PRIDE Grand Prix 2004: Critical Countdown

Ricardo Arona vs. Quinton Jackson

Jun 18, 2004
"The Brazilian Tiger" Ricardo Arona vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

RICARDO ARONA: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu stylist; RINGS King of Kings 2001 Middleweight Class Championship; 2001 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling Absolute & 2001Under 98kg Class division champion; 2000 Abu Dhabi Under 98kg (under 216lbs) division champion; trains with Murilo Bustamante, Ricardo Liborio, Mario Sperry, Rodrigo and Rogerio Nogueira and the rest of the Brazilian Top Team; with a record of 8-1-0 in MMA; making his fourth appearance (3-0-0) in the ring of the PFC.

HISTORY: Ricardo Arona made his open rules MMA debut in Pride 16. I had seen this guy tear through numerous quality opponents in RINGS, including Hiromitsu Kanehara, Jeremy Horn (twice) and Gustavo "Ximu" Machado. Ricardo won the RINGS King of Kings 2001 Middleweight Class Championship with the win over Machado in MMA and won the 2001 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling Absolute & 2001Under 98kg Class division championships and the 2000 Abu Dhabi Under 98kg (under 216 pounds) division championship. At Pride 16, Arona fought a back and forth battle with Lion's Den fighter Guy Mezger. Ricardo pulled out the decision win and had survived his first real MMA bout. At Pride 20, Arona looked like he had worked a lot of the kinks out of his game. For three rounds he and Dan Henderson grappled with no clear cut advantage going to either fighter. It is likely his takedowns were the overriding factor that gave the win to Arona but a rematch down the road is certainly a possibility. Then in his most recent bout he went the distance with Chute Boxe fighter Murilo "Ninja" Rua.

Arona/Andrei Kopylov: Ricardo began his MMA career fighting in the RINGS organization in 2000. He missed the first King of Kings tournament and took part in the first Millennium Combine event against Pride veteran Andrei Kopylov. Ricardo pounded Andrei, even rear mounting him and swinging free, but he could not put the Sambo stylist away. Arona took the decision.

Arona/Fedor Emelianenko: Emelianenko entered the RINGS King of Kings 2000 tournament and met Brazilian Top Team member Ricardo Arona in the opening round. I had already seen Ricardo beat Jeremy Horn and school some other RINGS veterans. Then Fedor shows up and totally frustrates him. I have to say if the bout had been under the more open-rules of the PFC or UFC, Fedor would've KO'd Arona. I specifically counted the takedowns Ricardo had against Fedor. He had two. Not in the first round, or in each round. He had two in the entire 15-minute fight. Emelianenko showed solid ability and took a unanimous decision victory.

Arona/Guy Mezger: In the opening round Ricardo kept his chin up like a traditional jiu-jitsu fighter and remained somewhat passive. He couldn't take Mezger down easily and when he did get him down, he couldn't keep him there. Mezger escaped at will by simply punching out of it. Arona wanted to stay on the ground and when he was standing he looked wild. He had a flurry here and there. Even after he got kicked in the throat in the second round and went to the ground, he applied a kneebar. He gave up on it and looked tired, sometimes hanging over the ropes. Ironically, Guy gassed and Ricardo looked fresh in the third round. Arona got the takedowns and was striking well in the guard. He won the round and in turn won the fight.

Arona/Dan Henderson: They exchange standing and Arona bounces Henderson off the ropes and they fight from Henderson's guard. Ricardo stayed on top but had major difficulties trying to pass Dan's guard. Henderson reverses position and stays on top until he works to his knees and drops a few knee strikes in Arona's face. They stand and Arona strikes aggressively but Henderson slams him to the mat and sits in side control. They struggle to get back up and Arona catches Henderson with a left that drops him to the mat. Ricardo fights from the top and escapes an armbar before securing the mount. Henderson tries to reverse position but Arona stays on top until they stand to trade again. Arona hits the mat and Henderson works the top position until the bell. Henderson tags Arona to open the second round and Ricardo takes him down. They stay on the mat for several minutes until forced to stand up. Henderson attempts a guillotine choke but Arona takes him down again. They stop the bout momentarily to check a cut on Arona's eyebrow and go back to the mat until the round ends. In the third, Arona strikes early on the feet and forces Henderson to the mat. Ricardo gets full mount but Dan grabs Arona's head and rolls him. Henderson loses the headlock and Arona seizes his back. He sinks the choke but Henderson is able to scramble to his back. Arona stays in mount for the rest of the round. It was as close as a fight could be but the judges award Arona a majority decision.

