Sunday, June 8, 2008

10 Things I Miss About PRIDE

After writing my other blog about bringing back the Grand Prix it got me to thinking about what other unique aspects of PRIDE I'd like to see brought to American promotions. I came up with this list:

1. Grand Prix - see my other blog.

2. Soccer kicks and knees to the head of a downed opponent: I always sign off soccer kicks and head stomps because this was the best difference in the rules between PRIDE and the UFC. It added a totally different dynamic to the fights and it's the rule that helped make so many of the Brazilians as prolific as they were in PRIDE (most notably Wanderlei Silva). I understand that head stomps are very dangerous and most Americans would cringe at instituting this rule. However, soccer kicks rarely ever land flush and I've never seen a knockout from a soccer kick to a downed opponent. I have seen a knockout by knees but I think this rule should be instituted because otherwise the north/south position is totally useless in U.S. MMA. So for those reasons I would love to see soccer kicks and knees to the head of downed opponents back in MMA.
- On a side note here I would like to point out that as much as I love MMA, Vale Tudo is my favorite form of fighting. If anyone has ever seen the IVC (that launched the careers of many popular fighters including most notably Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva) you know what I'm talking about. These were bare knuckle, 30 minute time limit fights with no rounds. The only rules were no cheap shots (in other words, no groin shots, no eye gouging, no body parts in orifices, no small joint manipulation). This meant stomping, kicking, kneeing, head butting, etc. etc. were all allowed. This is as close to real fighting as it gets but unfortunately this is really only popular in Brazil but even there it's been pushed to the outskirts due to the growing popularity of MMA which has many more safety precautions that appeals to a broader audience.

3. Scoring of the bouts: In the U.S. we use the totally inept and basically useless 10 point must system to score bouts round by round. We also score based on striking, grappling, aggression, and control. I think both sets of criteria are absolutely irrelevant and useless when it comes to scoring an MMA bout. PRIDE used the whole fight to score and scored the fight based on only one thing, attempt to finish the fight. This usually netted out in fairer decisions because across the span of 15-25 minutes so much can change that it's really unfair to score the bouts based on five minute intervals. The fight really should be scored based on the merit of the entire time period. Also, because of the "control" aspect of MMA rules in America, too many fighters think it's okay to just take their opponent down and control them while doing little to try and end the fight. This approach should not be tolerated let alone rewarded. I can't tell you how many times Joe Rogan has said live on air that we need a new scoring system for MMA in the U.S. and I couldn't agree more. This sport has grown and changed in leaps and bounds and it's time for the scoring system to evolve with it. These two changes in the scoring system lead me to my 4th point.

4. Yellow cards: Yellow cards were one of my absolute favorite things about PRIDE. Yellow cards were given for a variety of penalties but what I liked most was that they were also given for a lack of action. With a yellow card there was an automatic restart and a fighter lost a percentage of his purse. If he got 3 cards he was DQ'd. This naturally lead to more exciting fights because fighters did not want to lose a percentage of their purse. Also, it gave refs the power to start a fight over that was going nowhere. Unfortunately in the U.S. too many refs let the fights go way too long without any action on the ground. When fights go to the ground people either want to see submissions or ground and pound. So if neither fighter is being active enough it has to be restarted. Bringing back yellow cards would help this cause a lot.

5. 10 minute rounds: In PRIDE the first round was 10 minutes and the next two were 5 (except for tournaments with only one 5 minute round). This was great because it gave the fighters more opportunities to end the fight sooner because as a 10 minute round goes on the fighters wear down and it creates more opportunities for mistakes that can get you KO'd or submitted. It also gave grapplers a better chance at submissions because submissions usually are not quick. Fighters have to find the mistake and capitalize and that usually takes time and a lot of subtle movement which there isn't much opportunity of in a 5 minute round. If it was up to me and we had the fight scored as a whole I would have one 10 minute round and one 5 minute round for non title fights and two ten minute rounds and one 5 minute round for title fights. I think fights would end quicker and that would create more excitement for the fans.

6. Bas Rutten: Plain and simple the guy is a great color commentator. Mike Goldberg, Mauro Renallo, and Stephen Quadros are all kind of the same, but Bas is leaps and bounds ahead of Joe Rogan. I don't dislike Rogan. He's very knowledgeable and we agree on many points. However, Bas, being a real fighter, brought a certain level of authenticity to his comments from years of experience. Also, it just always sounded like he was having a great time and Joe sometimes sounds like it's just another day at the office. I miss Bas especially since I don't have HDnet and can't see him on his new regular gig but I wish he could join the UFC team.

7. The female ring announcer: To be honest I'm sick and tired of Bruce Buffer. I also think he seems like a total dick. I miss the crazy female ring announcer from PRIDE. She sounded like a weird mix of a screeching banshee and Xena: Warrior Princess. However, she always brought a level of levity and fun to the proceedings. I'd take her any day over Michael... oops I mean Bruce Buffer (face it little man, you'll never be your brother).

8. Intricate set designs and fighter introductions: I'm not one for slutty dancers and pyrotechnics (this is EliteXC not PRIDE) but I did really enjoy the fighter introductions before the events started in PRIDE. They would introduce each fighter (one fighter on one side and their opponent on the other side of the set) on these very elaborate stages. I know it just adds time to the show and really isn't necessary but I always thought the set designs were cool and the introductions added a level of excitement to the show.

9. Japanese crowds: The Japanese fans are the best fans in the world. They are so knowledgeable or at least respectful that during most fights you could hear a pin drop in the arena. They understood the finer points of grappling (probably because of their deep history of many martial arts including Judo, Sumo, and Jiu Jitsu) and the fight didn't have to be a stand up brawl to keep them riveted (although they enjoyed those as much as we do). However, they would also let you know when you're boring and demanded action just as much as Americans do. If you're getting booed by a Japanese crowd you know you put on the worst fight of the night because Japanese fans are 100x more respectful and forgiving than American fans. It's too bad we can't transplant those fans here because I hate hearing a crowd boo out of ignorance (and most likely drunkenness). If the fight is boring that's one thing and those fights do happen when even I get frustrated. But it seems like any time a fight goes to the ground people immediately boo here. If you wanted to see a boxing match go watch some fossils duke it out with big red gloves and have the ref pull them apart when their arm hairs touch. Me, I like my fighting real and real fights go to the ground. Learn it and love it Americans (or you can leave it for all I care).

10. Super arenas: It's great that the UFC can sell out 10-20,000 seat arenas on a regular basis. But I miss the fights put on in stadiums that could hold 40-60,000 people. Can you imagine almost a football stadium worth of MMA fans? It was unreal. Those fights felt so big simply because of the stage they were on. As nice as it is to see a packed house every night for the UFC I miss seeing the pull out shots on an entire stadium full of people looking at two guys going toe to toe in the ring. Unfortunately there isn't much the UFC can do about this as they really couldn't even fill a baseball stadium yet but I'm hoping one day MMA will be big enough where we can put a show in the middle of a football stadium and see 100,000 people show up.

Alright everyone, that's my top 10 things I miss about PRIDE. Hopefully if you've never seen PRIDE you'll immediately go out and get the old DVDs which are great (I'm trying to finish off my collection as we speak). Until the next time,

Soccer kicks and head stomps...

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