The “PRIDE” curse is alive and well following Kang’s upset loss at UFC 93

Denis Kang’s mildly surprising submission defeat against Alan Belcher during last night’s UFC 93 telecast will go down as yet another disappointing UFC debut by former a PRIDE star.

Many of PRIDE’s once mighty stars have now migrated to the UFC, and with few exceptions all have provided their share of disappointing moments.

When the UFC “stole” Mirko Cro Cop from PRIDE in late-2006, many pundits believed that the promotion had executed one of the biggest coups in the sport’s young history. However, the end result was nothing more than one of the sports biggest busts.

The Croatian striking specialist made his UFC debut at UFC 67 in February 2007 against a hand-picked opponent in Eddie Sanchez. The matchup was put together as a showcase for Cro Cop to demonstrate to American fight fans the same lethal left high kick that made him a star in Japan.

It’s almost two years later and UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and UFC President Dana White are still waiting for that coffin kick. The disappointment created by Cro Cop’s TKO of Sanchez via punches instead of the infamous high kick pales in comparison to the upset defeats he’d go on to suffer against Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo.

The theory of a PRIDE curse began to gain traction even before Cro Cop’s formal arrival. At the time, Heath Herring’s unanimous decision to Jake O’Brien at UFC Fight Night 8 seemed like an aberration at the time. Little did we know that it would become a trend.

At UFC 73, Herring stepped up and gave former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira a run for his money. Then, Marcus Aurelio lost his Octagon debut to Clay Guida at UFC 74. At UFC 79, Wanderlei Silva lost in his return to the UFC against Chuck Liddell.

Still not buying the idea that a “PRIDE curse” truly exists?

Do you need to be reminded that both Silva and Nogueira are coming off disappointing performances at UFC 92 last month; that Fabricio Werdum was dropped from the promotion soon after being upset by newcomer Junior dos Santos at UFC 90; and that Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou got the pink slip following his UFC 89 loss to Luiz Cane.

Is it overkill to mention that Bushido standouts Akihiro Gono and Ryo Chonan are a combined 2-3 inside of the Octagon and that Kazuhiro Nakamura not only went 0-2, but tested positive for marijuana following his debut at UFC 76?

Oh, and how could I forget the horrific encore at UFC 93 of Shogun Rua’s submission loss to Forrest Griffin during his Octagon debut at UFC 76? Did we really wait a year and a half for that performance? Rua is lucky that he won, otherwise, he might have joined Aurelio, Werdum, and Sokoudjou as former PRIDE standouts that were sent packing by the UFC.

Thus far, the only PRIDE success stories in the UFC are Dan Henderson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson but there are a couple of caveats that must be mentioned. First, Henderson fought in the UFC before he ever competed in PRIDE and Jackson came over to the UFC directly from the now-defunct WFA as opposed to coming directly from PRIDE.

Was it unreasonable to expect Kang to “break the curse?” Considering Kang went through a 13 month stretch between 2007-2008 in which he lost three times in four fights, the expectations set for him might have been too high.

But those high expectations were set because Kang was once a consensus top ten middleweight who has recorded notable victories over Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Amar Suloev, Andrei Semenov, and Gono. After recording consecutive victories over Marvin Eastman and Jae Young Kim on small shows, Kang fans thought he might be back to his former self.

There was a hope leading up to his UFC debut that the semi-high profile free agent acquisition could emerge as a legitimate challenger to current middleweight champion Anderon Silva after recording 1-2 wins. After the first round, Kang hardly looked like a legitimate threat to Silva but he didn’t look bad either.

Despite appearing stiff and mechanical while standing against Belcher, Kang was still efficient in his striking and showed a decisive advantage on the ground during brief exchanges. It appeared as though Kang was getting over some rust and Octagon jitters before hitting his stride. But before he could, seemingly out of nowhere, Kang displayed one of his mental errors that have become trademark in recent years. He left his neck out and Belcher took it, forcing him to tap with just 24 seconds remaining in the round.

Despite the disappointing effort, Kang remains an extremely gifted fighter who could still emerge as a challenger to Silva. While the UFC brass can’t be happy with his performance, he will likely get second and even a third chance because he is of Korean heritage and the company has plans to expand into South Korea in the future. The fact that Kang is also a Canadian citizen is another feather in his cap as Canadian UFC fans love to support their own.

Needless to say, Kang will get a second chance to make a first impression. However, when you look at the history of all of PRIDE’s former stars that have tried and failed to establish themselves in the UFC, the odds of making it aren’t in his favor.

