- A WORD FROM THE ASIAN SENSATION…

November 22, 2006
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Editorial Column by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
… tarnished.

tar·nish (tahr-nish)
v. tar·nished, tar·nish·ing, tar·nish·es
v. tr.
1. To dull the luster of; discolor, especially by exposure to air or dirt.
2.
a. To detract from or spoil; taint: a tragedy that tarnished our hopes.
b. To cast aspersions on; sully: slander that tarnished the senator’s image.

That pretty much describes the conclusion of Pride’s 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix. The prestige of winning one of Pride’s tournaments is a goal of many fighters and a grand achievement in itself.

As fans recall, Paulo Filho submitted Kazuo Misaki in the first semi-final match of Bushido 13. In the other bracket, Denis Kang earned a decision over Akihiro Gono and advanced to what should have been a tournament final against Paulo Filho. During his fight with Misaki, Filho suffered a knee injury that prevented him from continuing on. According to Pride rules, Misaki was named as the replacement to face Kang in the finals.

So what went wrong?

When a losing semi-finalist is allowed to return and subsequently win the tournament, it looks bad in general and tarnishes the alluring excitement and quality that a Pride Grand Prix is usually known for. Misaki took advantage of the opportunity and emerged as this year’s champion. I’m not taking anything away from Kazuo Misaki because he and an injured Denis Kang put on an amazing fight. However, I feel he didn’t deserve to be there.

So what was the purpose of having Gegard Mousasi and Hector Lombard fight in a ‘reserve’ match?

After watching Misaki return to fight in the finals, most fans wondered as to why these two even fought. Referencing to Pride’s tournament rules, a semi-finalist takes precedence over the reserve fighter in the event of an injury. Given the situation, Misaki would have been foolish not to take advantage of the second chance.

Now onto an important question, should Pride’s tournament reserve rule/procedure be re-evaluated? I think so. When a replacement wins a tournament, be it a reserve fighter or an eliminated semi-finalist/participant, it lessens the overall quality of the event and adds a blemish to the conclusion of the tournament. I strongly feel that a losing fighter should never be allowed back into a tournament. In Pride’s case, a situation like this wouldn’t have been quite as unsatisfactory had Misaki put on a competitive and close fight with Paulo Filho in their semi-final match. However, the Japanese fighter was thoroughly dominated by the Brazilian.

Of the many discussions I’ve had with fans and friends, the topic of whether the Pride Grand Prix finals should span over to a separate event was brought up numerous times. Yes, it’s risky for participants to fight twice in one night but I personally like the existing format and doing away with this formula could negatively affect the overall experience of the tournament. Injuries can and will happen, it’s the nature of this sport. However, the uncertainty that a Grand Prix can bring is exciting and is what draws fans to the events.

PRIDE’S OTOKO MATSURI 2006 SHOW

Conversely, not all Pride events will be lackluster like Bushido 13 was so let’s look ahead to New Year’s highly anticipated Otoko Matsuri show (known as Shockwave in the U.S.). Recently, DSE announced a list of fighters that may compete at their biggest show of the year.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
Kazuyuki Fujita
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Josh Barnett
Mark Hunt
Fedor Emelianenko
Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic
Wanderlei Silva
Hidehiko Yoshida
Takanori Gomi
Dan Henderson

Pride has put together an impressive list thus far. For those eager to play matchmaker, take note it’s highly unlikely that Fedor and Mirko will face each other. Let’s hope that DSE announces the match-ups that the fans want to see.

Here are some fights I would like to see happen on NYE:

Shinya Aoki vs Gilbert Melendez – I absolutely cannot wait to see this fight and I truly could care less about any other match-up. This fight will arguably be the toughest test for each of the fighter’s respective careers. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Aoki. How can you hate a guy who isn’t afraid to fight in bright yellow spandex pants? Gilbert Melendez is a great talent and has also been on the rise. I hope DSE comes through and adds this match to Shockwave.

Wanderlei Silva vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – I think “Lil’ Nog” deserves a shot at the current Pride middleweight champion. Fans and critics want to see Silva face new opposition and this would be the answer. I hope the DSE brass listens to what the fans want for this one…

Takanori Gomi vs Mitsuhiro Ishida – Gomi’s rematch with Aurelio was horrible. Fans were robbed of a good fight as Gomi was reluctant to engage with Marcus for the fear of being taken down. Ishida is on the rise and has been doing so in dominating fashion. His wrestling prowess and ability to control his opponents on the ground is unmatched at his weight class in Pride. I smell upset…although it wouldn’t be an upset to me.

Here are some fights I don’t care to see:

Wanderlei Silva vs Ricardo Arona 3 – I don’t really want to see this fight, at least not on the Shockwave show. Yes it would finally settle the score and that’s something I would like to see get resolved. However, I didn’t think their first two fights were terribly exciting and the rubber match probably won’t prove to be much different. Move it to a separate show and make it the headlining fight.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Hidehiko Yoshida – Yoshida is very popular and any card he’s on garners more attendance by fans. Do we really need to see him get bludgeoned by the greatest fighter in the world?

GOOD BYE MAURO.

Recently, Pride Fighting Championships commentator Mauro Ranallo announced his resignation. His reason for leaving was due to “an untenable environment to work in”. Ranallo revealed he had difficulties working with Pride American producer Jerry Millen. Although I miss listening to Stephen Quadros as commentator, Ranallo was an acceptable replacement to the ‘Fight Professor’. Mauro had big shoes to fill after the departure of Quadros and I feel he has done an adequate job. For those who didn’t care for Mauro in Pride, I can think of many worse replacements. Mauro, good luck with your future endeavors.

A GROWING TREND?

Many thanks to Joe Silva for expanding the UFC’s talent pool and giving Japanese fighters such as Yushin Okami, Kuniyoshi Hironaka, and now Dokonjonosuke Mishima a chance to compete in the octagon. I’ve been following Okami and Hironaka for a while now and I have been very impressed by their performances in the UFC so far. Okami’s recent success cannot be overlooked and with a couple more solid wins under his belt, he could contend for the 185-pound title.

Although Mishima lost his debut to Joe Stevenson last Saturday night, I’m sure he made some new fans. Considered by many to be past his prime, I still think Mishima has some fight left him. Dokonjonosuke is a fine acquisition in the busy lightweight division and I look forward to his second appearance in the UFC.

The recent influx of international talent has been well accepted and is hopefully a trend that will continue in the future. I’m glad to see the UFC is actively pursuing new talent.

More fighters = less rematches.

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