by Jeff Cain
MMAWeekly questioned some of the Mixed Martial Arts media about this weekend’s Pride Final Conflict 2005, including the semi finals and finals of the Pride middleweight Grand Prix. Loretta Hunt from Full Contact Fighter, Mike Disanto from Insidefighting.com, MMAWeekly’s own Ryan Bennett, Frank Trigg, and Jeff Cain broke down several of the bouts, and gave their predictions on the outcomes.

The first fight discussed was the Alistair Overeem vs “Shogun” Rua’s semi final middleweight Grand Prix match up. Loretta Hunt commented, “It’s a tough fight to break down, and I’ve been in many arguments with people who believe Alistair Overeem is going to pull this fight out. I think Shogun is the more well rounded fighter. He’s very aggressive, and Shogun, as he showed in his last match up, has these spurts of energy where it seems like he’s going to slow down, and all of a sudden he bounces into your guard, and pounces on you, and lands a crucial shot. Of course Overeem is the same way. He can land a fight ending shot with those knees…or standing with his punches. For me, I think if it goes past a couple of minutes, Shogun is my pick because Overeem I still question his stamina…I’m going to have to go with Shogun on that.”

Mike Disanto stated, “It’s a fight that Alistair should win if he actually fought like he was six foot five. These are guys that are going to come to the center of the ring and stand there, start trading strikes, and wait for somebody to fall down. When you do that, you’re very long, have a good jab, good leg kicks, you can hold someone like Shogun off of you, but Alistair does none of that. So I really think that Shogun’s pressure, his kind of whirlwind, in your face, I’m going to overwhelm you style will do just that. The only way I see Alistair winning is if he catches him with a knee coming in, which is very possible, but I just don’t think it’s probable.”

Frank Trigg agreed with Disanto somewhat, but chose a different winner. Trigg said, “It is a tough fight, but I’m kind of leaning toward a little bit more, since yesterday I kind of switched a little bit, I kind of lean toward Overeem to win this one…Just because even if he doesn’t use his length to the best of his ability, he does use his knees to the best of his ability…It’s going to be a bloody war. Someone’s going to get cut in this fight…I just think that Overeem’s going to be the better of the two.”

Ryan Bennett also changed his pick over the last 24 hours. He said, “I was actually picking Alistair yesterday, and then today one thing kind of sticks out to me about Shogun. I think he’s quicker than Alistair is, and I think quickness could be a problem for Overeem in this fight…I think Shogun has the quickness, and I think there’s going to be a time where Overeem’s heart is going to be questioned, and I think this will go in to the later rounds, and I think bottom line is because Shogun is a little bit quicker, I also think that Shogun is in better shape. I think Shogun’s going to wear Overeem down in that late second round, and get the win…I’m going to take Shogun in this fight over Overeem in a great fight.”

Jeff Cain commented, “I’m going with Overeem. I think his knees are brutal. He gave Liddell all he wanted standing in the first round of the last middle weight Grand Prix. I agree with Loretta bout Alistair’s stamina, but Overeem’s a fast starter, and I think he’ll end it early with conditioning not coming into play. Overeem by guillotine in the first round.”

The next bout discussed was the other middleweight Grand Prix match up between Wanderlei Silva and Ricardo Arona. Trigg said, “I don’t see him (Arona) doing anything. I see him getting the crap kicked out of him, and thrown on the ground, and getting beat up a little bit More, and the fight’s going to be over.”

Loretta Hunt agreed with Trigg. She stated, “The reason that they put this match up together is it’s one of the biggest rivalries going. We don’t know about his so much in America, but in Brazil, Arona vs Wanderlei Silva has been brewing for years…Arona’s stand up’s just not any where on par as Wanderlei’s vicious stand up.”

Bennett stated, “This is what I think. I think you guys forget that Yoshida had zero stand up, and actually did pretty well against Wanderlei Silva. I actually think that Arona is going to do better than people think…I think Yoshida gave Wanderlei a pretty good go around. I think Yoshida’s stand up is crap, and not that Arona’s is any better. It’s probably equally as bad, but I think this fight makes it’s way to the ground…And once Arona gets to the ground I think he’s going to be fine. I think it’s going to be a better fight. I’m still taking Wanderlei Silva, but I still think this is going to be a better match than people do.”

