Just My Thoughts: What an event to miss

By Mike Sloan Feb 24, 2007
In the fight game, primarily mixed martial arts, there actually is no such thing as a perfect fight. One guy's stand-up isn't that good. Or maybe the ground game isn't top of the line. Possibly submission skills aren't fluid enough. Perhaps the one and only knock on a certain fighter is the lack of perfect stamina. Or that this other guy has a bad hairdo. Or that the fans just don't care for him.

Toss any two fighters into the mix and someone will find a reason as to why the fight isn't perfect. That's the primary reason why I always say one particular fight "is as close to perfect as can be made."

The same topical scenario applies to Saturday night's main event between PRIDE middleweight champion (and current pound-for-pound claimant) Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) and PRIDE 183-pound champion Dan Henderson (Pictures).

Considering the combatant's name recognition, the fight appears to be one of the best possible match-ups in a long time. However, it's not a perfect fight and here are a few reasons why.

First, Silva and Henderson's first encounter wasn't exactly the be all, end all of all MMA bouts. Sure it was entertaining, but in the almost seven full years since the Brazilian toppled the American, fight fans the world over have not salivated at the thought of Silva-Henderson part deux.

That's not to say that I am uninterested at the notion of a modern day duel between the two elite fighters. But I have seen the debates on the various Internet forums and chat rooms and I have received a few E-mails from fans somewhat complaining about PRIDE arranging the bout.

I have heard that Silva is too sloppy. Henderson is too boring. Wanderlei can't out-wrestle Hendo. And "Hollywood" won't dare to stand toe-to-toe with "The Axe Murderer."

Bah! Whatever ...

I, too, have nitpicked about why the fight isn't perfect, but that was only after I forced myself to find a few reasons and also try to see the various reader/poster's opinions. When one is asked to describe a perfect fight, one should be required to explain why. And for me, the perfect mixed martial arts contest would include two fighters who have never-ending stamina, a burning desire to win at all costs — even if it means ring death — and enough skill and experience to make the war the furthest thing from sloppy.

Oh, yeah, the two fighters have to have substantial striking ability with knockout power as well as superb grappling talent, where they can both expertly defend and apply submissions. When comparing the two fighters in question, there can't be an overwhelming edge to either man — the comparisons have to be equal.

Since a match-up like this hasn't actually existed quite yet, the best we can do is become engrossed in what will happen in the near future and anticipate fights for what they are and what they hopefully will be.

While it's not exactly the best fight or even the most demanded fight, the showdown between Silva and Henderson should be terrific. And for PRIDE to bombard Las Vegas for the second time, you almost cannot ask for a better main event.

Sure, I can and so can thousands of other kids, but selfishness and greed are two character traits I despise. I simply take Silva-Henderson II for what it is and run with it. And what this fight really is, at its core, is a splendid match-up between two popular fighters who, right now, are two of the best in the entire business. While it's not exactly the absolute greatest and magnificent fight that can ever be arranged, I don't care: it's a skirmish I cannot wait to watch.

A Japanese invasion within a Japanese invasion

It's pretty much common knowledge that the some MMA fans here in America aren't too keen on the growing number of superb fighters born and raised in the Land of the Rising Sun. Aside from the hardcore MMA fans out there, one would be hard-pressed to name any Japanese fighter whose name is not Bruce Lee — and he wasn't even Japanese.

Naturally that doesn't make the casual fight fans less intelligent or more idiotic; it just means that those casual fans of the fight game are just uninformed and PRIDE hopes to change that, starting with this weekend.

First up for the MMA giant is PRIDE lightweight champion Takanori Gomi (Pictures), clearly among the Top 10 pound-for-pound best in the sport today. For the most part, Gomi has beaten the best and his skill set ranks among the top of the elite in terms of all-around ability. Gomi prefers to strike and from a mixed martial arts-striking standpoint, "The Fireball Kid" has arguably the best boxing ability in the sport. And if his MMA boxing isn't at the top of the heap, he's at least right there near the pinnacle.

Throughout his career Gomi has scored his fair share of highlight reel knockouts — the majority against upper-tier competition. His obliterations of former UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver (Pictures), Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) and Mitsuhiro Ishida (Pictures) have made Gomi what he is today.

He's been an absolute superstar in his native Japan for quite some time and he has the fighting style to catch on here in the U.S. While it's doubtful that he'll ever reach the star status of, say, Tito Ortiz (Pictures) or Chuck Liddell (Pictures), with the proper marketing agenda PRIDE (or whichever promoter he fights for) can make Gomi a fighter who would sell a ton of tickets.

Gomi is slated to face the ultra tough and exciting UFC veteran Nick Diaz (Pictures) in what promises to be an all-out war. Diaz has been involved in some of the greatest wars in UFC history and he hopes that his PRIDE debut will not be any different. (If you haven't seen his unforgettable showdowns with Karo Parisyan (Pictures), Joe Riggs (Pictures) and Diego Sanchez (Pictures), stop reading this column right this second and rush over to our Sherdog store and buy the UFC DVDs containing said wars.)

Gomi-Diaz is a terrific fight and promises to have the dandiest fireworks show this side of Vegas on the Fourth of July. The intriguing aspect of this showdown is that Diaz stands a better-than-average chance of scoring an upset. While I don't expect Diaz to, I do believe that he'll hang tough and make Gomi earn the decision. This one will be the fight of the night without question. And since "Gomi" is an easy name to remember (two syllables, rhymes with "Romi" from Romi and Michelle's High School Reunion, a movie that is a favorite to every single fight fan), a scintillating victory over a popular UFC veteran will help aide his potential popularity.

Good move on PRIDE's part.

