Cheick Kongo vs Dave Vader – Rings Holland: The Untouchables (September 27 2003)

Cheick “The Darkness” Kongo, aka The Foul Gawd™, aka the GOAT, aka the Patron Saint of Kadowaki Special returns to tangle with a Sith lord.

All other Kongo Chronicles can be found here.

My initial goal for this blog was to watch every Cheick Kongo fight, recap them, and tally all the groin shots, eye pokes, and other sundry fouls. I did the first three fights and then I hit a snag. The Cheick Kongo/Michael Knapp doesn’t seem to be online in any capacity. I can’t even find a recap of the fight. The Darkness’ next fight, against Hans Nijman, also doesn’t appear to be online. It is a shame, a travesty, and a cultural violation on par with destroying several museums full of masterpieces. If you happen to possess a treasure trove of It’s Showtime MMA cards, or at the very least the two fights mentioned above, hit me up.

In the meantime, instead of abandoning the noble pursuits of this blog, we shall persevere, and move on to the next fight available. Cheick Kongo’s unanimous decision victory over Dave Vader from Rings Holland’s The Untouchables. So, after a long delay, let’s return to the Kongo Chronicles.

Something to note here before we begin: the rules in Rings Holland aren’t exactly the Unified Rules. There are rope breaks and knock downs and only two  five-minute rounds, followed by a two-minute overtime if needed.

Also of note, is this absolute ridiculous looking ring announcer. I mentioned him in the last installment of this series, but now he looks like a cross between mid-90’s country star Joe Diffie and Chris Elliot’s character from Cabin Boy. He even styles on the lovely people of Utrecht City, a delight that those attendance surely have told tales of to their grand children.

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The two fighters meet in the center of the ring and are given their instructions by a referee you looks a little too much like a thin Joe Riggs for my liking. Following instructions, the two fighters return to their corners and wait for the bell. The bell sounds and both fighters come out. After a few slow seconds, Vader closes the distance and throws a couple heavy right hands. Kongo, wanting none of this, shoots, grabs a double leg, pushes Vader against the ropes, and uses that momentum to secure a takedown, and lands in side control.

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The things that stands out about these early Kongo fights is that he is a better wrestler than pretty much everybody he fights. For the most part, he fights Dutch kickboxers who aren’t exactly on the Olympic ladder, these guys are not Cael Sanderson, their not even Gray Maynard. Kongo is so much better than these guys, he takes them down almost at will. In the major leagues, The Foul Gawd™ is a serviceable defensive wrestler, but on this level, his offensive wrestling is a cut above.

Back to the action, Kongo tries to pass to full mount, but ends up in half guard. He lands a few punches to the body, but Vader does a good job of covering up. Cheick lands one punch to the head of Vader and that creates enough of an opening for The Darkness to grab a heel hook. Vader is in obvious, screaming like Chael Sonnen in a kneebar. He grabs the bottom rope, and because this is Rings, and the rules are still meant to resemble pro wrestling, that breaks the submission.

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The rope break returns the fight back to the feet. Vader lands a solid left hand that forces Kongo to close the distance. In the clinch, Vader lands a solid knee to the midsection. Offense mostly stalls from this position, neither guy is even fighting for position within the clinch. Vader pushes The Foul Gawd™ against the ropes, but the two fighters just sway there, like a couple of teens dancing to Lonestar’s Amazed. Eventually, the ref comes to breaks the stalemate.

On the feet, Vader throws a left that Kongo doesn’t like. He shoots for a double leg, but there isn’t a lot of force behind it and Vader mostly shrugs it off. The two fighters end up in the clinch again, up against the ropes. There’s some fighting for position, Vader lands a knee, Cheick is able to reverse pressure, there is some more fighting for position and now Vader is back to pressing Kongo against the ropes. The Foul Gawd™ is able to spin out, land a solid right hook, and follows up with some knees and punches. These are the most meaningful strikes of the fight this far. He follows up those strikes with another double leg and ends up in half guard.

