The Vale Tudo Japan Open 1994 took place 29th July 1994 at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall. It was run by the Shooto organisation which was led by Satoru Sayama (Tiger Mask) and was created after Sayama along with other Japanese Pro Wrestlers wanted to test them selves in more reality based competition.
As well as the tournament there was a ‘fight’ between Satoru Sayama and Yuji Ito but I’m not going to cover it because it’s a fixed fight.
1 – Bud Smith vs Chris Bass
Bud Smith comes out with his stars and stripes Thai shorts which sorta gives away his game. For Chris Bass it wasn’t so obvious and after watching the fight I still had no clue what martial art he supposedly did.
Immediately when the fight starts you can see that Smith is the sharper striker. Faster and cleaner. Smith lands a right hand which puts Bass down but then the ref jumps in because Shooto was doing a ridiculous 8 count gimmick at this point. Anyway Smith takes the count and then probably wishes he stayed down cause he got flatlined with a sweet straight right. The ref counts but its pointless, fights over, Joe Dirt wins.
– Smith by KO, Round 1, 0:54
2 – Jan Lomulder vs Kenji Kawaguchi
Lomulder was a semi well known Dutch kickboxer. Im not sure of Kawaguchi’s background, probably pro wrestling.
This fight was a cluster fuck from start to finish which was a shame bucause they seemed kinda well matched in a striker vs grappler sorta way. Kawaguchi gets the takedown straight away and they get caught up in the ring ropes so the ref stops the fight and tries to reposition the closer to the middle of the ring but the three refs and fighters can’t agree on position. Lomulder wants to start standing again and he’s trying to get Kenji to agree. Everyone is going back and forth and after a good two minutes of this nonsense they finally get it set and we go again. Kenji is going for takedowns and Lomulder is punching his head. Jan pushes the Japanese fighter through the ropes and stamps on his skull. Again the refs break it up but I’m not sure why and I’m not sure they know either but they restart it. Kenji goes for takedown and falls through ropes again, and we restart…. again.
Kenji of course goes for the takedown again but Jan stuffs it then kicks his head till he rolls out of the ring. Now after about 30 seconds he rolls back in then at that point they give him an 8 count and the fun continues. Kenji goes for a knee bar but Jan defends and punches, knees and elbows him till he’s hurt. It looks like the referee is going to give him another 8 count but he calls the fight off thank fuck.
This fight was just an example of how new this thing was. The rules were not set and when a situation came up no one knew exactly what to do. Thank God the silly 8 count thing died off.
*Lomulder pulled out with a broken hand.
– Lomulder by KO, Round 1, 2:29 (more like 8mins)
3 – David Levicki vs Kazuhiro Kusayanagi
Levicki may not have been the most skilled fighter (spoiler : he wasn’t, at all) but he was a big mother fucker and his opponent Kusayanagi was not. At the start they move around a bit, feeling out a little with no one really wanting to engage. Kusayanagi goes for the single leg but he’s too small and Levicki just punches the back of his head till he is knocked out.
– Levicki by KO, Round 1, 1:20
4 – Rickson Gracie vs Yoshinori Nishi
Time for the legend, Rickson Gracie. If you had seen UFC 1 and 2 and looked into Gracie Jiu Jitsu then you would have heard about Rickson but this was probably the first time seeing him fight, unless you were hanging around in Rio in the 1980s.
Rickson throws a low kick and immediately gets the bodylock and takedown. Nishi manages to trap Gracie’s leg in half guard but Rickson of course does it perfectly. Softens his man up with body punches while he slowly advances his position. No wasted movement and keeping his weight exactly where he wants it. Eventually he frees his leg, Nishi turn over and Rickson flattens him out and sinks in the choke. This was almost like a ‘how to’ training video, absolutely effortless.
– Gracie by submission, Round 1, 2:58
5 – Rickson Gracie vs David Levicki
Another excellent performance by Rickson, totally flawless. Levicki is a huge guy and he actually made Rickson look like a midget at times.
There’s more of a feeling out process in this fight with Rickson being wary of the sheer size of Levicki. Rickson is testing him with low kicks and then punches but Levicki is throwing nothing back. Rickson throws right hands with more frequency, not trying to hurt but trying to get a reaction. Then it happens, Rickson punches and Levicki counters and as soon as he does Rickson goes under it and gets the takedown. From there of course Levicki is helpless and unusually, he is lying on his side with Rickson mounted on him. Rickson traps one of Levicki’s arms and lands hard punches to the head and knees to the spine. Levicki, realising the hopelessness of the situation, pretends to be unconscious from one of the punches while the the referee counted to ten only to pop up miraculously once the fight was done.
– Gracie by KO, Round 1, 2:40
6 – Naoki Sakuraba vs Yasushi Wariba
Two Japanese lightweights showing what they have. Seemed more like an exhibition even though they were landing strikes. It wouldn’t have been out of place in Pancrase at the time. It is what it is and ended in a draw
7 – Rickson Gracie vs Bud Smith
Final fight. This was flawless just like the rest. A perfect showcase for Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Rickson especially.
Smith opens up with a front kick which seems stupid but let’s be honest, it didn’t make much difference. Rickson takes him down and immediately gets to mount position and rains down punches until Bud Smith taps out. Rickson wins the tournament without breaking sweat and the myth grows.
– Gracie by submission (strikes), Round 1, 0:39