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[1998-06-27-RINGS-Fighting Integration] Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka

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11 days after the best pro style heavyweight match of 1998 comes to the best worked shoot match of 1998 (and maybe of all time). After losing to Valentijn Overeem in April in a shoot, Tamura was forced to job the RINGS title to Tariel in May, in what was essentially a squash. This is his redemption “fight” with Kohsaka, who he is 1-0 against in RINGS. Kohsaka is essentially the third rated native in RINGS (with Maeda being 1).

 

The first 11 minutes of this match are all on the mat. That’s not exactly out of the ordinary until you realize that they don’t use a single point (of the allotted 10) during this segment. The flowing mat work consists of what might make up a legitimate grappling match. Tamura hits his usual high spots (the spin out of the arm bar attempt) and it goes by effortlessly. The final 19 minutes kick up the drama with near submissions, knock downs, and more standing exchanges. Yet, at the end of the match, both guys still only use 5 of their 10 points. 30 minute draws are hard to pull off, especially in a worked shoot environment. Those who watched the UWF 2.0 matches from the DVDVR Best of the 80’s Other set can testify that you can’t just have any two wrestlers try to go 30 minutes.

 

I watched this with Paul a couple of hours after watching the Kobashi/Kawada match. He thinks he had at least seen the first ten minutes of this match but wasn’t completely positive. What he was positive about was this was one of the best matches he had ever seen and holds up perfectly in the 1998 MMA landscape.

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I think it'll be hard for anything to beat this for MOTY. This is a MOTD contender. This is a thirty-minute draw and in terms of difficulty in execution, this is probably the most impressive match I've seen in the 90s. This is the decade where the ability to work holds well in wrestling became sort of a lost art, especially stateside, so this really stands out amidst a sea of excess. I'll write more about this in the future.

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The most beautiful pro-wrestling match (yeah, I said pro-wrestling) I've ever seen, along with Mariko Yoshida's work against Yumi Fukawa. Probably one of my TOP 5 favourite match ever. Haven't watched this in nearly 15 years. Feeling old.

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Wow.

 

I loved the match these two had in U-STYLE and while I haven't seen much RINGS I am a big fan of Tamura from his matches against Volk Han as well as his UWFi and U-STYLE runs. Despite those things I haven't seen any of the native vs native RINGS matches, which is something I've been meaning to change for a while. I noticed this thread getting a lot of traffic and from skimming what's been posted the reaction to this one seemed to be positive (didn't want to read too much) so I checked this out.

 

And wow.

 

This is fucking incredible. The matwork? Ten minutes of uninterrupted grappling at the beginning? That's a feat. I love that Tamura seemed to have spent the most time in dominant positions but it didn't matter because Kohsaka put him in danger far more often. These guys have such incredible control of their bodies and I couldn't believe just how quick and accurate their reactions could be. Tamura is so fast and so explosive. When he manages to score a down on Kohsaka it felt huge and I liked that it was the moment that allowed Tamura to catch up and get back into the fight. I was hardly breathing during the last chunk of the match and I was about to lose it during the armbar attempt that came seconds before the bell rang. This is one of the rare time limit draws that still manages to retain it's drama as the clock counts down.

 

I could easily see this as a 1990s MOTDC which is awesome because I thought I'd seen all of the major 90s MOTDCs.

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It's so rare that I see a match that may be a top 20 match for me of all time for the first time now. I don't say that to seem cocky but usually in these yearbooks, I have to look for hidden gems. That Aja vs. Yoshida match for example was a very good match and fun to watch. Occasionally you even get ***** matches from me like the Toshie GAEA match from 1997. However, while this match did have hype going in and it wasn't an under the radar match, it blew me away. The athleticism and stamina of both men to grapple this furiously for the entire 30 minutes and make it feel like 7-8 was completely exhilarating. I loved the exchanging of heel hooks and when Tamura opened up with the palm strikes.. The finish was even in doubt as the choke could have ended the match in the final seconds and if not that, than surely the cross armbreaker. Draws can be hard to feel fully satisfying at times but this is was a clinic in how to do this type of wrestling and a beautiful thing to watch unfold. *****

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Masterpiece. Not my very favorite RINGS match because as well as the draw was executed, it wasn't the most satisfying finish. But their ability to wrestle this style for 30 minutes and keep it captivating speaks to tremendous physical conditioning and tremendous skill.

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This was quite the weekend for famous matches of a very different ilk. Tamura vs Kohsaka was absolutely a top MOTYC for 1998. I wonder if it would get so much praise if it happened in a stronger year? You could well argue that this is the pinnacle of its style or near to it. So how you'd compare that to the pinnacle of alternate forms of wrestling is a matter of taste.

