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Pride: Shockwave 2005 review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on June 9, 2009, 8:46 AM

Pride: Shockwave 2005

Saitama, Japan

-We begin with an odd cartoon that seems to have well, nothing to do with Pride or MMA in general. The backing song sounds like something cheesy right out of a Van Damme 80’s flick though.

-Your hosts are Mauro Renallo and Frank Trigg (with hair!). They try to put Shockwave over as the Superbowl or Olympics of MMA, and show some highlights of the first Silva-Arona fight, and the Bushido tournaments. It’s odd but somehow Renallo doesn’t come off half as obnoxious alongside Trigg as he did Bas Rutten. Weird how chemistry between announcers works sometimes.

-Opening ceremony features Pride executive Nobuhiko Takada, in a diaper, banging on some sort of large drum. Need I say any more? Got to admit the production levels here are RIDICULOUS. “Say what you will about Naoya Ogawa...” says Mauro. So I’m free to say he absolutely sucks?

Charles Bennett vs Ken Kaneko

Opening match and right away we’re in bizarre world, as Ken Kaneko is not actually a fighter but some sort of television personality in Japan who’s been training a bit of Jiu-Jitsu since March. Why he’d be fighting Krazy Horse on a Pride show I don’t know, but such is the world of Japanese MMA. We get some sort of delay pre-fight as Bennett has to have his cup adjusted, I think. ENOUGH WITH THIS CLOWN ALREADY. At least it gives Mauro the opportunity to call Trigg a metrosexual. I’m actually enjoying the Mauro-Trigg pairing, so weird.

Kaneko comes charging out with a front kick that misses, and then grabs Bennett with a deep double leg. Krazy Horse stuffs it and reverses the bodylock, getting a twisting slam down to the ground. Kaneko goes to a butterfly guard and looks like he’s going for a gogoplata (!) but Bennett avoids it and looks to land some punches. Full guard by Kaneko now and he actually synches up a triangle, but it’s not tight enough and Bennett postures out and lands some punches before climbing to mount. Kaneko’s arms are just wide open for the armbar here but Bennett is choosing to punch instead. Finally he goes for an armbar and despite almost botching it at first, he locks it up for the tapout.

Well, that was pointless. Didn’t even feel like a freak show fight as such as Kaneko wasn’t quite as bad as say, Jose Canseco, and was more a classic tomato can. Bigger story involving Bennett was a rumor that backstage at this show he got into an altercation with the Chute Boxe crowd and supposedly “KO’d Silva”, which a lot of people took as meaning Wanderlei. Of course that wasn’t the case and it was apparently Jean Silva who got whacked.

Kazuhiro Nakamura vs Yuki Kondo

This was Kondo’s return to Pride following an unsuccessful entrance into the 2005 MW GP, where he was beaten by Igor Vovchanchyn. Nakamura had also been unsuccessful in the GP, being KOd by Wanderlei Silva in the Quarter-Finals, but he’d also beaten Vovchanchyn in the alternate bout at the GP Finals in August. You’d expect a size advantage for Nakamura given that Kondo is normally at 185lbs, but Nakamura’s a chubby 205lbs anyway so there’s not much difference.

We begin and right away Nakamura gets a double leg takedown. Kondo has full guard and his head ends up sticking out through the ropes so the ref moves them back to the center of the ring. Short hammer fists and punches land for Nakamura as he stacks up. He can’t pass the guard, though. Few big right hands land for Nakamura with the judoka standing over Kondo, and then he drops back into the guard. Trigg helpfully explains the Triggonomics three styles of ground work, calling them ground-and-pound (think Fedor or GSP), maul-and-brawl (think Tito Ortiz) and lay-and-pray (think late Mark Kerr). More good shots land for Nakamura but Kondo works to his feet. Nakamura goes for a hip throw but the ropes get in the way and they end up completely tangled, with Kondo almost on top, but Nakamura shifts his weight and manages to wind up in side control. Couple of short knees to the head land for Nakamura. Kondo works back to guard, and takes some more shots, but they’re not going to stop a guy like Kondo I’m afraid. Nakamura passes to half-guard but little happens and Kondo works back to full guard. Leglock attempt from Kondo but Nakamura’s having none of that and they end up back in the guard. Ref finally stands them up, and Kondo gets the yellow card. Left high kick from Kondo stuns Nakamura and puts him down, and Kondo follows into his guard. Kondo decides to stand over him and drops some punches, but a good upkick from Nakamura allows him to stand and they exchange a few strikes to end the round.

