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The Japanese mixed martial arts organization PRIDE presents the semi final round of their open weight Grand Prix Tournament on 9/10/06.  Pinnacle posted lines for the fights several weeks ago, and I’ve been very surprised to see them move the way they have despite mine and my clients’ plays on the other side.  This line movement is to your advantage, however, and you can now get these fights at very attractive prices.  If these plays split we’ve made a small profit; if both work out as I see them it’ll be a big payday.

Josh Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigio Nogueira

One of the two main events at PRIDE–FINAL COUNTDOWN ABSOLUTE pits Josh “The Baby Faced Assasin” Barnett against Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Antoni Rodrigio Nogueira, affectionaly known as “The Minotaur”.  Of the Four fighters remaining in the Open Weight Grand Prix, Barnett is sort of the overlooked variable in the equation and the betting line is reflective of this:  Nogueira is currently a -206 favorite at Pinnacle.

We’ll start by discussing the favorite:  Antonio Rodrigio Nogueria enters this fight with a professional MMA record of 28-3-1 and his three losses have been to top flight competition to say the least.  Two of the losses, and the one NC were against arguably the baddest man walking the face of the earth, Fedor Emelienko.  His other loss was way back in 2000, a split decision verdict to Dan Henderson.  Nogueira is obviously a ground fighting monster with arguably the best submission skills of any heavyweight fighter in the world.  At 6’3″, 231 pounds to say that Nogueira is a formidable opponent is an understatement.

Physically, however, Josh Barnett is at least the equal of Nogueira at 6’3″ 250 lbs.  A native of Seattle, Washington, Barnett began his career as a professional wrestler with New Japan Pro Wrestling.  This fact should not be viewed as a negative–the Japanese pro wrestling is a drastically different animal than its American counterpart, with serious physical demands and a grueling training regimen.   Barnett’s MMA record stands at 18-3 with his losses also coming two top notch opponents.  Two were to Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic, one by decision and the other by submission when Barnett suffered a freak shoulder injury that kept him out of action for over six months.  His other loss was in early 2001 to an in his prime Pedro Rizzo.  Barnett is a formidable ground fighter himself, a decent submission fighter and has arguably the superior standup Game.

Aside from his injury tapout to Mirko, Barnett has never been submitted.  This is important against Nogueira, since his best route to victory is by submission:  he’s only been credited with three TKO victories in his career, all against vastly inferior competition.  If he can’t get the submission, Nogueira will need to win by decision.  He usually does this by dominating the ground Game, but that will be a challenge against a guy who’s actually bigger than he is.  Barnett could very well hold his own on the ground, and that’s where Nogueira will want to keep it rather than try to compete standup against the more powerful striker.

Essentially, this fight is a toss up and as such the +186 price on Barnett is very attractive.

JOSH BARNETT +186 over Antonio Rodrigio Nogueira


Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic vs. Wanderlei Silva

The other co-main event pits two of the most dangerous strikers in the world against each other.  Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic is a former Croatian anti-terrorism officer (hence his nickname) who began his career as a professional kick boxer.  His left high kick is arguably the single most devestating weapon in the sport and has ended a number of his fights.  Mirko is also a decent puncher–just ask Bob Sapp’s orbital bone about that.  Mirko enters this fight with a professional MMA record of 19-4-2, and his Four losses reveal what I consider to be his weaknesses as a fighter.  He’s lost by KO to the powerful but limited Kevin Randleman, by submission to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and by decision to both the monsterous Fedor Emelienko and the not so monsterous Mark Hunt.  Mirko is extremely vulnerable on the ground, but to his credit he’s excellent at defending against takedowns.  He also has a tendency to “headhunt” and look for an opening for a knockout kick.

On the other side of the ring is the man I consider to be the second baddest individual walking the planet (behind the aforemention Fedor Emelienko):  Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva.  Silva has not lost by stoppage since early in his career–one of those was a stoppage for a cut–and not since he lost by TKO in 1998 to Vitor Belfort, who was one of the best in the world at the time.  since then, he’s only lost three times–all by decision–to Mark Hunt, Tito Ortiz and Ricardo Arona.  Silva may not have any single weapon as lethal as Mirko’s high left kick but that hasn’t stopped him from being considered by many to be the best all alround striker in MMA.

Like Mirko, Silva would prefer to fight standup but he’s far from helpless on the ground–he’s a black belt in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu, something they don’t award to just anyone.  Thanks to his Muay Thai background he’s also a superior inside striker and is very adept at using his knees to pummel his foe.  Silva has a chin of granite, and in this fight that’s a huge advantage since Mirko’s ability to take a punch is unproven at best.  Silva does give up three inches in hight to Mirko, but I don’t really think that’ll be a factor here.

With all due respect to  Mirko’s devestating “one punch”…er…”one kick” knockout power, Silva is the better all around fighter.  He’s got a more complete standup Game, is far superior on the ground, and I consider him to be generally tougher all around.  If Mirko tries to fight defensively, Silva has more weapons to gain a decision victory.  I’ve liked Silva all along in this matchup, and was very surprised to see Pinnacle open the fight with Mirko a favorite (he’s now a -184 choice).  In my opinion, they’ve got the wrong man favored and Silva wins either by decision if Mirko tries to play it safe and by TKO if he doesn’t.

WANDERLEI SILVA +174 over Mirko “Cro Cop” Fillipovic

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