Arona/Murilo Rua: "Ninja" opens with a flying knee but Arona ducks under it and lets him drop to the mat. They get back up but Arona brings Rua back down and takes side control, eventually obtaining half mount and landing strikes to Rua's face. Rua eventually gets back up but Arona controls the action standing. They trade strikes in the clinch and after a restart Ricardo brings him down and fights in Murilo's guard. They battle back and forth and Arona seizes Rua's back. "Ninja" rolls and puts Arona in guard. Several minutes go by and they are stood up and yellow-carded for inactivity. Rua cracks Arona in the head with a roundhouse kick but Ricardo is still able to keep it together and bring Murilo to the mat. Arona attempts an ankle lock as the bell sounds. Ricardo is aggressive to start the second round, striking and throwing Murilo to the mat. Arona stays on top until they stand and he drops to guard "Ninja" gets busy striking from inside Arona's guard. The round ends with Arona on the mat, beckoning Rua to join him. Ricardo starts round three with a roundhouse to the body-reverse roundhouse to the head kicking combination that almost scores. Arona gets the takedown and they fight inside Rua's guard. Ricardo lands a short knee to the face as Murilo tries to stand. Rua scores a takedown but they are back up and before can do it again Arona rushes him and land one himself. The final minutes are spent with Arona on top and in control. Ricardo won a unanimous decision.

Also worthy of note: Arona battled Jeremy Horn (win/decision, win/decision), Hiromitsu Kanehara (win/submission), Gustavo Machado (win/KO).

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: Arona is a seasoned grappler. He works the ground like a technician and can usually control a bout on the mat. He has had issues with stamina in the past and has been injury plagued as of late (he hasn't fought since November '02) but he is supposed to be healthy now. His striking skills showed great improvement against Henderson and Rua. Ricardo's weakness, according to most fans, is that he has a boring style. He may not be the most exciting fighter, but I'd be lying if I said I found either the Henderson or Rua fights boring.

HOW HE CAN BEAT JACKSON: On the mat. Arona can stand but it isn't a good idea with someone like this. If Ricardo works his game and is able to take "Rampage" down and keep him down, he could catch him in a transitional submission.

QUINTON JACKSON: American cross-trained wrestler; known as "Rampage"; street brawler; KOTC veteran; trained by Colin Oyama and works out with UFC veterans Fabiano Iha and David Roberts and members of Team Oyama as well as members of Team Punishment; recognized as top contender for the PFC middleweight title; with a record of 18-3-0 in MMA; making his ninth appearance (6-2-0) in the ring of the PFC.

HISTORY: Quinton Jackson began fighting in his home state of Memphis at the ISCF. He used his wrestling skills combined with his penchant for street brawling and got himself noticed. Soon he was in the King of the Cage and Gladiator Challenge shows before attracting the attention of Pride in July of 2001. His debut was at Pride 15: "Raging Rumble" against legendary submission grappler Kazushi Sakuraba and he's been a fan favorite in Japan and in the sport of MMA in general ever since. Jackson returned to Pride 17: "Championship Chaos" to face Yuki Ishikawa and wasted little time, knocking out the Japanese wrestler early in the first round. At Pride 18: "Cold Fury 2", Quinton faced Takada Dojo fighter Daijiro Matsui but an unintentional knee to the groin by Jackson ended their bout early and forced a disqualification stoppage. Quinton beat Pride veteran Alexander Otsuka in an MMA match at a "Battlarts vs. The World" show in Japan (also featured Daijiro Matsui vs. Shannon Ritch and Bas Rutten vs. Carl Malenko in pro wrestling matches). At Pride 20: "Armed and Ready", Jackson stopped K-1 fighter Masaaki Satake with a hard slam at seven minutes into the bout. Quinton then traveled back to the U.S. and fought in the KOTC 13: "Revolution" show against WVC/IFC veteran Sean Gray. Gray hung with Jackson for two rounds and exchanged strikes before being slammed and eventually pounded into the canvas early in round three. From there it was back to Pride and against his toughest challenge in MMA to that point. Jackson pulled the upset defeating Russian striker and longtime Pride veteran Igor Vovchanchyn with a huge slam. He controlled the powerful Russian on the ground and kept him from unloading on the feet while displaying his own punching prowess on the mat. Then Jackson fought Kevin Randleman at Pride 25: "Body Blow". Quinton eventually finished Kevin with a knee to the face in the first round. He beat Russian Top Team fighter Mikhail Illoukhine at Pride 26 with strikes. Quinton defeated Murilo Bustamante and Chuck Liddell in the 2003 Total Elimination tournament but fell to the hands of eventual tournament winner Wanderlei Silva. Then last New Year's Eve, Quinton beat Ikuhisa Minowa with strikes in the second round. Jackson's WWE-style street-persona coupled with his legitimate fighting skills guarantee an entertaining performance every time.

Jackson/Marvin Eastman: Quinton was able to withstand punishing leg kicks and a head kick or two but could not pull out the win in the final seconds. In his effort he was able to reverse the ripped Thai fighter/wrestler and make the bout go the distance, showing commentators and fans alike he had something to offer to this sport.

