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 411mania » MMA » Columns

T-Berg's Top 10 03.05.10: Top 10 Best PRIDE Fights
Posted by Todd Bergman on 03.05.2010

It's been a while since I‘ve made an appearance here on the Top 10, but Dustin has been nice enough to let me return for an article or two just to get back into the swing of things. I know that Dustin has built up quite the reputation and I'm the old returning guy, so Dustin is still going to have his input on these fights, and I hope that you enjoy that. Anyway, let's get on with the fun and shenanigans.


In its day, the PRIDE Fighting Championship was one of the most powerful MMA companies on the planet. The company from The Land of the Rising Sun was founded in 1997 and featured some of the best MMA events that have ever happened. Unlike the UFC, PRIDE generally promoted cards that were stacked from top to bottom with their best talents. It was a strategy that the fans loved, but ultimately it might have cost the company its payroll. In 2007 the UFC bought out the company and, until recently, has done jack shit with. Realizing the apparent missed popularity of the company, the UFC has produced a TV show revolving around the once-prominent company. Hosted by a big-breasted lady who knows nothing about the company, the show features the best of PRIDE fights that contain fighters who now fight in the UFC or aren't in competition with the Zuffa company. Nevertheless, it's something to fuel the passion that many had for the Japanese-based promotion. It's time to pay tribute to the company that gave us, as MMA fans, so much. In this return edition of T-Berg's Top 10, I'm going to take a look at the best battles that ever took place from the once great promotion.

10.Cro Cop vs. Wandy Silva PRIDE: Final Conflict Absolute

Dustin James: I absolutely love this fight. While it didn't start off hot, things soon picked up right after Mirko almost knocked Wanderlei's head off, cutting it open in the process. That didn't stop "The Axe Murderer" though as he continued to fight despite his face looking like road kill. That may not have been the best plan considering Cro Cop kicked Silva's head into the fifth row just minutes later. How can you NOT love a fight like that?

Todd Bergman Four years before this fight, Cro Cop and Silva met and fought to a draw. This match up came in the Semi-Finals of the PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix, which was a tremendous success for the now-defunct promotion. This was also one of the last times that MMA fans got to see the lethal version of Cro Cop who wasn't afraid the pull the fight-ending trigger. The same could be said for Silva since he hasn't looked as good in his UFC days as he looked in his PRIDE days. This fight is a true classic and one of the best KO's of all time that must be included on either list. The thing that I always thought was ironic was the fact that the KO in this fight completely overshadowed the tournament and the fact that Cro Cop went on to destroy Josh Barnett in the finals. This run through the tournament cemented the legacy that Cro Cop had in PRIDE. I, like countless others, still hope and wish that both guys can return to their glory even though it's most likely that most of their stars have burnt out.

9. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic PRIDE Final Conflict 2003

Dustin James: Times have been tough lately for both men in the UFC. It's a good thing we always have the PRIDE memories of "Big Nog" and "Cro Cop" to fall back on, right? This fight is one of those fights perhaps known best for its flashy submission finish. It literally came out of nowhere. "Cro Cop" was being suffocated in Nogueira's mount and when he went to flip "Big Nog" off of him, Nogueira snapped on a lightning quick arm bar in mid-flip in one of my all-time favorite submission finishes. I'd actually like to see a rematch between these two in the UFC. Why the hell not?

Todd Bergman: There are countless fights that you could include into the building of the Big Nog legacy, and this fight is probably at the top of them. Early on, Big Nog looked like he was dead in the water as Cro Cop beat him from pillar to post and gave him a crimson mask that fell just short on the Muta rating system. Of course, in the second round, Big Nog was able to get the fight to the ground and secure the arm bar submission. After watching the first round, who the hell thought that was how this fight was going to end? While the submission and comeback were impressive, most people remember the after-fight celebration in which Nog threw himself on the ground and was uncontrollable. Few fighters will ever have the heart that Big Nog does and credit also needs to go to Cro Cop. His pinpoint strikes nearly ended Nog's night early and, had it not been for the takedown and scramble, Cro Cop might have won the fight.

8. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva II PRIDE 28: High Octane

Dustin James: Two of my all-time favorite fighters going to war for the second time...how could I not love this fight? This fight however may be best known for it's scary ending. "The Axe Murderer" was able to nail "Rampage" with a sweet combination of punches. He quickly followed them up by grabbing a staggered Jackson in a Muay Thai clinch and proceeded to knee him into unconsciousness. To add insult to injury, Jackson took a nasty spill into the ropes in a highlight reel KO. This wasn't the end of the two's blood rivalry though as "Rampage" was finally able to get his revenge in the UFC years later.

Todd Bergman: It's a rare occurrence in MMA that two people genuinely hate one another like these two do. Before this feud became a trilogy, it was dominated by Wandy Silva and his brutal Muay Thai knees two times over. MMA fans waited nearly a year for this rematch after Wandy dominated the first affair that occurred during the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix. Rampage let everyone know that he thought Wandy wasn't as good as that first performance might have let on. Well, Ramage was wrong, and once again found himself on the wrong side of some brutal knees and punches. A wild brawl gave way to one of the most memorable moments in PRIDE history as Rampage was left hanging, unconscious, in between the ropes. Much like the Cro Cop vs. Silva fight, this one must be included in any Top 10 list whether it's fights or knockouts.