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Kongo stands over Vader, grabbing his left foot, teasing another heel hook, he throws some shots to the body, teases the heel hook two more times, and finally drops back for it. He can’t seem to lock it in though, and Referee Not Joe Riggs stands the fighters back up.

Back standing, Kongo throws a strong leg kick, the first kick of the fight. Vader doesn’t like it, and you guessed it, he clinches and pushes The Darkness against the ropes. There is some more fighting for position, Vader grabs a hold of Kongo’s head, but The Foul Gawd™ drops down for another big double leg.

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Things stall out from here, and the referee, growing impatient, stands the fighters up. Back on the feet, Kongo again throws a big leg kick. Vader responds with a kick of this own, close the distance, and lands a big knee that drops The Darkness.

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The crowd, which has been mostly disinterested in this fight, erupts at our patron saint being dropped. The Foul Gawd™ sits in the corner dejected, but pops back up. Rings rules allow for knockdowns and standing eight counts, so Vader isn’t really able to follow up with any sort of ground and pound.

On the feet, we are back in the clinch. Kongo is landing some good hockey fight punches and seems no worse for the wear. He maneuvers around in the clinch and is able to grab Vader’s left leg and get another takedown.

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Round 1 comes to an end. Kongo had more offense, at least in terms of in quantity and he controlled where the fight took place for the most part, but Vader scoring the knockdown more than likely wins him the round. Much to my chagrin, I could not find any fouls committed, which frankly is one of the bigger disappointment of my life.

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Round Two starts with both fighters circling. Kongo throws an outside low kick followed by a kick to the body, both land but they don’t seem to have much effect. Vader is able to cut some angles and land a flurry of punches on Cheick in the corner. The Foul Gawd™ ducks the last punch, shoots for a high double that doesn’t get anywhere and ends up in a half-and-half clinch. Here we get to see some trademark Kongo, some knees to the thigh in the clinch, dangerously close to the groin, but just clean enough as to not draw the attention of the referee. There is a bit more clinch fighting, not a lot is happening until The Darkness seemingly tries to pull guard. It is an odd sequence, Kongo just sort of falls to his back. Vader pushes him a bit, but mostly Kongo just falls backwards.

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Vader noncommittally sits in Kongo’s half-guard for a bit. He isn’t interested in this game, at all, and stands up fairly quickly. They stand back up and Vader goes after The Foul Gawd™ on the feet, first with a big knee and then a couple of hard punches.

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Another shot drops our patron saint. For the second time this fight, Vader has dropped The Darkness. At this point, Vader has pretty clearly owned the fight on the feet. Kongo can outwrestle him, but on the feet Vader is a real problem, which for a guy like Kongo who has hung around in MMA at a fairly high level for a decade, seems bad. The Foul Gawd™’s  striking has always been overrated, but getting picked apart by regional guys isn’t exactly expected or auspicious. He is able to have some success in the clinches, but at distance Vader is really eating his lunch. It isn’t ideal.

Kongo pops up quickly, he doesn’t look all that bad, but he’s been dropped twice and clearly outstruck on the feet. As has been the pattern throughout most of the fight, After the break, Kongo throws a leg kick and quickly goes for a clinch. Again we see some knees to the thigh. In the clinch, The Foul Gawd™ can mostly neutralize Vader and is able to land some strikes of his own. It is easily his best position in this fight, even better than top position on the ground. From the clinch, he can land short punches and knees, all while tying up Vader. It also allows for him to drop down and easily double-leg Vader, which he does now.

On the ground Kongo keeps trying for another heel hook. He doesn’t have much success, Vader isn’t exactly adept at avoiding the submission and The Darkness isn’t exactly a master on the ground, so after a minute of futility, the referee stands up both fighters.  On the feet we get a lot more of the same. Some clinch work, not a lot of strikes thrown by Kongo, less by Vader. The Foul Gawd™ tries to drag Vader down to the ground, but Vader is having none of it and shoves him to the ground.

