The card for the past Pride 19 was announced (surprisingly) in its entirety, about a month before the actual PPV date and for the first time it looked like the Pride matchmakers were ready to agree to have things done in a timely manner. Alas, it was but a tease and Pride is back to its flirting ways, toying with our hearts and announcing Great match-ups such as Henderson Vs Arona, and Sperry Vs Rua, only to ditch us at the alter with match-ups such as Kikuta Vs Otsuka. Why such match-ups are made, are somewhat understandable but the reality stings nonetheless. Like UFC 37 this Pride has been marred with injury problems and the fact that the official lineup for a show that was one week away has just been announced did not help. I am a little discouraged with the fact that the final Card for Pride 20 was announced with only a week to spare before the show is to air! Like I have stated before if Pride is willing to make a trade off and have one or two Cheesy fights, and have the rest of the card full of great match-ups then I would be willing to live with the occasional Takada Vs Mirko Filipovic, if I can have 6 or so Herring Vs Nogueiras on the same card. My cries again go unheard and I am left to weep bitterly alone at my computer with nothing but my memories of Great Prides past to console me. Great fights usually dont get signed with a week to go before the event. Weeping bitterly I drudge on with the next installment of "The Sushiboys Pride Predictions" for Pride 20 "Armed and Dangerous". Here we go starting with the match one. "Sniffle"
Bob Sapp Vs Norihisa Yamamoto
After taking the beating of his life from Assuerio Silva to kick off his Pride career, He surprised, (Broke my heart), when he decided to re-enter the Pride arena for a second round against a much bigger K-1 kickboxer named Jan Nortje. He bounced back well, and armbarred Jan Nortje after eating a few choice well intentioned strikes from the giant from South Africa and proved he had heart if nothing else. He will need that heart and more, as he will be facing off against the MUCH Bigger and stronger, NFL Veteran Bob Sapp. One thing is certain, Sapp is a physical specimen. I have seen Pictures of this guy, and every ounce of his 6 plus foot, 350 lb frame is as rock hard as Daijiro Matsuis head. The experience factor is definitely in Yamamotos favor, he has fought and lost to such notables as, Rickson Gracie, Brad Kohler, Valentijn Overeem, Semmy Schilt, Jeremy Horn, and the above mentioned Assuerio Silva. The fact that he got smashed by each and every one of those fighters, (He was Submitted or K.Od in each and every one of those fights) can be taken any which way you want. This is Sapps very first bout in an MMA event, and if Royce Gracie has taught us anything, it is that Size and strength are no match for skill and knowledge. None the less, I am once again going to vote against the more experienced but less physically imposing Yamamoto and Pick Sapp to take the bout by way of unrelenting Smashing. One thing of note, Interestingly 170 pound UFC fighter, Gil Castillo rolled with 250 pound NFL lineman, John McLaughlin, tapping out The NFL player 4 times in around four minutes, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas at the last UFC. That in itself, almost made me want to Pick Yamamoto, but then I remembered that Yamamoto has nowhere near the Submissions that Castillo has, Bob Sapp is 100 lbs heavier than McLaughlin, and the fact that strikes were not allowed in that challenge, so then I changed my mind. I dont see Yamamoto being able to take down the Giant, So there it is, Sapp by sprawl and brawl smashing, possibly after a failed takedown attempt round 1.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson Vs Masaaki Satake
Jackson is still fuming from his disqualification loss to Daijiro Matsui at Pride 18, and looks to take out his frustrations against another one of Prides perpetual losing machines, Masaaki Satake. I am not a fan of Masaaki Satake, I dont think that anyone outside of his immediate family is, but no one doubts that he puts out 100% in every fight. Satake proved his mettle against Igor Vovchanchyn in a fight many people felt would not last a single round. Instead of caving in after a bloody nostril or two, he worked his game plan and although he lost and ate a few brain cell killing shots on the way, he hung in there and continued to bang even though he was clearly losing. He will put it all on the line even if he gets K.Od for his efforts, and the Sushiboys crystal ball foresees nothing less for Masaaki Satake this time around. Satake has limited ( aka No) takedown defense, so his solid stand up skill will be nullified by Jacksons takedowns. Jackson should have no problems working the takedowns and grinding his way to a side mount or full mount where he can drop heavy knees and punches into Satakes melon. It must be summer because all the local groceries are stocked full of Fresh honeydews and cantaloupes, in the fresh fruit isle. Dont be surprised to see Satakes melon is isle three along side the rest of the fruits, because Jackson is still upset at Pride for his DQ and I have a feeling he is going to let out a whole world of hurt on the gutsy Satake. In typical team Punishment style, Jackson by ref stoppage due to punishment, round 2.
Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira Vs Yusuke Imamura
When you see Rogerio step out into the Pride ring, dont mistake him for the wrong Nogueira. Rogerio is the identical twin brother of Rodrigo Nogueira and if he has half of the talent that his brother has he should have no trouble dispatching of the "Fighter" he is squared off against. Amidst rumors of a potential Gary Goodridge, or a Guy Mezger match-up, Pride went the opposite way of up and stuck him with Yusuke Imamura. Imamura is best know for his victory over the man who can take more shots to the groin than any other mammal on earth Joe Son. Joe Sons antics before and during that fight (We wont talk about what they were, or werent for that matter) has propelled Imamuras name farther then Imamuras talent ever could. I guess that tells you all you need to know about his skills. An over weight Imamura faced off and lost to Pride veteran Alex Andrade, by K.O due to strikes at King of the Cage and a much slimmer looking Imamura took on Joe son recently at the "B" league pride show "The Best". In my humble opinion the win against Joe Son was really not a win at all, bragging
Rights for that fight belong to the guy that forced him to finally wear a cup, after coming out bare back in that bout. That fight with Joe Son being his only victory in the ring is a bad omen for him. Rogerio is not an extremely experienced fighter either but his trainers, the fabled "Top Team" brings a reputation for training some of the top fighters in the world, including UFC middleweight Champ Murilo Bustamante, Pride Heavyweight Champ Rodrigo Nogueira, and Shooto lightweight Champ Alexander Nogueira. It seems Top Team has an endless supply of Nogueiras to throw at us, and although Rogerios 2-0 record is not particularly impressive, he did finish both those fights by armbar in under a round each time. By virtue of the quality of opponents each competitor has faced, the fact that Rogerio trains with the arguably the best MMA team in the world, and the fact that he is the identical twin brother of the number one ranked heavyweight of the world, I would have to give the heads up to Rogerio. I see it going nowhere but asleep for Imamura. Nighty, Night Imamura, going to sleep from a rear naked choke is a better alternative to having to square off with Joe Son in a thong. Or even worse going to sleep from a rear naked choke by Joe Son. Rear naked anything by Joe Son is scary, scarier than Vanderlei bearing down on you with an army of strikes. Nogueira by Submission in round 1.
Dan Henderson Vs Ricardo Arona
This is a fight, that I can appreciate on many levels. Both these fighters have something to prove and a lot to lose, so both should come out ready to bang. Both Aronas win over Mezger and Hendersons win over Rua were somewhat controversial decisions, so both fighters know that nothing short of a "W" will do. Arona is an impressive grappler from Brazil who has competed in and won in Abu Dhabi events against the best grapplers in the world. Henderson is a banger and although his takedown defense was called into question in his fight with Ninja, his wrestling skills are considered to be among the best in the game, oh and lets not forget about that right hand. His right hand was responsible for being the first fist to ever knock out a Grace back in Pride 13. He will need to use his hands if he is going to win, because if Arona can control him on the ground the way Rua did, I feel that Aronas superior Jiu Jitsu skill can finish the fight that Rua could not. Aronas takedowns will decide this fight, and one poor takedown attempt for Arona can spell the end for him, as Hendersons knees will find the quickest way to his skull and His right hands will fly faster than a leer jet at Aronas chin. Aronas conditioning is impeccable and Hendersons is usually so as well, but he looked too tired to finish the fight in round three with Rua a few Prides back and could not close the deal. If he loses gas like Mezger did he will be in trouble, If Aronas takedowns look as weak as they were against Mezger he is in for a long night. This is a tough match-up to call and Dan Hendersons fights in Pride have all been entertaining so a back and forth affair could be in the cards for Pride 20. In the end, I feel Hendersons takedown Defense and boxing skills will be too much for Arona and that will be the difference. Henderson by decision after three hard fought rounds.
Mario Sperry Vs Murilo "Ninja" Rua
This fight is the second of two good fights on the card and one I will be watching very closely. The rivalry between the "Top Team" and "Chute Boxe" has come to a head and two members of the famed squads are ready to leave it all in the ring. Ninjas loss to Henderson was somewhat of a controversial one and many felt that he did not lose that fight. He showed a lot of good skills in that fight and although he was controlling the fight on the ground for the first two rounds the Punishment he took in the final round swayed the judges enough to give it to Henderson. Sperry looked impressive the last time out against Igor Vovchanchyn but his victory was marred by the fact that Igor had a nasty gash on his head coming into the fight, that Sperry reopened and that fact that Igor seems to fight in almost every Pride and has looked tired and sluggish of late. Sperry has an impressive Jiu Jitsu background from which to feed and his takedown skill will need to be sharp to ground the high Flying Ninja. Rua is an exciting fighter and although he has showed some holes in his game, overall his performances have been very good, and entertaining to boot. There is no doubt that Sperry will be gunning for the takedown right off the bat, whether he hits a homerun or not is reliant on his ability to take it to the mat and get position on Rua. Marios Full mount was thought to be a death Knell for fighters until Zinoviev burst that bubble, but I think he has learned from his mistakes. Sperry should be able to take it down and take Rua out. Sperry by Submission Round one.
