Firstly, anybody following this? Pride is the largest MMA org in the world, lightyears ahead of the UFC, really, though they get precious little exposure in North America.
Anyway, a few brief thoughts:
Cro Cop absolutely owning Yoshida was a big surprise for me -- as amazing as Cro Cop is, I really kind of felt that one of the world's very best judoka would give him more trouble than he did. I mean, high kicks vs. a judo specialist? Recipe for some really interesting results. The results were interesting, all right, but in all the wrong ways for Yoshida. Instead of head hunting, Cro Cop simply chopped him down with vicious leg kicks. Good strategy and, in the end, a a punishing loss for Yoshida.
The rest of the card pretty much ended up how I had expected, with Wanderlei Silva cracking the concrete noggin' of Fujita and all in all just showing why he's the best LHW in the world; Barnett using smarts and technical skill to stop Mark Hunt (the one guy whom I felt would be trouble for both Silva and Cro Cop, having beaten each in the past); and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira simply proving the better, more rounded jitsuka against a fellow BJJ practictioner in Fabricio Werdum.
Werdum is an interesting one now, as he basically hung with one of the most dominant heavyweights in the world -- perhaps THE most dominant outside of Fedor Emelianenko. In a year or two, this guy could be deadly. He trains with Cro Cop, so you can pretty much be assured that his striking will improve by leaps and bounds. Tie that in with world class BJJ, and 6'4" 240 lbs of muscle, and you've got a fantastic recipe for success.
Anyway, the rest of the OWGP should prove interesting, especially with the very real possibility of a rematch between Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva.
If you've never seen Pride before, guys, splurge on the PPV. Seriously, you won't regret it. And if Cro Co and Silva meet... oh yes, you will buy the PPV, oh yes, you will. Those two went to war the first time around, and the second should prove no different.
I thought it was a very good show, with nothing too unexpected happening but solid action throughout the card. Out of the six or so Pride events I've been ordering with friends to try and convert them to MMA, this is the card they were most into.
Only weak match was Barnett/Hunt, but everyone knew that Barnett wasn't going to dick around and try to trade. The real disappointment came from me talking Hunt up as one of my favorite fighters, and to not count him out, etc.
I saw some complaining yesterday on other forums about the officiating (mostly regarding stoppages, the Vitor fight, Silva/Fujita, Crocop/Yosh), but I thought the show was called sharply, with quick resets and stand-ups and good use of carding. Silva/Fujita probably should've been stopped a few seconds or so earlier.
Speaking of which, that's the last time I underestimate Silva (too much time over at Sherdog, I guess). I really thought Fujita had a good chance to utilize his weight advantage and bull his way to a win, or connect with one of his rights while weathering Silva's agression with his iron chin. Silva again shows he can hang with the heavyweights, and he's back as my #1 LHW.
I agree with you on Werdum. If he continues to improve I could see him being a top 5 heavyweight for years to come.
Regarding the rest of the tourney, whomever emerges to face Fedor at new years is going to look VERY strong and should make for an exciting remainder of the year. I'm pulling for Silva b/c the matchup is fresh and the hype would be off the charts.
My sentiments are more or less in line: pretty good show, results were predictable but the fights were exciting nonetheless. And while I was expecting Silva to beat Fujita, I didn't think it would be quite like that. I'm in the camp that thinks Yoshida got a little too much leeway in terms of the stoppage, though. Not really sure what was going on, there. The little cheapshots at Rampage and Sakuraba to hype Silva seemed somewhat unusual for Pride, though. Not their usual professionalism.
My guess is that Final Conflict will see Cro Cop/Silva II and Barnett/Nog. I have to think Silva's got the edge: he's Cro Cop's least favorite type of opponent, the kind that presses him and keeps up a more intense pace, rather than letting him circle and pick them apart from a distance. Silva needs to stick in close, back Mirko into a corner and just unload as many salvos as he can, as I don't think he's good enough on the ground to impress, and without that intensity the judges aren't going to give it to him.
Nog/Barnett would be tougher. On paper Nog seems to have the skill to take it, but Barnett's shown a much different energy than I'm used to seeing him put in, recently. I don't have much more than a hunch behind it, but I think Barnett would manage to eke out a win over Nog, but not by much.
In any case, I'm definitely interested in how this will all go down.