Pride 32: The Real Deal

Pride: The Real Deal
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Thomas and Mack Center
Las Vegas, Nevada

By Stephen Quadros, “The Fight Professor”

Fedor Emelianenko  

  Mark "The Hammer" Coleman

(Non-Title Fight)

Fedor Emelianenko is currently the best fighter in MMA. He has proven that with solid, unarguable decision victories over Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (twice) and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. His resume also includes decision wins against Ricardo Arona, Renato “Babalu” Sobral and K-1 World Grand Prix champion Semmy Schilt. Inside the distance he has dispatched Heath Herring (TKO), Kevin Randleman (first round submission) and…Mark Coleman, also with a submission in round one.

10 years ago Mark Coleman was a 2-time UFC tournament champion, where his most significant wins were against…Dan Severn and Don Frye. He lost his UFC title in July 1997 by decision to a 36 year old named Maurice Smith. What a difference a decade makes.

Mark also won the first Pride “open-weight” tournament in 2000. On that night the winner had to fight and beat three opponents. So Coleman decisioned an undersized Akira Shoji and then stopped Igor Vovchanchyn (who several years later would drop down to light-heavyweight). But wait, that’s only two opponents… Mark’s scheduled second fight in the 2000 Pride tournament, against Kazuyuki Fujita, did not actually happen. That evening Fujita walked out into the ring and then announced that he was injured and could not fight, effectively guaranteeing that Coleman had a bye in his second match and would be fresh going into the finals with Igor, who had just fought two wars against Gary Goodridge and Kazushi Sakuraba. Cie la vie.

Since then his career has been inconsistent: he had no fights in 2002, one in 2003, a slow decision over Don Frye and the match against Fedor in 2004. 2005 saw him get KO’d by Cro Cop in one round and then beat a guy named Milco Voorn.

Then he fought Pride middleweight tournament champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in February of this year. Coleman was universally thought to be a trial horse match for the fast rising 24-year-old Rua to test the waters at heavyweight. It was one the Brazilian was supposed to win.

The match started with Rua putting lots of pressure on Mark with jiu-jitsu. Then after an awkward charge/scramble that saw both men to topple to the floor, Mauricio posted his right arm out to cushion his fall and it painfully snapped out of place. The fight was over, the time 49 seconds of round one. Some called it a fluke, a freak accident. But Coleman disputed that with a not so subtle “I did that to him.” Regardless of the intention or possible luck involved, the outcome momentarily resuscitated the American’s career. Wanderlei Silva and the whole Chute Boxe nation was out for revenge after Coleman’s post fight antics and celebration (an in-ring melee ensued after the fight was over). Future fights with the Curitiba, Brazil team seemed to offer many possibilities, all emotionally charged.

So Coleman’s next fight is against Fedor? OK…

In a sportive sense, there isn’t a lot of reasoning for Fedor/Coleman II to even happen. Emelianenko’s win the first time around was definite, achieved in a little over two minutes and without controversy. I guess the logic in having this “rematch” is to (inadvertently?) copycat the UFC’s success with rematches, most notably the Tito/Shamrock trilogy (three fights that, like Coleman/Emelianenko II, were largely perceived as NOT competitive and fairly predictable). The only problem/difference is that Ken Shamrock AND Tito Ortiz are huge draws, both individually and collectively, here in the US and Emelianenko and Coleman are not. 

Fedor underwent two hand surgeries earlier this year that have kept him out of action. Apparently the surgeries were a success and he is now set to step back in and fight for the first time on American soil…against an American no less. We’ll call that “marketing” (unless you reread the last sentence in the above paragraph).

Coleman’s contribution to MMA is without question. In the era just after Royce Gracie was king in UFC 1,2 and 4, Coleman changed perception in 1996 with what he termed “ground and pound.” Back then his physique was intimidating and he had the aura of being invincible. But that moment in history is long gone. I cannot visualize any scenario today, on October 21, 2006, where Mark Coleman can defeat Fedor Emelianenko. None. His winning this match would be the equivalent of Buster Douglas KOing Mike Tyson (February 1990) or the Jamaican bobsled team winning an Olympic gold medal (which hasn’t happened…yet).

