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Quick Pride Thoughts

Here are some quick thoughts on this weekend’s big Pride card . . .

* Wanderlei Silva is as good as his reputation. Sometimes I see people get so caught up in a fighter’s hype that they lose all perspective about how good a fighter actually is. Wanderlei is actually that good – and mean – and tough. They guy is a finisher.

* That being said, I think Wanderlei would lose to a top wrestler such as Randy Couture. Yoshida took Wanderlei down. Jackson took Wanderlei down. Couture would do the same. Plus, Couture’s boxing is good enough that he could frustrate Wanderlei’s wild style like he frustrated Liddell. In fact, I think that a Couture vs. Wanderlei fight would probably resemble Wanderlei’s loss to Tito Ortiz in the UFC.

* Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira is the man. By beating Cro-Cop he cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greatest fighters (and he’s still in his prime). He showed the same guts, heart, determination and will that made his fight against Bob Sapp the most dramatic fight in MMA history. Only, this time he showed those attributes against a much better fighter. Things looked bad for Nogueira – especially at the end of the first round when he was knocked down. But, he came back, took down Cro-Cop and showed why a Brazilian jiu jitsu fighter of his caliber can never be counted out. Awesome arm bar.

* Chuck Liddell’s greatest weakness was exposed once again: kickboxing. I know that Chuck is an powerful striker who has risen to the top based on his ability to avoid the take down and knock out his opponent. But, beginning with his fight against Guy Mezger, it also became clear that a solid striker can pick Chuck apart on the feet because Chuck is not a technical striker. Mezger gassed, so Chuck KO’d him after Mezger grabbed an early lead through more technical striking. Ditto with Allistair Overeem. But, Couture and Quinton Jackson used straight punching [UPDATE: Well, thinking about it, Rampage did wing a few shots. But he was undeinably the crisper striker] and better fundamentals to wear down Chuck on the feet, and then took him down and finished the fight. It might seem funny to say this, but Chuck needs to go back to the basics and work on his fundamental boxing and kick boxing skills.

* Yoshida is a legitimate fighter. No, he’s not a top 5 fighter. Maybe top 10. But, he showed that he is tough (much tougher than he looked against Tamura) and went the distance with Wanderlei. Wanderlei had to respect Yoshida’s takedowns so much that he could not unleash his typical, vicious striking attack.

* Yoshida’s ability to disrupt Wanderlei’s usual aggressive game plan because of his judo skills, along with Cro-Cop’s ability to stuff so many of Nogueira’s double leg take down attempts, points to something I have been harping about to my friends for the last couple of years. Fighters need to work on their upper body takedowns. While strikers have all learned how to sprawl, they still do not have an answer to prevent their opponents from getting into the clinch. When a good judo player or Greco-Roman wrestler gets into a tie-up from the clinch, that kills the striker’s forward momentum because forward momentum will give the grappler an easy take down. Once in the clinch, the grappler is in a position where he smothers a striker’s most powerful shots, and he can safely work to put the fight on the mat.

* Sakuraba pulled another rabbit out of the hat. After 2 1/2 boring rounds in which Randleman controlled the fight but did virtually nothing, Sakuraba rolled into a beautiful arm lock. I love submissions (even more than KO’s). So, seeing Sakuraba pull off the arm bar so late in the fight, especially after his coming off of a series of devastating losses, was awesome.

* Dan Henderson won by head-butt. It was unintentional, and he quickly capitalized on it with knees and punches. But, he stunned Bustamante when the two fighters clashed heads as they changed levels and shot in on each other. That does not take away from the legitimacy of Henderson’s victory. However, it does make me want to see these two give it another shot against each other. Tough break for Bustamante. But, then again, mixed martial arts is a tough sport.

UPDATE: Navin R Johnson comments, “I’d like your thoughts on comparing Liddell v Jackson to Lidell v Belfort.”

Navin’s question raises a good point.

Chuck’s kickboxing worked well enough against Vitor. In fact, he knocked Vitor down at the end of the last round to seal a vitory in what was, up until that point, a very close fight. Moreover, Vitor throws straighter punches than Rampage.

Also, lets not forget what Chuck did to Babalu, who is a pretty good kick boxer himself.

So, how does that jibe with my analysis?

Frankly, it throws a wrinkle into it because we have seen that Chuck can stand in there with a good striker and win.

But, there are two other factors to consider. First, Vitor did not train for that fight. He was not in good enough shape to bring his “A” game.

Second, my point was not that Chuck is a bad kick boxer. But, rather, that he is not a great kick boxer. Chuck sometimes shows a lack of polish and does not appear to be highly technical when he fights. We have all seen that he rarely throws straight punches, and he has been known to be open big, sometimes wild shots from his opponents.

Since Chuck almost never goes for the take down, he relies on superior striking ability to win fights. If he is going to try that strategy against guys who can strike better than him, he will need to clean up his game or change his strategy and go for the take down. The things he needs to work on, IMO, are fundamentals: Footwork, throwing straighter punches, etc.

So, I think that overall, my point still stands. Against fighters like Couture, Rampage and (probably) Silva, Chuck needs to sharpen up his kick boxing skills and/or try to take his opponents to the mat.

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