TOKYO, June 4 — Once relegated to the confines of Ariake Coliseum,
it seems that Bushido has finally grown up and taken the rite of
passage of running in PRIDE’s home, the Saitama Super Arena. Is
this just a one time experiment, or has the PRIDE offshoot
permanently graduated to this new piece of real estate?
The feature of this historic event was the first round of the
Welterweight (83 kilogram and under) Grand Prix, with the second
round heading to Nagoya in August, then returning to the Saitama
Super Arena for the finals in November. So for the near future, it
seems, Bushido’s fate will be tied to the monster stadium in
After a dominant victory over Akira Shoji(Pictures) in DEEP, Misaki was coming off a
close decision loss to PRIDE welterweight champion Dan Henderson(Pictures). Anyone who saw this fight
couldn’t help but be impressed by the guts and determination that
Baroni, whose stock has risen since his first Bushido appearance
with knockout victories over Japanese stars Ryo Chonan(Pictures) and Ikuhisa Minowa(Pictures), saw his championship dreams
derailed at last year’s Welterweight Grand Prix with a revenge
match loss to Minowa. Tonight was his second chance to be in the
hunt of the division’s holy grail.
This one turned out to be a real stand-up war. Baroni came out
swinging for the fences right off the opening bell and did a pretty
good job of countering for the first half of the round. Misaki
employed his classic strategy of moving around the ring and picking
his shots. The Japanese fighter displayed great head movement,
ducking and slipping his opponent’s punches while chopping away at
Baroni’s legs with hard low kicks that slowed down the Hammer House
Misaki capitalized on his first of two excellent trip takedowns in
the second round, attempting a Kimura from half guard before
returning to side-control, from where he fired several knees to the
head. Baroni managed to his feet and the stand-up war
The Japanese fought a very smart fight, tagging Baroni from a
distance and drawing the American to exert a lot of energy on
punches that failed to connect. Having taken too many leg kicks,
Baroni looked sluggish compared to Misaki in the throughout the
second and final period, and when the fight went to the judges
Misaki was ruled the victor.
When asked by Sherdog.com what was next for him, Baroni stated that
he wasn’t sure, but that he would be back.
Denis Kang(Pictures) has been on quite a roll as of
late with 11 straight victories, all but one coming from knockout
or submission. On this evening he faced off against Chute Boxe
fighter Murilo Rua(Pictures), who was coming off a loss
to Paulo Filho(Pictures) at Bushido 10.
A good balance of stand-up and ground work was expected in this
one, but it failed to materialize. Right off the bell both fighters
came charging to the center of the ring. Kang put out a front kick
and then connected with a big right hand. He followed up with a
barrage of punches.
“Ninja” turned his back just before falling to the ground, where
Kang followed and connected with some vicious shots, putting the
lights out on the Chute Boxe fighter. The whole match only lasted
Ninja was on the ground for a while and, even when helped to his
feet, was still visibly shaken. When asked backstage if he was
worried about trading strikes with a Chute Boxe fighter, Kang
replied no. He further stated that “Ninja” usually throws wild
hooking punches, but not much straight on, so his game plan was to
use straight-line punching technique, which really paid off on his
very first cross.
After berating Yoshida dojo fighter Makoto Takimoto(Pictures) at length during their press
conference, and subsequently at a Japanese professional baseball
game where he threw out the first pitch, Grabaka fighter Akihiro Gono(Pictures) faced off against Takimoto’s
training partner, Sydney Olympic judo competitor Hector Lombard.
The straight shooting and comedic Gono, seemingly pulling a page
out of Genki Sudo(Pictures)’s book, came to the ring
with a white “Miami Vice” suit, sunglasses, a blond afro wig before
he proceeded to perform a dance routine with his Grabaka
stablemates before entering the ring.
Lombard, a Cuban national now living in Australia, came out like a
hurricane off the opening bell, charging his opponent with a
barrage of punches. Gono tried to back out of the way, but fell to
the mat in the corner, only to have Lombard continue the
For a few moments it looked like Lombard was going to take the
victory right there, but the tough Pancrase veteran was able to
weather the storm, get a reversal and bring the action down to the
mat. From here the Cuban went for a heelhook attempt, but Gono
escaped and took his opponent’s back. Failing to secure a choke,
the action went back to the feet.
After spending all of his energy in the first two minutes of the
match, Lombard seemed to be out of gas. Much like his teammate
Kazuo Misaki(Pictures), Gono picked apart the Olympic
competitor with his hands, most notably his right cross, which
staggered Lombard opponent several times. Gono, the former All
Japan Kickboxing heavyweight champion, also chopped away at
Lombard’s legs, further slowing the strong Cuban down.
Lombard was basically out-boxed in this one. The fight went the
distance and Gono walked away with the decision.
Mousasi came out striking but was quickly tripped down to the white
canvas. Takimoto then had a beautiful armbar attempt. To be honest
I have no idea how Mousasi survived this one, I mean that technique
was fully extended, but he managed to escape and take his
With his hooks fully in, Mousasi rolled with Takimoto while the
Japanese tried to escape. The Armenian-born Mousasi peppered
Takimoto with punches to the sides of the head while looking for
The judo fighter continued to turtle and roll, but just couldn’t
shake his opponent. Eventually the referee paused the bout for a
doctor check on Takimoto’s swollen right eye. The doctors felt the
injury was too serious to continue and called a halt to the bout at
the 5:34 mark of the first round.
King of the Cage veteran Joey Villasenor(Pictures) made his PRIDE debut against
Bushido “ace” Ryo Chonan(Pictures). This one didn’t disappoint
and had a good mix of stand-up and ground work throughout. It was
pretty even on the feet, with both guys displaying excellent boxing
technique and connecting with hard shots. Chonan pulled a page out
of Dan Henderson(Pictures)’s book with the tricky
overhand right that looks like a takedown attempt when coming
In the last minute of the bout, Villasenor really turned on the
strikes and finished up with a big head stomp on his downed
opponent just seconds before the final bell. This was a really
close fight, but in the end Chonan took the split decision.
As in his bout against Murilo
Rua(Pictures) in Bushido 10, Paulo Filho(Pictures) was a takedown machine in his
match-up against Gregory Bouchelaghem(Pictures). Once on the mat, the
Brazilian Top Team fighter controlled all the positions, getting
half-guard and taking mount on his French opponent, where he rained
down a barrage of punches.
More of the same transpired in the second. Having to cover up to
defend the punches coming down at him, Bouchelaghem couldn’t seem
to get anything going and was merely reacting to the Brazilian’s
As good as he is at takedowns and ground control, Filho seems to
have problems finishing his fights, with most of his victories
coming by way of decision. Tonight was no different, and he took
the well deserved win.
Murilo Bustamante(Pictures) and Amar Suloev(Pictures) put on a boxing clinic in their
match-up. Not once did this fight go to the ground. Putting
together combinations and slipping punches, both looked very crisp
throughout their 15 minutes together.
This turned out to be more of a technical bout, which those with a
keen eye would have appreciated. Suloev’s head movement and the way
he guarded his chin with his lead shoulder was impressive. Rather
than backing straight up, the Red Devil fighter moved laterally to
avoid his Bustamante’s strikes.
The Brazilian veteran looked for the takedowns in this one, but
Suloev displayed excellent takedown defense. In the second the
Russian landed a hard bicycle punch that caught Bustamante off
guard and sent him to the mat.
The fight continued to transpire on the feet right until the final
bell, with Suloev taking the unanimous decision.