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Pride 33: The Second Coming review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on May 26, 2009, 9:58 AM

Pride 33: The Second Coming

Las Vegas, Nevada

-No cool video package to start us, boo. Your hosts are Lon McEachern and Josh Barnett, with Frank Trigg to join us after his fight. They talk about the main event of Wanderlei Silva vs. Dan Henderson.

-Fighter introduction follows which is one of the things I really do miss from Pride. I love the bit at the end where they zoom out and somehow all the fighters look like video game characters.

-As with Pride 32 this is Pride USA, so itís basically UFC rules (five minute rounds, ten point must system, no knees or kicks to the downed opponent) minus elbows.

Joachim Hansen vs Jason Ireland

Ireland is primarily a KOTC fighter and is probably best remembered for a 2005 war with a pre-TUF Jorge Gurgel, while Hansen was looking to bounce back from a surprising submission loss at the hands of Shinya Aoki. Hansen with hair just doesnít look as badass, by the way.

They get started and Hansen lands a low kick, as Ireland looks to fire off with a combo. Couple of good low kicks by Ireland and he gets a clinch and a takedown to guard. Hansen uses a butterfly to push Ireland off and they stand. Nice low kick almost takes Hansen off his feet, but he avoids a takedown to follow up. Ref steps in after another Ireland low kick to mess with some tape on Hansenís glove. They restart and exchange to the clinch, and then Ireland lands a knee to the gut before the ref separates them. Low kick from Ireland again but Hansen clinches and gets Ireland down to half-guard. Ireland eats a right hand and then Hansen passes nicely to side mount. Hansen uses a knee to the belly to mount him, and then gives his back, but Hansen loses a hook and ends up being tangled in the ropes. Man do I hate the ring for MMA. He ends up rolling him and putting a body triangle in, but Ireland defends the choke and ends up slipping out the back door. Hansen grabs a plum clinch and lands a knee before tripping him down, and then rolls right into back control again. Hansen works the body from the back but loses his hooks again, and Ireland rolls through to top position and lands a right before standing. Diving punch from Ireland and then he slugs away in Hansenís guard to end the round. Solid, competitive round.

Round 2 and Ireland begins with low kicks again, and then tackles the Norweigan to guard. Hansen uses a whizzer to pop up though and then lands some knees to hurt Ireland. Big right uppercut lands too and Hansen continues to knee the body and pound away. Ireland grabs a headlock but gets taken down, and Hansen ends up in side control still stuck in the guillotine. Ireland lets go and gives his back, but Hansen lets him up and lands an uppercut and a knee as they break off. Couple of nice low kicks land for Ireland but Hansen walks through them and nails him with some powerful hooks and uppercuts. Hansen is beginning to take over now. Two big knees from the plum clinch and then Hansen pulls him to the ground by the neck, where Ireland secures half-guard. Ireland looks for a kimura from the bottom, but his eye looks swollen bad now. Hansen pounds the body as Ireland keeps trying for the kimura, but Hansen works free and takes full mount. Ireland gives his back again, and eats hammerfists before Hansen goes for an armbar. Ireland defends desperately, but takes some serious punishment to the head as the round closes. Clearly Hansenís round after a close first round.

Third and final round then, and Hansen closes in with the plum clinch and lands some knees. Ireland drops down and then goes for a takedown, but breaks off. Nice low kick for Hansen and he closes in with a combination too. Ireland shoots and gets a nice takedown to guard, but Hansen keeps an active guard and locks up a triangle from the bottom. Ireland holds on so Hansen switches to an armbar, and Ireland looks in deep trouble. Hansen straightens the arm as Ireland begins to grimace in pain, and finally he cries out in agony and Steve Mazzagatti steps in. Irelandís arm looks jacked.

Fun fight as Ireland hung in there throughout against a guy who was ranked way higher than him, but in the end Hansenís class shone through and after a strong second round he got things finished in the third. Nasty armbar for the finish, too.

