Dream Stage Entertainment's attempt at creating the years best show, will arguably go down as just that. From top to bottom this card is loaded with names that have been main event fighters, for many different MMA cards around the world. The Final Conflict show was tweaked around here and there, such as dropping the injured Fedor from the card, but Pride, known for short notices was still able to fashion a spectacular line up. s
Dream Stage Entertainments attempt at creating the years best show, will arguably go down as just that. From top to bottom this card is loaded with names that have been main event fighters, for many different MMA cards around the world. The Final Conflict show was tweaked around here and there, such as dropping the injured Fedor from the card, but Pride, known for short notices was still able to fashion a spectacular line up. The changes include fewer rounds for the tournament participants. The tournament fights will be 2 round contests with the first round being 10 minutes in duration and the final round being 5 minutes long. Out of the show is current Pride heavyweight champion Emelianenko Fedor with a hand injury. Pride was forced to drop him out of the show and created an interim heavyweight title match, to replace the Championship bout Who would be a suitable replacement, for the finest ground and pounder the sport has ever seen? None other than former Pride heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.
Pride, interested in making the show even better, made the interesting announcement that the kamikaze Kazushi Sakuraba would be facing ground and pound specialist Kevin Randleman. This could turn out to be another vicious loss for the undersized Sakuraba and a much needed win for Randleman, who is coming off a big loss to Tournament participant Quinton Jackson. Obviously the addition to Sakuraba is for name value to the Japanese ticket purchasing public. Are the ticket sales really worth seeing this guy go through the numerous beatings? You start to wonder if Sakuraba played a cruel joke on the matchmakers within Pride, to force Sakuraba to fight opponents so much bigger than him. You could have put him against someone his own size and had the much-anticipated Sakuraba vs. Bustamante match instead of putting him against the much bigger Randleman. I think Randlemans takedown defence will be too much for Sakuraba whos best bet is to make sure he is on top during the match. I am not going to give Randleman too much credit for his stand-up, but it could create some openings for him to shoot in for a takedown and put Sakuraba on his back.
Another great addition to the show was having Murilo Bustamante face Dan Henderson as an alternate match. Knowing the seriousness of the tournament and the high injury percentage that tournaments have. Pride picked valid candidates to participate if a fighter gets injured. I like the match a lot since both are solid all around fighters, with respected track records. The question mark above Hendersons head is whether he is ready on short notice and coming off knee surgery. He says he is ready and if so the fight fans should be ready for a delight. It could easily go either way. Henderson is the underdog and he will have his hands full for the night. The more I watch Bustamante the more I am in awe of the technique he possesses in his game. Henderson is also coming off a submission loss to Bustamantes teammate Rodrigo Nogueira. The smaller version of Nogueira should have a slightly easier time trying to submit Henderson since he is smaller and the holes that Henderson used to escape Nogueira will be smaller. Both fighters should have equally good stand up skills, both have knocked out opponents in the past and this can easily turn out to be a full blown all out war. I dont know if Bustamantes takedowns will be good enough to get Henderson down. Should they get in the clinch Bustamante going to his guard to avoid the takedown and/or absorbing damage should neutralize Hendersons dirty boxing. From there he will work his world-class submission skills. Due to the surgery in Hendersons knee the later rounds could be where we may see Bustamante able to take Henderson down due to Hendersons questionable leg strength. For the gamblers out there here are some important facts to consider regarding the two fighters. Bustamante is 2-0-1 against wrestlers and Henderson is 6-2 against jiu jitsu fighters. Murilo went the distance with only one wrestler, Tom Erickson, Hendersons former teammate and a man who outweighed Bustamante by quite a margin. Hendersons 2 losses against jiu jitsu practitioners came at the hands of Bustamantes teammates.
In what could be billed as "the battle of the really big men." Dan Bobish will be taking on Gary Goodridge. Both fighters are known for their size and strength. The on-line gambling sites have Goodridge as the slight underdog. Since he has been training hard with a huge Tom Erickson I dont think the size of former KOTC Heavyweight champion will become a factor in this fight. Gary also possesses some great experience and knock out power that could make a lot of gamblers in the MMA world quite happy. I see this fight as a tug of war where both fighters will clinch and use their power and strength to win the fight. We could see a knockout in this one.
Heath Herring will be facing Norihisa Yamamoto in search of a win he so desperately needs
or does he? There is no shame in losing to names such as Emelianenko Fedor and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. If he loses to Yamamoto however, even his most ardent supporters will be hard pressed to find a silver lining, even though many still feel that Herring has a bright future in this sport. Yamamoto is known to have a hard head and a big heart, he will need it all and then some against the superior Herring. If Yamamoto considers getting his head rocked for the duration of the entire fight and taking the bout to the judges cards is a good showing, then the only time Yamamoto has done well against a top fighter was against Guy Mezger in Pride 22, which he still lost. Herring should put the past 2 losses in the past and focus on what he does well and that is hurt people.
