31st December, 2004
The Saitama Super Arena was packed to maximum capacity tonight with 48,398 fans flocking to the stadium to see the trilogy heavyweight title fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (see full fight here) at Pride: ‘Shockwave’ 2004.
The rematch ended in unsatisfactory fashion a few months ago. The two met in the final of the heavyweight Grand Prix at Pride: ‘Final Conflict’ 2004 but Fedor was unable to continue due to a cut caused earlier in the evening and the bout was declared a no contest.
The Grand Prix was on the line as well as the unified heavyweight title. Noguiera held the interim version of the strap while Fedor came into this bout as the reigning regular champion.
Fedor scored with an early low kick and then tossed the Brazilian to the ground. He landed a few kicks and stomps but decided to stay away from the BJJ black belt’s guard.
Moments later Fedor put Nogueira on his back again and followed up immediately with a soccer kick. He was able to repeatedly put the Brazilian on his back but never attempted to capitalize by moving into top position on the ground.
Nogueira, who booked his spot in the final by beating Hirotaka Yokoi, Heath Herring and Sergei Kharitonov, finally shot for a takedown only for Fedor to reverse in midair. For the first time in the fight the interim champion had the Russian in his guard.
Sticking to the game plan Fedor got back to his feet and attempted a few more kicks and stomps before allowing Nogueira to stand up. The Brazilian promptly countered a body kick with a right hand, his first meaningful shot of the fight.
Fedor tossed Nogueira to the canvass again. He wasn’t doing any real damage but at this stage the Russian was in complete control of the fight having effectively neutralized his opponent’s offence.
A couple of crisp right hands from the Russian landed, with one of them knocking an off balance Nogueira down. He continued to score with straight punches until, with around 30 seconds remaining in the round, Nogueira completed a double leg takedown.
He could only land a handful of punches from half guard before the round ended. It was the best moment of the fight for the Brazilian and must have been a boost for his confidence, even if Fedor was clearly ahead on the scorecards at the halfway point.
The second stanza started with a double leg takedown attempt from Nogueira. But Fedor saw it coming and sprawled, leaving the Brazilian on his back again.
They briefly clinched up and, as Fedor threw a knee, Nogueira pulled guard. The Russian landed several punches while ‘Big Nog’ repeatedly threw up his legs looking for an armbar.
Fedor sensed the danger and got to his feet. The Russian promptly threw Nogueira to the ground again and landed a few punches before standing up when he sensed the Brazilian was going for an armbar again.
With his hands hanging close to his waist Fedor clearly had no respect for his opponent’s striking. It also left him well positioned to defend the takedowns, and when Nogueira tried for another double leg he once again ended up on his back.
The Russian, who booked his spot in the final by beating Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman and Naoya Ogawa, landed some more punches from top position as blood began to flow freely from a cut on Nogueira’s face.
The Brazilian cut a frustrated figure as the bell sounded. He had five minutes to turn the fight around but there was nothing to suggest he was going to find an opportunity to do it.
Fedor was throwing Nogueira around like a rag doll at the start of the third round. He elected to stand up again and his opponent tried for a double leg takedown.
Nogueira had both hands wrapped around Fedor’s waist but the Russian was able to easily push him away and land in top position. The regular champion looked remarkably light on his feet and landed a hard knee before throwing his opponent down.
Time was running out for the interim title holder who ate a few more punches in the final exchanges. Both men celebrated as the bell sounded but there was only going to be one winner.
All three judges awarded the decision to Fedor who unifies the Pride heavyweight title and improves to 21-1. Nogueira drops to 24-3 after dropping a decision to the Russian for the second time.
Next up for Fedor will surely be the long awaited title defence against Mirko Crocop. The two heavyweights look set to face off in 2005 in a fight that has been several years in the making.
This is part of our retrospective series looking at some classic shows and fights.