Saturday, February 24, 2007


By Ricardo Mendoza

Kazuo Misaki is coming off the biggest accomplishment of his career by winning the Pride Welterweight GP 2006, even though it was a controversial win. Frank Trigg came out of retirement to take on ICON Middleweight Champion Jason “Mayhem” Miller back in December. Trigg was a huge underdog in the fight but pulled off the upset, setting himself up for a new opportunity to fight in Pride. Misaki now has a chance to prove his critics wrong, that his Pride GP win wasn’t a fluke but is worthy of being considered a top middleweight. Many have overlooked this fight but I expect this fight to be the sleeper fight of the night.

Kazuo Misaki has a 18-7-2 record in MMA and trains out of Team Grabaka with Akihiro Gono. Misaki is coming off a controversial win of the Pride Welterweight GP 2006, having lost in his semi-final bout against Paulo Filho. Filho took the fight to the ground early and kept constant pressure on Misaki, finally submitting him with an armbar late in the first round.

This is where it got interesting, as Filho pulled out because of an injury and Misaki was given a second chance to win the tournament. He took full advantage of his second chance as he took on Denis Kang in the final, in what turned out to be the fight of the night. Misaki dropped Kang on several occasions throughout the fight, while Kang was busy off his back trying to submit Misaki. In the end, Misaki had done just a little more and was awarded a split decision victory over Denis Kang at Pride Bushido 13 to become the Pride Welterweight GP 2006 Champion.

Misaki avenged his prior loss to Dan Henderson at Pride Bushido 12, when he took home a unanimous decision win over the Pride Welterweight Champion. Misaki was the busier fighter on the feet, constantly pressuring Henderson with crisper and harder strikes that seemed to hurt Henderson at times. At the end of the fight, Misaki was still fresh, while Henderson looked tired and beaten.

Misaki did much of the same to UFC veteran Phil Baroni at Pride Bushido 11. Misaki outworked Baroni the feet with the crisper and harder strikes and mixed in a couple takedowns en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Misaki has excellent cardio, and his striking has improved vastly over his several last fights. He is currently the #4 middleweight fighter in the MMAWeekly Rankings.

Frank Trigg has a 14-5 record in MMA and trains out of the Xtreme Couture Gym with Randy Couture. He is coming off a huge win over Jason “Mayhem” Miller at ICON Sport: Mayhem vs. Trigg. Trigg came out of retirement to take on Miller as he moved up to middleweight for his new challenge. Many expected Trigg to lose because Miller’s size advantage and skill on the ground would be too much to Trigg, who had lost 3 out of his last 4 fights heading into the fight. Trigg surprised many by dominating Miller on the feet, as he had some crisp boxing in the fight and dropped Miller on several occasions. On the ground, Trigg was able to work his way out of submissions to the amazement of many fans. In the second round, Trigg dropped Miller with punches and was able to finish him off with soccer kicks on the ground to win by TKO, becoming the new ICON Middleweight Champion.

Trigg competed in the Rumble on the Rock Welterweight tournament, where Carlos Condit submitted him in the semi-finals with a triangle choke. After losing to Condit, Trigg retired from MMA before he was lured back in December to take on Miller. Trigg notched a win over the always-tough Ronald Jhun at Rumble on the Rock 8, winning a decision over Jhun in a fight that he needed to win in order to continue on with his career. Trigg is an excellent wrestler and has seemed to vastly improved his stand-up, which he displayed in his last fight against Miller.

This fight has fireworks written all over it but is largely being seen as a mismatch, although I don’t see it as that. Both fighters are super aggressive and both fight at a high pace. The fighter that can land the first solid shots will indeed have the advantage because he can then dictate the pace of the fight. If Trigg isn’t comfortable on the feet, look for him to take the fight on the ground where he will look to work Misaki over with ground and pound.

Misaki will be looking to keep on the feet as he should be the stronger of the two fighters come Saturday night and will no doubt have heavier hands of the two. Misaki has a decent ground game coming from a judo background and training at Grabaka but he hasn’t really shown it as he has preferred to keep the fight standing. Misaki might be more inclined to go on the ground believing that he can submit Trigg, but Trigg survived on the ground with Miller, which many didn’t expect to happen. In the end, Misaki should be able to win a decision over Trigg because of his endless gas tank. He has excellent cardio and he should be able to outwork Trigg on the feet and if they are clinched Misaki should be able to use his judo to get the fight to the ground and work from there.

Prediction: Kazuo Misaki by decision.

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