PRIDE 32 “The Real Deal” Preview
October 19, 2006
By Matt Boone for MMANews.com
Dreamstage Entertainment will make their first live impression on the United States market this Saturday night, October 21, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company will promote their first live MMA event in the U.S. in history with PRIDE 32 “The Real Deal”, an eight-match card featuring a variety of top PRIDE fighters mixed with some of their top American fighters in their first completely live pay-per view event in U.S. history as well.
There is a debate among most fans in MMA forums across the internet regarding whether or not this card is up to expectations for a PRIDE show in the U.S., something long time “hardcore” fans of the sport have been anticipating for years. Personally, I think the company has obviously had more stellar cards in the past, but considering what they have to work with (coming off a tournament where many of their top stars competed, along with injuries, contract/visa problems, etc.) and what they're intentions are along with what their intentions should be, the card is at least solid, and definitely the best non-UFC line-up in the history of U.S. MMA events.
With that being said, let's take a look at the line-up (at least how it stands as of this writing) for this Saturday's big event.
Phil Baroni vs. Yosuke Nishijima
Glad to see PRIDE fit Phil Baroni onto the card, he's the perfect personality with the current popularity of the sport in the U.S. to showcase on your show. His fighting style and pre/post-fight antics make him someone you either love or hate, no in between – and as Tito Ortiz has shown time and time again, that's a good marketing skill to have in your favor. Nishijima brings Baroni a style that with his MMA experience, should be an easy win. Take the boxer down, Baroni is no slouch in the wrestling department to say the least, and pound him out or take the submission if it's there. However, Baroni is a proud guy and confident as well, so we could see an old-fashioned slug fest, something most Baroni fight-fans have grown accustomed to over the years. Nishijima will have the size advantage, the technique advantage on the feet and a nod in the cardio department. Baroni has pretty much everything on else on his side. Blend that up, how does it come out? We'll find out, but I would expect what probably most do, a quick Baroni stoppage early – if not, Nishijima's chances increase as the seconds on the clock tick away.
Robbie Lawler vs. Joey Villasenor
Robbie Lawler is another perfect fighter for PRIDE to showcase on an American card, and I was actually surprised to see his name when they first began announcing bouts for the show. Villasenor is getting his second crack in PRIDE – this time in his home country, after dropping a split decision to the tough Ryo Chonan in the Bushido Welterweight tournament this past June. He has already gained another win since that fight at King of the Cage in July, and prior to the Chonan fight, Villasenor was riding a fifteen-fight win-streak with only two coming by way of decision. Lawler is coming off a submission loss to top-ranked Jason “Mayhem” Miller in August at ICON Sport in Hawaii. Prior to that, Lawler was 3-0 with 2 KOs of Falaniko Vitale and an armbar submission over Jeremy Brown, all in the two years spent since being released by the UFC. This fight matches a powerful striker with good wrestling against a well-rounded veteran finally getting his shot on the big stage. One would assume a similar result to the above fight, if Lawler doesn't get him early Villasenor's chances improve with each second. And in this case, more definitively so as Villasenor has more ways he can win the fight.
Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Travis Galbraith
Should be an easy win for Nakamura, based on statistics and level of opposition up to this point for both guys. However, Galbraith is definitely a question mark to most outside of Canada, despite some recent performances in King of the Cage. Nakamura is a solid veteran who's seen it all and been in the ring with the best, so Galbraith is going to have to be one hell of a diamond in the rough to just blow through Nakamura. So in regards to the fight, this much tells us unless Nakamura is overwhelmingly better than him, which is possible but doubtful, this will be a decent fight with Nakamura expected to win and inside the distance. I don't see any reason that won't happen, outside the usual intangibles in the fight game.
Dan Henderson vs. Vitor Belfort
According to the poll on the front page, this fight is the most anticipated fight on the card outside of the main event itself among all of the votes casted in the past 48 hours. And for good reason too. Belfort is the bigger guy, and despite what most think should win the fight. However, Henderson always finds a way to grind his fights out, usually going the distance, and leaving the better impression overall on the fight. This time the fight is under normal Nevada State Athletic Commission rules so it will be three five minute rounds, changing the dynamic of a Henderson, and a Belfort fight for that matter, quite a bit. Belfort is always a question mark, but comes in with the quicker hands, probably the strength advantage as well, and the explosiveness with striking. If he's on, he wins. If he's not, it's still an interesting fight. Henderson has lost to Kazuo Misaki recently in a rematch after having a close fight with him the first time, and prior to that had a split decision victory over Murilo Bustamante. So if Henderson doesn't come in determined to change his recent luck, and come prepared to deal with a bigger guy, who if he's on is very dangerous. Henderson has the benefit of having his training partner Randy Couture fighting Belfort three times in the past, so he should know what to expect for the most part out. In the end, this is a tough one to call, but whenever I see a tough fight to call with Henderson involved I lean his way.
