by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
(photo: An overjoyed Mitsuhiro Ishida, left, takes a moment to soak in the scene, just seconds after the bell sounded to end the second and final round of his fight against Marcus Aurelio)

It was a night of upsets at Pride’s “Bushido: Survival” event this weekend, with losses by betting favorites Marcus Aurelio, Murilo Bustamante, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Phil Baroni, and Joey Villasenor.

The final eight was set for Pride’s 183-pound Bushido Grand Prix, while the 160-pound division was further complicated by the fact that the fighter who recently beat the champion in a non-title fight, Marcus Aurelio, lost a fairly one-sided fight to Mitsuhiro Ishida.

In the most anticipated bout of the evening for many hardcore fight fans, Denis Kang made quick work of Murilo “Ninja” Rua, winning by knockout in just 15 seconds. Both fighters came out swinging, and Kang landed a great punch to the side of Ninja’s head that sent him reeling. Ninja was never able to recover, as Kang kept landing solid punches on the back-peddling Ninja. Kang ended up on top of Ninja, pounding on him from above until Ninja was unconscious and the referee was forced to stop the fight. Kang was the slight underdog headed into the Ninja fight, but after this performance, one would certainly think that none of the remaining fighters will want to be matched up against Kang in the second round.

Kazuo Misaki shocked just about everyone by dominating Phil Baroni en route to a unanimous decision victory. Misaki was actually the biggest underdog in the entire tournament, according to oddsmakers, but he defied the odds with his performance against Baroni. Misaki won a stand-up battle for the vast majority of the ten-minute first round, and then controlled Baroni on the ground for most of the second round. Misaki’s brutal leg kicks became more debilitating for Baroni as the fight went on, and Misaki’s array of punches and knees were also impressive. After the fight, Baroni showed class and good sportsmanship by congratulating Misaki and shaking his hand.

Murilo Bustamante, who was one of the top three favorites to win the entire tournament headed into this show, was eliminated from the tournament in the first round when he lost to Amar Suloev by unanimous decision. Bustamante made it to the finals of last year’s 183-pound Grand Prix (where he lost a very close decision to Dan Henderson), but he won’t be making a return visit to the finals this year. Somewhat surprisingly, the Bustamante-Suloev fight stayed in the stand-up position for the entire fight. Bustamante only went for takedowns occasionally, and all of the takedowns that he did attempt were defended very well by Suloev. Suloev out-pointed Bustamante in a cerebral stand-up battle to win the unanimous decision.

Paulo Filho, one of the favorites to win the whole tournament, defeated French fighter Gregory Bouchelaghem in one of the most one-sided fights in recent Pride history. Filho was in complete control throughout the fight, and the referee could have easily stopped the fight at one point in the first round when Filho connected with literally a few dozen punches from the full mount position. If there’s one criticism of Filho, it’s that he sometimes struggles to finish his opponents, and that was also the case in this fight. However, Filho does hold a recent submission victory over Amar Suloev, who is one of the remaining eight fighters in the tournament.

In his Pride debut, Joey Villasenor was actually the slight favorite over Pride veteran Ryo Chonan, but it was Chonan who ultimately came out on top. This was a back and forth battle in which Chonan was able to trade strikes successfully throughout the fight, which was somewhat surprising due to Chonan’s two knockout losses in 2005. For the majority of this fight, Chonan seemed to be very slightly ahead. A knockdown from a flying punch in the second round was likely one of the deciding factors in giving Chonan the split decision victory in what was a very close fight.

Cuban fighter Hector Lombard came out like a freight train in his fight against Akihiro Gono, stunning Gono with his rapid-fire burst of offense at the beginning of the fight. However, Gono survived Lombard’s initial flurry, and Lombard seemed to spend the rest of the fight trying to get his wind back. Gono controlled the rest of the fight with crisp standing combinations in a one-sided decision victory. If Lombard can take the fire that he showed in the first 90 seconds of this fight and channel it over the course of an entire fight, he has a lot of potential in this sport.

