The History of Pride FC: Pride Final Conflict Absolute
-Greetings MMA fans. So here we are as I finally burn out the last review from my Pride DVD collection. I’d definitely like to cover more at some point, especially the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix. But here we are with the semifinals and finals of the 2006 Openweight Grand Prix with Pride: Critical Countdown Absolute.
-September 10, 2006. The Saitama Super Arena. Saitama, Japan. The event opens with an anime intro followed by a more traditional video introduction highlighting the final four competitors of the tournament: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Josh Barnett, Wanderlei Silva, and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
-The broadcasters for the evening are Mauro Ranallo and Frank Trigg (with hair). We forego the usual card rundown by the English broadcast team as the opening ceremony kicks off with the introduction of the fighters for the event. Ladies and gentlemen, this is more than just mixed martial arts. This is the PRIDE FIGHTING CHAMPIONSHIPS!
Yosuke Nishijima (Pride Record: 0-2; MMA Record: 0-2) VS. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos (Pride Record: 0-1; MMA Record: 14-9)
Ranallo notes that Cyborg postponed his honeymoon (his wife being Cris “Cyborg” Santos) in order to take this fight.
Round 1. Cyborg storms Nishijima from the outset with a barrage of punches and knee strikes. Cyborg gets the takedown and passes into the side mount and transitions into the full mount. Nishijima gives up his back and Cyborg goes for the RNC. Nishijima is out and that is the bout.
The Winner: Cyborg Santos wins by submission at 3:24 in Round 1. Nishijima went on to fight twice more in his MMA career failing to ever take a win.
PRIDE OPENWEIGHT GRAND PRIX SEMIFINAL BOUT: Wanderlei Silva (Pride Record: 22-2-1; MMA Record: 31-5-1, 1NC) VS. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (Pride Record: 16-4-2; MMA Record: 19-4-2)
Pre-Fight Video: Wanderlei Silva says this is an important fight for him and that he doesn’t like Cro Cop and that Cro Cop has a “bad attitude.” Cro Cop says Silva is a great fighter but he doesn’t like him.
Round 1. Here we go; a fight between two of Pride’s legends and beasts for the first time ever. Silva comes out ready to bang from the outset. Cro Cop responds with a punching combination of his own. Cro Cop looks to be getting the better of a punching exchange standing up and Silva shoots in for a takedown. Cro Cop sprawls and starts pounding Silva in the full-guard. Silva gets his composure back and attempts to maybe go for an armbar. Cro Cop sees it coming and stays away and stands up and Silva is back to his feet. Cro Crop then drops (!!) Silva with a left hook, and Cro Cop goes after him on the ground again with punches and hammerfists. Silva’s right eye is injured and the ref calls for a timeout. Silva nods his head in the affirmative apparently wanting to go back into the fight. The medical staff check out Silva and let him go back in. They restart back in the ground. Silva starts attacking and winging punches from the bottom. The fight slows down with Silva keeping wrist control in the guard. The referee calls for a break and issues Silva a yellow card because Silva spit out blood when he stood up according to Trigg. Back to their feet. Silva tries to brawl and Cro Cop is picking his shots staying away from Silva and landing some kicks to the midsection. Silva is cut open and bleeding. Cro Cop throws a left highkick and Silva goes down! Ref calls out and Silva is officially KO’ed for the first time ever in Pride, a surreal sight indeed.
The Winner: Cro Cop wins by KO at 5:26 in Round 1 and advances to the finals of the openweight tournament. Ranallo rants about Silva not being the smaller fighter since he weighed in heavier . . . even though Cro Cop still clearly had a height and reach advantage over Silva. Cro Cop being the more technical striker and kickboxer was Silva’s undoing here as his usual strategy of rushing in to brawl with the likes of Cro Cop didn’t work plus Silva has strong takedown and submission defense as well. I think this does show why fighters are better suited fighting in their weight class as I think it did create a bit of a mismatch for Cro Cop here.
