The Tuesday Morning Reverie: Wow
I guess I should be thankful that my pre-PRIDE wish of the show
being "beyond terrible" didn't come true. Obviously, when I wrote
that last week I was being facetious. But even if I actually did
have ill wishes for PRIDE's second venture into America, the
Japanese powerhouse would have made me eat my shoe.
Halfway through Saturday's PRIDE telecast I had a warm, moist
feeling in my stomach that it would take a mighty card to top this
one in 2007. Once the PRIDE middleweight title changed hands, that
rumbling in my belly became a reality. You'll be hard-pressed to
witness a better all around mixed martial arts events this year
than PRIDE 33.
That sort of statement will usually elicit debates, groans, gripes
and applause … but whichever way, you, my loyal reader, cut it:
that statement is true.
PRIDE 33 contained electrifying excitement, slick submissions,
brutal knockouts and competitive battles that went to the
scorecards. In my opinion, every fight on the card exceeded
expectations and there was a shocking number of legitimate upsets
throughout the night.
And who doesn't love upsets?
Looking back at the card, a fight fan truly couldn't have asked for
much better. Sure, it didn't contain the ultimate match-ups and it
wasn't a PRIDE vs. UFC battle royal, but think about it: the vast
majority of must-have fights that become reality wind up
materializing into forgettable and disappointing duds.
Here's hoping that the anti-PRIDE fight fans and my boys over at
the MMA Capital Building in Las Vegas don't skew my words as DSE
"nut hugging," but here goes: We won't see a better MMA card for
the remainder of this year than what we were treated to on Saturday
inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
There is this old, crusty and battered cliché that goes something
along the lines of all good things eventually come to end. That
especially rings true for the professional fight game. When the
smoke, ashes, embers and shrapnel dissipated from inside the PRIDE
ring, the same was true for Wanderlei Silva (Pictures)'s title reign.
Silva is without a shadow of a doubt one of the greatest fighters
in the history of mixed martial arts and has been PRIDE's
middleweight champion for a long time. Next to fellow Brazilian
Nogueira (Pictures), Silva boasted the second longest
uninterrupted major title reign in the history of MMA, a dominant
and seemingly impregnable rule that lasted roughly five years, four
His fist had been clinched firmly around the PRIDE 205-pound
landscape longer than most pop-stars' careers, longer than almost
every single mainstream sports dynasty. His stranglehold on the
division engulfed over a dozen different fighters and his own
personal highlight reel had to be indexed using the crafty Dewey
Aside from the two most dominant fighters in the UFC's 205-pound
history (Randy Couture
(Pictures) and Chuck Liddell (Pictures)), Silva fought and pummeled every
elite fighter of his generation, including a few heavyweights.
Without question, Wanderlei
Silva (Pictures) is an all-time great and whenever
there is a legitimate and authentic MMA Hall of Fame, he should be
a first ballot inductee. Like every great fighter of any era, he
certainly had his detractors. Only the biggest, most stubborn and
mentally inferior of these people would deny his brilliance.
Dan Henderson (Pictures), a slight underdog entering
Saturday's skirmish, whipped him and whipped him good. I figured
that their rematch would be a showdown that came down to the wire,
with Silva escaping via decision. I'm not surprised that Henderson
won, but what blows me away is the fact that not only did he knock
Silva out, he caved in his head from the opening bell.
Henderson dominated from start to finish and save for a solitary
left hook at the end of the first round, Silva didn't do a thing to
In hindsight it was a perfect fight for the two-time Olympic
wrestler. Henderson out-slugged the Brazilian when he needed to,
took him down whenever he felt like it, and utilized that brutal
Team Quest ground-and-pound like clockwork.
He befuddled, bullied and bombarded Silva in what could go down as
one of the greatest singular performances ever against an elite
fighter. My applause goes out to Henderson for not only his
conquest of PRIDE's most decorated fighter but for also becoming
the first man in PRIDE's history to hold a title in two different
weight classes at the same time.
