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PRIDE: FINAL CONFLICT 2005


Guest TheShawshankRudotion
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Guest TheShawshankRudotion

?Fighting Fate?

Fedor vs. Cro Cop

PRIDE: Final Conflict 2005

Sunday, August 28th, 9:00pm EST

 

This Sunday, on Pay Per View, two of the top heavyweight fighters on the planet will go head-to-head in one of the biggest fights in Mixed Martial Arts history.

 

History.

 

It?s funny, I find myself thinking a lot about MMA history and what has led to these two men going into battle. It?s not just their history, but THE history of the sport that has lead to this Sunday. The evolution of the heavyweight title and the men who have competed for it is a tale woven in triumphant victories and tragic defeats, and begins with a fighter by the name of Mark ?The Hammer? Coleman.

 

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Coleman?s debut at UFC X represented a change in the guard for MMA.

 

To me, Mark Coleman was the first undisputed Heavyweight champion. The title ?undisputed? is important, because there isn?t and hasn?t been an international governing body and between the two top fighting organizations, PRIDE and the UFC, there have been several champions who laid claim to the top spot in the respective companies, but not to the undisputed crown. In fact, to this point, only 2 or 3 men can lay claim to that honour. With his ?ground and pound? technique, where he used his superior wrestling skills, brute power, and combinations of punches, forearms, elbows and headbuts, Coleman took the UFC by storm. By defeating the two top heavyweight fighters in the mid-90?s (Don Frye, and Dan Severn, the only two ?Ultimate Ultimate? champions in history) with ease, The Hammers claim to the undisputed title was, well, undisputable. For a while, at least.

 

Then came a kickboxer by the name of Maurice Smith.

 

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Smith, a K-1 Kickboxer, was given little chance to beat the dominant Coleman

 

Smith had been training with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka and Frank Shamrock and had developed with their help ( using TK?s guard technique and Shamrocks timing and conditioning) a way to "solve" Coleman on the ground so Smith would have the opportunity to get the fight standing and be able to win the fight, as Joe Rogan would say, ?In his world?. This match is a pivotal moment in MMA history, as it reflected an emerging trend in ?cross training? with three very different, and well-known fighters, and showed that indeed, a Striker can defeat a Grappler. The fight was decided in the first few minutes, as Coleman got Smith down and started to hammer away. However, Smith was cagey and able to block and avoid the majority of Colemans strikes and weathered the storm. He was able to ?slip out the backdoor? and got up and from there went on to win the fight by decision.

 

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Coleman offered up little competition after his initial ground attack failed against Smith

 

Coleman, a man who did not know defeat at that point, went on a downward spiral - losing two more fights to up-and-coming fighters in Pete Williams and Pedro Rizzo. He later went on to PRIDE and became the first ever Grand Prix champion in 2000. Smith, on the other hand, went on to lose his title to Randy Couture. Couture?s reign as champion was short-lived as he vacated the title and pursued other ventures. A heavyweight tournament led to Bas Rutten vs. Kevin Randleman and a controversial decision put the belt around Ruttens waist. Fate, as it tends to do with the UFC heavyweight title, put it in limbo as Rutten retired after his win. The constant ?bounding around? made it hard to find a clear champion; the title ?undisputed? was now in dispute.

 

A protege of Coleman, Kevin ?The Monster? Randleman looked to bring some stability to the languishing division. He defeated the three-men who had beaten his mentor, and his raw, natural, talent along with limitless potential made the future look bright for the Ohio-native. A new hope, perhaps?

 

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Did someone say ?Natural??

 

Randy Couture, after having a failed Olympic bid and little international fighting success, returned to the UFC to regain the title he never lost. He wasn?t supposed to win, but the sayings ?Never bet against Randy Couture? and ?Never bet on Kevin Randleman? were defined this night. The year 2000 also had the aforementioned Grand Prix tournament in PRIDE, the largest of its kind to that point, and Coleman?s ?comeback?. Still, there was no one fighter who could lay claim to being the ?Undisputed Heavyweight Champion?.

