PRIDE 32: The Real Deal Preview


In a little less than 24 hours, PRIDE Fighting Championships will hold their first ever event on US soil. With US governing bodies unwilling to sanction PRIDE rules, so when the opponent is down there will be no knees, no elbows, no kicks, and no stomps allowed. There will be no ten minute first rounds at PRIDE 52, either. These changes will obviously affect many fighters’ strategies. Reportedly, over 10,000 tickets have already been sold. If this is true, it’s very impressive. If I have my facts straight, the largest ever live audience for a UFC show was 13,060, for Silvia vs. Arlovski and Ortiz vs. Griffin at UFC 59 at the Arrowhead. Of course, the real money in MMA comes from the PPV buys. PRIDE have done their best to play to the mainstream American audience by bringing in some big name stand up fighters out of UFC’s past, loading the card with American fighters, and even putting a couple of familiar faces into the freak show match. They’ve also slotted an American MMA pioneer, the innovator of Ground & Pound Mark “The Hammer” Coleman, into the Main Event. Will it be worth shelling out some of your hard-earned cash to see THE REAL DEAL? Let’s take a look!

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Phil Baroni v Yosuke Nishijima
Nishijima is the former professional boxer who was taken down and humiliated by Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos at Final Conflict Absolute.
Phil “New York Bad Ass” Baroni is a big meathead with sick knockout power. If Baroni charges in blindly with his hands down, Nishijima might catch him with a lucky punch. If this goes to the ground, you’d have to give a huge advantage to Baroni.
Prediction: Baroni isn’t exactly known as a submission wizard, but the same could be said of “Cyborg” Santos. Baroni, Submission, R1

Joey Villasenor v Robbie Lawler
“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler is a Miletich student who was being groomed to be the UFC’s Middleweight Golden Boy until he got stopped cold by Nick Diaz at UFC 47. He left the promotion after getting tapped out by Evan Tanner at UFC 50, and has since put up a 3-1 record against good competition on the indy circuit.
Villasenor is the King Of The Cage Middleweight Champion. His is a well-rounded fighter whose record is studded with first round KOs and Submissions. This has the potential to be a pretty exciting stand-up battle.
Prediction: It looks like Villasenor is a fighter on his way up, while Lawler is on the down side of his career. Villasenor, Submission, R2

Kazuhiro Nakamura v Travis Galbraith

Nakamura is a judoka, the protege of Olympic gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida. He is coming off of a lackluster fight against Yoshihiro “Kiss” Nakao at Final Conflict Absolute.
Brought in as a last-minute replacement for Marvin “The Beastman” Eastman, Galbraith is a top contender in KOTC’s Light Heavyweight division. Born in Edmonton, he trains with Bill Mahood, Denis Kang, and other up and coming Canadian fighters.
Prediction: I’m excited to see Galbraith getting a shot in PRIDE, but he is definitely the underdog in this one. Nakamura, Decision

Sean O’Haire v Eric “Butterbean” Esch
Speaking of last minute replacements, Butterbean was originally scheduled to face the man with (arguably) the strongest chin in PRIDE, Mark Hunt. That would have been a tremendous freak show match, with two huge guys presumably just throwing bombs at one another.
O’Haire is a former professional wrestler who is also well known for getting knocked out in spectacular fashion in K-1 matches. He did beat up the much smaller Shungo Oyama at Rumble On The Rock 6, (and also allegedly a couple of women outside a bar in 2004)… But, hey, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.
Prediction: O’Haire is a tough guy, but he doesn’t exactly have a granite chin, and Butterbean has historically done pretty well against pro wrestlers. Esch, KO, R1

Josh Barnett v Pawel Nastula
Nastula won an Olympic gold medal for Poland, in judo. He suffered first round losses against Minotauro Nogueira and Aleks Emelianenko in PRIDE in 2005 in what was surely a baptism by fire. Nastula’s first MMA win came at Critical Countdown this past July, as he forced the previously unbeaten Edson Drago to tap out to an arm bar. From the pictures I’ve seen of the weigh-in, he looks to have added quite a bit of muscle to his frame to prepare for The Babyface Assassin.
Josh Barnett elevated himself to the elite level of the PRIDE heavyweight ranks with his tremendous run through the 2006 Openweight Tournament. He seems to be fully recovered from the punishment he absorbed at Final Conflict Absolute, and he certainly appears to be on a roll right now.
Prediction: In a battle of wrestling vs. judo, who wins? The bigger, more experienced fighter. Barnett, Submission, R2

Dan Henderson v Vitor Belfort

Henderson is the PRIDE Bushido Welterweight Champion. His third-round loss to Minotauro Nogueira at PRIDE 24 was probably the most exciting David vs. Goliath type MMA bout that I have ever seen. Henderson’s last fight, however, was an entirely uninspiring decision loss to Kazuo Misaki at Bushido 12. That was a tournament bout, and thus the title wasn’t on the line. I’d assume that the pressure is on Henderson to prove his championship mettle with a win here.
Belfort has incredibly fast hands that have won him notable victories over fighters like Tank Abbott and Wanderlei Silva. Those fights were in the 1990s, though, and Belfort has lost five of his last seven contests. On the other hand, those losses came against top fighters Alistair Overeem (twice), Tito Ortiz, and Randy Couture. Henderson is motivated. If Belfort also feels he has something to prove, this could be a great fight.
Prediction: I’m expecting the wrestler to take the striker down and grind out a win. Henderson, Decision

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua v Kevin Randleman
This fight continues the Hammer House vs. Chute Box feud that boiled over at PRIDE 31, when Rua’s arm was broken by a Coleman takedown. Shogun proved that he was all the way back from his injury by stomping “The Snake” Diabate into submission at PRIDE 31. He won’t have stomps in his arsenal this time out, however.
Randleman is the underdog in this fight, but it was his infamous KO of Mirko Cro Cop at Total Elimination 2004 that proved once and for all that in MMA the underdog always has a chance to pull off an upset. Since beating Filipovic, however, “The Monster” has won only once in five outings.
Prediction: The Revenge of Chute Box begins here. Rua, Submission, R2

Fedor Emelianenko v Mark Coleman
Fedor is a dominant heavyweight champion, and he is almost certainly the best fighter in the world today. He is coming back from a hand injury that was serious enough to require surgery. It only took Fedor a little over two minutes to stop Coleman at Total Elimination 2004. If you stop that fight after about fifteen seconds, it does look like Coleman is strong enough to manhandle Emelianenko.
I don’t by any means think that Coleman is finished as a fighter, but I do believe that he is past his prime. I am sure he’s been training like an animal in preparation for this fight, but at this point Fedor is simply on another level as a fighter.
Prediction: The only question is whether he’ll knock him out or make him tap. Emelianenko, KO, R1


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