• 2002 MMA event remains the most memorable event to date
  • Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko are among those who competed on the undercard
  • Don Frye shared the ring with Yoshihiro Takayama in the main event

Pride 21: Demolition held on June 23, 2002 was a highly-anticipated mixed martial arts (MMA) event that year due to its loaded bout lineup, featuring future world champions, rising stars and established legends.

The card paraded the likes of then-undefeated Russian debutant Fedor Emelianenko, future pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva and soon-to-be UFC light heavyweight contender Jeremy Horn.

Meanwhile, Renzo Gracie, Gilbert Yvel, Gary Goodridge and Bob Sapp were also part of the aforementioned affair that took place at the iconic Super Saitama Arena.

Despite the implication of how the sport’s bright future would be with Emelianenko and Silva competing on the undercard, the headlining encounter between American hard-hitter Don Frye and Japanese professional wrestler Yoshihiro Takayama proved to be that evening’s centerpiece.

Even though 18 years have passed, it remains one of the most unforgettable matches in MMA history. Play-by-play announcer Stephen Quadro said it best before Frye shared the ring with Takayama, quoting “Subtlety will not be apparent in this fight.”

The staredown that both men engaged in before the bell rang showed a glimpse of what was about to follow.

After referee Yuji Shimada gave his final instructions, Frye and Takayama came out of their respective corners and immediately started to throw harrowing blows, with each man holding the back of the other’s head with one hand while delivering right hand after right hand.

The crowd in attendance erupted as the pair unloaded nearly a dozen rapid-fire haymakers during their inconceivable synchronized punching salvo in the opening moments of the heavyweight contest.

While the barrage of punches prompted the audience to rain down a chorus of cheers, Takayama was getting the worst of it as his face began to be unrecognizable after the first minute.

As Takayama shifted gears and drove knees to his opponent’s midsection, Frye negated the Japanese’s towering stature by pushing for a takedown that allowed him to secure a mount position.

Frye teed off with a series of ground-and-pound and eventually finished Takayama at the 6:10 mark of the first round.

The victory moved Frye’s professional record to 15-1 at that time, while Takayama fell to 0-1 and lost his next four outings.

The showdown between Frye and Takayama ended up winning the Wrestling Observer’s “Fight Of The Year” award.

Frye went on to compete in 15 more bouts before finally calling it a career in 2011. He was inducted into the pioneer wing of the UFC Hall of Fame in 2016 along with fellow Pride veteran Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

On the other hand, Takayama still strutted his wares as a professional wrestler until his untimely retirement in 2017 due to an injury. He landed on his head when attempting a sunset flip at a DDT show.

Takayama was diagnosed with a cervical spinal cord injury due to a degenerative cervical spondylosis. The incident had left him paralyzed from the neck down.

Frye released an emotional statement paying respect to his counterpart at Pride 21.

“God gave me the greatest opponent anyone could ever ask for. You. You made the greatest fight the world has ever seen. You are the reason our fight beat the World Cup of Soccer head to head on TV. You are the image of Bushido and strength and triumph. You are the first person they ask about when they meet me,” the American stated.

UFC Middleweight fighter Anderson Silva of Brazil
UFC Middleweight fighter Anderson Silva of Brazil Getty Images | Buda Mendes