Disanto commented, “I think it’s going to be a much better fight than people think…If the fight goes to the ground, you know Wanderlei Silva’s a Black Belt in Jiu-Jitsu. Fine. But I’m really questioning whether he’s any where in Arona’s league on the ground. If he gets put on his back, he’s in trouble. I think he’s in big trouble. Arona from his guard is the best in the game in my opinion…In my opinion, if he gets by Wanderlei Silva, he wins the entire tournament, and I really believe that because he only has to prepare for one style. He’s preparing for strikers, and that’s it…With all that said when we spoke to Wanderlei Silva, about a week ago, he basically said, Ricardo Arona’s been asking for me. Be careful what you wish for. When he’s got that kind of attitude going, he’s the best in the game. Period. Forget Fedor. Forget everyone else. Wanderlei Silva’s the best in the game. He’s not going to lose this fight, but stranger things have happened…The winner of this fight wins the tournament.”

Jeff Cain stated, “It’s hard to pick against Wanderlei Silva, but I think it’s about time he loses. I don’t know, I have a feeling he’s not going to win the Grand Prix. Arona has no stand up, but like Ryan said, neither did Yoshida. Arona beat Tito Ortiz in Abu Dhabi a few years back, and Tito was able to beat Silva way back when. I think Silva has trouble with those guys like Yoshida, Tito, and Arona who can get the fight to the ground and neutralize your game. Arona by boring decision, and may take a yellow card or two.”

David “Tank” Abbott makes his Pride debut against the previously mentioned Yoshida. Disanto was the lone wolf to pick Tank while the rest of the ground predicted Yoshida to come away victorious. The popular belief was that Yoshida would get the fight to the ground and have his way with ‘Abbott. Disanto’s thoughts were, “If the fight lasts more than 30 seconds I think Yoshida wins by humiliation…I’m taking Tank Abbott.”

Maybe the most anticipated bout on the card is the Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic match up. It’s been in the making for a long time. Trigg’s take was, “The only thing he has to worry about on his feet with Mirko is that big left kick. If he hits you with that big left kick, it’s over. To beat Cro Cop, you’re going to have to able to fake him out. His sprawl is getting so good that you can’t just shoot in and take him down like you used to…Fedor’s got to get him to the ground as quickly as possible…If this hits the ground anytime early, it’s going to be perfect for Fedor, but if it stays up for longer than two minutes, three minutes, Cro Cop’s going to start lightening him up….I’m taking Fedor.”

Loretta Hunt said, “I’m going with Fedor…I believe that Fedor is the better fighter, the smarter fighter. Obviously he does have to avoid that high left kick, and whatever other strikes that Cro Cop will throw his way. The hard part for Fedor is that he doesn’t really shoot in on his opponents. He’s more of a Grecco Roman clincher, thrower type wrestler. He’s going to have to close the distance to get to Cro Cop and throw him down. That’s the big question. Is he going to be able to do that and not get hit…He’s going to come in and do that, take him down, and have his way with Cro Cop.”

Disanto cited Fedor’s “fat boy strength” to be the deciding factor. He compared Fedor to an out of this world fighting machine. He added, “If he fights passive against Fedor, we may see a career ending fight because Fedor will put him on the ground and pound his face into he doesn’t have any bones left. Fedor’s the kind of guy that can ruin you as a fighter, but if he comes out aggressively, and he pushes the pace, if he backs Fedor up, the fight’s over…I pick Cro Cop.”

Bennett said, “I’ve said for basically two years that if Cro Cop fought Fedor, just his ground game is too much for Cro Cop….Fedor for the first time maybe in his career is, I don’t know if he’s nervous about this fight, but I almost think he may be…I think Fedor is the best heavyweight in the world today. I just think mentally though, that he might have a little reservation taking this fight, and if there’s any reservation by any one of these guys, it’s going to hurt. I’m taking Cro Cop. I’m taking Cro Cop in the upset.”

Jeff Cain stated, “I can’t pick against Fedor. He’s the best heavyweight in the world. He’s a machine. If Cro Cop wins it will be a great highlight clip, but I can’t pick against Fedor. Fedor by TKO due to ground and pound.”

Predictions for the winners of the middleweight grand prix went as follows:
Loretta Hunt: Wanderlei Silva.
Mike Disanto: Wanderlei Silva.
Frank Trigg: Wanderlei Silva.
Ryan Bennett: Wanderlei Silva.
Jeff Cain: Alistair Overeem.