The Ultimate Fighting Championship 18: Road To The Heavyweight Championship!
– Live from New Orleans, LA.
– Your hosts are Mike Goldberg & Jeff Blatnick
So it’s the “new look” UFC, with a new logo and no more tournaments. Thank Jebus. The theme is a sort-of tournament, however, as Randy Couture left the promotion due to a contract dispute and took the heavyweight title with him. So tonight it’s Bas Rutten v. Tsuyoshi Kosaka and Mark Coleman v. Pedro Rizzo to determine who will meet for the belt at UFC 19.
Prelim Fight, Lightweight: Frank Caracci v. Laverne Clark
Caracci is a jiu-jitsu guy from New Orleans, complete with a dated gi. That’s so 1995. Clark throws Caracci down with ease and takes the back, mauling him with hard shots, but Caracci manages to roll into the guard. Clark keeps hold of a wrist while throwing hammerfists from the top, but can’t pass the guard and instead works him over against the fence. It appears to be over, but it’s a glove problem and we have a restart. Caracci tries for a takedown and Clark stuffs it and beats him down the mat again, into full mount. They talk about Clark’s submission lessons from Miletich camp, but he just pounds away instead and Caracci wisely taps at 6:59. Good showing from Clark here.
Middleweight: Evan Tanner v. Darrell Gholar
Tanner is of course a name well known to modern fans. Tanner throws leg kicks to keep the wrestler away, but Gholar catches one and takes him down with a single-leg. I guess that answers Blatnick’s question about whether a wrestler can defend against strikes. Tanner grabs an arm from the guard and Gholar slams him twice to try to break it, but Tanner hangs on with a triangle. Oh, snap. Gholar manages to get free and works the body, but can’t do anything with Tanner’s guard. Tanner fights up and they fight from their feet again, and now Tanner just brutalizes him with knees. God I love Muay Thai knees. Gholar is clearly limping now, and Tanner easily gets the back and finishes with a choke at 7:57. Gholar was reasonably effective on the ground, but Tanner waited until he ran out of gas and then finished him. Great debut for Tanner.
Lightweight: Mikey Burnett v. Townsend Saunders
Both guys were in the tournament won by Pat Miletich, and this appears to be an elimination match of sorts to determine a challenger for Miletich’s lightweight title. Slow start as they trade shots tentatively, but then Burnett explodes and puts Saunders down and can’t finish. This referee (John Molinax) is awful, basically standing there and watching. Back to the boxing as Burnett blocks a couple of takedown attempts and Saunders doesn’t really look to have a gameplan. Saunders tries a leg kick and Burnett tags him and puts him against the fence for some knees. Back to the middle and neither guy can make anything happen, and the referee does nothing to encourage them. Time expires and we go to overtime. Shamrock directs Burnett to knock him out. Gee, why didn’t he just say that in the first place? Saunders tries throwing some punches and Burnett basically laughs them off, and they go to the fence. Burnett tries to power Saunders down, but gets nothing, and we’re done. Unanimous decision for Burnett, and not a very exciting one.
Middleweight: Tito Ortiz v. Jerry Bohlander
This would be Tito’s official pro debut, as the last time he competed it was as an amateur. Tito gets a quick takedown and works on top against the fence, which hampers his groundwork. Bohlander stands up and Ortiz DESTROYS him with combos, then takes him down into side mount. Bohlander gets back into the guard again, so Big John stands them up. This is pretty tentative by Tito’s standards. Tito throws some good rights and takes it to the fence again for the takedown and throws knees to the head. Bohlander fights up and Ortiz takes him down again and it’s back to the guard against the fence. I feel Tito’s frustration here at not being able to unleash his ground-and-pound. John stands them up again and Tito gets another takedown, but gets tied up by Bohlander. And that’s regulation expired. OT is more dominance from Tito, as he gets a takedown, and proceeds to wait out the time because he’s got it in the bag. A cut opens up on Bohlander’s eye from a forearm, and the doctor calls it at 2:30 of overtime and awards it to Tito. Tito’s post-match smirk and obnoxious t-shirt was a star-making moment.
Heavyweight: Pedro Rizzo v. Mark Coleman
Coleman comes in with the takedown and Rizzo is of course happy to go into the guard. Coleman is pretty ineffective, reduced to occasional punches to the ribs, and finally Big John stands them up after 5:00. Coleman is breathing HARD already. Back to the mat for some more of the same, and John stands them up again at 10:00. And with nothing happening, time expires. Coleman’s thigh is showing ugly bruises from Rizzo’s kicks. Overtime and the announcers think Coleman is safely ahead on points. Coleman actually throws a leg kick and manages to prevent Rizzo from shooting in, and that’s it for overtime. Just too tentative a performance from Rizzo, and yet he wins a SPLIT DECISION?! Of note for wrestling fans: The deciding vote was from Dave Meltzer. I’m stunned, I thought Coleman was clearly dominant enough to win the match.
Lightweight title: Pat Miletich v. Jorge Patino
Miletich gets a takedown, but lets him up quickly. To the mat again, and again Miletich wants to stand up. Patino doesn’t really want to engage Miletich in a boxing match and Miletich is clearly frustrated by his constant backing away. Patino goes with leg kicks while backing off, and Pat gets him against the fence, but can’t get anything. So we’re back to Patino moving away and Miletich finally catches him with a high kick and takes him down, but Patino nearly gets a heel hook out of it. Nice try there. But then it’s back to more circling and tentative shots. Big John wants ACTION, so Patino pulls guard. Miletich wants nothing to do with it and stands it up again. He shoots in for a double leg takedown, but winds up on the bottom. Minor note: One of the cornermen is wearing a Tapout shirt, which I believe is the first time one has appeared on a UFC PPV. Patino, working from the side mount, stands up and throws a kick to the downed Miletich, drawing a foul. And time expires as we go to the first overtime. 15:00 time limits in title fights make me look forward to the round system, which is coming up soon. It’s just too long. Miletich comes in with a guillotine attempt, but Patino goes to the guard and Miletich again backs off. Patino tries throwing some strikes and gets nothing, and OT #1 expires. Double overtime sees Miletich take him down and work from the top, since the fight is clearly his already anyway. Patino does nothing, but then catches a surprised Miletich with a nice guillotine and hooks it in on the ground. There’s just not enough leverage, and time expires to give Miletich the unanimous decision and allow him retain the title. This was a LONG and dull fight.
Heavyweight: Bas Rutten v. Tsuyoshi Kosaka
So the winner here gets Pedro Rizzo for the belt. Bas makes his UFC debut here after already having a legendary career in MMA. Rutten is THROWING and quickly tries a guillotine, but Kosaka takes him into the fence and gets side mount. Rutten wants it standing, but TK takes him down again and shows some ground-and-pound from the side mount. With no position improvement, John stands them up again. I dunno, Kosaka was pounding the ribs pretty good there. Kosaka gets another nice takedown and they trade some shots from the ground, and then stand it up again. Rutten starts to get some good strikes in, and regulation expires. Overtime sees Rutten throwing combos, answered by Kosaka’s knees. Can’t accuse them of holding back here. Bas unloads against the fence, and finally knocks him out at 2:08 of OT. So it’s Rutten v. Rizzo next time for the title!
Good finish to a LONG show. The lightweight title fight in particular really sucked the life out of the crowd, I think. A weak entry in a pretty strong series of shows for the UFC, unfortunately.