Frank Trigg vs Kazuo Misaki

This was Triggís first fight in Pride since Pride 7 and a win over Fabiano Iha, amazingly enough. Heíd been in quasi-retirement, but had returned the previous December to beat Jason Miller in ICON after making the move up from 170lbs. They even pull the old pro-wrestling trick of having him leave the commentary booth to go do his fight. Misaki was on a roll at this point, having won the 2006 Bushido 185lbs Grand Prix, and most expected him to beat Trigg handily I think. Trigg does look in really good shape though considering heís moved up a weight class.

Side note, not that they outright tell us but I think Denis Kang is joining the commentators for this one.

Misaki starts with a low kick and looks to circle and keep his distance, but Trigg corners him and goes for the double leg. They end up clinched along the ropes exchanging knees, before Trigg gets him down into side mount. Misaki looks relaxed from his back, as Trigg does little outside of chop at the body and control the Japanese fighter. Misaki tries to reverse, but ends up giving his back and Trigg gets the hooks in and looks for the choke! Talk about irony if he could finish this. Body triangle from Trigg and they exchange punches from the position, with Triggís landing better naturally. Trigg continues to control Misaki, but canít lock up the choke, and the round finishes with Trigg clamped to Misakiís back. Got to be Triggís round, 10-9.

Round 2 and Misaki opens with a nice right hook to the body. Trigg quickly closes the distance though and gets a beautiful bodylock takedown to side mount. Misaki takes a few shoulder strikes and then gives his back, and Trigg takes the position again with both hooks. He flattens Misaki out and lands some punches to the head, but Misaki wriggles one hook out and Trigg slips off and they end up back on their feet. Misaki begins to fire off some strikes, combining a body kick with a straight right that lands flush. Misaki tries a flying knee, but almost gets taken down off it. He avoids though and continues to strike from distance as Trigg looks a little tired. Misaki lands some punches to the head and body, but Trigg gets another double leg to put Misaki on his back, this time with a closed guard. Trigg works some shots from the top, conservative ground-and-pound stuff to end the round. Misaki landed some nice stuff standing but really the majority of the round was Triggís, 10-9.

Misaki needs to stop Trigg to win this I think. Left hand and some low kicks from Trigg, answered by a bodyshot from Misaki. Trigg goes for a single leg though and drives through with a double to put Misaki on his back in guard again. Misaki seems pretty lost from his back as Trigg just lands some small hammer fists, and when Misaki finally tries a triangle Trigg slips right out of it and uses it to pass to side mount. Misaki tries to roll but Trigg just looks too strong for him and keeps him firmly down. Good knee to the body from Trigg. Misaki rolls, but ends up giving his back again, albeit with only one hook this time. Misaki takes the opportunity to slip free to his feet, but Trigg catches a knee and gets a double leg again. Misaki ends up on his back in the guard, caught in the ropes, and Trigg keeps him there for the remainder of the fight.

Iíve got Trigg with an easy 30-27 here and the judges agree, unanimous decision for Twinkle Toes. This was a solid performance from Trigg to earn him a top ten ranking in most peoples eyes, but Iím going to go on a bit of a tangent here, this was the perfect fight to show the problem Japanese fighters have against American fighters with a strong wrestling background. Trigg had fought the majority of his career at 170lbs and isnít a large 185lbs, but he looked bigger than Misaki here and was able to easily outgrapple and outmuscle him. Misaki had little answer for Triggís wrestling skill and certainly wasnít able to get up from his back. Japanese fighters donít tend to cut weight (see Gono and Chonan fighting at 185lbs in Pride and then looking like smaller 170lbs fighters in the UFC for example) and so against larger wrestlers it always hurts them. Which is why I hate the skewed rankings and would comfortably pick the likes of Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin, and Clay Guida over Ishida, Kawajiri, et al, but thatís another story really. Fight wasnít great if Iím being honest but it certainly wasnít the worst fight of all time. And if Iím Trigg Iíd brag about this like CRAZY once Iím back on commentary.