Fedor Emelianenko by submission, round one.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua 

    Kevin "The Monster" Randleman

Because of the controversy that I mentioned in the above section around the Shogun/Coleman match, a fight between Shogun and Kevin Randleman makes sense. Kevin is a teammate and training partner of Mark Coleman, and like Coleman is known for his wrestling. As a matter of fact, Randleman may be a greater threat in the single region of takedowns and slams, which was how Coleman “defeated” Rua.

So “if” Kevin can pick Mauricio up and dump him in the right way, the fight should be over, right? Well it’s not quite that simple. It’s not like the Chute Boxe team who trains Shogun doesn’t know that that is Kevin’s strategy.

Mauricio is fully recovered from his surgery to repair the arm and is going to be ready for Kevin’s explosive and sometimes reckless style. This fight depends on what kind of shape Randleman is in and what kind of pre-fight focus he has. If he has not taken this fight as seriously as he should have, he will get either stopped or submitted. But chances are good even if he has prepared in a Spartan-like way …he may STILL get stopped or submitted. Either way, I feel that Shogun will prevail here.

And if that scenario unfolds, will the easy going Shogun want a rematch with Coleman? Or will that even matter if Fedor trounces “The Hammer”?
"Dangerous" Dan Henderson  

   Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort

After finally campaigning in the Pride 183 pound division, where he won the 2005 tournament belt, Dan Henderson is fighting Mr. On-Again-Off-Again, Vitor Belfort. Dan has a problematic style when he faces anyone but Vitor potentially can (used to be able to) reek havoc simply because his hand speed is that fast. 

I will go with the man who has the best and most disciplined mental game, so I figure Dan will win a decision here.
Josh "The Baby Faced Assasin" Barnett

   Pawel Nastula

Being touted as “The Rickson Gracie” of judo sounds impressive…until you step into the high ranks of MMA. And Pride has not cut Pawel Nastula any slack since they inducted him into the show. His first bout was against the former #1 fighter in the game, Rodrigo Nogueira, who stopped him with strikes late in round one. Then he faced Russian wrecking machine Aleksander Emelianenko, Fedor’s brother and was choked out late in the first. He was probably thrilled to face and armbar Edson Drago in July and get into the win column. 

But now he again faces one of the best in the world in Josh Barnett. Barnett was the runner up in Pride’s 2006 open-weight grand prix (he was stopped by old adversary Mirko Cro Cop in the final match). Barnett, who beat Randy Couture to snatch the UFC heavyweight belt in 2002, has an MMA rap sheet that is a mile long and, if he’s injury free, will take this by TKO.
Eric "Butterbean" Esch 

    Sean O'Haire

In a match that will have no bearing on the sports top ten rankings, popular toughman “champion” Butterbean will clash with former WCW and WWF (that means pre-WWE) performer Sean O’Haire. If a foe stands directly in front of the 350-pound plus Esch with his hands down, he is surely in danger, because the Butterbean CAN punch. Although O’Haire is 1-1 in MMA he has potential as a mixed martial artist. Still this match is a strange one. If O’Haire has ANY kind of ground game he should be able to submit Eric. Otherwise he may be waking up in the center of the ring courtesy of one the human Pacman’s (Butterbean’s) looping fly swats.
Kazuhiro Nakamura  

  Travis Galbraith

Kazuhiro Nakamura may be the most talented and experienced 205-pound MMA fighter in Japan. Travis Galbraith took this match on short notice and will be up for the task, but inevitably will be defeated.
Joey Villasenor  

   "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler

This is a great match. Villasenor may be the finest fighter, other than Diego Sanchez, that King Of The Cage has ever produced. And he has experience in Pride (many thought he won his fight against Ryo Chonan). Robbie is coming off a loss against Jason “Mayhem” Miller in what has been described as a war. 

This is a test for both gents. A loss will hurt Lawler’s career more than Joey’s. And I’ve got a hunch that Villasenor will win this.

Phil "The New York Badass" Baroni 

   Yosuke Nishijima

Phil Baroni is the most entertaining MMA fighter in the US. We know he can punch, but a standing battle would be a mistake here since Yosuke Nishijima is a former cruiserweight boxing champion (his boxing record was 24-2-1 with 15 KOs). 

Phil should take a page from his friend Ikuhisa Minowa’s playbook and take Nishijima to the floor and keep him there (Minowa used that same tactic to beat Phil the second time they fought). If he does that he will beat Yosuke easily.