by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com
In what was a very emotional night, Dream Stage Entertainment held its last ever Pride show before officially transferring control to the Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta. It was a night of submissions and knockouts as none of the eight fights went past the first round.
In what was billed as the first Pride vs. UFC match, Pride veteran Kazuyuki Fujita took on American Top Team fighter Jeff Monson. Both fighters came out cautious, neither landing any significant blows. Monson went for a takedown, but Fujita defended well and scrambled to get on top. Monson never stopped moving and escaped any real danger. This pattern would ensue throughout the fight with Monson trying to end up on top, but Fujita spoiling his efforts with a good sprawl. Halfway through the round, Fujita began to tire and Monson saw his opening and took full advantage. Monson was able to sink his hooks in and get Fujita’s back. He slowly worked for the choke and finally secured it as he rolled Fujita over, forcing him to submit at 6:37 of the first round.
Revenge was on Ricardo Arona’s mind as he took on Sokoudjou, who defeated Arona’s teammate Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by knockout at Pride 33. Both fighters traded vicious low kicks before Arona finally went for a takedown. Sokoudjou defended well and once they separated, he landed a huge uppercut that dropped Arona and then finished him off with a pair of punches and a soccer kick. The referee stopped the fight at 1:49 of the first round. Sokoudjou is the real deal. He proved his win over Nogueira wasn’t a fluke as he finished another top five light heavyweight in Arona.
Shooto Middleweight Champion Shinya Aoki took on Dutch striker Brian Lo-A-Njoe in a lightweight bout. Lo-A-Njoe came out with a flying knee, but was caught by Aoki as he pulled guard. Lo-A-Njoe took full advantage landing several shots from the top before they were back on their feet. He again came out with a flying knee, but was taken down by Aoki. Lo-A-Njoe quickly reversed, but was soon caught in an armbar that forced him to verbally submit at 1:36 of the first round. Aoki then asked fans to support him in his bid to win the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix later this year.
In a rather surprising turn, Kazushi Sakuraba returned to Pride after leaving the company almost a year ago. Sakuraba was in tears as Kiyoshi Tamura made his way into the ring, finally setting up their long-awaited grudge match in a Pride ring in the near future.
In what turned out be an all out brawl, James Thompson took on UFC and Pride legend Don Frye. Both fighters came out full bore with Frye dropping Thompson, but unable to finish him. Back on their feet, they traded blows in the corner before Thompson secured a takedown. After several scrambles on the ground, Thompson began to take control of the fight. As Frye tried to regain his feet, Thompson landed two brutal soccer kicks that rocked Frye. Thompson then began to unload several punches on Frye that landed solid, while Frye just stood in the corner taking them and offering no offense in return. At this point, Thompson was landing at will while Frye was taking more punishment than necessary. The referee finally stepped in and called a halt to the fight at 6:25 of the first round.
Dutch bad boy Gilbert Yvel returned to Pride to take on late replacement “Mr. Pride” Akira Shoji. Yvel came out wild with knees and punches before Shoji scored a takedown. After some stalling on the ground, the fighters began to trade leg locks, ending with Yvel getting on top of Shoji, finishing the fight with some vicious shots before the referee stopped the fight at 3:46 of the first round.
Cage Rage British Middleweight Champion Zelg Galesic made his Pride debut taking on Olympic Judo gold medalist Makoto Takimoto. Galesic came out aggressive with kicks before Takimoto got a nice trip takedown. After a ground scramble, Takimoto ended up in side mount and began working for an armbar that Galesic escaped. Galesic started to takeover as they were stood back up and he began to open up on Takimoto, dropping him with punches and landing some soccer kicks before Takimoto regained guard. Takimoto went for an armbar from the bottom, switching to an oma plata and ending up on top. From there he switched arms and cranked a straight armbar that forced Galesic to tap at 5:40 of the first round.
In the battle of the giants, Eric “Butterbean” Esch came out on top defeating Zuluzinho. Both fighters came out swinging before Zuluzinho scored a takedown. Butterbean reversed Zuluzinho, landing several hammer shots before finally submitting Zuluzinho with a key lock
Yoshihiro “KISS” Nakao made quick work of Brazilian Top Team heavyweight Edson Drago. Nakao immediately got a takedown, putting Drago on his back. After some quick groundwork, Nakao locked on a modified neck crank that forced Drago to tapout.