by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It took just under 15 seconds for American Top Team fighter Denis Kang to defeat Murilo “Ninja” Rua at the Pride Bushido event on Sunday, leaving no doubt that he has to be considered one of the favorites to win Pride’s 183-pound Bushido Grand Prix.

Coming out aggressively from the start of the bout, Kang landed a right hand that had an upward arc, driving Ninja back as Kang continued to charge forward. It was all downhill from there for the Brazilian, as Kang’s barrage of punches knocked Ninja down, and Kang’s continuing barrage of strikes on the ground knocked Ninja out.

Some of the other highly regarded fighters in the tournament lost in the first round (Murilo Bustamante and Phil Baroni), or did not look as impressive as they had in some of their previous bouts (Paulo Filho and Ryo Chonan).

Kang was actually a slight underdog going into the fight with Ninja, but that only served as more motivation for Kang, as he made the biggest and most immediate impact in the tournament.

It is not 100 percent certain that Pride’s 183-pound title-holder, Dan Henderson, will compete in the tournament due to his foot and ankle injuries, though he is expected to join the tournament in the second round. However, even with Henderson in the tournament, it is arguable that Kang is the most complete fighter in the remaining group, when you take into account the stand-up skills that he displayed against Rua.

Kang’s stand-up has always been clean and crisp, but it is now apparent that he has a lot of power in his strikes as well, which will make him a difficult stand-up match for anyone who is not a straight-down-the-pipe striker. On the ground, Kang is one of the most accomplished submission fighters remaining in the tournament, probably behind only Paulo Filho.

While nothing is guaranteed, and almost any professional fighter can beat another on any given night, it’s clear that the path to the tournament finals may just go through a fighter who is not the reigning World Champion.

That’s a scary thought for anyone who dares to overlook Denis Kang in this year’s Bushido Grand Prix. As Kang said, “This is my tournament… I’m going to be the champion!”