Round Two begins with a leg kick from Nakamura. Kondo tries to return the favour but Nakamura counters with a left hook that stuns him and follows by grabbing a front headlock. Kondo breaks off quickly and they exchange some punches before Kondo stuffs a takedown. Nakamura lands a strong knee as Kondo comes forward, and then the judoka gets a nice double leg to guard. Kondo scrambles from his back, but can’t get out from underneath Nakamura. Short punches from Nakamura and he passes to half-guard. Kondo quickly works back to full guard though. Good escape to the feet by Kondo and he sprawls to avoid a takedown and ends up on top. Ref stands Nakamura when Kondo decides to bring it back to the feet. Good one-two combo from Nakamura, but he has a takedown attempt blocked and ends up on his back in side mount. Round ends there. This is quite a close fight.

Final round begins and they trade punches wildly with Kondo getting the upper hand. Nakamura shoots for the takedown but Kondo sprawls and almost ends up sliding out of the ring. Body punches for Kondo as he continues to sprawl back, and then they come back to standing. Kondo avoids another takedown and ends up on top in Nakamura’s guard, where he lands punches to the body. Kondo stands over him and kicks the legs before going back into the guard, where he lands to the body some more. Kondo brings it back to standing and Nakamura lands a nice hopping knee, but Kondo eats it right up and they continue to exchange. Kondo catches a kick and sends Nakamura to the mat again, but stands up rather than stay down there. Low kick by Kondo, countered by a right from Nakamura. Nakamura shoots and Kondo stuffs it and gets on top in side control, before stepping to full mount. Punches from Kondo and then Nakamura gives his back, and Kondo looks to lock up the choke. Nice scramble from Nakamura lets him turn into Kondo’s guard, and he avoids a triangle attempt. Kondo tries to reverse out and manages to get to his feet, leaving Nakamura on his back, and Kondo passes to side mount and lands a knee.

Very close fight to call but based on the way Pride score the fight as a whole, I think I’d go with Kondo as he finished the rounds stronger. Judges all go the other way however, scoring it a unanimous decision for Nakamura. Second Shockwave in a row that Kondo’s lost a close decision. Fight was decent enough if a little slow in parts.

James Thompson vs Giant Silva

You’d have thought Pride would’ve learned that Giant Silva sucks by this stage, but nope. I guess they wanted to push the big Brit Thompson during this period though, so here we are. Not much else to say really. Weird to see Thompson dwarfed, however. Thompson is shaking pre-fight like he’s on clenbuterol or something.

Bell sounds and Thompson comes CHARGING OUT WILDLY and decks the Giant right away with some heavy punches. Thompson basically punches the big guy right out of the ring and it looks like the fight’s being stopped, but the ref in fact lets Silva get back into the ring before restarting it. Thompson charges him again but gets whacked on the way in, and Thompson ends up tackling him to the ground. Thompson stands over him and lands some punches, and Silva looks in deep trouble. It looks like Thompson’s going for the back, but he slides off horribly and then ends up standing over him instead. Soccer kick from the Brit and he gets into side mount. Thompson tries to land some knees, but they largely hit the arms of the Giant. Soccer kick hurts him badly though and then Thompson follows with some head stomps like he’s a chav outside a nightclub and Silva has stolen his kebab or something. Ref stops it there.

Crude fight and I think it was quite clear that Silva, despite his giant size, just isn’t a fighter. Ending was pretty criminal too if I’m honest and was one of the few times I’ve felt uncomfortable watching MMA. I know some people lament the loss of stomps but when you read the stories in the newspapers about people being killed by them in street attacks I really don’t think there is a place for them in a sport like MMA.

Sanae Kikuta vs Makoto Takimoto

Another fight I can’t think of any rhyme or reason for, although to be fair Kikuta is a genuinely talented fighter from what I’ve seen of him. Judo gold medallist Takimoto was a mighty 2-1 at this stage. Sigh.

Round One begins and they clinch up early where Kikuta looks for a takedown. Kikuta ends up pulling guard, and takes a couple of punches before rolling for a leglock. Takimoto manages to avoid it but ends up on his back in guard, and Kikuta works to pass, getting himself into half-guard for a moment. Good right hand over the top from Kikuta. Kikuta works to full mount, but it’s literally for like a couple of seconds as Takimoto shifts back to a butterfly guard. Back to half-guard for Kikuta. Kikuta works to side mount, but this is a horribly dull fight thus far. Mount for Kikuta now and he keeps a flat mount, using hooks for control, before looking for an armbar. Takimoto avoids it but Kikuta goes for a leglock instead, and uses it to end up on top in the butterfly guard. Into half-guard for Kikuta and then he works to side mount and goes for a north/south choke ala Jeff Monson, but he can’t lock it in and goes to back mount instead with both hooks. Takimoto is being dominated on the ground. Kikuta can’t sink the choke though, despite landing some punches and retaining the back control well, keeping it for a few minutes before Takimoto manages to wriggle free and escape to his feet in the clinch. Ref breaks them up and they fiddle with Takimoto’s gi for a bit before restarting. Wild punching exchange follows with Kikuta landing some straight combos while Takimoto tries to windmill back, and the round ends in a clinch.