Butterbean vs. Mark Hunt (or Sean O'Haire)
It's tough to write on this one because as of this point, it's undecided as to what fight – or even what kind of what comes out of this mess. The original scenerio was Butterbean vs. Hunt in a regular MMA bout, but the NSAC nixed that. Then it was proposed to be under boxing exhibition rules. Now, Hunt faces visa issues and may not be on the card at all. If he isn't, it will be former WWE and WCW pro wrestler and K-1/Rumble on the Rock fighter Sean O'Haire fighting Butterbean in a regular MMA bout. Basically, the most legitimate match that can be made is Hunt vs. Butterbean under MMA rules, since the entire card is a MMA show. Realistically, the best fight that can be made is Butterbean/Hunt under boxing rules as that would be the most crowd pleasing. I expect we'll get Butterbean vs. O'Haire in MMA rules, and if that is the case expect a freak show with whoever winning not really meaning much in the long run.
Josh Barnett vs. Pawel Nastula
At this point this fight is in question also, due to Barnett awaiting results on a drug test as he needed a clean test submitted due to his last fight under NSAC sanctioning being the fight that he failed the steroid test in for the UFC. If it happens it's a tough fight for Barnett to be taking this soon after a grueling night where he had a three-round war with previously unverisally ranked number two Heavyweight MMA fighter Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and then having a tough loss that same night against the current number two Mirko “CroCop” Filipovic. This was just noly over a month ago, and Barnett suffered enough damage in the Nogueira fight despite winning, let alone losing via TKO from strikes to the very dangerous CroCop in the same night to be fighting again this soon. Nevertheless, he's booked and against a tough guy even though his record might not indicate that. Nastula is a Judo legend, called by some the Rickson Gracie of Judo. He's only fought three times in MMA and has never been outside the first round. He lost his first fight to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by TKO and his second to the top ranked Heavyweight and brother to current PRIDE champion, Aleksander Emelianenko by rear naked choke submission. His third and most recent fight was his lone victory, an armbar submission win over Edson Drago. This one matches someone very strong and with incredible submission skills against one of the most well rounded Heavyweights on the planet today. You should be able to differenciate the two, and that's also why I pick who I pick to win this one.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs. Kevin Randleman
This one is the one I might be most anticipated for, sometimes I can't tell until the show is going on in front of me, and this is one of those shows for me. This one really interests me the most though because just on paper many see Shogun and Randleman and assume an easy Shogun victory. I'm not one of them. Randleman made a good case for himself on our CFZ Radio show (archive available here) recently, where he was in great spirits after fixing a lot of his injuries with necessary surgical repairs and talked very in-depth about this fight. Regardless, I'm still split on who I feel will take this fight. Honestly, it's a bit of a toss up for me and for a lot of the same reasons I talked about with Vitor Belfort earlier. Randleman is a question mark. He knows it too. When he's on, he's on and he's very hard to beat. Ask Mirko CroCop, Maurice Smith or Pedro Rizzo. Whether or not he's exciting in doing so is just as much a question mark as he is going into a fight. Shogun doesn't have any question surrounding him, he's a clone of Vanderlei Silva's style, with seemingly better tools and more room for advancement. He comes in from the sound of the bell guns blazing, but when Randleman is on so does he. If they're both on, that means the fight opens with Shogun on his back. That's not necessarily a terrible thing for Shogun, as he's good off his back, but it depends on which Randleman is on top of him. We'll really have to wait and see. Right now I'm leaning towards Shogun by submission, but I wouldn't be shocked if Randleman found a way to come out on top.
Fedor Emelianenko (Heavyweight Champion) vs. Mark Coleman
PRIDE could have gave Mark Coleman a gift in this one and allowed elbows, as it was their option, but instead made things harder on him. With Coleman only allowed to strike with the fists on the ground, it limits his offense in a big way. With the elbows he could open up cuts or just plain maul you. With the usual knees on the ground allowed in PRIDE, but won't be for this show due to the NSAC regulations, Coleman lacks the ability to gain good position on top on the ground – which he's obviously capable of doing, and ending a fight quickly with repeated brutal knees to the head. That's something no man, undefeated and universally considered the best or not, can not withstand from a guy like Coleman. And that's just what Coleman discusses with us on CFZ Radio (archive available here) recently when the upcoming fight with Fedor was brought up. This is a rematch of an April 2004 fight where Fedor won by armbar submission after being taken down, quickly in the first round. This fight could be similar or totally different. Coleman could take him down and if he does, I don't see many ways for him to beat Fedor there with the rules he's got. On the feet, Fedor could even avoid takedowns and pick him apart standing. Then again that leaves open the chance for a “lucky” one-punch knockout for Coleman, something Fedor might not risk as Coleman definitely has the power to knockout anyone if he connects right. You got to expect Coleman to want that upset, that perfect goodbye in America beating the best man in the world, with his age and all the odds against him, but I honestly don't see that happening.
Don't forget our own Luis Cruz will be arriving in Las Vegas, Nevada early tomorrow to cover the weigh-ins as well as the entire event for the website. We will have interviews, live weigh-in results coverage, and all the news going into the event. We'll have our usual detailed live results coverage during the event itself, and post-fight coverage including exclusive video and photo content. It's all happening right here at MMANews.com, so make sure to stop by the site throughout the weekend!
PRIDE 32 “The Real Deal” emanates live from the Thomas & Mack Center this Saturday night, October 21, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event will be broadcast via live pay-per view. Check your local listings for time and price.
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