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superkix

Akira Maeda vs. Andrei Kopilov (RINGS, 8/21/92)

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This was similar to Kopilov’s match against Han in that it was more or less a stalemate on the mat. But it was fun seeing Maeda go to the mat early on, and I thought the struggle and defense on the ground was well-executed. Where this match excels over the match with Han is Maeda's character work. He's such a good babyface-in-peril when he needs to be and I loved the drama from him as he's trying to get to the ropes when Kopilov snags him with the kimura. Kopilov’s terrific on the mat, trying to tie Maeda into knots, until eventually Maeda says “fuck the matwork” and starts picking up knockdowns with his strikes -- big open-hand slaps to the face, kicks, and knees. But Kopilov wants to finish this where it started, and after another tussle on the mat, Maeda’s able to pry open the armbar for the submission victory.

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This was what you wanted in a Maeda main event. It's fine seeing him fight guys like Hans Nyman and Willie Williams if for no reason other than to see how he'll approach them, but this was against a guy closer to his skill level and more like something you'd see from peak UWF Maeda. Fight itself felt more like a UWF fight than a RINGS fight, actually. The matwork was pretty deliberate, lots of shifting for position, not too many "highspots," and the parts where Maeda let loose with strikes were straight out of Maeda/Fujiwara when Fujiwara would get too dominant on the ground. Kopylov is for real. He doesn't quite have Han's ability to pull out a submission from the most unexpected of situations, but he's a dynamo and everything looked great. The crowd being completely bonkers did not hurt one bit. Really good stuff, possibly my favourite Maeda RINGS fight to date.

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