I woke up this afternoon to a little treat. I had accidentally left Spike TV on after watching the countdown show for UFC 141 and awoke to Shogun Rua smashing Ricardo Arona in the face. Oh, I remember this place. The magical (and slightly overrated) land of PRIDE Fighting Championships.
There were many things wrong with PRIDE. The non-title fights, the freakshow fights, the blatant mismatches, the fights taking place in a ring, the yellow cards, and of course the rules outlawing elbow strikes. That said, PRIDE consistently delivered violent and exciting fights. Emphasis on violence, as knees and kicks to the head of downed opponents allowed fighters opportunities to finish from positions that would be far more difficult under the unified rules.
So how would the current UFC champions fair in PRIDE? Instead of discussing fantasy match ups and how one fighter would fair against another, lets explore how a fighters particular skill set would play into PRIDE's set of rules. I'm not necessarily asking how JDS would have done against Fedor in his prime, but rather how Junior's fighting style and skill set would translate in a ring with different rules. Lets start at heavyweight and work our way down. Also don't be afraid to flame me if you think I'm completely wrong or don't hesitate posting gifs of cats doing unusual activities.
Junior "Cigano" Dos Santos
JDS uses his boxing almost exclusively, using his grappling to keep the fight standing. A ring can be beneficial to a striker because it allows a guy to trap another fighter on the corner or the ropes and really unload. The drawback is that the same situation can easily happen to you, and being trapping in a corner is not fun when a grappler is trying to take you down. Ultimately I think JDS can replicate the success of a guy like Mirko Cro Cop in a promotion like PRIDE. However, JDS does have some excellent knee strikes and generally has a good sense of where he is in the cage. I think he would do perfectly fine under PRIDE rules.
Jon "Bones" Jones
Jones probably has some of the best elbow strikes in MMA. His ability to slice a guy open is pretty incredible. No doubt that Jones would probably have a bit of an issue in PRIDE because his greatest weapon would be taken away. That said, being able to stomp your ass out from half way across the ring would be a huge benefit. I'm sure that instead of going for the mount and reigning down elbows he would make the adjustment and go for a side mount instead, using knees to seriously hurt some guys on the ground. I think Jones biggest problem would be in the striking. Jones does leave his chin a little high up and is uncomfortable trading in the pocket. He prefers to be really close or really far away from his opponents, and getting stuck in a corner against a striker may be problem. In this hypothetical situation Jones wouldn't be able to circle out as easily as he could in the cage. Ultimately I think Jones would continue to win and win often, but the ring does add an interesting element to his striking game.
Anderson "The Spider" Silva
Silva is only current UFC Champion who has actually competed in PRIDE (going 3-2 in the promotion), but of course he is an improved fighter from his days fighting in PRIDE. Part of this however is that Silva is a fantastic striker in the cage. He can use it to clinch up and deliver some brutal knee strikes and doesn't have to worry about getting trapped in a corner. Having seen Silva spar in a boxing ring, this is a very important aspect of his game. Silva has a tendency to get trapped in that corner, which I think can lead to some problems. I definitely think that Silva benefits greatly from being in the UFC.
Georges "Rush" St. Pierre
Personally, I think GSP would have the most to benefit from fighting in PRIDE. Lets say that PRIDE had a welterweight division. I have no doubt that GSP would be a destroyer. As Thomas Denny can attest, GSP can reign some knees from side mount. Matt Serra was a victim of these to the body, but imagine how brutal they would be if he could land them to the head. GSP is also fantastic at passing the guard, so he would be in a position to knee quite often. GSP doesn't shoot in sloppily and can get a take down from the clinch or from outside. He uses his striking to set up his shots, and can transition from double to single to knee tap beautifully. I have no reason to believe he would get hit with a big knee or kick coming in because of this. GSP doesn't have great finishing instinct, but he would probably get more finishes under PRIDE. I would expect him to just straight murk dudes in north south position à la Mark Coleman.
Frankie "The Answer" Edgar
I don't know if Edgar would be affected to much by fighting in PRIDE. He doesn't really rely on elbow strikes and his footwork wouldn't make it too difficult for him to strike in the ring. He probably could get a take down, pass guard, and then land some knees, but I doubt he can actually use it to finish guys. I think his fighting is mostly unchanged.
Jose "Scarface" Aldo
I think if Aldo fought under PRIDE rules, his fighting style would closely resemble guys like Wanderlei Silva and Shogun Rua. Lots of knees, stomps, kicks, and just overall violence. I don't think there is much to discuss here.
Dominick "The Dominator" Cruz
Does Cruz gain much from PRIDE's rule set? I don't think so. I think this is actually to Cruz's determent. Cruz kind of rolls of the cage and circles out whenever he is getting pressured, and I think that might not work as well in a ring. He is such a good wrestler that might not even be a factor though, as he might be able to just clinch and get a take down.
I didn't put too much thought into it and just kind of banged it out, so what do you guys think?