 

Have no doubts this was technically superb and scientifically as good as the Rings style gets. There were some nice strikes yet the emphasis was matwork, glorious matwork. They'd work the ground for a view minutes searching for openings and then suddenly there'd be a dangerous submission moment. It felt like it could end at any time. The final minute was where the excitement level peaked. I just wished they'd reached that peak a little earlier. The greatest matches reach that amazing climax and then go on and do it again. By having a draw as well I don't feel they got 100% value from it here. Nevertheless it was a classic bout with two superb performances. Both are so fundamentally sound and knowledgeable, Tamura had that extra flash and charisma to go with it.

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My shootstyle bias is showing again...right now this is my #3 MOTY behind Kobashi's TC win and Austin-Dude Love. It was still really good and maybe the best possible shootstyle time limit draw, which is a 4-word phrase that usually sends chills up my spine. This went from something enjoyable to something truly special when Tamura decided he had enough of this counterhold shit and just started palm-striking the snot out of Kohsaka, who had to resort to taking it to the mat not to fill time but to survive. It's the rare shootstyle match that goes 30 minutes and has me wanting to see more, and I hope these two face off again on this Yearbook or the next.

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So whenever I open a thread and see this high a praise for a match I didn't like at all, it has to automatically be a re-watch. I don't look forward to that in this case, but maybe I should? First, off 30 minutes is way too long for a shoot or even a fake shoot. Even UFC title matches are 25 mins and both guys are gassed at the end. Just flat boring on first watch. Like I said, I will re-watch it, but not expecting me to change my tune that much.

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I have it behind at least 3 Tamura matches but this is still an excellent chess-like match. From a technique and CV endurance standpoint you are not going to see anything better/more impressive. The holds are really quite minimalist compared to the flashy stuff Tamura did with Han and Yamamoto but the story is still pretty involved (took me a few watches to grasp it). **** 1/2

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http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-50-1/2/

 

#10

 

I'm starting to think I'm never going to be able to get into shoot style the way some do. I can see why a fan of that style would enjoy this, so I'm not knocking it. I just would rather watch something else personally. The shoot style I've seen and enjoyed has more striking and pro wrestling mixed in. The ending of this had some great drama. The holds and counters all looked well executed. It's just not for me.

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30 minutes of slick polished shootstyle. You could sit back and nit pick around this match, but I think it's safe to say that the whole thing was a success. Tamura came across as a highly methodical, dominanting force, mostly being in a controlling position or preventing Kohsaka from taking a dominant position himself, including defending against all of his takedowns. This lead to Kohsaka fighting from underneath but repeatedly getting the better of him, even while not always forcing a rope break. Kohsaka going 2-0 in points feels significant similiar to a soccer match where the ball is constantly in one team's playing field only for them to break through a handful of times and score. The matwork itself was slow paced but they kept the swank moves coming to keep you interested and the struggle felt significant. Then Tamura knocks Kohsaka over in one of the greatest near KO's ever (due to being extremely well sold) and it feels like the match can end anytime now. It all works really well and despite Tamura feeling invincible you realize Kohsaka maybe better at the mat game and able to beat him in such a way. It is not easy to tell such a story while bringing the action and working such a tricky style in a match stretched to titanic proportions but they did a wonderful job. Finally, here's a Dean Rasmussen quote which always comes to my mind when thinking about matches like this:

In case there are those of you who don't remember scientific wrestling- it was American mat wrestling that Nelson Royal and Danny Hodge did when they wrestled guys who were also faces. It was really interesting and it was ALWAYS a time limit draw and everybody shakes hands at the end and the announcers talk about what a joy it was to watch and how it was what wrestling should be, meanwhile, you're hoping BlackJack Mulligan and Wahoo are gonna kick the shit out of each other pretty soon.“

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Can safely say that this is one of the greatest matches of this style. I love me some RINGS but this was just on another level IMO. This was an exhilarating 30 minutes battle with some slick but tight submissions and some fantastic, pin point striking. The first ten minutes was pure grappling with no rest, it was non stop with the two constantly fighting to get one top and control the fight. Tamura used his experience and skills to keep on top and control the holds but Kohsaka held his own, defending well and constantly got some great submissions in. And then the seam transition into the striking was superfluous. The action is very explosive and it brought all sorts of intensity to the mix. Then a beautiful climax to the time limit draw. I'm struggling to put this into words tbh. This is fantastic. *****

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Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - RINGS 6/27/98

