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Sunday, Dec 31, 2006

Pride “shockwave” 2006: Hunt Surprises Many In Loss To Fedor, Gomi Destroys Ishida

PRIDE "Shockwave" 2006: Hunt Surprises Many in Loss to Fedor, Gomi Destroys Ishida
By Kelsey Mowatt

2006 may not go down as the best year for Japan’s preeminent MMA promotion PRIDE, the loss of its television deal with Fuji TV unquestionably hurt the promotion financially, number one heavyweight contender Mirko "Cro Crop" Filipovic is UFC bound, and legendary fighter Kazushi Sakuraba left to fight for PRIDE’s number one national competitor, K-1 Hero’s. Despite the rumors and speculation about what the future holds for the staggering MMA Giant, this year’s PRIDE "Shockwave" served as a brilliant reminder that the organization still holds one of the more talented and entertaining fighter pools on the planet. The Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan hosted the New Year’s Eve festivities, an event that would showcase PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko retaining his position as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter, despite a spirited effort from his opponent Mark Hunt.

After the opening bell sounded, Emelianenko quickly closed the distance with Hunt, taking the New Zealand fighter to the mat with a body lock sweep from the clinch, after a brief striking exchange with the highly regarded K-1 veteran. It appeared that the fight would end rather abruptly as Emelianenko swung around into an armbar attempt from full mount, a submission that Emelianenko has time and time again utilized rather effectively in ending fights. Hunt, however, no doubt surprised many in attendance and watching around the world, by nimbly rolling out of the submission attempt, demonstrating new found grappling skills as he quickly gained sidemount on Emelianenko. From there Hunt maintained the position for some time, effectively distributing his weight, administering some, albeit limited, punishment to the champion. Eventually Emelianenko was able to work his way back to his feet and, after another brief striking exchange, attempted to throw Hunt once more, only to have his opponent wind up in sidemount again. In perhaps what was one of the more shocking moments of the night, Hunt once again displayed techniques from his new skill set, attempting several Americana armlocks on Emelianenko. Although the champion effectively defended the submission, the Saitama Arena gasped as Hunt worked his way into a brief full mount, only to see Emelianenko quickly bump the New Zealand heavyweight off.

With the fight once more at its feet, a seemingly angered Emelianenko picked up the pace, hurling himself at Hunt in search of a takedown. After several failed throws, Emelianenko once more took Hunt to the mat from the clinch, this time winding up on top, in sidemount. From there, it was the beginning of the end for Hunt, as the Russian champion executed a textbook Kimura, causing Hunt to tap out to the submission at 8:16 of the first round. Although the loss drops Hunt’s MMA record to 5-3, and is his second loss in a row, the former K-1 star continues to impress; and, with even more time to develop a ground game, Hunt will be a top-flight contender. Emelianenko’s record now stands at 25-1.

Japanese superstar and PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi was scheduled for a non-title bout against Mitsuhiro Ishida, who had earned rave reviews by defeating Marcus Aurelio at Bushido 12 on August 26th, on a streak that saw Ishida win 9 fights in a row. Gomi of course was choked out by Aurelio earlier this year at Bushido 10 on April 2nd, before avenging the loss at Bushido 13 on November 5th, when Gomi earned a narrow decision victory. To many MMA observers, it was questionable as to why this fight was not a title bout, due to the fact that Ishida has been so impressive, including a dominant victory over the aforementioned Aurelio, who defeated the current Champion in a non-title match. The debate on this issue was quickly proven a moot point however, as Gomi countered a left leg kick from Ishida with a crushing left hook early into the opening round. From there, the Lightweight Champion followed up with another hard right uppercut that sent Ishida to the canvas. Gomi quickly pounced on top of his downed opponent to continue the assault. A series of stomps, hammer fists and cracking punches gave the referee no choice but rescue Ishida at 1:14 of the first round. Gomi’s record now stands at 26-3 in earning such an impressive, dramatic victory, while Ishida’s slips to 14-3-1.

