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Length: 825 mins
In Pride Grand Prix 2004, the world’s best heavyweight fighters gather in Japan for this exclusive elimination tournament, which was held over three shows. With sixteen heavyweights participating, this is definitely a tournament of epic proportions! Who will take home the championship belt?
WOW! 13 hours and 45 minutes of combat, nearly 14 hours of gladiatorial combat. Once again Pride Fighting Championships brought together some of the world’s finest warriors and pitted them against each other in what can be possibly the greatest showing of mixed martial arts talent in the world.
3 shows over 3 months in 2004 are put down over a 6 DVD set featuring: Total Elimination, Critical Countdown and Final Conflict.
- Heath Herring Vs Yoshiki Takahasi
- Murilo Ninja Vs Sergey Kharitonov
- Giant Silva Vs Sentoryu
- Semmy Schilt Vs Gan McGee
- Stefan Leko Vs Naoya Ogawa
- Mirko Cro Cop Vs Kevin Randleman
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Vs Hirotaka Yokoi
- Fedor Emelianenko Vs Mark Coleman
Starting with Total Elimination from the sold-out Saitama Super Arena. Starting the show we have America’s Heath Herring taking on Japan’s Yoshiki Takahashi. The American was being touted as the underdog in this fight. Takahashi controls the start of the fight, taking Herring to the floor and controlling the pace of the match with some impressive-looking wrestling skills. As the grappling continued Herring managed to land an impressive right hand to the jaw of the Japanese warrior, knocking him out cold. ***
Next to the squared circle Brazil’s Murilo Ninja take on Russia’s Sergey Kharitonov in a stand-up fight. Ninja had moved up from the Middleweight ranks to take part in this bout…and it showed! The big Russian, despite receiving a blow that broke his nose, took an easy KO win after hitting Ninja with a flurry of blows. *
Former sumo star Sentoryu made his MMA debut against former WWF star “Giant” Silva. Sentoryu, surprisingly, managed to take Silva down. Not that this made much difference to the outcome, Silva locked in a key lock to make the sumo star tap out. Silva may have made a less-than-average pro wrestler, but he actually showed some ability in MMA! Surprised? I was. ***
Next K1’s Sammy Schilt beats Gan McGee in a faster-paced match. McGee was on the offensive for most of the fight, but a miscalculation on his part allowed Schilt to lock in an armbar for the tapout victory. Schilt always impressed me whenever I saw him compete before, so seeing him on the defensive like this was a letdown for sure. *
The next bout shows in action my theory that a good grappler will always beat a good striker. Kickboxer Stefan Leko was destroyed in under 2 minutes by Olympic Judo silver medallist Naoya Ogawa. Ogawa quickly took Leko to the floor and choked him out. After this showing Ogawa had to be considered one of the top contenders for the Grand Prix win. ****
Pro Wrestler Hunter Mirko Cro Cop should have stuck to facing New Japan stars rather than facing Kevin Randleman. The American quickly took the Croatian Cro Cop to the floor and pounded on the supposed favourite for a knockout win. I was surprised at how badly Cro Cop fared in this bout, when I saw the people lined up for the 2004 Grand Prix I considered Cro cop to be the favourite to win. Shows how wrong I can be really! *
In the penultimate fight Brazil’s Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira takes on Japan’s Hirotaka Yokoi. A much more balanced fight than any other on the show, both men looked pretty even in the first round. In round 2 however, Yokoi was looking blown up and out of his depth. The Brazilian locked in a choke on Yokoi, who tapped out almost before the choke is fully locked in! **
The main event pits Fedor Emelianenko against 2004 Grand Prix winner Mark Coleman. Like every other fight on the card (bar Nogueira Vs Yokoi) this fight was over almost before it began. Coleman was quickly taken down and tapped to the armbar. **
At random points in this show various MMA stars came out to announce their participation in future Pride events, including Yuki Kondo and Wanderlai Silva (who spoke about a fight they are due to have under the Pride banner), Kazushi Sakuraba and Mark Hunt.