Round Two and Takimoto comes out swinging, but Kikuta blocks a kick and Takimoto ends up slipping to his back. Kikuta works to pass again and gets to side mount, and then goes for full mount but misses on it and Takimoto gets back to half-guard. He moves back to side mount quickly and then gets full mount this time, landing punches from the position before Takimoto manages to shift to butterfly guard. Renallo basically begins to riff on the fight asking if Kikuta’s really trying to finish the fight, and this time I have to agree with him. Kikuta does end up in north/south momentarily and drops some knees, but then they quickly end up back in half-guard. Ref brings them back up and shows Takimoto the yellow card. Takimoto throws some punches and then uses a clinch to take Kikuta down to half-guard, but Kikuta goes for an ankle lock and uses it to reverse into top position, passing right into side control. Side note but the amount of shots of metrosexual Japanese dudes in the crowd on this show are ridiculous. Kikuta takes his back again to end the round.

Third and final round and they get underway with Takimoto landing a couple of left hooks into the clinch. Kikuta pulls guard and works for a sweep, using a leglock again to gain top position. He passes to half-guard and looks to be working for the mount, getting it eventually, but man is this a dull fight. Takimoto manoeuvres back to a butterfly guard pretty much right away. Takimoto tries to turn for a kimura, but Kikuta uses the opportunity to take his back again and he lands punches from the position, but he can’t seal the deal and the fight ends shortly after.

Judges score it unanimously for Kikuta, which was hardly difficult to predict. Kikuta’s grappling looked stellar throughout the fight but it was very, very dull if I’m honest and dragged like crazy.

Aleksander Emelianenko vs Pawel Nastula

Polish judo legend Nastula had actually looked impressive in his Pride (and MMA) debut against Rodrigo Nogueira earlier in 2005, so naturally, rather than giving him a chance against a lesser opponent because he had potential, he was thrown in with another guy ranked around the top ten, Aleksander Emelianenko. Seriously, I’ll never understand Japanese matchmaking I don’t think.

We begin and they exchange strikes and right away Nastula looks a little uncomfortable. They clinch up and Nastula decides to pull guard, but Aleks gets to half-guard quite quickly. Few short punches land for Aleks and he looks to pass the half-guard, but Nastula manages to scramble back to a closed guard. Aleks decides to stand, and they restart on the feet where Aleks avoids a looping left. Nastula ducks a shot and gets a takedown, but Aleks avoids an armbar and they come back up. Aleks swings, but Nastula avoids the barrage and gets a bodylock. Nastula muscles him down and takes his back, getting both hooks in, and then he goes for an armbar from the back. They get caught in the ropes and it looks like that’s the only thing saving Aleks, but the Russian uses his legs to kick at Nastula and muscle his way free. Nastula ends up coming out on top in Emelianenko’s guard, where he lands some punches. The Pole gets to half-guard and attempts to mount, but Aleks gets a sweep and takes top position, then takes Nastula’s back with both hooks. Nastula reverses that, though, and gets back into Emelianenko’s guard. Aleks looks like he’s going for a kimura from the bottom, and it forces Nastula to give up position and let Aleks get on top. Aleks passes to full mount, as Nastula is clearly tired now, and as he turns his back Aleks locks up a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Choke didn’t look fully locked in under the chin, more a face-crush type thing, but I guess Nastula was exhausted and there was no way out. Fight was excellent for two big dudes, one of whom was very inexperienced, as they showed some great work on the ground with some really cool reversals and the like.

Fedor Emelianenko vs Zuluzinho

Speaking of weird matchmaking, they could’ve had Fedor fight, well, *anyone* but this guy on this card, but instead we get the world’s best Heavyweight fighting this useless tub in Zuluzinho. Granted he was unbeaten at this point but come on, did anyone sane give him a chance against Fedor?

Sheer visual here is hilarious as Zulu is the very definition of obese. Before the opening bell Trigg is like “Fedor is going to smash this guy very quickly”. We begin and they throw some feints before Fedor DECKS HIM with a HUGE LEFT HOOK. Fedor pounces and pounds away but Zulu somehow lumbers back to his feet. Crushing right hand sends him right back down and a series of hammer fists have Zulu tapping out.

