The Savage Truth: PRIDE 33 Thoughts and Shots
PRIDE FC's second foray into the American market seemed to go off
without a hitch Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in
Las Vegas. The fights were amazing. I got to see a gogoplata live
and in person. There were a slew of big upsets and a number of
Japan's biggest stars made their Vegas debuts.
What more could fight fans ask for?
The only problem was as soon as the dust settled and I started to
analyze the night's events I couldn't help but wonder what the
future held for the once-mighty Japanese organization and whether
its push into North America could continue.
An April date in Las Vegas seemed to be in question and two highly
touted champions had just been decimated. Things were not as rosy
as they seemed just a few short hours before.
If you would have told me before the show that Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) would get knocked out like he
did, and Antonio
Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures) would become the biggest upset
victim in the history of MMA, I probably would have laughed and
said, "Sure, anything can happen." But if I had been told Nick Diaz (Pictures) would be locking up a gogoplata
on Gomi, I think I would have shaken my head and called the person
Are you kidding me? Two gogos in high-profile fights in a matter of
two months? What is going on here?
I can see Shinya Aoki
(Pictures) pulling it off, even
against a stud like Joachim
Hansen (Pictures). But for Diaz to tap Gomi, that
was unfathomable — at least until it happened. Sherdog.com editor
Josh Gross and I were sitting together and we just looked at each
other in disbelief when Diaz slipped his leg in front of Gomi's
face. Neither of us could believe what we were witnessing.
The fight was non-stop fireworks from the get go and Diaz'
prediction that Gomi would have to "land a hot one" and "melt him"
nearly came true when the PRIDE lightweight champ landed a big left
hook in the first frame. After picking himself up off the canvas,
the Stockton, Calif. native put a hurting on Gomi before submitting
him. This was the fight of the night by far, one I won't soon
Saturday's card was built around the American debut of reigning
PRIDE middleweight champ Wanderlei Silva (Pictures). I remember talking to a DSE rep
after PRIDE's U.S. debut in October who said the company would have
to bring in an American to fight Silva. Henderson was the obvious
choice, but I knew it could be dangerous for Wand.
It was tough to watch the likeable Brazilian go down like that, but
a larger concern is the toll it may take on him. This loss puts him
on the wrong side of two highlight-reel knockouts in his last two
fights. The effects may linger and one has to wonder if he will
ever be the same fighter he was before the brutal losses.
Let's not forget about the biggest upset, odds-wise anyway, in MMA
Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures) or "Judo Terry" (as I had been
introduced to him before put a whooping on little Nogueira) was a
plus-1600 underdog going into that bout. To tell you the truth, I
thought that was generous.
"Minotoro" was seen as one of the biggest threats to Silva's
supremacy at 205 pounds by many pundits and may have been in line
for a title shot before succumbing to the clubbing left hand that
put him in la la land. Now it looks like he will have to get a few
wins before he gets his long-awaited crack at the title.
With all the PRIDE favorites going down in flames, the organization
now has even more work cut out for it in building an American
following. Silva can no longer be depicted as the best 205 pounder
in the world — the excuse about losing to a heavyweight in "Cro
Cop" no longer flies after a blown-up 183 pounder knocked him
Gomi is a suspect champion, especially in the eyes of UFC fans,
after Nick Diaz (Pictures) made sure of that with his
performance. Add to that the losses of two more title contenders in
little Nog and Kazuo
Misaki (Pictures) and you have a bit of a marketing
The coup de grâce, however, may be the fact that PRIDE 35, already
scheduled for April 28 in Las Vegas, may be in danger of not
All weekend rumors swirled that PRIDE USA's president Ed Fishman is
the one who controls the venue and date. If he is not successful in
acquiring PRIDE FC he may just pull his support, and in doing so
stop DSE from running in Vegas in April.
That scenario could be catastrophic for PRIDE. Fishman is also
rumored to have deals in place to get the Japanese organization a
much higher-profile presence on television in the States if he is
indeed able to buy the promotion. Without him, PRIDE USA may be a
pipe dream and after seeing how damaging the well-publicized
divorce with Fuji TV has been for PRIDE, things are not looking
It's too bad because shows like Saturday's are the reason PRIDE has
built the reputation its has among diehard fans of the sport, and
it would be a shame if they become a thing of the past.
I guess my biggest beef with last weekend's card had to be the
handling of the Hayato
Sakurai (Pictures)-Mac Danzig (Pictures) weight situation. According to
Danzig and his manager Monte Cox the bout was supposed to be at 160
pounds. When the contract finally came a few days before the bout
it stated 163 as the weight.
Danzig is a smaller lightweight and routinely fights at 155, while
Sakurai and Gomi are the reason PRIDE set their lightweight
division at 160. When Danzig's camp protested, they were told that
the fight would have to be at a catch weight since the division
limit is 155 in Nevada. When they asked why it wasn't going to be
the same 160 that the Gomi-Diaz fight was taking place at, they
were told to take it or leave it.
On the surface it looks as if both Gomi and Sakurai were being
given the best opportunity to win. For Gomi, his opponent had been
fighting at 170 and would need to cut an additional 10 pounds —
something that didn't hamper Diaz after all. Sakurai came in at 164
and apparently had to cut pretty hard to get there. On the other
hand, Danzig didn't cut at all and stepped on the scale at 160.
Now I am not sure it would have made any difference seeing how good
Sakurai is, but it is a black eye for the promotion. First of all
why are they waiting until the week of the fight to send out a
contract? Secondly, what was the impetus for the choice of the
weight if Sakurai could make the normal 160-pound limit? This is
something that tears away at the legitimacy of the organization and
it needs to be remedied.
As for the attendance figure of 13,180 I may have an idea how it
was reached. Right before the show started, as journalists started
to make the trek from the media room to their seats, ushers scanned
the tickets we were given to designate our assigned seats. I guess
it was a new twist on papering a crowd. My only question was were
the security, concessions workers, PRIDE employees, ushers or
fighters required to do the same? Because that is the only way they
could have come up with such a big number.
Another problem I have with PRIDE as it has appeared in the United
States is the constant one-upmanship it tries to play with the UFC.
Now I know its just business but it seems juvenile at best and
desperate at worst.
The king of this nonsense is Jerry Millen.
Jerry, please stop with the Dana-envy. It doesn't look good on you
at all. You have some of the best fighters in the world and your
production is top-notch, there is something to be said for letting
your product do the talking every once in a while anyway.
The invariable self-aggrandizement reminds me of a guy who is
always telling people how big his … err, how smart he is. And we
all know what the truth usually holds when people try so hard to
convince us of something. They are usually full of you know
As always, feel free to drop Savage a line at email@example.com. All comments and
questions are welcome.
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