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Old 04-10-2007, 11:40 AM
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Default DSE Closes Book on PRIDE

DSE Closes Book on PRIDE

April 8, 2007
by Tony Loiseleur (tleidecker@sherdog.com)

SAITAMA, Japan, April 8 -- Before 23,336 PRIDE fans this evening at the Saitama Super Arena, fighters competing on tonight's card put forth their best effort to give a fitting and memorable send-off to PRIDE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara in Dream Stage Entertainment's final event after the sale of the company to Ultimate Fighting Championship owners Frank and Lorenzo Feritta.

If the image of an emotional, near-tears Sakakibara is any indication, then truly, tonight's fighters more than succeeded in their task.

In the main event, Jeff Monson (Pictures) defeated Japanese giant Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures) via rear-naked choke at 6:47 in the first round. Both men started the bout cautiously, measuring each other with conservative one-note strikes before Monson shot in for a takedown off of a right hook, left jab combo.

While Fujita was initially successful in stuffing the attempt, Monson tenaciously pushed ahead, holding onto a single-leg as he drove forward to force the fight the canvas. Though the takedown was never really completed, Monson was able to attain Fujita's back briefly before the Japanese wrestler was able to scramble and escape. Sprawled over Monson, Fujita then proceeded to land several hard shots to the head with the occasional knee in between.

Monson's tenacity almost cost him the bout at this point as his insistence to secure Fujita's leg for the takedown put him in the perfect position for a head kick. Narrowly missing, Fujita opted to keep his distance and not follow the ADCC heavyweight champion back onto the ground, prompting the referee to stand the fight back up.

Monson once again shot for a takedown, but Fujita's superlative wrestling pedigree won out once more, forcing the ATT representative to spin onto his back, not allowing his opponent a second opportunity at a soccer kick to the head.

The second stand-up didn't last long, as Fujita's pawing punches were answered with two stiff jabs and yet another single-leg takedown attempt by Monson. With a little help tripping the Japanese fighter with a free leg, Monson was able to force Fujita to give up his back to avoid the takedown, which the submission grappler happily took.

From here, Monson was able to wear on Fujita with several hard shots to the left side of the head before locking in the forearm choke from behind, forcing Fujita to tap at 6:37 in the first round.

Prior to the main event, Team Quest's newest and brightest star, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures), silenced critics and catapulted himself to Top 10 ranking status in the light heavyweight division.

Following up his shocking knockout victory over Brazilian Top Team's Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures), Sokoudjou was able to stop Nogueira's teammate and training partner Ricardo Arona (Pictures) in what was perhaps originally meant to be a BTT revenge match.

After a brief exchange on the feet, Arona shot in for a single-leg takedown, but was hard pressed to take the Cameroonian to the canvas. As he held onto Sokoudjou's leg, Arona was subject to several punches to the face from up top before attempting to transition to the clinch.

Sokoudjou managed to push Arona off and quickly chased after him with a solid uppercut that stunned the Brazilian Tiger and sent him flying backward onto the mat. Seizing the opportunity, Sokoudjou pounced and landed two more punches and a soccer kick to the head for good measure before the referee stopped the bout at 1:59 in the first round.

PRIDE ace and Shooto world middleweight (167 pounds) champion Shinya Aoki (Pictures) made quick work of Holland's Brian Lo-A-Njoe (Pictures) by way of armbar at a mere 1:33 in the first round.

Despite being stunned by several crushing blows while attempting to hold Lo-A-Njoe in guard, Aoki still had the wherewithal moments later to catch his opponent mid-flight during a flying knee and take him down. A quick scramble put Lo-A-Njoe back in the top position in Aoki's guard, where he looked to resume his ground-and-pound attack. Alas, it was not meant to be as Aoki was quick to bring up his legs and lock up the Dutchman's left arm for the armbar finish.

Britain's James Thompson (Pictures) took the fight to fan favorite Don Frye (Pictures), defeating the rugged veteran at 6:23 in the first round by TKO from undefended punches.

