by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
Highly touted Brazilian heavyweight Edson Drago will finally make his debut on the big stage when he takes on Olympic Gold Medalist and Judo legend Pawel Nastula at Pride’s “Critical Countdown Absolute” event on Saturday.
Drago is a former boxer from Brazil who is now a member of the Brazilian Top Team. He will be making his much-anticipated Pride debut with a perfect record MMA record of 9-0.
Drago entered MMA thanks in part to former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who discovered Drago and insisted that he make the switch to MMA. Nogueira took Drago under his wing, and Drago has since been on a tear in Brazil, finishing eight out of his nine fights (with his only decision win coming in his debut fight). Drago has some serious power in his hands and will be looking to make an impressive debut in front of the Japanese crowd.
Drago’s biggest wins have been against former Cage Rage Heavyweight Champion Tengiz Tedoradze and Chute Boxe heavyweight Helio Dipp. Both of those fights ended in the same fashion: a quick knockout win for Drago in less then a minute. At Jungle Fight 5, Drago easily disposed of Dipp in a fight that was supposed to be a coming out party for the Chute Boxe heavyweight. Dipp is still out of commission after getting his jaw broken by Drago in that fight.
Although relatively unknown at the time, Drago got some attention this past April at Cage Rage 16, when he defeated Tedoradze with a single punch, ending the fight in five seconds. Drago’s last win came against Valdas Pocevicius at the WFC: Europe vs. Brazil event in late May, and he ended the fight with strikes once again.
Without a doubt, Drago will be facing his biggest test to date on Saturday when he takes on Pawel Nastula. Although Nastula’s record in MMA is 0-2, he has shown that he has the skills to be a good MMA fighter.
In both of his fights, Nastula has given his opponents a run for their money before exhaustion took over and led to his defeat. In both fights, Nastula was arguably winning the fight, but gassed late in the first round and eventually lost. Nastula’s two fights have been against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Aleksander Emelianenko. Nastula came close to finishing Emelianenko with an armbar in his last fight and has shown that he has excellent ground skills.
Drago will need to keep this fight in the stand-up position and try to get the knockout because the ground is still the weakest part of his game, even with the BTT training. Drago has never been tested on the ground, so there’s no telling how well he would do if Nastula takes him down. In much the same way that Drago needs to keep the fight standing, Nastula will need to get this fight to the ground in order to have a chance to get his first win in MMA.
Drago has the tools and talent to become a force in Pride’s heavyweight division in the future. It’s going to be difficult for Nastula to get this fight to the ground. He hasn’t shown particularly great wrestling skills, and he will need to clinch with Drago to execute a judo throw, which isn’t something he wants to do because Drago should be able to punish Nastula with dirty boxing if they’re in the clinch position.
I see the end result of this fight being an exciting knockout win for Drago late in the first round after Nastula gasses out like he did in his first two fights. With the help of the Brazilian Top Team, there’s a good chance that Drago will be a force in Pride for years to come.