Finally, Gegard Mousasi made an impressive Pride debut against Olympic Gold Medalist Makoto Takimoto, who is now 2-4 in Pride. In the first few minutes of the fight, Takimoto secured an armbar that looked to be fully extended, but Mousasi somehow managed to hang on and escape. Mousasi then took the Judo Gold Medalist’s back and proceeded to dominate the rest of the fight on the ground. With Mousasi in the back mount position with his hooks sunk in, Takimoto could not escape and took a sustained pounding on the ground. After dozens of shots to the head, the referee called time-out to have a doctor examine a hematoma near Takimoto’s swollen eye. Strangely, it seemed that the doctors and officials spent more time speaking with Takimoto’s cornerman, Hidehiko Yoshida, than they did speaking with Takimoto himself. The decision was eventually made to stop the fight, giving Mousasi the TKO victory.

The final eight competitors in Pride’s 183-pound Grand Prix are Dan Henderson (who got a first-round bye), Paulo Filho, Denis Kang, Kazuo Masaki, Amar Suloev, Ryo Chonan, Akihiro Gono, and Gegard Mousasi.

Ishida, Sakurai, Kawajiri, and Black Victorious in Lightweight Fights

Pride’s “Bushido: Survival” event also featured four non-tournament lightweight bouts. In a head-scratcher of a matchmaking decision, Marcus Aurelio was booked to fight someone other than Takanori Gomi, just two months after Aurelio submitted Gomi in a match where Gomi’s title was not on the line.

Aurelio’s opponent, Mitsuhiro Ishida, spent much of the fight on top of Aurelio, grounding and pounding on a consistent basis while Aurelio attempted numerous submissions. This was far from a “lay and pray” strategy, as Ishida landed solid blows to Aurelio’s head throughout the fight, including a huge flurry in the last few minutes. A dejected-looking Aurelio looked beaten up after the fight, while the crowd went absolutely nuts for the overjoyed Ishida.

Fighting with a broken orbital bone in his face, Hayato Sakurai came out swinging and knocked out cult favorite Olaf Alfonso in just 54 seconds. Sakurai was very heavily favored going into the bout, so it wasn’t a surprise that he won. It was the way in which he won that was a surprise, especially given that he has a broken orbital bone, and that Olaf is a renowned slugger. After a few tentative exchanges, Sakurai landed what looked to be the perfect punch, knocking Olaf out cold. After the fight, Sakurai checked on Olaf’s condition, and Olaf congratulated Sakurai.

Another heavy favorite, Tatsuya Kawajiri, defeated Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett with a kneebar submission. Krazy Horse said in the pre-fight interview that he wanted an opponent who was interested in “real fighting,” and that ground fighting “is like making love, not real fighting.” Not only is ground fighting “real fighting,” but ground fighting would have led to a broken limb in this fight if it weren’t for the existence of the tap-out in MMA. Krazy Horse lost via submission in about two minutes, and then ran/limped to the back within seconds of tapping out. I guess you can get away with that when you were one-half of the most-watched fight of the New Year’s Eve ratings war, with nearly 30% of Japanese households watching your fight.

In a fight that did not air on the North American pay-per-view broadcast, rising star Jason Black made a successful Pride debut, as he defeated Eoh Won Jin via TKO due to strikes in the first round.

Full Results:

Tournament Fights

-Kazuo Misaki def. Phil Baroni via unanimous decision

-Denis Kang def. Murilo “Ninja” Rua via KO at 0:15 of Round 1

-Akihiro Gono def. Hector Lombard via unanimous decision

-Gegard Mousasi def. Makoto Takimoto via TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:30 of Round 1

-Ryo Chonan def. Joey Villasenor via split decision

-Paulo Filho def. Gregory Bouchelaghem via unanimous decision

-Amar Suloev def. Murilo Bustamante via unanimous decision

Non-Tournament Lightweight Bouts

-Hayato Sakurai def. Olaf Alfonso via KO at 1:55 of Round 1

-Tatsuya Kawajiri def. Charles Bennett via submission (ankle lock) at 2:30 of ROund 1

-Mitsuhiro Ishida def. Marcus Aurelio via unanimous decision

-Jason Black def. Eoh Won Jin via TKO (corner stoppage) at 4:20 of Round 1