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PRIDE SHOCKWAVE: BIGGEST SHOW EVER, BUT ALSO A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT. I got to watch the U.S. PPV broadcast of the Pride Shockwave show this weekend. It was awesome to see 91,000 people at an MMA show. But, with the exception of the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Bob Sapp fight, I thought the fights were a let down.

The referee’s stopping the Royce Gracie vs. Hidehiko Yoshida for no reason was a disgrace, and Semmy Schilt was robbed of a victory in a relatively dull K-1 fight with Ernesto Hoost. Even the Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Mirko “Cro-Cop” Filopovic fight ended in anti-climatic fashion when Sakuraba could not continue after winning (IMO) the second round.

People complain about the UFC because sometimes there are dull fights between fighters of even skill. But, Pride’s alternative is worse. Instead of using worked fights (like Pride used to do), it filled the card with ridiculous mismatches. Don Frye had no business fighting Jerome LeBanner in a K-1 match. He was outweighed by 40 pounds by a fighter who had tons more stand-up sill and experience. Vanderlei Silva fought a total tomato can who had no clue what to do when the fight hit the ground, and Gary Goodrich’s opponent didn’t know much more about ground fighting than Silva’s.

Sakuraba vs. “Cro-Cop”

Plus, while we are talking about match-ups, can someone please explain to me why Pride decided to pit its #1 Japanese draw, Sakuraba, against a deadly K-1 striker who outweighed him by 30 pounds and who had been working on his sprawls? Sakuraba was coming off two defeats against another devastating striker, Vanderlei Silva, that each put him in the hospital and took him out of action for months.

Sakuraba had not fought in 9 months, and Pride thought it would be a good idea to pit him against Cro-Cop?

Cro-Cop broke Sakuraba’s eye socket and it now appears that Sakuraba will be out of action for a few months – again. It seems to me that Pride is trying to kill him. If they keep this up, they might succeed. I would not be surprised if Pride’s next fight for Sakuraba is against Bob Sapp.

Nogueira vs. Sapp

The saving grace of the card was the Nogueira vs. Sapp fight. Nogueira is the #1 heavyweight in the world. He is dangerous on his feet, but deadly on the ground. Sapp, on the other hand, outweighed him by 150 pounds, and was coming off impressive KO’s over relatively small and outmatched opponents. This fight promised to pit Sapp’s size and strength against Nogueira’s skill and heart, and it did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded my expectations.

Nogueira weathered a storm – including a “pile driver” that could have seriously injured him – showing tremendous heart and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills in fighting off his back. He wore Sapp down by making Sapp fight through his guard and defend submission attempts. When Sapp finally tired, Nogueira was ready. He pounced on Sapp to finish with an arm-bar that had the people watching the fight with me jumping out of their seats and cheering.

I do not think that there is any fighter in the world that can match Nogueira’s combination of stand-up skill, ground fighting and heart. The good news is that it appears that we will see whether I am right about that since Nogueira accepted a challenge from the #2 ranked heavyweight in the world, Josh Barnett, after the fight.

Gracie vs. Yoshida

From the rumblings on the Internet, it sounded like Yoshida dominated. But, I thought that the fight was pretty even until the referee screwed up and ended it.

Royce showed his usual counter-grappling style. He seems to prefer to have his opponent make the first move, and then look for an opening for a submission. For my money, I prefer a more aggressive style similar to Sperry, Nogeuira and Bustamante – in which the fighter initiates action to force his opponent into a mistake. But, there can be no doubt that Royce’s style works for him.

Yoshida played a very defensive game himself, which made for a relatively slow (but interesting) fight.

As for the referee’s stopping the fight, what more can be said? Royce was defending the choke, which did not appear to have been sunk. Royce’s right arm was inside under his neck and preventing Yoshida from finishing. Nevertheless, the referee jumped in and declared Yoshida the winner. It was another suspicious and poor referee stoppage in a Pride/Gracie fight (remember Royler vs. Sakuraba?). The decision is being appealed, and talk of a rematch has already begun.

While the Pride Shockwave show was easily the biggest live gate in the history of MMA, I will remember it as much for the screw-ups and the mismatches as its one great fight. Pride has undoubtedly done wonders in promoting MMA with the Japanese audience. But, it has retained its pro-wrestling (place the “show” ahead of the fights) mindset, and that is what makes the promotion suffer in this American’s eyes.

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