Untethered Retrospective: PRIDE Total Elimination 2003
PRIDE Total Elimination 2003 took place on August 10th…2003. That’s eleven years ago. Eleven years is a long time. A long enough time for someone like me to write a retrospective on it for someone like you to read. So, let’s do that.
NAME: PRIDE Total Elimination 2003
DATE: August 10th, 2003
VENUE: Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan
MATCH 1 – Fedor Emelianenko vs. Gary Goodridge
Emelianenko had won the PRIDE heavyweight title from Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in March, and had won a fight in RINGS (his last for that promotion) and survived a scare from Kazuyuki Fujita in the interim. So, of course, he opens a major event against Gary Goodridge in a non-title affair. Goodridge hadn’t completely fallen off yet, but Goodridge also was never any good and he likely owes his entire career to elbowing Paul Herrera into unconsciousness at UFC 8.
So, it’s no surprise when Emelianenko pounces early and mauls Goodridge and caps things off with soccer kicks to finish in 69 seconds. Goodridge would actually go on to win 6 of his next 7, albeit against old/bad/old-and-bad competition, before taking a bunch of beatings that led to his retirement in 2010. Not surprisingly, Goodridge is in bad shape these days.
MATCH 2 – Chuck Liddell vs. Alistair Overeem
I was watching this fight in the office and my buddy peered over my shoulder.
“Who is that guy?”
Overeem’s not quite THE REEM yet in 2003, but he’s still Alistair Overeem and he predictably fades after a hot start. Liddell lands an overhand right flush that sends Overeem into the Punch-Out!! dance back toward the ropes where Liddell finishes him off.
This fight was a big deal because Dana White brought over one of the UFC’s biggest stars – one, by the way, that had just lost to Randy Couture in the Octagon – to fight in PRIDE. The plan was for Liddell to fight Wanderlei Silva. Instead, it led to one of White’s most infamous moments when Liddell wouldn’t follow the gameplan against Quinton Jackson.
MATCH 3 – Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Murilo Bustamante
Oh, spoiler alert, Jackson wins.
PRIDE originally scheduled Rampage to fight Ricardo Arona, but the latter broke his ankle in training, so in steps Arona’s teammate, Bustamante. Bustamante jumps and pulls guard at every opportunity, and actually threatens Jackson in the first round with an armbar/triangle sequence (which Jackson predictably slams out of) and a guillotine choke that winds up pulling Jackson’s shorts down to his knees.
But that was it. Bustamante acquits himself fine on the feet, but Jackson controls the fight, and we get to see some of the body punching/elbowing/forearming from guard that Jackson would use to beat up Liddell at Final Elimination.
One of the judges scored this for Bustamante, likely because of the submission attempts, and I mention this because of foreshadowing.
MATCH 4 – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Ricco Rodriguez
Rodriguez is largely forgotten now, and one wonders how he would be remembered today if this fight had gone the other way. Or, rather, not the fight itself, but the decision, which ranks up there with the worst in PRIDE’s history and is a go-to for detractors of the “score the fight as a whole” thing. But Rodriguez was less than a year out from running through the UFC’s (admittedly weak) heavyweight division, including making Randy Couture submit to elbows in the fifth round to win the heavyweight title. He’d lose it right away to Tim Sylvia, but the point I’m making is that Rodriguez was a legit top name at the time.
Outside of the first minute or so, this fight is largely Rodriguez on top in Nogueira’s guard. Nogueira’s trying all sorts of submissions that Rodriguez defends well, and none of these are really all that threatening. The FightMetric stats are surprisingly close, but with the added context of the fight itself aren’t persuasive enough to suggest a Nogueira victory. Yet, the PRIDE judges give it to him unanimously. Rodriguez goes on to lose to Pedro Rizzo at UFC 45, and then fights another 47 times outside of a major organization. (Sorry, IFL, Bellator, and Bosnian Fight Championship.)
MATCH 5 – Mirko Filipovic vs. Igor Vovchanchyn
This is textbook “rising star vs. fading veteran” matchmaking, and Filipovic makes short work of Vovchanchyn with a left head kick that remains one of the greatest MMA highlights of all time. “Cro Cop” calls out Emelianenko, who just sort of sits there blankly, and the two wouldn’t fight for another two years thanks to Cro Cop’s losses to Nogueira and Kevin Randleman.
MATCH 6 – Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Hidehiko Yoshida
Tamura was your typical hybrid pro wrestler/mixed martial artist of the time period who beat a bunch of “names” in RINGS and then, lo and behold, did nothing in PRIDE. Yoshida was the 1992 Olympic gold medalist in judo who was in his third pro MMA fight and hugely over with the Japanese crowd. He has some trouble with Tamura, but winds up tossing him on his back and whipping out an ezekiel choke for the finish. (Oh, yeah, Yoshida fought in a gi and Tamura wore wrestling shoes. PRIDE!)
The biggest highlight of Yoshida’s career would come in November when he somehow made it fifteen minutes with Wanderlei Silva.
MATCH 7 – Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
For all the fawning over PRIDE (and I enjoy it as much as anyone), it’s important to remember that these schmucks threw Sakuraba – who probably should have been fighting at 183 pounds – in against Wanderlei Silva three times (plus a fight against Cro Cop for good measure). This last and final time came five months after Nino Schembri finished Sakuraba with knees.
It takes Silva a blink over five minutes to land a left-right combo that lays Sakuraba out. Silva would go on to defeat Yoshida and Jackson to win the GP at Final Elimination. Sakuraba would submit Randleman with an armbar and then never win another meaningful fight again.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.