I liked how this show opened by giving us a look at various dojos and gyms in the Netherlands with our Dutch fighters preparing for the trials and tribulations of the Fighting Network that is RINGS. At the end of the segment I think they all might've gone to a titty bar.
Tengiz Tedoradze v Koichiro Kimura
Your mileage may vary on how much you get out of this. It's messy and they're pretty liberal with how much they let each other get away with. Tedoradze is game, but you can tell he hasn't quite gotten a full handle on how this works yet (it's his first rodeo so, you know, understandable) and gives his back up rather easily. If you can put up with that then there's a nifty little fight to be had here. There might be more pro-wrestling in these ten minutes than in the entirety of the previous six shows, but it gives it a unique sort of charm, which Kimura was probably in need of after two lengthy fights he wasn't a particularly compelling part of. We got a fisherman suplex, a full on Jumbo-style backdrop, nearly a Go 2 Sleep of all things! Tedoradze doesn't look like much -- he's almost Han-esque in his mild-mannered uncle-ness, but he's a proficient wrestler and chucked Kimura around with a strength that belied his modest physique. At a couple points he muscled Kimura impressively into throws, including a German suplex, and even hit an Olympic Slam from what was practically a deadlift position. You could pick at the finish and say he was close enough to the ropes that he didn't need to tap, but he's new to this, remember? Embrace the storytelling.
Nobuaki Kakuta v Ton von Maurik
This was alright. There's a readymade story built into these Kakuta fights in that he's no use on the ground and instantly in danger when he's taken down, so crowds really buy into the drama when it looks like an opponent has him in some trouble. He still throws fast hands and feet, so you're at least likely to get a few decent combos for a pop as well. Von Maurik had a nice looking head kick even if none of his attempts fully connected, and he was always throwing knees to the body when Kakuta was on the floor rather than trying to grab a submission next to the ropes, so maybe that makes him the smartest Kakuta opponent yet. When he did go for that submission he made sure Kakuta would need to find a different mode of escape. Finish was cool, too.
Willie Peeters v Yoshinori Nishi
There's an interesting contrast between early RINGS and early UWFi that becomes pretty apparent the more you watch of both. The UWFi natives like Takada, Yamazaki, Tamura, etc. were mostly accomplished grapplers while the foreigners they brought in, like Tom Burton, JT Southern and Billy Scott, couldn't really do...anything very well. Especially on the mat. The foreigners Maeda brought in were far more skilled in general, but almost all of them were capable-at-worst grapplers while the natives specialized more in the stand-up (Kakuta and Satake being the prime examples). Nishi is an older gent with a dignified sort of air about him. He's a striker who can handle himself on the floor better than Kakuta or Satake, but this was still Peeters' to lose when the fight went there. Felt like it might've been a shoot, but it didn't stop Peeters from flying off the handle once or twice. Nothing major or outwardly dickheaded, but that temper of his can be fierce. Nishi accepted it with equanimity and went about his business, then when he flung an accidental closed fist himself - and we believe it was accidental, for how could we not? - he was quick to apologise. A sound fella all around. This went the distance and as much as I like Peeters I can't say I was pumped about a six-rounder, but it wasn't the worst fight of its ilk.
Dick Vrij v Marcel Haarmans
Haarmans is back to make his first appearance since the debut show where he offered nothing and got kicked in the face by Willie Peeters. He was a little more active here, but there was no point where I bought Vrij being in any danger whatsoever. Vrij even outright laughed at his piddly body shots and it felt like the big fella could've ended this pretty much whenever he wanted. That choke at the end didn't look the tightest, but I liked how Vrij maneuvered him into it.
Mitsuya Nagai v Willie Williams
I'll be honest, I expected this to be a whole lot of nothing at best and possibly putrid at worst. But hey, it turned out to be perfectly fine! Nagai was certainly more game than Smit when it came to working with or around Williams and the crowd were way into it. Nagai also made it look like he was trying to actually hit Williams and he never sold half-arsed blows as near KOs. He made it look like a fight he was trying to win, basically. Short, fairly intense, a good crowd...yeah, this was okay.
Masaaki Satake v Herman Renting
That fun Nagai match is looking more and more like an aberration for our dear Herman Renting as this was very ordinary and seven minutes of not much at all. I suppose it's kicker versus grappler again and Satake, despite having a face that annoys me for reasons I'm not yet aware of, throws some nice kicks. I mean, if you're gonna run a finish where someone's been kicked in the leg so often that they're unable to meet a ten count then you really need to make those leg kicks believable. And well, Satake had painful looking leg kicks.
Akira Maeda v Volk Han
I know it's not the first thing you bring up when you're talking about Han, but man could he be a fun striker when he wanted to. It's kind of amusing seeing how much more convincing his strikes were than what some guys with legit kickboxing and/or karate backgrounds have thrown on these shows. He was throwing pump kicks and fucking spinning backfists and even incorporated the latter into a takdown attempt later on (faked the backfist before ducking low and shooting in for the double leg). Conversely, this might be the fight where it's established that a good shot to the gut is Han's kryptonite, as he takes a left uppercut and crumples in a heap for a near KO. There was also this awesome little theme throughout of Maeda being the more dangerous standing up, but dropping Han for a count would just light a fire under him. On at least two occasions he'd go down after taking a big shot - one being a huge wheel kick that looked spectacular - only to get up and jump straight into a hold that forced Maeda to scramble to the ropes. This wasn't a perfect fight and it was rough around some edges, but it was solid in every department I hoped it'd be and the finish was total Han. If you so desire you could probably even say it played off the finish to the first fight ("I've got him in a good spot oh no wait fuck I am in fact in a terrible spot"). Strong fight.
Complete & Accurate RINGS