 

The Natural was able to keep the title longer than most (1+ year) but only defended it successfully against one man. His second opponent, Josh Barnett, was able to take the title from him and then went on to vacate it due to a negative drug test. Ricco Rodriquez also failed to deliver as champion, losing the strap in his first defence to an unranked Tim Sylvia.

 

However, during this time frame (2001 and 2002), a light emerged from the darkness and brought balance to the division. His name was (and still is, amazingly) Antonio Rodrigo ?Minotauro? Nogueira.

 

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Nogueira, the second Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in MMA history

 

Debuting at PRIDE 15, Nogueira defeated perennial gatekeeper Gary Goodridge and then went on to face Grand Prix champion Mark Coleman at PRIDE 16. Both wins came easily for the Brazilian fighter as his trusty triangle choke was able to garner tap-outs from both men in short order and set him up for the inaugural PRIDE Heavyweight title match at PRIDE 17 against Heath Herring. Herring earned his spot by defeating former top fighter Mark Kerr, as well as Enson Inoue and Tom Erikson and proved himself to be a worthy contender. The match itself was an all-time classic, with Nogueira ultimately dominating the fight, but Herring still putting in an excellent showing of submission defence and heart.

 

It was, however, his fight against Bob Sapp which solidified his standing as an undisputed champion.

 

The fight itself featured incredible strength from Sapp and indestructible resolve from Nogueira and remains a favourite by many. Nog endured a severe beating and was able to weather the storm and apply an armbar for the win. If he couldn?t be defeated by Sapp, he couldn?t be defeated. Period. Semmy Shilt and Dan Henderson (the only man to defeat Nog prior to their PRIDE 24 fight) were no match for the champion in their respective bouts, and things didn?t look good for Minotauros next opponent, a Russian by the name of Fedor Emelianenko.

 

Fedor became the top contender after laying a brutal beating on the man who took Nogueira the full 20 minutes in Heath Herring. However, some thought Fedor was ducking Nogueira after pulling out of their scheduled fight at PRIDE 24 claiming an injury. Plus, if Sapp and Coleman couldn?t defeat Nogueira, what could Fedor do? The fight was a drubbing. Fedor slipped all of Nogueiras submission attempts like he was a white belt and crushed him with thunderous bombs from the guard. Nogueira - the man who was heads-and-shoulders above every other heavyweight in the world - was humbled. The look on his face after the fight told the story of a man who simply could not win, no matter what he tried. However, despite this, I don?t think Fedor could lay claim to being Undisputed.

 

If ?he beat him and that guy beat the other guy? were enough to lay claim to being the worlds top fighter, then somewhere along the way Enson Inoue and Kazuyuki Fujita were the worlds top fighters. Ric Flair?s axiom of ?To be the man, you gotta beat the man? does not reign true. However, Matt Hughes? ?To be called champion, you have to defend your title? does. To say Fedor?s quality of opposition was lacking would be a bit of an understatement. Though Fujita and Goodridge are respectable fighters, they were not championship-level contenders, and it seemed more like PRIDE wanting to pad their new champions record than put out any serious challengers. Meanwhile, as Fedor was facing Fujita and Big Daddy, a K-1 fighter called ?Cro Cop? was making an impression (think of the start of Rocky III with Cro Cop in the role of Clubber Lang). With two brutal finishes of once-top heavyweights in Igor Vovchanchyn and Heath Herring, Mirko Filipovic was earning praise from fans across the MMA world who were calling for title fights with Fedor. The fight was set for fall of 2003, but was quickly called off after Fedor claimed a hand injury and could not fight.

 

PRIDE, however, was determined to have their title match and put Cro Cop and Nogueira in an ?interim? title bout. The championship would be in dispute. The goal was to set up Cro Cop vs. Fedor, however fate, or to be more accurate, Nogueira, decided it wasn?t time yet and their Final Conflict 2003 fight would go down as my personal Match of the Year. Nogueria showed the warrior-spirit that won him the Sapp fight, and after taking bone breaking punches and gut-busting kicks, he was able to come through with an arm-bar victory. With Fedor/Nog being the next logical fight on the agenda, PRIDE would have to think of another way to get Cro Cop and Fedor in the ring.

