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The Forgotten Round: Looking Back at the Pride Grand Prix 2000

(The Grand Prix alternate bout, which sees Wanderlei Silva defeat Bob Schrijber via…SUBMISSION?!!!)

By CP Reader Bryan S. Adelman

January 30th marked the 15-year anniversary of a seminal event in Mixed-Martial Arts history, an occasion largely unnoticed due to the hype surrounding a certain middleweight fight the following night.

The event? None other than the opening round to the 2000 PRIDE Grand Prix, of course.

The culmination of the Japanese promotion’s two-year campaign of violence, the first half of the two-part tournament sported a number of notable fighters of the time, including Kazushi Sakuraba, Guy Mezger, Mark Kerr, Gary Goodridge, Royce Gracie, and the eventual Grand Prix winner, Mark Coleman.

The actual fights themselves were nothing to write home about. In typical Pride fashion, they were simply squash matches; the most notable offender being the tilt between a prime (and, ahem, enhanced – see above) Coleman and the debuting Masaaki Satake, a K-1 veteran that finished his MMA career with a record of 1-8-1. And before you ask, no, it didn’t end well for Satake.

Even the main event between the returning Royce Gracie and the ever shady Nobuhiko Takada was hardly competitive, with Gracie taking the dull decision. Takada, content to simply do nothing, remained in Gracie’s guard for the majority of the 15 minute fight.

The night’s lone high-point was undoubtedly the Guy Mezger vs. Kazushi Sakuraba fight, ending in a controversial victory for the now-mythical Sakuraba. Below you will find the fight’s highlights set to “Paradise City” by Guns n’ Roses, because Murica.

After a fun, albeit restrained, kickboxing match (“In some ways, this is coming off more as a sparring match,” Commentator Stephen Quadros pointed out), PRIDE judges declared the fight a draw and ordering an extra overtime round, much to the fury of Mezger’s cornerman, Ken Shamrock. Instead of fighting, Shamrock (being Shamrock) stubbornly ordered Mezger back to the locker room, resulting in Sakuraba gaining the TKO victory.

Hindsight has a way of disregarding the non-essential details.

In hindsight, the decision was undoubtedly unfair to Mezger, yet without the fight’s questionable judging — and without Takada taking a dive against Gracie — we would’ve never had the epic, 90-minute showdown between Sakuraba and Gracie just a little over three months later at the Grand Prix Finals. Sooo…all’s well that ends well, I guess?

In hindsight, it’s easy to see that, had it not been for the squash matches, we would’ve never witnessed Mark Coleman’s rebirth as the sport’s bona fide alpha male.

In hindsight, it’s better to view the opening round, as painful as it was, as merely a starting point; a Batman Begins to the finals’ Dark Knight.

After all, great things were soon to come.

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