The 411 MMA Top 10 12.3.29: Top 10 Pride Fighters
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at ten fighters in the history of Pride. But first,
Thoughts from last week and other random stuff:
• Last week was GSP’s top ten fights and the comment section was pretty quiet. Other than some disagreeing with my picture selection and how I described certain fights, eh.
• It hasn’t been easy being a Strikeforce fan lately but at least the final show is going to be awesome. Screw Melendez and Rockhold.
• I will be doing a few end of the year lists so if there are any outside the box things you wanna see ranked, feel free to suggest some.
Back to this week’s list
So this week is the top ten fighters to compete in Pride. Pride Fighting Championships was open from 1997 to 2007 when it was purchased by Zuffa. Pride was a UFC alternative for years with it’s violent style and Grand Prix tournaments. The company has been gone for five years now but many of their top fighters are still going strong in MMA today. The fighters were ranked depending on their record, titles, Grand Prix performances, significance to the company, and my opinion.
• Little Nog- 10-2, had wins over Mezger, Henderson, Sakuraba, and Overeem.
• Kazuo Misaki- only 3-3 but he did win the 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix.
• Ricardo Arona- 8-3, 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix runner up was a top fighter for years with wins over Henderson, Sakuraba, Mezger, and Wanderlei Silva. I wonder why he retired so young.
• Igor Vovchanchyn- 2000 Openweight Grand Prix runner up and considered to be the top heavyweight in the world for awhile. Retired in 2005 at only 32 due to injuries.
The Hammer fought in Pride from 1999 to 2006. Coleman left the UFC after a controversial loss to Pedro Rizzo at UFC 18. He won UFC tournaments 10, 11, and the UFC Heavyweight championship but the biggest moment of his career came in Pride. Coleman lost in his Pride debut to Nobuhiko Takada in a fight that was most likely fixed though I doubt Coleman will ever completely admit it. He rebounded with a win over Ricardo Morais before entering in the Pride 2000 Grand Prix. This tournament had some of the best fighters of this era including Royce Gracie, Guy Mezger, Mark Kerr, Sakuraba, and Igor Vovchancyn. Coleman fought three times in one night as he forced his way into the finals. There he took on Vovchancyn who was on a 37 fight winning streak and considered by many to be the best fighter in the world. 18 minutes into the fight Coleman won by submission with knees to the head. Coleman fought the top heavyweights for the rest of his Pride career but he was unable to defeat Big Nog, Cro Cop, and Fedor. Coleman did pick up wins over Don Frye and Shogun before his Pride run was done.
One of the best lightweights of all time, Takanori Gomi was at the peak of his career while competing in Pride. The Fireball Kid made his Pride debut in 2004 and became the first and only Pride lightweight champion (161 pounds) in 2005 when he won the Pride Lightweight Grand Prix. During his time in the company, Gomi defeated top fighters like Ralp Gracie, Jens Pulver, and Hayoto Sakurai. He only lost once to Marcus Aurelio but he won their rematch a few months ago. Gomi hasn’t been doing great since Pride closed it’s doors but he is currently on a two fight win streak.
The Gracie Hunter made his Pride debut a few months after winning the UFC’s Japanese heavyweight tournament. Sakuraba won his first eight fights that included Vitor Belfort, Royler Gracie, Guy Mezger, and his legendary fight with Royce Gracie. He lost for the first time to Igor in the 2000 Grand Prix semifinals. He continued to fight in Pride for the next five years and had another great but one-sided feud with Wanderlei Silva. He was recently highlighted for getting his face destroyed by Ricardo Arona. Sakuraba also fought in a few different weight classes at this time, which is pretty impressive. Throw in some wins over Ken Shamrock, Rampage, Kevin Randleman, a few more Gracies and you have a great career.
Rampage was 10-1 when he debuted in Pride in 2001 with a homeless man gimmick. He lost to Sakuraba in a strong performance in his debut. Rampage had a slow rise through the company the next year until he ran into Igor Vovchancyn at Pride 22. Rampage just slammed and threw Igor around until he was injured. Next Rampage knocked out Kevin Randleman at Pride 25 to prove he was the real deal. The 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix was huge for Rampage’s career. Rampage beat Chuck Liddell in the semifinals and started his brutal trilogy with Wanderlei Silva when he lost in the finals. Jackson earned another chance at Wanderlei Silva and his middleweight title after his legendary knockout slam of Ricardo Arona. Silva won again with 17 brutal knees to Rampage’s head. Jackson would go 3-1 in his final four fights in Pride.