PRIDE OPENWEIGHT GRAND PRIX SEMIFINAL BOUT: Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira (Pride Record: 16-2; MMA Record: 28-3-1, 1NC) VS. Josh Barnett (Pride Record: 3-2; MMA Record: 21-3)
Pre-fight Video: Barnett says he’s in a nasty mood for this fight. Nogueira talks about his performance in the Werdum and says he’s in good shape for this one. Barnett wants to put a hurting on Nogueira and catch him in a submission.
Round 1. They trade some punches standing. Barnett appears to be eating some punches while trying to clinch. Barnett starts opening up a little with an outside legkick and a left jab. Barnett drops Nogueira with a big left hook and follows him down. Barnett works from the half-guard position. Nogueira is able to attempt for an ankle lock but Barnett stays away and Nogueira gets back. Nogueira works for the takedown and gets it and is able to transition into side control. Barnett is able to get it back into half-guard and works back to his feet. Barnett tries to catch Nog in a standing guillotine, but Nogueira gets out but catches a knee to the head. They trade more punches standing. Nogueira gets a takedown off a waistlock, but Barnett scrambles and tries for a leglock which Nogueira tries in stereo. They get out and Nogueira scrambles to side control over Barnett again. Nogueira gets full mount and starts dropping punches. Barnett looks to be hanging on. Nogueira switches over looking for the armbar. Barnett clasps his hands and Nogueira goes for it. Barnett slips out of it and Barnett takes top position and finishes the round strong. Bell sounds and that’s the round. Good first round of action.
Round 2. Nogueira shoots in for a single-leg and Barnett defends. Barnett keeps it vertical and sprawls over a takedown attempt by Nogueira and gets top position. Nogueira keeps it active and in a slick move trips up the standing Barnett while he’s on his back and moves into Barnett’s full guard. Nogueira keeps working and manages to pass yet again into the full mount. Barnett bursts up and gets a full sweep on top, now in Nog’s full guard. Nogueira shows his slickness yet again by sweepin gout and getting Barnett’s back. Barnett switches it again and Barnett goes for a kneebar and Nogueira hangs on. Barnett looks to get the kneebar but time is running out. Nogueira stays in it and the bell sounds the end of the round and the fight. Trigg notes how this was a long, tough war and questions if either guy will have enough in the tank to fight Cro Cop later in the night who only fought for five minutes earlier.
The Winner: The fight goes to the judges and Barnett gets the split decision. Barnett advances to the finals of the tournament to face Cro Cop who he has already lost to twice before previously in Pride. Honestly based off the action and the whole fight, I kind of gave it to Nogueira. Barnett got the knockdown early in the first round, but I think for most of the fight it was contested on the ground and I think Nogueira looked much stronger there as he got more of the takedowns and he was having to make Barnett work a lot more than Nog did. Maybe the knockdown and Barnett’s takedowns were enough in the judges eyes but I felt Nog won it here. Still it’s great to see Nog work in his prime.
-Backstage interview with Josh Barnett. Barnett says he got fatigued in the fight and doesn’t know what happened. Barnett thought he finished him at the end with the kneebar and was screaming which is why he didn’t get up. Barnett says Cro Cop got an easier fight and made it that way when he tore through Wanderlei. Barnett says he’s ready “as I’ll ever be.”
Sergei Kharitonov (Pride Record: 7-2; MMA Record: 11-2) VS. Aleksander Emelianenko (Pride Record: 5-2; MMA Record: 8-2)
Emelianenko lost to Barnett in the opening round of the openweight tournament at Pride Total Elimination Absolute. Kharitonov is coming off a TKO loss from earlier in the year to Alistair Overeem at Pride 31.
Round 1. They trade punches standing. Kharitonov drops Emelianenko with a straight right hand. Kharitonov gets full mount position. Emelianenko pushes Kharitonov off, but Kharitonov gets back on top into the full guard. The referee breaks it up after a while and issues both men a yellow card for stalling. They exchange punches on the feet. Kharitonov shoots low for a takedown but Emelianenko moves away and moves to land punches and knees to the vulnerable Kharitonov. Kharitonov isn’t defending any of the shots and the referee steps in to stop the fight.