30 COMMENTS
  • Nir says:

    good article, but Sliva and Nog fought at UFC 92, not 91.

    oh, and it’s not a curse, it’s that there’s drug testing in the ufc…

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  • bazza76 says:

    As far as I can see, the main difference between the Pride Fighters and the UFC fighters is the conditioning.
    In the UFC it is a full time job, fighters have to keep their conditioning, or should do, almost all year round.
    I just got the impression that the pride fighters have concentrated more on technique than conditioning. although there will always be the odd exception to the rule.

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  • saer says:

    Well.. If you’re going to count Hendersons 2 fights in the UFC as him being from the UFC originally you should also count Wanderlei Silvas 2 fights in the UFC before going to Pride.

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  • Chris says:

    Yeah that sucks, he is a guy that could have been in the mix for a shot at the Spider. Right now in the MW div, you got Leites who shouldnt get a title shot, Okami should get it first, then Maia vs Sonnen winner and Nate and Wilson winner are in the mix and Palhares and of course Hendo and Bisping. So the UFC def wanted Kang to win and shit, but he will get another shot. EXC needs to let there fighters go so Lawler and even Radjach can come to the UFC MW div.

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  • El Guapo Sabor says:

    “Thus far, the only PRIDE success stories in the UFC are Dan Henderson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson ..”

    HELLO, Anderson Silva is a Pride success Story! UFC label him the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Well, I believe its Fedor but thats a discussion for another day.

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  • Dave says:

    Kang has got to go down as one of the most talented fighters with one of the weakest minds in the game. I’ve never seen someone get into his own head as bad as Kang does on a regular basis. That completely bizarre turn of events yesterday was almost a recreation of his “stealing defeat from the jaws of victory” maneuver against Mousasi last year.

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  • Tyler says:

    This whole idea of some sort of a Pride curse is ridiculous. Quinton Jackson, Anderson Silva and Dan Henderson have done well. It’s all about match ups Sokoudjou, and Herring were both given tough match ups. Herring’s biggest weakness has always been defensive wrestling and that’s why the UFC matched him with Lesnar. Not to mention some of the fighters who fought in Pride before the Zuffa purchase are now in the UFC at the end of the careers.

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  • Curt says:

    There is also a UFC Veteran Curse. They are dropping like flies against new talent. Chuck, Randy, Hughes, Ortiz have all been throttled by veritable rookies,Tuf’ers, and UFC newcomers. Curses are everywhere. Get your holy water.

    I do believe many Pride stars were overated, but no matter what anyone says, Pride rules made a difference. How many times could Shogun have stomped the crap out of Coleman when he was hugging his ankles like a drunk college girl hugs a public toilet.

    Also, Wand lost a close decision to Chuck (not a bad debut), destroyed Jardine, and then lost to Rampage (another Pride star). Is that really a curse? Shogun lost to Forrest who beat Rampage (who was from Pride, but according to this article is not cursed). Nog lost to Mir, but choked Tim Sylvia (one of the UFC good old boys) out of the UFC.

    Saying there is a curse is rediculous. It’s MMA. Stop nut-huggin orgs like it’s WWF vs. WCW.

    This is an individual sport… not a team sport.

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  • mark says:

    all this about drug testing …..wow strong statments. i think ufc is an all round better set up,better training,more looked after and more pressure to do well. it takes time to fit in. it would be interesting to see how fedor will do

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  • bazza76 says:

    I know Silva fought in Pride, but he was never really in love with the promotion.

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  • Cathedron says:

    Tyler: I might be misunderstanding you, but are you saying Hendo, Silva, and Jackson weren’t given tough fights? All three of them were fighting for a title within two fights. In Hendo’s case, his first two were for titles. Herring got an easy as hell first fight and failed miserably. If he really can’t wrestle, he shouldn’t be in the UFC in the first place (though I say his wrestling is his strongest skill, he just prefers to bang for some reason). The one-dimensional Sokoudjou got FINISHED by Machida. Finished. By. Machida. Think about that. That’s just embarassing. Getting out-pointed is to be expected, but Machida has allergic reactions to finishing an opponent. If Machida finishes you, you just might suck.

    I don’t think it’s about matchups. There just aren’t any easy fights in the UFC unlike Pride where they would bring in old ladies in wheelchairs to fight their most colorful fighters. You have to have a good gameplan coming in to every fight. In Pride, you often didn’t even know who you’d be fighting next. These guys need to start making adjustments and fast. Gameplanning is the single most important aspect of modern MMA. I’m not seeing that with the majority of ex-Pride fighters.

