Pride 33 The Second Coming will be the promotions second show on American soil. The inaugural show was highlighted by Fedor Emelianenko defeating Mark Coleman, but overall the event was met with mixed reviews. The Pride product and the UFC product are equal in presenting the highest level mixed martial arts, but at the same time both products are very different. Pride 33 will be the companies second attempt to make a larger impact on the North American mixed martial arts scene. As always, competition is good and both Pride and the UFC need each other to further push the sport. The fans will always be the true winners as both companies will try to out do the other.
Pride 33 is highlighted by a five round middleweight (Pride’s 203 pound division) title fight between the champion Wanderlei Silva and Pride’s welterweight champion (Pride’s 183 pound division) Dan Henderson. This fight will be a very interesting rematch of a fight that took place in 2000 at Pride 12, where Silva won a decision victory. The card also features Japanese superstar Takanori Gomi taking on UFC veteran Nick Diaz, in what could be the fight of the night. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua returns to the United States after his slick knee bar victory over Kevin Randleman at the first American event. Rua will step into the ring with Alistair Overeem who has been struggling and desperately needs to get back on track. Kazuo Misaki, the recent "backdoor" winner of Pride’s Welterweight Grand Prix will face off with Frank Trigg, who is fresh off his dismantling of Jason "Mayhem" Miller. Pride 33 also offers the fans the chance to see Hayato Sakurai and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria in showcase bouts against lesser opponents.
Fans who order the Pride 33 Pay-Per-View will be able to watch every bout on the card. Unlike the UFC who uses the boxing format of having preliminary bouts, Pride will show all nine fights live. This is really great for the fans and gives the fans more for their money.
Middleweight Championship: Wanderlei Silva (champion) vs. Dan Henderson (challenger)
Wanderlei Silva enters the ring on Saturday night with a mixed martial arts record of 31-6-1, with twenty-one victories by ko/tko. Silva, who is the most prominent member of the Chute Boxe team in Brazil, is attempting to rebound after suffering a devastating head kick knockout loss to Mirko Filipovic in Pride’s 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix semi-finals. Prior to his loss to Filipovic, Silva had destroyed every man put into the ring with him. His fight resume includes three vicious wins over Kazushi Sakuraba, two knockout wins over Quinton Jackson, and a decision win over Dan Henderson. Silva seemed to have met his match in Ricardo Arona, who was able to defeat Silva in the 2005 Pride Grand Prix semi-finals. However, Silva was able to revenge that loss, earning a split decision victory over Arona in his last bout before entering the 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix.
Dan Henderson is 21-5 in mixed martial arts and is a long time member of Team Quest. Henderson has been training with Shawn Tompkins (founder of Team Tompkins) who has helped make vast improvements on Henderson’s striking. Henderson has gone 4-1 in his last five fights, with wins over Vitor Belfort (decision), Kazuo Misaki (decision), Murilo Bustamante (spilt decision), Akihiro Gono (knockout), and a loss to Kazuo Misaki (decision). His fight resume includes wins over Renato Sobral (decision), Renzo Gracie (knockout), Murilo "Ninja" Rua (decision) and losses to Ricardo Arona (spilt decision) and both Nogueria brothers by armbar. Henderson, the current Pride champion at 183 pounds and will be looking to add the middleweight title to his collection.
In their first meeting way back at Pride 12 in 2000, Silva was able to earn himself a decision victory. Since then both fighters have changed a lot. Silva went on a tear and became the most feared man in all mixed martial arts before being humanized by both Ricardo Arona and Mirko Filipovic. Henderson, on the other hand, quietly became one of the best 183 pound fighters in the world and along the way developed a devastating right hand.
This is a fight where whoever makes the least mistakes will win. The bout will be under North American mixed martial arts rules, which means five-five minute rounds, no knees to the head on the ground, no stomps, and also the traditional Pride rule of no elbows. Many weapons for both fighters have been taking away and it will be very interesting to see which fighter is able to adapt their style and game plan. I feel Henderson has improved more so than Silva, but Henderson has a habit of getting "right hand happy". As long as Henderson does not only look to throw his right hand and try to be Chuck Liddell (which he is not), I really feel this is his fight to lose. Silva is a monster, but struggled against a grappler like Ricardo Arona, and Henderson will be looking to give Silva the same problems. My pick is Henderson takes the middleweight title by decision in a very intense and high paced battle. Henderson will be even on the feet with Silva which will surprise many, but will ultimately go to his bread and butter and work Silva over on the floor.
Takanori Gomi vs. Nick Diaz
Gomi (27-3) makes his American debut on Saturday night looking to take out UFC veteran Nick Diaz. Gomi has been a poster boy for the Pride promotion and has become a huge superstar in Japan. His fast paced bouts and athleticism has allowed Gomi to grow as a fighter, becoming dominate both on the feet and on the ground. Since losing to Marcus Auerlio (head and arm triangle) at Bushido 10, Gomi has reeled off three straight wins over David Baron (rear-naked choke), Mitsuhiro Ishida (tko), and evened the score with Marcus Aurelio by spilt decision.
