by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Dream Stage Entertainment has announced the remainder of the line-up for its July 1st event at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
In addition to the six previously announced match-ups on the “Critical Countdown Absolute” card, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira will face Alistair Overeem, former K-1 Hero’s star Yoshihiro Nakao will face Korean fighter Lee Eun Su, and Olympic Gold Medalist Pawel Nastula will face Edson Drago.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alistair Overeem have fought each other once before, in a fight which Nogueira won by unanimous decision in February 2005. This will be the first fight in just over a year for Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, the twin brother of former Pride Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
Rogerio entered Pride’s 205-pound Grand Prix in 2005 and defeated Dan Henderson by submission in the first round, but then lost to Mauricio “Shogun” Rua by decision in the second round of the tournament. Shogun would go on to win the entire 16-man tournament, and in hindsight, Rogerio was the only fighter that Shogun didn’t run straight through in the tournament (Shogun was dominant in wins over Overeem, Quinton Jackson, and Ricardo Arona). Rogerio Nogueira has spent much of the past year waiting for Pride to call him and book him for a fight, which the company has now finally done.
Nogueira’s opponent, Alistair Overeem, just fought in California on June 9th in the Strikeforce promotion, where he won a unanimous decision over Vitor Belfort in what was widely regarded as a lackluster fight. Like Nogueira, Overeem also entered Pride’s 205-pound Grand Prix in 2005, and like Nogueira, he was eliminated by eventual tournament winner Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Before losing to Shogun, Overeem made it all the way to the semi-finals of the 16-man tournament by submitting Belfort and Igor Vovchanchyn. Overeem entered Pride’s Open Weight Grand Prix earlier this year, but lost his fight to Fabricio Werdum by submission.
The signing of K-1 Hero’s star Yoshihiro Nakao was announced by Pride last week, but only now has Nakao’s first Pride opponent been announced. Nakao will face 24-year-old South Korean heavyweight Lee Eun Su, a veteran of the South Korean military who will also be making his Pride debut.
Nakao is best known for the incident last December in which he kissed Heath Herring during a pre-fight staredown, and Herring responded by knocking out Nakao with an immediate sucker punch. The fight was later ruled a no-contest when it was declared that both Nakao’s kiss and Herring’s punch were illegal. Even though Nakao is best known for the Herring incident, Nakao is actually a very promising heavyweight in the sport who has already picked up wins over Don Frye and Wesley “Cabbage” Correira.
Pawel Nastula is a Judo legend and Olympic Gold Medalist who once won 312 consecutive Judo contests. Nastula was a big signing for Pride in mid-2005, but he has gone 0-2 so far in his MMA career, with losses to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Aleksander Emelianenko.
Edson Drago is an imposing Brazilian heavyweight with a 9-0 record in MMA, and he will be making his Pride debut in this fight. Though only three of Drago’s wins have come against opponents with a winning record, he will enter the ring on July 1st with far more MMA experience than his opponent.
With the announcement of the final three fights on the card, the entire line-up has now been announced for Pride’s July 1st show at the Saitama Super Arena.
Here is the complete line-up for Pride: Critical Countdown Absolute, which will debut on American pay-per-view on Sunday, July 2nd.
Second Round Match-Ups in Pride Open Weight Grand Prix
-Mirko Cro Cop vs. Hidehiko Yoshida
-Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazuyuki Fujita
-Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum
-Josh Barnett vs. Mark Hunt
-Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos
-Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshiki Takahashi
-Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Alistair Overeem
-Yoshihiro Nakao vs. Lee Eun Su
-Pawel Nastula vs. Edson Drago