Pride FC Shockwave 2005 Preview by Stephen Quadros

PRIDE Shockwave 2005 
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Saitama Super Arena
Tokyo, Japan

By Stephen Quadros, “The Fight Professor”

Over the past 3 years PRIDE and K-1 have been in the deepest competition for ratings ever seen in Japanese sports television. We’re talking about the martial arts equivalent of Coke versus Pepsi. But neither side had time for ‘that pause that refreshes’ this year because while being locked in their dead heat, BOTH organizations held lightweight mixed martial arts tournaments over roughly the same timeframe. Originally both factions worked together (2001) with Antonio Inoki when there was only ONE New Year’s Eve show that included K-1 fighters, PRIDE fighters and pro-wrestlers. It was called Inoki Bom Ba Ye.

Then two years later all three entities gave up on the idea of collaboration and held their own versions of an end of the year spectacular. The networks in Japan on December 31st 2003 were flooded with martial art/fight related content. Nowadays Inoki no longer does a NYE show so K-1 and PRIDE are challenging each other directly. And that couldn’t be accentuated more than the fact that both will feature, as part of their year-end fiesta the final fight in each company’s aforementioned lightweight tournament. K-1 seemed to be last year’s ratings winner (in Japan) when they hosted the teen idol dream match of bad boy Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto versus K-1’s answer to Elvis in Masato. But this year it may be a little bit different. PRIDE has pulled out all the stops and assembled a phenomenal card indeed that features a range of everything from legit hardcore matches to “celebrity” and circus-style, potential train wrecks. There seems to be something for everyone on this one.

Hidehiko Yoshida  

Naoya Ogawa  

In a match that has a relatively small impact here in America, PRIDE has finally booked the most intriguing fight that Japanese fight fans could hope for: Hidehiko Yoshida against Naoya Ogawa. These two have a deep, intertwined history that couldn’t have been better scripted by a Hollywood producer: Hidehiko is an Olympic gold medalist in Judo (Barcelona 1992), a sport crested in Japan. But even though Ogawa was only an Olympic silver medalist in Judo that same year, at 95 kg (a much heavier weight category than the 78 kg that Yoshida competed at) he went on to become the biggest star in professional wrestling since Nobuhiko Takada (who is now a top executive with PRIDE). And let’s be clear on the fact that Ogawa’s image in pro wrestling is that of a heel (bad guy). And because Yoshida is so low-key and down to Earth, the good versus evil tag fits like a glove.

But their beef goes even deeper. As Jeremy Wall states on “Each has gone on to have successful mixed martial arts careers. However, beyond the Olympic glory and their successes in the MMA ring, there is a long-standing rivalry. Both men attended Mieji University in Japan where they practiced judo. Being the senior, Ogawa is said to have been harsh on Yoshida with the two being fierce and bitter rivals. At the Olympics both teammates medaled, but two years later at the 1994 All Japan Judo Championships, teammates faced off and Yoshida (86kg) garnered the victory over Ogawa (132kg) by a 2-1 decision. The victory ended Ogawa’s domination of the event as 5-time consecutive champion.”

Yoshida has filled out physically quite a bit since then but is still not equal size wise to Ogawa (there is a 25-30 pound difference). But experience is where Yoshida has a clear edge. Ogawa’s record is 7-1 compared to Yoshida’s relatively unimpressive (on the surface) MMA stats of 5-3-1. But these numbers can be deceiving because Yoshida has only fought ‘name’ players including dropping two competitive decisions to wrecking machine Wanderlei Silva. And with submission victories over David “Tank” Abbott, Don Frye, Kiyoshi Tamura and Mark Hunt, Hidehiko is a threat to any big guy. Ogawa’s only loss has been to the greatest fighter in the sport, Fedor Emelianenko. But other than that he hasn’t faced the level of fighters that Yoshida has.

