The rising sport of mixed martial arts heard its biggest news ever yesterday when the owners of Ultimate Fighting Championship announced plans to buy Japanese rival Pride.
The UFC is better known to American fans and has become a pay-per-view juggernaut. But purists have long considered Pride to be richer in talent. The organizations will remain separate for most shows but apparently will join for the occasional dream card.
Here are some possible matchups that fans should salivate over:
Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Couture, a brilliant wrestler and strategist, is UFC's golden boy after coming out of retirement to win the heavyweight title at 43. Pride's heavyweight champion Emelianenko is younger, stronger, a fiercer puncher and considered to be the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts history.
Chuck "Iceman" Liddell vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua: Liddell throws the sport's most feared knockout punch and has dropped a string of high-profile opponents, including Couture - twice. But Rua is 12 years younger, more well-rounded and perhaps stronger.
Denis Kang vs. Georges St. Pierre: A battle of Canadians with exciting all-around styles. Kang lost his last fight but had thrilled Pride fans with a string of knockout and submission victories before that. St. Pierre may be the best pure athlete in the sport and dominated UFC legend Matt Hughes to win the welterweight title.
Sean Sherk vs. Takanori Gomi: Sherk is squat but packed with muscles and has lost only to all-time greats St. Pierre and Hughes. Gomi is Pride's free-swinging lightweight champion. Sherk is more versatile, Gomi more electric. Their fight would be action-packed.
Rich Franklin vs. Paulo Filho: Franklin is UFC's superbly conditioned former middleweight champion. Filho is an undefeated Brazilian jujitsu master. The fight would offer a strong contrast between striking and submission expertise.
Anderson Silva vs. Dan Henderson: Henderson is a former Olympic wrestler who outclassed menacing Pride legend Wanderlei Silva in February. Anderson Silva scored a similar upset over Franklin last year, clasping him by the neck and viciously kneeing him to get the technical knockout.
Tito Ortiz vs. Wanderlei Silva: They're both fading greats, but Ortiz beat Silva in a stinker of a fight seven years ago, so the Brazilian has reason to seek revenge. They remain two of the biggest names in the sport.
Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Emelianenko: This fight has happened before in Pride, but they're the two best heavyweights in the sport so it's always a dream battle. Filipovic features the scariest high kicks you'll ever see. But Emelianenko neutralized them with his all-around genius the first time around.