by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
With his convincing win over Marcus Aurelio at Pride’s “Bushido: Survival” event on Sunday, Japan’s Mitsuhiro Ishida took a big step towards establishing his reputation as one of the most skilled lightweight fighters in Pride, along with such fighters as Takanori Gomi, Hayato Sakurai, and Tatsuya Kawajiri.

Based on the crowd reaction to Ishida during and after his fight, he also has the potential to be just as big of a star as Gomi, and possibly even bigger.

Before his Pride debut, Ishida did not have much recognition on the world stage, having spent most of his career in the Shooto and D.O.G. promotions. In fact, many would venture to say that he may have been intended as a set-up fight for Pride’s American try-out winner, Paul Rodriguez, at Bushido 10 in April.

However, Ishida quickly showed that he deserved his shot in the biggest international MMA promotion in the world, as he dominated Rodriguez and submitted him in just over two minutes.

Perhaps playing the role of set-up man once again for Marcus Aurelio at Bushido: Survival on Sunday, Ishida defied conventional wisdom by dominating the American Top Team prospect. Over the course of 15 minutes, Mitsuhiro was never out of position, controlling almost the entire fight.

This fact was not lost on anyone watching the fight, including reigning Pride Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi. In his ringside seat, Gomi looked almost queasy at the thought that a seemingly unheralded fighter was dominating the fighter that had so handily defeated him just two months earlier in a non-title fight.

Ishida’s relentless assault not only exposed some of the weaker points of Aurelio’s game, but it also appears to have taken away Aurelio’s proposed title shot.

While it’s unclear who the number one contender is, one thing that is clear is the fact that the Japanese fans are firmly behind the young Ishida. Every movement of his hands and every gesture to the crowd were met with immediate applause and approval.

With this kind of support, Ishida could find himself not only in contention for a title shot, but also on the verge of becoming the next breakout superstar in a nation always hungry for one.

The list of Pride fighters who have gone from fighter to full-fledged superstar is a list of some of the highest-paid and endearing stars in the Japanese MMA scene: Kazushi Sakuraba, Hidehiko Yoshida, Takanori Gomi, and soon, perhaps Mitsuhiro Ishida as well.