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MMA / UFC

PRIDE FC Shockwave 2006
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mark Hunt and Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

By Robert Rousseau, ExtremeProSports.com
When the first Ultimate Fighting Championship ( UFC ) aired back on November 12, 1993, there was a Gracie and a Shamrock on the card. Namely, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.

On 12/31/06 PRIDE will put on their annual New Year's Eve show. Despite the fact that Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic and Wanderlei Silva have been taken off the card, this is still going to be one great event.

After all, anytime an MMA organization is able to put fights on the same card like Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri, Takanori Gomi vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida, and Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, that's saying something.

Specifically, it's saying, "who the heck is going to win those matches?" And those are exactly the kind of fights MMA fans love to see.

So without further ado, let's get to it.

The Showstoppers

Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri

What Melendez brings to the table. - Gilbert Melendez brings an undefeated overall MMA record of 11-0 into this bout with seven (T)KO's and one submission victory to his credit. This Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu product is a whirlwind.

Along with this, he's got great takedowns and ground control, sets an unbelievable pace, and hits like a mule. Melendez is just a great athlete.

Though it's still early in his career, there's just not much bad to say about Melendez ( with the exception of a lack of submission victories, where is the weakness? ). All he needs is more experience. Question is, have victories over people like Nobuhiro Obiya and Clayton Guida netted him enough of that to win against Kawajiri.

What Kawajiri brings to the table. - Tatsuya Kawairi brings an overall MMA record of 19-3-2 with 10 (T)KO's and five submission victories into this match. He has only lost once in his last 14 bouts ( to PRIDE Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi ). Therefore, it should be no surprise that Kawajiri has very strong takedown / takedown defense and ground control skills. Further, he is adept at submissions.

Even his stand up is better than average.

In other words, you've got to look long and hard for a weakness.

In the ring.

Here's the short answer. Who the hell knows? Because Melendez hasn't fought on the large market much, it's hard to pick a winner. However, this kid's potential knows no bounds.

Still, because of the experience factor one has to give the edge to Kawajiri. But don't be surprised if it goes the other way.

Kawajiri in a close decision victory.

Takanori Gomi vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida

What Gomi brings to the table.- Takanori Gomi sports a 25-3 overall MMA record with eight (T)KO's and six submission victories to his credit. In short, Gomi has unbelievably fast reflexes, astounding knockout power in both hands, and better than average technical boxing skills. Together, that makes him the most feared striker in the division.

Though he's stopped six opponents via submission during his career, for the most part Gomi's submission skills are average. Generally, he tends to utilize these submissions only after dazing an opponent with a barrage of strikes.

In fact, he may have demonstrated a somewhat weak guard in a loss to Marcus Aurelio ( non- title bout ). Once Aurelio got Gomi on the ground, he was submitted shortly thereafter. Though Gomi did recently avenge that loss with a victory by way of decision, he was rather unimpressive in the November 5, 2006 rematch. A different fighter, if you will.

Tentative.

Beyond the above, Gomi has good takedown defense. When at his best, he is also highly aggressive and exciting.

What Ishida brings to the table. - Mitsuhiro Ishida sports a 14-2-1 overall MMA record coming into this bout that includes a very impressive recent decision victory over Marcus Aurelio- the man that defeated Takanori Gomi . Ishida trains with Tatsuya Kawajiri in T- Blood and has won his last eight fights ( four via the PRIDE circuit ).

Ishida exhibits outstanding takedowns (including judo throws) and cardio. In short, he brings a pace that has rarely been witnessed. Further, Ishida is very hard to stop as evidenced by the fact that he's never been knocked out or submitted ( both of his losses have come via decision ).

Unfortunately, he is also unable to stop other fighters. Of his wins, only four have come via stoppage, and only one came via submission. Therefore, Ishida doesn't appear to have much in the line of striking power, nor submissions.

Thus, people tend to hang around with him.

In the ring.

Very tough call. Ishida has the takedown skills and quickness to get Gomi to the ground. However, he doesn't have the stuff to end the fight. And leaving Gomi around for any length of time is a scary proposition.

Still, Gomi's last fight was, well, terrible. He seemed to be fighting scared, afraid to be taken down, and that is the first time many of us have ever seen that from the "Fireball Kid". In the end, though, you've got to think that if this one stays standing for any length of time, Ishida is in trouble.

But I've got a feeling that it won't stay standing much. Hence the upset.

Ishida by decision.

Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

What Barnett brings to the table - Josh "The Baby Faced Assasin" Barnett brings a 20-4 overall MMA record into this bout with 13 career submissions and 4 (T)KO's. This former UFC champion is a great wrestler with excellent takedowns. Beyond that, he's very strong, is a better than average striker, and has a great heart and chin.

Barnett is a very aggressive catch wrestler. If anyone questioned his submission skills before his first match against Nogueira on September 10, 2006, then they don't anymore. In short, he matched Nogueira submission move for submission move throughout the fight ( when the bell hit Barnett had a kneebar locked in ). Along with this, Barnett has excellent submission defense as evidenced by his opponents' inability to submit him in the jiu-jitsu sense ( his two submission losses came against Cro Cop- one due to a freak injury and one due to strikes ).

Beyond that, his victory list reads like a Who's Who in Mixed Martial Arts, having stopped Randy Couture, Aleksander Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, Bobby Hoffman, and Dan Severn, in addition to the Nogueira decision victory.

Perhaps his only major weakness has been a tendency to, sporadically, not be in shape for fights. But against elite competition this rarely comes into play.

