Pride had a long illustrious career of pitting some of the best warriors in the world against one another in brutal fights that included stomps, soccer kicks, and knees to a grounded opponent. This made for horrific knockouts that won’t soon be forgotten.
With a complicated list of events that all varied in rules, and significance, Pride put on some of the best matches in MMA history. Grand Prix tournaments both open-weight and specific weight classes were used to show who the best fighter in the world truly was.
This list was supposed to be a list of moments but moments aren’t the only thing that defined Pride FC. It was the legacies, the battles, the rivalries. Here is my list of the top five most memorable aspects of Pride Fighting Championships.
#5 Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Vs. Bob Sapp
In the third fight of his professional MMA career, the humongous Bob Sapp took on heavyweight submission phenom, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. In a cartoonish bout that saw Nogueira picked up and thrown like a rag doll, Sapp put an unforgettable beating on the 26-year old Brazilian.
Sapp made Nogueira look like a child as he lifted him with ease and slammed him on to his head repeatedly. Sapp would then follow Nogueira to the ground to lay down a horrendous display of ground-and-pound.
What would become arguably the greatest chin in MMA helped Nogueira survive this onslaught until Sapp was caught in an armbar following some sloppy groundwork. A must-see for fans of ridiculous fights.
#4 Royce Gracie Vs. Kazushi Sakuraba
Number four is the back and forth battle between the two keystones of an age-old rivalry as Royce Gracie battled the ‘Gracie Killer’, Kazushi Sakuraba.
In a 90-minute war (not a typo) both fighters battered each other as they both searched for the elusive submission but to no avail. The fight was conducted under special rules that made it impossible for the fight to stop by anything other than a KO or submission. This forced the fight to last on for 6 grueling rounds at 15 minutes each.
The fight was only stopped after Royce was chopped down with leg kicks, forcing his brother Rorion to throw in the towel. Some believed that Sakuraba actually tapped during a guillotine attempt by Royce explaining why many Pride fans hold Gracie as the true victor.
An awesome fight either way and one you should definitely watch if you have the time to sit through it in it’s entirety.
#3 Rampage Powerbomb
When asked of the most brutal knockout in the history of Pride or even all of MMA, nine out of ten fans will say the bone shattering power-bomb performed on Ricardo Arona by Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson.
In a huge statement and impressive display of his submission defense, Rampage used a triangle that he got himself stuck in to actually trap Arona in position. He then hoisted Arona straight up in the air and slammed him to the mat knocking him out cold immediately. It is a slam that still gives me chills to this day as I watch what looks like a human being passing over into the afterlife.
The most ridiculous KO of all time that would make a professional wrestler blush. I’m sure everyone reading this article has seen the slam numerous times but, if not, shame on you. Open a new tab and watch it. Then come back for the last two moments.
#2 Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic
This ‘moment’ actually marks a series of moments that, strung together, makes one of the most impressive careers in MMA history. Sixteen Pride FC finishes, eight coming by way of kicks, with only four losses. Most have already guessed the man who has claimed the number two spot. Thats Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic.
He redefined the sport by making every man he faced look down as he lurched towards you just waiting to throw one of those gigantic tree trunks, that Cro Cop calls legs, directly into your head.
His knockout reel is an undeniably amazing glimpse into the world of K-1 level elite kickboxing turned MMA. Cro Cop needed only a mere second to connect and if he did, you would wake up with a light in your face, just pray it’s the doctor’s flashlight.
Defining his Pride career with a victory of Josh Barnett to win the 2006 Open Weight Grad Prix as well as the semi-final bout which matched him against Wanderlei Silva for the second time. His cold stare came straight from his military training in the anti-terrorism unit in his native Croatia and matched the likes of Wanderlei in best all-time stare downs. When the two met, their stare down alone was cause for goosebumps as both men looked death in the face and didn’t bat an eye.
Two of my favorite fights ever. Watch a Cro Cop highlight video and gain respect for a man whose tombstone will one day read: “Right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery.”
#1 The Axe Murderer
Choosing number one was surprisingly easy as one man embodied the Pride rule-set perfectly using his own brutality and aggression to fuel him as he fought. He was dangerous from any position and dangerous to any man. He holds 22 wins in Pride with 15 of those coming by devastating knockout with his highest win streak set at 18.
He is a monster who throws himself in harms way just for the chance to hurt his opponent. His knees from the thai clinch are that of legend and his fast, looping hooks would decimate opponents who dared stand and trade with him. He is the greatest MMA champion of all time and the longest reigning Pride champion ever. He is the ‘mad dog’, ‘The Axe Murderer’, Wanderlei Silva.
No one man is more synonymous with devastation in MMA. He held a monopoly over the Pride middleweight division for six years. There will never be a more exciting fighter than Silva in his prime, this I can promise you. A clear choice for the top spot as he is the greatest fighter Pride has ever seen.