With the recent resurgence of Pride FC veterans Wanderlei Silva and Mark Hunt, I've been thinking back to the hay days of the now defunct Japanese MMA promotion. The organization had most of the best fighters in the world fighting under one banner, and what I loved the most about Pride was the high paced, non-stop action.
During the Pride era many fighters made their names through highlight reel knockouts, huge slams, crazy antics and incredible back and forth fights. I've compiled a list of my five favorite Pride FC era fighters and my reasoning behind my choices.
Fedor's reign of dominance during his time in Pride was a sight to behold. The Pride heavyweight champion had a trademark style of swinging for the fences with total distain for his opponent without showing a hint of emotion. 'The Last Emperor' had compiled a record of 27-1(1) by the time Pride went under, and many had Fedor at the top of their pound for pound list, and for good reason. Fedor's list of Pride opponents reads like a who's who of MMA. During his four years in Pride FC Fedor faced and defeated Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Coleman, Cro Cop, Mark Hunt and Kevin Randleman to name a few. My all time favorite Fedor moment was when he was suplexed by Randleman on to his head and still won the match by submission.
2.Mirko 'Cro Cop' Filopovic
How can you not love 'Cro Cop' for all the amazing action he bought to Pride FC? His K-1 level striking was the best in all of MMA during his time in Pride, earning him a record of 18-4-1(1) overall in Pride. My all time favorite Cro Cop moment was when the Croatian knocked out Aleksander Emelianenko with a trademark head kick, then called out Fedor to set up their fight of the year match in 2005. Cro Cop's only losses in pride came to Fedor, Kevin Randleman, Mark Hunt and 'Big Nog'. His notable victories include Mark Coleman, Josh Barnett (three times), Kazushi Sakuraba, Wanderlei Silva, Kevin Randleman, Igor Vovchanchyn and Ikuhisa Minowa.
Between 1999 and 2004 no man was able to defeat Wand in Pride. His dominance was truly awesome to watch, as well as very brutal. Silva's style is best described as a Muay Thai brawler. The Brazilian won the Pride middleweight championship with a TKO victory over Kazushi Sakuraba in 2001 and held the title until Dan Henderson took it from him six years later. Silva's reign of terror in Pride was long and bloody, his list of victims includes Sakuraba (three times), Quinton Jackson (twice), Dan Henderson, Guy Mezger, Kazuyuki Fujita and Ricardo Arona. My all time favorite 'Axe Murderer' moment is when he left Quinton Jackson hanging unconscious through the bottom rope after a series of brutal knees to the face.
'Shogun' had possibly the most exciting style in all of Pride. He had flashy kicks, Jiu-Jitsu, he was powerful, had good boxing and strong ground and pound. Rua won the Pride middleweight grand prix with a first round knockout of Ricardo Arona. 'Shogun' also defeated Alistair Overeem (twice), Quinton Jackson, Cyrille Diabate, Akihiro Gono and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira during his time in Pride. My all time favorite Rua moment was his incredible slugfest with 'Lil Nog' at the gp quarterfinals in 2005.
'The Fireball Kid' was an incredible fighter in the Pride era. He holds the fastest KO in Pride history, a six second destruction of Ralph Gracie, and won the lightweight championship with a KO victory over Hayato Sakurai. Gomi was only beaten once during his time in Pride FC by Marcus Aurelio, a loss which Gomi avenged the same year. Gomi also beat David Baron, Jens Pulver, Jean Silva and Tatsuya Kawajiri during his time in Pride FC. My favorite Gomi moment was his brutal knockout of Luiz Azeredo at Pride Bushido 7 in 2005.