Some of the more familiar names in the Mixed Martial Arts media discussed Pride Critical Countdown 2005 on MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio Friday. Participating in the round table discussion was Loretta Hunt from Full Contact Fighter (fcfighter.com), Jeff Sherwood of Sherdog.com, Mike Disanto of Insidefighting.com, and MMAWeekly’s own Ryan Bennett and Frank Trigg.
Rodrigo ‘Minotauro’ Nogueira vs. Pavel Nastula was the first fight up for discussion. Everyone was in agreement that Nogueira should win this fight. It is Pavel’s first MMA bout. Loretta Hunt commented, “I think anything is possible. I mean he’s an Olympic athlete, so you know I think he might be able to go for a couple of minutes. You know? Maybe Nogueira will help him along a bit. I don’t know. It’s one of those match ups. It’s a bad match up. You know? It is what it is pretty much.” Loretta added, “Nogueira’s been thrown. He’s been tussled every single way you can imagine in the ring, so you know, if the guy does get off a flashy throw, that will be a great reel moment, but that will be it. I don’t think he’s going to knock him out or anything. Nogueira’s got the chin of all chins. He’s proven that.”
Disanto’s take on whether or not Nastula can have a good showing against a guy like Nogueira was, “That all depends on what Nogueira wants to do. If he wants to say hey, you know, you’re a Judo guy. Hey I’m going to use my Jiu-Jitsu, and show that I’m better then maybe he can last three minutes or something like that, but if Nogueira says hey I’m going to punch you in the face, take you down, and beat the shit out of you then no. I don’t think he’ll last a minute at that point. You know we’ve seen this before. This is, it’s just a way to get Nogueira back on track after two tough fights. Pride wants to turn him back into the man, and this is a great way to do it.”
Posed with the same question, Frank Trigg said, “Yeah he can have a good showing, but good showings don’t mean anything. You know how many times have I had a good showing and lost? You know what I’m saying? You can have a good showing. You can have a great showing. You can have an amazing showing, and still get the crap kicked out of you. It’s the way it works. You have to remember that this sport has evolved so much now that no longer is it the one, I just do Jiu-Jitsu and I’m going to catch you is going to work anymore. I just do Judo, I’m going to throw you on your head, and it’s going to work. It doesn’t happen like that anymore. You have to be well rounded, and if you’re not, even if you’re world class in another sport you’re not going to do good, and that’s a fact when you’re coming against a top level guy, and that’s what’s going to happen in this fight.”
Pedro Rizzo makes his return to fighting against Sergei Kharitonov. This should be an exciting fight. Although Sergei is the betting favorite, the panel was unanimous in favor of Rizzo. Trigg stated, “He’s (Rizzo) a big counter puncher. He loves it when a guy comes in, and steps inside, and he’s going to take a half step back and crack you in the head. I’m telling you right now, if there is going to be an upset, this is absolutely, positively going to be the upset right here. I’m telling you.”
Jeff Sherwood commented, “Rizzo needs someone to attack him, and he will get attacked. Rizzo is best that way.” Sherwood went on record to say this is his upset pick of the night. Ryan Bennett agreed. He said, “This fight for Pedro Rizzo, it’s a tough fight, but it’s a great fight because Sergei Kharitonov will come right at him, stand right in front of him I believe. Maybe take it to the ground. Who knows, but he’s going to be an aggressive fighter. That’s what Pedro Rizzo needs, an agressive fighter who will trade with Pedro.”
Loretta Hunt added, “Rizzo has such a history. You know? Hardcore fans know exactly who Pedro Rizzo is, and have been waiting for him to come back. On paper it’s a great match up. I saw this match up, and I said oh my God that is on paper, that is great match making…I think I want to go with Rizzo because, and this is for a new reason no one has mentioned yet, I did get to talk with Rizzo about two months ago when he was out in America for one of the shows cornering someone, and I sensed, I really sensed that he was very, very hungry. He wanted to come back obviously, but not for the money. Everyone says that money was a big thing. He had, obviously had a very big deal with the UFC. It was an eight fight deal, and he made a lot of money off that UFC fight. People started to complain that he was making too much money towards the end of that deal when his fights were so lackluster. I think he really wants to come back because, bottom line, he’s embarrassed. He wants to, he wants redeem himself some way in the world, this world that he’s grown up in. He started this sport when he was 19 or 20, so I think on that I’m going to go with that as his driving force, and I hoping he comes in and plays his game, and wins.”
The first of the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix matches discusses was Wanderlei Silva vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura. The panel was again in agreement on the outcome of the bout. Everyone picked Silva to be victorious. Disanto stated, “I think we saw Wanderlei Silva at his worst in his last fight. I think, just like what Loretta said about Pedro Rizzo, I think he’s embarrassed. Everybody is talking about his teammate might be better than him, blah, blah, blah. He couldn’t stop Yoshida. Now he’s fighting his student. I think we’re going to see the best Wanderlei Silva that we’ve seen in a long, long time.
Loretta said, “I see Wanderlei winning…He just doesn’t have the skills. I mean Wanderlei is a refined Mixed Martial Artist.” She continued, “I think he will keep it entertaining. He will try his best to go after Silva, but Silva’s skills just far surpass him.”
Sherwood stated, “This is why Silva does not get the total respect from people is because they keep giving him fighters like Nakamura.” Jeff added, “Silva is a killer. He does not overlook anyone. He comes to kill.” Sherwood doesn’t think there is any way that Nakamura will be able to throw Silva in this fight. He sees this fight as very one-sided.
