by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly continues to bring you the most in-depth coverage of Mixed Martial Arts on the planet. Along with our video interviews with Jens ‘Little Evil’ Pulver, Bas Rutten, Royce Gracie, and Rodrigo Gracie discussing the New Year’s Eve Pride and K-1 cards, ‘The Fight Professor,’ Stephen Quadros, broke down many of this weekend’s match ups when he recently appeared on MMAWeekly Radio.
The first of the many match ups discussed by ‘The Fight Professor’ was Hayato Sakurai vs Takanori Gomi in the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix finals for the Pride Lightweight Championship. “As far as the way they match up, point by point, they’re very close on every aspect of the game. I would have to say that Gomi has got more of a, it originates in his mind, an aggression that is going to be probably the telling factor in the way that he deals with punishment himself, taking a punch. I don’t think it’s going to match up like this guy’s a better grappler, and this guy’s a better this, or this guy’s a better that. I think what it is, is that they’re pretty close on every aspect of the game. What it’s going to come down to is the guy that really gets there first and does the most damage. He’s going to have to physically break the other guy because mentally, they’re not going to break each other. I think it’s going to be an all time classic match.”
Quadros continued, “This fight could really determine a new heritage of fighting spirit from Japanese fighters because for a long time, take in K-1 for instance; there’s never been a Japanese fighter who has ever won K-1, the World Grand Prix. They had the lighter weight and Musata won, but in MMA this is going to be a first because not only do you have a guy vying for a legitimate worldwide title, but you’ve got an all Japan final. And to me, that is has got to have everybody wound up almost equal to the fan buzz around Yoshida Ogawa. But back to Gomi and Sakurai, I have to go with Gomi by the slightest of margins. I think Sakurai’s going to come in the stronger guy, but I don’t think Gomi is going to come in weak either. I just think it’s going to be an all time classic.”
Dan ‘Hollywood’ Henderson and Murilo Bustamante rematch in the Pride Welterweight Grand Prix finals for the Pride Welterweight Championship. Stephen said, “These guys are in the upper echelon at 185-183, whatever you want to call it. Bustamante, as we know, has had a great and long career because he was back in the days of the 1980’s…back when they used to call it No Holds Barred fighting in Brazil. Dan Henderson’s been around too because he is a UFC tournament champion when he beat Allen Goes and Carlos Newton way back. Dan, though, he’s actually won two tournaments. He won the UFC tournament and then he won the 32 man Rings tournament which he beat Nogueira. But the thing is, Dan told me, he said he physically never ever got a belt. What he wants is to wrap that belt around his waist.”
Further commenting, Quadros said, “Busta is the classic opponent for Dan because Dan is very familiar with fighting Brazilians. He’s fought so many Brazilians; Chute Box guys and Brazilian Top Team guys. He fought both the Nogueira brothers who are teammates and training partners with Bustamante. That’s going to give Bustamante an edge on what should I look out from Dan? Well, obviously there is the right hand and the fact that he’s got this awkwardness to his style where you can’t really train, if you train stand up for instance; you can train, OK, the guy’s going to throw straight punches and hooks and maybe upper cuts, he’s going to throw knees, he’s going to throw kicks to the leg, body and the head, maybe occasionally you might get a back kick like George St. Pierre or Loiseau. For the most part, that’s what it is. The way Dan fights, he’s got this weird style. You don’t know what angle that right hand is going to come in, but eventually it will come in right at your chin. I think that Dan probably has the edge in this match. He’s got more momentum going in. It’s his time, he feels. Busta, it’s one of those kind of things where he’s one of the legends in the sport for sure, and he’s a very classy guy. I think that Dan is probably going to win, and probably going to win by TKO.”
Ricardo Arona and ‘The Axe Murderer,’ Wanderlei Silva rematch for the Pride Middleweight Championship. Quadros said, “This fight is going to be about control. It’s going to be about control of where the fight is fought, but more importantly it’s going to be about control over emotion. The strength factor mentally, I think that is why Arona took it the first time around, but I also think that Wanderlei had an off day. That’s every fighters worst nightmare because you train, you get mentally focused, you’re ready, you go out there and sometimes it just doesn’t work. It’s like an act of something from outer-space just beamed down on you and said, nope, not today. It ain’t your day. Everybody has their good and bad days at doing things.”
