Is Pride finally pulling up their socks, and putting together a "Killer" Card minus the "Filler" Lame Pro Wrestlers? Has Pride finally decided that enough is enough and the respect of the MMA public would come before the dollar signs and the lame Prno wrestling cards that they have been guilty of slapping us with in the past? Well, not entirely, but things are definitely looking upwards.
Is Pride finally pulling up their socks, and putting together a "Killer" Card minus the "Filler" Lame Pro Wrestlers? Has Pride finally decided that enough is enough and the respect of the MMA public would come before the dollar signs and the lame Pro wrestling cards that they have been guilty of slapping us with in the past? Well, not entirely, but things are definitely looking upwards. Pride has done their part and announced 75 percent of card over one month before the actual show! That is almost unheard of for the PRIDE organization and things are definitely looking like they are on track for a great show. The UFC has really taken their show to the next level, and it looks like PRIDE is ready to take their deep pockets into the same league as the UFC. With the final two match-ups now signed, and excellent match-ups such as Igor Vs Heath, Shamrock Vs Frye, and Newton Vs Pele, this is looking to be a great night of fights for fight fans around the world. The "ALMOST LIVE" Pay Per View is also a refreshing change and it looks like the Fans around the world who didnt have the will power to stop themselves from peeking at the Fight results on the internet before the fights were Tape Delayed here in North America, will finally have their wishes granted. This is the first show of 2002 for Pride, and it is already looking to be better that most of their shows of 2001. Lets hope they keep it up and surprise everyone with an incredible year of shows that will hopefully be the best year ever for PRIDE fans around the world. "Bad Blood" looks to be a smoking event and this is how I see the fights going down when the smoke clears on February 24, 2002.
Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Enson Inoue
Last time up, I made the mistake of betting against Nogueira, as we all know, he went on to beat up Herring and take the PRIDE Heavyweight crown "OUCH!!!" I have repented for my sins and I have now wholeheartedly jumped aboard the Nogueira express, any other passengers ready to hop aboard? If you dont jump aboard now I am afraid you will be left alone at the train station to weep bitterly, "COLD" and alone as your friends laugh at you for betting against "Minotauro". Enson Inoue has always been a game competitor and even beat UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture in 98, but unfortunately for Inoue, game does not a winner make. Nogueira is the PRIDE heavyweight champion for a reason and that reason is simple. Nogueira Kicks Ass!!! I can count on 0 fingers the number of people who I believe can beat "The Antonionator" right here right now. Enson is not even on the short list of guys I think stands a "Whiff" of a chance of dethroning the baddest man in the PRIDE Heavyweight Division. Unless Enson is capable of a Lucky One Punch K.O Victory, Enson will be another one left at the train station cold and alone. Only this time Enson will be "out cold" and not alone as his corner men circle around him and look down on their fallen comrade. Enson will give every iota of everything he has in this fight, and can throw down with the best of them, but that will not be enough on Feb 24. Nogueira wins by Submission Victory in the second round. Inoue, definitely not one of the 0 guys who can beat him. Inoue will be another name on a long list of Rodrigo Nogueira Victims, better luck next time, OOPS
Heath Herring vs. Igor Vovchanchyn
I am calling it here, I think that this fight will be the "sleeper" fight of PRIDE 19. Forget the Pre Fight schlock for Shamrock Vs Frye, Want a little Super Cheesy Pre-fight build-up? Here it goes!!! "Igor Vovchanchyn and Heath Herring are both incredibly dynamic fighters, and both warriors are prepared to drop the gauntlet and let it fly. Neither fighter is adverse to keeping the fight standing and I would like nothing more than to see it stay that way, Igor and his famous hands Vs Herring and his famous knees, WHOS BODY PART WILL REIGN SUPREME?" How did I do? Ok enough about the cheese, Any which way you "cut it" (Sorry about the Pun I couldnt help myself) the fans are in for a treat. This fight could go either way and it may just depend on who lands the first shot. I have been teetering on the fence on this one but in the end, I felt like Heath was just a little bigger and well rounded, and that will be the difference in this fight. I see Heath keeping Igor at a distance and using his reach to jab and leg kick his way into a situation where he can wear Vovchanchyn down, and take it to the ground where he can drop his heavy knees into Vovchanchyns heavier skull. In an exciting all out war, Herring by ref stoppage in round three.
Disclaimer: If by any chance this fight turns into a boring snorefest, dont blame me, blame the cheesy hype-machine.
