The Ultimate Fighter
PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals – Sakuraba outlasts Gracie in 90 minute epic
It was an epic battle never seen before in the modern era of mixed martial arts and will probably never be seen again. For 90 minutes, Kazushi Sakuraba and Royce Gracie matched wits, and eventually, the tenacious Sakuraba was able to pull ahead in the bout, and with Gracie exhausted and punished by a series of leg kicks, cornerman and brother Rorion Gracie threw in the towel, rendering Sakuraba the winner.
PRIDE 17 – Wanderlei Silva begins 205-pound title reign
Brazil’s Wanderlei Silva made his reputation on the brutal vale tudo circuit in his home country, but the style that earned him the nickname “The Axe Murderer” didn’t truly get honed until his tenure in PRIDE. On November 3, 2001, Silva stopped Japanese hero Kazushi Sakuraba for the second of three times, becoming the first PRIDE middleweight (205 pounds) champion and beginning a reign that wouldn’t end until 2007.
PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals - Mark Coleman resurrects career, wins 2000 Grand Prix
Neil Young said it’s better to burn out than fade away, and that looked to be the case with Mark Coleman, who pounded out six UFC victories before going on a three-fight skid and getting his walking papers. But ‘The Hammer’ wasn’t about to fade away, and in PRIDE’s 2000 Grand Prix he showed it, finishing off Igor Vovchanchyn in the finals and then putting on one of the sport’s most memorable post-fight celebrations.
PRIDE 1 - Rickson Gracie kicks off the PRIDE era
Considered by many to be the greatest fighter of the Gracie clan, Rickson Gracie kicked off the PRIDE era in Japan just like his brother Royce began the reign of the UFC in the United States – with a submission victory. Gracie forced Nobuhiko Takada to tap via armbar 4:47 into the first round, and with the launch of PRIDE, MMA would never be the same again.
PRIDE FINAL CONFLICT ABSOLUTE - Cro Cop wins 2006 Openweight Grand Prix
After countless wars and losses in two of his previous three bouts, Mirko Cro Cop was perceived as a fighter who may have seen better days when he entered the 2006 Openweight Grand Prix. His demise was greatly exaggerated though, and after wins over Ikuhisa Minowa and Hidehiko Yoshida, Cro Cop ended his emotional run with a one-night command performance that saw him finish Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett to win the Grand Prix.
PRIDE 21 – Frye vs Takayama – And then a hockey game broke out
“Subtlety will not be apparent in this fight,” said commentator Stephen Quadros before the Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama fight, and he couldn’t have been more spot on, as the fighters met and immediately threw bombs, with the sequence of the two holding on while delivering right hand after right hand in hockey fight fashion remaining one of the most memorable moments of the PRIDE era. Oh yeah, and Frye won via first round TKO.
2003-04 – The Wanderlei Silva-Rampage Jackson Rivalry
Though UFC fans with short memories may just remember “Rampage” Jackson’s UFC 92 win over Wanderlei Silva, back in PRIDE, it was “The Axe Murderer” who left two savage bouts against Jackson with his hand raised. These two standouts didn’t like each other, and they let everyone know about it, adding an intensity to their bouts that captivated fight fans. And the Silva who took out Jackson was the best Wanderlei we’ve ever seen.
PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005 – Rua and Lil’ Nog engage in a battle for the ages
When rising stars “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira met, stakes were higher than usual. It was the quarterfinal round of the 2005 Grand Prix, and it was also a clash between the warring Chute Boxe (Rua) and Brazilian Top Team (Nogueira) factions. But all that was forgotten during a three round battle that showed off all the best aspects of MMA, and though Rua was declared the victor, the fans were the real winners.
PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 – Nogueira rises again to finish Cro Cop
In a career of amazing comebacks, this may be the one you have to put in Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira’s time capsule. Beaten and battered by the game’s most ferocious striker, Mirko Cro Cop, Nogueira’s resolve was tested like never before during a horrific first round. But in the second, “Minotauro” took Cro Cop down and finished him off with an armbar, completing a miraculous come from behind victory.
PRIDE 25 – Fedor: The reign begins
Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira was the first and unquestioned king of PRIDE’s heavyweight division, but like any inevitable change of power, the new monarch will come in by force, and after PRIDE wins over Semmy Schilt and Heath Herring, Russia’s Fedor Emelianenko decisioned Nogueira in March of 2003, beginning a reign that lasted for the rest of the organization’s history, making his nickname, “The Last Emperor”, even more fitting.
