Live from Birmingham, AL, as we’re pretty much going to be in the deep south now until the Zuffa era.
Your hosts are Bruce Beck & Jeff Blatnick.
The tournaments really show the thin state of the roster at this point, as they’re filled with also-rans from previous tournaments, plus one notable future star with no history to that point. Not to mention the heavyweight title fight tonight, as Mark Coleman defends against Maurice Smith in a matchup that the UFC couldn’t possibly manage to screw up… right?
Middleweight tournament semi-finals:
Yuri Vaulin v. Joe Moreira
Vaulin is a boxer with “absolutely no ground game” according to the announcers. Why were they even bothering to bring these guys in at this point in the sport’s evolution? Vaulin tries to trade with Moreira, but immediately gets taken down and mounted. Yeah, he’s dead. Moreira patiently throws strikes as the announcers explain that all fighters now have to wear gloves, as they desperately make whatever rule changes that the opponents of the sport demand. I’ve always found it somewhat ironic that the supposed toughest group of people in the free world ended up caving in like pussies to a bunch of politicians who didn’t even watch the shows. Moreira, despite having full mount AND Vaulin’s legs grapevined at various points, is totally unable to finish or do anything much past laying on top. We’re well past the time where this kind of one-dimensional jiu-jitsu can still be effective, especially with 12 minute time limits. So finally after 8 minutes, Big John orders a restart, and Vaulin is clearly frustrated. And again, another takedown draws boos from the crowds, and Moreira gets full mount again as Vaulin has no defense and yet Moreira still can’t or won’t finish. And so time expires and we go to OT. Second verse, same as the first. Another boring three minutes earns Moreira a unanimous decision and a round of boos from the fans.
Todd Butler v. Kevin Jackson
Jackson comes from the Extreme Fighting promotion that got swallowed up by UFC in the early days. I recall Jackson being pretty good, too. Butler stupidly dances around with his hands down, which would get him knocked on his ass these days, and gets taken down by Jackson against the fence. Jackson finishes quickly at 1:28 with strikes to the back of the head when he can’t get the choke. Either way works.
Heavyweight tournament semi-finals:
Mark Kerr v. Moti Horenstein
Kerr is a training partner of Mark Coleman at this point and nothing more as far as MMA goes. Kerr shoots in with a takedown and gets side control, then absolutely destroys Horenstein with knees, but can’t quite finish. Horenstein smartly rolls to his side to escape rather than his back, but Kerr mounts him again and unloads on him. He’s like some sort of, I don’t know, “smashing machine” shall we say, and Big John stops it at 2:33.
– Update from backstage: Joe Moreira is out. Shucks.
Brian Johnston v. Dan Bobish
In their discussion of Johnston, they note that he’s lost to Ken Shamrock, Don Frye and Mark Coleman, so he’s at least got a lot of experience with top guys. That’s like WWE logic. Bobish just powers in and clinches on the fence, but Johnston answers with some good attempts at striking. Bobish takes him down and uses what looks like a neck crank to finish at 2:11. Hard to tell with them up against the fence, but the replay seems to confirm.
Middleweight Prelim: Donnie Chappell v. Anthony Fryklund
They’re already running short so we get the first prelim time-filler, beginning the great UFC tradition. Fryklund gets a fast takedown and passes the guard with ease, finishing with ease via striking at 1:28…and then keeps punching anyway. What a shithead. Big John storms in from his ringside position and lays down the law to this punk.
– More time wasting as they do a video package on middleweight rankings, which gives us stupid stuff like Mark Schultz (who did one fight and then never returned) at #3.
Middleweight tournament finals:
Anthony Fryklund v. Kevin Jackson
Jackson puts Fryklund on the ground like he’s throwing a child around, and gets the back for the choke at a breathtaking 0:45. In the post-match interview, Joe Rogan changes the weight class from middleweight to light heavyweight. What, did the government have a problem with “middleweight” as well?
Heavyweight tournament finals:
Mark Kerr v. Dan Bobish
Kerr comes out throwing leg kicks and tries a takedown, but Bobish sprawls. Kerr is too powerful to deny and gets side control, then finishes with an arm triangle at 1:40. Bobish would be back, but Kerr wasn’t going to be stopped here. So now we’ve got Mark Kerr, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman all entering their primes, even as the promotion in general sinks lower.
– Time for the heavyweight rankings, as Don Frye is ranked #1 despite being gone from the promotion and tonight’s challenger Maurice Smith is ranked #4 despite never competing in the UFC. Dan Severn is #5 and is also gone. So for those who think rankings today are insane, here you go.
UFC Heavyweight title: Mark Coleman v. Maurice Smith
On paper, this is a cakewalk for Coleman. Coleman immediately gets the takedown and starts pounding while Smith struggles to find the guard. Once he’s there, Coleman can’t do any damage and things slow down immensely. Smith actually throws some elbows from the bottom, but Coleman passes the guard and Coleman gets the back and tries a choke. Smith turns out of it, but Coleman has full mount and fires away. Smith keeps reversing out, but Coleman remains in top control and tries to maneuver for a headlock. And Smith slips out, drawing a surprisingly strong reaction from the crowd, but kicks Coleman on the ground and draws the ire of Big John. So they start again and Coleman is exposed and gassed while Smith is throwing kicks, so Coleman sucks him in and gets another takedown to bring it back to the ground. But after another couple of minutes on the ground, Smith actually reverses and gets the back, and a panicked Coleman brings it to standing again. Coleman is literally bent over and sucking wind, and Smith throws shots at will until time expires at 15:00. So it’s the first overtime and Smith is fresh and throwing kicks, easily evading Coleman’s takedown attempts now. Coleman’s not even trying now, checking the clock and running away, and now Smith throws a vicious combination and won’t finish. Time expires and we get another overtime and in a metaphor for the who promotion as a whole at that point, the lights go out and they’re left fighting in the dark. Nothing much happens here, and with all his domination, Maurice wins the UFC Heavyweight title via unanimous decision in his debut. This proved to be another interesting twist in the evolution of the sport, as the ground-and-pound wrestlers had begun to dominate, but this exposed glaring weaknesses in their standup (that is to say, Coleman had none) and really showed that a well-rounded, well-conditioned fighter was the next wave of the future.
A mostly dull show, but two great debuts for the tournament winners, and Smith’s amazing upset win was a fascinating fight to watch, so I’m going with a big thumbs up here.