The Winner: Emelianenko wins by TKO at 6:45 in the first round. Fighters should not put their hands down and challenge their opponents to hit them in a fight. This is Aleksander Emelianenko’s last fight in Pride.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (Pride Record: 8-1; MMA Record: 12-2) VS. Cyrille Diabate (Pride Record: Debut; MMA Record: 10-5-1)
Diabate is a former K-1 kickboxer making his Pride debut here. This is Shogun’s first fight back following his TKO loss to Mark Coleman at Pride 31, where his elbow was injured and dislocated following a slam by Coleman. Pre-fight video: Diabate says it is an honor to fight in Pride against Shogun. Shogun says he’s 100% after the injury from the Coleman fight. Diabate says he’s got good punches and kicks and he is good at adapting. Shogun says he’s motivated and ready to fight again.
Round 1. Diabate tries for a high knee early. Shogun goes low and gets the takedown. Shogun somersaults over into the side mount. Diabate sweeps and gets back to the standing position. Diabate hits a knee as Shogun goes in for a takedown but Shogun finishes it. Shogun works from the half-guard and transitions into side control. Shogun attempts a side choke, but Diabate is able to block it. Diabate is able to work back to his feet again. Diabate tags Shogun with a knee strike, but Shogun doesn’t flinch and clinches up and lands another takedown. Shogun drops some elbows and punches as Diabate tries to stay busy. Shogun is able to keep the high ground and starts unloading with some trademark Pride soccer kicks and head stomps. Diabate looks hurt and the referee stops it.
The Winner: Shogun gets back on the winning track and wins by TKO at 5:29 in Round 1 handing Diabate his first knockout loss. The instant replay shows a nasty head stomp to Diabate’s jaw and Diabate actually tapping out. Both men now compete in the UFC’s light heavyweight division where Shogun won and recently lost the title and Diabate is 2-1 inside the UFC Octagon.
Ricardo Arona (Pride Record: 7-3; MMA Record: 12-4) VS. Alistair Overeem (Pride Record: 7-5; MMA Record: 24-8)
Pre-fight video: Overeem says Arona only tries to control guys and not finish them and Overeem always comes to try and hurt them. Arona says that Overeem shouldn’t say that since he always gasses or gets finished after about five minutes. Overeem tells Arona his plan is to knee him in the head.
Round 1. Overeem strikes early with some punches and a knee strike. Arona trips up Overeem with a legkick and moves to top position. Arona passes guard into the side mount and gets a knee to the head, like those grounded knees in Pride. Overeem gives up his back and Arona gets the bodylock. Arona starts landing punches and hammerfists. Overeem tries to move, but Arona gets the hooks and puts locks his legs around Overeem’s waist into a body triangle. Arona continues to land punches and Overeem taps from the strikes. We know what BJ Penn thinks of that.
The Winner: Arona wins at 4:28 of Round 1 and ends a two fight losing skid. Overeem looks hurt. It is just bizarre how dramatically things changed. Not long after this, Arona all but disappeared in the MMA world and has fought but once in the last four years. And now Overeem is an even bigger star and seen by many as a top ranked heavyweight and he’s the favorite to beat Fabricio Werdum later in a rematch later this year in Strikeforce.
-And now we move to the finals of the Pride Openweight Grand Prix. We see the Croatian and American national anthems played in honor of both finalists, Mirko Filipovic and Josh Barnett.
PRIDE OPENWEIGHT GRAND PRIX TOURNAMENT FINALS: Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (Pride Record: 17-4-2; MMA Record: 20-4-2) VS. Josh Barnett (Pride Record: 4-2; MMA Record: 22-3)
Cro Cop has beaten Barnett twice before in Pride: First at Pride 28 in 2004 and then again a year later by decision at Pride 30 in 2005. Barnett informs Cro Cop that he has something in his eye. Cro Cop rubs his eyes and the two touch gloves. Here we go, the fight to determine the Pride Openweight Champion.