Quick, someone get Frank Trigg to predict more things, he’s clearly Nostradamus as he called this one down to a tee! Oh, wait, so did EVERYONE ELSE. Total waste of everyone’s time but this was still hilarious to watch as unlike some other big-name guys Fedor does not play with his food and just crushed this guy quickly.

Hidehiko Yoshida vs Naoya Ogawa

This was actually the main event for the Japanese fans, but given that nobody outside of Japan gives two shits about either guy it was lumped into the midcard for the US broadcast. There’s some issue between the two stemming from the judo world, but I’ll be damned if I care about it. My pick was of course Yoshida as he’s actually shown some talent for MMA in the past, while Ogawa’s best wins are all worked fights. Crowd heat at least is off the charts for this. Yoshida’s actually not wearing his gi which is a first from what I can remember.

We begin and the size difference is noticeable right away as Ogawa is quite a bit larger. Overhand right and left hook from Yoshida into the clinch, and they muscle for the judo throw as Mauro basically admits Ogawa isn’t a legit fighter and is just there to draw ratings. Ref breaks the clinch and they exchange punches before Yoshida clinches again. Nice knee inside from Yoshida and he trips Ogawa down despite Ogawa trying to hold the ropes to block it. Ogawa gets a closed guard and Yoshida postures up and holds the leg, looking to go for an ankle lock. He indeed rolls for it, but Ogawa turns into it to block and then manages to pop free into Yoshida’s guard. Ogawa tries to posture up but Yoshida does a good job of controlling him and gets a sweep into full mount! He almost gets a straight armlock, but Ogawa manages to free himself and scrambles, only for Yoshida to remain on top. Nice stomp lands to the head of Ogawa for Yoshida, but Ogawa looks to lock up the leg, only for Yoshida to practically take the back. Ogawa reverses though, and turns into Yoshida’s guard. Good upkick lands for Yoshida but Ogawa lands some strikes from the top, until Yoshida suddenly throws up an armbar from his back and cranks it up for the tapout!

Credit where it’s due, that was a decent little grappling match. The size difference and the fact that Yoshida isn’t a great striker made it a little more difficult for him, but the result was probably never in doubt as Yoshida is a pretty legit fighter while Ogawa well, isn’t. According to most sources these guys got paid the highest purses in MMA history for this fight, which is just mind-boggling.

Pride Welterweight Tournament Finals: Dan Henderson vs Murilo Bustamante

And we’re finally into the meat of the card now, with this being the finals of the Welterweight tournament that began in September at Bushido 9. Welterweight being, remember, Pride’s equivalent of the UFC’s Middleweight (185lbs) division. Henderson had defeated Ryo Chonan and Akihiro Gono to reach this point, while Bustamante had taken out Masanori Suda and Ikuhisa Minowa. Winner becomes both the tournament champion and the overall Pride Welterweight champion. The other interesting point to note is that this is a rematch of their first fight at Final Conflict 2003, which saw Henderson KO Bustamante in under a minute following an accidental headbutt. Personally I was expecting a closer fight this time.

Pre-fight we get the national anthems of Brazil and the United States as this is a title fight. Now that’s one touch from Pride that I wish the UFC would incorporate as it makes the big title fights feel even bigger. Plus I would be happy to hear the Brazilian anthem all day. This is, by the way, being contested under Bushido rules which means one ten minute round, one five minute round. How I wish Kikuta-Takimoto had been done under those rules!

Touch of gloves to begin and they circle, before Henderson lands a low kick and misses a couple of times with the trademark big right. Bustamante ducks a right hand and goes for a takedown, but Henderson reverses and gets the takedown himself into Busta’s guard. Mauro mentions that Henderson’s basically changed his training camp now and has been working mainly with Mayhem Miller and Ryo Chonan, which would be, I think, the beginning of Henderson’s own Team Quest South group. Henderson stands out of the guard and the ref brings Bustamante up, where the Brazilian lands a nice left jab. Hendo answers with a leg kick but Bustamante gets a single leg, only to eat an upkick the moment Henderson goes down. Hendo springs right back up and swings into a clinch, where they exchange uppercuts and break. Things slow down a little as they circle off, and then Bustamante shoots for a takedown. Henderson defends well and gets a guillotine, but you’re not going to catch Murilo with that and he lets it go to take an over/under. Ref breaks them up and they exchange strikes with neither really getting the upper hand, and then Henderson tries to land the right hand before clinching. Inside trip from Bustamante puts Henderson on his back in half-guard and then gets mount momentarily, but Henderson quickly scrambles back to guard and so Busta stands over him and kicks at the legs. Hendo uses upkicks to kick at the legs, but Bustamante tries a soccer kick and then goes down into half-guard. He gets to side mount for a second but then decides to stand over him instead, where he tries a stomp. Good soccer kick lands and he avoids a leglock attempt from Henderson. Murilo stands over him and drops some punches, then goes back into the guard, but the ref ends up standing them. Nice counter left by Hendo as Bustamante comes in, and they clinch again where Bustamante trips him down once more. Bustamante tries to land some punches from the top, but takes some upkicks and then Hendo surprisingly goes for a leglock. Bustamante pulls out and stands over him again, and the ref brings Henderson back up. Now Henderson grabs a leg and gets the trip into half-guard, before Bustamante gets full guard on the bell.

