Much has been made of the old guard Pride FC fighters putting on a show last weekend at UFC on Fuel TV 8. And for good reason, as most (including myself) had predicted an easy knockout of Wanderlei Silva for Brian Stann, and perhaps a submission win for Stefan Struve.
Of course quite the opposite ended up being true, as Wand emphatically floored Stann in the second round after one of the most exciting, if not technically sound, bouts in recent memory. Hunt staked his claim at Heavyweight by weathering an early ground assault from Struve, who attempted armbars and a heel hook after mounting Hunt.
But in that true never-say-die Pride attitude, both Silva and Hunt found the courage to come back from behind and win with spectacular finishes, and that is what MMA is all about. UFC on Fuel TV 8 was truly shaping up to be one of the worst cards in recent memory, but then it was turned into one of the most exciting instantly thanks to Hunt and Silva.
Now I know that those were only two bouts on a non pay-per-view card, but the magnitude of the finishes brought the fans in Japan something they had been missing since Pride went defunct. Dream never quite lived up to its older brother, and with JMMA unfortunately all but dead, Japanese fight fans were thirsty for some great fights. They got none of the sort until the last two bouts.
With that said, I wonder if Pride FC’s legacy has suddenly taken a boost thanks to Hunt and perhaps more so, Silva. Wanderlei Silva was truly a hero in Japan as he ruled over Pride as champion. His unbeaten streak is rivaled by few not named Anderson Silva. His headhunting style gained him all the respect in the world in Japan, but his record and reputation since joining the UFC are not close to as stellar.
Hunt, though not as illustrious as The Axe Murderer, is in the same boat. He was a killer in Pride at the onset of his tenure there, even defeating Wanderlei Silva in his third fight, but he fizzled off with a streak of submission losses to the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, and Gegard Mousasi.
Competition nothing to scoff at, but a losing streak nonetheless. Now Hunt has rebounded with four straight wins in the UFC and is incredibly mentioned in title conversation. While Hunt is on the rise within his division, it’s hard to say that Silva could be considered a title contender at MW or especially LHW within the UFC. He’s just been through too many wars, and may be too one-dimensional to fight to the top of the ladder in the UFC. Some even called for him to retire with a good victory in front of his beloved Japanese fans.
However, that doesn't mean that Silva can’t provide great entertainment for fans the world over. That’s probably why Dana White loves Wanderlei and fighters along that nature. Stann knew his best bet was probably to do something other than stand and bang with Silva, but he knew what the fans at the Saitama Super Arena wanted, so much credit goes to him.
Until now, the ‘invasion’ of the UFC by former Pride FC fighters has been lackluster, and a bit underwhelming. Shogun Rua and Rampage Jackson did become world champions, but their reigns were short-lived. Dan Henderson has also seen some success, but lost to Anderson Silva and also Rampage in his return. I don’t think that Pride can completely redeem their name with the victories of two fighters last Saturday, but they sure did go a long way in reminding people of what the spirit of Pride truly was.
That competitiveness, that never quit attitude, that willingness to lay it all on the line was present when Wanderlei Silva and Mark Hunt had their arms raised in victory on Saturday night. No, Pride FC may not fully be redeemed with that event, but two of their best imports went a long way in saving a card destined for doom up until that point. Much respect goes to those fighters, and much respect is paid to an era of fighting that deserves fans’ respect.