UFC 110: Is it the end of PRIDE -- or a new beginning?

Nostradumbass here. I was taking a closer look at the significance of the UFC 110 fight card as it pertains to the careers of three PRIDE FC greats: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva and Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira.

And as usual, an MMA Maniac beat me to the punch.

"Spinning Fat Kick" has a nice breakdown of their pending match-ups from the Acer Arena in Sydney, Australia. All three warriors made their names in the Japanese fight scene and have also all held one form of championship gold overseas.

And for you numbers guys (and gals), chew on this: They have a combined record of 89-22. They've finished a staggering 70 of those 89 victims: 26 by submission and 44 by way of (technical) knockout. Tonight's homework is to find three homegrown UFC fighters that can match those numbers.

While "Minotauro" Nogueira is the only transplant (of these three) to sport a winning record under the Zuffa banner, they once again find themselves on the main card of a UFC pay-per-view. Of course, all three are in their thirties and have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success (and some heartbreaking failure).

Can they make one last run at Octagon greatness? Or will Saturday night be the final nail in the PRIDE coffin? SFK takes a closer look at the PRIDE parlay and the chances of a clean sweep after the jump.

Spinning Fat Kick here. Let's have at it.

265 lbs.: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. "Big" Ben Rothwell

In Mirko's second UFC fight he found himself on the receiving end of a devastating knock out, the likes of which he is famous for usually dishing out. Since then he's gone back and forth from Japan picking up three wins, two losses and one no contest on the way. His most recent loss came at the hands of a Blackhouse stand out, touted by many as a future champion, Junior Dos Santos.

I for one don't see any shame in losing to a top heavyweight (HW) like "Cigano" in the fashion that he did.

Physically he was holding his own and firmly shut Junior's eye for probably the best part of a week. However, mentally, he never really seemed to go after the fight, more often than not on the back foot and trying to avoid exchanging.

I don't have any doubts myself that Mirko physically still has the ability to win fights against the likes of Rothwell and be a factor at HW. It comes down to whether he shares my confidence and how badly he wants to carry on fighting after almost a decade of pro MMA, but nobody knows that except the man himself.

A convincing win over Rothwell could really spark a return to form for Cro Cop and shake off any cobwebs lingering in the back of his mind. However, a loss to a fighter of Ben's calibre could spell disaster for his confidence (and mine) going into future fights.

185 lbs.: Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva vs. Michael "The Count" Bisping

Wanderlei is 1-5 in his last six fights. At first glance, that is a pretty damning assessment of Wanderlei's form. But when you look a little deeper, you see that things aren't all as bad as they seem. His last six fights have been against a pre-Gonzaga Cro Cop (CC), Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, Keith Jardine, Quinton Jackson and Rich Franklin. Dropping decision losses to "The Iceman" and "Ace" and KO losses to CC, "Hendo" and "Rampage".

I for one don't see that list as any indicator that Wanderlei can't hang with the likes of Bisping. Most people have never fought that many champions in their entire career, let alone in their last six fights. Realistically most people are in danger of getting KO'd by CC, Hendo and 'Page and there is no shame in going the distance with Chuck and Rich.

I’m still backing "Wandy," I think that he’s finally settled in the states, his gym is running smoothly and he is back training with Chute box guys like Raphael Cordeiro. The stage is well and truly set for him and this is Wandy's easiest fight in probably four years.

Basically what I’m saying is that if Wandy can’t make a come back now, then I doubt he ever will. But I’m pretty sure that he can do this. Not necessarily via one punch KO, but he should win this fight. However Wandy at 185-pounds is an unknown entity and that is the only reservation I have. But we can't make a judgement on that until fight night, so for now I'll stay on the "Wand wagon."

265 lbs.: Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez

Of all the PRIDE fighters on this card, "Big Nog" is the one whom I have most confidence in. He looks to be in fantastic shape, has performed in the UFC to a standard that most ex-PRIDE fighters can only aspire to and on paper has an advantage in almost every area of the fight.

Cain's only advantage is that he can more than likely control where the fight takes place. However, whether standing or on the ground, I would put Cain at a disadvantage in either position. The way I am looking at it, the only way Cain can end this fight, is by over whelming Nogueira, something that is seemingly impossible. He may well be hoping for a decision win, but staying on top of Big Nog for 15 minutes without getting caught in a submission is a pretty tall order.

Nog's biggest task on Saturday is to silence the critics. Following a prolonged struggle against a severe staph infection, which resulted in poor form and an insufficient  training camp, Nog suffered a TKO loss to current title contender Frank Mir. Many "experts" have decided that Nog is "done," saying that he no longer has the speed, athleticism and endurance to take on the UFC's best. I honestly believe that this fight is going to shut a lot of mouths and shoot Nogueira straight back into title contention.

Whether or not I believe all this because Mirko, Wandy and Nog are three old favorites of mine or if it's because everything I just said is true, I'm still hoping for a return to form for three greats of the sport.


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