Second and final round, and Henderson comes out swinging the sledgehammer right before getting a takedown to guard. Ref brings them back to standing at short order as Hendo works to pass. Murilo pushes in with some jabs, but Hendo lands a right and gets a clinch into a takedown. Bustamante gets a butterfly guard so Henderson stands free. Bustamante throws out some combos again, and now Henderson is looking tired. They clinch up and Bustamante looks to trip him down again, but Henderson blocks it and they muscle for position. Ref breaks them up and they exchange punches, and now Henderson lands with the big right and follows with a knee strike that drops the Brazilian! Hendo tries to pound away as Busta grabs hold of guard, and from there Henderson works to get to side mount, using a front facelock. Busta stands, but takes some knees and ends up on his back again in the front facelock still, where Hendo lands with some knees to the head. Less than a minute to go and they stand, where Bustamante blocks a takedown attempt and we end the fight with a punching exchange.

Well, Henderson finished the fight better but Bustamante was in control for the majority of it so for me it’s Bustamante’s fight. Judges have it a split decision, one scoring it for Bustamante but the other two giving it to Henderson, making him the first Pride Welterweight Champion. Wow. Credit to Bustamante as he raises Henderson’s hand and doesn’t complain, but I honestly think the decision went the wrong way here. Looking at some of the decisions he’s won in his career you can see why some fans nicknamed him “Decision Dan” at one point! Fight was solid if unspectacular, but I felt Bustamante’s crisper boxing should’ve won him the fight as the groundwork was for the most part even, but I guess the judges went for Henderson based on the late knockdown.

Pride Lightweight Tournament Finals: Takanori Gomi vs Hayato Sakurai

Like the Welterweight finals, this was the culmination of Bushido 9’s tournament, set up to decide the tournament champion and the overall Pride Lightweight champion too. Interesting backstory coming in as Gomi had trained with Sakurai earlier in his career, and they had taken totally separate paths to the finals, with Bushido poster-boy Gomi running through Tatsuya Kawajiri and Luiz Azeredo as many expected, while Sakurai had seen a remarkable turnaround in his career following his drop to 160lbs, beating Jens Pulver and Joachim Hansen. Tough one to call but at this point it was very hard to pick anyone over Gomi.

They get underway and it’s a tentative beginning as they press forward with neither wanting to make the first move. Sakurai throws out a head kick that Gomi easily blocks, and then Gomi lunges in with a heavy right. Sakurai looks okay and they circle out, and Mach lands with a combo and a glancing kick. Big exchange follows with both men swinging for the fences, but neither lands. Vicious pair of inside leg kicks land from Sakurai. Gomi comes back with a left hook and Sakurai looks for the plum clinch, but Gomi pulls away. They continue to exchange punches coming forward, with neither landing the big shot yet, and then Sakurai lands another nice low kick. Left hand from Gomi backs Sakurai up and they clinch, and Mach goes for a judo throw but the ropes get in the way, causing him to crash down head-first with Gomi taking his back! Gomi lands some heavy punches and gets both hooks in, landing some brutal shots from behind. Sakurai is in deep trouble here. He turns to mount and takes some more shots, and then gives his back again. Sakurai rolls again and this time gets a butterfly hook in and uses it to stand, but he looks wobbly and Gomi ENDS HIS LIFE WITH A SICKENING ONE-TWO!~!

Good lord. That was a brutal, brutal knockout reminiscent of Gomi’s earlier KO of Luiz Azeredo in their first fight. Sick power from the Fireball Kid. Sakurai actually looked in control until the botched throw, but once Gomi hit him hard it was OVER. This was the zenith of Gomi’s career pretty much, not only becoming the first Pride Lightweight Champion, but this was also his sixth win in the calendar year as he beat Jens Pulver, Luiz Azeredo, Jean Silva, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Azeredo again and then Sakurai, cementing himself as *the* best Lightweight in the world at the time. Best fight of the night thus far, easy.