Round 1. Cro Cop is prepared with punches as Barnett goes in for a clinch and then lets go with a kick to the body. Cro Cop does well on staying on the outside and nearly levels Barnett with another kick to the body. Barnett tries a single-leg takedown but Cro Cop blocks with a headlock and retaliates with punches and uppercuts to Barnett. Barnett tries to retaliate with knee strikes but falls to his back. Cro Cop goes to the guard and Barnett swings punches from his back. Cro Cop has been cut over his right eye and the referee calls for a time out to deal with Cro Cop’s cut. The fight resumes back in the center of the ring. Barnett tries to stay busy from the bottom but Cro Cop is able to neutralize him for the most part. Barnett looks to maybe go for a triangle choke, but Cro Cop stands up before Barnett can put it on. Back to standing. Barnett throws some leg kicks, but Cro Cop comes in with some nice punches and Barnett is starting to look like he’s wearing down. Barnett clinches up and lands some knees to the midsection, but Cro Cop breaks it up and starts unloading a series of three uppercuts that send Barnett down. Barnett’s nose is bloody and busted open. Cro Cop swarms and starts landing multiple hammerfists and Barnett rolls over and gives up his back. Barnett recovers and turns over and pulls guard. Barnett looks to try and keep Cro Cop away and it looks like Cro Cop’s hand slipped into Barnett’s face and Barnett got a finger in the eye. Barnett audibly cries, “Aw ****!” Cro Cop lands another punch to the prone Barnett and Barnett taps. That’s all folks.
The Winner: Cro Cop captures his first Pride and MMA title on his 32nd birthday, winning by submission due to strikes at 7:32 in the first round. Cro Cop was operating on all cylinders here and would not be denied this time around.
-The emotional Cro Cop gets his tournament winner ceremony. Cro Cop gets on the microphone and says this is the happiest day of his life and thanks his fans and his family.
-Backstage interview with Frank Trigg and Cro Cop. Cro Cop just says he’s happy and he finally proved to the fans that he can make it to the end and win a title. Cro Cop says if he didn’t win this tournament he’d quit fighting for good and he was more motivated than ever. Cro Cop says there’s no bad blood with Wanderlei Silva.
-Backstage interview with Jerry Millen and Josh Barnett. Barnett gives it a little levity by quoting The Elephant Man. Barnett says he couldn’t get it into second gear. Barnett says one of his cornerman said all the hard training caught up with them. Barnett says Cro Cop accidentally got him in the eye and he didn’t want to get punted. Barnett says he plans on fighting in Las Vegas for Pride 32: The Real Deal and he will be ready to go in less than two months.
– Credits and an event montage roll and that is all.
DVD BONUS FEATURES
The Bonus features include two additional fights not on the main event portion of the DVD:
BONUS FIGHT: Yoshihiro Nakao (Pride Record: 1-0; MMA Record: 5-0-0, 2NC) VS. Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pride Record: 9-5; MMA Record: 9-5)
Still don’t remember Yoshihiro Nakao, boys and girls? Here is something to jog your memory:
The fight is presented in its original Japanese broadcast language. Nakamura wins a three round decision over Nakao that was pretty dull and both men tired pretty quickly. They kept it standing for the most part and I think Nakamura did get the better shots and scored more.
BONUS FIGHT: Lee Tae-Hyun (Pride Record: Debut; MMA Record: Debut) VS. Ricardo Morais (Pride Record: 0-2; MMA Record: 9-4)
From what I’ve read, Lee was a former Korean wrestler and makes his MMA debut here. Both these guys are big dudes and appear to gas out before the end of the first round. The doctors and the corner check up on Lee after both men are slowing down and Lee looks hurt. Lee apparently cannot continue and that is the fight. Morais gets the win in the final fight of his career at 8:08 in Round 1.
The 411: This is a much better show than the last two Pride OWGP events. This is a nice way to get to see Cro Cop have his big moment in the spotlight in MMA as he finally gets to the top of the mountain. Cro Cop looked great here and put on one of the strongest runs of his career even better than his lead-in to fighting Fedor Emelianenko for the Pride heavyweight title. This show is also a good reason to see why Nogueira is one of the most respected and lauded fighters ever once upon a time. Strong recommendation to check out this show as you get the exciting semifinals and finals of the openweight tournament.
|Final Score: 8.5 [ Very Good ] legend|