Jackson/Kazushi Sakuraba: He got his shot at the big time at Pride 15: "Raging Rumble" when he was given the opportunity to fight the number one submission fighter in the world, Kazushi Sakuraba. It was Sak's first fight back since being assaulted by Vanderlei Silva at Pride 13. Jackson fought well for a number of minutes, slamming Sak and roughing him up but the Japanese superstar would not be denied. Kazushi choked Quinton out at around the six-minute mark. Quinton's style and American "street-wise" persona made him an instant hit with the Japanese crowds. They love the showmen.

Jackson/Igor Vovchanchyn: And in his most recent and most impressive appearance, Jackson pulled the upset defeating Igor Vovchanchyn with a huge slam. The bout had to be restarted a number of times for inactivity but once Jackson had the opportunity to slam Igor, he did. He controlled the powerful Ukrainian on the ground and kept him from unloading on the feet while displaying his own punching prowess on the mat. I'd never seen Jackson hit anyone so hard before. Vovchanchyn may be a bit long in the tooth (he's fought over 50 MMA bouts) but he is still Igor and Jackson controlled the bout.

Jackson/Kevin Randleman: Jackson fought Kevin Randleman at Pride 25: Body Blow. Quinton got early takedown and Kevin had a hard time bringing Quinton down for the entire bout. "Rampage" was the busier fighter in the clinch, repeatedly throwing knees to the body. Randleman kept working for takedowns and eating knees to the midsection. They were broken up a number of times for inactivity in the clinch and after yellow cards were distributed, they were all business. Randleman landed a few shots in the exchange but Jackson cupped his head to deliver the knee flush in the face and pounded out the win when he dropped to the mat.

Jackson/Mikhail Illoukhine: This was a bout few felt Quinton should've accepted. It was dangerous to take on a submission fighter whom he was unfamiliar with when he had been preparing for Wanderlei Silva. But being the game fighter that he is, Jackson battled Illoukhine and was able to pound the Russian with strikes and finish him in the first round.

Jackson/Murilo Bustamante: Jackson avoids an armbar early and slams Bustamante. Murilo gets a takedown and eventually sinks a guillotine but Jackson avoids disaster. He gets a break to recover while they adjust Jackson's shorts but they put Quinton back down in guard. They go back and forth, exchanging on the feet and going to the mat but nothing serious to end round one. The second round saw Jackson landing solid leg kicks and dominating the stand-up battle. Murilo tried to work the mat but he lost the round. The final round was a repeat of the second with Murilo desperately trying to keep the bout grounded but Jackson controlling throughout. It was a good performance by Murilo on short notice but not enough to win.

Jackson/Liddell: Liddell "didn't stick to the gameplan" if you ask Dana White and was rocked by Tito Ortiz training partner Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the semifinal round of the Pride Final Conflict 2003 Middleweight Tournament. Chuck stood and struck with Jackson but virtually abandoned his kicks. Once on the mat, Jackson dominated position and punished Chuck until the bout was stopped at 3:10 into the second round.

Jackson/Silva: From the clinch, Jackson hoisted Silva in the air to employ one of his patented slams but Wanderlei held on and secured a choke. Though it wasn't going to end the bout, it was enough to keep Jackson from slamming him. Quinton was able to pass guard and land a knee that opened Silva up but the fighters were eventually stood up giving the advantage back to Wanderlei. The Brazilian took the opportunity afforded to him and exploded all over the American wrestler, finishing him with a barrage of knees that sent a smiling Jackson to the canvas and let the world know who the No. 1 205-pound fighter in the world was.

Also worthy of note: Jackson battled Alexander Otsuka (win/TKO), Daijiro Matsui (loss/DQ), Masaaki Satake (win/TKO) and Ikuhisa Minowa (win/TKO).

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES: Quinton has solid wrestling skills. He can avoid the takedown better than most and can control where the bout will take place. Jackson is also an accomplished striker. He has added depth to his G-n-P game on the ground with serious striking ability. The punching display against was very impressive. His big heart and unwavering determination to win doesn't hurt either. If he has a weakness, it is his lack of submission ability. Jackson doesn't even seem to care about them. However, his submission defense looked very solid against Bustamante. Right now he can get away with it because the rest of his game is so good it may play a role in how far he gets down the road.

HOW HE CAN BEAT ARONA: Standing. Quinton has shown his great stand-up striking and devastating slams. With Arona's prowess on the mat, he needs to keep this on the feet. He should be able to avoid the takedown, set Ricardo up in the corner for one of his famous slams and get ready for a rematch with Wanderlei.

MY PICK: Jackson. If Quinton can avoid the endless barrage of takedown attempts by Ricardo, this bout will go just like the Randleman fight went. Arona is tough and has improved in recent bouts but he has been away for quite a while and it is liable to hurt him. I feel it will be Jackson by KO from strikes late in the first round.
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