The other major Japanese player on the card is Hayato Sakurai (Pictures), an excellent striker who loves to stand and bang against anybody he faces. One of his major flaws is that he tends to be reckless at times and is susceptible to better all-around strikers (see his fight with Gomi).

Sakurai will have a tougher time making a mark on the American audience this weekend for a couple of reasons, as paltry as they may be. For starters, his name is difficult for many to hang on to and harder to remember than Gomi. Secondly, he is fighting the talented and vastly underrated Mac Danzig (Pictures), not exactly a household name and not even remotely as well-known as Diaz (who, in all actuality, is not exactly a Randy Couture (Pictures)).

Among the U.S. vs. Japan bouts, Danzig has a better shot of winning than any other American fighter. Forget Danzig's last loss — he wasn't even remotely prepared for it due to the fact that he already signed to fight Sakurai on this card.

Sakurai should have a tough time because Danzig likes to use his strength and is adept at submissions. Danzig isn't known as a well-versed striker in terms of knockout capability, and since Sakurai is expect Danzig to try and drag the fight onto the canvas.

I don't expect this fight to be even remotely as thrilling as Gomi-Diaz, but it should provide enough excitement to keep fans enticed and prevent them from booing.

Since it seems as though PRIDE put together a card aimed at positive experiences for the Japanese fighters, it might have been a bad decision to pit Sakurai against Danzig. I'm not going on record to predict an upset because I don't see it happening. But I see it being a technical fight that goes the distance, with Sakurai winning a unanimous decision.

PRIDE also brought in Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pictures) and Kazuo Misaki (Pictures) to take on Travis Wiuff (Pictures) and Frank Trigg (Pictures), respectively. However, Nakamura was injured and KOTC veteran James Lee replaced him. The only man out of this quartet who anybody really knows here in the States is Trigg, and he'll be the overwhelming favorite to win in the eyes of most fans for that reason alone.

To be honest, I am not terribly excited about either of these two fights, but they are intriguing enough to keep my interest relatively piqued. PRIDE was smart in pitting Misaki against the quite popular Trigg, a stellar fighter unfortunately known mostly for his losses to Matt Hughes (Pictures) and Georges St. Pierre (Pictures).

No "Great Sherdog Debate" … again

Hey, don't blame me for this one. My partner in crime, Greg Savage, is MIA yet again in terms of doing our infamous Great Sherdog Debates. He gave me this lame excuse about family stuff or something. Some story about his wife giving birth to their first child or something — whatever.

That's not good enough. Nice excuse.

Why is PRIDE 33 an event to "miss?"

I'm sure quite a few of you were scratching your heads about the title of this column. The reason I said that is even though I am the lone Las Vegas representative for Sherdog.com, I will not be attending the event live and in person.

No, I haven't been banned from media coverage: I'm simply in Chicago. What a crummy week to pull for vacation when one of the biggest shows in recent years comes to my adopted hometown. I hope the card is beyond terrible just for the sake that I won't miss anything legendary.

Sloan's PRIDE 33 Picks

Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) vs. Dan Henderson (Pictures): What an excellent fight this should be! Silva told Sherdog.com editor Josh Gross that he believes PRIDE brought him in to lose when he and Hendo first met and I can understand that. Henderson is an elite fighter. PRIDE hasn't done it this time around and one would be foolhardy to even think that here in 2007. Either way, I see Silva squeaking past Henderson via split decision. Should be a very entertaining tussle.

Takanori Gomi (Pictures) vs. Nick Diaz (Pictures): Easily the fight of the night and it could wind up being the fight of the year, solely on how both men brawl. Excellent battle. Excellent match-up. Excellent finish. My pick is Gomi by decision in an absolute war that goes down to the wire.

Hayato Sakurai (Pictures) vs. Mac Danzig (Pictures): Sakurai by decision. Should be a technical battle with ups and downs, but don't expect a clone of Frye-Goodridge or Ortiz-Frank Shamrock (Pictures). Sakurai is one of the best; Danzig is one of the best-kept secrets. Good enough fight to watch a few more times.

Frank Trigg (Pictures) vs. Kazuo Misaki (Pictures): Misaki is not well known over here in the States. Check that: Misaki is not known whatsoever here in the States. Trigg is — and not many people like the guy. I like Trigg and he's a very good fighter, however my prediction is that Misaki catches Trigg in a submission sometime in the second round, probably a guillotine.

Mauricio Rua (Pictures) vs. Alistair Overeem (Pictures): Rua has the goods to be an elite fighter but he is not quite there just yet. Overeem has the goods to be just the same, however he has been somewhat of a letdown career-wise. Either way, this should be a splendid fight, one that I see Rua winning. Rua will knockout the Dutch fighter in the second.

Rameau Theirry Sokoudjou vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures): I don't recall ever seeing Rameau fight, and if I did, that's the kind of impression he left with me. I have, however, seen most of Rogerio's career and I know enough to never bet against him. My pick is Nog by armbar in the first.

Joachim Hansen (Pictures) vs. Jason Ireland (Pictures): Poor ol' Hansen. He's my guy just because he's from Norway and he got caught in the greatest submission known to mankind: the gogoplata! He'll bounce back from that heartbreaking loss in grand style to take out King of the Cage vet Ireland in the second after an awesome battle.

Sergei Kharitonov (Pictures) vs. Michael Russow (Pictures): Kharitonov has yet to become all that he can be, but he'll at least take that next step against Russow. My firm pick is Kharitonov by spectacular first round knockout.

Travis Wiuff (Pictures) vs. James Lee: Wiuff had been training heavily for Nakamura only to have the old switch-a-roo pulled on him. He's now fighting the tough Lee in what should be a decent scrap. Wiuff's experience in big shows and overall number of fights will lead him toward victory, probably by decision.

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