Pride GP Preview

Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Kharitonov

Aug 12, 2004
Heavyweight GP Tournament Semifinal Bout:
Rodrigo Nogueira “Minotauro” vs. Sergei Kharitonov

NOGUEIRA: Interim PFC Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is a two-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Champion, the RINGS King of Kings 1999 Tournament runner up, the RINGS King of Kings 2000 Tournament Champion, the former WEF Heavyweight Champion, and a 2000 Abu Dhabi Combat Championships 99-kg division tournament quarterfinalist.

The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has displayed the greatest submission knowledge in the heavyweight division and is unrivaled in the PFC. His record includes wins over Jeremy Horn, Mark Coleman, Semmy Schilt, Dan Henderson and features spectacular battles with Mirko Filipovic, Heath Herring and Bob Sapp. With an improved stand-up game and a new bag of submission techniques (recently used to dispatch Hirotaka Yokoi and Heath Herring), Nogueira is just two fights away from silencing all doubters as to who the real PFC heavyweight champion is.

KHARITONOV: Russian Sambo Champion Sergei Kharitonov is 11-1 in MMA. He’s making his fifth appearance in the PFC and finds himself in the same no-lose situation last embodied by Hirotaka Yokoi. He’s in a spot few thought he would be in against an opponent even fewer think he will beat. If he loses, hey, he’s fighting Nogueira, who everyone expected to be in the final before the 16-man tournament brackets were even announced. If he wins, he’s a star.

Sergei has shown the ability to hang on the feet and take damage without fading. He has been able to submit lesser opponents in Jason Nobunaga and Cory Peterson and beat down more serious competition in Murilo Rua and Semmy Schilt.

Admittedly, “Ninja” Rua was a bloated version of his self and Schilt couldn’t make a dime giving ground-fighting seminars, but the fact remains Kharitonov has beaten everyone Pride has put in front of him. Sergei is six-foot-four and 230 pounds, so he and Nogueira mirror each other physically. The stand-up battle should be intense because you could tell from the “Ninja” fight that Sergei has a taste for slugging it out. His body shots are piercing and are certain to bring anyone’s hands down.

Sergei needs to block a little better with Nogueira though because he has a real heavyweight with serious hands punching him -- not a six-foot light heavyweight. As a sambo practitioner, he should be able to keep himself in a good position on the mat, but Nogueira is too dangerous for him to relax his defense.

MY PICK: Nogueira. Much of this bout will be decided by how aggressive Rodrigo comes out of the blocks. “Minotauro” professes to want to keep this bout standing, but it is in his best interest to go to the mat immediately and work for the submission. He hasn’t displayed the knockout power to drop people (save Sanae Kikuta) so he shouldn’t tempt fate against Kharitonov.

A prolonged stand-up battle only increases the chances of getting cut or knocked out, which is just what Sergei wants. Even if he loses, any damage Kharitonov can do to Nogueira gives former training partner Emelianenko an advantage in the final. And though a sambo champion, Kharitonov didn’t electrify the mat against Semmy Schilt. Semmy does present any opponent with his own unique set of physical challenges but Nogueira, like Schilt, is known for his vise-like grip on the mat. One thing is for sure, Kharitonov won’t make it easy for him to advance. Nogueira by submission in round two.
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