UFC 23: Ultimate Japan 2
– Live from Japan, of course.
– Your hosts are Mike Goldberg & Jeff Blatnick.
Tonight, we once again need a heavyweight champion, so with the promotion basically dying and running out of time, we get Kevin Randleman v. Pete Williams tonight to crown one. No fuss, no muss. We’re also lacking a middleweight champion with the retirement of Frank Shamrock, but one problem at a time, I guess. Also, for reasons that elude me, it’s a one-night return to the tournament format in the middleweight division. I don’t get why.
Middleweight tournament semi-finals: Katsuhisa Fujii v. Masutasu Yano
The announcers know little about either guy. Join the club. Tentative start to say the least, as barely any contact is made. Fujii attempts a few strikes and a running knee, but Yano wants the takedown and won’t engage standing. Fujii gets frustrated and throws a combination, so Yano takes him down and pounds away on the fence. Fujii nearly gets an armbar from the bottom, but doesn’t have room to move. Yano throws punches from the top, but doesn’t have power to finish and the round expires. I’d call it 10-9 Yano for the ending flurry, but you could argue for Fujii controlling most of the round and trying to finish with the armbars. But it’s totally different judging criteria in Japan, apparently, so who knows.
Second round and it’s more patience from Yano, as he waits out Fujii’s striking attempts and they dance around. Finally Fujii gets his opening and puts Yano down and out for the TKO at 3:14. Replay shows that Yano must have a hell of a jaw to survive the right that put him down.
Kenichi Yamamoto v. Daijyu Takase
Takase gets a crazy jumping guard to bring Yamamoto to the ground, and there they stay. The only interesting thing is Yamamoto headbutting Takase’s stomach. And that’s the round! I dunno, 10-9 Yamamoto because he at least did something, however lame.
Round two and they each throw rights at the same time, and then Takase immediately drops to the ground again for the guard. Yamamoto has a Sakuraba-style cartwheel to pass the guard, but Takase doggedly wraps him up again to bring the fight to a halt. Again. And that’s the whole round. 10-9 Yamamoto by default again.
Round three and we’re immediately back on the ground again with zero happening. Round expires and I have no idea how to judge this boring fight. I’m guessing Yamamoto takes it for what little offense he provided. And yeah, it’s a unanimous decision to send him to the finals.
Middleweights: Eugene Jackson v. Kei Yamamiya
Yamamiya is a former Pancrase fighter so he should be fine in the UFC context. Yamamiya hangs back and frustrates Jackson early, then puts him down with a flurry and they clinch on the fence. Doesn’t really go anywhere and the round expires with more feeling out. Blatnick calls it a 10-10 draw and I’d agree.
Round two and still neither guy wants to engage, before Jackson finally unloads and Yamamiya backs off, drawing smiles from both guys. That’s nice to see. They trade some hard shots again and Jackson gets the best of it. Another couple of good flurries and the round ends with an easy 10-9 win for Jackson.
Third round and Jackson really wants to finish now, throwing a couple of punches to put Yamamiya on the fence and then going for the takedown, but he can’t get it. Finally a left puts Yamamiya down and out, out of nowhere, at 3:12. Had its moments, but overall a pretty dull fight.
Middleweights: Jason Delucia v. Joe Slick
Really? Joe Slick? That’s a real name? Delucia lost to Royce Gracie in an early UFC and hopefully has learned lots since then. Delucia gets a quick flurry and uses a whizzer to take him down, but Slick ends up in side control on top. Back up and Slick gets a takedown, but Delucia immediately calls for the towel to be thrown in due to a knee injury. Slick, a very classy guy, mugs for the camera and celebrates his hard-earned win. The replay is pretty horrifying, as you can see Delucia’s knee bending in a way nature did not intend.
Middleweight finals: Katsuhisa Fujii v. Kenichi Yamamoto
Fujii shoots in and takes Yamamoto down immediately, and Yamamoto goes into a butterfly guard. Fujii gets some solid shots from the top and nearly passes, but Yamamoto wraps him up again. Fujii is very active and tries to pass, pounding the shit out of Yamamoto from the top with no defense evident, but Yamamoto is saved by the bell. That’s 10-8 for Fujii, easily.
Round two and Fujii ducks under a punch and tries for a takedown, and they head to the ground again. Yamamoto seems content to wrap him up in the guard and hope for the best. And wouldn’t you know, Fujii gets sloppy and tries to pass, resulting in Yamamoto wrapping up a heel hook for the submission and tournament win. Huh.
Heavyweights: Pedro Rizzo v. Tsuyoshi Kosaka
This is for the #1 contendership to the new champion, whoever that might turn out to be. OK, actually I know pretty much all the twists and turns from here on in, but I’m trying to build suspense here. Rizzo tries to suck Kosaka into a slugfest, which would be a supremely stupid move on Kosaka’s part. Kosaka uses the leg kicks instead and stays back. Smart move, but it makes for a boring fight. And the round expires with nothing of note happening.
Round two and Rizzo is looking for the opening and throwing occasional leg kicks. TK tries to take it to the ground but Rizzo won’t bite, so it’s back to dancing again. Kosaka is also getting hurt by the leg kicks and showing it as the round expires.
Third round and Rizzo waves off his corner’s advice in a funny moment, then promptly drops TK for the TKO with a left hook at 1:17. This made the Ultimate Knockouts collection, but it wasn’t a great one or anything.
UFC Heavyweight championship: Kevin Randleman v. Pete Williams
They fight for a takedown and Randleman nearly powers Williams up into the air, but settles for a judo takedown instead. Williams tries to pass and almost gets the back, but Randleman gets back to the top and throws some good ground-and-pound from there. He lets Williams up and immediately gets put down with a flurry and mounted, but the round expires to save him. Was he thinking about his grocery list there or something? He looked like he totally zoned out when he was letting Williams up. Still 10-9 for Randleman.
Second round and Randleman is looking woozy, so Williams smartly gets aggressive and takes it to the fence. Randleman still gets the trip and takes it to the ground. It turns into lay-and-pray on Randleman’s part, nearly resulting in Williams getting an armbar. Randleman keeps it on the ground for the rest of the round. Give that one to Williams 10-9 for being more active.
Third round and Randleman shoots in and tries for the guillotine, but it’s back to the guard again. Nothing going on, probably 10-9 Randleman.
Fourth round, another takedown and back into the guard again, and that’s the whole round. 10-9 Randleman as Williams has done absolutely nothing since the second round.
Fifth round and Williams needs a miracle now. Oh hey, Randleman takes him down again, how about that. You know, I really like Randleman for his work in PRIDE later on, but back when he didn’t know striking or submissions it was pretty brutal watching him. They stand it up and do nothing and even Big John is getting sick of this shit and yells at Williams. And yeah, Randleman takes him down again and the fight ends to give Randleman the unanimous decision and the UFC Heavyweight title.
Horrendous, but at least Randleman is unlikely to retire and vacate the title.
To summarize, avoid this show at all costs. I almost literally fell asleep during the main event and the Delucia injury is awful to watch. By far this is the worst UFC show I’ve seen to this point, and that was exactly not what SEG needed with the end closing in fast.
Next time: Randleman defends against Pedro Rizzo, so he’d better learn striking fast.