Saturday, February 24, 2007


By Brian O’Hara

PRIDE Fighting Championships flexes its international muscle a second time this weekend in Las Vegas with PRIDE 33 “The Second Coming” at the Thomas & Mack Event Center.

This card features the long-awaited rematch between one of the most feared fighters in PRIDE history in Wanderlei Silva (31-6-1) against the always humble but extraordinarily dangerous “Hollywood” Dan Henderson (12-5-0).

The first conflict between Silva and Henderson took place some six years ago at PRIDE 12 “Cold Fury,” and was a dream for any fight fan. The two traded ferocious strikes on their feet, and tested one other over every inch of the mat for a full three rounds. Silva walked away with a decision victory, but it was Henderson who discovered – in his PRIDE debut no less - that he can not be bullied by the Chute Boxe veteran. A PRIDE champion himself now, Henderson may be the one to bring down PRIDE’s juggernaut this Saturday..

Silva’s ability to remain cunning and composed in the ring, or to run maniac wild in order to obliterate his opponents, fans can expect Silva’s most intense performance to date. Silva holds victories over tough Pride opponents such as Hidehiko Yoshida, Kazuyuki Fujita, Guy Mezger, and holds dual wins over Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Sitting atop of the Pride Fighting Championships elite equipped with fierce striking abilities, and a well versed ground game, Silva seeks to unleash the savage instinct to demolish Henderson at Pride’s Second Coming.

Two-time Olympic wrestler and collected Team Quest member, Dan Henderson is the epitome of a balanced fighter who can showcase an imposing ground game or deliver heavy knockout ability. Look for Henderson to have the wherewithal to survive Silva’s attack and put on a self professed, most important performance of his MMA carrier.

Because both Henderson and Silva have such versatile MMA abilities, perhaps conditioning will be the single deciding factor between these two warriors in this collision.

In heavyweight action, Russian Top Team’s Sergei Kharitonov (13-3-0) faces late replacement Mike Russow (3-0, 1 NC), who fills the void left when Golden Glory striker Gilbert Yvel was denied licensure last Friday by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his violent behavior to a referee in a 2004 bout.

Kharitonov has a great deal of experience in PRIDE, etching his palce as an aggressive striker with a penchant for body shots. Though this Moscow native had a tough 2006 season going 0-2, Kharitonov went undefeated in 2005 and only suffered one decision loss in 2004 to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

His bout with the mostly unknown Russow should serve as a rebounding one, though three-time Division 1 National wrestling qualifier Russow leaves the smallest crack in upset’s door open. Only four pro bouts into his career, Eastern Illinois alumn Russow (also the alma mater of UFC welterweight stuff Matt Hughes) trains with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, and has been known to get the gritty Belarussian to the mats on occasion.

Frank Trigg (14-5-0) is making his first appearance inside the PRIDE ropes in seven years. With his boisterous personality as a PRIDE commentator, this 34-year-old Rochester, New York native is looking to shine against 2006 Welterweight Grand Prix winner Kazuo Misaki.

From his years with the RAW Team to his recent move to Las Vegas and Randy Couture’s Xtreme Couture ranks, Trigg has built a solid record, with his most recent win against the always unpredictable Jason “Mayhem” Miller in Dec. to take Icon’s middleweight crown. Trigg’s most memorable defeats were against UFC great Matt Hughes, and a dominating loss to current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. All three losses exposed Trigg’s inability to defend against the rear-naked choke, though settling into a new weight division and a new home life, Trigg’s newfound inner balance could assist in the recent clarity his performances have exuded.

Japan’s Kazuo Misaki enters this bout with a two-round decision win over an injured Denis Kang at PRIDE’s 2006 Bushido “Survival” Finals. He also holds a two-round decision over Dan Henderson in the tournament’s opening round, and a second round decision over Phil Baroni in 2006, so look for Misaki to push Trigg standing.
Although a non-title fight in the 161-pound weight division, Takanori Gomi (13-1-0) is set to fight the young UFC veteran Nick Diaz (14-6-0). Gomi began his winning ways at age 20 as he tore his way through the competition to capture the Shooto Welterweight Championship in 2001 by defeating Rumina Sato. Strong and aggressive on his feet, Gomi is regarded as one of the world’s best pound-for-pound fighters. With a salient background in boxing and wrestling, Gomi has been victorious over Hayato Sakurai, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Jens Pulver, and Mitsuhiro Ishida among others.

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