Vanderlei Silva vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
Of all the mediocre Japanese talent (Save Sakuraba) that PRIDE is throwing at Silva, I think Kiyoshi Tamura stands the best chance to fend off the crazy antics of the real "Wildman" Vanderlei Silva. That statement in itself isnt saying much, in fact itll mean nothing, while Silva is stomping on Tamuras head to win by K.O. Silva is just too strong, he is a freak of nature, and the fact that he recently got married will do nothing to quiet the one man/BEAST I would not want to meet alone in a dark alley at night. His Unbridled aggressiveness was too much for everyone else PRIDE put before him and it will again be too big a cross to bear. I get scared just watching video of Vanderlei, his stare down freezes my tears before they have a chance to pour out my eyes. "Fire up the Oil", because Kiyoshi Tamura will be Kiyoshi "Tempura" before long, and he will be lucky to get out less than a little Deep-Fried. Pride will be looking for a new Japanese fighter to take on Vanderlei for the Middleweight title before the night is out. Lets just hope this one survives to fight again another day. Put your "Yen" on Silva via K.O round two.
This is an excellent match-up for Pride. Amidst all the abuse they take for the poor matchmaking, are "Gems" of match ups that are sprinkled among the lumps of "Coal" on their cards. This fight and the Heath/Igor fight are "Rock solid" (Sorry once again I am guilty of a bad Pun) and the fact that their weights arent totally out of whack and grossly unfair is definitely a bonus. Both these fighters are backed by impressive resumes, and share many common opponents (If that means anything to you), with both having defeated Pat Miletich and Johil de Oliveira and both having lost to Dave Menne by decision. In Pride, Daijiro Matsui was also a common opponent, with Newton Coming out the other side with a "W" and "Pele" with an "L". On the flip side Carlos lost to Matt Hughes by slam, and Landi K.Od Hughes on a card that Newton fought on as well!!! This match up is another tough one to call, both are super talented, and have the ability to change the outlook of a fight in the blink of an eye. Will Newton be able to take the standup giant to the ground? Will "Pele" be able to Sprawl and prevent the Jiu Jitsu man from applying a submission? Newton had trouble with the stand up skills of Miletich, so I would imagine that "Pele" (whose standup is superior to that of Miletich) will give the nimble Newton more than he can handle. "Pele" is somewhat of an up and down fighter, coming off a loss He needs to be on an up to get himself back into the running. He will do so by winning a decision by sprawling and brawling, and taking the fight to the always game Canadian for three action packed rounds. "Pele" takes the "Gold" by decision.
Alex Steibling vs. Wallid Ismael
One of the new breed of fighters to enter the PRIDE arena Alex Steibling is coming in on one hell of a roll. He was a surprise winner of the 16 man tournament in Brazil and then went on to defeat well respected Jiu Jitsu man Alan Goes by K.O. I am excited to see PRIDE start to grow talent within the organization rather than pawn off so called "Name" fighters that "earned" their way onto the card, not with their fighting talent, but with "name value". Alex showed heart and resiliency warding off several submission attempts by Goes, and went on to win the fight in spectacular fashion. He has been very active of late and has quickly built a formidable reputation for himself on the fighting circuit. Ismail, on the other hand, has been fairly inactive fighting only once in over three years, albeit a successful one time, choking out Shungo Oyama at PRIDE 15. Based on that, I am going to have to go with the hot hand, Steiblings youth, coupled with his weight/strength advantage should be enough to get him past the older and smaller Wallid Ismail. Alex was able to repel the submission attempts of Alan Goes, so he should have less trouble with Wallids submissions, as Wallid is quite a bit smaller than Goes. One thing of note, Ismael has been known to gas out, he did so in his other PRIDE fight against Akira Shoji, so I wouldnt be surprised to see it happen again. I see Steibling riding the fight until the later rounds, then turning it up and taking Wallid out late in the fight, just like he did against Goes. I dont know what Steiblings Nickname is but the "Brazilian Butcher" sounds about right. He has fought and defeated more Brazilians than most guys fight in a career. I am taking Steibling by ref stoppage due to strikes in round three.
