So far we know the tournament starts on May 5. There will be no seperate Grand Prix's for every weight class this year, instead we have an "open weight" tournament starting in May and a welterweight tournament (183 pounds) starting in April. Announced matches for the OWGP are:
Mirko "Cro Cop" Flipiovic vs Ikuhisa "The Punk" Minowa
-Looks like Cro Cop got the easy draw. Minowa's head will land in the third row of seats. Why the fuck is Minowa even in the Open Weight tourney instead of the Welterweight?
Alexander Emelianenko vs Josh "Babyfaced Assassin" Barnett
-Dream match up here, biggest fight of the young Emelianenko's career. I'll take Alex b/c I'm sure Fedor has him in tip top shape. Barnett is no slouch, he knocked Randy Couture out and his Pride losses are to Cro Cop. Too close to make a definitive call, but on paper Barnett has the edge. I'd bet that drunk Fedor shooting Barnett the thumbs down at Pride 31 set this one up.
Hidehiko Yoshida vs Yousuke Nishijima
-Great striker and cruiserweight boxing champ versus a legendary submission artist. This match will make sure a popular Japanese fighter makes it to the second round.
EDIT: THESE MATCHES ADDED ON APRIL 19
Kazuyuki "Ironhead" Fujita vs James "The Colossus" Thompson
-Fujita by KNTFO. Pride has done well to bring along Thompson after he suffered possibly the most embarassing (and hilarious) loss in his debut, but he's nowhere near Fujita's calibur. THe last 5 guys he's beat have a combined record of 5-16.
Alistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum
-Overeem looks great as a HW, and I think it suits him the best. Cro Cop's gym partner Werdum has some serious potential, but the experience of Alistair will the deciding factor. If Werdum takes him down he stands a chance.
Other fighters confirmed to be in the Grand Prix, though their match-ups have not been announced to the public:
Anotnio "Minotauro" Nogueira
Wanderlei "The Axe Murderer" Silva
Mark "My head is a scientific anamoly" Hunt
This leaves two spots, assuming it's a 16 man first round. Possible final 2 fighters to fill the card:
Mark Coleman (would fight Silva for sure)
Ricardo Arona (rumors abound of Silva vs Arona)
Sakuraba (please Saku, no)
Possible UFC rep???
Those NOT in the first round of the tournament due to injury:
Fedor Emelianenko (I think Fedor should sit in the background of all the fights on a giant throne, a la Mortal Kombat)
Quinton Jackson (the only injury is to his immense ego. Apparently he wants an exhorbant amount of money)
Rumors are that Fedor will somehow be seeded into the second round, or that the winner of the tournament will fight Fedor on New Year's Eve for the heavyweight belt. I think the latter is more probable, that way they can feed him some cans to get him back in the game and make sure his hand is alright.
If Fedor isn't in the tournament, I'll have to pick Nog to win, considering that Fedor is the only man to have beaten him in Pride. My heart will be rooting for Mirko though. He's supposed to have trained harder than ever for this fight, and sees it as his last chance to make a run for the title.
When Pride releases more official news, I'll post it here.
And yes, the poster appears to be a cumshot.