The Forgotten Contender

Ricardo Arona and Sakaraba at Pride Grand Prix 2005

Ricardo Arona and Sakaraba at Pride Grand Prix 2005

Somehow in the mix of all the top fighters contending for this year’s Pride middleweight Grand Prix championship, a man that has defeated Guy Mezger, Dan Henderson, Murilo Rua, and Jeremy Horn twice, gets lost among all the hype. Ricardo Arona has done nothing much but continuously show that he is one of the best fighters in the world in every fight he competes in.

The Brazillian Top Team member was considered the number one contender for Wanderlei Silva’s middleweight title for a very long time, but he was unceremoniously dismissed when he felt the effects of a vicious Quinton Jackson slam at Pride: Critical Countdown 2004. Arona’s only other loss on his record was a very tough and controversial loss to current Pride heavyweight champion, Fedor Emelianenko.

A recent win by Mauricio “Shogun” Rua over Quinton Jackson in the first round of the Grand Prix has made him a sudden favorite in many fans’ minds to continue on in the tournament. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was able to dispatch of another top fighter when he submitted Dan Henderson. Igor Vovchanchyn made his debut in the middleweight division with a unanimous decision win over the tough and always game, Yuki Kondo. Alistair Overeem continued on in his quest by tapping Vitor Belfort by guillotine choke. And Wanderlei Silva and Kazushi Sakuraba were winners as well. But where in this list is a fighter who always shows up and almost always wins?

Ricardo Arona is definitely not the flashiest or most exciting fighter in this long list of great middleweights, but he is one of the most dominant. He has a ground game that of the men in this group only Nogueira could possibly match. His Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu is unmatched by very few in the world, and although he does win a majority of his fights by decision, the point is that he still wins.

In the next round of the Pride Grand Prix, Arona will take on the always unpredictable Kazushi Sakuraba. To Sakuraba’s credit he will have now competed in three different Grand Prix tournaments and a few years ago was considered one of the top pound for pound fighters in the world, but that was a much different Sakuraba. As of late he has been shown to be susceptible to good stand-up fighters (most notably to Wanderlei Silva three times) and although he is still an exciting fighter to watch, he definitely is not the same person who went on a tear through the Gracie family sometime ago.

Ricardo Arona, if he is able to impose his game on Sakuraba, should walk out a winner in this match-up. His ground game should definitely neutralize that of the former Japanese pro-wrestler, and his stand-up ability should be enough against Sakuraba. Assuming that Arona wins this fight, will he start to receive the attention that he deserves?

The answer is most likely no. For all of his wins, he doesn’t usually get the big knockout or the phenomenal submission, but he is more than capable of both. Ricardo Arona has been shown very little respect by the critics and fans watching the Pride Grand Prix, but if his opponents show up not giving him the respect he deserves, Ricardo Arona may just make them pay for it.