 

The Heavyweight Grand Prix consisted of 16 fighters. Half (Nogueira, Fedor, Cro Cop, Herring, Kharitonov, Coleman, Randleman, Shilt) could say they deserved to be there, the other half (Giant Silva, Sentoryu, Gan McGee, Ogawa...) could not. No matter, it was clear the cream would eventually rise to the top. In the first round, Fedor was set to face Mark Coleman and Cro Cop was put up against Kevin Randleman. The goal was to eventually put the two fighters against each other, but fate stepped in once again and delayed their confrontation in the form of knockout blow from The Monster. Fedor, on the other hand, won his fight masterfully with an armbar from the guarded position.

 

PRIDE wanted to see if lightening could strike twice and set Randleman vs. Fedor in the quarter-finals of the tournament. For a moment it appeared to be true as Randleman crushed Fedors head with an awe-inspiring suplex/driver combination that would have paralysed any normal man. Not only did Fedor recover quickly from the move, but ended up finishing the fight within seconds of reversing positions and applying a kimura. It was his matches against Coleman and Randleman where Fedor truly showed signs of being the undisputed heavyweight champion.

 

The finals of the Grand Prix between Fedor and Nogueira took place in August of 2004. Though Filipovic was no longer in title contention, PRIDE tried to add more motivation for Fedor to fight Cro Cop by putting his brother, Alexander Emelianenko in the ring with the Croatian fighter during the same event (the fight ended with Mirko kicking Alexes head off). The finals, unfortunately, were delayed until New Years Eve due to an cut caused by an accidental headbutt. The match would not only determine the Tournament champion, but the Undisputed PRIDE Heavyweight champion as well.

 

This time, Fedor not only dominated Nogueira, he did so in a completely different fashion from their first meeting. Rather than staying in Nogueiras guard, Fedor opted to keep the fight standing and score with huge punches and numerous takedowns. At the same event, Cro Cop managed to avenge his loss to Randleman by winning with a guillotine choke. A match previous, Mirko defeated Josh Barnett, who had remained unbeaten since his victory over Randy Couture. This put Cro Cop in title contention with Fedor.

 

But before Fedor could face Cro Cop, he had to quell a demon that had plagued him for years. The only loss on his record was a cut-stoppage from an illegal elbow strike from Tsuyoshi Kohsaka years previous in the RINGS fighting promotion. In my opinion, that fight should be stricken from his record due to the nature of the incident, despite this, Fedor still managed to get his win back by obliterating Kohsaka causing doctors to stop the fight in the first round. An event earlier, Cro Cop beat Mark ?The Hammer? Coleman by TKO after Coleman was unable to take the kickboxer down and could not defend from Mirko?s punching onslaught.

 

So with everything out of the way, the fight was booked for August. Fedor vs. Cro Cop, finally.

 

This fight is similar to Coleman/Smith in many ways. Fedor is a world-class grappler having won world titles in both sambo and judo, and uses ground and pound as his primary weapon. Cro Cop is a K-1 kickboxer who has worked on wrestling and ground skills to support his striking. This fight will also be decided in the first few minutes, however, this time Cro Cop is in Colemans position and Fedor is in Smiths'. If Fedor lasts more than five minutes in the ring with Cro Cop, it will mean that he has found a way to avoid getting hit with Mirko's deadly kicks and punches. He will have weathered the storm which will set up opportunities for takedowns and submissions. If he is unable to "solve" Cro Cop, then it will mean a quick night for the champion.

 

Aspects of the fight game like takedowns, sprawls, strategy, submissions, blocking, rushing, etc. have been discussed for 2 years. There is little more that can be said about the dynamics of each fighter and their styles in this fight, so the intricaces of this fight and what both men need to do to win will be left for the message boards. All I will say is this....

 

Through-out their careers, Emelianenko and Filipovic have faced the same challenges (Nogueira, Randleman, Coleman, Herring, Fujita) with much different results. As much as fate has kept them apart, it has also been able to connect them, not only to each other but to the history that has guided them along their paths.

 

Cro Cop has seen his ups and downs, and after all he has been through, after all the opponents and controversy, his 2 year quest to become PRIDE Heavyweight Champion will end this Sunday. He has defeated Fedor's friends and family, and now it is time to see if he can handle the man himself.