PRIDE 15 – Rampage debuts against Sakuraba
Few were aware of who Quinton Jackson was when he was recruited to face Kazushi Sakuraba at PRIDE 15 in July of 2001. But with a heavy-duty chain around his neck, a haunting howl, and thudding slams that would become his trademark, the man now known as “Rampage” introduced himself to the world in memorable fashion despite losing to the Japanese superstar via first round submission.
PRIDE Total Elimination 2005 – Shogun makes statement with destruction of Rampage
Brazil’s Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was rightfully seen as one of MMA’s top prospects when he entered the 2005 Middleweight (205-pound) Grand Prix. But when he took on perennial contender “Rampage” Jackson in the first round of the competition and delivered a frightening first round beatdown that ended with soccer kicks, Rua went from tournament hopeful to favorite in the matter of four minutes and 47 seconds.
PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004 – “Rampage” almost puts Arona through the ring
Its part of every “Rampage” Jackson highlight reel, and rightfully so. Two fights removed from his first loss to Wanderlei Silva, Jackson needed a win over Ricardo Arona to get a rematch, but when the Brazilian ground ace locked in a triangle choke, things didn’t look good. Then the American picked Arona up over his head and slammed him to the mat, knocking him out instantly in a blistering display of power.
PRIDE Shockwave 2004 - Gomi gets a Lil’ Evil on Jens Pulver
With the UFC’s lightweight division on hiatus from 2004 to 2006, it was the perfect time for Japan’s Takanori Gomi to stake his claim as the top 155-pound fighter in the game, and what better statement to make than to beat the last (and then only) man to hold the UFC crown in Jens Pulver? And ‘The Fireball Kid’ did just that, knocking Pulver out in the first round of an exciting standup scrap.
PRIDE 19 - Bad Blood: Don Frye vs Ken Shamrock
It was a fight that probably should have happened in the Octagon in the mid-90’s, but better late than never, as early UFC pioneers Don Frye and Ken Shamrock finally met in PRIDE in 2002. And the fight lived up to the hype, as Frye won a hard-fought decision in a bout that may have been the first to put PRIDE on the mainstream radar in the United States.
PRIDE Final Conflict 2003 – Liddell iced in Tokyo
With UFC President Dana White sending Chuck Liddell to PRIDE to represent the UFC in the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix, the idea was that “The Iceman” would eventually meet PRIDE standout Wanderlei Silva in the finals. But fellow American Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was going to have something to say about that, and he did, stopping Liddell in the second round of their semifinal bout in the Tokyo Dome.
PRIDE Total Elimination 2003 - Cro Cop Crushes Vovchanchyn
It may be safe to say that hard-nosed Ukrainian heavyweight Igor Vovchanchyn was before his time, as his prime came before the worldwide MMA explosion. Mirko Cro Cop was right on time though, and armed with the phrase “right leg hospital, left leg cemetery,” he made his bones in PRIDE with a single devastating head kick that knocked Vovchanchyn unconscious at 1:29 of the first round.
PRIDE 10 – The Gracie Hunter wins, but Renzo won’t tap
Nicknamed “The Gracie Hunter” for good reason, Kazushi Sakuraba sent four members of MMA’s first family (Royler, Royce, Renzo, Ryan) to defeat in PRIDE, but what was memorable about his fight with Renzo Gracie wasn’t what happened, but what didn’t, as Renzo refused to tap out to the fight-ending kimura, breaking his arm in the process. To this day, Gracie keeps one picture in his New York academy – that of the Sakuraba fight.
PRIDE Final Conflict 2005 – Fedor defeats Cro Cop
When Fedor Emelianenko won the PRIDE heavyweight title, he was on a collision course with Mirko Cro Cop, and after the Croatian put together a seven fight winning streak that included a knockout of Fedor’s brother Aleksander, he was finally granted his shot in what was one of the most highly-anticipated bouts of all-time. Emelianenko took the drama out of it early though, dominating from start to finish en route to a decision victory.
PRIDE Shockwave – “Minotauro” slays “The Beast”
For a split second, many watching the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs Bob “The Beast” Sapp bout wondered whether it was even possible for “Minotauro” to survive the repeated pro wrestling style piledrivers he absorbed from the 6-4, 300-pounder. But like a horror movie character, Nogueira rose from the dead, exhausting Sapp with his resolve before submitting him with an armbar in the second round.
