by Jeff Cain
The newest member of the Pride broadcast team and MMAWeekly Radio co-host, Frank Trigg, gave his take on the four marquee New Year’s Eve Pride match ups: Hayato Sakurai vs. Takanori Gomi, Murilo Bustamante vs. Dan Henderson, Ricardo Arona vs. Wanderlei Silva, and Mark Hunt vs. Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic.

Hayato Sakurai and Takanori Gomi face off in the finals of the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix for the Pride Lightweight Championship. Trigg’s take, “Sakurai’s spent more time at the upper weight. Remember, he was fighting most of his career at 170, so he’s just now cut down to 163, and that seven pounds makes a huge difference. It’s a huge percentage of body weight at that size. Gomi, who is basically pretty soft around the middle, he’s not a guy who has to be on a super, super diet to make the weight where Sakurai has to really truly watch his weight. He has to keep his cardio up and really pay attention. Sakurai’s going to come in a lot bigger and a lot stronger.”

Can Gomi take Sakurai down? Trigg’s take, “Yeah. Sakurai’s a guy who really doesn’t defend the take down. He doesn’t really mind if he’s on his back. He’s like a BJ Penn in that sense where he doesn’t really care if you beat him to the take down because the fight is just beginning at that point, when you get them on the ground. I think Gomi will be able to take Sakurai down. The flaw is, I think Gomi is better on top than Sakurai is on the bottom in that position. But I think Sakurai is better on top than Gomi is on the bottom in that position. But I think Gomi has a better chance of surviving on the bottom than Sakurai does.”

Who’s going to win? Trigg’s take, “I pick Sakurai. I just think he’s bigger. I think he’s going to be more powerful on his feet. I think he keeps his hands up a little bit higher and tends to stay in a better boxing position than Gomi does. I think Sakurai tends to be a little bit stronger mentally, and Sakurai’s been pushed to the limit. He’s been pushed by [Matt] Hughes. He’s been pushed by me. One time he failed, and one time he succeeded. I don’t think that Gomi is going to be able to mentally be able to push him as much, and we haven’t seen Gomi really, really pushed hard and really tested super hard like Sakurai is going to test him. I think Sakurai’s going to be the better fighter.”

Dan Henderson and Murilo Bustamante will rematch in the welterweight grand prix finals, and for the Pride Welterweight Championship. Trigg’s take, “I like Hendo in this fight, but I’m a big Hendo fan. That’s just how it operates, but I think it’s going to be great fight because I love the way Bustamante fights. I just think they’re two really tough competitors and there’s real bad blood between them.”

What about the clash of heads in their first fight? Trigg’s take, “Bustamante took the shot, and I had to re-watch the fight two or three times, and of course it was on FSN a couple of days ago; it was one of the fights that they showed. I had to watch this fight over and over again, and it was Bustamante that took the shot and headbutted Henderson. Henderson just had the harder head and Bustamante felt the effect of it. But Busta wants to blame it on Hendo, so there’s a little bit of animosity between these two because of that. But Henderson, of course, has the win over him and in pretty devastating fashion. Henderson has been training really hard for this. He was up at Eddie Bravo’s place here in L.A. a little while ago, and I just think that Henderson is the better competitor all the way around other than their skills on the ground, that is obviously Bustamante’s. Henderson is just tougher mentally and has a little more tenacity about him. I just think that it’s going to be a close fight, a tough fight this time. I think it’s probably going to go the distance, but I think Henderson is going to pull out a good win.”

Wanderlei Silva rematches Ricardo Arona for the Pride Middleweight Championship. Can Arona beat Wanderlei again and take his belt? Trigg’s take, “Coming into a fight like this, Wanderlei actually has the advantage. This is the reason why; Arona went in there and was so surprised that he beat Wanderlei, he was impressed with himself that he beat Wanderlei. Wanderlei had an off night. I think that Wanderlei will have the advantage because he’s obviously the biggest name in Mixed Martial Arts, if not in the world, within the organization. He had that incredible streak after he had 22 or 21 wins in a row. He’s fought guys as big as Mark Hunt and didn’t get beat up at all. He’s been training to get back to the top of the game. He just lost in the semis of that tournament knowing full well that he was probably going to have to fight his teammate in the finals. And we all heard they were either not going to fight or do a predetermined outcome. With Wanderlei losing it was almost better for the tournament as a whole because we got to see the ‘Shogun’ fight. I think Wanderlei is going to come in with a better more fierce attitude; a tougher mental edge to try and come in and smack Arona around…I think Wanderlei is going to have that slight, slight edge when they go in there.”

Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic and Mark Hunt has the makings of fight of the night. The two K-1 veterans will go at it in an MMA match. They have fought before where Mirko won a decision in K-1, but this is MMA, not kickboxing. Trigg’s take, “I think that Cro Cop’s going to smack Hunt in the legs about three or four times and take him down to the ground. Then Hunt’s going to push him off and get back to their feet, and Mark’s going to hit him about three or four more times. And then Cro Cop’s going to hit him about three or four more times, and someones teeth are going to land right in my lap. And then I’ll make a necklace.”