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Grading The Major PRIDE Stars (Post-PRIDE)

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After a show that featured three major post-PRIDE fighters, I think it is time to grade the major stars from PRIDE in their post-PRIDE endeavors. 

Fedor Emelianenko - In many people's eyes, the most important figure coming out of the death of PRIDE was their long reigning, unstoppable heavyweight champion.  Upon the demise of PRIDE, many figured the logical choice for ‘The Last Emperor' was to follow his fellow compatriots over to the UFC, however, much to our displeasure, the Russian decided to take his services elsewhere first announcing he had signed with M-1 Global, then Affliction, and now Strikeforce.  In that time, Fedor has racked up a 5-0 record within a three year span.  Notable victories over former UFC heavyweight champions, Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, have kept him atop the heavyweight rankings and his ‘more competitive than expected' Strikeforce debut against Brett Rogers pretty much has cemented him as one of the pound for pound greats of all time.  The problem with Fedor's post-PRIDE accomplishments is that many will still question his ultimate place in the pantheon of mixed martial arts due to his inability to come to terms with the well-known UFC brand.  However, from what we have seen from him as of late, there's no way you can give him anything under an A for his post-PRIDE bouts regardless of where they've taken place. Grade - A


Check out the rest after the jump

Josh Barnett - Another top PRIDE heavyweight that many felt would benefit from a run (albeit his 2nd) in the UFC was the ‘Baby-Faced Assassin'.  Unfortunately for him, Dana White didn't see it that way and pretty much squashed that hardcore fan dream in an instant.  So, Barnett has bounced around from Japan to the States and has amassed a 4-0 record since his PRIDE days.  The only thing is that he picked up those wins again less than stellar opponents as he's fought Hidehiko Yoshida, Jeff Monson, Pedro Rizzo, and Gilbert Yvel...not exactly a murderer's row of heavyweight competition.  Top that off with his possible career suicide with a second steroid bust which kept the long awaited grudge match with Fedor Emelianenko from happening and basically led to the demise of Affliction.  He's like the student that has gotten good grades throughout the school year but has been busted for cheating twice, it's hard to judge whether they've really been at the top of the class or they've just snuck their way through.  Thus I give Josh Barnett a lower than expected mark.  Grade - C-

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira  - Sticking with the former PRIDE heavyweights, one of, if not the most storied fighter from the PRIDE company is the always ready for war Minotauro.  He was one of UFC's big acquisitions during the PRIDE buyout and since then has gone 3-2 in the UFC.  However, unlike Barnett, Big Nog has fought basically the best of the best UFC could throw at him.  Of course, he got a gimme fight in his debut against Heath Herring, but even then Nog's will to win was tested from the Texas Crazy Horse.  From then on, he fought Tim Sylvia, capturing the interim heavyweight title, then dropping a one-sided affair to Frank Mir, rebounding in dramatic fashion against Randy Couture, and finally this past Saturday getting blasted by up and comer Cain Velasqeuz.  It is quite obvious and Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan will continually bring it up that Big Nog's wars in PRIDE are creeping up on him and the man which at one point endured a piledriver from Bob Sapp has now been stopped twice by guys that aren't exactly known for their superb striking.  For the most part though, Nog has remained relevant throughout all of this so his grade should reflect such.  Grade - B

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira - Maybe shadowed by his twin brother, Lil Nog has kept himself busy since the downfall of PRIDE fighting for several different organizations before finally winding up in the UFC.  Since the closing, he has rattled off a 6-0 record, although quite a few of those fights have come against less than stellar opposition.  However, he put an exclamation mark on his resurfacing as a top level Light Heavyweight with the brutal beatdown of up and comer Luiz Arther Cane at UFC 106.  Where his brother has seemed to decline, Lil Nog seems to be skyrocketing and the UFC is taking full advantage of this as he was supposed to meet ‘gatekeeper' Brandon Vera at UFC 109 but had to pull out and now is set to take on former champion Forrest Griffin in the near future for what could be a title contender bout.  Grade - B+

Alistair Overeem - The former Light Heavyweight has been on a surge since the end of his days in PRIDE.  Moving up to Heavyweight, putting on so much bulk that most people question what vein the needle has gone into, Overeem has gone from a pretty decent Light Heavyweight to monster Heavyweight.  Since then he has gone 8-1-1 and has also competed heavily in K-1 events.  His crisp powerful striking and decent ground game has had him obliterate such guys as Mark Hunt and Paul Buentello and nearly kills Kazuyuki Fujita.  He even captured the Strikeforce heavyweight title which he has yet to defend in nearly 3 years.  The question now is whether Ubereem can make the transition from Japan to the US soil and really make a huge name for himself here.  Only time will tell.  Grade - B

