Pride's second round of the middleweight tournament made up for the less than spectacular first round that saw many fighters being too cautious. The match-ups were more interesting and the results even better. The card also included a stellar filler fights with plenty of action.
The night started off with a battle between a Pride rising
heavyweight and an MMA veteran eager to reach the top ranks he once was part of. Sergei Kharitonov was a dark horse of sorts in the 2004 Heavyweight Tournament. He did though turn many heads as he dominated Murilo "Ninja" Rua and the giant Semmy Schilt before losing via decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. 2005 would be his year to really prove to himself and critics that he indeed was a force. His opponent this night was a fighter with many fights, many ups and downs as well. Pedro Rizzo had seen a lot in MMA in his 31 years. As a prodigy of legendary Brazilian fighter Marco Ruas, he had the tools and foundation to be the sports top fighter. His early career was a smashing success as he chopped (leg kick) and punched his way to victories over names like Vernon White, David "Tank" Abbott, Mark Coleman, Tra Telligman, and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. It was though the big fights that Pedro had problems with; first it was Kevin Randleman and Randy Couture (twice). In all three fights their opponents would take advantage of Rizzo's passive counter style. Towards the end of his UFC contract, he started to show a sign of fading skills...a new venue was needed, and Pride was it. The fight was an absolute schooling that left many in awe.
The second fight would be one of the quarterfinal matches for the middleweight Grand Prix. The battle would be between two Brazilian fighters from rival camps...Chute Box vs. Brazilian Top Team. Maurcio "Shogun" Rua was considered by many as the heir apparent to Chute Box/Pride Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva's crown. Shogun is young, explosive, and has great standup and ground game too. His disposal of 2003 Grand Prix finalist Quinton Jackson in the first round earned him a shot at one of the better BJJ fighters around. Brazilian Top Team fighter Antonio Rogerio Noguiera is the twin smaller brother of Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and like his brother has racked impressive victories. His latest last two victories were against very impressive competition. He dominated Alistair Overeem and arm-barred Dan Henderson in the first round of the Grand Prix. His game is complete, but his base is in the ground. After a amicable handshake, both rivals put up the fight of the night exhibiting skill, power, technique, and great fighting spirit. A close decision as both fighters deserved to win.
Since an impressive performance in the 2003 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix against Chuck Liddell, Alistair Overeem opened many eyes despite losing via KO. His stock in MMA took a sharp turn up because of this. After a 2004 where he went 2-0, 2005 did not begin as intended as he dropped a unanimous decision to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. His performance though from 2 years back did earn him a spot in the 2005 Grand Prix middleweight tournament where he upset UFC representative fighter Vitor Belfort via guillotine choke. His second round opponent on paper was one of the favorites to win the tournament. Igor Vovchanchyn was always a little "pudgy" as a heavyweight. Despite this he was the top fighter from 1999 into 2000. He had a sledgehammer for a right hand and always swung for the fences. After a couple or so set backs to larger opponents, Igor decided to cut weight and enter the Middleweight Grand Prix. His first round fight a chiseled Igor went up against veteran Pancrase fighter Yuki Kondo. Kondo gave a valiant effort but fell short to Vovchanchyn via decision. Igor was considered by many to win the tournament due to his power and new athletic look. The fight between Igor and Overeem was a short and sweet affair that left many scratching their heads to the swift manner the winner came on top.
The second non-tournament fight would feature the deadliest striker of all MMA a protégé of the most dominant fighter of all MMA. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic is any fighter's nightmare. His world-class striking coupled with an ever improving ground game is what he brings to many fights he has added to many hi-light reels. Since 2004 he fought an impressive 9 times in all Pride shows knocking around opponents like rag dolls and displaying an incredible sprawl that prevented even the best wrestlers from taking him to the ground. His latest match was to be a tune up before locking horns with Pride Heavyweight Champion Fedor Emelianenko. In his way first though would be a fight against ironically a protégé of Fedor making his Pride debut. Ibragim Magomedov's fights prior to his debut in Pride were in smaller shows where he met solid competition and even amassed a decent record (12-2), but was a far cry from the competition in Pride. Being a member of the Red Devil Sport Club brought immediate respect and might have helped in this debut against Cro Cop. After a feeling out process, a liver kick would end things propelling the victor to a date to the next show.
A battle between to Japanese fighters would be contested next. Makoto Takimoto is an accomplished Judo star, but still a novice in MMA. His debut in MMA came against ex-sumo wrestler Henry Miller. He bested the bigger Miller via decision, but a test against a true veteran of the sport would really tell of what Takimoto had to offer. That veteran was Kiyoshi Tamura who had fought a who's who of fighters (Patrick Smith, Renzo Gracie, Dave Menne, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Gilbert Yvel, Jeremy Horn, Pat Miletich, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Wanderlei Silva, and Hidehiko Yoshida) spanning 10 plus years! The fight between the novice and old pro would go the distance, but no surprises.
Another debut vs. experience fighter match-up was next on tab. Accomplished Polish Judoka Pawel Nastula's attitude towards his debut in MMA and Pride was of pure confidence. He spoke highly of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira's MMA skills, but was quite sure he would come out on top. While Nogueira or "Nog" isn't known as a "dangerous" fighter, no one outside of current heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko can claim a more impressive heavyweight resume. Nog's Jiu-jitsu is arguably the best in all of MMA and just finds ways of winning sometimes in the gravest of situations. This battle between Nastula and Nog would start off pretty even, but things would finish near the end of the first round without any surprises.
The last two quarterfinal matches were next and both would include very popular fighters. Ricardo Arona's participation in the 2005 Middleweight Grand Prix meant so much to him that he actually backed out of a Super Fight match against Dean Lister in the Abu Dubai Submission Tournament that was being held during the Grand Prix's 3 shows. Arona like other fighter's had an eye on the big prize, but personally he had an eye out for Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva. Before this fight could happen though, he would have to fight with Japan 's idol...Mr. Kazushi Sakuraba. Kazushi Sakuraba or "Saku" on top of a fan-favorite is also a MMA legend. His legendary battles against the Gracies and Wanderlei Silva were battles that defined his greatness, but were also of a time when he was at his peak. His fight results as of late were inconsistent at times; unfortunately showing a decline in his game. This fight would end in brutal stoppage.
In his prime Kazushi Sakuraba would be counted on as the main event in all of his Pride shows. His popularity and skill would be the basis of this honor, but since his decline one fighter was embraced by Pride and Japanese fans as the main gate: Wanderlei Silva. Silva is Brazilian, but his destruction of Sakuraba in March of 2001, catapulted him the top of the 205 p\lb division. His streak of being undefeated in the middleweight division spanned 5 + years facing many top fighters. His victory in the 2003 middleweight Grand Prix made him a defending Grand Prix and Middleweight Champion too. In this Grand Prix his second round fight would be against a protégé of the opponent he defeated in the first round. Kazuhiro Nakamura's climb to success in MMA was due to his association with his mentor Hidehiko Yoshida. Under Yoshida, Nakamura had surprised many fighters on his route to his battle against Silva. His skills would be tested for the ultimate battle of his career. After a surprising start, the battle would end in a painful manner for the defeated and another notch for the victor.