 

Fedor is one win away from becoming the 3rd Undisputed Heavyweight Champion in history. Though I do not believe he fears Cro Cop, there are those who do and that puts his position as Top Fighter in doubt. He needs to end those doubts.

 

This fight is about history. The history of each fighter, the history of the prize they fight for, and the history they are about to make.

 

Who do I think will win?

 

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Do I need to say any more?

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Guest Cam Chaos

Finally the fight has arrived.

 

I've been of two minds about betting on this event as the three fights up for selection (Arona vs Wanderlei, Overeem vs Shogun, Fedor vs Mirko) are all very close. Overeem's guillotine shut down the experienced combat sambo vet in Igor and got the tap from Vitor, a BJJ black belt. Arona and Wand both dislike each other and will go all out, however Arona's wrestling and improved GnP is the real question in my mind. If Arona can get in the same position Rampage did at the end of the first round of their second fight, I doubt Wand could escape from Arona's mount as while Wand is a world class fighter, he is not a world class grappler whereas Arona is. Fedor vs Mirko really just comes down to Fedor being able to protect his head and ribs and taking the fight to the ground. Fedor is a master of sport sambo and judo black belt with evil GnP, if Mirko went out from Randleman's blows he will likely go out from Fedor's and Fedor has more grappling credentials to control him if it does hit the mat. by the same token though, an upkick from Mirko smashed Sakuraba's eye socket so I don't think Fedor can play the same games with Mirko that he did with Noguiera.

 

It should be an interesting night to say the least.

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Guest Famous Mortimer

I disagree with the comment in the first post about Fedor not being an "undisputed" champion- while UFC has had several champs in the time Fedor has held the belt in Pride, and Cro Cop has lost twice. So Fedor has completely and utterly dominated every single competition he's had since coming into Pride, and is the best heavyweight in the world. Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's fight, he's earned the right to be called the best HW in the world for several years.

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Guest Cam Chaos

He does have a more legit claim to being an undisputed champion than his UFC equivalent in Arlovski, who won the title without having to fight the previous champ in Mir at all. He's won al of his fights clean and dominated the decisions against Noguiera. He is undefeated in PRIDE and dominated TK in their second match, which thankfully lasted a lot longer than their first. I was concerned at the time TK might have been able to reopen the cut from the second Noguiera/Fedor fight at the HW GP but it was the exact opposite as Fedor busted TK open with a gushing cut that made the doctor stop the fight after the first round.

 

Both guys are capable of winning this fight however Fedor probably had half the Vos Gym lining up one by one to try kick his head off, Hoost included probably. It'd be insane to not train to defend the high kick which is pretty much the only asset Mirko has over Fedor in terms of ability. Fedor is a decent boxer, skilled grappler, dominating wrestler and judo practitioner with great mount control, awesome GnPer and continually improving kickboxer. Mirko is a top level kickboxer with improving ground control with a good sprawl. The fight could end up looking like Aleks vs Cro Cop or laternatively Randleman vs Cro Cop 1, we'll just have to wait and see.

 

Incidentally, I'm off to train with Sperry and Noguiera in Spain on Tuesday. YAY!

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Guest TheShawshankRudotion

In my mind, Fedor was (before the article) the best heavyweight in the world. I think no one would doubt that, since he handled Nogueira -who was unquestionably the top fighter in the world- twice. However, there was still that nagging question about Cro Cop. There was doubt. Not in my mind, but in the minds of many people there certainly was. The title "undisputed" to me means unquestionable. When Mark Coleman was champion in the UFC, if you took a look at the landscape of MMA at the time and ask "who could beat him" the list would come up with no names. His two closest competitors at the time were Don Frye and Dan Severn and he destroyed them. When Nogueira took on Bob Sapp - a guy who clearly out-weighted and out-powered him - and WON, the question of "who could beat him" was answered: no one. Up to this point, "who could beat Fedor" had someone on the list, and it was Cro Cop. But Fedor not only took Cro Cops best shots, but he shot back and he didn't just beat Cro Cop in terms of rendering a favourable decision in his favour, but he mentally BROKE Cro Cop because by the end of that fight Cro Cop was backing away and wanted nothing to do with the champ. No questions now. Fedor is Undisputed.

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