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UFC 71 Review

UFC 71 REVIEW

DARK MATCHES:
* MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT: Wilson Gouveia def. Carmelo Marrero via Guillotine Choke in Round 1
* LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT: Din Thomas def. Jeremy Stephens via Submission (Straight Armbar) in Round 2 Summary later.
* LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT: Alan Belcher def. Sean Salmon via Guillotine Choke in Round 1 Fight went all of 53 seconds. Belcher has gone up a weight class to fight as a Light Heavy. With this and his knockout loss at the hands of Rashad Evans, Salmon’s stock has dropped considerably in 2007. Poor guy.
* LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT: Thiago Silva def. James Irvin via Ref Stoppage (injury) in Round 1

* It was announced that the winner of Liddell/Jackson would be facing Pride Light Heavyweight and Middleweight Champion Dan Henderson in the first “Superbowl” UFC vs. Pride match.

* MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT: Chris Leben def. Khalib Starnes via Unanimous Decision Good fight. They had a VERY close first round with some great exchanges, but Khalib ultimately ended up winning it by finishing strong. They both tired a bit in the second round, but it was still fairly close. Not so much as the first round, as giving it to Leben would require a bit more explaining than the first. Starnes rocked Leben a few times in the third, but Leben had a good showing and stayed busier on the ground, so it probably should go to him. Unfortunately it was too little, too late. Judges scored it 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 for Starnes. That 30-27 is a little questionable and got booed, but the third round in particular was so close that it realistically could’ve gone either way on the scoring cards and I wouldn’t be terribly offended. Starnes after the fight said he thought it should’ve gone to Leben. The fight was close, but I wouldn’t go that far. Leben tried to say that regardless of the scoring, he had a great fight that entertained the fans and that’s all he cared about. Unfortunately, Leben’s not in any danger of being labeled a great communicator, and he started it off with “Fuck the judges and the scoring,” which the live crowd booed because they took it as meaning he was upset at the decision. This was Leben’s last contracted fight with the UFC, and he’s been saying he’s waiting on his contract to end and already has a gig lined up in Hawaii training guys. Don’t be too shocked if you don’t see him for awhile.

* LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT BOUT: Houston Alexander def. “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine via KO 48 Seconds into the 1st Round In the pre-fight video package, Jardine was complaining that he’s been performing well but isn’t being given quality fights to put him into contention. Jardine’s a great fighter and may have had a point, but remember what I wrote yesterday about fighting wild cards? Yeah, Jardine was destroyed in this fight. He rocked Alexander early, but Alexander came back and completely dominated him. For the last ten seconds Jardine was out on his feet and was getting back up on pure instinct. It wasn’t even a matter of Alexander getting a lucky shot in – he just went in there and completely mauled him with straight shots and some of the hardest uppercuts I’ve ever seen. It’s worth noting that Jardine is hardly a schlub, and he fought that knockout with everything he had. This was one of the most exciting early round knock-outs I’ve ever seen, and Alexander had a star-making performance.

* MIDDLEWEIGHT BOUT: Terry Martin def. Ivan Salaverry via TKO in the 1st Another exciting knock-out. Salaverry is 6’0″ even and Martin is billed as 5’9″, but the height differential in-ring looked like more than three inches. Martin, who looks like a gentler and softer (physically) Mike Tyson, kept going for a suplex from behind but was having trouble doing so as Salaverry had the height advantage and good balance. With Martin’s hands still locked around his waist, Salaverry went for a kimura, but Martin finally overpowered him and dropped him directly on his neck and shoulder. It looked pretty scary. Martin immediately pounced on Salaverry, laid in a few unanswered shots, and the ref stopped it. Salaverry seemed to be indicating that he could still go, however it looked like a flash knock-out and when taking the shots on the ground from Martin for about five seconds after the impact of that slam, he didn’t so much as put his hands up to defend himself and/or block them. Martin called out Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva after the fight.

* WELTERWEIGHT BOUT: Karo Parisyan def. Josh Burkman via Unanimous Decision The first round was even closer than the first round in the opener (Starnes/Leben). Both were pretty even standing. Burkman was able to shoot in and take him down, but couldn’t keep Karo on the ground. Karo hit a beautiful Judo throw late in the round and was able to block subsequent takedown attempts from Burkman. I may have given it to Parisyan, but it was damn close. The second round wasn’t quite as close, as they traded evenly while standing for the first couple minutes, but Karo dominated the final three. He laid in some solid high kicks and low kicks, used his sprawl to avoid the takedown, and connected with everything. Depending on how the judges scored it, it was either even going into the third round or Burkman was losing. Burkman, unlike some fighters, didn’t want to take any chances and knew he had to do finish it to win it. He hit a solid slam early on and it looked like he might be on his way to winning it, but Karo’s conditioning was just too much for him. Another judo slam, some knees, and other shots connected. Karo definitely won the third round, even more clearly than he won the second. The judges scored it 30-27, 30-27, and 29-28 for Karo Parisyan. After the fight, Karo told Dana White that he loved him and begged him for another title shot, noting that he beat current champ Matt Serra (that win was a relative eternity ago). When Joe Rogan went to the highlights, Karo sang “I have the best, throws in the world / everybody else, throws like a girl.” I was laughing my ass off, and the Vegas crowd booed him for it. Man, fuck Vegas. Once again, Parisyan had probably the best fight in terms of pure entertainment on the show. Some have criticized him for not being able to finish a fight, however even going to a decision he always provides excitement and is probably the best fighter to watch in the UFC. He’s also improving every time he goes out there – in particular, his stand-up has improved by leaps and bounds.

* LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT (Dark Match): Din Thomas def. Jeremy Stephens via Submission (armbar) in the 2nd There was a little controversy in the finish of this fight, which I’ll get to in a moment. We weren’t paying much attention in the first round, but whenever I did start watching it was all Thomas. The second round started and we immediately started paying attention, because it turned into a good fight. They had a good exchange standing, with Stephens getting the better of it, shooting in, and taking him to the ground. Thomas went for a straight armbar from the bottom. Stephens tried to reverse it by lifting Thomas up and powerbombing him onto the mat, but Thomas landed perfectly on his upper back and absorbed the drop with little to no effect on him. He was able to roll Stephens onto his back with the armbar locked in DEEP and John McCarthy stopped it. There was controversy because McCarthy stopped it saying Stephens had tapped, however Stephens on the replay looked like his hand just dropped once from the rollover (i.e. there was no intentional tapping on his part). It’s a moot point, though, because that armbar was deep and Stephens’s arm was bent like a mother fucker. If McCarthy hadn’t stopped it, it would’ve been another Frank Mir/Tim Sylvia moment (where Sylvia wouldn’t tap to an armbar and Mir ended up breaking it). Thomas’s post-fight interview was great. Rogan asked him about the finish, and Din said “yeah, I was gonna take that arm home with me.” They went over the fight briefly, and Din busted out with “And hey, Floyd Mayweather, [another boxer whose name I didn’t catch], all you boxers talking shit…if you wanna fight, I’m the mother fucker to fight!” That got a big reaction, though Mayweather has since come clean and admitted publicly that he was just talking shit, had no desire to fight in MMA, and apologized to Dana White and the UFC. For what it’s worth, the commentators completely no-sold the comment. The UFC doesn’t want any part of promoting fights that won’t happen, and want to let boxers, promoters, and boxing columnists talk all the shit about MMA that they want without reciprocating too much. The idea is that with the statements they’ve made, boxing unnecessarily puts itself on the defensive and accomplishes nothing other than to make themselves look desperate and give more mainstream pub for MMA and the UFC in particular. Which is exactly what’s happening.

* There was another dark match aired, but we got distracted while talking and completely missed it.

* LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP BOUT: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson def. Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell via TKO in the 1st to become the NEW UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rampage came out first and got booed. Liddell got a HUGE reaction, though when he got in the Octagon he looked absolutely terrible, even worse than what I saw of his media appearances. He’s really starting to show his age, and the damage he’s done to his body outside the Octagon certainly doesn’t help matters. They had a great staredown, with Jackson in particular looking like he was on a mission from God. Well, he is God’s Street Warrior after all. They started off the first round just feeling each other out, each waiting for the other to push forward. Jackson got impatient and started putting his hands up and telling Liddell to bring it to him. Then he thought to himself “fuck it” and went in after Liddell, connecting with a right that rocked him. He immediately pounced on Liddell, laying in about three or four shots until Liddell’s arm dropped to his side and McCarthy called it. Liddell was confused and asking his corner what happened. The place was in shock and disbelief that Liddell was as thoroughly dominated as he was, and Jackson looked like he had a new lease on life. In the post-fight, Liddell kept his composure as best he could and said that he simply “got caught…what’re you gonna do.” He didn’t speculate as to what was next for him. Jackson cut a great promo afterwards, saying that being champion felt “good as Hell” and having some choice words for those that booed him. Jackson is so much more charismatic than Liddell it’s ridiculous, and in six months time I guarantee you he’ll get the same superstar reaction that Liddell did tonight. They brought Dan Henderson into the Octagon, and both noted they’re good friends (which is true). Jackson started playing around with Dan and asked him to take his teeth out. The crowd didn’t catch on – for those wondering, Henderson’s missing his front teeth and wears dentures. He’s also incredibly self-conscious about it. The crowd didn’t react as if a match between the two was that big of a deal, but some TV and media hype will change all that. Quick sidenote – Pride’s title belts are fucking gorgeous.

