Michael Farrow's sports blog

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…on the overrated fighters in PRIDE

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If Fedor loses to Arlovski, it will settle the argument that PRIDE fighters are overrated

Andrei Arlovski challenges Fedor Emelianenko this weekend at Affliction: Day of Reckoning.  A victory for Arlovski opens up the usual can of worms; PRIDE’s top fighters were overrated and protected by gimmicky booking. There’s no simple answer to this one.   It’s a tricky one to tackle.  I want to say no, PRIDE fighters weren’t overrated, I really do.  However, we must consider that guys who were great in PRIDE were guys who were great at fighting in a ring with soccer kicks, stomps and knees on the ground.   As a result, I think elements of some fighters’ games were massively overrated.   Fundamentally, fighting in an octagonal cage is different to fighting in a square ring.

Let’s look at an example, Mirko Cro Cop’s UFC career.  Cro Cop came into UFC off the back of winning the PRIDE Openweight GP, crowning him 2006’s best heavyweight and the second best in the world after Fedor.   However, he didn’t even train in a cage before entering the UFC and paid the price by having his reputation wrecked.   The differences between the cage and the ring were played out in his fights:

  • Cro Cop was considered the be a great stalker of his opponent but against Eddie Sanchez, he found himself chasing Sanchez because an octagon is more difficult to cut off than a ring.   Also, the UFC’s cage is HUGE.   He couldn’t take a couple of steps and cut the ring off, making it more difficult to be a pressure fighter.  Even when you learn how to better cut off a cage, it’s still difficult to do.
  • Cro Cop was considered to have decent takedown defence but it’s a comparative piece of piss to stay upright in a ring.   You stick your bum through the ropes, maybe dangle an arm over the top rope but don’t actually grab the rope.   In a cage, you need bonafide takedown defence because cage grabbing is more obvious and more likely to see a deduction.  This is why Gonzaga could easily take him down.
  • Cro Cop has extensively trained with Fabricio Werdum and wasn’t considered to have a poor ground game.   However, in this fight, he found himself against the cage and later admitted he felt he was trapped and couldn’t get out from under Gonzaga.  Elbows came into play and Cro Cop had no idea how to use the cage to get up.   In a ring, fights get recentred when they get under the ropes so there’s always somewhere to go and getting up from under somebody is more about sneaking out with a grappling technique rather a wall walk against the cage, considered more of a wrestling technique.
  • Also, clinch fighting is entirely different.  Cheick Kongo beat Cro Cop by pinning him against the cage.  In a ring you have four points to pin somebody against, the corners, and you can’t really take your opponent down from there.   In a cage, you can pin somebody against the cage at any point and then take it down with a leg trip.   Clinch work in a ring is quite rare.  When it does take place, it is more active and totally different.

Rule differences haven’t helped either and this affected the Chute Boxe guys like Shogun and Wanderlei immensely.  Instead of knocking somebody down and stomping the shit out of them, you have to grapple.  Instead of getting to side mount or north-south position and kneeing the fuck out of your opponents head, you have to strike with a fist or an elbow.  All these things take time to adjust to and none of them have really done so effectively.  The only person who has is Rampage and this is because he’s actually evolved as an all-round fighter.  Basically, he’s better now than he was five years ago when he lost to Wanderlei in the Middleweight Grand Prix.

PRIDE was such a mess too.   Fights at very short notice, guys going up in weight to fight heavyweights, having to fight freakshows, the lack of drug testing and all that stuff means that certain guys have shortened their careers.  There seemed to be no culture of weight cutting.  Most 205 lbers were roughly 205 lb, whereas Tito Ortiz was the prototypical 205er in the UFC, famed for being 20lbs heavier come fight time.   Also, it seems to me that American fighters force their weight down to be as light as possible.   Look at Shogun on Saturday, he looked doughier than Bisping did at 205.   Look at Kazuhiro Nakamura.   In Japan, he was fighting heavyweights or fighting at 93kg.  With his height and frame, he should be a welterweight.  Paulo Filho couldn’t have just become a painkiller junkie overnight, fighting in Japan would have enabled him to do that because he wouldn’t have to take drug tests.

Partially, the warning signs were already there.   I refuse to think that Wanderlei was anything but brilliant at his peak but the guy has a lot of fights on the clock, he’s been at the top of the NHB/MMA world for like 10 years and had 10 years of wars.  He would have beaten Chuck in a ring in his prime but Wanderlei’s prime abruptly ended in September 2006 when he massively bulked up for the PRIDE Openweight GP and was KO’d by Cro Cop.   It seemed to me that bulking up killed his body (much like Jones Jr’s move to heavyweight in boxing killed his) and the KO killed his chin.  The warning signs were there before Dana signed him.

If you look at a lot of top PRIDE fighters, they are either struggling now or inactive.  Gomi’s aura is gone, Barnett barely fights, Misaki and Kang have been exposed, Filho’s a mess, Bustamante has retired, Arona’s on the shelf, Shogun’s a mess and Cro Cop is fighting freaks.  I’ve not even scratched the surface yet.

Ultimately, in a ring, I feel Fedor will prevail because Fedor is the best fighter in a ring in the world.  However, should he win, it doesn’t answer the arguments.

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Written by Michael Farrow

January 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm

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