Murilo Bustamante vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura
Kazuhiro Nakamura is getting opportunity after opportunity to make a name for himself and you have to wonder if it is too much too soon. He is trained by Olympic Judo Gold medallist Hidehiko Yoshida and is spearheading the Judo vs. Jiu Jitsu battle that the Japanese audience so loves to see, a tall order for a man with only 24 years to his name.
Murilo Bustamante vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura
Kazuhiro Nakamura is getting opportunity after opportunity to make a name for himself and you have to wonder if it is too much too soon. He is trained by Olympic Judo Gold medallist Hidehiko Yoshida and is spearheading the Judo vs. Jiu Jitsu battle that the Japanese audience so loves to see, a tall order for a man with only 24 years to his name. He has a lot of talent and he has proven it with his impressive victories over Daniel Gracie, Dos Caras Jr. and Chalid Arrab. He had two solid performances against Brazilian Top Team member and twin brother of Pride Interim Heavyweight champion Rodrigo Nogueria and fought him in his first pro fight in Pride, a tall order for any fighter. He will be fighting in this fourth high profile fight with a Brazilian in his 6 th pro fight and the Japan vs. Brazil, and Judo vs. Jiu Jitsu battle will again be reborn.
Staring at him from across the ring will be a man that before his two recent consecutive losses, was considered by many to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world. The former UFC middleweight champion and BTT member is a submission wizard and could even be a step up from Rogerio Noguera as the most dangerous submission man that Nakamura has ever faced. Bustamante, despite his age is still one of the great talents in MMA and despite his recent woes is still as dangerous as they come. While he still has many good fights left in him, like any fighter who is 38 years old he is taking his career one fight at a time and will treat each fight like it could be his last. Bustamante will be ready for this fight and will have prepared as diligently as he ever has as another loss could spell an end to his Pride career, if not his big league MMA career. Both fighters will have the world on their shoulders when they step into the ring for Pride final conflict in what could be one of the biggest MMA events ever.
Like I mentioned before we are reliving the Judo vs. Jiu Jitsu debacle and adding more charcoal into the flames of the age old debate that surely will not entirely be settled on August 15th. Bustamante has always been a magician in the ring and has been a wizard at turning the strengths of his opponents against him. He was able to get the upper body takedown against Greco roman Olympic silver medallist Matt Lindland, he stung Chuck Liddell with well timed and well placed punches against the striker, and knocked out one of the most well rounded fighters in the world at the time against Dave Menne to win the middleweight crown. Will that be enough to overcome the judo prowess of the young gun that has improved his rapidly developing game in each of his Pride appearances. I think this time Jiu Jitsu will have the upper hand against Judo.
While Nakamura is a very talented fighter that could be the heir apparent to Kazushi Sakuraba as the new face of the Pride fighting Championships I do not feel that this will be his day. Bustamante is coming of two stinging losses, one of which that was a close decision and the other a controversial knockout loss to Dan Henderson and he will do everything in his power to stop his streak from going to 3. He will be in tip top shape and looking to start his climb back up the middleweight ladder, and he will begin his climb with an impressive submission victory over a game Nakamura late in the third round. Bustamante over Nakamura via submission round 3.
Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Sergei Kharitonov
Truth be known I was hoping for a Kharatonov vs. Emelianenko fight but this fight comes in a close second. This fight could be the best fight of the night and the most competitive fight of the card all in one. Before his fight with Murilo Ninja Rua in the first round of the tournament, Kharatonov was a relative unknown. He is now in the final four of the Pride Heavyweight tournament and poised to make his statement to the world, win or lose he has now come into his own and finds himself on the cusp of a special opportunity. It is not out of the question that Kharatonov could win this tournament. Nogueira and Fedor are certainly the favorites but to discount Kharatonov would be a mistake, this tournament looks to be a three horse race with Ogawa the odd man out. Kharatonov has proved to be a resilient and talented Russian with a strong chin and a sound well rounded attack. He will certainly be outclassed in the Jiu Jitsu department but his wrestling, boxing, and size advantage could prove to be a difficult challenge for the Brazilian Top Team stalwart. Barring an unforeseen early knockout or submission expect this fight to be a war of attrition. This fight was a real tossup.