James Lee vs Travis Wiuff

I forget who Wiuffís original opponent was supposed to be here, but I know it wasnít KOTC veteran James Lee, who took the fight on relatively short notice. This was supposed to be Wiuffís big entrance to the international stage after a couple of poor showings in the UFC. Weird note, they announce Lee as weighing 210lbs, donít know whether they let him off without making weight because he took the fight on short notice or something.

Round One and Wiuff stalks forward, but walks right into a short right hook that CRUMPLES him! Lee pounds away as Wiuff looks for a single leg, and they come back to their feet. Wiuff gets the takedown, but is clearly still dazed and ends up going right down into a guillotine for the tapout!

Big upset as Lee was pretty much an unknown guy while Wiuff had the big reputation from the smaller circuits, but he just got totally tooled, dropped early and then submitted. Wiuff just doesnít seem to get any luck at all once heís on the big stage.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

Original plans for Lilí Nog on this show involved him challenging Wanderlei for the Middleweight belt, but I think Pride execs wanted to have an American challenge Silva instead and so Nogueira was presented with Cameroonís Sokoudjou, a total unknown from Dan Hendersonís California branch of Team Quest, with a record of 2-1, in what on paper looked to be one of the biggest mismatches in recent memory.

Low kick from Sokoudjou to begin and then he tries a high kick that Nogueira blocks. Another high kick and then a BIG LEFT HOOK TURNS OUT NOGUEIRAíS LIGHTS! WOW.

Absolutely unbelievable stuff. Nobody, NOBODY had ever put a Nogueira down in that way and Sokoudjou just put Lilí Nog to sleep with one shot. Ridiculously heavy hands and with that a star was born. Insane stuff and dare I say, in the Year of the Upset, this was maybe the biggest one of the lot. Over time weíd find that Sokoudjou wasnít quite all heíd cracked up to be, but man, what a beginning for him on the world stage.

Hayato Sakurai vs Mac Danzig

BIG size difference here as future TUF winner Danzig is clearly around the 155lbs limit while Sakurai is just way over, looking at the middle end of the 170lbs division. I forget whether this was a catchweight fight or what, but I highly doubt Sakurai ever made 155lbs for it.

They begin and exchange kicks to open, with Sakurai throwing some really powerful stuff. Sakurai hurts him with punches early and slugs away trying to finish, but Danzig does well to fire back and manages to avoid the barrage. Knee from the plum clinch puts Danzig down, but he looks alright and stays on his back until the ref stands him up. Spinning backfist and big left hook to the body land for Sakurai, who clinches before breaking with a left elbow. Couple of hard leg kicks from Sakurai, but Danzig hands tough and lands a body kick to answer. Takedown from Sakurai to guard and he works through to half-guard. Danzig scrambles back to a butterfly guard, but takes a couple more punches from the top. Danzig tries to use the rubber guard, but Sakurai pulls out of a triangle and stands. Big low kick hurts Danzig on the feet. Danzig tries to strike but a HUGE HIP THROW plants him squarely on his back. Sakurai looks for a straight armlock from the top, but lets it go and the round ends in Danzigís half-guard.

Second round, and Danzig swings his way into a clinch but gets tripped down to side mount. Sakurai looks to be going for a keylock, but Danzig rolls for something, so Sakurai stands right back up. Low kick and a nice counter left hook land for the Japanese fighter. Brief clinch again but Sakurai breaks off. Mach looks so relaxed itís ridiculous. To his credit Danzig keeps trying, throwing combos at will as Sakurai seems to slow down with his offense now. Huge low kick from Sakurai turns Danzig around, but he answers by attempting a hopping side kick. Another big leg kick from Mach as Danzig continues to try to strike. HUGE leg kick takes Danzig right off his feet and makes him visibly wince in pain this time. More leg kicks and Danzig is clearly limping now. Finally with a minute on the clock Mach lands a MONSTER OVERHAND RIGHT that puts Danzig down and OUT.

