PRIDE is doing the best it can, but remains a shadow of its former self. The second show in the US features Japanese stars vs UFC wash outs, and it just wouldn't be PRIDE with out a few glaring miss-matches thrown in.
Joachim Hansen vs Jason Ireland (Lightweight)
Hansen is looking to come back after loosing to Aoki by gogo plata on the NYE show. Hansen is the first person that I know of to loose by gogo plata, it is such an unusual and difficult sub to set up, it is amazing that a seasoned fighter like Hansen could fall prey to such a move, but he did.
Anyway Hansen has been in with the best at his weight class, and beat many of them. Luiz Azeredo (KO), Yves Edwards (Decision), Gomi (Decision) and Caol Uno (KO) all fell to Hansen. Joachim is known for heavy hands, and strong ground work. His record is 14-4-1.
Jason Ireland is the two time Victory Fighting Championship Lightweight title holder. This fight will be the first time he steps in to a major show's ring. Jay is known for strong wrestling, good cardio, and good submissions. Jason has been on the cusp for a long time, but falling just short of the big time. He beat Justin James, just to be beaten by Mac Danzig. He beat Allen Williams, Alonso Martinez, and Kendrick Johnson in one night, just to be tapped out by Jorge Gurgel. Jason is dangerous, but untested in the big shows with the big boys.
I think that Jay is being brought in to get his head handed to him by Hansen. Jay could barely handle Justin James, if Justin would have been in better shape that fight might not have gone as it did... He could not handle Jorge Gurgel's relentless stand up. How is he going to handle Hansen's? Hansen pounded out Caol Uno. Jay is not better than Caol. Hansen knocked out Rumina Sato. Jay is no where near Sato's level. This will be a brutal, brutal KO of a local boy. Hansen by KO first round.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs Thierry Sokoudjou (Lightheavyweight)
Minotoro walks in to the ring after knocking out Alistair Overeem way back in July 2006. Minotoro is, of course one of the very famous BTT Nogueira brothers. His style is BJJ and BOXING. The reason Minotoro has taken so much time off, was because he was busy becoming the boxing champion of Brazil. Minotoro has serious hand skills, and even more serious ground skill. The only problem that I have with him is that he is not as dynamic as he could be. He tends to play a very cautious game, and ends up with a lot of decision wins. Sure, he finishes when he can Dan Henderson (armbar), can tell you that, but overall his game is about control. Minotoro is 12-2, 2 KOs, 4 subs and the rest decisions.
Sokoudjou is a Team Quest fighter... that's pretty much it. He does have a record of 2-1, his most recent fight was his first loss to Glover Teixeira by KO in the WEC. Coming from Team Quest you can bet that he has good wrestling and fair stand up.
This fight may get as close as we can come to government sanctioned murder. Not only does Sokoudjou have no experience, but he is up against one of the most complete and dangerous guys in the world. Sure Sokoudju has a good team to train with, but COME FREAKING ON!!! His primary trainer, Dan Henderson, lasted only eight minutes with Minotoro, and that was after he had 19 fights and countless international wrestling matches under his belt. The only question I am struggling with here is how Minotoro will finish Sokoudjou. He could knock him out, or submit him just as easily... I think it will be the latter, Minotoro by armbar first round.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs Alistair Overeem (Light Heavyweight)
Shogun is coming off of a decision win over the very tough Kazuhiro Nakamura. Shogun is back to form after his injury loss to Mark Coleman. Beating a hapless Cyrille Diabate nearly to death with stomps on the ground, then breaking Kevin Randelman's knee at the last USA PRIDE show ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5ilFuhdTp4 honestly Kevin, lean some submission defense!!). In my opinion, Rua is at the top of the Light Heavyweights. He has the power to KO you, or submit you. He is the total package.
Overeem has shown flashes of brilliance in his wins over Igor Vovchanchyn and Vitor Belfort, but then looked like absolute crap (KO loss) against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Minotoro) and Ricardo Arona (KO loss). I have gone between hating Alistar and liking him, but I can never really come down to being a fan of his. His style is fun, he has good kicks and good ground work, but he is so damn inconsistent. Alistair has lost two in a row now, putting his over all record at 24-9.
I don't believe that Alistair has a chance here Rua has been simply too much for anybody to handle. In his last three fights, nobody gave Rua any trouble. He could not finish Nakamura, but dominated the fight. Alistair tends to fold when the going gets tough. Against Shogun, the going will get tough. Shogun by KO second round.
Kazuo Misaki vs Frank Trigg (Welterweight)
Misaki is the current Welterweight GP winner, loosing to Paulo Filho by armbar, then "winning" a decision over an injured Dennis Kang. Misaki has been around for a while, and has been in there with the best. He has wins over Phil Baroni (Decision), Ed Herman (Side choke), and Dan Henderson (Decision). Misaki, like most Japanese fighters, is primarily a ground guy; winning by submission and decision. He has a couple of KOs in there, but don't expect him to like to throw the leather.
Frank Trigg is a wrestler who, despite his talent, is known for having very little RNC defense. He was finished by Matt Hughes (twice) and GSP by Rear Naked Choke. The talent I spoke of is very real, Frank has fought many good fighters and beaten them, most recently he knocked out the very good Jason Miller in Hawaii. Before that he won a decision over Ronald Jhun, knocked out Renato Verissimo, knocked out Dennis Hallman (twice), and stopped Fabiano Iha (KO). Frank's G&P is for real and very dangerous.