On paper it looks like somewhat of a mismatch, Nogueira has been fighting in Pride for years and is the former heavyweight champion. Their common opponent, Semmy Schilt lost at the hands of both competitors in the first round. Kharatonov is slightly younger and greener and it will be a big test for him but in the end, I feel the experience factor will be the deciding one and Nogueiras extensive tenure in and out of the ring could prove to be the difference. I feel this fight will go the distance with both fighters taking major damage on route to Nogueira taking the tight split decision. Nogueira via Judges Decision.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Naoya Ogawa
oI give Ogawa full marks for taking this fight. Lets be honest, Ogawa is the selling point of this whole tournament, if he wasnt here, the arena would not be sold out in advance like it is now, so it is not hard to see why Pride wants him there. He probably had his choice of facing any of the three other fighters, why he or Pride went with Emelianenko, no one knows. Having said that, credit means a lot in the world of banks and finances but when it gets to the ring, it may as well be Monopoly money. It isnt worth Jack. First of all let us get to the good part. Ogawa is a seasoned Judo practitioner, so his submissions as well as his Judo takedowns should be as good better then that of Emelianenkos, but that is where his advantages end. Now let us get on to the bad, for Ogawa anyways, Emelianenko has better boxing, better ground and pound, and is bigger, stronger and more experienced then Ogawa. He has fought in Championship fights in Pride against the best of the best, Ogawa has not. To be quite honest, I dont know that this fight will go past the first round. This fight reminds me a lot of when Hidehiko Yoshida fought Vanderlei Silva in the second round of the Pride Middleweight grand Prix. Many people thought Yoshida might not even show up to fight, in the end he not only showed up but made a very good account of himself. I feel that is the best that Ogawa can hope for, he is probably destined to lose this fight and lose it badly. If he can hang tough and lose a hard fought decision, he will have won in the eyes of the fans and his standing in their eyes will not be tarnished. Having said that, the chances are better then good that Emelianenkos fists will be tarnished with Ogawas blood before the midway point of the first round. Fedor should be able to find his way into Ogawas guard and hammer him into the ring mat before the bell goes to end round one. Emelianenko via KO round one.
Kevin Randleman vs. Ron Waterman
The H2O man Ron Waterman will be making his return to the Pride ring where he was last soccer kicked in the head en route to a TKO Ref stoppage at the hands of Mirko Filipovic. He has since competed once in Pancrase, finishing Keigo Takamori by armlock and now finds himself in a position to become the alternate for the heavyweight tournament against Kevin The Monster Randleman. The size difference will be substantial when these two competitors step in the ring and it could very well play a huge factor in this fight. Waterman is upwards of 260 pounds to Randlemans 230 pounds a difference of 30 pounds, Waterman will be looking to use ever bit of that to stave off the takedowns and put Randleman in a bad position. Waterman has a good record at 11-2-2 but has never quite been able to get over the hump and win the big fight when he needed it most. He lost to Cro Cop when a spot in the tournament was on the line and has shown conditioning problems when the fight goes down the stretch. Randleman on the other hand has been the UFC heavyweight champion and although his record of late has be a mixed bag of impressive victories and uninspiring losses, he has proven that he can rise to the occasion. He is one of only two men to defeat Mirko Filipovic, the same man who knocked out Waterman a few events back. Size or no Size advantage, Waterman will probably looking to keep this fight on the feet or put Randleman on his back where the wrestler is least comfortable. Randleman is the superior wrestler however and should have his way with the wrestling aspect of the fight, at least early on if he is careful and picks his spots.
This is a difficult fight to call but much like the other well matched fights on this card I feel that experience should give the edge to Randleman who has been in more high pressure positions then Waterman has and it should propel him into the winners column via Judges Decision in this fight. Randleman via Judges Decision.
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