Pretty much a highlight reel for Sakurai; Danzig never gave up but he was out of his league to begin with, mainly because of the huge size advantage he was giving up to Sakurai. Fun fight to watch but really Sakurai shouldnít have been fighting as a Lightweight if he couldnít make the weight limit.

Sergei Kharitonov vs Mike Russow

Like James Lee, the little known Russow was subbing for someone on late notice, but again I forget who. Perhaps it mightíve been Mark Hunt, actually. Who knows? Kharitonov looks in HORRIBLE shape though, nothing like the Sergei who looked a sure-fire contender back in 2004. Injuries hit this dude hard.

They begin and Sergei lands a heavy leg kick. Russow closes the distance and gets a trip, but Sergei pops right back up and they separate. Right hand from Russow and he closes the distance into the clinch again, looking for a takedown, but Sergei blocks it and separates off. Nice uppercut from Kharitonov as Russow steps in. Good straight right from Russow and he ends up on top after catching a low kick. Russow passes to side mount quite quickly and controls Sergei quite nicely. Mount follows and then Sergei gives his back, but Russow doesnít control him correctly and Kharitonov pops free and ends up on top momentarily. Russow reverses though and goes for another takedown, putting Sergei down into a seated position. Sergei pops up but Russow gets a double leg and puts him down again. Russow stacks up to drop some punches, but Kharitonov locks up a sloppy armbar from the bottom and Russow just doesnít defend, and ends up tapping out.

Post-fight Russow claims he didnít tap and throws a wobbly, but the replay confirms the tap was there. Itís amazing how many times you see that actually. Not a bad fight but you get the feeling 2004-era Kharitonov wouldíve destroyed this guy easily while Sergei struggled with him somewhat here.

Mauricio ĎShoguní Rua vs Alistair Overeem

Shogun looks pretty lean and mean here, putting paid to the theory these days that heís always carried a bit of baby fat. Sure he was never cut like a GSP or a Sean Sherk, but he was in far better shape here and obviously didnít test positive for steroids either, meaning itís more likely to be a training/injury issue with him in the UFC. Overeem looks SO much different here itís untrue, so lean and lanky, and in fact I think this was his last fight as a Light-Heavyweight before he bulked to 250lbs like he is now. For those forgetting MMA history, this was a rematch of the 2005 GP semi that saw Shogun TKO Overeem with shots from the mount.

They begin and exchange some pretty loose strikes to begin, Shogun throwing a high kick and Overeem throwing a flying knee. Nice one-two from Alistair to counter a low kick from Shogun. They clinch up and Shogun tries a takedown, but ends up giving his back and going down only for Overeem to step off. Overeem catches another low kick and uses it to throw Shogun down, before calling him back to his feet. Low kick from Shogun and they clinch, and Shogun drops for a takedown but Overeemís having none of it and quickly escapes. Good left from Overeem into a clinch again and Rua still canít get Alistair down. Takedown from Overeem now but Shogun gives his back and looks for a kimura. Rua gets half-guard and hooks up the kimura, but Overeem manages to use his strength to break free. Shogun scrambles but Overeem gets a front facelock and they stand and trade some wild punches into the clinch. Shogun drops for a single and this time puts Overeem on his back. He stands, and then drops a nice right into the guard. Overeem holds on but Shogun stands again, and this time he delivers a HUGE DIVING RIGHT that knocks Alistair silly, and a follow-up has the ref stepping in.

Overeem was actually fighting well leading up to the knockout, but the KO was sick and a total highlight reel moment for Shogun. The diving punch into the guard has been one of his trademarks since the Lilí Nog fight in 2005 and this time it paid off in dividends for him. Really fun fight from start to finish really. And this would be the last appearance of the Shogun from 2005 who killed everyone, as he just hasnít been the same since moving to the UFC.

