The 10 Greatest Events in Pride FC History

Dwight Wakabayashi@WakafightermmaCorrespondent IISeptember 8, 2011

The 10 Greatest Events in Pride FC History

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    Pride Fighting Championships of Japan held some of the most exciting, intriguing and brutal events in mixed martial arts history in its existence between 1997 and 2007.

    With the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight semifinals taking place this weekend, it brings back memories and desires of rival promotions to the UFC such as Pride FC.

    There have been many that have come and gone through the years such as World Extreme Cagefighting, Affliction MMA and International Fight League to name a very few.

    There have also been some that have managed to hang around right up until we speak today with stables such as BAMMA, Maximum Fighting Championship and, of course, Bellator.

    The UFC remains the big dog of mixed martial arts organizations and there is no and has not been a close rival since the days of Pride FC in Japan.

    Pride was the biggest promotion in the history of Japan and boasted a stable of talented ferocious fighters that rivaled that of the UFC.

    Here are my Top 10 greatest events in Pride FC history.

10. Pride Final Conflict Absolute 2003

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    Pride Final Conflict Absolute took place in September 2003 and was held at the Saitama Super Arena. The 50,000 seat home to many Pride FC events.

    The event consisted of the semifinals and finals of the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix Tournament and the culmination of two prior events in the series.

    There was a non tournament undercard of six bouts that saw a young Mauricio "Shogun" Rua TKO Cyrill Diabate, Ricardo Arona get a victory via submission punches over a young Alistair Overeem and Fedor`s brother Aleksander Emelianenko defeat Sergei Kharitonov.

    The first tournament semifinals saw young lion Josh Barnett defeat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira via split decision.

    The other semi saw an epic and much anticipated clash between Wanderlei 'The Axe Murderer' Silva vs. Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filipovic, both in the prime of their fury in MMA. Crop Cop defeated Silva via his dreaded, patented head kick at 5:26 of the first round.

    The finals then saw a tough battle between Barnett and Filipovic, but this would be Cro Cop`s shining moment as he beat Barnett via submission strikes at 7:32 of Round 1.

9. Pride 25 Body Blow

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    Pride 25 Body Blow took place on March 16, 2003 at the Yokohama Arena and featured a Pride Heavyweight Championship match between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira.

    Aside from the exciting clash for the big belt, the card featured fights with some of the greatest Pride fighters in history. Antonio Rogerio Nogeuira, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Kazushi Sakuraba and Quinton Jackson all fought on this card and won.

    After Quinton "Rampage" Jackson won his fight against Kevin "The Monster" Randleman, he called out Wanderlei Silva and Silva stormed the ring and got in Jackson`s face and pushed him in one of the most intense confrontations in Pride history.

8. Pride Shockwave 2005

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    Pride Shockwave 2005 was uniquely stacked in a sense that it saw the conclusion of two separate tournaments, the lightweight and welterweight divisions.

    It also saw Pride superstar Wanderlei Silva successfully defend his middleweight title against Ricardo Arona as well as a Japanese super fight between Kazushi Sakuraba and Ikuhisa "The Punk" Minowa.

    The welterweight title fight was between Dan Henderson and Murillo Bustamante that saw Henderson win via split decision. The lightweight title fight saw two Japanese heroes battle as Takanori Gomi defeated Hayato Sakurai in a first round knockout making Gomi the first ever lightweight champion.

    Such notables as Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Filipovic were also on the card.

7. Pride 24 Cold Fury 3

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    Pride 24 Cold Fury 3 took place December 23, 2002 from the Marine Messe in Fukuoka, Japan and saw two separate brother fight duos take center stage with much success.

    The Overeem brothers were both on the card and went one and one in battles as Alistair gained a TKO victory over Bazigit Atajev while his brother Valentin lost to Ron Waterman via submission keylock in the first round.

    The more successful brother duo on the night were the Nogueira brothers as Rogerio defeated Guy Mezger via split decision and Rodrigo defeated Dan Henderson via submission armbar in the third round.

    Also on the card was a fight between Kevin Randleman and Maurilo Rua where Randleman won via TKO cut in the third round. Rodrigo Gracie also got a win on the card.

6. Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals

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    The Pride Grand Prix 2000 Finals makes this list on the strength of the fight between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba and the power and folklore of "The Gracie Killer."

    This highly anticipated fight and first meeting between the two took place in the quarterfinals of the Grand Prix and took place under different rules and circumstances. The two battled for an unprecedented 90 minutes and Sakuraba came out the victor as the Gracie corner threw in the towel due mostly to damage Royce had taken from Sakuraba`s vicious leg kicks.

    He remained "The Gracie Killer" and Japan beamed as he slayed the baddest Gracie of them all.

    In other tournament bouts, Igor Vovchanchyn, Kazuyuki Fujita and Mark Coleman made in through first round matches. Coleman made it to the finals via a bye and Vovchanchyn knocked out Sakuraba in the first round. Coleman won the Grand Prix submission strikes in the second round.