After briefly reenacting the historic dirty-boxing exchange between Frye and Takayama at PRIDE 21, Thompson and Frye took the fight to the ground, where the Brit was able to deliver hard punches and a soccer kick to the face of the American fighter.

Upon resuming the fight on the feet, Thompson and Frye once again went toe-to-toe, trading punches back and forth as "The Predator" was against the ring post. Despite fatigue taking its effects on both men, it was Thompson who managed to put forth the harder and more frequent shots, causing Frye to eventually turn away to avoid the unending barrage and the referee to stop the fight.

Flying into the ring, Gilbert Yvel (Pictures) pounded out an exciting finish against his late replacement opponent, the always game Akira Shoji (Pictures). Despite initially gaining the top position in Yvel's guard, Shoji was forced into a leg-lock battle when the Dutchman suddenly dropped to his back and almost caught the veteran Japanese fighter in a heelhook.

After grappling it out for some time with no results to speak of, both men were forced to give up the leg-lock war. Upon giving up on the submission attempt, Yvel bounded forward, taking top position as he landed in Shoji's half guard. From there, the Dutch fighter was able to mount an onslaught of punches, stunning and putting Shoji out for the evening. Unable to intelligently defend, the referee was forced to end the fight at 3:04 in the first.

In a brief but entertaining match-up, Japan's Makoto Takimoto (Pictures) weathered the storm of Croatia's "Benkei" Zelg Galesic (Pictures) to get a submission victory via straight armbar late in the first.

Opening the fight with resonant Thai kicks, Galesic looked to push the fight on the feet and win in much the same fashion that has made him a fan favorite and champion in Britain's Cage Rage promotion. Takimoto had different plans and promptly locked up in the clinch to bring the fight to the floor.

Both fighters traded top position, as well as back position during the ensuing scramble, though it was largely Galesic who delivered the most effective strikes during the grappling session.

Despite a jumping guard pass and several classic Wanderlei Silva (Pictures)-esque foot-stomps later, Takimoto managed to once again take it to the ground, where he was able to turn the tide back in his favor. Takimoto first locked up the Croatian's left arm in an omoplata before isolating his right arm for the Kimura. From the bent arm-lock Takimoto transitioned to a straight-armbar, and in the process hurt the Croatian bomber, forcing the tap at 5:40 in the first round.

Perhaps surprising many this evening, Eric Esch (Pictures) scored his first bona fide arm-lock, quickly submitting Brazilian giant Zuluzinho with an Americana midway through the first stanza. Charging each other from the opening bell, "Butterbean" overwhelmed Zulu in the clinch and forced him to the floor. From side-mount, "Bean" delivered heavy knees and hammer fists to the head, between attempting to isolate Zulu's right arm.

It wasn't long before the former boxer was able to cinch the arm and torque it back for the fight ending tap at a quick 2:35 into the first.

Dominating the grappling in his match against Edson Drago (Pictures), "Kiss" Yoshihiro Nakao (Pictures) finished his opponent with a submission late in the first period. The stalwart wrestler persevered with takedown after takedown throughout the 10-minute round's duration, taking down the BTT fighter almost at will and maintaining top position while dropping a number of punches and knees. The end came with a modified neck crank ("kesa-gatame," according to Nakao) from the side-press position at the 9:15 mark.

Staying true to his promise at Saturday's press conference, Nobuyuki Sakakibara certainly surprised the fans in attendance this evening by announcing what was originally meant to be an additional bout on this evening's card.

During the evening's intermission, Japanese mixed martial arts legend Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures), made an emotional return to the PRIDE ring where he announced his intention to become a bridge between K-1 and PRIDE by taking on long-time archrival, Kiyoshi Tamura (Pictures).

With tears in his eyes, Sakuraba expressed that despite his regret in not competing Sunday -- he was contacted on short notice only one week prior -- he was happy to have finally returned to his home ring. Tamura, likewise, expressed his contentment with the future match-up against Sakuraba, and despite their given history, showed great deference and respect by embracing his archrival.
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