There will be a huge amount of pre-fight drama for this one and I expect an exhausting match. But I do pick Yoshida to take this probably by submission.
Wanderlei Silva 

    Ricardo Arona

PRIDE Middleweight Title Match

The ticket for victory in this fight is control: control over WHERE the match is fought, control over heart rate/cardio, but most importantly control over emotions. Occasionally there has been a sportive rivalry between the two main MMA powers in Brazil when Chute Boxe and Brazilian Top Team squared off. The main bullet points on the team scorecard, in PRIDE, currently looks like this: Murilo “Ninja” Rua decisioned Mario Sperry, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua decisioned Rodrigo “Minotoro” Nogueira, Arona decisioned Ninja and Arona decisioned Wanderlei. But that last match is the one that is different. Arona and Silva seem to have always had some kind of personal problem with each other. Their first go around in the semi-finals for the 2005 middleweight grand prix (August 20, 2005) wasn’t necessarily a candidate for fight of the year. But it did see the fearsome myth of Wanderlei Silva directly challenged. Something unique happened. Unlike most of Silva’s past opponents, Arona seemed eager to get in and clash with him, as opposed to shrinking away from his frightening gaze. Those around PRIDE circles know of their near physical confrontation years ago in a hotel in Japan. Since then things have festered. This IS a classic personal rivalry. These two fellows do not like each other and probably never will (at least until they retire anyway). 

In their previous match, Silva seemed to have what every fighter dreads more that anything, an off night. Arona controlled the bout standing and on the mat. Wanderlei never had a chance to get off his well know punching style. This time however, expect to see a more focused strategy by the most famous fighter out of the Chute Boxe gym. He will come out and directly attack Ricardo’s stand up abilities and more specifically his chin. It has been said that Arona has the perfect style to beat Wanderlei. This train of thought was backed up by the result on that fateful August day.

But this will be a different fight entirely. It’s true that there is a huge amount of pressure on Silva in this one…but he is used to that. When he fought Cro Cop several years ago there was pressure too, but Silva acquitted himself nicely (the match was ruled a draw but most experts felt that Silva won). But ‘if’ Arona defeats Silva again where will that leave Wanderlei professionally? One thing will be certain in the advent that that happens (again) Wanderlei will be without a title (he is the first and only PRIDE middleweight, single fight champion). Surely in that scenario Silva’s stable mate Mauricio “Shogun” would rematch Arona and hope to avenge his teammates loss again (Shogun KO’d Arona in the final match directly after Ricardo defeated Wanderlei in August). But if Silva loses to Arona a second time his stock will drop substantially. He knows this and my gut feeling is when you put a man like Wanderlei Silva with his back to the wall, he’s going to come out swinging. 

It is quite possible that Arona will duplicate his win but I feel that there is more of a chance that Silva will prevent this in his own signature way, with raw violence. Whoever wins in this high stakes grudge match, it surely will only be the beginning of dramatic future conflicts in PRIDE fertile middleweight division.

Fedor Emelianenko 


Non-Title Match

Everyone knows that Fedor is the best in the business. After wins over Nogueira (twice), Cro Cop, Mark Coleman and K-1 Grand Prix 2005 champ Semmy Schilt; the PRIDE heavyweight champion has pretty much cleaned out the company’s upper echelon. The only logical current competitor left might be Sergei Kharitonov. But we will have to wait to see an all-Russia PRIDE heavyweight title fight because a New Year’s Eve show isn’t just about pure athletic struggles for hardcore fans. It is also be about entertainment. And before I go further here, I must state that I feel Zulu, as adored by the fans as he is, has no serious shot here. But he will bring a certain charisma, much like his father did in Brazil in MMA’s bygone years (Zulu Sr. fought Rickson Gracie twice).

The only way I can see a victory over Fedor is if the Russian took the match so lightly that he didn’t train and/or didn’t feel the threat of losing like he did in his previous matches. But I just don’t see that (ever?) happening. Emelianenko has faced underdogs before and was occasionally surprised by their spirited efforts (like when Kevin Randleman picked him up and almost took him out with an inverted body slam). He will be ready and he will compel the huge Brazilian with the golden smile to tap the mat..

Kazushi Sakuraba 

   Ikuhisa Minowa

There should be a two-drink minimum during this fight because to me both these gents are as funny as it gets in the game, a pair of absolute pranksters. We will probably see a bevy of tricks, both physical and psychological, that rival Barnum and Bailey’s Circus (or even Monty Python’s) as these two showmen try to upstage each other. The difference at the core of the matter is that Sakuraba is one of the greatest fighters in MMA history and Minowa is not. It’s Sakuraba’s fight to win (or lose) but Minowa will make it loads of fun!
Takanori "The Fireball Kid" Gomi 

    Hayato "Maha" Sakurai

Lightweight Tournament Final Match

Simply put, this could very well be a contender for fight of the year! When you have two young and experienced warriors peaking at the same time, going for the gold after resting up for a few months, well, it doesn’t get much better. Gomi’s rise and dominance in PRIDE’s Bushido series has been well documented. 