Kazushi Sakuraba vs Ikuhisa Minowa

From what I remember Pride had tried to put together the long-talked about Sakuraba vs. Kiyoshi Tamura match here but as usual that fell through (who cares?) and so we ended up with Sakuraba taking on Bushido’s lover of freak-show fights in Minowa. This is actually a breath of fresh air to see Saku taking on someone around his size rather than a monster like a Silva or an Arona.

We get underway and they trade punches from the off before Minowa shoots and looks for the takedown. Sakuraba blocks it, but then gets a guillotine and pulls guard, but Minowa works his head free. Sakuraba ties him up from the bottom. Action really slows as I’m getting flashbacks to the awful Minowa-Baroni fight from Bushido 9. Ref finally stands them up, and it’s a yellow card for stalling for Saku, but nothing for Minowa who did approximately jack shit to advance his position. See, this is why it’d be moronic for the UFC to introduce that system. They trade a few punches and Saku lands a knee to the midsection before Minowa gets the takedown, but Sakuraba goes for the kimura right away. Sakuraba gets to his feet and still has the kimura partially hooked in as Minowa looks for a single leg, and gets it, but Sakuraba uses the kimura to reverse into top position. Minowa spins into a leglock attempt and tries a heel hook, but Sakuraba spins and avoids. Saku works to free his leg, landing some small punches, and then he ends up on top in side mount. Minowa tries to scramble free but Sakuraba rides him and spins around into north/south, before going back to side control. Minowa gives his back and Sakuraba gets one hook in, and tries to get a rear naked choke. Minowa defends pretty easily to be fair although why Sakuraba hasn’t put the second hook in I’m not sure as it’s wide open for him to get it. Trigg is HILARIOUS on commentary at this point basically riffing on himself for being easy to catch in the rear naked choke. Minowa finally explodes free and turns into Sakuraba, but Saku hits a beautiful reversal and ends up on top with Minowa having a butterfly guard. Good job of escaping by Minowa and he grabs a rear waistlock, but Sakuraba again looks to lock up the kimura. This time he trips Minowa down and gets the kimura locked up, forcing it behind Minowa’s back, and despite a tremendous fight from Minowa and a pro-wrestling style selling of the pain, he ends up tapping out with seconds to go.

Really fun fight – the best Sakuraba fight in years in fact as he was finally faced with an opponent that could give him a fair fight, and we ended up with a back-and-forth grappling fight that had some great submission attempts and reversals. Awesome ending too with Sakuraba busting out the same move that he used to take out two Gracies back in the day. Show is really hitting a stride now.

Mirko Cro Cop vs Mark Hunt

This was Mirko’s fifth fight of 2005 and actually his sixth in terms of the calendar year as he’d also fought on 12/31/04 too. He had bounced back from the loss to Fedor with a win over Josh Barnett in October, but really at this point you’ve got to wonder if he was getting burned out from such frequent fights. Opponent Hunt, on the flip side, hadn’t even fought once since 12/31/04 and his controversial win over Wanderlei Silva. Stylistically this was a tough fight for Cro Cop actually, when you consider outside of his striking he’s got very little else, and Hunt has a disgustingly hard chin. Mirko for some reason is wearing wrestling shoes here; I can’t remember why that was, but I think it might’ve had something to do with a foot injury. Maybe he didn’t want to break his feet on Hunt’s solid head, who knows?

We begin and Mirko right away fires out a strong left body kick. Good leg kick from Hunt to return. Left high kick lands for Cro Cop but Hunt just takes it and fires a kick right back. Hunt blocks the LHK again and then lands a punch combo to counter a mid-kick. Nice leg kick from Mirko. Cro Cop continues to land kicks pretty much at will, but Hunt takes them all and then delivers a left counter that snaps Mirko’s head back. Big right to the body lands for Hunt and they clinch. They muscle for position before breaking off, and now Hunt stalks forward. Left hook for Mirko into the clinch, but they break and Hunt deflects a right high kick. Cro Cop comes forward, but walks into the left again and it wobbles him. Hunt walks him down, but takes a body kick en route to clinching. Break and Hunt comes lunging in with a nice left hook and a knee. Strong right hand from Hunt has Mirko wobbled and he gets on the retreat. Mirko clinches but Hunt lands a knee to the gut and breaks off. Hunt is just stalking him with no fear now. Left high kick grazes the top of Hunt’s head but he’s fine. Another combo from Hunt puts Cro Cop firmly on the back foot now. Straight left lands for Mirko but Hunt keeps coming forward. Big right to the body from Hunt. Left hook from Cro Cop returns though. Hunt keeps pushing and lands an uppercut, and a big right lands for the New Zealander. They clinch and now Mirko looks to hold on, before breaking off. Good left hand from Cro Cop as Hunt comes forward, but then Hunt lands a heavy combo that stuns the Croatian. They clinch again but the ref breaks them, and Cro Cop looks tired now. They clinch quickly again before breaking and ending the round with an exchange, left hand and left high kick from Cro Cop close the round.

