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Risk for Success? Absolutely.

By Al Yu | March 17, 2006

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By Al Yu

On January 15th, DSE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara confirmed that an Absolute or Open-Weight Grand Prix will be held throughout 2006. Fighters from the Lightweight and Welterweight divisions will be included to participate, in addition to the Middleweight and Heavyweight divisions. The proliferation of MMA has produced a new generation of very talented fighters. The Grand Prix will provide an opportunity for 16 PRIDE fighters to prove that one of them is the best fighter in the world, regardless of weight class. This tournament will be about utilizing strength, technique, and intelligence. This tournament will be about honor and perseverance. And most importantly, this tournament will be about heart.

PRIDE 31 ‘Unbreakable’ served as a way to ‘test the waters’ with an Absolute format. DSE put together a solid card with some apparent mismatches in hopes of delivering what they and the fans wanted to see. The results proved to be what DSE were looking for as it was a night of upsets and personal triumphs. Fighters who were picked to lose overcame odds and were victorious. Other fighters who weren’t favored to win showed a lot of heart in defeat, earning the respect of many. These were some of the qualities that DSE was searching for and should be indicative of an Absolute Grand Prix Champion.

Though the UFC pioneered the Open-Weight tournament format, the concept of Open-Weight match-ups has continued to be practiced by other MMA organizations long after the UFC adopted weight classes. Popularized in Brazil, before the existence of the UFC, the style of Vale Tudo and its tournaments/events commonly pitted fighters of different weight classes against each other. Pancrase is another MMA organization that continues to hold Open-Weight fights.

After hosting many successful tournaments for each weight division, DSE decided to hold another Open-Weight event. For those who failed to remember or weren’t informed, PRIDE’s very first Grand Prix in 2000 was actually an Open-Weight tournament. Mistakenly labeled by fans as a ‘Heavyweight’ Grand Prix, the tournament included names such as Kazushi Sakuraba, Royce Gracie and Guy Mezger, fighters who normally campaigned at Middleweight or Welterweight. Even though Lightweights and Welterweights are allowed to participate, this year’s Grand Prix will probably consist of mostly Middleweights and Heavyweights.

When this tournament was first announced, it was met with mixed feelings by the MMA community and quickly became a pendulum of public opinion. There were many concerns for the health of the fighters and the difference in skill levels. Well, much to the dismay of the tournament pundits, MMA has actually evolved. We will not see the olden UFC days where blatant mismatches were abundant and purposely arranged. The skills of fighters have advanced to a whole new level as well as health and safety regulations. It’s great to see loyal fans that are passionate and concerned for their favorite fighters and organizations. I’m certain that DSE will do everything in their power to allay the fans’ worst fears by keeping the tournament as safe as past PRIDE events. Will there be special rules for weight disparities? I hope not. However, I think PRIDE will proceed like they have in past events and offer the smaller fighter the choice of allowing the four-points attack (permitting knees or kicks to the face of an opponent in the “four points position”). Even with weight differences, I feel that there won’t be a fighter that will disallow the four-points attack. Though safety and health regulations have proven to be excellent, it amazes me that some MMA fans would go as far as to say that ‘we’ll see our first death of an MMA fighter in PRIDE’. Comments like that are devoid of any thought and continue to fuel the opponents of MMA.

Styles make fights and it comes down to the matchmaking. Open-Weight fights have the potential to produce great spectacles or disastrous results if weight disparity is taken lightly. A bad mismatch could potentially result in an abrupt and anticlimactic fight. The matchmaking will either make or break the tournament. It will be DSE’s responsibility to make the appropriate match-ups that will be exciting to watch while maintaining a fair level of competitiveness. With that said, I’m tired of reading the ridiculous ‘Gomi is going to get slaughtered by (insert heavyweight name)’ comments. Do you actually think DSE would pit a Lightweight against a Heavyweight if they didn’t have to? Once PRIDE announces the official match-ups, I’m certain there will be some fans that won’t agree with the selections. However, as PRIDE 31 has shown, fans shouldn’t be too quick to judge. The uncertainty of fights is what makes MMA so exciting.

It is important to note that fighters who are invited to the Absolute Grand Prix have to make the decision of whether or not to accept the challenge. Once invited, DSE isn’t mandating any fighter to be part of the Grand Prix, the fighters will make that decision themselves. They know the risks and consequences every time they step into the ring and this event shall be treated no differently. No one should ever question a fighter’s heart or honor. Fighters who participate are given the chance to prove to themselves and to the fans that they are the best fighter in the world. There is no better opportunity to prove that than in an Absolute tournament.

With an unbelievable list of potential fighters who may participate, the PRIDE Absolute Grand Prix will be three of the most exciting events in 2006. I’m confident PRIDE will produce a very entertaining and competitively safe show. Injuries can and will happen, it’s the nature of the sport. However, advancements in health and safety regulations have made MMA into one of the safest sports today. The uncertainty that an event like this can bring is very exciting and is the driving force behind this controversial subject. Can the fighters rise to the challenge? Will we be blessed with having seen a spectacle of a lifetime? One thing is for certain, we will find out on May 5th.

Topics: Al Yu, All Topics, Japan, MMA, PRIDE | 2 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

2 Responses to “Risk for Success? Absolutely.”

  1. […] By Al Yu Total Elmination Absolute introduction – “Risk for Success? Absolutely.” Full 5/5 PRIDE Osaka Dome card. […]

  2. fh says:

    you should apply for “how to try to make a shitty card look good” job at DSE…


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