is back in action after a 7-month layoff. He has returned to face Buzariashibili Ramaji, a man that has been impossible to learn anything about, due to the limitations of Google when searching for a butchered English transliteration of a Georgian name. The match starts, and Ramaji instantly throws a shoot kick to Dolman. Dolman doesn’t seem happy about Ramaji’s aggressiveness, and is being super stiff today, way more than usual. Things quickly go to the ground where Ramaji aggressively goes for an armbar, and shows that this was another impressive specimen that managed to slip through the cracks as he moves impressively for a man of his size. Dolman may move like molasses, but he is still a judo master, and as such, was able to turtle his way out of danger and back onto the offensive. The finish was sloppy but legit. Dolman just kind of brute forced his way into that choke

ML: RINGS seemed poised to get more boring now that Mr. Dullman returned from a seven month stint on the disabled list, but shockingly this was actually a heated shoot. Dolman surely assumed the young Russian was no match for him, but there’s something to be said for being half the opponent’s age, especially when it’s a real fight. Ramaji clearly was not here to lose, and had a hard time controlling himself at times. There was definitely no love lost between these two, and I appreciated Ramaji’s urgency and all out aggression. Ramaji didn’t have much defense, but he really took it to Dolman & made him work, until Dolman was able to use his overeagerness against him. This was short, but certainly more entertaining than anything Dolman has been involved in before, or probably since.

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Next, we have Masaaki Satake set to fight Dutchman, Peter Oele. This will be a “gloved bout” presumably under RINGS rules, but I’m unsure. This will be Oele’s debut, and he would go on to have a handful of matches for RINGS until 1995. During the pre-fight interview, Satake says that he is comfortable in a gloved match as he trains in them all the time and is happy that he doesn’t have to worry about catching a finger in the eye from an open hand strike. He also mentions that Oele is a strong kickboxer so he thinks that this will be a good fight for the fans.

Things are underway, and while there haven’t been any rules posted this seems to be the equivalent of an MMA fight with boxing gloves. Despite the wide range of legal options, both men seem content in making this a kickboxing fight, so Satake should be in his element tonight. Oele has a height and reach advantage over Satake and is looking crisp in his execution. Satake shows some good footwork, moving in and out, but is cautious not to overcommit. Even Round.

Round 2 starts and Satake quickly establishes that magic distance where he is just close enough to fire off long-range kicks, but far away enough to avoid trouble. Oele responds with a thunderous high kick that would have likely decapitated Satake had he not caught the leg in time. It’s becoming very apparent that Oele is a very dangerous person, but Satake’s experience is giving him an edge here. Oele does a nice job of forcing Satake to clinch and eat some hard knees, but Satake is able to respond with some crisp elbow shots as a counter. We get our first taste of ground fighting when Oele tries a very crude attempt at a headlock throw, only to rightfully eat a nasty elbow to the side of the head for his trouble. Oele then figures out a better way when he manages to catch a kick of Satake’s and succeeds in tripping him down to the canvas. Surprisingly, Satake responds with an armbar attempt and when that didn’t work, an ankle lock. Not surprisingly, boxing gloves make submissions incredibly difficult, and both men languish away in a footsie battle until the round is called. Slight favor to Satake in this round.

Round 3 starts and both men go hard right away. Both are landing plenty of nice shots, but Oele only seems to be pushing kicks through while Satake is also able to work in his boxing and elbows, land with both more volume and variety. Good round for Satake.

Round 4. Oele stats of nicely, with some powerful kicks, followed by some clinch knees. Just when it seemed like this might shape up to be his round, Satake lands a breathtaking spinning-reverse-back kick to Oele’s midsection and completely floors him. This may be the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen Satake do. The fight is over and Oele is toast. Good shoot. I don’t say this often, but Satake looked great tonight, and he had a real opponent, at least one that would be a strong kickboxer with some more seasoning, so my hats off to him. In the post-fight interview Satake said that it wasn’t a difficult match to fight in, because he could see his opponent well, although his opponent was tall and did a good job protecting his middle. Satake also said that he wants to continue improving and wants to ride his current momentum by fighting more. He also said something about wanting to strengthen his internal organs which was a suggestion made to him by Akira Maeda. What that means is anyone’s guess.