This fight could go either way, Misaki could take Frank's back, and Frank could over power and smash Misaki, in the end, I think that Frank will be too powerful for Misaki. Frank Trigg by KO first round.
Hayato Sakurai vs Mac Danzig (Lightweight)
Sakurai has had excellent success as of late, winning his last two fights by knock out (Olaf Alfonso and Luciano Azevedo). Sakurai has been around a long time, beating Caol Uno in his first fight by armbar, way back in 1996. Since then his record reads like a who's who of the Light and Welterweight divisions. He has been in there with Matt Hughes (loss KO), Frank Trigg (win KO), Anderson Silva (loss Decision), Luiz Azeredo (win decision), Dave Menne (win KO), Shooto's new golden boy Shinya Aoki (win Decision), Jens Pulver (win KO), and many more. Sakurai has been around, and mixed it up with the best guys.
Mac Danzig lost his last fight, a title fight for the King of the Cage organization. Clay French managed a decision win over Mac. King of the Cage is as big as it gets for Danzig, he has mostly been working away in the smaller shows. Danzig is known for his submissions, winning most (12) of his 20 wins that way. He has a few KOs and decisions in there as well.
Danzig is way out of his league here. Of his three losses all have been to "B" level UFC fighters all of which would get schooled by a guy like Sakurai. This is such a miss match it makes me wonder if Don King was involved in the match making. Sakurai by KO first round.
Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Travis Wiuff (Light Heavyweight)
Nakamura lost his last fight being absolutely dominated by Shogun Rua. Nakamura fought a very defensive fight against Rua, and I must say that I can not blame him. After fighting a very aggressive fight with Wanderlei Silva, then getting highlight reel KOed by said Silva, using the same game plan against a guy who is arguably better than Silva is not a good idea. Nakamura is a Judo guy who uses plenty of Judo in his matches. He caught Rua with several good throws, but could not hold up to the Brazilian's attack on the ground. That said, Nakamura is a decent ground fighter, doing well enough to tapp a couple of fighters, and well enough to get decision nods on many.
Travis Wiuff is the current VFC heavyweight champion. He has not fought in the VFC since 2003, but he still is listed as the champion. Travis is a wrestler. That's really it. He is a one dimensional fighter who needs to get you on the ground to win. The good news is that Travis gets you on the ground rather easily. Travis has been fighting in the IFL for his last four fights going 2-2. He won his last two fights ( Jason Guida and Wojtek Kaszowski) by decision.
This too is a tough one to call. While Travis has been around the block, he is vulnerable to submissions. While Nakamura is a good ground guy, he has difficulty finishing anybody, and is vulnerable to powerful wrestlers. All in all I think that Nakamura's skill will get him through. Nakamura by decision.
Takanori Gomi vs Nick Diaz (Welterweight)
Gomi has been all but unstoppable in the PRIDE Welterweight division. Aside for a little problem with Marcus Aurelio, Gomi has out boxed, and out wrestled everybody PRIDE has thrown at him. His only losses come at the hands of the best of the best in the division, BJ Penn, Marcus Aurelio, and Joachim Hansen have gotten the better of Gomi, but Ralph Gracie, Jens Pulver, Luiz Azeredo (twice), Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Tatsuya Kawajiri have all fallen by the way side.
Nick Diaz after dropping three in a row in the UFC, got back to his winning ways big time tapping out Josh Neer with a Kimura, then knocking out Gleison Tibau. Nick is known for heavy hands and solid submission skills, but mostly he is known for the massive chip he carries around on his shoulder. Nick hates everybody... maybe that is why I like him so much. Even if you are Nick's friend, he only mildly dislikes you, if he is fighting you, he hates you to your core. Perhaps it is this bad blood with everybody that makes Nick such an exciting fighter to watch.
As much as I like Nick, no amount of anger will get him through the wrecking machine that is Gomi. To win Nick would have to get Gomi to the ground soften him up and finish him with some sort of choke. Not going to happen. Gomi will be a bit flustered with Nick's stand up, but not enough to make a difference. Gomi by KO second round.
Wanderlei Silva vs Dan Henderson (Light Heavyweight)
Silva is back in the ring after getting completely destroyed by Cro Cop in the Open Weight Grand Prix. Ever since Ricardo Arona beat him back in 2005, Silva just has not been the same fighter. We have gotten used to the fighter who practiced the adage that the best defense is a great offence, that the defensive counter puncher that has walked in to the ring the last few times is just alien to us. Silva used to win off of effective aggressive striking. I am not sure what the new Silva uses to win.
Dan Henderson last fought in the first PRIDE USA show beating Vitor Belfort by decision. Dan must be wanting to cut less weight, because he seems to like fighting at Light Heavy.
Though Dan is a superb wrestler, his main weapon is his HUGE right hand. Dan likes to close the distance and drill you with the big one. That is really his entire strategy. If the fight goes to the ground Dan will usually look for position, then hit you with the big right hand.
This is a rematch from a December 2000 fight that saw Dan loose by decision, but do more damage to Silva than any man before. Dan left Silva's left eye roughly the size of a baseball. Silva was able to win with aggressive striking, but he definitely had his hands full. I hope the old Silva will make an appearance, and turn this fight in to a barn burner. Silva by KO second round.