With the departure of Mirko "Cro Cop" to the UFC, the number one contender spot in the heavyweight division was up for grabs as Josh Barnett and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were set to do battle for the second time in less than 4 months. Barnett defeated Nogueira by split decision on September 10th at PRIDE’s "Final Conflict Absolute"; in what was one of this year’s more compelling and entertaining bouts. The rematch would feature far more stand-up this time around, as the first two rounds mostly saw each fighter content to test the other’s abilities from the striking range. As the second round neared its end, it was becoming apparent that Nogueira was winning the stand-up exchanges, as a bloodied and bruised Barnett began to fade. The third and final round saw more action on the ground, as Barnett was able to get the fight to the mat and keep it there for some time. "The Baby Faced Assassin" however was unable to duplicate the grappling artistry that he demonstrated in his September fight with Nogueira, when he caught the Brazilian heavyweight late in the round with a kneebar, which many believe turned the split decision victory in his favor. This time around, Nogueira was much more cautious, countering any submission attempts from Barnett for the remainder of the fight. There was little surprise when the judges awarded Nogueira the unanimous decision victory, that extends the perennial contender’s record to 29-4-1, while Barnett’s drops to 20-5.

Earlier on in the pay-per-view, two of the promotion’s more popular light-heavyweights, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Kazuhiro Nakamura took center ring. Nakamura seemed to frustrate his Chute Boxe opponent early on; landing several decent shots to the noted striker during the early striking exchanges. By the midpoint of the first round, Rua appeared to be somewhat fatigued and sluggish, but aptly took the bout to the mat with an effective throw from the clinch. From there, Rua turned the tide in his favor, attempting to end the fight with side and rear choke attempts. Nakamura demonstrated his own grappling skills, defending the submissions well, eventually winding up back on top as the round ended. Despite a determined effort from Nakamura through the second and third rounds, Rua persevered, working his way to a unanimous decision victory through dominating Nakamura on the ground for the remainder of the fight. The win puts Shogun’s record at 15-2 while Nakamura’s drops to 11-5.

A world class lightweight battle was up next that featured undefeated Cesar Gracie fighter Gilbert Melendez against perennial lightweight contender Tatsuya Kawajiri. The opening seconds of the fight saw each fighter barreling right hands at the other, with both athletes finding their mark on the other. Melendez would in fact be set right on his behind, via a devastating straight right hand from Kawajiri. Despite the ferocious strikes, neither fighter was able to land any fight-stopping blows. The remainder of the round demonstrated the high level of each fighter’s wrestling and grappling capabilities, with each man attacking and countering at a dizzying pace.

Round two once more saw each fighter eager to bomb away with strikes; although, this time, Melendez appeared to be finding the range more often. Melendez rocked Kawajiri with a crushing left hook, only to see his Japanese opponent quickly recover and shoot in for a double-leg takedown. Melendez, however, was able to keep the fight standing, and stretched ahead in the fight scoring. As the second round neared its end, it was Melendez who continued to find the mark more often as each fighter stood back punching, leaving it all on the line. The judges rewarded Melendez for his more precise striking and ground control, giving the fighter the unanimous decision win. With the win, Melendez remains undefeated at 12-0, while Kawajiri falls to 19-4-2.

In other action from PRIDE’s "Shockwave" 2006, Shinya Aoki proved once again that he is the real deal, submitting former Shooto star Joachim Hansen with a gogo-plata at 2:24 of the first round. James Thompson stormed his way through former Olympic Gold Medal winner Hidehiko Yoshida, stopping the Japanese star with strikes at 7:50 of round 1, and Kazuyuki Fujita had no difficulty in defeating the Georgian fighter Eldari Kurtanidze in his MMA debut, who submitted to a barrage of strikes from Fujita at 2:09 of the opening installment.

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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