September 21, 1993, Tokyo Bay NK Hall, Urayasu, Chiba, Japan
Before the UFC was born, there was Pancrase. Ken Shamrock entered UFC 1 as “King of Pancrase,” and many UFC and Pride legends were alternating their appearances in those promotions with Pancrase events. This promotion’s back catalogue isn’t quite as easy to get hold of, but where I can, I’ll include Pancrase events in the chronological list of event reviews. Fortunately UFC Fight Pass has several classic Pancrase events, and are adding more all the time. To watch them, click on the banner above and sign up for Fight Pass. If you love fighting, you really won’t regret it.
The first fight of the night is between Minouri Suzuki vs Katsuomi Inagaki. There’s a notably different facial expression on the two fighters’ faces. Inagaki looks a little nervous. Suzuki looks like he’s about to eat someone’s soul. Suzuki takes the fight to the ground early and after a brief grappling and striking exchange, drops back to a 50/50 position. He’s to securing an ankle lock, but Inagaki is able to roll out of it, getting his back taken in the transition. They get tangled up in the ropes, so the referee restarts them on their feet. There’s some booted kicking and open hand striking as per Pancrase rules, before Suzuki takes the fight back to the ground. As Inagaki scrambles back to his feet, he gets caught in a standing guillotine, which Suzuki uses to drag him back down, take his back and from there he works in a rear naked choke. Inagaki grimaces, starts to tap, but goes to sleep in the process. Suzuki wins by submission.
Next up is Ryushi Yanagisawa against living legend Bas Rutten. Yanagisawa sends out a low kick which Bas catches, then fires back a thunderous one of his own that generates a gasp from the otherwise eerily quiet Japanese crowd. He follows up with a head kick and a straight right hand that drops Yanagisawa who only just makes it back to his feet before the count of 10. Bas lands another short but powerful combination and Yanagisawa is back on the floor, reconsidering his life choices that have led to him being on the wrong end of El Guapo. He slips peacefully into unconsciousness, and Bas wins by KO. After some celebration, Bas helps roll Yanagisawa into the recovery position and check on him a couple of times before heading back to the locker room. Classy guy.
The third fight of the night is Takaku Fuke vs Vernon White. Fuke has White on the canvas within a few seconds and dominates him, initially almost removing his head from a side headlock, then switching to an arm bar that White submits to before losing the limb. A quick night’s work by Fuke.
Our penultimate fight of the night is Kazou Takahashi vs George Weingeroff. This was Kazou’s first of 61 professional fights spanning two full decades. In contrast it was Weingeroff’s only ever fight. After eating a couple of heavy knees to the face, he was finished off with a head kick just over a minute in. Whatever he went on to do with the rest of his life, he obviously didn’t fancy doing that again.
The final bout of the evening is the promotion’s co-founders, Ken Shamrock and Masakatsu Funaki. Although they were friends, business partners and Funaki was Shamrock’s mentor, from the power of the opening kicks, you can tell this is no pro wrestling work. The early striking exchanges are fairly even, but when they go to the ground, Ken has the upper hand throughout, mounting and riding Funaki. Only when Ken attempts a leg lock does it even up to a stalemate and the referee stands them up. They’re back to the ground in short order with Ken in full mount. Funaki attempts to buck him off but Ken transitions to a tight arm triangle which eventually gets the tap. A jubilant Ken Shamrock wins the Inaugural Pancrase main event.
It’s a very subdued and dignified martial arts event, compared to the ferocious UFC 1 that was to follow a couple of months later. Highlight of the night for me was Bas Rutten, who’s one of my favourite human beings, and the whole event, short as it was, was very enjoyable.