September 22, 2005

by Ken Pishna
It’s hard to argue against the fact that at least six of the eight competitors in Pride’s first Lightweight Grand Prix are among the top ten fighters in the division. They may even be the top six. On almost any card, Yves Edwards vs. Joachim Hansen would be a fight of the night pick. But on a card stacked as high as Everest, well, it still has to be considered a probable fight of the night contender.

Joachim Hansen, possibly one of the most underrated fighters in the world, mostly because he is one of the most unseen fighters in the world, has lost only one fight in the past five years. That lone loss was to Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, submission wizard. Just prior to that loss, he had defeated both Rumina Sato and Takanori Gomi, one of the favorites to win this entire tournament. Since the loss to Shaolin, Hansen has reeled off six straight victories, including a fight of the year candidate against Caol Uno. His overall record currently stands at 12-2-1.

Standing across the ring from Hansen will be one of the most highly regarded lightweights in the world over the past two years. Though he was cast aside, along with the rest of the lightweight division, from the UFC, Yves Edwards still stands as the promotion’s uncrowned champion in the weight class.

Edwards’ only loss over the past three years has been to Tatsuya Kawajiri, along with Gomi, another favorite to win this tournament. But consider this, during that same time; he has defeated the likes of Rich Clementi, Hermes Franca (twice), Josh Thomson, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, and Naoyuki Kotani, another fighter in this tournament. Edwards’ professional record currently stands at 30-8-1.

There’s no shortage of top quality match-ups in this tournament. You could almost go down the list and easily say they are all toss-ups. But we’re not going to take the easy way out.

Edwards and Hansen match up in scary fashion. Both are excellent strikers, both have solid ground games, and each has a pretty good sprawl. So it’s difficult to separate the two and give either an advantage.

As we look at this fight under a microscope, the defining factor will probably come down to experience. If you compare records, it’s easy to see that the nod in this category ways heavily in Edwards’ favor. Hansen has fought some of the best in the world and done well. I mean, heck, he beat Gomi. But Edwards has had about two years longer in the sport and nearly triple the number of fights. That is a lot of ring time to refine your craft.

Besides intangibles, the ring time can help Edwards in a number of ways. Though they are nearly even in every category, it’s the “nearly” part that can make the difference between winning and losing. Consider their striking. Both have great hands and knees, but the edge in kicking has to go to Edwards. Outside of Duane Ludwig, no one in the division can match kicks with Edwards.

It’s much the same story on the ground. Each has great takedown defense and both are very good at defending submissions, but it is again Edwards that holds the edge in applying submissions. In fact, he has as many submission wins as Hansen has total victories. And on the flip side, both of Hansen’s losses have come via submission.

Although these last two degrees of separation may sound like a big swing in Edwards’ direction, they’re not. These factors do favor him, but only by the slimmest of margins. I strongly believe, even on this stacked card, that this will be one of the fights of the night. In fact, this fight that was supposed to have taken place long ago under the MFC banner in the U.S. It has been a long time coming and it will have been worth the wait. In the end, the slight edge has to lean in Edwards’ favor.