ML: The finish was great, but otherwise this low volume, slow paced heavyweight match didn’t do much for me. The most notable thing was the start of the second round was delayed until Dick Vrij could find Oele’s mouthpiece hiding somewhere under the ring apron. Satake is a fighter that I’d categorize as being on the slow side, but he had a noticeable speed advantage here. Oele had the reach, but mostly backed up and tried to use the front kick to keep Satake off him.

Our hero Volk Han is back! This time to face his fellow teammate, and brother in sambo, Andrei Kopylov. Thanks to the power of subtitles, we were able to learn some interesting info about these two. Kopylov talks about how he is a sambo teacher and has faced Han in the past on four different occasions (within sambo tournaments) and has a record of 2-2 against Han. He mentioned that he is wanting to break this stalemate between them with a new technique that he has been working on. In Han’s portion he says that he considers Kopylov the greatest sambist of the former Soviet Union and that he has beaten many strong opponents over many tournaments. He also said that Kopylov is strong in hand/arm techniques and leg techniques. Interestingly, he also mentioned wanting to break their stalemate with a new technique that he has been working on.

The battle starts with both men throwing plenty of kicks, trying to figure out how to set up a takedown. Han is the first to solve the riddle with a flashy single-leg pickup, followed by a slam and a calf-slicer entry. The crowd is eating this up, perhaps, because this was how Han ended Maeda at the end of their last encounter. An insane sequence followed where Kopylov gave some Curt Henning level selling before turning the hold into a way to attack Han with a knee-crush of his own. Then Han managed to turn this into some kind of demented variation of a figure-four leg-lock, which Kopylov somehow managed to escape by turning onto his stomach and applying a toehold, which won him a rope escape point against Han. So far, this hasn’t been at all realistic, but is loads of fun all the same.

When Twister Goes Wrong…
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Not to be upstaged, Kopylov hits a tomoe-nage (or monkey-flip if you prefer) as a way to set up a series of attacks against Han’s lateral joints, but winds up having to ward off another insane leg submission entry from Han, by turning it to either a leg-split, or a very nasty game of twister. This exchange culminated with a crazy battle of the double-heel-hook, where Kopylov was the first to attempt it, but Han was the one that succeeded in its execution, thus getting the rope escape point and evening the score. Eventually, Kopylov pulled off a huge upset win over Han around the 17min mark with a toehold, which was some smart booking as it now establishes another Russian star in the mix. The rest of this match followed the flashy innovation that only a madman like Han could come up with, and only with someone like Kopylov, who is familiar with his musical language of Sambo. If we wish to be pedantic, we could say that this wasn’t perfect match in the sense that its flashiness sometimes went against the core spirit of what the U-Style is trying to impart, but from an entertainment/professional-wrestling standpoint it was right on the money.

I would go even further by saying that this wound up being the first true Volk Han match in the sense that it showcased just how boundless creativity combined with a Sambo/MMA mindset can elevate what pro wrestling is capable of as an artform. We had seen flashes of it before this, but the longer match-time given to Han for this bout, and the chemistry that he shared with his fellow sambist, allowed him the ability to shine above his prior outings. Yes, this was still pro-wrestling, and no it wasn’t a good case study in how close to a real fight this style could get to emulating, but it did offer a heretofore unprecedented number of new ideas and tools that could be added to its tapestry. Some of these techniques could be seen in isolation in times past, but never chained together in such an eloquent way. For that Han should easily be considered on anyone’s short list of the greatest professional wrestlers of all-time but is sadly known (at least in America) outside of a small circle of shoot-style enthusiasts. While this didn’t have the layers of nuance or complexity that some of his later matches had, it was still lots of fun, and historically significant. ****