Nick Diaz vs Takanori Gomi

This was the fight I was most looking forward to on the card, as Iím a fan of both guys Ė well, I was more a Gomi fan back then, not so much now, but anyway Ė Diaz had left the UFC in late 2006 and after talking many times about dropping to Lightweight, he ended up at 160lbs for this clash with Prideís kingpin in Gomi. Non-title fight, as was usual for Pride for no real rhyme or reason. My personal view on the fight was that despite Gomi being a pretty amazing fighter at this time, Diaz held the advantage as the naturally bigger man, not to mention the fact that heíd faced better, heavier-hitting strikers (Riggs and Lawler) and far better grapplers (Sanchez and Parisyan), and none of the four had truly given him a beating even if heíd lost to Diego and Karo in close fights. The majority were picking Gomi, however.

Diaz comes forward and Gomi surprisingly drops to take him down. Diaz gives his back in the turtle position as they go down, and then locks up a kimura and rolls for it. Gomi avoids and drops some punches into Nickís guard, and then stands to pass the guard. Diaz uses his long legs to keep Gomi in the guard though, and doesnít really take that much damage from the position. Diaz keeps active from his back, but Gomi stands and the ref brings Diaz up. Diaz begins to work some punches now as they trade, openly landing the right jab and left cross over and over with Gomi having little answer! BIG right hook from Gomi drops Diaz though and he follows him down to the ground, passing the guard and pounding from an over/under position. Diaz rolls for an arm but Gomi avoids and they end up in Diazís guard. They come back to standing and now Diaz begins to take over, peppering Gomi with combinations as the Fireball Kid swings back with haymakers that miss for the most part. They clinch momentarily, but Gomi breaks with a right and then itís a mad trade as they just swing bombs at one another. This is AWESOME. Suddenly Gomi looks tired though, and Diaz begins to just nail him with combos as Gomi wobbles along the ropes. Itís classic Nick Diaz as he taunts Gomi and continues to land, with Gomi just looking out of it now, dropping his hands! Gomi tries to answer with hooks but Diaz just takes the punches and continues to land at will. Trade continues and Gomi looks OUT OF IT as the round ends, just gassed out completely. Unbelievable round.

Between rounds we see a large cut over Diazís left eye, but heís still like COME ON BITCH as he comes out of his corner. DIAZ!~!

Diaz comes out for the 2nd smelling blood, and right away heís peppering Gomi with combos again. Gomi tries to answer, swinging back and then he cracks Diaz with a knee that opens the cut further. Blood begins to POUR down now as Diaz looks for a takedown, but the ref calls time to check over Diazís cut. Looks like a different cut actually, under the right eye this time. They restart and Diaz just DOESNíT CARE and comes out swinging still, continuing to clip Gomi who still keeps winging back despite being exhausted. Gomi tries to signal the ref to stop the fight for the cut, but Diaz is having none of it and they just continue to trade bombs. Takedown from Gomi, but as they hit the deck Diaz instantly locks in a gogoplata and GOMI TAPS OUT!~!

Amazing, amazing fight and hey, I called it! It basically looked like a combination of Diaz being able to take everything that Gomi had, and come back for more, Gomi probably taking the fight a bit lightly, and Diaz just having too much length and technical boxing for his wilder-swinging Japanese opponent. Fight has since been declared a No Contest due to Diaz testing positive for marijuana, which is bullshit I donít want to touch upon here Ė the bottom line is that Nick Diaz beat Takanori Gomi. Ridiculously action-packed fight though Ė itís a definite FOTYC although Iíd rank it behind the best Lightweight fights UFC put on in 2007 for the sloppiness. Still awesome though!

Pride Middleweight Title: Wanderlei Silva vs Dan Henderson

Henderson hadnít actually been on the best of form coming into this, having beaten Vitor Belfort in a lacklustre fight at Pride 32, and before that splitting fights with Kazuo Misaki, but I guess Pride wanted Silva to have an American to face in the main event and really without signing anyone new Hendo was the only guy to fit the bill. Besides, itís Dan Henderson and he usually has ill fights and can beat anyone on his day, so it was fine with me. Silva for his part was making his return to the 205lbs division after having his lights turned out by a Mirko Cro Cop high kick in September 2006, one of *the* sickest knockouts in Pride history, and many were wondering if he could ever truly recover from a knockout like that. BIG pop for Silva upon introduction. This is five rounds as itís a title fight.