    As for the article: Pride was usually entertaining, but it was also a badly run promotion that was a step away from being prowrestling. They grossly overhyped their stars and did some very shady things to keep them on top. It’s no surprise that when given genuine competition on a consistent basis, most Pride stars can’t live up to the hype.

    It’s not a curse. It’s Pride’s hype getting faced with cold, hard reality. The UFC is the deep end of the pool: sink or swim.

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  • Cathedron says:

    Silva and Jackson both left Pride and fought in much, much smaller promotions before being picked up by the UFC. Neither has had much good to say about Pride.

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  • mark says:

    UFC.IS WHERE ITS REALLY AT,ALL THOSE FROM PRIDE TO THE UFC WELCOME TO THE REAL WORLD OF MMA, STEP UP UR GAME,PERIOD

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  • Tyler says:

    “Cathedron” I’ll give you an example Herring beats Kongo. Herring’s next fight is against Lesnar and he’s handled. Kongo’s next two fights are Dan Evenson and Mustapha Al-Turk who both he beats easily. Now people think Herring should be out of the UFC and Kongo is thought of as a contender even though when they fought Herring beat Kongot. In Sokoudjou’s case he opened in the UFC against Machida who no one can beat. Then beat Nakamura and then lost to Cane who is a stud. Meanwhile a guy like Brandon Vera is given fights with Reese Andy and now Mike Patt to get wins.That’s what I mean by match ups. If you don’t think in those cases certain guys are given favorable match ups against lesser fighters to get wins then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.

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  • Rich S. says:

    I thought Kang was going to come in and brutalize Belcher. Don’t get me wrong, i think Belcher’s a great fighter, but Kang’s fights in Japan were all the evidence i needed to make that assumption..

    It’s clear that, for whatever reason, these guys have problems in the cage, or the UFC, or whatever..

    I mean, these guys absolutely SHINE in Japan, and then go on to have devistating losses and lackluster wins in the UFC..

    I don’t get it..

    Rampage is the only one i can think of right now that has showed VAST improvement since his move to the UFC..
    of course you have A.Silva and Nog, who both became champs..
    But that’s really it..

    And to think, the argument used to be: “The UFC guys would NEVER cut it with the PRIDE guys”

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  • mark says:

    LETS NOT FORGET RAMPAGE WON HIS FIRST FIGHT IN THE UFC AND WON HIS FIRST TITLE SHOT AGAINST THE ICEMAN IN THE UFC,SO NO EXCUSESS FIGHTERS R FIGHTERS AND ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN, THE TITLE IS MOVING(LHW) AROUND TO EASY. AT THAT WEIGHT IT TAKES ONE PUNCH

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  • Davey D says:

    At the end of the day. The game is just played different in Japan. The rules, length of round’s, matchmaking, the suspected use of steriod’s being allowed, the ring, ref’s being employed by said org. Everything. Pride FC was great and was the summit of MMA for year’s. It was a great event to watch and sadly, the org itself was shady inside & out. Ask Mr. White why they purchased Pride FC…to kill their competition of course. $57 Millon US is all it took. Either way, people still find a way to complain about the UFC’s current event’s. This is why Zuffa work’s harder than anyone else.

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  • Cathedron says:

    Tyler: Some guys are given more favorable matchups (Bisping, Huerta, and Vera had it too easy for too long), but I disagree that Jackson, Silva, or Hendo had better matchups than any other Pride stars. You specifically said those three had better matchups and I can’t understand that argument considering that they all had title fights within two fights and Hendo lost twice in a row. I’m a little confused by what your point is there.

    I’ll give you Sokoudjou being fed to the wolves, but even Tito Ortiz looked better against Machida. And that really says something.
    Everyone thought Herring would beat O’Brien easily.
    Everyone thought Herring would either beat Lesnar easily or give Lesnar an extremely tough fight.
    Everyone thought Nog would be worse for Mir than his motorcycle accident.
    Everyone thought Cro Cop could walk through Gonzaga.
    Werdum should have been able to submit everyone he faced, but has looked bad against everyone even when he beat the sucktastic Vera.
    Kang dominated Belcher, but made a dumb mistake and lost.

    These were NOT bad matchups and I KNOW that none of the Pride fanboys THOUGHT they were bad matchups BEFORE the fights happened. All were either fair or supposed to be easy wins for the Pride fighters. The Pride guys just failed to perform and now the excuses are flowing freely.

