Pride Shockwave 2006: Preview by Stephen Quadros

Pride: Shockwave '06
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Saitama Super Arena
Tokyo, Japan

By Stephen Quadros, “The Fight Professor”

This is a good card but somehow it doesn’t have the spark of some past Pride shows. A number of big name stars are missing, most notably personalities, champions and proven draws like Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Hidehiko Yoshida are all absent for one “reason” or another. But any show that features Fedor Emelianenko, along with a rematch of two top-level heavyweights like Rodrigo Nogueira and Josh Barnett, is one the worldwide audiences have to take seriously.

One note: There are at least three rematches here. I guess the UFC is not the only company who sees this, the rematch, as a marketing strategy.

Fedor Emelianenko (Champion)  

  Mark Hunt (Challenger)

Pride Heavyweight Championship

Mark Hunt is the kind of guy that people want to root for. He’s not a body builder, not cocky, not a showman. What he is though is a natural, born with the will and tenacity to scrap. As a matter of fact he may have so much God given ability and courage that it is to his detriment as far as growth as an athlete/fighter. If he truly feels that an opponent cannot hurt him then he will have less motivation to train and improve. Therefore his inherent mental and physical toughness can be a sort of pitfall.

I am sure that he realizes he is facing the best fighter in the game in Fedor (pronounced fyord-door) Emelianenko. But Hunt is used to the destruction derby of K-1 style kickboxing and may deep down inside not have the kind of respect (a.k.a. fear) for the grappling game yet…or ever, simply because it is a more painless solution/ending to a fight than the bone crunching action of K-1. But machismo does not always dictate the smartest gameplan.

So why is Hunt being given a title shot at Fedor? Well for one, he is popular in Japan (he was a K-1 World Grand Prix champion a few years back), two, he can hit like a truck and three he can withstand being hit BY a truck and just stand there smiling (check his split-decision win one year ago over Cro Cop for evidence of this last point).

But didn’t he lose his last fight by submission to Josh Barnett (July 2006)? Hmm…apparently that doesn’t matter in Pride’s order of “qualifying” for a title match. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, who lost to Fedor by decision on August 28, 2005, is the obvious challenger to the throne after his 2006 tournament victories over Wanderlei Silva and Barnett. But apparently Cro Cop is out with an injury. Barnett would seem to be the logical next choice because he beat Hunt. Problem is Big Josh lost to Mirko three times. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who lost twice to Emelianenko, is the other choice…but he lost his last match to Barnett. So…Hunt drew the lucky straw and with a 5-2 record, coming off a loss, he gets a title shot. Get it?

Fedor will submit Hunt, most likely but armbar.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira 

    Josh Barnett

These boys are very familiar with each other…since they JUST fought each other in the semi-finals of the Pride Absolute tournament in September of this year. The decision was split and it landed in favor of Barnett. And many people felt it should have gone the other way. Thus, I guess, this relatively quick second meeting.

“Minotauro” (Nogueira) once ruled the division. Then along came a guy named Fedor, who the Brazilian has been in the shadow of ever since (Rodrigo lost two decisions to the Russian). But Big Nog wasn’t dead in the water. Not even close: he decisioned Fabricio Werdum and Sergei Kharitonov and submitted a guy named Mirko (Cro Cop).

“The Baby Face Assassin” (Barnett), in addition to beating Nogueira, submitted both Mark Hunt and Fedor’s brother Aleksander. This forces the question “Then why isn’t Josh fighting Fedor here?” If only we knew…

Barnett/Nogueira II will be a titanic battle, a fight that matters and one I cannot pick. But the winner HAS to be next in line for a title shot.
Tatsuya Kawajiri  

   Gilbert Melendez

Now THIS is an incredible match. Gilbert Menendez and Tatsuya Kawajiri are both strong top ten competitors who have their eyes on the number one spot. And I’m sure they both want a shot at current Pride lightweight champion Takanori Gomi. Kawajiri already lost to Gomi by submission (rear naked choke) a year ago but has wins over Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro (TKO) and Yves Edwards (unanimous decision).

Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez has been on fire ever since his pro debut in October 2002. Compiling an impressive undefeated 11-0 record Gilbert has risen to the point where he needs a Kawajiri style match to deliver him to that next level. His wrecking ball style has deposited many an opponent to the canvas with over 60% of his matches ending by KO or TKO. But Tatsuya has never been KO’d (or TKO’d).

Melendez is 24 and Kawajiri is 28 so age is not that much of a factor. I feel that Gilbert with his spotless dossier will have the edge just because of momentum but this might just go the distance. I pick Melendez to win.
Takanori Gomi 

   Mitsuhiro Ishida

And speaking of “The Fireball Kid”… Takanori Gomi has been a marked man for a while and he narrowly escaped his rematch with Marcus Aurelio with a split decision win to retain his title (previously Aurelio submitted Gomi with a side choke in April 2006 in a non-title fight). 

And rest assured that Gomi’s opposition here, Mitsuhiro Ishida, brings a serious threat. After all he decisioned Aurelio in June as well as lost a decision to Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro. I mention the Ribeiro fight because most people DO NOT go the distance with him and fall prey to his beyond world-class sub skills.

This could end up being far less exciting than Gomi’s wars with Hayato Sakurai and Kawajiri, simply because Ishida has that decision oriented style. But I pick Gomi to be victorious…by decision.
Shinya Aoki 

    Joachim Hansen

Shiya Aoki brings a very tenacious approach along with an 8-2 record. But he is facing the “Hellboy” himself, Joachim Hansen. Hansen is a methodical dissector who prefers the punch as his fight ender. On the experience factor (Hansen is 14-4) Joachim may have an edge, but Aoki will make things very difficult.
Kazuhiro Nakamura  

  Mauricio"Shogun" Rua

Sheesh, these matches just don’t get any easier. Shogun will get tested here, but so will Nakamura. And if the Brazilian is 100% healthy he will crush Nakamura with his usual hailstorm of aggression.
Yuki Kondo  

   Akihiro Gono

Hopefully this will not be the match that establishes the great Yuki Kondo as a stepping-stone, or as they used to call “Big Daddy” Gary Goodridge – a gatekeeper. Gono is hot right now and he needs to be, because Kondo brings TONS of experience to the table, although with 70 fights on his resume, Yuki may be hitting an early twilight to his lengthy career.

A battle will ensue between these two veterans of the Pancrase organization and the craftiest man will win. Because it is a rematch (Gono lost when they met in 2001 when his corner threw in the towel) there is a some anticipation and the spirited Gono will definitely want to erase that bad memory in front of his home town crowd (Kondo is from Niigata).
Kiyoshi Tamura  

   Ikuhisa Minowa

See, the UFC isn’t the only company who brings together rematches. For entertainment value this all-Japan match of former pro-wrestlers, turned “real” fighters, is explosive. They met three years ago and Kiyoshi got the decision.

On paper Tamura is the more versatile and accomplished warrior, owning victories over Renzo Gracie, Pat Miletich and Jeremy Horn. But, not that it matters, Minowa is the king of the freak show match, with submission wins against Kimo, Butterbean and the man himself, Giant Silva. And on a serious note he submitted Gilbert Yvel, who did in fact pound Tamura into a TKO loss.

But all these figures are irrelevant for the most part because this is about “pride” (pun not intended). Kiyoshi Tamura is the more complete fighter and if he is 100% healthy he will take this.