Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pancrase (pt.2)

Another MMA legend is Bas Rutten. Rutten was a former UFC Heavyweight Champion and was beloved as a play-by-play commentator for Pride Fighting Championship. He is truly one of the most revered and heralded figures in MMA of all-time. His total number of UFC fights: two. So, how was a guy who only had two fights in the top MMA promotion such a legend? Look no further than Pancrase. The wars with Frank Shamrock, and the use of his patented liver shots on Jason Delucia; Rutten built most of his legacy in Pancrase. And although Frank Shamrock is often considered the archetype for a "complete" MMA fighter, here's something interesting to note. Bas started his career training in stand-up arts such as Tae Kwon Do and Kyokushin Karate. Of his 25 wins that were finished, 12 of them were by KO/TKO, and 13 were by submission. Though perhaps Frank was able to handle wrestlers better, as evidence by him handling Tito Ortiz and Rutten's struggle with Kevin Randleman, Rutten should not be overlooked when talking about the first, real "mixed martial artist." Rutten was everything a fan of the sport could ask for: a colorful personality and fierce competitor who was able to adapt to the game. It's a shame his career was cut short, as he had all the tools to become an even bigger legend than he already is. American fans should be jealous that their Japanese counterparts got to witness the birth and rise of one of MMA's all-time greats.

Speaking of the archetype for modern MMA, Frank Shamrock was also a staple in the early days of Pancrase. There, he racked up many impressive wins over the likes of Suzuki and Funaki, and had many entertaining battles with Bas Rutten. Though he was never an undisputed King of Pancrase, Frank began to show skills and poise that would one day lead him to be called "The Legend." After two straight losses to end his Pancrase career, followed by a loss to John Lober under the Superbrawl banner, Frank decided to dedicate his time to mixed martial arts. The results showed. He went to the UFC and destroyed the competition during his reign as Light-Heavyweight (called Middleweight at that time) Champion. He submitted Jeremy Horn, avenged his loss to Lober in definitive fashion, and taught Tito Ortiz a lesson in cardio. Though he was a dominant UFC champion, it was his time in Pancrase that paved the way for him to become "The Legend."

Though the names have gone and the rules have changed, Pancrase still remains. Names like Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Chael Sonnen, and Josh Barnett have all stepped through the ropes and done battle in the Pancrase ring. Pancrase continues to showcase rising athletes of the sport, just as it did in the past. While Rutten, Ken Shamrock, and others no longer fight there, their names will forever be synonymous with the organization that had the Lucky Strike logo in the center of it's ring for so long. Who knows how much longer Pancrase will last, but it's memorable fighters and fights when the young sport was starting out will live on forever in the minds and hearts of fans.

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