Pride: Fists of Fire Fight Breakdown by Stephen Quadros
PRIDE FISTS OF FIRE (Pride 29) Fight Breakdown
February 20, 2005
Saitama Super Arena, Japan
By "The Fight Professor" Stephen Quadros
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (Croatia) vs. Mark "The Hammer" Coleman (USA)
Much has been said about Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic's left roundhouse kick. But pundits of the sport have also duly noted his transition into a fully faceted mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter since his departure from K-1, especially in the area of takedown defense. Further enhancing this last point is the fact that Mirko has defeated several wrestling based fighters in the past such as Mark Coleman's teammate Kevin Randleman, Ron Waterman and Kazuyuki Fujita (twice). But Coleman has much more solid credentials than those three and poses the greatest threat in putting the European on his back thus far. But is that enough to win? Or more importantly, is Coleman the same terror who ruled the UFC in the mid 1990's and stomped through the PRIDE Grand Prix in 2000? In a word, no. Among other things, the 10-year age difference (Mirko is 29 and Mark is 39) will be a factor. The other obvious difference is that Coleman has not kept up with the evolution of MMA. His style is still pretty much the same as it was in 1996 when he won his first UFC title). If Coleman does get Filipovic down he will be in the position to have to deal with the growing submission arsenal that Mirko is acquiring (in the previous PRIDE event, Filipovic made Randleman tap out with a front choke). And big Mark's chances standing with the Croatian? To quote Tony Soprano, "Forget about it." So basically this one boils down to the man who would be king in Cro Cop, trying to step over the man who's best days are probably behind him in Coleman. Mirko will prevail with a knockout.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson (USA) vs. Murilo "Ninja" Rua (Brazil)Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the unorthodox and charismatic American wrestler turned slugger is coming off his second KO loss to "Ninja's" stable mate, Wanderlei Silva. But is accomplishments should not be overshadowed by that because Jackson has also STOPPED Chuck Liddell, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kevin Randleman and Ricardo Arona, all top tier fighters. Many feel that Rua, who is coming back after a loss himself, an ill fated endeavor into the heavyweight division against Sergei Kharitonov, just can't take or deal out the kind of devastation that Rampage can. Ninja, like Quinton, is an entertaining fighter in his own right. He also has incredible endurance, is aggressive and has quickness. But that will not be enough to get through this one with a win. My pick is Jackson in a wild match, maybe by knock out. The winner will most likely be eligible for the upcoming PRIDE middleweight Grand Prix set for later this year.
Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira (Brazil) vs. Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem (Holland)
This fight, which also has relevance in the middleweight Grand Prix picture, will be as dangerous as Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (a.k.a. "Lil Nog") allows it to be. Standing with the Alistair Overeem makes little sense here, simply because the flying Dutchman can bang with the best of them. It's true that Alistair has vastly improved his submission game. But his opponent is a Nogueira, the twin brother of "Minotauro", the man who used to rule the PRIDE heavyweight division. Jiu Jitsu is an acquired taste for Overeem but is indeed second nature to Nogueira. I feel that Rogerio will catch Alistair in a submission.
Choi Mu Bae (Korea) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (Russia)
Choi Mu Bae has developed a following for having "heart". Loosely translated, that means he can take a hell of a punch/beating. The problem is that Sergei Kharitonov can deliver hades-level leather in spades. And because Choi is long on courage and short on defensive skill, this fight will truly test the mercy-giving ability of whoever referees it: because the man from Seoul, Korea is in for a shellacking. No post-fight disco dance steps from Mu Bae this time. The man from Russia by TKO or submission.
Igor Vovchanchyn (Ukraine) vs. Yoshiki Takahashi (Japan)
Igor Vovchanchyn is beloved by the fight fans because he represents the everyman, the guy who works hard and stays humble. He has had over 50 fights and also won at least 5 8-man tournaments. His hall of fame status seemingly secure, Igor longs to get back on top. Now campaigning at the 205-pound limit most people feel he will harken back to the dominance in the early part of his career, before he bulked up to heavyweight. Igor HAS to look strong here to earn a slot in the PRIDE 2005 middleweight Grand Prix. Takahashi made a splash with the US market when he defeated Carlson Gracie black belt Wallid Ismail back in the UFC in 1997. Since then he has become a cornerstone for the Pancrase organization, which has produced Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Yuki Kondo and Guy Mezger. Takahashi is an extremely fearless man who never steers away from a head-to-head brawl. But if you are outweighed, Vovchanchyn is the wrong guy to trade with. Igor shouldn't have too much trouble with the 35-year-old warrior from Chiba, Japan and will win inside the distance.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (Brazil) vs. Hiromitsu Kanehara (Japan)
Everyone loves it when two guys meet in the center of the ring and just slug it out. Honestly, Hiromitsu Kanehara has been reduced to the position of "opponent" since he left RINGS and entered PRIDE in 2002. He definitely has skills and has been in with some the best in the sport (Matt Hughes, Mario Sperry, Ricardo Arona, Renato Sobral, Minotauro Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, and Wanderlei Silva). But Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is fast etching out a reputation as the "new Wanderlei". Therefore the "piranha style" of Shogun will be too much for this Japanese veteran. Rua by technical knockout.
Hirotaka Yokoi (Japan) vs. Mario Sperry (Brazil)
Brazilian Top Team co-head Mario "Zen Machine" Sperry has been in the sport since 1995. After winning Australia's Caged Combat 8-man tournament and choking out Igor Vovchanchyn in PRIDE, Sperry has lost to fellow Brazilian "Ninja" Rua and Yuki Kondo (by TKO). Hirotaka Yokoi is a protige of Olympic judo gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida and after garnering an unblemished 10-0 record he lost his last two fights against Rogerio Nogueira (by choke) and Heath Herring (by KO). Yokoi's youth will help as will the distraction Mario faces of running one of the world's prominent fight teams. I'm leaning towards Yokoi by decision.
Tom Erikson (USA) vs. Fabricio Werdum (Brazil)
Tom "Big Cat" Erikson has always had a dilemma in that he is big, but not very flashy. For this reason most fighters and promoters seemed to avoid him in the 1990's. But Tom is now 39 years old with an MMA record of 9-1-1, and has not fought in PRIDE in almost 3 years. He faces an extremely tough young Brazilian fighter in Fabricio Werdum. A veteran of Jungle Fight, Fabricio has forged a record of 4-0-1, with all his wins coming by way of KO or submission. A win for the Brazilian ads a fresh to face to the regular cast of Fedor Emelianenko, Minotauro Nogueira and Cro Cop. A win for the Big Cat may only re-activate the first two sentences in this paragraph. Depending on Erikson's preparation time, or lack thereof, odds are in Werdum's favor.