Pride's Elite: Octagon Chumps?

Matt RandallCorrespondent IJanuary 22, 2009

Before the end of the Pride FC organization there was such a mystic about the fighters that fought in the squared battleground. They fought over seas in Japan, a place far attached from America and the UFC. Their fighters were feared by almost everyone. They seemed immortal, untouchable, the pinnacle of the fighting elite.

What has happened to these fighters? Why do they come over to the UFC and seem to be mere mortals who can lay victims to high kicks and knockouts? They have such few losses on their record and such hype to their massive names, yet why can they not perform to such a high level anymore?

What is the missing link? I have both pondered this answer and asked many a people, but I can’t seem to piece it together. Are they too old, past their prime? Or are the fighters in UFC the real elite fighters in the world, which is what Dana White has been saying for years.

Now, for every fighter that has come over, there are always exceptions to the rule. Rampage seems to be handling the change the best out of all of them, but it hasn’t been easy or pretty. Rampage has his first might with the anticipate rematch against Marvin Eastman, where he avenged his lost with a KO in the second round.

Rampage looked like he was back in full stride. Next he was to snatch the belt from Chuck with a quick first round KO. Everything seemed to be going Jackson’s way; he then defended the belt against Dan Henderson with a unanimous decision. This was the beginning of the end for Rampage’s title run.

He didn’t look great against Hendo, but Dan is a fantastic wrestler competitor, with a massive right hand. Forrest Griffin was next in line for the belt; the fight went to a decision, a close decision, in which Griffin took the belt from Jackson.

This was not the way anyone thought the fight was going to go, a TUF winner against a Pride legend? How could this happen?

At least we have Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipović, the man with the most feared leg kicks since, Ernesto Hoost retired from K-1 and to be honest possibly even scarier. He came into the UFC to absolutely take over the heavyweight division and why wouldn’t he? The only fighter that really seemed impossible for Mirko to beat was Fedor, and he wasn’t in the UFC.

His first fight against Eddie Sanchez took longer than everyone thought it would, but was still a first round TKO. Next, Mirko took on Gabriel Gonzaga, a massive heavyweight, but had no big names in his win column. One nasty head kick later and Mirko has suffered his first loss in the UFC one of the most devastating head kicks Mirko has ever seen, and we all know he has seen quite a few.

The irony of Mirko’s last fight would make you think that he would bounce back, like Rampage vs. Silva, in his redemption to the top of the light heavyweight division. Cheick Kongo was supposed to be Cro Cop’s redemption victim, but again Mirko doesn’t seem like the old Mirko. First it goes to the judges, it is unanimous that Mirko has lost, again.

Wanderlei Silva, one of the most feared strikers to step into any ring, octagon, gym or arena. Wandy got is first shot in the UFC against Chuck, and even thought he put on a fantastic fight and battled to the end, Chuck got the victory. Then another Pride legend took on a TUF contestant and this time Pride showed the world what the world was expecting, Wandy KO’d Keith Jardine, in under a minute.

Next, Wandy vs. Rampage squared off, Rampage took the opportunity to advance him to, which everyone thought would be the number one contender position, by knocking out Wandy in the first round.

Now there are some Pride fighters who have come over and dominated, Anderson Silva comes to mind, but The Spider was not a dominate fighter in Pride. So the question remains, why cannot the dominate Pride fighters be at the top of the UFC?

Does the octagon come into effect? I don’t think so. Is it the fans? The American crowd is louder bigger and possibly more obnoxious than the Japanese crowds. No. Is it the fighters are too old, pat their fighting primes, maybe just a case of too little to late? No.

Now, the rules are different, sure, but are they different enough to change how the best fighters in the world compete? No. Oh wait, the drug testing scandle. Nope.

Could it be the UFC has the best fighters in the world? Maybe.

Could Cro Cop come back to the UFC and regain his title or dominance, sure he could. But is Cro Cop able to come in and take down the heavyweight now? How would he handle a Brock Lesnar or how about Nogeria, a fighter he has already lost too?

Can Rampage regain his title? Will Wandy retire? There are so many questions around these Pride fighters who seemed like they were ready to take over the world. There is still one golden boy of Pride who hasn’t made the jump to the UFC, but has made the transition to the American fighting world: Fedor Emelianenko.

If Fedor does beat Arlovski on the 24th, what is next for him? Will Dana and him finally figure out a contract where both sides and be happy? So that we can finally see if the last Pride fighter with so much hype, so much mystic, the last (almost) unbeaten warrior to come over to America can hold his own.

Fedor may be the last one left to keep the glory alive that the Pride once had, since it seems to me that everyone else who has come over is beatable. But if Fedor does lose on the 24th (which I don’t think he will), is that the end of the Pride legacy? How long will he be able to sustain this unbeaten streak?

It truly seems that he is the last one to carry the torch. If or when he does lose, does that mean the UFC is truly the best fighting organization in the world? Or was it always? Or was it just a matter of time before the Pride had to succumb to the most popular fighting company in the world?

There are so many questions riding on this fight, which is just under 48 hours away, that is seems that it is almost impossible to live up to the hype. If Fedor wins, will the questions just carry over to his next fight?

Or, will the questions continue until he steps into the octagon?