The opening montage to this ruled so hard. The black and white footage, the music, everything. Then we got a sambo/judo demonstration from the one and only Volk Han and one of his Russian buddies I didn't recognise. Everyone is loose and in good spirits as they prepare for the fighting ahead. Have I mentioned that I love everything about RINGS' production?
Hans Nyman v Adam Watt
Fairly dire and I'm pretty sure it was a shoot. Watt is a tall, rangy Australian of some pedigree in boxing and kickboxing, but he never really troubled Nyman for the most part. His corner spent the entire fight shouting "punch, kick, punch, punch, kick, face punch, face punch!" in increasingly exasperated, broken English at the distinct lack of face punching. He also had no ground game whatsoever and had he been in there with someone a little more capable this probably wouldn't have gone as long as it did. My goodness Nyman is the spitting image of a young Ronald Koeman. He mostly stood flat-footed and scowling until the last round and a half when he went from first all the way up to second gear.
Volk Han v Gennadi Gigant
Super fun bout, almost a highlight reel of Volk Han grabbing a guy's arm and throwing him around the place with it. It kind of makes you wonder why people would so casually try to grab him, or languidly throw palm strikes around his head. Why would you do that? Why would you hand him a lever to your pain? To be fair to Gigant he got the message eventually, but it never outright stopped Han, it only made it more difficult for him. There was one bit in particular where Han's yanked him around with an arm wringer and then landed him on his back with a throw. It looked absolutely spectacular. Gigant is a tall, heavyset guy who I think is also a sambo practitioner. He handled himself fairly well and used his weight advantage to try and control the ground, but Han was always slipping out of his grasp, and on top of that there's the ever-present danger of being countered in some absurd way you never thought possible. The final armbar was a thing of beauty, particularly in how Han secured Gigant's legs so he couldn't reach the ropes.
Nobuaki Kakuta v Rudy Ewoldt
Definitely my favourite thing Kakuta's been involved in thus far. He still can't do anything on the mat but that at least added some drama to the parts where Ewoldt was able to take him down, which he did with a couple big slams. These crowds are massively behind Kakuta every time out and they about lost it whenever he reeled off any halfway decent combo. His team coming in and throwing him in the air after the fight - as he wept tears of joy - was so carny and great, particularly as Ewoldt approached those last couple minutes like a man who'd had about enough of this and was ready to go collect his paycheck already.
Dick Vrij v Herman Renting
They seem to be referring to Vrij as Dick Fly now. I will not be following suit, however. This was decent enough. There's a hook to most of these Vrij fights in that, by virtue of the fact he's so much larger than his opponents, he's pretty much always opposite an underdog. Even Maeda felt like an underdog and Renting is not Maeda. Things started out pretty okay for Renting and he was persistent in going for takedowns, even if he never made much headway thereafter. He wasn't finding himself in a ton of trouble despite Vrij's striking, at least. Then Vrij found his feet and you felt it was only a matter of time. First came the leg kicks, then came Renting anticipating them, then came Vrij going high when Renting expected him to go low. And fuck me what a finish.
Willy Williams v Peter Smit
Kind of a lumbering mess, but it only lasted a couple minutes. Williams clearly has no idea what he's doing on the ground and can't really make his strikes look convincing, so Smit is eating knockdowns off of ropey knees as obvious job fodder. But hey, no downtime!
Masaaki Satake v Fred Oosterom
This was another short one, and like the Kakuta fight Satake wants nothing to do with the ground. Also like the Kakuta fight, it was probably helped by the fact they've ditched the rounds system. I mean it wasn't great, or even good, but it was short. Oosterom seemed capable enough of taking Satake down and Satake threw some nice enough shots, but there wasn't much to this. There's something about Satake's face that makes me wants to see him lose one of these. Maybe stick him in there with Dick Vrij.
Akira Maeda v Ramazi Buzariashvili
This felt a bit more mat based than Maeda's last few fights, or at least that it had more of Maeda working the mat...if that makes sense. He's still the superior striker, but I don't think we've really seen him stretch out with his grappling yet like we did here, even including the Han fight (which was largely dominated by Han whenever it went to the ground). Buzariashvili is the guy from the sambo demonstrations at the beginning of the show and he was really fun in this. Some of his throws looked excellent and there were a few moments where he treated Maeda's kicks to the midsection with disdain, raising his arms and waving to the crowd as he dared Maeda to do it some more. Maeda of course did it some more and Buzariashvili was left to regret his earlier insults as he ate a kick straight to the chin. As Maeda started to create openings with his kicks I liked how it was Buzariashvili's throws that created his own openings, at one point tossing Maeda like a bag of cement and leaping on his back with the attempted rear naked choke (you know the crowd buy Maeda being in real peril when they start the MA-E-DA chants). It looked like they messed up the finish a tiny bit, but other than that this was really nice stuff and I hope Buzariashvili shows up again in future.
Complete & Accurate RINGS