Everyone picked Ricardo Arona to defeat Kazushi Sakuraba. Frank Trigg said, “The way that Sakuraba can win this fight is by keeping it close, maintaining some what of a superior position by view. By the amateur eye it looks like he’s in a super superior position, but we all know, the really in the fight game know that it’s really now. That kind of thing…It’s the only way he’s really going to get it because I don’t think he can submit him. I don’t think he’s going to be able to knock him out. He’s not going to be able to knock him down, but he can slow the pace down by holding on, and trying different submissions, and making it look like he’s more active. That’s the only way he can really win, is win a long drawn out decision.”
Sherwood said, “I don’t think Sakuraba can win. Arona will win, but I hope Sakuraba does.” Loretta commented, “Arona’s the clear cut choice” “Sakuraba has a lot of appeal as a fighter, and takes chances in the ring, but his time might have come and gone.”
Disanto stated, “I do think Arona will win, but Sakuraba is a great fighter, and he is on the downside of a great career. Every great fighter has that one last great effort in them. We see it in boxing all the time, and maybe we saw it in Randleman and Cro Cop. When Arona fights he doesn’t finish people. Right? I think he thinks too much…so that’s a plus in Sakuraba’s corner…If Sakuraba makes it to the end of the fight, I don’t care if he’s on his back the whole time he’s got a chance with those judges. We never know what the Japanese judges are going to do when you’ve got a Japanese fighter, and third. Arona fights, when he fights, with his chin sticking out. I mean I’ve never seen a chin stick out that high, and that far. I’ve just never seen it. They’ve obviously never taught him how to protect himself. Eventually someones going to clip that chin. Whether it’s with a kick, a punch, or something. Anybody can get knocked out particularly with these small gloves, or with a kick, and so there is three ways that Sakuraba can win. Can he do it? I seriously doubt it, but sooner or later someone is going to knock Arona the hell out because that chin is just way out there. It’s just crazy looking.”
Next up for discussion was Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua against Rogerio ‘Minotoro’ Nogueira. Loretta Hunt said, “I think this is a great fight for the fans that will have, will have half of them going one way and half of them going the other for the hardcore fans…They’re both going to be challenged by each others strengths. This is a tough one. I want to say Shogun for his aggressiveness, but I don’t like Nogueira’s stand up better than Shogun’s, so I’m going to go with Shogun.” “I think he can do it.”
Trigg went with Nogueira citing, “I think he has a better camp. I think he has a better training regime. I think he’s got something to prove because he wants to separate himself from his brother. He wants to prove that he’s a great fighter in his own right. I think he’s got a little bit more on the line, and the fact that he is a twin. He is kind of riding on the coat tails. He’s going to want to get out from behind his brother’s shadow. I think he’s going to go ahead and make this fight better than we think it is, and take him out.”
Sherwood thinks this “will be an incredible fight…I feel Shogun can be there, but he’s not there yet. Nogueira is there now.” Bennett agreed saying, “I just think Nogueira is there, and I think this is kind of his coming out party that people will say wow, this guy really is that good. Noguiera has a chance to win this entire thing. It’s going to be fun to watch. This fight is great because a lot of people are split on this fight. A lot of people, like Quinton Jackson, thinks Shogun is going to win this entire tournament, and it’s going to be fun to see what happens….I’m going to go with Nogueira because at this point of his career he is the veteran that knows how to win big fights. Just ask Dan Henderson how good he is.”
The final bout discussed was Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Alistair Overeem. Sherwood not only picked Igor to win this fight, but picked him to win the entire tournament. Trigg also picked Vovchanchyn saying, “I think he’s going to step inside and start banging Overeem out. I don’t think he’s going to give him any space to throw any knees. I don’t think Vovchanchyn will give him any space to get his punching off, and he’ll just try to run inside, a lot of inside boxing, a lot of inside punching, and beat Overeem up, just beat him up to the body and to the chin. There’s just no way that I can see that Overeem’s going to be able to stop him.”
Disanto concurred with Trigg. Loretta commented, “Two very, very different fighters…Overeem just hasn’t had that much experience in the big time yet, and Vovchanchyn is so seasoned…I think the best bet is Vovchanchyn, so I’m going to go with him.”
Bennett was the only one to take Alistair Overeem in this fight. He said, “My reasoning is this. I was talking with Mauro Renallo. I talked to him before he want to Japan and even talking to Bas this week… I think Igor would win this fight very easily by taking this fight to the ground, and just methodically ground and pounding his way to a win. I don’t think Igor will though, because of what happened with Yuki Kondo. I think Igor Vovchanchyn feels he has to be exciting this fight. Igor feels it’s important for him to stand and bang with Alistair Overeem which could be dangerous. I like Alistair. I like his size. I love his knees, and I love what he can do in the clinch. Vovchanchyn is fun to watch because he can knock you out with either hand, and he can make it a short night, but I really love Alistair in the opening moments of this fight to do what he always does. He comes and brings it.”
Ryan continued, “I kind of see this as a Liddell Overeem II fight. Actually I see it very similar where I think that Alistair will get the best of Igor early, and I’ve got a weird feeling that Alistair’s going to catch Igor with a knee, and finish this fight early on. If it goes past five minutes Alistair’s in big trouble with cardio, and it’s all Igor. I’ve just go a weird feeling he’s going to finish this fight in the first five minutes of the fight. It’s going to be a great fight, an exciting fight and the fans will get their money’s worth in the fight of the night.”