Kawajiri and Ishida is Ready for December 31st.

Mitsuhiro Ishida and Tatsuya Kawajiri will face Takanori Gomi and Gilbert Melendez, respectively, at the December 31st PRIDE SHOCKWAVE 2006, to be held at Saitama Super Arena. Ishida and Kawajiri held a public training session at the JB Sports Club in Tokyo on December 23rd. Their trainer, Takeshi Yamada, has instructed many mixed martial artists in striking and held the punching mitts as the two fighters showed off their training.



Tatsuya Kawajiri began his public training session by wrapping his hands, donning his gloves and climbing into the ring. For some reason, Kawajiri's trainer, Takeshi Yamada, followed him into the ring carrying punching mitts and wearing an afro wig.

Kawajiri sharply drove his punches into the mitts held by Yamada. At a glance, Kawajiri punching mitts held by the afro-wig wearing Yamada painted a comical picture but Yamada was constantly throwing right straight punches, forcing Kawajiri to block and making the training more realistic. Yamada was emulating the fighting style of Kawajiri's upcoming opponent, Gilbert Melendez, and donned the afro wig in order to gain the full Melendez-effect.

Next, Mitsuhiro Ishida climbed into the ring. Yamada removed his wig and took a wide stance. Yamada jumped in - closing the distance throwing left and right hooks, and body shots. PRIDE fans will recognize this fighting style as that of the Lightweight Champion, Takanori Gomi.

"My way of training is to become the fighter's opponent and make them suffer. Then I send them out to fight. By imitating their opponents during training, the fighter will naturally be able to avoid their attacks and freely launch attacks of their own," Yamada explained his training method.

Yamada also analyzed each of his pupils' opponents. "Kawajiri has wanted to fight Melendez for a long time so the preparation for this fight went smoothly. I think this fight is going to be about who has the most guts. It's been a year since Kawajiri began training here and I believe that Melendez is a good opponent against whom Kawajiri can test what he has learned so far."

"Melendez's strongest weapon is his aggressiveness. Even back when he was in SHOOTO, he might shoot for a tackle even after he just landed a really good punch. He never rests during his fights. So it's possible this fight won't be about who's the better striker. He also has that right straight. It's my opinion that that punch stretches out towards you. He has a wild punching style but that's also a weapon for him."

"Ishida's fight will be against the Champion. There hasn't been much time to prepare for this fight but since everyone is after the Champion's head, this was a good opportunity for him. His training is going well. Gomi is a truly strong fighter and his punches are excellent. There aren't many mixed martial artists that can throw body punches like that."

Yamada used this analysis to prepare training strategies for both Kawajiri and Ishida. "He can't be overly cautious of Melendez's right and Kawajiri's punches are good, too. I think if they start slugging it out, Melendez will become scared of Kawajiri's punches," Yamada commented on the Kawajiri/Melendez bout. "Ishida has done a lot of work to strengthen his abdomen because the fight is lost if Gomi's body punches hurt him." "We also have a lot of simulations that we didn't show you today," Yamada added with a smile. "The only thing left is to let the fighters do what the want.".

With just one week left until their fights, Ishida and Kawajiri have finished their intensive training and are now focusing on maintaining their conditioning in this final stage. The two fighters also held their last intensive sparring session the previous day. "We don't usually spar together in the end like this," Kawajiri explained. "Everyone around us had finished their fights and another guy is sick, so Ishida and I were the only ones left. (laughing) It wasn't fake exactly but we sparred just hard enough that we wouldn't get injured. I think Ishida is in good condition, as usual." When Ishida comment, "I took a lot of punches from Kawajiri so I feel sorry for Melendez," Kawajiri replied "My lip was swollen from Ishida's punches and I'm going to pay him back when it's over." Ishida laughed and said, "You should do that to Melendez, instead."

"If you are worried about trying to dodge your opponent's punches, you're going to become defensive, right? The important thing is not to go down even if you're hit. I've got to hit him and knock him down first," Kawajiri spoke about Melendez's right straight that Yamada called "dangerous" and repeated his prediction of a head-on war with Melendez. Ishida explained part of his strategy for Gomi, "I don't remember the exact number but I have never been hit with so many body punches. Just remembering it makes me want to throw up. (laughing)." Both fighters seem satisfied with their training and current conditioning.

Asked about takedowns in his upcoming fight against Gomi, Ishida answered, "I haven't gotten a mental image of taking him down yet but really, I don't think takedowns are going to be important." This was an unexpected answer because the main weapons Ishida brought to PRIDE were his "unstoppable tackles" and the subsequent pounding.

"I am a mixed martial artist," Ishida explained. "Everyone talks about my tackles but it's not like you win if you get a takedown and lose if you don't." Ishida was also unconcerned about Gomi's comment that there are no tackles that can't be stopped. "I don't want people to look at my fight in terms of whether Gomi stopped my tackle or not. I'm not worried about Gomi's comments because I already knew that no matter how good you are at tackling, your tackles can still be stopped." Ishida continued, commenting on Gomi's comment that their fight would be more like sparring, "If that's so, we're going to have one hell of a sparring session."

Ishida's was reserved, but confident, in his comments. "I have fought, and beaten, strong opponents this year," Ishida said, alluding to all the attention paid to his bout with Marcus Aurelio. "Unfortunately, no one talks about my other fights and it's a little disappointing. I want to show everyone that these opponents weren't weak. I think that the guys I have fought were very tough and I will prove that."

Kawajiri's comments carried a different nuance. "I think a good wind has been blowing my way lately. I want to value that wind and just believe in myself when I fight. I can't describe it specifically but it just feels like a good wind is blowing my way. (laughing) Maybe it's just a gentle wind now but if I play my cards right, it may turn into a typhoon," Kawajiri commented, almost poetically. "If you don't go out there and make it happen, your time will never come. No one is going to make it happen for you. I have to use my own fists to make it happen. There's no other way. I don't plan on being #2 or #3 forever."