Overall this first event was a letdown, worthy of a poor **
- Kazushi Sakuraba Vs Nino Schembri
- Quinton Jackson Vs Ricardo Arona
- Sergey Kharitonov Vs Semmy Schilt
- Giant Silva Vs Naoya Ogawa
- Hidehiko Yoshida Vs Mark Hunt
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Vs Heath Herring
- Fedor Emelianenko Vs Kevin Randleman
Opening Critical Countdown was Kazushi Sakuraba going up against Brazil’s Nino Schembri in a non-tournament bout. This fight is how it should have gone up to now. 2 men at the top of their game with near perfect defence…at least until round 2. The fight went the distance to the 3rd round and to a unanimous points victory to Sakuraba. This decision was not even in doubt at the end, with Schembri’s face (not the best looking by any means anyway) resembling the victim of a car crash. ****
The second fight on the card was a number one contendership for the Middleweight Championship between Quinton Jackson and Ricardo Arona. Both men have impressed me on many occasions, but I have to admit that neither seems up to the standards set by Middleweight Champion Wanderlai Silva. That aside this was a brutal fight, multiple takedowns as well as traded kicks and punches made both men seem to have it in the bag at points in the bout. A high kick from Arona appeared to knock out Jackson, but the American rallied and hit a power bomb of all things to get the win by KO! ****
Now we move on to the tournament with Sergey Kharitonov facing Semmy Schilt. This match was a perfect example of being out of your league! Schilt was lucky in his first-round bout and it showed here. The big Russian took Schilt to the ground and pounded his face until the referee was forced to end the fight. Schilt and Schembri could swap notes on plastic surgeons now! ***
In maybe the quickest fight up to now Giant Silva takes on Naoya Ogawa in their second-round fight. The former pro wrestler was in trouble from the start of the fight and never really got to land any real offence. He did show some skill in avoiding Ogawa’s submission attempts, but the Olympian has more than one trick and just beat the bigger man for the KO win. **
Coming away from the tournament for a while and we get to see what promises to be an excellent fight between Hidehiko Yoshida and K-1 star Mark Hunt. In another mix of styles Hunt dominates the early part of the show with his formidable kickboxing skills, but the more controlled Yoshida managed to find a crack in Hunts defence and took the the K1 star to the ground for an easy armbar submission. ***
In one of the finest fights I have seen from Pride Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira goes up against Heath Herring in a second round tournament match. Herring seemingly controlled the first round with some intense grappling. However this early lead seemed to make him overconfident and less than 30 seconds into round two Nogueira had Herring locked in a choke for the win. *****
In the main event (and final second round tournament match) Fedor Emelianenko fought Kevin Randleman. This match many expected not to go ahead as Randleman’s father had died just 2 weeks earlier! But Randleman not only turned up but brought his best game! Shame his best is nowhere as good as that of Emelianenko’s! Once again the armbar was the submission move of choice and Randleman tried his best but was forced to tap out to a superior fighter. ****
Overall Critical Countdown gets a massive **** from me.
Up to now this Grand Prix scores ***
- Kazuhiro Nakamura Vs Murilo Bustamante
- Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Vs Sergey Kharitonov
- Naoya Ogawa Vs Fedor Emelianenko
- Kevin Randleman Vs Ron Waterman
- Mirko Cro Cop Vs Alexandre Emelianenko
- Wanderlai Silva Vs Yuko Kondo
- Fedor Emelianenko Vs Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
In the first match of the evening, Kazuhiro Nakamura goes up against Brazil’s Murilo Bustamante in a non tournament match. This is a fantastic fight, a perfect showcase of technical combat. At no time was any one man obviously dominant over the other. Very little of this fight was not fought on the ground, both men were happy to exchange hold for hold while trying for the submission victory. After 3 hard fought rounds the judges gave a unanimous points victory to Japans Nakamura. *****
The second round was the first of the Grand Prix tournament semi-finals. Featuring Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira taking on Sergey Kharitonov this fight promised to be one of the potential best of the night. Under the tournament rules this was fought over only 2 rounds, and neither man stood out in this somewhat lacklustre fight. The points decision went to Nogueira in a slightly surprising decision. *
Thankfully the next match saved the show, Naoya Ogawa faced Fedor Emelianenko in a much faster paced fight. Ogawa had the advantage of the home crowd, but Fedor wasn’t fazed in the slightest and launched straight into a fierce attack. Fedor quickly took Ogawa down and locked in a picture-perfect armbar for the win via tapout. ****
Taking a break from the tournament the next bout pitted Kevin Randleman against former WWE trainee “H2O” Ron Waterman. Going into the fight Randleman was the definite favourite, his previous winning streak carrying him on a wave of confidence. “H2O” seemed to pick up on the confidence of Randleman and early on seemed unable to properly counter anything thrown at him. Waterman managed to fight back, and out of nowhere locked in a key lock for the hard-fought victory. ***
Mirko Cro Cop returned to Pride next in a non tournament fight against the younger brother of the man who knocked him out of the Grand prix tournament, Alexandre Emelianenko. Somehow it was hard to take this fight as anything other than Cro Cop wanting revenge against Fedor Emelianenko. In this fight Cro Cop returned to form and utterly dominated the younger Emelianenko from start to finish. Cro Cop finished the fight quickly with a huge left kick to the jaw of Emelianenko for the knockout win. ***
In a fight more at home in a Deep South bar Wanderlai Silva takes on Yuko Kondo. Both men threw hard punches, many of which landed on target. This has to be the most brutal fight I have ever seen in Pride, Silva knocked Kondo to the ground before stomping on the downed man. Quickly the referee stopped the fight as Kondo was in no fit state to continue. ***
Time for the MAIN EVENT of the tournament. The 16 original fighters had been cut down to 2 men: Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Both men had fought hard to get to this point, Fedor having the slightly harder road to the final. This fight was the culmination of 9 hours of fights and 4 hours of extras – God I hope this is worth it.
NOOOoooooo!!!!! Almost immediately the 2 men’s heads accidentally collided, a deep cut appearing over the right eye of Fedor. Pride officials (eventually) declare the fight to be a no contest, much to the dismay of the assembled fans. This fight had looked like a possible match of the year candidate on paper.
*Note, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Fedor Emelianenko was re-fought at the PRIDE Shockwave 2004 event on December 31, 2004 with Emelianenko being declared the winner and 2004 Pride Grand Prix Winner)*
Final Conflict deserves a ****, with the overall Grand Prix earning a ****.
The 4 hours of extras include the normal fighter bios, interviews with the fighters and an introduction to what Pride FC actually is.
So, after nearly 14 hours of MMA did I feel like this was worth buying? At a cost of £31.99 for a 6 DVD set YES, yes it is. For anyone who has any interest in Pride, or MMA in general, the 2004 Grand Prix is possibly the best buy out there today. Go buy this NOW!!