PRIDE Grand Prix 2004: Critical Countdown

Intro

Jun 18, 2004
The road to retirement for Sakuraba begins, the heavyweight GP tournament continues and the search for the top middleweight contender ends.

Like the last chapter of a classic novel (you know what I mean -- Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” Tolstoy’s “War and Peace,” or J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” for some), the final bouts of an incredible fighter’s career are bittersweet. Kazushi Sakuraba, dubbed “The Gracie Hunter” by his adoring fans, begins his “Retirement Road” on this card in a rematch with Antonio “Elvis” Schembri. We’ll also see Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “The Brazilian Tiger” Ricardo Arona battle for the No. 1 Contender’s spot in the hotly contested middleweight division. Hidehiko Yoshida battles the newest K-1 fighter to make the MMA crossover: Mark Hunt. Oh, and the next round of that little tournament thing is happening, too.

The complete card looks like this:

GP Semifinal Tournament Bouts:
PFC Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko battles Hammer House wrestler Kevin Randleman.

Interim PFC Heavyweight Champion Rodrigo Nogueira squares off against Golden Glory fighter Heath Herring.

Golden Glory big man Semmy Schilt and Russian Top Team fighter Sergei Kharitonov meet in the ring.

Giant Brazilian professional wrestler Paulo Cesar Silva meets Inoki professional wrestler Naoya Ogawa.

And in single bouts … Japanese submission wrestler and fighting legend Kazushi Sakuraba begins his walk into the sunset with a rematch against Chute Boxe new recruit Antonio Schembri.

Japan’s Olympic Judo hero, Hidehiko Yoshida faces K-1 kickboxer Mark Hunt in his MMA debut.

Team Punishment wrestler Quinton Jackson goes toe-to-toe with Brazilian Top Team fighter Ricardo Arona for the right to face PFC Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva.

Now we’ll look at each fighter’s accomplishments, assess their strengths and weaknesses, review some of their previous bouts and predict how they might perform against their current opponent.
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