Bas Rutten breaks down remaining Grand Prix match-ups. “El Guapo,” leaves for Japan today to commentate the second round of the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix this weekend. Before taking flight, Bas spoke with MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio about the quarterfinal match ups, and gave his breakdown of this weekend’s action.
There’s no question who the favorite to win the tournament is. The long-time Pride Middleweight Champion, and winner of the 2003 middleweight Grand Prix, Wanderlei Silva, has to be, but excluding him, who would be the next favored fighter to win it all? Rutten stated, “I think the Mauricio ‘Shogun’ and Nogueira is going to be an unbelievable fight. The winner between those two has a real good chance to win the whole thing. Everybody. It’s difficult. ‘Shogun’ I think is doing really good. Alistair is doing really good, but then again Vovchanchyn, ‘Shogun,’ Nogueira, Arona, it’s a difficult one.”
Wanderlei faces off against Kazuhiro Nakamura to move one more step closer to defending his Grand Prix title. Asked what Nakamura brings to the table that might help him defeat Silva, Rutten replied, “Only his youth and wildness. He’s as wild as Wanderlei is. As his teacher, Yoshida, he will exchange bombs with Wanderlei. That’s what he’s known to do. Wanderlei still has this suspect chin although he regroups like unbelievable. He needs one good hit. Now I’m not going to say Nakamura’s going to hit him, but he’s been training hard on his striking, but striking you don’t learn in a couple of months. Wanderlei should have this one in the bag normally, but in Mixed Martial Arts, and in any Martial Arts, it’s one little mistake…I would say Wanderlei is going to take this fight, but you never know.”
Discussing Igor Vovchanchyn vs. Alistair Overeem, Bas stated. “I don’t know if that’s a good match up for Vovchanchyn.” Bas told MMAWeekly. He added, “I think if Alistair is going to stay at a distance, and he uses those long legs with the flying knees, he has a very good chance of winning this fight, but if Igor’s going to fight in close where his punching power comes to life. You know, and he needs to fight in close because he’s smaller. That’s where his strength is, so if Igor hits him, it could be over for Alistair, but then again if Alistair drops one flying knee with the height difference, and the knee is going to be on the head…it’s going to be a problem for Igor, so that fight is going to be a fireworks fight.”
Rutten’s final comments on the Overeem and Vovchanchyn bout were, “On the ground they’re evenly matched up. On the feet it’s all about distance. Who’s going to fight at the right distance is going to take this fight.”
Ricardo Arona vs. Kazushi Sakuraba may be a more interesting fight than some are making it out to be. Rutten commented on how Sakuraba would pull of the win. “The only way I can see him pulling it off is make Ricardo tire. I don’t know how he’s going to do it, work circles around him because Arona is so powerful and strong. His striking is not super crisp, but he only needs to connect. Once he connects you will go down. I mean there’s so much aggressive power behind it. Sakuraba, he just knows how to move. If Ricardo takes it to the ground, we saw Sakuraba fighting other guys, 205 guys, good guys, and beat them, so I don’t know if Arona is going to have this one in the bag or not.”
The upset of the night according to Bas was, “The upset will be Alistair of course because he’s still kind of underrated, and that would be an upset. Everybody would go whoa. I mean Mauricio ‘Shogun’ wouldn’t be an upset because we know he’s very good now, but all the other fighters too. I know that Alistair is still very good too, but he still doesn’t have that really big win, so that could be a big upset.” “This whole card, it’s difficult to say who’s going to win this fight. Very difficult.”