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Vader has no interest on playing the ground game, forcing Kongo to stand up. Predictably, we are back in the clinch almost immediately. This time, perhaps sensing he is behind in the fight, Kongo starts to unload on Vader, connecting on a flurry of punches. Vader doesn’t have an answer for this, he seems pretty tired here, and just clinches for dear life until the round ends.

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After the round ends, replay shows that the second knockdown was started by a groin shot by Vader. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t entirely crushed that the only foul in this fight wasn’t perpetrated by Cheick Kongo. But, Life is about disappointments, and watching Cheick Kongo is filled with these kinds of disappointments.

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This round was close. Vader had the knockdown, but outside of that, almost all of the offense has occurred in the clinch, and the vast majority of that belongs to Kongo. Both rounds have been close, Vader has a real claim to having won the fight, but the judges don’t see it that way and we are heading to a two minute bonus round.

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The overtime period starts. Kongo looks fresher and demonstrates that by being more active in this round than he has in any other. He opens with two teep kicks followed by an inside low kick. All of them lend, to varying degrees of success, but Vader is relatively unphased. The Foul Gawd™ goes to the clinch again and pushes Vader into the corner. From this position, Kongo falls to his back again, for whatever reason. It hasn’t worked, only failed miserably really, every time he’s tried this move, but with less than two minutes left, he pulls it again.  Vader has none of it and The Darkness is forced to stand up.

When Kongo gets up, it is abundantly clear that why he fell to his back this time. His left left is injured and our patron saint is noticeably limping. Seeing his opponent in obvious pain, Vader jumps. He throws a home run leg kick, but Kongo, some how, is able to avoid it by backing up into the corner. From here he shoots for a half-hearted single leg takedown, and because Vader has shown no meaningful takedown defense, The Darkness drags him to the ground.

From here, Kongo goes for another heel hook. He lays back in attempt to lock up the submission, but Vader defends and in the scramble is able to land in side control. He lands some weak shots to the body, but it isn’t much and the referee stands both fighters up.

Back on the feet, Kongo looks a bit better. He is able to put some more pressure on his left leg. From this point on, he really starts to take over. He lands a flurry of punches that drops Vader, although the referee doesn’t step in like he has done on previous knockdowns.

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To escape, Vader crawls under the bottom rope and forces the referee to restart the action of the feet. On the feet it is all Kongo, he is lighting up Vader with punches. Right hooks and uppercuts and landing at will. Vader isn’t offering much of anything at this point. Our patron saint throws a stiff kick to the body and starts spamming right hands. He throws four before he drops Vader, sending him crashing through the ropes.

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Vader clearly wants out. He is lying on the the ring apron with a dazed look in his eyes, but the referee isn’t anywhere to be seen. The ring announcer has to forcibly roll him back under the bottom rope. Back in the ring, Vader is crawling on the canvas, before standing up. Any reasonable referee would have stopped this fight, but this is Rings Holland in 2003, there are no reasonable people here.

This is where things start to get a little bit hazy. Every record you will find of this fight will say that Kongo won by unanimous decision. He may have, but from watching the tape, that seems unlikely. The Referee gives Vader a standing eight count, Vader is up, ready to fight. A few seconds later he is on his stool. There isn’t a clock on these shows, so I don’t know for sure, but from some amateur timekeeping, there seems to be some time left in the two minute round. Either way, your winner, by TKO or unanimous decision based on the strength of a dominant final round is Cheick Kongo.

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So ends our fourth entry in the Kongo Chronicles and frankly this installment has been a miserable failure. No eye pokes, no groin shots, no shoving of referees, not a single foul to be found. Just an all around zero. But Cheick Kongo is back on the winning track, as far as our rewatch is concerned. In real life, since the loss to Rodney Glunder, Kongo has had a draw with Michael Knapp and a submission win over Hans Nijman.

All is not lost though. We are starting to see the origins of the Cheick Kongo trademark style, clinch work and barley legal knees back up by a solid wrestling background. So, at the end of this fight we take a look at our statistics thus far.

Running Count: 4 fights, 2 eye pokes, 2 groin strikes, 1 strike after the bell, and now 3 wins.

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