Fedor Retains PRIDE Title, Silva loses to K-1 Champ Hunt

PRIDE Shockwave 2 Report

By Josh Gross Jan 4, 2005
For 20 minutes Friday night in Tokyo, Japan, Fedor Emelianenko showed why he, not Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, deserved both the PRIDE heavyweight Grand Prix belt and the organization's heavyweight championship.

The only other heavyweight champion in PRIDE's history, Nogueira hardly had an answer for Emelianenko, whose quickness and power once again proved as lethal a combination as there is in mixed martial arts.

During the bout's opening nine minutes, Emelianenko overwhelmed the Brazilian, who hoped his long reach would aid in beating the Ukrainian to the punch. Instead, it was the stocky fighter whose punches connected with a ferocity rarely seen even amongst top heavyweights.

In their previous two contests -- Emelianenko won the first in impressive fashion to take Nogueira's title, and the second was ruled a No Contest after an accidental headbutt opened a nasty gash over Fedor's right eye -- Nogueira was hard pressed to find an edge. His only chance at victory seemed to come when he controlled Emelianenko from the half guard or side mount. But those opportunities were just as rare in those contests as they were in this one.

Unable to put the Ukrainian Sambo expert on his back, Nogueira found himself in danger the entire night. Save the final 30 seconds of round one, Nogueira never had any length of time to work the Brazilian jiu-jitsu magic which made him the most feared heavyweight grappler on the planet.

Rounds two and three were hard going for the Brazilian. Emelianenko's takedown defense and his counter punching made it near impossible for Nogueira, who by this time had a badly bloodied nose and had taken several wicked right hands to the chin.

It's said styles make fights, but more than that, this result came in large part due to the physical differences between Emelianenko and Nogueira -- quick and powerful versus lanky and limber.

He's tried bulking up. He's tried slimming down. He went to Cuba to train with that country's national boxing team. What else does Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira need to do in order to defeat PRIDE heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko? Maybe the answer isn't one Nogueira would like to hear.

Nogueira's loss capped a difficult night for Brazilians on PRIDE's spectacular Shockwave card, which ushered in 2005 for the most loyal of PRIDE fans.

In a non-title fight, PRIDE middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva did not see his hand raised for the first time in four years, losing a tight and somewhat questionable split decision to one-time K-1 Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt.

Silva, slated to face a much smaller Kazushi Sakuraba before the Japanese star fell off the card due to an injured back, and Hunt waged a brutal war in the fight of the night. Like Nogueira, Silva found himself in a difficult style battle.

Against lesser strikers, Silva's unadulterated aggression and power has been brutally effective. But as an opponent to Silva, Hunt was second to none, including Mirko Filipovic, in his ability to deliver and take a power punch. His weakness, however, a poor takedown defense, was exploited by Silva several times.

In the first period, Hunt's power served him well, both on the feet and within Silva's guard. In fact, to that point in the fight the best strike, a clubbing right hand from Hunt to Silva's chin, came when the Brazilian was working off his back. It left Silva hurt and scrambling to save himself, which he did -- it would not be the only time he'd resort to instinct in the fight.

Hunt seemed to be having fun, returning Silva's fire with his own. Later in the round, unsure what to do while he stood in front of the downed middleweight champion, the New Zealander jumped in the air and came crashing down on top Silva. It was a move suited more for a swimming pool on a hot summer's day than the PRIDE ring in the middle of winter, but it riled up the captive audience of nearly 45,000 people inside the Saitama Super Arena.

The second period was Hunt's best. A series of shots, including a huge right straight that would have knocked out most men, put Silva to the canvas. Again, instinct and training allowed Silva to survive the attacks. He recovered so well that, eventually, when the two returned to their feet, Silva landed a pretty takedown that put him directly into the mount position. The action slowed until Hunt reversed position, a move that could have loomed large in the judges' eyes.

Already hurt twice, Silva somehow managed to find an energy reserve to begin round three that had him slinging bombs in Hunt's direction. The Brazilian never backed away from Hunt's power, instead choosing to fire and score takedown after takedown in the bout's final period. As the fight came to an end, Silva, mounted again on Hunt, chopped away with punches to the face and elbows to the midsection.

His almost miraculous recoveries, however, weren't enough for two of the three judges and Hunt, who seemed a bit surprised, was awarded the split decision victory. Silva's facial expression said it all -- from the joy of hearing his named called to the agony of seeing Hunt's raised, the loss clearly came as a shock.

Not to be overlooked should be the performance of Hunt, who took the bout on three-days notice. If a rematch is made, the heavyweight kickboxer, who showed himself to be a capable mixed martial artist, will be that much more dangerous.

Another battle of former champions saw ex-SHOOTO welterweight king Takanori Gomi square off against the only 155-pound champion in UFC history, Jens Pulver.

In what turned out to be a virtual boxing match, Gomi and Pulver expertly traded punches until the Japanese slugger slipped in a left uppercut between the American's hands, putting him down to the canvas 6:21 of round one.

It was a great fight, due in large part to Pulver's takedown-defense and Gomi's willingness to stand and trade. After an early finger in the eye, Pulver recovered to counter-jab his way into Gomi. His was a game of miss-and-hit, block-and-counter. But, for the most part, Gomi owned Pulver when it came to power shots. Digging hooks to Pulver's body were extremely effective, as were the winging shots to the tattoo-covered American's head.
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