Well they are breaking the RINGS formula here. Usually, it is stand-up->takedown->grapple->rope break->repeat, but the first twelve minutes are all grappling with no rope breaks. Tamura decides to reset by standing. It is amazing twelve minutes. The body positioning, movement and struggle are on full display here. Kohsaka looked great, more offensive minded. He was putting his body in weird positions to be successful. He almost got Tamura twice once with a headscissors and the other a toehold. The toehold looked devastating. Kohsaka was flipping out of full mounts into  Boston Crab and Cross-Armbreaker attempts so explosively. Tamura did get a triangle choke from a full mount in a way I have never seen. Like I said it was Tamura who decided to reset and if I was judging I would have given Kohsaka that 12-minute round. The fight gets really good. They do a little stand up and Tamura catches a kick. Great takedown by Tamura. Very immediate and the heel hook he has looks sunk in. Kohsaka gets figure-4 using his arms on Tamura's legs that forces Tamura to use the ropes and that is the first rope break. From 12 minutes of grappling to that explosive exchange on that mat. I like the shifting gear. Tamura as usual when he gets shown up comes out swinging in the stand up. Really good shit. Kohsaka tries to quell this fast break by going for a takedown but Tamura easily spins out and gets behind Koshaka quashing the takedown attempt. This is definitely high end RINGS so far. 

Tamura is controlling the stand up. Showing himself to be more aggressive, hitting harder and landing more shots. This is forcing bad takedown attempts by Kohsaka and Tamura is controlling the grappling. Interesting that three times, Tamura starts on top during the grappling, he is left scrambling for the ropes. I mentioned one time in the previous paragraph. In addition, he loses control to a heel hook and a top wristlock (transitioned into a cross-armbreaker). It seems very un-Tamura like. Each time, he comes out firing. There is one exception. In between, the second and third ropebreak he does finish a grappling session out. I thought he was going for a neck crank headscissors, but he explosively switches gears to a cross-armbreaker. Watch how Kohsaka immediately bridges. This alleviates some pressure and gives him a chance to get to his belly and make the ropes. Great Kohsaka defensive match. Defensive clinic. Down 3-1, Tamura just light his ass up. You could tell he was not going to relent with these vicious strikes until Kohsaka went down meaning it is now 3-3. Love that aggression and mean streak. Tamura gets loose again. He takes Kohsaka down into a deep, deep side choke, really cranking, but cant finish and it is Kohsaka that finds a way to apply a rear naked choke. They are too close to the ropes so it doesnt count, but still Tamura is just not finishing besides that excellent stand up exchange where he would not be denied. 

From here on out, they really "sell" exhaustion well (who know they might have been shoot blowed up because this is a very taxing cardio style). Tamura falls on his ass during the next stand up and Kohsaka collapsing on a kick to the shin. Tamura gets a quick rope break by going for a choke. Kohsaka has changed game plans. He is going for big bombs. Huge head rocking strikes. I thought he had Tamura down, but Tamura SWEEPS THE LEG! Tremendous leg bar! Koshaka is forced to get the ropes. Tamura is now winning 5-3 after being down 3-1, scored four unanswered points. Whats interested is that Kohsaka gets the next rope break on the attempt of a submission. Tamura almost never goes for a rope break until he is in trouble. At the 5 minute mark of this match, he would have applied his wizardry to get out now instead he is so exhausted, he is just going for the rope break. Then Kohsaka actually controls a takedown and applies a guillotine choke and Tamura just gets his toe on the ropes. This is a very vulnerable Tamura. A side we dont see too often. It is 5-5 with 3 minutes left in the time limit. Kohsaka gets a very tired takedown that Tamura kneels into. This has gone from Man vs Man to Man vs Self. Each man is battling with his own body. Trying to will a victory when there is very little will left. Kohsaka looks poised to apply a submission, but Tamura wriggles free and climbs his back. REAR NAKED CHOKE! After all the defensive wizardry of Kohsaka, for Tamura to get a counter like this is huge. He leaves his feet dangling. Kohsaka gets the ankle cross. Tamura has to release the choke, but he goes for the cross-armbreaker, but the bell rings signaling a draw and it is a dead heat in points too at 5 apiece. 

Terrific match. I liked the first twelve minutes, but I LOVED the last 18 minutes. Great story. I was really pulling for Kohsaka masterful defensive wrestling match turning defense into offense on numerous occasions and then becoming offensive-minded down the stretch. Tamura was great striking a balance between vulnerable and asskicker. I loved his mistakes fueled his rage. Then I loved the selling of exhaustion and how this became a struggle against their own bodies as much as it was against themselves. In the running for the best non-Volk Han RINGS match with the Kohsaka/Yamamoto draw from the year before. ****3/4

 

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