by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
(pictured from left to right: Kazuo Misaki and Denis Kang)

On Sunday in Japan, Kazuo Misaki emerged as the winner of Pride’s 183-pound Grand Prix by winning an excellent fight against Denis Kang, but only after Paulo Filho was unable to continue in the tournament due to injury.

In the first semi-final fight of the night, Filho submitted Misaki, who would later regain his spot in the tournament due to Filho’s injury. Taking the Japanese fighter down early, Filho used his superior ground control to dominate Misaki for the entire first round. Attaining a full mount early, Filho peppered the Team Grabaka fighter with punches and all Kazuo could do was deflect the strikes. Near the end of the first round, Filho secured an armbar and won the fight.

Not one to hold back with his walk-in entrances, Akihiro Gono brought in the real DJ Ozma to introduce and dance with him down the runway prior to his semi-final bout against Denis Kang. Followed by show girls, Gono may have outdone himself this time. Once in the ring, the two fights started out tentatively. Kang threw a few straight right hands and a flying knee before being accidentally kicked in the groin. After a brief rest, the fight was restarted and Gono seemed reluctant to engage with Kang.

With about three minutes left in the first round, Kang caught Akihiro off balance and floored him with a straight right hand, falling into Gono’s guard. The two stood back up and the round finished with Denis pushing the pace. In the second round, Denis caught Gono off balance again and was content to fight from his guard. Kang finished the round as the aggressor and the judges agreed. Kang earned a unanimous decision and moved onto the finals to meet Paulo Filho.

During his fight with Kazuo Misaki, Paulo Filho suffered a knee injury that prevented him from continuing onto the finals. The opponent Filho defeated, Kazuo Misaki, was named as the replacement to face Denis Kang, according to the Pride Grand Prix rules.

In the 183-pound Grand Prix finals, Kang and Misaki had what I considered one of best fights of the year. Coming into the fight, it was apparent Denis suffered an injury to his right shoulder, while Misaki was the fresher fighter. Kang took Misaki to the ground early on and dealt punishment from Kazuo’s guard and side. The fight went back and forth with Misaki throwing countless knees from the north/south position. Although most of the knees were blocked or deflected, Misaki looked very good for the judges and it may have been enough to sway their decisions. After two rounds of action, Kazuo “The Hitman” Misaki won via a split decision and walked away with Pride’s 183-pound Grand Prix title.

In an anticipated rematch, Takanori Gomi successfully defended his Pride Lightweight Title against Marcus Aurelio. Although Gomi won his fight, it was the fans and viewers that lost. Both fighters were reluctant to engage and Gomi gave Aurelio’s takedowns too much respect. Neither fighter was effective with their offense, but I felt that Gomi did enough to win. After two tentative rounds, the “Fireball Kid” retained his title with a split decision. Aurelio had a stunned look on his face when they announced the judges’ decisions.

Originally scheduled to face Gilbert Melendez, Shinya Aoki made it look easy to submit late replacement Clay French. Comfortable with pulling guard, Shinya secured a triangle choke that forced French to tap. Afterwards, Melendez stepped up to the ring apron and agreed to face Aoki at Pride’s New Year’s Shockwave show.

Mitsuhiro Ishida faced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt David Bielkheden and put on a wrestling clinic. The fight started tentatively at first until Ishida secured a single leg takedown and kept it on the ground for the remainder of the first round. Bielkheden was unable to keep the fight standing while Ishida stayed busy with various strikes. The second round mirrored the first and saw Ishida being more aggressive with his punches and knees. Although Bielkheden was never in danger of being knocked out, it was apparent he was completely outclassed by the Japanese fighter’s wrestling prowess. With the unanimous decision victory, Ishida may have earned a shot at the Pride Lightweight Title in the near future, if for no other reason because Ishida decisively beat Aurelio shortly after Aurelio had beaten the champion, Gomi, in a non-title fight earlier this year.

Fan favorite Ikuhisa Minowa won a unanimous decision over former WWE wrestler Mike Barton. Minowa had a tougher time than expected with the much larger Barton and both fighters were exhausted by the end of the fight.

Team Grabaka founder Sanae Kikuta earned a unanimous decision over Jean Francois Lenogue. Despite multiple submission attempts, Kikuta was not able to finish the Frenchman. To his credit, Lenogue stunned his Japanese opponent in the second round but was unable to capitalize. Kikuta looked uncharacteristically aggressive in victory.

Yoshiro Maeda was upset in his second Pride appearance after being submitted by Joe Pearson. Maeda fell into the Miletich fighter’s guillotine early on but was not in danger due to his positioning. However, Pearson consequently arched his back and gain enough leverage to force Maeda to tap.

Brazilian Top Team’s Luiz “Buscape” Firmino earned a unanimous decision over DEEP lightweight champion Nobuhiro Obiya. The Brazilian fighter used excellent control and technique to dictate the fight. Obiya rallied back halfway through the second round but the effort was a little too late.

Murilo Bustamante won by unanimous decision over Korea’s Yoon Dong Sik in an uninspired fight. Sik was more aggressive with his striking than previous outings but the fight failed to excite the fans.

In the opening fight of the evening, Cuban Judoka Hector Lombard faced off against Armenian striker Gegard Mousasi in the welterweight reserve match. Lombard secured a takedown early on but Mousasi reversed positions and controlled from Hector’s back for most of the first round. The second round was similar to the first and the judges awarded a unanimous decision to Mousasi.

Overall, fans had mixed feelings about Bushido 13, which will debut on North American pay-per-view outlets on November 12th. Personally, I thought it was a decent event that ended with an outstanding fight. With that said, I feel that one of the most exciting tournaments in Pride history may have been tarnished by the fact that due to Filho’s injury, a losing Grand Prix semi-finalist (Misaki) came back and consequently win the tournament. However, I’m not taking anything away from Misaki because he took full advantage of the opportunity and had an amazing fight with Kang.

The rest of the event consisted of a lot of decisions, and only three fights ended by submission. Had it not been for the excellent Grand Prix Finals, Pride Bushido 13 could have been a sub-par conclusion to a great tournament.

Full Results
– Gegard Mousasi defeated Hector Lombard by unanimous decision
– Paulo Filho defeated Kazuo Misaki by Arm Bar at 9:43 of Round One
– Denis Kang defeated Akihiro Gono by unanimous decision
– Murilo Bustamante defeated Yoon Dong Sik by unanimous decision
– Luiz Firmino defeated Nobuhiro Obiya by unanimous decision
– Joe Pearson defeated Yoshiro Maeda by Guillotine Choke at 0:54 of Round One
– Sanae Kikuta defeated Jean Francois Lenogue by unanimous decision
– Ikuhisa Minowa defeated Mike Plotcheck by unanimous decision
– Mitsuhiro Ishida defeated David Bielkheden by unanimous decision
– Shinya Aoki defeated Clay French by Triangle Choke at 3:57 of Round One
– Takanori Gomi defeated Marcus Aurelio by split decision
– Kazuo Misaki defeated Denis Kang by split decision