The Ultimate Fighting Championship 40: Vendetta!
– Live from Las Vegas, NV.
– Your hosts are Mike Goldberg & Joe Rogan, thankfully replacing the incredibly boring Jeff Osborne. To further bring the presentation in line with the modern product, the opening to this show was almost identical to the current one, complete with gladiator and theme song.
– This show was, for those who don’t remember, built around the phenomenally well-promoted Tito Ortiz v. Ken Shamrock showdown after 3 years of trash talk between them. This was finally the show that helped Zuffa break through into the mainstream and make money after floundering for the first months of their ownership. This one was HUGE and it can’t be overstated.
Welterweights: Robbie Lawlor v. Tiki Ghosn
Early in the career for Lawlor, as this was his UFC debut on PPV. Major slugfest to start things, and Lawlor just levels Tiki with a combination and finishes him with another combination from above at 1:29. That was some scary shit, as referee Nelson Hamilton has to dive in to keep Lawlor from killing the poor guy. Crazy good knockout to kick off a high-profile show. Tiki then claims that they stopped the fight due to the cut over his eye. Sure, if that helps you sleep at night.
Sign of the times: Noted MMA fan and WWE wrestler John “Bradshaw” Layfield is shown at ringside, although he’s not named by the announcers.
Welterweights: Pete Spratt v. Carlos Newton
Newton was in pretty dire need of a big win here to keep him in contention, but sadly his peak in the sport had already passed. Newton gets a takedown right away and gets side control, and Spratt has no idea what to do. He tries to roll out, but Newton wraps up the arm with a kimura, and that’s all he needs for the submission at 1:38. Joe Rogan’s enthusiastic analysis of the fight and the finish is a wonderful breath of fresh air after so many times listening to Jeff Osborne’s dry monotone.
Welterweight title: Matt Hughes v. Gil Castillo
Castillo lost to Dave Menne in the first Middleweight title fight, but says here that he fights better at 170 and so wants a crack at Hughes. Matt immediately boxes him into the fence and gets a slam takedown. Hughes works the ground and pound and actually works for an arm triangle. Submissions and standup both go badly for Hughes when he tries them, you’d think he’d just concentrate on taking the guy down and beating the shit out of him. Why mess with a good thing? Hughes completely dominates from the top until the end of the round. 10-8 Hughes, but it‘s a moot point as they stop the fight due to a cut over Castillo‘s eye. And it’s quite the tiny little shaving nick, too. That’s kind of a bullshit stoppage right there.
Dana White brings out the next member of the past star parade: Tank Abbott. He wants to fight anyone in the heavyweight division! Yeah, that didn’t work out too well for him.
Light Heavyweights: Chuck Liddell v. Renato “Babalu” Sobral
Liddell is still in line for a guaranteed shot at the light heavyweight title, although that of course would not happen for a good long time. Chuck comes out swinging, nearly putting Babalu out with a pair of looping overhand rights. He keeps pressing and KABOOM, puts Sobral down and out with a vicious high kick at 2:59. Joe Rogan notes that there’s no way Tito Ortiz can possibly duck Liddell after that. Chuck just wants the title shot, too, so you’d think that was right around the corner, wouldn’t you?