As you guys may or may not know, I run the greatest MMA editorial website on earth ( http://humungusmma.blogspot.com ) here's my latest. Alright, it’s time for one of the best mega-cards of the year. The Grand Prix format usually pays off in an incredible final, and this is no different. There can be no argument that the winner of this tournament isn’t the top contender for Fedor’s golden throne, and might even knock him off of it if he doesn’t come prepared. There are a lot of extremely close fights on this card that could go either way, but it’s my job to predict how the fight will go, so I’m not going to cheap out and say “toss-up”, but be warned before making any bets on my predictions this go round. Evangelista Santos vs. Yosuke Nishijima What are the chances that Cyborg had a rough childhood? The man has a Mike Tyson tattoo for God’s sake. That said, Santos should win this fight. He has way more experience, killer instinct, and he’s fighting someone with a boxer’s ground game. That said, Cyborg loves to bang and isn’t a master strategist, and Nishijima should be able to knock him out when he tries to throw. This could be an ugly fight if Cyborg tries some tactics Nishijima isn’t used to, like knees from the clinch or dirty boxing, but I expect Nishijima’s technical ability will net him the win late in the first by KO. Nishijima by KO late round 1. Sergei Kharitonov vs. Alexander Emelianenko Battle of the Russian bears. This fight is GUARANTEED to be ugly. Sergei is cold as ice and will not quit, while Aleks can hospitalize someone in 20 seconds. There are some strong intangibles here that make prediction difficult: Aleks has shown dubious desire to fight in the past, notably faltering in his extremely nervous fight against crocop. Sergei is coming off a serious injury and it’s never safe to bet on a fighter like that. Aleks hands are faster, but I think that Sergei can take this by hitting harder and better. Sergei can take a shot and he’s going to have to, but he should be able to wear the big boy down and finish him. Hopefully we’ll get to see some Sambo, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Sergei by TKO in the 2nd. Lee Tae Hyun vs. Ricardo Morais Another fight to register on the richter scale. The Korean “Sumo” vs. the Brazillian “Godzilla”. Hyun is over his head here. In his first mixed rules fight he’s fighting an enormous heavy hitter. Morais is slower than Christmas, but I doubt Hyun is going to explode with strikes at 6’6” and 300 lbs. It’s time to see if Hyun can take a punch to the face and if he’s been seriously training. If he has, he’ll take Morais down and grind him up for the decision, while defending subs. I don’t think it’ll happen. Top athletes from other sports given a “celebrity match” in pride almost universally rely on their one art and maybe sit in on some BJJ classes if a gracie will give them a free t-shirt. If Morais has been keeping his BJJ skills legit, he’s going to outgrapple Hyun and finish the total novice. Morais by TKO in the 1st. Kazuhiro Nakamura vs. Yoshihiro Nakao Both of these fighters are pretty one-dimensional, despite being legit fighters. Nakamura has fought much tougher competition and is more experienced, while Nakao has a size advantage. Nakao is going to put Nakamura on his back, and the spunky Judoka is not going to be able to do anything about it. Nakamura isn’t a finisher. Nakao will grind out the decision win unless he gasses or Nakamura brings something more to the table than he ever has before and puts him on his back and finishes it. Nakao by decision. Mauricio Rua vs. Cyrille Diabate With this match, pride continues to run rings around the UFC in terms of fighter maintenance. Shogun’s coming off a bad injury, so he’s given an opponent who will look good in the ring, and present a limited danger, but has weaknesses that shogun can easily exploit. Think Feyd Rautha’s drugged gladiatorial opponents in DUNE. “The Snake” is a real threat on the feet, win numerous impressive KO’s . Shogun had better watch out for those knees. That said, shogun can manhandle him to the mat and then Shogun’s extremely slick BJJ game should come to the fore and end the fight quickly. Shogun by submission early round 1. Ricardo Arona vs. Alistair Overeem Wow, another matchup with the potential of Sergei vs. Aleks, and similar divisional importance. These guys are the most explosively athletic fighters in the LHW division in pride, even if they fight at cross purposes. Arona seeks control and finishes when the opportunity presents itself, while Alistair tries to force a finish early in the fight whenever possible. Alistair’s been fighting a lot and might have nagging injuries, while the injury-prone Arona has been taking time off yet again to nurse his