Tom "The Big Cat" Erikson Vs Tim "Obake" Catalfo
I am hoping for fireworks from these two heavyweights, and would be sorely disappointed if this fight went the distance. At the ripe old age of 42, Catalfo is a relative rookie when it comes to the MMA game, and only has a handful of fights on his resume. He Smashed UFC veteran Dave Beneteau at KOTC 9 and was Smashing KOTC Champ Bobby Hoffman before he went on to get Smashed by Hoffman in the end. Tom Erikson got Crushed by Heath Herring in PRIDE 11, and Crushed Matt Skelton with a relatively flimsy choke last time out at PRIDE 17. Where does that leave us with the "Smash meets Crush" Heavyweight match-up? Hopefully not past the first round, because I see nothing but two gassed out old timers if this goes anywhere near decision time. Both these fighters are wrestlers so hopefully they negate each others wrestling ability and decide to stay on the feet and throw down. Catalfo is a Sparkplug and is known to set the tone early, if he gets his groove down and swings early and often like I expect, the fight could be over quickly with Catalfo standing tall, (If you can call 5 foot 9 tall for a heavyweight). If he does not get the K.O early then expect the "Big Cat" to smother him and win by "Ground n Pound" decision. I am putting my shillings on Catalfo by Smashing K.O early in the fight.
Rodrigo Gracie Vs. Daijiro Matsuis
Oh who to choose, It is times like these that being a Prediction maker upper guy is a tough go. When a match is built, and logic, fighting style and entertainment value do not enter into the equation, how can I base my prediction on logic and common sense? When name value and marketability, are the driving factors in making a match, what does that say for the fighters who are just the pawns in game of chess that is already checkmate before it even started. Whom do I go with in a match-up like this? Rodrigo Gracie has never fought in a MMA competition before! His only high profile experience has come in the Abu Dhabi Championships where apparently he has placed first and forth in recent years. I guess experience in Abu Dhabi is all you need nowadays to get yourself into the PRIDE Fighting Championships and fight the Number one fighter in PRIDE, Daijiro Matsui. Oh
did I mention he is a Gracie? Being a Gracie is enough to give you a shot at just about anything in Pride nowadays. UMM
I think I also forgot to mention Matsui is number one from the bottom of the barrel. I cant choose between the two. Where do I go with this one? Ok then, let us do it like this.
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe,
Which fighter will be the one to go?
Will it be Matsui, who can take a shot?
Or will it be Gracie who has never fought?
Since there are no draws, it is hard to see.
Ok I got it, it will be the Referee.
I choose the Referee
If the Referee is not a valid choice, then I guess I take Gracie by boring decision.
Where was this fight 5 years ago when we really needed it? Well wherever it was, it has now come out of hiding and is now staring us right in the weary eyeballs. Weary will be the word of the day if this fight isnt over quickly. I dont know if these two gladiators have what it takes to go the full 20 minutes anymore, but to be fair, in their respective hay-days, both were once considered the best in their class. Nowadays we dont even know if they are the best in their age group. All age related jokes aside, maybe these two legendary warriors have one more great fight left in tank. It might just be sentimentality speaking here, but I am really looking forward to seeing these two square off on Feb 24. Shamrock and Frye are two names that will forever be etched in history, as Pioneers in the sport of MMA, I am pinning my hopes on one of the fighters stepping up and showing the world why he was once considered the best. The last thing I want to see is two aging fighters wearily going through the motions until the bell rings to close out a slow contest. On the score sheet, this fight looks very evenly matched up, with Frye taking the edge in wrestling, and the submission skills going to Shamrock. Both competitors have solid boxing skills that, hopefully, will come to good use during the match-up. Who will come out on top? Last time out Shamrock gassed out against Fryes training partner (and Pro-wrestling cohort), Kazayuki Fujita. Last time we saw Frye, he couldnt even see his hand in front of his face, due to some well-intentioned eye gouging from Gilbert Yvel, but as the fight went on, he seemed ready to gas out any minute. Every facet of the fighters seem to match up well, so I see this fight coming down to conditioning and heart. Who will be able to dig deeper and go the extra mile to snatch victory from the adversary? I am going with the "Most Dangerous Man in the World" Ken Shamrock. He just seems to have more to lose from this fight, so he will be putting it all on the line to protect his interests. Whichever way the fight goes, the only thing I really dread is seeing both fighters come out flat and showing their age. That is not how I want to remember two of the biggest names in the sport, nearing the end of their careers. To quote the legendary rocker Neil Young "It is better to burn out than fade away". Here is hoping, two legends of the sport, rock the house and go head to head in a fight that will bring the house down at the Saitama Super Arena Japan. If not, Oh well, we can always fondly look back at the old UFC videos and fondly remember how good they once were
8 fights, 6 solid match-ups, 1 lame ducks and 1 unknown. The ratio may seem average at best, but it is still a better ratio than all the Pride Cards of last year. Overall a very solid card, if Pride can keep the "lame duck" matches to one per show I think I could live with that, as long as the rest of the card is strong. I cant wait for the bell to ring on Feb 24.-Arnold Lim
What do you think?
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