Quadros further stated, “Going into this fight, if there ever was a fight in Wanderlei’s career that it was a must win, this would be the one, and he’s facing probably his all time nemesis/rival in the history of his illustrious fighting career. Look who he’s faced that was a threat to him: Mark Hunt, Cro Cop; guys that are bigger than him usually. He had the thing with Tito where he lost the decision, Vitor, that was a one time deal. Now, he’s facing a guy that this thing has been brewing for years. The first time they almost met in the hotel lobby. I was over there for the show commentating. Going into this fight, I think, the guys at Chute Box are going to pretty much erase any mental advantage, or say disadvantage that Wanderlei may have going into this fight. I think he’s going to go in there, it’s either do or die. I think he is a warrior. I think he’s going to go in there in this match with nothing but to retain his title in the most violent fashion possible because that is Wanderlei. Arona, as they say, many people say that he’s got the perfect style to beat Wanderlei, but does he have Wanderlei’s number mentally? I think that part of that was, as I said before, that Wanderlei just had a bad night the first time around.”
Mark Hunt and Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic promises to bring excitement. The two K-1 veterans go at it in a Pride MMA bout this weekend. Discussing the match up, Quadros said, “I think this is going to be a great match. Now, as we know, Hunt hasn’t been around for one year. His last fight was that decision win over Wanderlei Silva last New Year’s Eve in Pride, but he has been training in New Zealand. Now, as people that follow the game know, these guys fought before in a K-1 fight which is kickboxing for those of you who don’t know what K-1 is. Mark Hunt ended up losing a decision, but the thing is, in that fight Mirko Cro Cop threw that left roundhouse kick and caught Hunt full solid with the shin. Hunt went down and everybody thought, OK, that’s it, that’s the end of the fight. Hunt got up like Terminator 2, smiled, rubbed his glove together, got back into it. That was a very telling moment in realizing what Mark Hunt is. Mark Hunt is the kind of guy, I think it’s going to take a bazooka to stop him man.”
Stephen added, “I think Mark Hunt, his stand up has probably been more consistently evolving than Mirko because when you learn MMA, you learn how to wrestle, you learn how to do submissions. You have to kind of put your stand up, which Mirko was really great at knocking out a lot of wrestlers and Jiu-Jitsu guys and people like that when he first came into MMA, but now he’s going to have to get back in there with a guy who can really bang. The evolution of his ground skills has advanced, but probably his striking has not advanced where Hunt, he’s been fresher falling back into his kickboxing thing. If it ends up being a stand up fight, it’s going to definitely favor Mark Hunt. It depends of course on what kind of shape Mark Hunt is. Mark Hunt has got one of those kinds of bodies where you go, oh maybe this guy’s out of shape because he doesn’t look like a body builder, but Hunt has got to be in tip-top shape for this fight…I’m really one the fence about this fight because Mirko is probably a better athlete in the classic sense of the word as far as conditioning and things, but Hunt may have that bottle of kryptonite in that right hand, so I don’t know.”
Switching to K-1 and the match between Norifumi ‘Kid’ Yamamoto and Genki Sudo, Quadros had this to say, “There’s no question that this is the equivalent, kind of like the mirror image across the pond of the Sakurai and Gomi fight because Kid Yamamoto and Genki Sudo, these guys are top, top competitors. They are both kind of stars also. That’s the thing that they have going into this fight. They’ve got that star power.
Genki Sudo, he’s just so interesting to me because he’s just so unorthodox. He’s such a showman, and Kid Yamamoto is like a teen idol over there…The reaction is crazy. The women love these guys. On a fighting aspect, though, Yamamoto’s kind of coming up because he’s actually a natural featherweight, but he’s bulking up for this fight, and he’s a tough guy. He can stand up, go to the ground, but he’s going to have to deal with that unorthodox style of Genki Sudo especially in the standing mode. On the ground, Sudo’s got a clear advantage in my opinion when it comes to submissions because he can pull rabbits out of the hat, and the next thing you know you’re tapping the mat. I will have to go Genki Sudo probably by submission.”
There are so many good match ups that it’s hard to pick the fight of the night. Asked his choice, Quadros answered, “I would have to say Hayato Sakurai vs Takanori Gomi, and a very, very close second is the rematch between Wanderlei Silva and Ricardo Arona. Those two fights because they mean something in the world picture. I mean there are entertaining fights, and I understand the value in those type fights, but these fights; and a very close third would be Busta and Dan. All three of these fights are determining not only the winner and a champion, but they’re also determining who is arguably the best guy at their individual weights…I would have to say the Sakurai and Gomi edge out the other two by a very narrow margin.”