By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly.com
The Pride Bushido series is starting to gain some much warranted notoriety and a great number of lightweight fighters are getting the attention that many American shows have chosen to ignore. The last few shows have started to showcase some of the top fighters in both the lightweight and middleweight divisions and beyond a couple of bad match-ups, this Bushido show should be every bit as good as the last few.

Takanori Gomi vs. Jean “White Bear” Silva:
Takanori Gomi is widely seen as the top 155lb fighter in the world right now, and judging by his last few fights, it seems to be a pretty solid pick for #1. Beyond his loss to B.J. Penn at Rumble on the Rock, Gomi has shown up in every fight he’s been involved in and holds some impressive wins over fighters like Jens Pulver, Ralph Gracie and Charles Bennett. Gomi just seems to be gearing up for a run at the 155lb title when Pride finally designates the championship, and his performances are always very good. His opponent is Chute Boxe member, Jean “White Bear” Silva.

Silva is a very solid lightweight fighter who has fought in Cage Rage in England a number of times and has a good team to train with to prepare for Gomi. Silva has pretty good stand-up and has gone toe to toe with good ground fighters like Gerald Strebendt. Silva may still have a good future ahead of him, but matching up with a fighter the caliber of Takanori Gomi may be a bit much for his first time out in Pride. Silva will most likely try to show off some stand-up skills but as Gomi has shown other good stand-up artists, keeping a fight on the feet with the Japanese star will usually end up with his opponent on his back with the referee standing over them calling the fight.

“The New York Badass” Phil Baroni vs. Ryo Chonan:
This is probably the fight most American fans will be watching the closest, as Baroni, who not so long ago was considered one of the most talked about fighters in the U.S., makes his second appearance in Pride after impressing fans with his KO win over Ikuhisa Minowa. Ryo Chonan has started to climb up the ranks of middleweight fighters getting wins over Carlos Newton and most notably a submission victory over top ranked, Anderson Silva. Chonan has shown great ground skills and has the ability to withstand good stand-up, especially after surviving much of his fight with Silva on the feet.

Baroni is sure to come out swinging for the fences, trying to finish this fight early. Baroni’s endurance has always come under question, and Chonan has gone numerous rounds before, so the New York native will be best served to end this early. Chonan could be primed for the top five rankings with a win here, but a re-energized Baroni is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. Baroni’s one punch power will always make him a very big threat, and judging by some of the comments that Chonan has made, he may be overlooking Baroni just a bit, and that could end his night very violently if Baroni catches him.

James Thompson vs. Henry “Sentoryu” Miller:
This is one of the aforementioned bad match-ups that hinder this card. Thompson is a classic example of how Pride loves to showcase huge fighters with not much skill to back them up, but Miller may be just the fight that Thompson needs to win. Henry Miller, the man who lost to Giant Silva by submission, is back yet again and is sure to slug it out with Thompson in this fight. At least the fans will win as one of these guys are sure to get knocked out, probably early on.

Joachim Hansen vs. Masakazu Imanari:
Joachim Hansen, the only other fighter besides B.J. Penn to hold a win over Takanori Gomi, finally gets the invite to show his skills in one of the biggest shows in the world. His knockout over Caol Uno in K-1’s Heros show gained him some new fans, and if he wins this fight, Pride is sure to start looking to match him up with Gomi in the near future. Imanari is fairly unknown to most fans that don’t follow the DEEP circuit, and his most impressive win is a submission victory over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and Rich Franklin training partner, Jorge Gurgel. If this fight stays standing for very long, Imanari probably won’t be, but could end up being a good fight when all is said and done.

Kazuki Okubu vs. Ryuichi Murata:
Pride will always showcase new Japanese talent for the homegrown fans, but if anyone in America knows anything about these guys, shoot me an e-mail. Okubu trains with Hidehiko Yoshida, so if that stands for anything in this fight, that may just about it.

Denis Kang vs. Andrei Semenov:
This could end up being the fight of the night as Kang and Semenov have fought before, previously to a draw in the Euphoria show. Semenov is quickly forgotten when some of the top middleweight fighters are mentioned, but the Russian Sambo expert deserves a lot of respect. Denis Kang has reeled of a great string of victories in the past couple of years and with a win could start to get recognized by Pride to get some higher profile fights. This is an important match-up for both men because a loss could prevent an invite back, but a win could open a whole new set of opportunities. Kang will work to get this fight to the ground, but Semenov was able to withstand his submission skill last time out so it will be interesting to see how the pace of this fight moves.

Marcus Aurelio vs. Jutaro Nakao:
Marcus Aurelio has started to make his name known in the lightweight rankings and hopes to keep working his way to the top and Jutaro Nakao stands in his way. Nakao, who has managed to get some big wins in his career including a KO win over Tony DeSouza in the UFC, will be a very good test for Aurelio to see if he is for real. A ground fight is to be expected, so some fans will be very intrigued but others may fall asleep.

Kazuo Misaki vs. Daniel Acacio:
Misaki is a veteran but has only ever fought in Pancrase and although the differences between their rules and Pride rules are subtle, a fighter can be rattled by the differences. Acacio has some wicked stand-up skills and fighting most of his career in Vale Tudo events in Brazil, he has garnished a very good reputation as a knockout artist. The fight could end up being a very good stand-up war, but only time will tell if Misaki will be thrown off by Acacio’s aggressive style.

Tatsuya Kawajiri vs. Luis “Buscape” Firmino:
This will mark the 4th fight for Buscape on the Bushido shows and his submission skills will always make him a dangerous match-up for any opponent. Kawajiri is a Shooto veteran whose most impressive win was a decision victory over Yves Edwards in 2003. This should end up being another “striker vs. grappler” match and as the fight progresses, whoever imposes their game plan most effectively will control the pace and win the fight.

Kimo vs. Ikuhisa Minowa:
And this would be the other bad match-up on the card. Minowa should get a huge raise just for continuously taking fights that just beg for him to get pounded on. Kimo is past his prime, but on pure power alone should be able to pounce on Minowa and get a win. Minowa always shows up and has a ton of heart, but Pride seems determined to make him the new Sakuraba, who always fights much larger fighters and can’t catch a break.

Overall a solid card, highlighted by the matches with Gomi and Baroni. It will be interesting to see how many more events pass before Pride will officially make a Grand Prix tournament or championship title to showcase on the Bushido series, but the fighters on here definitely deserve the attention.