Into the 2nd and Hunt continues to push forward, landing with a left-right combo. Body kick from Mirko and then he busts out an INSANE axe kick to the top of the head! Somehow Hunt just carries on like it’s nothing and comes forward, but Cro Cop lands a straight left into the clinch. They break and Hunt wades in with a right hand before they clinch again. Ref breaks them and Hunt walks forward into another left before they clinch. They’re doing very little in these clinches to be fair. Ref breaks them again and they exchange low kicks and Hunt just keeps on coming forward like the terminator. Nice leg kick from Cro Cop. Hunt comes back with a punishing body shot though and they clinch again. Ref breaks them and this time Hunt tries a spinning back kick (!) but it narrowly misses. Round ends with Hunt blocking the left high kick. This is a close fight thus far but Hunt’s aggression is winning him the fight I think. Replays show how amazing that axe kick was, though.

Third and final round, and they circle with Mirko landing first, catching Hunt stepping in with a left straight. Left high kick lands FLUSH but somehow Hunt shakes it right off and fires right back with a combo! Another left high kick lands glancingly but Hunt just keeps on stalking. Body kick from Mirko but Hunt answers with an uppercut. Mirko is firmly in retreat/counter mode now, circling away from Hunt who keeps walking him down, pretty much using the Fedor tactic of bringing the fight to Cro Cop. Big left hook from Hunt. Cro Cop tries the axe kick again but it doesn’t land quite as cleanly this time. Big body kick lands for Mirko but Hunt answers with one of his own and then lands a hard combination to follow it. Cro Cop is just moving away now and it looks like Hunt is frustrated. With a minute to go Hunt lands a crushing uppercut that stuns Mirko and has him on his bicycle, and Hunt chases him down and tries a jumping knee! Takedown from Cro Cop though and he lands in side mount, but he does nothing with it and the round and the fight ends there.

Well, I’ve got this firmly for Mark Hunt I would say, although to be fair to Cro Cop he landed some tremendous shots too. Judges have it a split decision, two in favour for Hunt giving him the victory. MASSIVE crowd pop for that one.

Fight was excellent as far as one-dimensional fights go – this was all striking with a little bit of clinching until the dying seconds – and both men took their fair share of huge shots in this one. To be honest some of the kicks Mirko landed – the left high kicks in the first and third, and the axe kick in the second – would’ve knocked 90% of fighters out, but Hunt is in that other 10% and because he was able to take those shots, the Samoan Monster was able to keep stalking forward, putting Mirko into retreat mode where he’s not comfortable, and landed a good amount of damaging shots of his own. Many people instantly began to rank Hunt within the top five at HW after this but really I think it was more a case of Hunt being a stylistically bad match for Mirko than Hunt arriving as a top contender in the division. Still, good win for Hunt, particularly coming from a year on the shelf.

Pride Middleweight Title: Wanderlei Silva vs Ricardo Arona

This was of course set up by their first fight in the semi-finals of the 2005 Middleweight GP, as Arona became the first man since Tito Ortiz in 2000 to best Wanderlei at 205lbs, although the fact that Arona then went on to lose to Silva’s teammate Shogun in the finals takes the shine off that one a little. Still, he’d beaten Silva fair and square and deserved the rematch for the title, and with strong takedowns and the ground game still seemingly Silva’s Achilles heel, I was taking the Brazilian Tiger to win again and this time claim the title.

Brazilian national anthem plays pre-fight. Both men look jacked out of their minds here, good lord. Mad staredown and the crowd are clearly pro-Wanderlei. This is going to be AWESOME.