ML: Sambo master Kopylov made his debut here, having won the USSR championship in the superheavyweight division the previous year. Finally, we got to see Han against an opponent who understands his own game, and the results were outstanding, as both were able to counter the counter to the counter, so the sequences could continue until they reach a logical ending. Right off the bat we saw some great mat action, with Kopylov doing a great job of making it appear that Han was going to get the submission before the match really even got going. Kopylov immediately won me over using a clinch knee to set up an actual reasonable monkey flip, then attempting to spin into an armbar, but Han blocked. Kopylov is obviously a big man, but is very nimble and coordinated for a 250+ pounder. This was a veritable a leg lock clinic, and after a while it just felt wrong that they didn’t have a Twister mat out there. The match never felt believable, but that also was in my primary concern. ***1/2

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*Volume 41 Continued… *

Now for the main event between two men that have drunk deeply from the rivers of Seidokaikan, Akira Maeda and Willie Peeters. It’s a shame that this couldn’t have happened in the early 80s as Williams is past his prime, and Maeda is past the point of having a useful knee. In the interview before the match, Maeda talks about how he’s nervous because of the image he has had of Willie from his past. He talks about how he used to see him fight in the Kyokushin tournaments in the 70s, along with his bear fight, the Inoki fight, etc., but he says that his image is probably no longer the reality so he’s trying not to be nervous. Before we begin, let us check in with Ace Historian, Mike Lorefice, for a recap of the infamous Inoki/Williams bout.