Shogun made his debut at Pride Bushido 1 in 2003. Shogun won his first five fights by kicks. This includes his big upset over Rampage in the opening round of the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix. Shogun defeated Little Nog in one of the best fights ever by unanimous decision in the quarterfinals. He then defeated Overeem and Arona in the same night to win the Grand Prix. The only loss of Shogun’s Pride career happened in his first fight after the Grand Prix. Shogun lost to Mark Coleman after breaking his arm in the first round. But he would finish his run in Pride with four straight wins and was widely considered to be the best light heavyweight in the world at that time.
Dan Henderson achieved in Pride what no other fighter has ever been able to do in a major promotion. Henderson held Pride’s Middleweight (205) and Welterweight (183) titles at the same time. Henderson joined Pride in 2000 and stayed with the company until the end in 2007. Prior to joining, Henderson was undefeated and had won the UFC 17 tournament and the King of Kings Tournament 1999. The first couple years of his time in Pride were good but in 2005 he got awesome. Hendo won Pride’s 2005 Welterweight Grand Prix and welterweight championship on the last day of the year. Henderson followed this up with wins over Kazuo Misaki, Vitor Belfort, and Wanderlei Silva in his last Pride fight. The last fight was when he won the middleweight title at Pride 33.
Mirko Cro Cop may have only been the number three heavyweight in Pride history but he was still one of their most exciting and best fighters. Cro Cop started his Pride career going 7-0-2 having defeated Vovchanchyn, Heath Herring, Sakuraba, and WWE champion Alberto Del Rio. This earned him a title shot against Big Nog but he was unsuccessful as he lost via armbar in the second round. Cro Cop would later go on another 7 fight win streak with wins over Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett, and Alexander Emelianenko to earn a shot at Fedor’s title. Cro Cop would lose this one by unanimous decision but both title shots were fights of the year. But in 2006 Cro Cop won Pride’s Openweight Grand Prix defeating Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett in the same night. He left for the UFC after winning the tournament, not a bad way to go out.
The number two heavyweight of all time made his Pride debut in 2001. Big Nog won the heavyweight championship in only his third fight in the company when he defeated Heath Herring in a pretty good fight. He lost the title to Fedor in 2003 and again in their rematch in the finals of the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix. The only other person that defeated him in Pride was Josh Barnett and Nog won the rematch two months later. Big Nog also defeated Cro Cop for the interim heavyweight title in an awesome comeback. Throw in wins over Bob Sapp, Mark Coleman, Dan Henderson, Ricco Rodriguez, Sergei Kharitonov, and Fabricio Werdum and you have an incredibly impressive run.
First Pride Middleweight Championship, 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Tournament Winner , 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix Semi-finalist , 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix Semi-finalist , longest winning-streak (18), most wins, most knockouts (15), and most title defenses (4). I went back and forth on his placement and considered giving him the top spot but this is probably the best. Silva just really embodied everything that was Pride. He had brutal awesome fights with some of the top fighters in the company. Wanderlei started fighting in Pride in 1999 at Pride 7 but took a brief break to challenge Tito Ortiz for the UFC light heavyweight title and a few appearances in other companies. He rejoined the company at Pride 10 and was close to untouchable for years. His first loss in the company happened in 2004 when he had a rare fight at heavyweight with Mark Hunt. Silva had some of the best fights ever with Rampage, Sakuraba, and Yoshida. Even his losses to Henderson and Cro Cop were good. Silva may have lost his middleweight title to Henderson in his last appearance in the company but he was still beyond awesome in Pride.
The Last Emperor was perfect in Pride. From 2002-2006 Fedor was the best fighter in the company and in the world. Fedor became the Pride heavyweight champion in only his third fight in the company and would never drop it. Fedor would cement his top status even further when he won Pride’s 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix. Coleman, Herring, Randleman, and Cro Cop were all defeated by Fedor along the way. He’s no longer considered the best of all time but it was the Pride years that made him legendary.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Save the date: Dec 7th Pro Wrestling Syndicate is putting on another stacked show in Metchen, NJ. The current card includes Matt Hardy, Goldust, Sami Callihan, Star Man, Jerry Lynn, Christian York, Anthony Nese, Tito Santana, Mantaur, Shelly Martinez, Gillberg, Blue Meanie, Katie Lea, Honky Tonk Man and yours truly.
• Next week will be the top ten lightweights of all time.
Try not to die til next week.