Round One begins and right away Arona gets a double leg down to Wanderlei’s guard. Silva manages to push off and escape to his feet, and as Arona comes charging in he side steps and throws him to the ground. Silva kicks at the legs with the crowd cheering along with each shot, until the ref brings Arona back up. They circle and Silva lands with a big right hand, then stuffs a takedown and stands up away from Arona’s guard. Silva lands with more kicks to the legs, and then waves Arona up ala Cro Cop. Silva has a bloody nose somehow, not sure when that happened. They restart and Silva avoids another takedown, doing a good job, before coming in swinging. Arona looks to counter with a takedown, but Silva blocks so he pulls guard instead. Silva’s takedown defense is looking much better in this fight. Arona ties him up in the guard, and then goes for an oma plata as Silva looks to open up with hammer fists. Silva does a good job of spinning free, and he ends up standing over Arona kicking the legs again. Ref stands Arona back up and Silva narrowly misses a high kick. Arona comes lunging in for a takedown, but Silva stuffs it and Arona again is forced to pull guard. Good hammer fists from the top from Wanderlei. Arona ties him up again though and the action slows down. Silva decides he’s had enough of the ground game and stands up, kicking Arona’s legs again. Ref calls Arona to his feet and Silva pushes forward, but he looks a little tentative and Arona lands a nice left hand before going for the takedown again. This time he gets it, putting Wandy on his back in guard. Some good right hands land for Arona from the top, as Wanderlei squirms from the bottom to try to avoid the punches. Nice pass from Arona to side mount, but the bell sounds before he can do anything with the position.

Second round, and Silva comes forward with a pair of low kicks that miss. High kick and right hand land for Wanderlei but Arona closes the distance and gets a beautiful trip takedown to half-guard. Arona continues with his conservative ground-and-pound game, but Silva wriggles back to full guard. Arona continues to work from there and then passes the guard into side mount, dropping a knee to the body. Silva hits an impressive reversal though, and pops back up to his feet. Silva looks to strike now, landing a left hand and a knee to the gut, but Arona looks for the takedown and pulls guard when Silva blocks. Action slows up again as Wanderlei peppers him with hammer fists, until the ref brings them back up. Yellow card for Arona. They restart and with a minute to go Wanderlei lands a combo and a couple of low kicks. Double leg from Arona puts Silva on his back again though and the round ends in Silva’s guard. This is such a close fight.

Third and final round and Silva opens with a low kick. Both men swing for the fences but miss and Arona then walks into a clipping right. Good leg kick from Arona. Silva opens up with a combo but again Arona grabs ahold of him and trips him to the ground, right into side control this time. Arona lands with some left hands and then appears to be trying to go for the Hughes crucifix, as he controls Silva really well. Knee to the body from the Tiger as Silva squirms from the bottom and manages to get around to guard. Arona continues his control though and lands some short hammer fists, which Matt Serra would say are fine! Serra in Arona’s corner would be ill actually. SHORT HAMMER FISTS ARE FINE RICARDO! YOU’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE! Arona keeps working but the ref brings them back up and now Silva gets the yellow card. Arona tries the trip takedown again but this time Silva blocks and Ricardo ends up on his back, with Silva kicking at the legs again. Ref brings the challenger up and Silva comes forward swinging, so Arona pulls guard. They exchange in the guard and then Silva stands up and kicks at the legs to end the fight.

Very, very close fight to call but Trigg thinks Arona has it and I’m with him, as he controlled longer portions of the fight and neither guy really did that much damage with their strikes. It’s a debatable one for sure. Judges have it as a split decision, Silva, Arona....and Silva, giving him the victory and meaning he retains the title. Ehh. I would’ve gone the other way, but I guess the judges wanted to see the champion properly beaten and Arona just didn’t quite do enough I guess. Fight was a very good technical one as Silva was more tentative standing this time and it made his takedown defense more effective, and Arona’s inability to really harm Silva from the top probably cost him the fight. Not a FOTYC or anything like that but it was still a solid main event.

-And the credits roll with all the fighters standing in the ring. And holy God some of those guys look banged up as hell.

Final Thoughts....

Shockwave 2005 is a tale of two halves really, as everything from Bustamante-Henderson onwards is really good and feels like the big marquee show from Pride. Everything before that though is largely a waste of time, particularly Kaneko-Bennett, Thompson-Silva and Kikuta-Takimoto. I guess it’s like looking at a UFC show with a strong main card and shitty prelims, and in that case I’d probably give it a thumbs up, so that’s what I’ll give for this card. Gomi’s knockout is really memorable and Silva-Arona especially is a very good fight, but nothing else stands out as being amazing. This isn’t up there with the best Pride shows of all time, but it’s definitely worth a look – just skip the first disc outside of Fedor-Zulu!

Best Fight: Gomi-Sakurai
Worst Fight: Kikuta-Takimoto

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 94-98, Fight Nights 17-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 10-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
WEC: 34-40.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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