July 1st 2006
Mirko Crocop, Josh Barnett, Wanderlei Silva and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira will compete in the semi finals of the Openweight Grand Prix. The four men booked their spots with wins at Pride: ‘Critical Countdown Absolute’ in Tokyo tonight.

Crocop faced Hidehiko Yoshida in the last of the four quarter finals. The fight headlined the event at the Saitama Super Arena which attracted a crowd of over 44,000 people.

Yoshida, who booked his berth in the last eight by submitting Yosuke Nishijima in the opening round, landed an overhand right at the start of the fight. The judoka looked surprisingly happy to stand and trade with the kickboxer.

Eventually common sense prevailed for Yoshida who shot for a single leg. But Crocop’s takedown defence was on point and a stalemate ensued as they clinched in the corner.

Yoshida tried for a head throw but Crocop, who made short work of Ikuhisa Minowa in his quarter final, shook him off. The Japanese fighter sneaked a couple of uppercuts through the Croatian’s guard but the punches weren’t having any effect.

Hard kicks

After landing a couple of outside leg kicks to his opponent’s left thigh Crocop fired off his first head kick of the fight. It was merely a glancing blow but it drew a wry smile from Yoshida.

Turning the tables, Yoshida tried a high kick but only succeeded in losing his balance and ending up on his back. Crocop elected to work from the guard but couldn’t score from that position so got back to his feet.

Two more hard outside right kicks from the southpaw had Yoshida grimacing in pain. A third connected solidly with the Japanese fighter’s left thigh and Crocop sensed the finish line was in sight.

A fifth outside right kick landed and Crocop was able to take advantage of his opponent’s lack of mobility to land some hard uppercuts. Yoshida fell on his back and could barely get back on his feet when the referee told him to.

Another solid right kick landed on exactly the same spot and Yoshida collapsed. The referee wanted him to stand up again but he couldn’t do it and the fight was called.

With the win Crocop improves to (29-4) and books his spot in the semi final. Yoshida drops to (7-4) and is eliminated from the tournament.

Best of the rest

Joining him will be Josh Barnett (21-3) who needed just over two minutes to finish K-1 veteran Mark Hunt (5-2) with a first round kimura.  The American has now won three fights in a row since suffering back to back defeats at the hands of Crocop.

Reigning Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva (31-5-1-1) looks set to be the smallest man in the final four. He finished Kazuyuki Fujita (13-5) late in the opening round with soccer kicks and punches.

In the only quarter final bout to go the distance Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira faced Fabrício Werdum. After 20 minutes both men were still standing and it was the former who was declared the winner

Notable by his absence was Fedor Emelianenko. The reigning heavyweight champion has not recovered from hand surgery and was replaced by Silva, who received a bye into the quarter finals.

The semi finals and final of the Openweight Grand Prix will take place at Pride: ‘Final Conflict Absolute’ on New Year’s Eve.

Pride: ‘Critical Countdown Absolute’, Tokyo, July 1st 2006
Mirko Crocop def. Hidehiko Yoshida by TKO (Leg Kicks) at 7:38 of Round 1 (Openweight Grand Prix 1/4 final)
Josh Barnett def. Mark Hunt by Submission (Kimura) at 2:02 of Round 1 (Openweight Grand Prix 1/4 final)
Wanderlei Silva def. Kazuyuki Fujita by TKO (Punches and Soccer Kicks) at 9:21 of Round 1 (Openweight Grand Prix 1/4 final)
Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Fabrício Werdum by Decision (Unanimous) at 5:00 of Round 3 (Openweight Grand Prix 1/4 final)
Kazuhiro Nakamura def. Evangelista Santos by Submission (Keylock) at 4:49 of Round 1
Antônio Rogério Nogueira def. Alistair Overeem by TKO (Corner Stoppage) at 2:13 of Round 2
Vitor Belfort def. Kazuo Takahashi by KO (Punch) at 0:36 of Round 1
Yoshihiro Nakao def. Eun-Su Lee by TKO (Doctor Stoppage) at 4:16 of Round 1
Pawel Nastula def. Edson Claas Vieira by Submission (Armbar) at 4:33 of Round 1

This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.