7. Ken Shamrock vs. Don Frye PRIDE 19: Bad Blood

Dustin James: Don Frye was literally on fire in 2002. He had some classic battles that year including this epic war with Ken Shamrock. There's really nothing like a war between two guys that absolutely hate each other. The only downside to this fight is that it really took a lot off of both men's career. Shamrock got Frye in all sorts of nasty leglocks and Frye refused to tap due to his hatred for Shamrock. How could you not love a fight where the fighter is fueled by hatred so bad that he refuses to tap and would rather suffer long term effects than tap to an enemy? The fight eventually went to a decision, but it really shouldn't have.

Todd Bergman: This was a match up of the World's Most Dangerous Man vs. the World's Sexiest Mustache, and boy did it deliver in a big way. Much like Wandy and Rampage, this fight was brewed out of pure hatred that each fighter had for one another. If you watched and followed the sport during this time you knew that both guys were walking time bombs around each other, and several times they nearly came to blows outside the ring. The mixture of Shamrock's horrible trash talk mixed with Frye's cool one-liners made this fight even more electric. The intense stare down was a sign of things to come as both guys went out there and put on a show. The two traded heavy punches both standing and on the ground. Shamrock was nearly able to finish the fight a few times with his trademark leg locks, but ultimately Frye took the close Split Decision victory due to his striking and the pace that he set in the fight. Who did you think won the fight? Did the great PRIDE scoring system award the fight to the right guy?

6. Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva II PRIDE 33: Second Coming

Dustin James: PRIDE 33 is one of my all-time favorite MMA shows and this fight is a huge reason why. Dan Henderson was coming into this fight having already lost to Silva back at PRIDE 12. That didn't phase "Hollywood" though as he was able to finish Silva with a sweet hook followed by a "Michael Bisping-like" follow-up PUNCH OF DEATH! It was a fantastic finish for a fantastic fight.

Todd Bergman: One of the true epics in the history of PRIDE ranks #6 on our list. This fight was a rematch from an earlier encounter that took place at PRIDE 12, in which Silva won via unanimous decision. This fight was completely different as Hendo set the pace and avoided a great deal of Wandy's strikes in the process. Hendo, largely known for his wrestling, landed some huge bombs including the left hook that ended Wandy's night. The follow up jumping Bisping forearm to the face was mere icing on the cake that was a tremendous and beautiful knockout. You might be asking, why does this fight make this list since it was a little one-sided? It makes it because this is a fight that you must show your friends if they want to know what PRIDE was about. This was the second to last show in the history of PRIDE but ultimately the last quality show that the company ever produced. With his victory here, Hendo became the first man to ever hold two PRIDE titles at once--a feat that no one has been able to accomplish in the UFC either.

5. Nick Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi PRIDE 33: Second Coming

Dustin James: Speaking of the reason why PRIDE 33 is one of my all-time favorite MMA shows. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the last great fight of PRIDE! Diaz came into this fight a pretty big underdog in the eyes of many, but he was able to finish Gomi with a SWEET gogoplata! None of that matters considering Diaz tested positive for marijuana just days later. What a sad way to end what is truly one of the greatest PRIDE fights ever.

Todd Bergman: The record books will show that this fight is a no contest due to Diaz's love of the herb, but everyone will remember it for its tremendous back-and-forth slugfest. Gomi had the advantage early and did a considerable amount of damage to the face of Diaz. Gomi came into the fight with a sense of invincibility about him and he was commonly referred to as the best lightweight fighter in the world. Diaz took all of that away from Gomi with a sweet gogoplata after Gomi had slowed considerably in the second round. It seems that the kryptonite for Gomi is fighting in America because he hasn't won here in any of his previous attempts. While some will say that this fight shouldn't be included due to the fact that the result was thrown out, if you were one of the ones who witnessed this fight then you know the awesomeness that was this battle. It's also ironic that Gomi has essentially gone down in flames since this fight and Diaz is riding high and a legitimate Top 15 Welterweight combatant.

4. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005

Dustin James: Two Brazilians going to war...that's the best way to describe this fight. This fight had so many highlights. You had "Shogun" constantly trying to flying stomp Nogueria's face into the mat with no success due to incredible blocking from "Lil Nog". Then you had the awesome right hook from Nogueira that ALMOST put Rua to sleep. Seriously, how did he recover from that? What followed up was an incredible display of athleticism from both guys. There were multiple times when I thought both fighters were finished, and I honestly don't know how they kept going. I highly recommend this fight for anyone who doesn't think it takes skills to compete in MMA.