What a great, great show. Every few weeks I think to myself that the UFC is going to somehow slip and not deliver on a major event, however so far this year they’ve proved me wrong at every turn. The mainstream press coverage going into this event is unprecedented, and the event itself delivered and then some. Early predictions for this fight from those that have covered MMA for years had it pegged in the 600,000 range, but with all the press coverage given to it, I’m thinking that it’ll at least draw 750,000 if not 1,000,000 buys. Catch this show (legal or otherwise) on replay. It’s more than worth it.

OTHER MMA NOTES:
* It turns out that the knee injury to James Irvin that resulted in his stoppage loss to Thiago Silva last night is a partial ACL tear. It sucks, but it looks as of right now that he probably won’t need surgery.
* In the post-fight press conference, Dana White announced that the sale of Pride to Zuffa (parent owners of the UFC) has been finalized and everything has been squared away. Supposedly plans have changed, in that the idea of running Pride on its own as a completely separate entity are completely out the window. Dana White has gone on the record saying that he doesn’t like tournaments, but recognizes the need for them in Japan. That being said, the planned Lightweight tournament for this Summer has been cancelled.
* With both coming off devastating losses, Dana White has also said that the chances of a Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei de Silva match happening have increased. A year ago I’d agree with most that say it’d be way too soon for this to be the next fight for either guy, but with all the upsets and rookie stars created this year, this is really the only fight that makes any sense in terms of money.
* I looked like a real asshole a few weeks back when I wrote that the over/under for the card being released for the June 2nd K-1/EliteXC show at the LA Coliseum was six days, and just two days later they released the full card. Well, I don’t look quite as stupid now. Hong-Man Choi, the planned opponent for Brock Lesnar (making his MMA debut) is off the card after they found a tumor on his pituitary gland. He’s been replaced by another Korean fighter, Min Soo Kim. FEG (parent company of K-1) is confident that Kim, who has a 2-5 record, will still draw the Korean audience they’re hoping will fill the 90,000 seat arena. That’s fucking retarded on so many levels. For starters, Koreans in the US by and large aren’t big MMA fans, and even among those who are, Kim is nowhere near the level of star that Choi was. Two weeks ago Gina Carano was taken off the card due after she fell ill while filming a reality show for WE (Women’s Entertainment) in Thailand, so that’ match is gone from the one-hour Showtime EliteXC pre-show. The Fight Network reported last night that Ray Sefo vs. Marvin Eastman is off the card. California State Athletic Commission representatives wouldn’t give any further comment, though Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has reported today that it’s a problem with Sefo. No replacement will be made for him, so that’s another fight off the live Pay-Per-View card. As if all this wasn’t bad enough, the only potentially marketable fight on the live PPV card – the rematch between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba – is in big trouble. It’s come out that the chances of Sakuraba passing his medicals are either VERY slim or non-existent, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. They don’t have anybody lined up to take Sakuraba’s place should he (or WHEN he) doesn’t pass his medicals, and with the CSAC requiring that a fighter take on somebody with equal experience, finding a replacement is going to be very difficult if not impossible (especially with less than a week to go before the live event). FEG got their promoter’s license at the 11th Hour on Friday after being given a strict deadline by the CSAC. To call this show a disaster and the K-1 Promoters idiots for how this whole thing went down would be too kind. I don’t think the words exist to adequately describe the events that have occurred and the poor planning on the part of FEG. If they do exist, they’re in Japanese, which I don’t speak.
* The UFC’s going to be very busy (TOO busy) in the next month. June 12th is Ultimate Fight Night on Spike TV, headlined by Lightweights Sam Stout and Spencer Fisher. I don’t smell ratings. Four days later is the “UFC 72: Victory” live event in Belfast, headlined by Rich Franklin taking on Yushin Okami. Barring an awful performance by both fighters, the winner will most likely get a shot at Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. The card also has Forrest Griffin fighting (taking on Hector Ramirez) and a potentially good to great Lightweight fight pitting Tyson Griffin against Clay Guida. The original plan was for UFC 72, like UFC 70 in Manchester, to air on a tape delay on Spike. Spike came back and said no, stating that having three live televised events in the span of one week would be disastrous and counter-productive to building for the Ultimate Fighter Finale (they’re right). UFC 72 will now air live on PPV, and by live I mean it’s going on the air at 3:00pm our time. The domestic buyrate won’t be good, but this event isn’t put on for the benefit of American fans but rather to expand their base in the UK, so it’s moot. Then on the 26th is the Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale, co-headlined by the Finals of The Ultimate Fighter lightweight tournament and B.J. Penn taking on Jens Pulver. No other fights are announced, though the undercard will most likely have at least two fights featuring contestants from this season. If Joe Lauzon doesn’t make it to the finals, I really want to see another fight between him and Cole Miller. I’ll be shocked if Manny Gamburyan doesn’t win it all, because he’s easily looked the best of all fighters on the show this season. It’s worth noting that even though it’s not in June, just one week later is “UFC 73: Stacked”. I won’t even get into the card for that show, but it’s going to be incredible.

More later…

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