PRIDE 17 – “Minotauro” Nogueira becomes PRIDE’s first heavyweight champion
When the history of mixed martial arts is written, the heavyweight chapter will undoubtedly feature the name of Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. A little more than two years into his pro career, his legend truly began when he pounded out an impressive unanimous decision win over Heath Herring on November 3, 2001, becoming PRIDE’s first ever heavyweight champion in the process.
2000 / 2007 – The Dan Henderson – Wanderlei Silva series
Two-time United States Olympic wrestler Dan Henderson got rude welcome to the PRIDE organization in 2000 when he was met by the furious assault of “The Axe Murderer”, Wanderlei Silva, who decisioned him at PRIDE 12. Nearly seven years would pass before Henderson would get his shot at redemption, and he made the most of it, knocking Silva out to become the first man in history to hold PRIDE titles in two weight classes simultaneously.
PRIDE 16 – Don Frye in the first event after 9/11
With the tragic events of 9/11 still on the minds of millions around the world, Don Frye entered the PRIDE ring on September 24th to face Gilbert Yvel, and for the first time, the end result (a Frye win via disqualification) really didn’t matter. What did matter was that Frye, the quintessential American, showed the country’s fighting spirit, particularly during an unforgettable ring entrance that tugged on even the toughest heartstrings.
2003-2004 – Fedor is human – well, at least a little
With his long reign over the heavyweight division, mechanical precision and unassuming manner, it’s easy to forget that Fedor Emelianenko is also human, something shown when he got rocked badly by Kazuyuki Fujita at PRIDE 26 and suplexed by Kevin Randleman at PRIDE Critical Countdown. Those fights were in 2003-04, and he came back to win both by submission. No one in PRIDE came close to beating him after that.
PRIDE 32 – The US Invasion
After years of success in Japan, PRIDE was going to test its brand in the fight capital of the world – Las Vegas, Nevada, and though the rules were altered to adhere to the unified ones used in the United States, fans were pleased to find out that PRIDE was still PRIDE, complete with stars “Shogun” Rua, Kevin Randleman, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, and a main event that saw Fedor Emelianenko submit Mark Coleman.
PRIDE 33 – Bad boy Diaz stuns Gomi
After a spotty UFC campaign that saw him lose three of his last five fights in the organization, Nick Diaz looked to get himself back on track in PRIDE’s second United States show, and he did more than that against lightweight champion Takanori Gomi, as he pounded “The Fireball Kid” before a gogoplata ended matters in the second round, a result overturned when Diaz tested positive for marijuana after the bout.
PRIDE Shockwave 2004 – Chonan submits “The Spider”
Although the record of current pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva shows a 2006 defeat to Yushin Okami via disqualification, the UFC middleweight boss’ last “real” loss came to another Japanese standout, Ryo Chonan, who stunned the Brazilian with one of the rarest of submissions – a flying scissor heel hook that ended the bout at the 3:08 mark of the third round.
PRIDE 31 – Coleman vs Rua I – the Aftermath
The fight itself was nothing to brag about, but after Mark Coleman was awarded a victory after “Shogun” Rua broke his arm while getting taken down by “The Hammer”, all hell broke loose, and when you’ve got a brawl in the ring involving Coleman, Rua’s brother “Ninja”, Wanderlei Silva, and Phil Baroni, it tends to stick in your mind. Cooler heads eventually prevailed, and Rua got even by stopping Coleman at UFC 93 in 2009.
2005 - Chute Boxe vs Takanori Gomi
During the PRIDE years, Chute Boxe had their issues with Brazilian Top Team and Mark Coleman’s Hammer House squad, but in 2005, the standouts from Brazil got into it with one man – PRIDE lightweight boss Takanori Gomi, who beat Jadson Costa and Luiz Azeredo, the latter provoking an in the ring altercation over Gomi’s late shots on Azeredo. Gomi apologized, but still got the last word with two more wins over his rivals that year.
PRIDE Shockwave 2004 - Olympians meet in Saitama
It was a marketer’s dream, two Olympic gold medalists meeting in the PRIDE ring for all the world to see. And while the bout between judo gold winner Hidehiko Yoshida and wrestling’s Rulon Gardner wasn’t a barnburner, it does deserve a footnote in history, especially considering that Gardner’s unanimous decision win came in his first and only mixed martial arts match.