by Ivan Trembow – MMAWeekly.com
Dream Stage Entertainment has announced the semi-final match-ups for the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix.

In two bouts that are sure to be highly-anticipated on the September 10th card, Wanderlei Silva will face Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will face Josh Barnett. The winners of these two fights will meet in the finals of the tournament later that same night, with the winner of that fight being crowned the winner of the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix.

Based on the “odds to win the tournament” that were made before the quarter-finals of the Grand Prix, it’s likely that Barnett will be the underdog against Nogueira, and Silva will be the underdog against Cro Cop.

Silva and Cro Cop actually fought once before in the Pride ring back in 2002, but the bout was not fought under MMA rules. Instead, there were special rules that required the fighters to be stood up if the fight remained on the ground for 30 seconds, or if the fighter on the bottom was able to reach the ropes. There will be no such special rules this time around.

Cro Cop got to the semi-finals of the Grand Prix by winning his first two fights in completely one-sided fashion against Ikuhisa Minowa and Hidehiko Yoshida, whose leg was injured by Cro Cop’s vicious leg kicks.

Silva, the only fighter left in the tournament who does not normally fight at heavyweight, defeated Kazuyuki Fujita by TKO in the quarter-finals. Silva was not in the first round of the tournament and was added to the second round of the tournament when Fedor Emelianenko had to withdraw due to hand surgery.

Prior to fighting Fujita, Silva split two fights with Ricardo Arona in 2005. In the semi-finals of Pride’s 205-pound Grand Prix last August, Silva lost to Ricardo Arona by unanimous decision in what was a fairly one-sided fight, and Silva’s teammate Mauricio “Shogun” Rua went on to win the tournament. In the rematch between Silva and Arona on New Year’s Eve, Silva won a very controversial split decision.

If Silva can make it through his fight (or fights) on September 10th without injury, he will be fighting Chuck Liddell in the UFC in November, provided that Liddell defeats Renato “Babalu” Sobral on August 26th and is able to do so without suffering any injuries.

The other semi-final bout in the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix will be a battle of two top-level heavyweights, as Josh Barnett takes on Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Barnett is coming off of two very impressive submission victories over Aleksander Emelianenko and Mark Hunt in the first two rounds of the tournament. Prior to those two fights, Barnett’s Pride career consisted of two losses to Mirko Cro Cop and a victory over Kazuhiro Nakamura.

Nogueira was inexplicably matched up against Zulu, Jr. in the first round of the tournament because DSE president Nobuyuki Sakakibara felt that Zulu, Jr. is “like the Brazilian Bob Sapp.” After easily winning in the first round of the Grand Prix, Nogueira defeated fellow Brazilian Fabricio Werdum by unanimous decision in the tournament quarter-finals on July 1st. Nogueira’s last loss came at the hands of Fedor Emelianenko on December 31st, 2004.

The semi-finals and finals of the Pride Open Weight Grand will take place on September 10th, along with a full line-up of non-tournament bouts that have not yet been announced.

As with the previous round of the tournament, this event will have no television clearance in Japan other than the satellite-based pay-per-view channel SkyPerfecTV, due to the fact that Fuji TV terminated its contract with DSE. The event is scheduled to debut on North American pay-per-view on Sunday night, September 10th.