Todd Bergman: This is one of the most competitive bouts that usually gets forgotten when people talk about the history of PRIDE. Shogun came into this fight fresh off a huge KO victory against Rampage Jackson. Many expected Shogun to walk through Lil' Nog, but that didn't happen. What did take place was a great back and forth fight that featured both fighters being dropped at one point. Lil' Nog's boxing ability, for the most part, is overlooked due to his superior ground abilities, but Shogun found out that when it comes to the littlest Nogueira there truly is more than meets the eye. Ultimately, Shogun was able to get the fight to the ground on numerous occasions and score the favor of the judges, but for you fight fans out there that love a fight that goes everywhere, then this bout is for you. With both guys now in the UFC, one can only hope for a rematch to take place at some point. If the UFC is serious about going to Japan then this fight is a must for that card.

3. Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton PRIDE 3

Dustin James: When I think of classic PRIDE fights, the first fight that usually comes to my mind is Sakuraba vs. Carlos Newton. This fight was just a battle. You had Sakuraba coming up with submission attempts out of nowhere while Newton was using some insane defense to get out of them. These two men put on what could be the greatest grappling match in MMA history. If you are a fan of MMA for the striking, then I suggest you stay away from this fight. However, if you love the sweet science of a great grappling match...consider this recommended.

Todd Bergman: Fans of the ground game got a real treat in this fight as both guys did their best to gain the upper hand in this fight. Neither guy really wanted anything to do with the stand up game, as submission was the only way that this fight was going to end. Newton held his own as he was consistently on the defense because Saku was a mad man with his textbook submissions. Much like the Shogun vs. Lil' Nog fight, this is a forgotten classic that doesn't get the respect that it deserves. This match up just goes to show you that at any given time, two random opponents can go out there and have a tremendous match up. Ultimately, these fighters have gone down two completely different career paths. Saku is a living legend in the sport and Newton is a former UFC champion who got screwed out of coaching season three of The Ultimate Fighter.

2. Don Frye vs. Yoshihiro Takayama PRIDE 21: Demolition

Dustin James: If you haven't seen this fight, do yourself a favor and track it down immediately. The two started off in classic Don Frye fashion with a mean staredown. The two then locked up and proceeded to make dew mosh out of each other's faces with PUNCHES N' BUNCHES! Seriously, what went on for the first minute of the fight was epic. Do you think they stopped there though? Oh no. They kept trying to beat the ever loving crap out of each other like the other guy had just stole his lunch money. The fight was going pretty good for both guys until Frye was able to get top mount and he easily earned the victory from there. This is easily one of those fights that I can watch anytime it's on....

Todd Bergman: This fight is something that is normally only seen in the movies--a big, ugly Japanese villain fighting the mustache-wearing American hero. This one turned nasty in a flash as Frye and Takayama decided to wear each other out with their fists in each others' faces. What came about is one of the best slugfests ever to take place. It's hard to not get into this fight as they slug it out and the crowd goes nuts in the process. If this fight were to take place in the UFC, it would be all over the place with Dana White telling everyone that it was the greatest fight ever. Goldie would probably say something about waiting our whole lives for this and Rogan would say something about Takayama's blonde hair. There's nothing cooler than two guys going toe-to-toe and never backing down until someone goes out. It wasn't technical, but then again, school yard brawls never are.

1. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic PRIDE- Final Conflict: 2005

Dustin James: When you talk "greatest" PRIDE anything, you just know that Fedor Emelianenko is going to be ranked near the top. Of course when you list the "greatest PRIDE fights ever", Fedor vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" is going to be ranked at least in everyone's top five. The show that these two put on is too fantastic for words. When asked who his toughest opponent of all-time is, Fedor mentions Mirko "Cro Cop" and it's all because of this great fight right here. One of the greatest MMA fights of all-time? Easily.....

Todd Bergman: Remember when all the talk was of Fedor taking on Randy Couture and it was the biggest fight ever? Well, this fight actually took place and it was like Godzilla taking on Mothra. This fight is easily Fedor's biggest challenge to date and, while Fedor claimed the fight by Unanimous Decision, it wasn't nearly that easy. Cro Cop kept the fight coming the whole time and the Japanese atmosphere was electric for the entire fight. It always seems that Fedor can bring the crowd to their feet anytime that he steps into the ring. If you don't believe me, watch any fight that he is involved in. Then check out the crowd noise, it's something that you won't get with any UFC fighter. This is an amazing fight that would rival almost any fight ever, outside of Griffin vs. Bonnar, which gave MMA its new existence.

While this list was nearly impossible and everything could be debatable, here is a list of some of the fights that just missed the cut: Rampage Jackson vs. Ricardo Arona, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, Bob Sapp vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Hunt vs. Yosuke Nishijima.

For better or worse, there is the Top 10 Best PRIDE fights of all time. I truly hope that you enjoyed the journey. It was a pleasure to return, and I look forward to more opportunities in the future with the MMA Zone. As usual, complaining about the list is welcome, but please make it educated. Before I go, I just want to say that I hate the UFC for signing James Toney and Dana White, the walking contradiction, is getting beyond unbearable. He's like that 13-year-old girl who trash talks the popular girls but once the popular girls show an interest in her, she sells everyone out to be friends with them. That was probably a horrible analogy, but I think that you get the point. Remember to support your local MMA and keep your tapping hand strong.


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