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ML: NJPW 2/27/80 WWF Martial Arts Title: Antonio Inoki vs. Willie Williams R4 1:24. Most of Inoki’s “martial arts matches” have been complete embarrassments, but this was truly an epiphany, showing “real” fighting was a style actually worth developing and exploring, something that could look different in a good way rather than just being a less flashy version of the same sideshow shenanigans. Here we had a collision between the top pro wrestler & sort of top karate guy, in an era where karate was still big enough that being the top karate fighter mattered, as they still represented the top means of self defense study in Japan, as well as most other corners of the globe. Williams was the top foreign protege of legendary karate master Mas Oyama, who was famous for defeating animals such as bulls & bears. Willie actually only made it to the semifinals of the 160 man Karate World Championships tournament the year before, but he was already known in Japan for playing himself in a movie where he earned the nickname “The Bear Killer” by following in Oyama’s footsteps and taking one out, so he seemed to be the flagbearer in this battle between fake & real fighting, which was actually more something the fans demanded than the usual fight where Inoki just leveraged his money to get world class fighters who would beat him in seconds to lay down for him. While still obviously a work, the heat & intensity were off the charts, and there was genuine desperation, mostly because neither side would agree to do the job, and with such huge stakes, both sides were very leery of a double cross. In a setting where there’s genuine suspense & hostility, and thus neither side really wants to compromise themselves or be generous and trusting to make the other look superior, even Inoki’s usually feeble attempts to create heat by being chippy came off well because they were applied to something that seemed urgent and ready to ignite, rather than completely farcical and begging to be laughed at. All that being said, the match was mostly good due to Williams having being an amazing athlete who had great skill & wasn’t willing to compromise it. After all, while Williams had more of a name in Japan & higher standing in their karate world, this is ultimately the same disaster as the Monster Man match if he didn’t deliver the goods. While Williams was never a favorite of RINGS fans, keep in mind that he was 41 when he debuted there. This 28-year-old version is almost a totally different fighter than we saw in the '90’s, really a revelation to this style, as he’s actually trying to use his length, footwork, & speed rather than reverting back to the established dumbed down, no skill stand around begging to be clobbered hokem the way even most pro wrestlers who have won MMA matches do. When I say Williams was a great athlete, I don’t just mean for a 6’7" guy, he seemed like he could have been a dominant power forward in another life, and I have no doubt he could have won the UFC heavyweight title had he been born later, especially if he was competing with today’s stiffs such as Derrick Lewis & Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who stand around doing nothing beyond praying the opponent for some reason gets bored enough to just run into their right hand. Williams was an amazingly fast, reactive athlete, and he didn’t just make it easy for Inoki as Inoki’s other clay pigeons did. Williams may not always have employed modern MMA technique, but he understood how to fight, and he was trying to bring his battle tested reactions to wrestling rather than trying to fit in by doing everything at half speed, and compensating with over the top theatrics. There were great little bits such as Inoki shooting for a single, but Williams stuffing it with an underhook, then immediately peeling off to the side & disengaging so Inoki couldn’t make a second attempt at the takedown. The action constantly broke down by spilling to the floor, in part because neither guy wanted to give the other an opening for anything major, to be prone to the point the opponent could take them out if they decided to be a shady back stabber. While this was worked, it’s more that 1 guy would do something expecting the other to either take it or not, and then once in a while they’d purposely give an opening. For example, Williams would use his reach to land jabs that Inoki should take because they are solid but not going to knock him out, but then he’d throw a slightly slow & telegraphed high kick that Inoki was supposed to counter. In any case, the real or imagined threat of the opponent choosing glory over honor added a legitimate tension to the fight, keeping both guys on their toes & reacting sooner rather than later. In the 2nd, Williams dodged a rolling thunder & kicked Inoki in the head, but Inoki finally dragged him down. They rolled to the floor though, where things got out of control & Inoki emerged with a bloody head. After a really long break, they finally restarted only to have Inoki escape to the floor to avoid Williams strikes & both guys crashed to the floor (which Inoki tried to recreate in seemingly every UFO match) after Inoki took Williams down. All this smoke & mirrors was keeping the urgency up while limiting exposing the fakery because one of the big problems with Inoki vs. Chuck Wepner particularly was the more Wepner hit Inoki with his obviously pulled strikes, the more the match failed to succeed on any level. Inoki finally seemed to have his chance hitting a hane goshi, but Williams immediately responded with an up kick only to nearly get armbarred trying to follow with ground and pound. The finish where they each threw a dropkick then wrestled each other over the top to the floor, with Inoki getting an armbar but Williams being saved by the double ring out was the only part that seemed obviously scripted. Though Inoki got that bone at the end, Williams owned him for most of the match, certainly doing way better than any of the other martial artists had done against Inoki. In some sense not a lot happened here, but the movement of Williams & the urgency of both made it feel drastically different than perhaps anything we’d seen before. While I wouldn’t rank it close to the best match of the 20th century, as it was named in a 2003 poll in Japan, because it’s so much better than the previous Inoki martial arts matches that were chores to try to keep a straight face through, it truly felt original, and it has endured the test of time. ****

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Strangely, this match will be divided up into rounds, which we haven’t seen in Maeda’s previous RINGS encounters, but makes it more like karate. Right away it is painfully apparent that Williams has no business being in show business. He is a great karateka, but his pulled knees just look atrocious. Thankfully, Maeda quickly takes him down to the ground where he can hopefully mask this deficiency. Sadly, that isn’t working either, and Williams is just flat-out bad at faking fighting. Perhaps, someone in the highest tier, like a Tamura could get something usable out of him, but even Maeda in his prime would probably not be able to carry Williams to anything close to watchable. This wasn’t the worst match we’ve seen or the worst main event for that matter, but for all the spectacle and build-up behind it, it was very disappointing to see such a lack of a pay-off. Eventually, Williams succumbs to a submission 2 mins into the third round, and I hope that we will pretend that this never happened. In the post fight interview, Maeda said the fight was easier than he expected because instead of going for combinations, Willie was just trying to go for one hit KOs, which were easier to deflect.