Sanae Kikuta Vs Alexander Otsuka
I was hoping that Kikutas inevitable return to the Pride arena would have sparked a better opponent but I guess the fact that one Pride had gone by without Otsuka in it (Pride 19) was enough, and Pride was suffering from Otsuka withdrawals and needed him to come back and lose to another legitimate opponent. Watching Otsuka fight is like watching a dying Salmon trying to swim upstream. He tries and tries and tries again, but in the end he ends up in a heap at the side of the arena bloody and near the end of the line. When is Pride going to learn that Otsuka Vs anyone and everyone, can only take them so far? Otsuka (and his meager record) has had more shots against quality opponents, then any legitimate fighter other organizations. He has faced and lost to, Igor Vovchanchyn, Vanderlei Silva, Renzo Gracie, Ken Shamrock and Guy Mezger twice. Why does he deserve these chances? Is it because of his Fighting skills? Or is it because of his losing skills? Does he have any skills? I cant say enough about the heart that some of these Japanese fighters possess but at some point there really has to be a point where we really dont need to be subjected to the punishment of watching the same people lose again, and again. Otsuka will lose again and I have no doubt that he will lose many more times, long after my fingers have long degenerated into bony lumps on my hands because I write in and complain about this so much. Pride needs legitimate fighters, to face off against their stars, Otsuka needs to go back to Pro Wrestling, and I need an Aspirin. Kikuta by Submission round 2.
Wanderlei "The axe Murderer" Silva Vs Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
I am looking forward to seeing this bout for one reason and one reason only. Silva has been very vocal about his disapproval of many of his opponents shooting for the takedowns and not being "man enough" to stand with him. He is now in the position that many of his opponents were, in that he is in against a superior striker. Now it can be argued that Vanderleis stand up game is closer to Cro Cops then say Titos was to Silvas but any way you cut it, most people see the stand up advantage clearly going to the Cop from Croatia. Vanderlei Silvas leaky defense has more holes to fill then a Hockey players dentist, but he IS one of the most exciting fighters in the sport today. I dont know if Vanderlei is willing to stand with Filipovic any longer then he has to, (I hope he does) but the last time we saw him fight, (At Pride 19 against Kiyoshi Tamura), he repeatedly went for takedowns, and did not stand up out of Tamuras guard at every opportunity. He looked like he was content to ground and pound, and soften him up before he threw the big bomb that dropped him. If he didnt want to stand with Tamura then he would be borderline psycho if he went at it with Filipovic. One thing of note, this fight will have 5 x 3 minute rounds and not the traditional Pride rounds. This should be good for Filipovics chances to survive if he does get taken down. Vanderleis reputation is on the line and there are three likely scenarios here, Vanderlei loses face regardless of the outcome, from two of the three. Here they are.
Vanderlei decides to stand with Filipovic and scores an impressive knockout victory. My Take: I dont see Vanderlei standing, and winning against the more experienced stand-up fighter but, if he does, more power to him, I will eat my words and stop eating sushi for a month if this happens. (It Wont)
Vanderlei goes for the takedown and scores a submission or ground and pound win. My Take: This is the likeliest scenario and even a win here will not be a win for him in the minds of many of his fans and his peers. Vanderlei himself has criticized many of his opponents for not standing with him in the past. So how do you spell Hypocrite?
Vanderlei stands with Filipovic and gets K.Od in an exciting fight.
My Take: I would respect him more if he stood and lost then if he grounded and won. Vanderleis last fight against a decent boxer cost him his consciousness in his Octagon debut against Belfort, but he did bounce back better then ever.
So there you have it, I think that scenario two is the likeliest of the possible scenarios, but if one or three take place I will be more than happy to watch.
My eyes will be glued on the TV, as this fight could be the best fight of the night or it could be the biggest disappointment of the month. Lets just hope that someone gets K.Od.
A disappointing card after a promising start is the theme of the night.
Pride "Armed and ready" better be everything if claims, and then some because I think a lot of people are getting fed up with Prides matchmaking. Three good match-ups and one interesting one does seem like it is enough to satisfy the insatiable fans of the sport of MMA. These three fights may be worth the Price of admission alone, but the fact that they are the only ones worth watching is a trend I would not mind to see bucked in the very near future. I am disappointed in the card and although I will gladly watch it, I still cant help but feel a little cheated. A Poor Pride Card is still better than most of the shows out there, but we have come to expect more knowing the type of potential shows they are capable. Pride has the ability to put on some of the best shows in the world bar none, but getting the actual fights matched up properly is a daunting task to say the least. Lets hope the fighters prove me wrong, and throwdown for the ages. If they dont then the weeping you hear will probably be me, crying on to the shoulder of my Stuffed Tuna.
"Sniffle" "Sniffle" Here is to a great Pride 20.
This was "The Sushiboy" Arnold Lim
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