This Day in MMA History: July 4

By: Ben Duffy
Jul 4, 2020

Pride FC 6 is typical of single-digit Pride Fighting Championships events in that it was very much the product of a promotion that was still finding itself.

The seven-fight card, which took place in Yokohama on July 4, 1999, featured several Pride mainstays who would remain so until the end, including Kazushi Sakuraba and “Mr. Pride” himself, Akira Shoji. It also featured one who would not be a mainstay for too much longer—at least between the ropes—in the person of Nobuhiko Takada. Our Pride FC 5 lookback discussed why Takada in the ring was problematic for Pride, but it can be summed up here in a single sentence: He was never a good fighter, both of his career wins were probably fixes and yet he was a vitally important persona and figurehead for the promotion.

Facing Takada in the Pride 5 headliner that night was Mark Kerr, the 30-year-old protégé of Mark Coleman, Takada’s previous—ahem—victim. “The Smashing Machine” had a record of 10-0 with nine finishes and was the most feared man in the sport, as attested by his multiple wins that had amounted to foes fleeing in terror: WVC 3 had seen capoeira master Sidney Goncalves Freitas simply slide out of the ring and refuse to come back, while at Pride 2, Branko Cikatic had clung to the ropes like a toddler trying not to be left at day care, ignoring the referee’s warnings and effectively choosing disqualification over going back to the canvas with Kerr.

In light of the two men’s bodies of work, Takada-Kerr seemed like a true two-outcome fight—paid slapstick or homicide—but ended up being neither. Kerr won the fight with ease, wrenching Takada’s arm with a kimura in three minutes while suffering next to no damage, but of all the fights in his competitive prime, it is the one in which he looked the least like any kind of smashing machine. Kerr’s takedowns were straightforward and cleanly executed without slams, he employed no ground-and-pound to speak of, and Takada even managed to escape once by kicking Kerr off from guard.

For the record, there is no trustworthy report that Kerr was paid, otherwise gotten to or that he had any ulterior motive to do less than his best in the ring that night. In hindsight, it seems just as likely that rather than cynically “carrying” one of his bosses, Kerr merely realized he was in the ring with someone who had nothing to offer him competitively and did exactly as much as needed in order to finish the fight—but nothing more. It would be in keeping with what we know of Kerr’s character; while his mentor Coleman was a legitimately tough guy who loved the scrap, Kerr had always come across almost too sensitive and kindly to be a cage fighter. When Kerr had threatened to drop out of his first no-holds-barred tournament if he saw too much blood, everyone understood that he was talking about his opponents.

As it turned out, both men in the main event had already peaked, competitively speaking. While it is unsurprising that Takada never won another fight, Kerr was knocked out by Igor Vovchanchyn in his next appearance at Pride 7. The loss was changed to a no-contest when Vovchanchyn’s knee strikes were later determined to have been illegal, but the result for Kerr’s psyche was unchanged; he would go 4-11 over the remainder of his career amid psychological and substance abuse struggles.

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