The 9 Best PRIDE Fights of All Time

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

The 9 Best PRIDE Fights of All Time

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    Since it went defunct, fans of PRIDE Fighting Championships can only reflect nostalgically on the plethora of memories that the Japanese-based MMA organization churned out between 1997 and 2007.

    Some of MMA's all-time greats, including Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among many others, made their bones in the rings of PRIDE.

    Here are the nine best PRIDE fights of all time.

Honorable Mentions

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    PRIDE 33: Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva II

    PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals: Mark Coleman vs. Igor Vovchanchyn

    PRIDE 26: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kazuyuki Fujita

    PRIDE 10: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Renzo Gracie 

    PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2005: Takanori Gomi vs. Hayato Sakurai 

9. PRIDE 8: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royler Gracie

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    Kazushi Sakuraba made waves in the company's early days when at Pride 8 the Japanese submission ace became the first fighter to defeat a Gracie family member in MMA competition.

    Sakuraba not only bested three-time ADCC Submission Wrestling champ Royler Gracie, he did so by submission (technical kimura).

    Giving up nearly 30 pounds, Gracie struggled to keep pace with "Saku's" standup game in Round 1, and in Round 2, decided to post up on his back and lure the catch wrestler into a grappling contest.

    Sakuraba appeased Gracie late in the fight, eventually catching the Brazilian jiu-jitsu wizard in an Ude Garami (double-wrist lock), prompting the match's referee to call the bout with 1:44 to go.

    Saku would go on to earn the moniker "The Gracie Hunter," after beating four members (Royler, Royce, Ryan and Renzo) of the notorious clan, Royler being his first victim.

8. PRIDE Shockwave 2004: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

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    Fedor Emelianenko illustrated why he was the world's best heavyweight when he outlasted company stalwart Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at PRIDE Shockwave 2004.

    After beating Nogueira at PRIDE 25 (unanimous decision), Emelianenko suffered a cut from an illegal headbutt at PRIDE Final Conflict 2004, a mishap that resulted in a no contest.

    Less than five months later, Emelianenko made his third crack at Nogueira count, again grinding out a unanimous decision in what was one of the most highly anticipated bouts in company history.

    Nogueira piled up a 17-3 record in PRIDE, with his only other setback coming against Josh Barnett.

7. PRIDE 19: Don Frye vs. Ken Shamrock

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    Bad blood finally spilled over when Don Frye and Ken Shamrock locked horns at PRIDE 19.

    Frye and Shamrock held a genuine disdain for one another, a fact that was evident from the opening bell.

    Shamrock attempted to tear ligaments and break bones in Frye's legs with submission attempts, only to watch the former NCAA Division I wrestler fight off the attempts in vein.

    Frye ultimately inflicted enough damage from the top position to notch a split decision over Shamrock, although the Lion's Den founder permanently mangled the Arizona native's ankles and knees.

6. PRIDE Final Absolute: Mirko "Cro Cop" vs. Wanderlei Silva

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    In a hyped rematch of two of PRIDE's most lethal strikers, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic used size and strength advantages to brutalize Wanderlei Silva, eventually finishing the Brazilian with a vicious head kick.

    Already cut open after being floored earlier in the round, Silva made the mistake of drifting to his left and momentarily dropping his hands.

    The ever-opportunistic Cro Cop recognized the blunder and uncorked a head kick from hell. Cro Cop's shin grazed the top of "The Axe Murderer's" skull, instantly sending Silva into a state of unconsciousness.

    Several media outlets, including Sherdog.com and MMAFighting.com, awarded Cro Cop the 2006 "Knockout of the Year" for his brutal handiwork of a fellow PRIDE legend.

5. PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Kevin Randleman

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    Few at the packed Saitama Super Arena expected PRIDE heavyweight linchpin Fedor Emelianenko to get up after absorbing an epic German suplex from Kevin Randleman at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004.

    But "The Last Emperor" not only survived Randleman's unforgettable slam, he managed to recover and quickly turn the tables on the former two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champ. 

    Emelianenko got lifted high above the ropes by "The Monster" and slammed on his head and neck. But in an extraordinary display of resilience, Emelianenko calmly regrouped on the ground and scored a reversal.

    Once on top, The Last Emperor wasted little time slapping on a fight-ending kimura, pulling off one of the most remarkable comebacks in his unbeaten PRIDE career.

4. PRIDE Grand Prix 2000 Finals: Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie

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    Nearly six months after becoming the first man to best a Gracie (Royler) in an MMA event, Kazushi Sakuraba struck again, this time outshining UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie in a marathon match.

    In a modified rules match in which the bout had to be finished by submission, knockout or injury, "The Gracie Hunter" put his dynamic catch wrestling skills up against Gracie's ruthless Brazilian jiu-jitsu game. When the dust settled, Sakuraba's undying pressure forced Gracie to succumb.

    After wearing several thunderous leg kicks and narrowly squirming out of a tight kneebar, Gracie chose to give up between Rounds 6 and 7.

    The 90-minute affair, which ended in Gracie's first ever MMA loss, marked the longest bout in PRIDE history.

3. PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005: Mauricio Rua vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

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    The rivalry between Chute Boxe and Brazilian Top Team came to a head when Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira went at it in an unforgettable classic at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2005.

    While Nogueira got off to an impressive start, Shogun took the greatest risks and got the most handsome rewards in a back-and-forth battle that went the distance at a packed Saitama Super Arena.

    After getting dropped in Round 1, Shogun stormed back and used a barrage of offensive blitzes in Rounds 2 and 3 to secure a unanimous decision.

    Shogun improved to 6-0 in PRIDE with the win, while Nogueira dropped to 7-1 in the organization.

2. PRIDE 28: Wanderlei Silva vs. Quinton Jackson II

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    In the second installment of a storied trilogy, Wanderlei Silva once again demoralized Quinton "Rampage" Jackson with knees from the clinch.

    Less than a year after TKO'ing Rampage with knees at PRIDE Final Conflict 2003, Silva again wore Jackson out and then went to work with his patented knee strikes.

    Silva hurt Jackson three minutes into the slugfest, and eventually caught the Memphis native in a Muay Thai plum. Rampage attempted to punch through the clinch, only to wear five knees, the last of which knocked him out through the ropes.

    Wrestling Observer Newsletter rightfully recognized the bout as "Fight of the Year" for 2004.

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

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    Two of the world’s most feared men finally tangled at PRIDE Final Conflict 2005, two years after Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic publicly challenged longtime heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko.

    Both fighters entered the bout in their primes, with Emelianenko essentially bringing an undefeated record to the match and Cro Cop riding a seven-fight winning streak.

    Filipovic's challenge to Emelianenko, coupled with the Croatian’s brutal head-kick knockout of his younger brother, Alexander Emelianenko, made the fight a downright tantalizing affair.

    Unlike many of the overhyped title fights in MMA history, Emelianenko-Cro Cop more than lived up to its billing.

    Although Cro Cop broke Emelianenko’s nose in the first round with a stinging jab, the Russian regained his footing, nailing takedowns and scoring with ground-and-pound in the final two rounds to nab a unanimous decision in a memorable seesaw war.

    Not surprisingly, Sports Illustrated honored the MMA pioneers for their efforts by naming the bout the "Fight of the Decade" for the 2000s.