Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama played human Rock 'Em Sock'Em Robots (Video)

Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama
Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama / Don Frye, Yoshihiro Takayama

This article is a part of a new series by FanSided MMA honoring milestones and memories from the past. Watch for a new flashback feature every Thursday.

Like many older fans of mixed martial arts, I began watching the sport around the turn of the millennium. My initial exposure was through a VHS tape of UFC 8, where Don "The Predator" Frye defeated Gary "Big Daddy" Goodridge to win the David and Goliath tournament. I was hooked. When YouTube came into the mainstream I became aware of Pride Fighting Championships, or Pride as it was more commonly known. From the professional wrestling style production and ring entrances to the open-weight matches and soccer kicks, I was mesmerized.

The personalities were larger than life, sure the UFC had Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, but Pride had "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović, and Fedor Emelianenko. Watching more fights in Pride, I stumbled upon a familiar mustache face. The thumbnail of the video showed Frye in his now trademark American flag shorts engaged with a much larger man in what resembled a hockey fight. I began to watch the video and what ensued was one of the wildest fights in mixed martial arts history.

After a one year run in the UFC that saw him go 10-1 and win two tournaments, Frye began a career in professional wrestling. His wrestling career took him to Japan to compete in New Japan Pro Wrestling. In Japan, the lines between professional wrestling and mixed martial arts were blurred as many wrestling matches were made to look like they were real fights and many wrestlers competed in both staged professional wrestling works and real mixed martial arts fights. With his successful history in MMA, it was only a matter of time before Frye would make a comeback.

Carrying an American flag to the ring at his Pride Fighting Championships debut and wearing the shorts to match, Frye was billed by the Pride 16 commentary team as "the quintessential American". Those shorts, along with his impeccable moustache, would become his trademark during his time in the organization.

Watch Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama

Swang and bang! Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama had a LEGENDARY battle in PRIDE!

Posted by UFC on Thursday, November 23, 2023

After winning his first two fights in Pride, he was matched up with Mark Coleman at Pride 21 on June 23, 2002. The fight was to be a rematch of the finals of the UFC 10 Tournament, a bout that Coleman won via TKO. Unfortunately, Coleman sustained a neck injury in training and was unable to compete.

Stepping in on two weeks notice was Yoshihiro Takayama. Standing 6 feet 7 inches, the accomplished professional wrestler cut an imposing figure. However, Takayama was 0-3 in mixed martial arts having been stopped in all three of his fights.

The pre-fight face off was intense, a preview of things to come. At the opening bell the two combatants walked to the center of the ring and immediately started throwing haymakers. What happened next will forever live on in highlight reels. The two men grabbed the back of each other's heads with their left hands and started firing right hands in to each other's faces. The typically reserved Japanese crowd erupted, Takayama started throwing knees in the clinch and Frye let go of his head so his left hand could join in on the punching.

After the frantic pace of the first 40 seconds of the fight, the fighters clinched in the corner of the ring, both already severely battered. They exchanged knees to the body before Takayama was able to throw Frye to the mat. As Frye was standing back up, Takayama delivered a knee that glanced off of Frye's head. Once both men were back on their feet they immediately grabbed the back of each other's heads again and resumed their interpretation of a game of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.

After another 10 seconds of both fighters throwing wild shots, the men clinched again. By this time Frye had a cut on his forehead and Takayama's face was severely swollen with his left eye almost completely shut. Both men were battered and exhausted as they continued to fight in the clinch, Takayama landing knees to the body and Frye landing hooks and uppercuts to the head.

The momentum was in Frye's favor as he was landing the cleaner shots, when the referee called over the ringside physician to look at the swelling around both of Takayama's eyes. After getting the go ahead to continue, Takayama and Frye once again met in the middle of the ring and began exchanging hooks.

After the fighters found themselves clinched in the corner of the ring yet again, Takayama attempted to bring the fight to the ground, but the exhaustion was too much. He fell to his back and Frye started unloading punches from mount until referee Yuji Shimada called a stop to the fight. The fight lasted all of 6 minutes and 10 seconds.

The longer I've watched the mixed martial arts, the more I appreciate the beauty of a beautifully set up counter, or the grace of a long scramble, but sometimes it's just fun to watch a fight like the one Frye and Takayama gave us. Though not the most technical of fights, it is one of the most incredible displays of heart and toughness to ever take place inside of a cage or ring. If you've never seen it, it's a must watch as despite my efforts, my words don't do it justice.