    The Pride guys are usually veterans with 20 or 30 fights on their records. In addition, they can throw fireballs, fly, regrow lost limbs, and are worshipped as gods in lesser developed countries. Yet, they are just ordinary fighters in the UFC. How odd. I remember watching Sokoudjou get schooled by Machida and I’m yelling at the TV, “Hover in the air and shoot lightning at him! You fought in Pride. You can do that!”

    It’s not a curse, it’s not bad matchmaking, it’s hype meeting reality. Reality is winning.

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  • John John says:

    “Thus far, the only PRIDE success stories in the UFC are Dan Henderson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson…”

    What abouth Anderson Silva? He hasn’t suffered a lost yet in UFC, unlike Henderson and Jackson. Or is he not considered a PRIDE fighter or diredtly from PRIDE because his last few fights before entering the UFC were in ROTR and Cage Rage. Your caveats.

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  • mike wolfe says:

    Somebody with some Bjj experience answer this question for me: Did Kang tap because the guillotine cut off blood flow, or because the hold was cranking his neck or a combination of the two? It looked to me like he started to tap right away, so I just assumed his neck was being cranked, but I dunno.

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  • Davey D says:

    Cathedron: nice post, good point’s. It seems to me that the Octagon really brings out the best and wrost of fighter’s. This is the League. Only a short few have adapted very well inside the Octagon and the result’s have been interesting to say the least. The only thing missing in your post is that the GAME is different in the UFC. That needs to be said. Training & actually fighting are very different, right? Wand & Shogun were hit hard because they have lost some very dangerous weapon’s in their arsenal. They fought almost all of their career’s there and just aren’t the same now. Look at Spider Silva, he is an Icon now. Pride died almost two year’s ago. But it taught me just how big this sport is & what it can become. Let’s remember the good times and focus on what lies ahead. We got two great weekend’s coming up. Cheers!

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  • Davey D says:

    Mike, Denis was in half guard when he got caught I believe. It was deep. At that angle, his throat was getting crushed instantly. A blood choke can be painless at times. It depends on your position & technique. Kang tapped due to pain, it was unbearable for sure.

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  • truth says:

    Some of this “curse” is just career trajectories. Going up and coming down reguardless of the org. Nog is age and wear and tear, Henderson is in that boat too.

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  • Tyler says:

    Henderson is the complete opposite of Nogueira. He’s five or six years older and really isn’t slowing down his losses in the UFC were to Rampage who’s in the top three light heavyweights in the world and Anderson Silva who’s in the top three P4P in the world and his wins over Palhares who’s a stud and Franklin (who’s only other losses were to Silva and Machida) were quality wins meanwhile Nogueira has looked completely shopworn and slow in all 3 of his UFC fights. Not to mention he keeps adding weight which isn’t a good sign when it’s obviously effecting his quickness and performance.

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  • neijia says:

    I agree this curse idea makes no sense. A. Silva, W. Silva, Rampage, Henderson, have all done well. Who did Wanderlei lose to, Rampage and Liddell, who he beat and lost to, respectively, in Pride already. There is not a Pride vs. UFC distinction there, just match-ups. Who has Hendo lost to in UFC? Anderson Silva and Rampage (“from Pride”). Again, just match-ups. Rampage *arguably* lost to Forrest, but is really still improving, after 17 Pride bouts and 5 UFC bouts. Anderson Silva has always kicked ass and still does. Sokoudjou lost to Machida (who isn’t really a “Pride” or “UFC” guy, just damn good), beat Kazuhiro Nakamura from Pride, and lost to Luiz Cane. I don’t see a pattern.

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  • rondog6669 says:

    The diference is drug/steroid testing end of story

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  • Tyler says:

    Yeah OK rondog6669 if you think there aren’t fighters in the States using performance enhancing drugs you are completely naive. If a fighter wants to use these drugs and get away with it they will.

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  • yuushi says:

    El Guapo Said:

    HELLO, Anderson Silva is a Pride success Story! UFC label him the best pound for pound fighter in the world. Well, I believe its Fedor but thats a discussion for another day.

    Except that Anderson Silva fought for a year or so in Cage Rage between fighting for PRIDE and the UFC. So in that sense, he didn’t come directly from PRIDE.

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  • paddiosf says:

    I was so disppointed to see Kang lose and I hope Zuffa and the UFC see’s the potential in him..he’ll get back but needs to get a Good win and get his confidience back..It seemed like he was Gassed near the end of the 3rd round and Ive noticed all the Pride fighters conditioning is very questionable and Its odd to me? and they had 10min first round fights????

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  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Davey D:

    Thanks for the insight. I figured he tapped because of pain because it happened quickly, but wasn’t sure exactly why.

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