ML: Williams was at least interesting here, while Maeda mostly just sucked. Many of Williams knee’s left something to be desired, but at least he was active and aggressive, working hard and doing his best to make this look like an important fight. The match was pretty good when they were on their feet, with Williams landing some nice body punches and Maeda trying to kick Williams legs out, but logically Maeda couldn’t stand with Williams for long, while he owned Willie on the mat. The problem, as with all of Maeda’s matches, is he doesn’t do anything once it hits the canvas. These breaks certainly helped allow Williams to maintain the energy to do his explosive bursts when he got up, but would it have been too much to ask to at least give the illusion that some semblance of work was actually going on while they were on the mat? This wasn’t terrible, but obviously it happened a decade too late to be notable.

Conclusion: Despite the terrible main event, and the lackluster Vrij match, this was another good RINGS event. Maybe just a few notches below last month (which felt like an MMA event through-and-through), but we got a good mix of shoots and entertaining works, including a great match with Han/Kopylov, and even the opener, while not in the Kanehara/Maeda sphere, was decent. I’m enjoying where RINGS is at right now, as even if you have some misfires in the worked department, if you mix several shoots on the same card, that will almost guarantee that you aren’t going to bottom out.

ML: RINGS is the only league right now that is striking a nice balance between works and shoots. While their works generally aren’t as good as UWF-, a card with a couple good fake matches and a couple of legitimate matches is arguably more compelling as a whole.

(Come witness this entire event in full along with an addtional 6 hours of bonus footage, which includes the Inoki/Williams match over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad )

In other news

On 7-12-92 Stan “The Man” Longinidis faced Grant “The Bomber” Barker in Sydney Australia. When we last saw Stan, he calmly and coolly dispatched Branko Citatic in an easily won decision. Barker has been making waves lately as a brash up-and-comer, so this was a classic case of the established veteran facing the hungry rookie. Stan is always at his most dangerous early in the fight, and tonight is no different, as he begins by stalking his prey like a vicious wolverine. Barker tries to push Stan back with a couple of kicks, but there is seemingly no answer on how to keep Stan from blocking off his access to the center of the ring. Towards the end of the round, Stan started throwing some bombs, which were mostly blocked by Barker, but it looks like Grant is on borrowed time here.

Round 2 starts and Stan instantly floors Barker with an incredible right hook. It’s obvious that the Barker hype train is about to be derailed, as it’s just a matter of how long he can last. Barker spent most of the remainder of this round covering his face and praying for a swift end.

Barker came out swinging in round 3, and to my surprise, had Stan on the defensive. Barker was looking good until Stan managed to chop him down with an insane low kick. Barker got back up only to take another hard left hook to the chin. Game over. While this was hardly a competitive fight, Stan is one of our favorites here at Kakutogi HQ, and it’s been wonderful to see him on such a tear, as of late. We look forward to seeing his next move.

ML: In round one, Stan just walked Barker down, keeping him against the ropes with the upper thigh kick and front kick. Barker was clearly looking for a huge counterpunch, but since he wasn’t holding his ground, Stan had no reason to overcommit. Barker tried to correct that in the 2nd, but when he tried to come over the top of Stan’s low kick with his own middle kick, Stan just dropped in with a big left hook. Stan tried to pour it on, but even though Barker was missing, he fired back so heavily that you had to respect his capabilities. Round two was a big round for Stan, and though Barker had no quit in him, it was not a good sign that his thigh was beginning to give him problems. Early in round three, Barker’s left leg kick gave out from a low kick. Stan went right back to the low kick, and Barker tried to answer with his own right low kick, but the plant leg was compromised, and I think that did him in more than Stan’s subsequent left hook.

(If the prior 8 hours of footage that we mentioned wasn’t enough, you can also witness this entire event over at www.patreon.com/KakutogiRoad)

"he truly was a force of nature in his prime as Mas Oyama’s (Sediokaikan karate founder) main American protégé."

not to nitpick, but in the above quote, Oyama founded kyokushin, not seidokaikan. Ishi broke away from oyama to found seido and later the K-1.

You are correct! Sadly, I know better and accidently misstated that. I will correct it. Good eye!

Happens to the best of us