This may sound like crazy talk, but from a fan and writer's
perspective, it appears as though Silva is on his way out, if he
wasn't been already. This may sound a little harsh but if you
really think about it for a while, the only time Silva has looked
like the real "Axe Murderer" against world-class opposition (note:
an emphasis on "world class") was back on Halloween '04 when he
tore up Quinton Jackson
Sure he certainly bludgeoned Kazuhiro Nakamura
(Pictures) and Kazuyuki Fujita (Pictures), but let's face it: those two
aren't exactly "Shogun" and "Rampage." His close tussles with
(Pictures) could be construed as signs
of decline mainly because Yoshida isn't an A level fighter. Yoshida
is a tremendous judoka and he is naturally bigger than Silva, but
Wanderlei never dominated the Japanese icon in either of their two
Silva also dropped a lackluster decision to archrival Ricardo Arona (Pictures) and though he avenged the loss to
his tattooed nemesis, he didn't blow him out of the water like
"Shogun" or Jackson did. Let's also not forget the controversial
loss to former K-1 World Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt (Pictures). And although I thought Silva did
enough to deserve the decision, Hunt was still a novice to MMA and
Silva looked listless. His duel with eventual 2006 Open-Weight
Grand Prix champ Mirko
Filipovic (Pictures) surfaced, which directly preceded
Saturday's knockout loss to Henderson.
Why has Silva looked less-than-spectacular lately? One can be ring
burnout, because Silva, unlike most world champions, fights all the
time. It seems like he fights on every other full-blown PRIDE event
and ever since he won the middleweight crown by besting Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures) in November 2001, he has competed
in a whopping 19 professional fights — and that's not even
including the thousands of hours spent in the gym and hundreds of
sparring sessions he plunged into headfirst. Compared to other
elite world champions of his era, Silva was the busiest.
Since winning the belt, the "Axe Murderer" has been toppled only
four times and had one draw. In that same span, Chuck Liddell (Pictures) fought 13 times (two losses),
Couture 10 times (five losses), Tito Ortiz (Pictures) nine times (three losses),
(Pictures) 19 (zero losses), Matt Hughes (Pictures) 14 (two losses) and Dan Henderson (Pictures) 15 (four losses).
Aside from Fedor, who is arguably the greatest fighter ever,
Wanderlei has been the most impressive and has toppled the better
competition overall. His only losses, aside from the Henderson
shellacking on Saturday and the points loss to Arona, came from
After pondering what Silva's been through during his title reign,
it's a wonder he held onto the title for that long. The man has
been busy and by not resting as much as the others, losing his
title before retirement was inevitable.
Another piece of the jigsaw puzzle is the amount of punishment he's
had to endure throughout his title reign. At some point in
virtually every fighter's career there is a breaking point and no
matter how great a fighter is or how much training he's endured,
his body just shuts down.
Maybe it happened against "Cro Cop." Maybe it was against
Henderson. Maybe it actually hasn't even happened. Either way, when
an elite fighter, or even a very good, successful fighter, is
dominated so thoroughly and knocked out so viciously in
back-to-back battles, it's usually a sign of a shot fighter.
Silva is only 30 years old, yet he has done it all. Perhaps he has
totally burned himself out. It happened to Pedro Rizzo (Pictures), Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures) and, when speaking of elite
warriors, it happened to Mark
Coleman (Pictures) and Randy Couture (Pictures).
While it seems unlikely, considering how relatively young he is,
I'm hoping Silva has not succumbed to that same fistic death
sentence. (Hmm, I am wondering if Silva will become the Marco
Antonio Barrera of MMA.) I don't think he's done yet, but only
future fights will tell us for sure.
Naturally, the hardcore MMA junkies know everything there possibly
is to know about Dan
Henderson (Pictures). When it comes to MMA in America,
especially when speaking of Generation TUF, almost nobody knows
Hendo. Many might think he is Rickey Henderson's brother or a cast
member on the long-cancelled farce of a TV show Harry and the
But after Saturday one thing's for sure: Henderson is a much more
popular fighter than he's ever been.