Nick Diaz (14-6) is a very angry fighter who is slowly becoming a mixed martial arts mercenary like Matt Lindland. Diaz is currently under contract with both Pro-Elite and Pride. Diaz is constantly fired up and talking trash and is very much so a love’em of hate’em fighter. Diaz dropped three straight losses to Diego Sanchez (decision), Joe Riggs (decision), and Sean Sherk (decision). All three losses were competitive, and Diaz still claims (and he has an argument) that he won the Sanchez and Riggs fights. Since the three fight losing streak, Diaz had fired off three straight wins with victories over Ray Steinbeiss (decision), Josh Neer (kimura), and Glesion Tibau (tko).
I am taking Diaz in this fight. The rumor is that Gomi is under the weather and might not be 100% for the fight. This fight will be exciting no matter where it takes place, but I fully expect to see this bout become a stand up war. Diaz is much taller than Gomi and will be using his long reach to swell Gomi’s face. Gomi will be the stronger of the two fighters, but Diaz is a survivor. Diaz upsets Gomi, by taking a hard earned three round split decision.
Kazuo Misaki vs. Frank Trigg
Kazuo Misaki (18-7-2) is the reigning "backdoor" winner of Pride’s 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix. Misaki was defeated with an armbar by Paulo Filho in the semi-finals but Filho was unable to continue on to the finals because of injury. Misaki was given the chance to fight later that night in the Grand Prix finals where he earned a spilt decision victory over Dennis Kang. In route to the championship, Misaki defeated an unmotivated Dan Henderson (decision) and the "New York Bad Ass" Phil Baroni (decision).
Frank Trigg (14-5) is not the same fighter who lost to Georges St.Pierre and Matt Hughes twice. Trigg has moved up to 183 pounds and after dismantling Jason "Mayhem" Miller, looks to have rejuvenated his career. He looked bigger, stronger, and his attitude is still the same..that he can beat anyone. He came up way short on his own expectations against Hughes and St.Pierre, but Trigg has the talent to become a force at 183 pounds quickly.
Frank Trigg ground and pounds out a round two stoppage win over Misaki. Misaki should be the favorite, but Trigg will earn himself some revenge in Las Vegas, a city where he has come up short on the highest stage before. I fully expect Trigg to be bigger and stronger and be able to bully Misaki. It will be a big win for Trigg and prove that he can be an elite fighter in Pride’s 183 pound division.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Alistair Overeem
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is the future of the Chute Boxe team in Brazil. "Shogun" already has a Grand Prix (2005 Middleweight) tournament championship on his fight resume and has become one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. "Shogun" has only truly tasted defeat once, and that was in 2003 during the IFC Global Domination Tournament. The tournament was a one night battle where to win the championship the winner would have to win three matches. The tournament featured Trevor Prangley, Jeremy Horn, Forrest Griffin, Chael Sonnen, and Renato Sobral. "Shogun" lost in the finals by a guillotine choke at the hands of Renato Sobral. Rua went on to dominate Pride’s middleweight division and looked to be on his way to becoming one of the top three fighters in the world at any weight. However, Rua moved up to heavyweight to take on Mark Coleman, in a match that was Pride’s way of introducing the Open-Weight Grand Prix. Rua suffered a broken arm early into the bout and Coleman was giving the victory. Since the broken arm, "Shogun" has won three straight matches against Cyrille Diabate (stomps), Kevin Randleman (kneebar), and Kazuhiro Nakmura (decision).
Alistair Overeem was once one of the top fighters at 205 pounds in the world, but has struggled severely in his most recent bouts. Overeem is 2-3 in his last three fights and 0-3 against top notch opponents. Not only has Overeem seemed to have lost a step, he has also been finished in all three of his last losses (Ricardo Arona by strikes, Antonio Rogerio Nogueria by tko, and Fabricio Werdum by kimura). Overeem was able to earn himself a very close decision victory over Vitor Belfort in a bout that took place under the Strikeforce promotion but, both fighters looked unmotivated, sluggish, and fought like they did not want to be there..
Pride is using this bout to showcase "Shogun" and to also give Overeem another shot at injecting some life back into his career. Overeem looks like a force in the ring, but has not been able to be anything more in his recent bouts. "Shogun" is going to take the fight to Overeem and win by knockout in round two. I fully expect "Shogun" to blast Overeem on the feet and follow up with strikes to get the win. "Shogun" wins by knockout in round two.
Hayato Sakurai (29-7-2) is one of the Japanese best mixed martial artists of all time, takes on King Of The Cage veteran Mac Danzig (16-3-1). Sakurai will just be too much and submit Danzig with a kimura in the middle of round two.
Travis Wiuff (42-9) will ground and pound James Lee toward the end of round one to earn himself his 43rd career victory.
Sergei Kharitonov takes on Mike Russow in a last minute announced bout. Kharitonov has laid low since losing to Alistair Overeem, but will return to form and will knockout Russow in round two.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueria will use his masterful ground game to submit newcomer Sokoud Jou. Nogueria will school the youngster on the ground and lock in a nasty armbar to win the fight in round one.
Joachim Hansen (14-5-1) will revenge his gogoplata loss to Shinya Aoki by defeating King Of The Cage veteran Jason Ireland (16-6-1) with a rear-naked choke in round three.