wounds. Alistair’s wrestling is underrated, so he’s going to give Arona trouble to start off the fight, and with Arona’s standup technique, Alistair could work him over early to set himself up for the win. That said, Arona will eventually get the takedown, and I’ve never seen Overeem come back from adversity. He’s too savvy and Arona too oldschool “position before submission” BJJ for the submission to be likely, but in the end, Overeem will stop intelligently defending himself. Overeem is an extremely talented fighter with a great skillset, but he always fails when he’s just on the cusp of greatness, and he never misses an opportunity to fight stupid (witness his 30 pointless takedowns on shogun or patented no-look-hook). Arona by TKO round 2. Which brings us to the tournament. The big fat belt and fedor beatdown booby prize are up for grabs for anyone. Everyone except crocop is coming into this event extremely hungry. Josh is smaller and in better trim than ever before. Silva is proving he’s just now entering the prime of his career. Nog is bigger than ever, but looks good and comfortable at the weight, and is coming off his 2005 layoff with a renewed passion to win. Crocop is hard to read, but it’s safe to assume he’s going to come well-prepared and extremely dangerous, as always. Both he and Nog still believe they have what it takes to dethrone fedor and burn for that guaranteed rematch. Silva is a psychopath out to prove he’s the baddest man in twelve universes, and Barnett thinks the title belt would be a good ending to the movie and look nice on the shelf next to his anime collection. Wanderlei Silva vs. Mirko Crocop Silva’s only advantages in this fight are his will to win and his cardio. Crocop is a mile wide and an inch deep when it comes to both. Wanderlei can’t show Crocop anything he hasn’t seen already, but last time he saw a massive surprise bomb coming at his face, he fell over and was out of the 2004 HWGP. Crocop will use his power to throw Silva out of the clench whenever necessary, and Silva’s fooling himself if he thinks he can take this fight to the ground and have any success there. Crocop is dangerous with any strike he throws (in the first round) and silva has to rely on his punches. On paper, a more experienced crocop should be expected to end Wanderlei’s dream in the first with a shocking KO. In my heart, I see Silva winning, but I can’t say why. My official pick is Crocop by KO in late round 1. If Silva manages to win this, he wins the tournament. Josh “Hentai Otaku” Barnett vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira Another exciting and close fight. Josh has better wrestling, size, and probably strength, whereas Nog has more technical grappling and much better cardio and durability. Barnett’s heavier hands will negate Nog’s superior technical striking. Hopefully they’ll engage on the ground and we don’t just see some “technical striking” while each hopes they can fall into sidemount, in a replay of Werdum vs. Nog or Einemo. Barnett’s stamina has always been a question, but the shorter tournament format will benefit him in this fight, but I don’t know how well he’d do in the next round. Nog has a great game, but Barnett’s wrestling is going to put him on his back. If Barnett can prevent the sweep and keep an active GnP, he can take this fight with the judges before Nog gets a chance to work his game. Barnett wins by decision. That would make for a Crocop vs. Barnett finals. Crocop was one of the best fighters in K-1 but never won a K-1 tournament. The same goes in pride. He doesn’t have what it takes to keep fighting multiple times a night, and is injury prone, most likely due to the power he puts into everything. If this fight happens, the two most fatigued fighters will be the ones in the finals, and it will likely be anticlimactic. Barnett will have more in the tank after the first five minutes, and he’s shown that his game can last with crocop barring freak back-of-the-knee submissions. Barnett will finish this fight in the late first round. If silva topples crocop, he’ll win the tournament, regardless of who is put in front of him. He’ll beat a gassed Barnett as he’s never been beaten before, or he’ll abuse Nog so badly that he’ll be stopped for the first time. If we see Nog vs. Crocop in the finals, it will look the same as the first fight, with a shorter “nog eats it” portion and a longer “Nog puts on the submission on a worn-out crocop” period. On paper, this card cannot but be the best of the year so far. In reality they’d have to gas the stadium for the tournament finals not to produce at least one fight for the ages. This is one of the most important events of the year as well, with many fights providing “touchstones” to gauge future performance from each fighter.