May 1st, 2000
The Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals took place at the Tokyo Dome tonight. Some of the biggest names in the sport had qualified for the final eight of this openweight tournament after successfully navigating the opening round in January.
Mark Coleman and Igor Vovchanchyn met in the final. The former UFC heavyweight champion was going up against the multiple time IFC and AFC tournament winner.
The Ukrainian came into this tournament on the back of an incredible 36 fight winning streak. It would have been 37 wins if his victory over Mark Kerr at Pride 7 hadn’t subsequently been changed to a no contest.
By contrast Coleman had lost four out of his last five fights coming into the tournament but the American had a huge advantage because his semi final had lasted just two seconds. That’s how long it had taken Kazuyuki Fujita’s corner to decide to call off the contest, due to the wear and tear their man had suffered in the opening round.
Vovchanchyn must have thought he was in for an easy ride against Kazushi Sakuraba. The Japanese fighter had spent an incredible 90 minutes battling Royce Gracie in his quarter final before the Brazilian threw in the towel.
But Sakuraba somehow summoned the reserves of energy required to battle the Ukrainian for 15 minutes before quitting due to sheer exhaustion. That meant Coleman was significantly the fresher of the two fighters going into the final.
The American southpaw wasted no time in shooting for a takedown, putting the kickboxer on his back. The vastly experienced Vovchanchyn was able to frustrate Coleman with his defence but could not escape.
Coleman eventually moved into side control but Vovchanchyn soon reestablished his guard. The American looked extremely comfortable in top position even if he wasn’t doing any real damage.
Towards the end of the round Coleman moved into side control again and attempted a keylock. But the Ukrainian hasn’t been finished with a submission since 2005 and eventually escaped.
Having landed nothing of note in the first 15 minutes Vovchanchyn needed to turn things around in the second stanza. But Coleman was able to trap the exhausted Ukrainian in the corner and take him down at the start of the round.
The American moves effortlessly from guard into north-south position. From there he began throwing solid knees to the head of Vovchanchyn who elected to tap out.
Whether it was due to the damage Coleman was doing or exhaustion only the Ukrainian will know. The odds were stacked against Vovchanchyn in the final and he was ultimately unable to overcome them.
Vovchanchyn drops to 42-3-1 after suffering his first loss in the Pride ring. Coleman improves to 9-4 and takes home the trophy and the $200,000 USD prize money.
This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.