A lot of fans criticized Pride for having their middleweight champion Vanderlei Silva face Yoshida in the first round of the tournament, and a battered and bruised Jackson or Liddell in the finals. Yoshida can only present a threat if he can get a trip or a throw from the clinch and choke Silva. Either that or pray to the Judo gods that he can pull off another Royce Gracie type victory by convincing the Pride officials to pull another stunt for him. I know what you saying to yourself, you can never count out the ever so crafty Olympic gold medalist right? I didnt see Royce tap and the win over Tamura wasnt impressive enough for me to believe the hype. So what makes him a real threat? Judo Olympic gold is an amazing accomplishment, but he cant survive with his Judo skills alone. The rumor is Josh Barnett has trained with Yoshida recently over in Japan and considers him as strong as Bob Sapp. Barnett claims he was shocked by Yoshidas skills. If Yoshida wins I will be shocked. I would be just as shocked if saw Justin Timberlake tap out Randy Couture for the UFC Light heavyweight crown.
Pride will also be crowning a new interim heavyweight champion in the absence of the current heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic will be facing former Pride heavyweight champion Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira in what will be a classic striker vs. the grappler showdown. This match has Filipovic as the heavy favorite on all the online sportsbooks. Can you really count out Nogueira who was the favorite to win fighter of the year awards last year? Is Mirko that good? Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic is a former police officer. He was actually a former member of the Anti-Terrorist Force "Lucko", that is where the nickname "Cro Cop"comes from. The "Cro" is from his Croatian decent and "Cop" for the obvious. His stand up credentials are world class. Filipovic has been a finalist in the K-1 Grand Prix 99 and K-1 World Grand Prix 2000. Before making a name in K-1 or MMA, Mirko was an amateur boxer and held a record of 40 wins 5 losses with 31 wins coming from way of knockout. He became a bigger star in Japan with his stellar victory over monster Bob Sapp in K-1. He also has several victories over big names in the K-1 organization. His quest in MMA began against pro-wrestler Kazushi Fujita. At first he was known as the "pro-wrestler hunter" from K-1,disposing of each pro-wrestling star Inoki would put in front of him in MMA bouts. Disaster struck when pro-wrestling/MMA star and current Pride upper office brass Takada wouldnt engage in their fight, resulting in one of the most boring matches in Pride history. Next up for Filipovic was Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba and he showed that he could hang with MMAs best. In his match against Silva they fought with special K-1/Pride Hybrid rules to a draw, but when he fought against the smaller Sakuraba his ground defense looked to have improved tremendously. Talks of his potential began from there and, if he is the real deal like they bill him to be, this fight will be the proving grounds.
Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira could be compared to Johnnie Cochran. I know your thinking, "what the hell does a famed defence attorney have to do MMA?" No one has been more successful with their defence then these two men. Both men were successful at achieving the most difficult tasks ahead of them with their superior defensive skills. If you still have doubt, then you try to defend yourself against a man the size of Bob Sapp and you try to explain how OJ was innocent without people laughing at you. In his last 2 fights we saw weaknesses in Nogueiras game, until that point many felt he didnt have any glaring weaknesses. Questions abound, how is he going to be able to take down Mirko? Nogueira says he wants to exchange with Filipovic until he makes him feel comfortable, then he will take him down. As soon as the bell rings Cro Cop is going to feel comfortable with his chances of winning. Nogueira has a super hard head and a chin made of steel, but I think Cro Cop can be the one to knock him out if he messes up on his takedown attempts. Filipovic has brought in a lot of the top Croatian wrestlers and Russian wrestlers to help with his training. From what I was told he has not been taken down too many times. Both fighters also have much in common? Both fighters love to finish their fights, both have victories over Bob Sapp, and both are respected and feared by their peers. We can expect Filipovic to go for a knockout and Nogueira to go for the submission. Nogueiras best chance to take the fight to ground is to throw Filipovic into his guard to avoid getting knocked out. Cro COps best chance of winning is to avoid the takedowns and counter until he gets the knockout, either way, it should be a good test for both men.
The fight that has the whole MMA world buzzing right now is Quentin "Rampage" Jackson versus Chuck "Iceman" Liddell. Both fighters have said they have not made any special preparation for this fight, they will go in and fight like they always do. Liddell is the more experienced of the two and probably has a little higher skill level. Quentin is just on a roll in his back yard Pride and the junkyard dog doesnt like anyone pissing in his yard. The winner will have to move on to the finals to face the winner of Silva/Yoshida who many believe will be a fresh Silva. It is going to be a tough night for these two men, fighting each other is a tough task in itself, but to then go and face a possibly fresh Silva later could be an exercise in attrition. Plain and simple these two fighters are going to try and do everything short of killing each other. Fight fans are in for a treat. -MMARR-