But many people had written Hayato Sakurai off after he was trashed in the UFC by Matt Hughes, then was TKO’d by Ryo Chonan and THEN armbarred by Crosley Gracie. Things didn’t look too good. So he took some time off, fixed a few technical things (Sakurai is now trained by MMA super guru Matt Hume in Seattle, WA) and healed some nagging injuries. So by the time 2005 rolled around he had a few surprises in store for his doubters. Like 4 straight wins, including a TKO over former UFC champion Jens Pulver and a decision win against one of the best in the biz, Joachim Hansen, all in the same night (September 25, 2005).

These two gunslingers, Gomi and Sakurai, both have momentum going into the finals. I eagerly await this one. It is the kind of fight that should give the fans exactly what they want, two men who deserve to be vying for a championship. And having a legitimate all-Japan final is a great thing. I can hardly wait.

In a possible all-time classic, under duress, I will go with Gomi.

 Dan Henderson  

 Murilo Bustamente

Welterweight Tournament Final Match

Henderson, Bustamante, two icons in the game. Both former UFC champions, both respected, both humble. In many people’s minds this match represents not only the finals of PRIDE’s welterweight tournament but also the fight to determine the true top dog at this weight (185, 183 whatever). Rich Franklin looms in the UFC but a match featuring him against the winner of Henderson/Bustamante seems unlikely.

And this is a rematch of Bustamante’s knockout loss to Henderson in PRIDE on November 9, 2003. Henderson will once again impose his roughhouse style on the legendary Brazilian and win his third tournament (Dan previous won an 8-man tournament in the UFC and a 32-man event in RINGS).

Mirko Filipovic  

   Mark Hunt

The man with the hardest kick in MMA will once again do battle with the man with the hardest jaw in the game. But that isn’t what this contest is about. Hunt and Cro Cop are both veterans of K-1’s elite kickboxing league. In their previous, and only, match, under K-1 rules (Nagoya 2002), Mirko won a unanimous decision. But he also cracked Mark upside the dome with that left high kick, which put Hunt on the deck, only to watch as the New Zealander rose up like “Terminator 2” and jumped back into the fray as if nothing happened. 

Externally, it would seem that Hunt is notorious for under-training, which may be a result of his lack of fear of any opponent. But I think he knows that Filipovic has improved dramatically as a mixed martial art fighter. So after a year layoff from PRIDE (his last match was a decision win last New Year’s Eve over Wanderlei) Mark will come in with more training himself in MMA.

Trust me, Mirko doesn’t want this to be a standup fight even though he beat Mark that way before. Hunt wants to prove he is superior to Mirko in the most bravado way possible, a slugfest. If Cro Cop can’t get Mark down and keep him there he will be in trouble. And if Hunt is in ANY kind of reasonable shape, this will compound the matter. Mirko has been fighting too much since he has been with PRIDE that the burnout factor will be his greatest foe here. If he can come in fresh with all his injuries fully healed he can decision Hunt. But if he isn’t he could get knocked out. .
Alexander Emelianenko  

   Pawel Nastula

Alex should be able to take this one pretty easily, most likely by violent KO once the Polish Judo Olympic gold medal winner (1996 Atlanta Olympics) gets tired.
Sanae Kikuta  

   Makoto Takimoto

Experience tells all: Kikuta by ground and pound or submission.
James Thompson  

   Giant Silva

Thompson…without breaking a sweat.
Ken Kaneko  

   Charles "Crazy Horse" Bennett

On paper, Bennett should be able to knock this guy out (unless it goes past 5 minutes).
Yuki Kondo  

   Kazuhiro Nakamura

This will be an extremely competitive fight. I'll go with Kondo, just because he has spoiled the dreams of so many grappling style fighters in the past(Nakamura comes from Judo). But it won't be easy.