The 16-man field that entered the 2005 Pride Fighting Championships Middleweight (93 kilogram) Grand Prix may well be the greatest lineup of its kind in the history of the sport. With the exception of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz—they were tangling with each other in the Ultimate Fighting Championship at the same time—the bracket featured virtually every 205-pound competitor of note, including such all-time greats as Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem and Kazushi Sakuraba.
The opening round took place at Pride Total Elimination on April 23, 2005. It was a good night for the Chute Boxe academy, as its two biggest stars, Silva and Rua, advanced to the second round. It was also a harbinger of things to come. Silva advanced only after a hard-fought 20 minutes with Hidehiko Yoshida in which the older, smaller judoka fearlessly stood and traded with “The Axe Murderer.” Meanwhile, “Shogun,” Silva’s protégé and eventual grand prix winner, obliterated Jackson with soccer kicks against the ropes in under five minutes.
From there, Rua went on to win the tournament in August by smashing Overeem and Ricardo Arona in the same night to win the trophy and make his case as the top fighter in the world in his weight class. He eventually racked up a 12-1 record in Pride—the only loss was the result of a freakish arm injury against Mark Coleman—before he moved on to the UFC, where, after a rough debut, he went on to win the light heavyweight belt.