Mauricio ‘Shogun' Rua - Shogun ended his PRIDE career as easily the number one Light Heavyweight in the world with no questions even being asked.  He buzzsawed through the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix and after a fluke loss to Mark Coleman returned with a vengeance.  However, US soil seemed to possibly be Shogun's kryptonite as his UFC debut looked more like an embarrassment rather than a declaration.  Since his submission loss to future title holder Forrest Griffin though, Shogun has slowly returned to form defeating two hall of famers in Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell and losing a controversial decision to current champion Lyoto Machida.  His rocky start and his poor performance against Mark Coleman MUST be taken into consideration though.  Grade - C+

Quinton ‘Rampage' Jackson - Rampage had already made his departure from the PRIDE organization before it's death, but is still very much considered a product of the Japanese fight organization.  He's faced a healthy amount of competition in Matt Lindland, Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Wanderlei Silva, and Keith Jardine.  His lone blemish came via a controversial decision to Forrest Griffin where he lost the Light Heavyweight title.  Since then he hasn't gained many fans whether it be his horrible coaching skills on the reality show The Ultimate Fighter or him pulling out of his overhyped match up with Rashad Evans to do movies.  However, the Tennessee native has beaten some top flight competition and done it with fairly convincingly since the end of PRIDE.  Grade - B+

Dan Henderson - The only man in PRIDE to hold two belts in two different weight divisions at the same time saw his start after the end of PRIDE come against two extremely tough opponents in then UFC LHW champ Quinton Jackson and then UFC MW champ Anderson Silva.  Henderson was competitive in both but came up short both times but since then has gone 3-0 winning fights against Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, and Michael Bisping.  Though his UFC tenure has come to an end, he now brings star power and great ability to the Strikeforce roster.  At the age of 39, Hendo hasn't really lost a step as his gritty style still keeps him relevant and his iron chin keeps him ready and willing to crush his opponents.  Grade - C+

Wanderlei Silva - No one would think the Axe Murderer's last performances in PRIDE would see him brutally knocked unconscious in both.  Unfortunately for him, that didn't translate well into his post-PRIDE career either as he came into the UFC with a ton of steam but after a war with Chuck Liddell, he came up short.  Following that he brutalized the then surging Keith Jardine just to be knocked nearly comatose against the man he destroyed twice in Rampage Jackson.  His last two performances have come on his journey into the middleweight division, starting with a good but unsuccessful bout with Rich Franklin and then winning a close albeit good performance against Michael Bisping.  Much like Big Nog, Silva has unfortunately had his wars catch up to him in a bad way.  While he's looked respectable at the lighter weight he still hasn't proven that the Axe Murderer of old or even Axe Murderer 2.0 is upon us.  Grade - D+

Takanori Gomi - The Fireball Kid was much like Shogun as PRIDE came to a close.  Although he was coming off a loss in one of the best come from behind wins in history against Nick Diaz which was later changed to a no contest; many still felt he was the number one lightweight in the world at the time.  He would be one of the top signs for the Sengoku organization in Japan but would go a dismal 2-2 with the company, losing to two fighters no one gave any chance at all to beat him and then leaving the company.  He was able to rattle off two wins following his departure from Sengoku against less than stellar opposition and has now landing himself a gig in the US in the UFC.  Maybe too little, too late, but I think Gomi has a little fight left in him but not quite at the level he once was at.  Grade - D

Mirko Cro Cop - Whether it's lack of motivation, age, or simply better competition, post-PRIDE Cro Cop has basically been a bust.  His lackadaisical win over the overmatched Eddie Sanchez didn't really stir the pot much as many just felt it was jitters, however, his absolute beheading by the then unknown Gabriel Gonzaga pretty much let us know that Cro Cop would either need to up his game or he was in for a lot of trouble.  Since then, the Croatian has gone 5-3-1, though many put more emphasis on his losses than his victories.  He bounced around from UFC to DREAM and then back to UFC and hasn't really dominated an opponent in Cro Cop fashion anywhere outside of his thrashing of Tatsuya Mizuno who had no business being in the ring with him to begin with.  As a fan of his, I still hold a glimmer of hope that he'll let loose and show the US fans what made him a star overseas but as time goes by that hope dwindles a little more and more.  We should finally get our answer when he faces off against Ben Rothwell at a later date this year and if on the wrong side of a beatdown, I fear the elite striker's days atop the MMA world are over.  Grade - D-

Well, that's just  my two cents on the major stars that have gone on from the days of PRIDE, feel free to add your thoughts or if there's someone I missed that you want to grade, feel free or if you want to grade these fighters yourselves, go ahead.