    In non-tournament bouts, Guy Mezger and Ken Shamrock represented the Lions Den well with victories over Japanese opponents.

5. Pride Grand Prix 2005 Final Conflict

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    Pride Grand Prix 2005 Final Conflict took place in September of 2005 at the Saitama Super Arena and was headlined by one of the most anticipated heavyweight clashes of all time in Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Crop Cop for the Pride heavyweight title.

    Fedor would defeat Cro Cop via unanimous decision after three rounds to retain his title.

    To top it off, it also saw the final round of the 2005 middleweight tournament with Pride FC stars and staples Wanderlei Silva vs. Ricardo Arona and Alistair Overeem vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua.

    Arona pulled a stunning decision upset of Silva to reach the finals and Shogun defeated Overeem via TKO strikes at 6:42 of the fight.

    Rua went on to defeat Arona in the finals to become champion in a crowning moment in his career.

    Fabricio Werdum, Tank Abbott, Igor Vovchanchyn and Hidehiko Yoshida were all on the undercard as well.

4. Pride 10 Return of the Warriors

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    Pride 10 Return of The Warriors took place in the Seibu Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan on August 27, 2000. This event featured many memorable fights with notable stars and was dubbed the greatest event to date by many involved in the MMA world.

    Future greats such as Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva were just bursting on the scene and were victorious on this card, and veteran fighters Ricco Rodriguez and Gilbert Yvel also won fights.

    The event featured one of the most bizarre finishes of all time when Ken Shamrock threw in the towel due to heart attack symptoms despite dominating his fight with Kazuyuki Fujita.

    The headline bout was also not without controversy as Kazushi Sakuraba defeated Renzo Gracie via kimura and dislocated Gracie`s elbow when he refused to tap out infuriating the famed Gracie clan.

3. Pride Total Elimination 2003

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    Pride Total Elimination 2003 took place on August 10, 2003 from the Super Arena in Saitama, Japan and was host to the Grand Prix middleweight tournament quarterfinals.

    This Pride event had a special feel to it as the UFC had a representative in the tournament in the form of knockout king Chuck Liddell and common thought was that he had been entered to go up against then Pride king Wanderlei Silva.

    Liddell did his part by knocking out Alistair Overeem, and Silva did his by knocking out Kazushi Sakuraba. Quinton Jackson was also in the Grand Prix and later spoiled the UFC`s party by defeating Liddell on his way to losing the finals to Wanderlei Silva.

    In other great matches on this card, Fedor Emelianenko defeated Gary Goodridge via first round TKO, Antonio Rodrigo Nogeuira won a controversial decision over Ricco Rodriguez and Mirko Cro Cop Filipovic knocked out Igor Vovchanchyn with a vicious kick to the head 1:29 into the fight.

2. Pride Bushido 9: The Tournament

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    Pride Bushido 9 held the first ever welterweight and lightweight tournament quarterfinal matches and was held in Tokyo in September 2005.

    The welterweight side of the bracket saw such fighters as Paulo Filho, Akihiro Gono, Dan Henderson, Ikuhisa Minowa, Phil Baroni and Murillo Bustamante.

    In the semifinals, the fight match-ups were a fan's supercard as Henderson beat Gono and Bustamante defeated Minowa.  

    The lightweight side was packed with Charles Bennett, Jens Pulver, Hayato Sakurai, Joachim Hansen, Yves Edwards, Kawajiri, Luiz Azaredo and Takanori Gomi.

    Sakurai would defeat Hansen and Gomi extended his famed feud with Chute Box by knocking out Azaredo violently and then proceeded to try to stomp him after the fight was long done.

1. Pride 33: The Second Coming

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    Pride 33: The Second Coming was one of the few Pride events that was held in North America and it was the greatest Pride event of all time. it took place in August 2007.

    This event was packed with some of the greatest fighters of all time and one of the biggest upsets in Pride history. It also had one of the most vicious knockouts and one of the greatest Pride FC fights of all time all on the same night.

    In some of the less significant under card fights, this card had the likes of Joachim Hansen, Frank Trigg, Hayato Sakurai and Sergei Kharitonov, all victorious.

    The fans were treated to an incredible middleweight title match between stable star Wanderlei Silva vs. challenger Dan Henderson. The two went to war with wild flurries of punches back and forth before Henderson landed the combination to end it in the 3rd round

    Mauricio Rua knocked out Alistair Overeem in the first round and Thierry Sokoudjou knocked out Antonio Rogerio Nogeuira at 23 seconds of the first round in one of the most violent knockouts in Pride history.

    In a back and forth war typical of both Gomi and Diaz, Diaz was able to secure a second round victory via a beautiful gogoplata submission rarely seen executed in an MMA match only to have the victory turned to a no contest later as he tested positive for marijuana in a post fight drug test.

    Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA (also a correspondent for MMACanada.net).

    Catch him on Twitter @wakafightermma.

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