Even though a sizeable chunk of the American fight audience has
only seen a couple PRIDE events — if any — most knew about Wanderlei Silva (Pictures). He was supposed to come into the
UFC and either obliterate Liddell or at least wage an unforgettable
war with "The Ice Man." And just as MMA is exploding beyond
expectations, Silva returned to U.S. soil for some action, only to
be beaten severely and knocked cold.
In the span of about 13 minutes, the epic showdown between Liddell
and Silva changed from "has-to-happen" to "what's-the-point?" And
the man to blame for that is not named Sakakibara or White: it's
There haven't been too many train depots throughout the world that
shipped out official Hendo bandwagons over the years, but after his
thrilling upset on Saturday, one can rest assured that new
Henderson fans will be pouring out of the woodworks. Not that there
is anything wrong with that because Henderson, for the most part,
has played second fiddle to former Team Quest teammate Couture for
years (at least in America). Henderson has always been, in my
opinion, the best fighter out of TQ and hopefully now he'll get
what's basically owed to him: more fame and much, much more
Since I became a member of the fight media several years ago, it
has been frowned upon to openly cheer for fighters. Well, I'm a fan
first sometimes and anybody who regularly reads my work will know
that I have always been a huge Nick Diaz (Pictures) fan and supporter. Nothing was
more fulfilling than to see the underappreciated California kid rip
apart PRIDE lightweight king Takanori Gomi (Pictures) and eventually catch him in the
greatest submission on earth: the gogoplata.
But to keep things professional, I must congratulate Diaz for his
win and get right down to business. While it's a tremendous win for
Diaz and he clearly dominated the Japanese superstar almost from
the outset, I have to wonder what exactly Gomi's game plan was.
After Gomi dropped Diaz early in the first round, he basically
winged wild and sloppy bombs all the while tasting punch after
punch from Diaz. By the end of the opening round, Gomi was
completely sapped of all his stamina and was on the brink of being
stopped. The Japanese fighter mutated from crisp, brilliant striker
into a crude, wild amateur within a matter of seconds.
What happened there? Did he not train for more than a week? Was he
too pressed to look fantastic in America? Was Diaz frustrating him
so badly his game was offset? Only Gomi knows the answers to those
questions but in the meantime, when will the rematch occur? It's a
fight I simply will not miss for anything, not even the stamp
licking grand prix on ESPN2.
Another gogoplata! Not only did Diaz submit Gomi in what is thus
far the fight of the year, he did so by gogoplata. I might sound
like a pubescent fool when I gush over gogoplatas, but I don't
care. That submission belongs in the Smithsonian. …
"Shogun" avoided a scare, that's for sure. Alistair Overeem (Pictures) was absolutely having his way
with Mauricio Rua
(Pictures) until he was on his back.
Then Rua's 10-ton hammer crashed onto the Dutchman's face, followed
by a series of deadly strikes. I just can't put my finger on it,
but Overeem just can't take that step into greatness. He certainly
has all the proper tools but he continuously finds ways to lose.
He's like the Cincinnati Bengals of the 1990s and early 2000s and
that is a shame. He is much better than most people believe. …
Some things in life are guaranteed no matter the situation.
Politicians will always be corrupt. There will always be porn. And
the Nogueira twins will never get knocked out. Or so I thought.
Congrats to unheralded Rameau Thierry
Sokoudjou (Pictures), as he did what I thought was
literally impossible. I honestly never thought I'd live to see that
I was told that Dan
Henderson (Pictures) wore camouflaged shorts when he
fought Silva, but I didn't see them. …
(Pictures) is a great fighter and he
was a huge favorite to topple Mac Danzig (Pictures), which he did. But kudos must be
given to Danzig for fighting very well and lasting as long as he
did. Danzig has the ability to make some noise in the sport and in
due time, said noise will be made. …
Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) is the most inconsistent fighter
this side of Vitor Belfort
(Pictures). One day he is besting both
Dan Henderson (Pictures) and Denis Kang (Pictures), the next day he is being
manhandled by Frank Trigg
(Pictures). Misaki looked like a fish
out of water against the resurging "Twinkle Toes" and it makes me
wonder if he has ADD or if Trigg was just that good on
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