What Nogueira brings to the table. - Simply put, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is one of the top two or three jiu- jitsu / submission fighters in MMA ( as his 28-4-1 record with three (T)KO's and18 submission victories attests to ). He also trains with the Cuban National Boxing Team; thus he has excellent technical striking skills, though little power. Beyond all of that, Nogueira always comes to fight in shape and is as tough as they come ( he has a great jaw ).

Along with this, he has never been stopped by (T)KO or submission in a bout.

Perhaps his only weakness is that he does not possess elite strength, which may have hurt him against Barnett in the first match ( after all, if both fighters are equal with submissions, it would stand to reason that the more powerful or athletic man would be more likely to win )..

In the ring.

This was a tough one to call the first time and nothing has changed since then. Even though Nogueira was caught at the end of their first encounter, don't believe the whole 'the bell saved him from tapping' argument. He'd probably pass out or have something broken before giving in.

Along with that, Barnett is probably just too damned good at submission defense himself to tap out from such a hold.

Though the stand up may be slightly in Nogueira's favor, expect this fight to once again hit the ground. And when it does, expect a barn burner.

In the end, it's hard to imagine much changing from the first encounter. No matter who wins, it's likely to be controversial. But Barnett is a bigger, stronger man. Thus. . .

Expect Barnett to win a very close, perhaps controversial decision.

Shinya Aoki vs. Joachim Hansen

What Aoki brings to the table. - Shinya Aoki brings an 8-2 overall MMA record to this bout with four submission victories and one TKO to his credit. In short, he's an excellent jiu-jitsu / submission fighter ( if you get a chance, check out that flying triangle choke he put on Clay French in PRIDE-Bushido 13 ). Along with this, his guard is outstanding.

And his confidence knows no bounds.

In terms of striking, Aoki is good, but not great. In addition, he doesn't bring a ton of punching power.

What Hansen brings to the table. - Joachim Hansen sports an overall MMA record of 14-4-1 with six (T)KO's and two submission victories to his credit. Along with this, Hansen is a very strong striker from a technical end. In terms of power, well, let's just say that "Hellboy" hits like a truck. Perhaps his most devastating weapon in a wide arsenal are his knees that have recently put fighters like Luiz Azeredo and Masakazu Imanari to sleep.

His only weakness standing, perhaps, is hand speed. Still, he is quite methodical.

Hansen also has good submission defense. When on his back, he has proven to have a good defensive guard. However, when it comes to actual submission skills, he is somewhat lacking.

In the ring.

If this one stays on the ground for any length of time, it will be to Aoki's advantage. However, you've got to doubt that's going to happen.

Hansen via TKO in round two.

Mauricio Rua vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura

What Rua brings to the table. - Mauricio Rua brings a 14-2 overall MMA record into this bout with 12 (T)KO's and one submission to his credit. Truth is, many believe he is the best fighter in the 205 pound division.

Rua tends to set an unreal pace, and along with this has excellent cardio. Further, he has above average technical striking skills, very good power, and can stop you in a variety of ways ( stomps, knees, punches, etc. ).

What's more, Rua has above average submission skills, takedowns, and takedown defense. In short, he's the most complete fighter in the 205 pound division.

What Nakamura brings to the table. - Kazuhiro Nakamura brings an overall MMA record of 11-5 with two (T)KO's and two submission victories to his credit. Fighting out of Yoshido Dojo, he has the prerequisite skills you'd expect.

Great takedowns of the judo variety to go along with excellent submissions and ground control skills. Oh yeah, and he tends to wear a gi.

Nakamura is only an average striker. He is improving in that regard, however.

In the ring.

Rua is a far better striker. Though he'll do well to stay away from the clinch, even if Rua does get taken down, he'll likely survive. Nakamura has great stuff but Rua is too well rounded; eventually, he'll catch him.

Rua via TKO in round two.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mark Hunt

What Emelianenko brings to the table. - Fedor Emelianenko sports a 24-1 overall MMA record with six (T)KO's and 11 submission victories to his credit. Here's the thing. Emelianenko is one of the strongest men to ever step foot in an MMA ring. Beyond that, he's got great cardio, excellent striking skills with tremendous power, and a vast array of submissions at his disposal.

The only thing we're not really sure of is his guard. That's okay, though, because he never ends up there for any length of time.

What Hunt brings to the table. - Mark Hunt brings an overall MMA record of 5-2 with three (T)KO's into this match. In short, he hits very hard, is an excellent boxer, and has a head made of granite ( if a bunch of Cro Cop kicks to the head can't take him out, what can? ).

Hunt is a poor submission fighter / grappler at this level. Enough said.

In the ring.

Expect this one to be short. Emelianenko will cut the ring off, take him down, and then submit him. Hunt only has a puncher's chance, and considering how good Emelianenko's jaw is, it's not a good chance.

Emelianenko via first round submission.

The best of the rest.

Ikuhiso "The Punk" Minowa vs. Kiyoshi Tamura

This is an interesting match up. That said, Minowa beat him via decision back on September 7, 2002 in DEEP, and there's no reason to think that the same thing won't happen again.

Minowa via decision.

Yuki Kondo vs. Akihiro Gono

Gono is just too crafty on his feet. He's too much of a survivor.

Gono via decision.

Well, once again we're looking at a tremendous PRIDE card. What's even better, the card could increase beyond this ( and usually does ).

Can't wait. See below for fighters that could still end up making their way into Shockwave 2006.

Kazuyuki Fujita

Dan Henderson

Hidehiko Yoshida

Kazuo Misaki

Sanae Kikuta

Hayato "Mach" Sakurai

Ricardo Arona

Denis Kang

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