5 PRIDE Fights You Must Watch
I recently decided to start compiling classic fights that any self-respecting MMA fan should watch at least once. I’m going to break them down into categories like this one which focuses on matches from the legendary PRIDE FC promotion. To be clear, this isn’t a “Top 5” list and the fights are in no particular order. I’m sure I’ll even revisit PRIDE at some point. This is just “5 PRIDE Fights You Must Watch”. Also, I try to avoid spoilers whenever possible but some of these fights I talk about do include spoilers so, you’ve been made aware.
1: *Dennis Kang vs Kazuo Misaki:
PRIDE Bushido 13 – These two met up in the finals of the PRIDE 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix. Kang was coming into this fight as an unbeaten beast; Misaki, an underdog, short-notice replacement for injured Paulo Filho. Kang dominated the first 7 or 8 minutes of the first round and Masaki didn’t look like he had much of a chance at winning. Suddenly, Misaki rocked Kang with a punch and sprawled after Kang shot in which resulted in the first flurry of many, many knees to the head that ended up being thrown throughout the rest of the fight. Though it started out completely one-sided, this fight ended up being a war of attrition that went to a close, split decision.
2: *Igor Vovchanchyn vs Francisco Beuno:
PRIDE 8 – This “quickie” from 1999 is a classic case of “be careful what you wish for” as Francisco actually requested this fight against the “Ice Cold” one. This night was definitely “no bueno” for Francisco. Igor spent the first minute or so of the fight stalking his prey until he backed Bueno into a corner. Vovchanchyn then unleashed some devastating punches that became a highlight reel knockout, used by PRIDE in montages for years to come.
3: *Fedor Emelianenko vs Kazuyuki Fujita:
PRIDE 26: Bad To The Bone – Fujita’s nickname isn’t “Ironhead” for no reason, as demonstrated by this classic brawl. Fujita was a protege of pro wrestling legend, Antonio Inoki and he had been stacking up big wins over the likes of Ken Shamrock and others. Nobody thought he would actually beat Fedor, though. I mean, at this point in time, NOBODY beat Fedor; he just dominated. While the two men stood and exchanged punches, Fujita caught Fedor with a wild, ducking, overhand punch that wobbled “The Last Emperor” to the point of nearly knocking him completely on his ass.
Once recovered, Fedor unleashed devastating punches and kicks but could only daze “Ironhead” just enough to be able to sink in a rear naked choke for a hard-fought victory.
4: *Minotauro Nogueira vs Bob Sapp:
PRIDE: Shockwave 2002 – There was a time when Bob really was a beast… This fight starts by Big Nog (arguably, pretty stupidly) shooting in for a double leg takedown and Bob Sapp waist locks him and pulls off the greatest tombstone piledriver, aside from the Undertaker, That I’ve ever witnessed. The fight then becomes a marathon of “the irresistible force meets the immovable object” (as the late, great Gorilla Monsoon used to say) until one man gains a well-earned victory.
5: *Kazushi Sakuraba vs Royce Gracie:
PRIDE: GP 2000 Finals – This was an epic encounter in what was arguably the greatest Grand Prix that was ever held, PRIDE’s GP 2000. Royce Gracie was coming in to avenge his brother Royler’s controversial loss to Sakuraba. Royce requested special rules for his involvement in the tournament because his brother, Royler, had lost due to a somewhat “controversial” referee stoppage in which Royler never tapped but was caught in a deep enough shoulder lock that the ref stopped it before his arm was completely torn out of its socket.
Royce’s special rules request – no time limit and no referee stoppages. He figured he could wear “The Gracie Hunter” down, over time, and then submit him once he was exhausted. I can’t speak for nowadays but pro wrestlers used to be known for having great cardio and Saku was no exception, surprising Gracie with how well he was conditioned. The war between these two men went for an entertaining and sometimes hilarious (thanks to some of Sakuraba’s antics throughout the fight) 90+ minutes before one man finally succumbed to exhaustion and could no longer continue.
Adam Zimmerman (a/k/a The Grappling Gamer) is also a staff writer and contributor to Canadian Bulldog’s World. www.canadianbulldogsworld.com