Round One begins slowly, with both men looking pretty tentative until Henderson wades in with a combo. They clinch and Hendo slips, causing Silva to wind up in top position in half-guard. Silva does little from the top as the ref calls for action, and Henderson works back to a full butterfly guard. Ref ends up standing them and they trade into a clinch, where Hendo lands some right hooks and a knee inside. They end up clinched in the corner of the ring until the ref breaks them. Hendo looks for a takedown off the restart, but then just throws some bombs as Silva looks far more tentative than I can ever remember seeing him. Right hand TAGS Silva as Wanderlei tries to answer but misses. They exchange some low kicks before a Henderson right causes Silva to slip. They trade some punches with little success again, and then slow up once more. Suddenly Silva lands a POWERFUL one-two that rocks Henderson badly, but as he wades forward Hendo fires right back and they trade off into a clinch! Round ends there, awesome round.

2nd round and Silva swings his way into a clinch, where they muscle along the ropes until Henderson gets him down. He tries to grab a guillotine, but Silva avoids and stands. Takedown from Henderson from the clinch position, down to Wanderleiís guard. Hendo stays active from the top and looks to pass the guard, but Wanderlei does a good job of not taking much damage. Few shots do land as Henderson uses the tactic of covering the mouth, dropping some shoulder strikes that open a cut above Wandyís right eye. Silva goes for an armbar but Henderson avoids and uses it to pass to side mount, but Wanderlei instantly scrambles back to guard. Some good shots land from the top for Henderson, and he remains on top for the remainder of the round. Silva is in big trouble if he canít get from underneath Henderson methinks, especially with the ten-point system and the five minute rounds.

Third round, and Silva opens with some low kicks. They clinch but break quickly. Wanderlei keeps up with the low kicks, but eats a right hand counter from Henderson. Hendo gets a takedown, but Wanderlei rolls through and ends up getting a headlock, and then takes the back standing. Good left hook from Wanderlei in the corner, really loud blow, and they trade off again before backing out. Wanderlei comes forward, but walks into a BIG SPINNING BACKFIST from Henderson that staggers him, and Hendo follows up with a flurry into a clinch! Silva still looks stunned and as they break and trade Henderson KILLS HIM DEAD WITH A LEFT HOOK!~!

Amazing ending to a pretty great fight; Henderson did everything right, used the right amount of trading and power shots but made sure he kept Silva worried enough about the takedown not to be drawn into an out-and-out shootout. For Silvaís part this was a very flat performance Ė he looked tentative throughout and never showed his trademark aggression, and I think it was mainly due to him still having problems following the Cro Cop knockout. Still, huge victory for Henderson and with that he became the first man in MMA history to hold titles in two separate weight classes at the same time, as well as ending Wanderleiís six-year reign of terror over Prideís 205lbs class.

-And we roll the credits there.

Final Thoughts....

Letís see....no freak shows, a ton of cool finishes, a few wild upsets, no horrible fights, a strong main event and a stone cold classic in Diaz-Gomi....this show has it all and is one of the very best shows Pride ever put on, up there with Pride 25 and Final Conflict 2003. It was actually the last one pre-Zuffa buyout, and wouldíve been a perfect way for the company to cease operations on, but they ended up going out on a damp squib with Pride 34, which is a pity. Still, Pride 33 is a fantastic show top to bottom and itís definitely worth checking out for someone wondering what all the fuss was about. Highest recommendation.

Best Fight: Diaz-Gomi
Worst Fight: Trigg-Misaki

Overall Rating: ****1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 83-95, Fight Nights 14-17, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006.
WEC: 32-39
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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