The Smark Rant: UFC 36

The Ultimate Fighting Championship 36: Worlds Collide!

So as it turns out, the previous show was the last appearance of Jens Pulver, as he leaves the promotion in 2002 due to a contract dispute and vacates the lightweight title. Too bad, a rematch with Penn would have been big business.

– Live from Las Vegas, NV.

– Your hosts are Mike Goldberg, Jeff Osborne & Ricco Rodriguez. And as a color man, he makes an awesome fighter.

Light Heavyweights: Elvis Sinosic v. Evan Tanner

Very interesting matchup here. Tanner is coming off destruction at the hands of Tito Ortiz, so he needs to rebound here. He bulls Elvis into the cage and gets him into the guard, then throws elbows from the top until doctors stop it due to blood at 2:06. And you’re telling me that the dreaded “12-6” elbows are more dangerous than that?!?

Middleweights: Pat Miletich v. Matt Lindland

Miletich moves up to middleweight in an attempt to come back after losing to Carlos Newton, but this looks like a BAD idea. Lindland storms in with the takedown and pounds away from the top, but Miletich tries for an armbar before going back to the guard.

Lindland goes right back to the ground and pound, then gets full mount and throws down until the ref stops it at 3:09. Miletich had his arms up, but he was doing nothing. Ricco was hilariously bad on commentary here, declaring that he couldn’t foresee any way for Lindland to win before the match, and talking about how Lindland’s punches were doing no damage, moments before the ref stopped the fight. This was the end of Miletich as a serious fighter, sadly.

While waiting for the first title match, the announcers review the welterweight rankings. Despite moving up to middleweight, Miletich is ranked #3. Way down at #5 is some guy named Anderson Silva. Wonder what happened to that guy?

Welterweight title: Matt Hughes v. Hayato Sakurai

Hughes immediately stuffs a takedown attempt from Sakurai and outwrestles him on the mat (like, duh), then slams him from a double-leg position. Hughes wraps him up on the mat and holds on until the end of the round. 10-9 Hughes.

Second round and Hughes just destroys Sakurai with another takedown and puts it in the deep freeze again on the ground. Not enough movement, so Big John stands it up and Sakurai manages to hit Hughes with a good knee. But then Matt takes him down again. 10-9 Hughes.

Third round and Hughes continues slamming his way to victory, driving Sakurai like a tackling dummy and wrapping him up on the ground again. Good on Matt for being so dominant, but god it’s boring. John stands them up with time running down, and Hughes slams Sakurai again like clockwork. 10-8 Hughes and he’s gotta be ready to finish this thing.

Fourth round and Hughes comes out swinging, nearly knocking Sakurai into the front row before taking him down again. Finally he gets the full mount and finishes the poor punching bag challenger to put him out of his misery at 3:01. Not a fight I’d want to sit through again.

Heavyweights: Andrei Arlovski v. Pedro Rizzo

Ricco confidently predicts a first round KO for Rizzo, so expect the opposite. Pedro immediately goes into tentative standup mode, so Arlovski chases him back with big rights. Rizzo puts Arlovski down with a leg kick, but astonishingly doesn’t keep doing it despite evidence that Andrei has no defense. They exchange bombs, but back off a bit until the round ends. 10-9 Rizzo.

Round two and the standing fight continues with lots of circling, as neither guy has any interest in the takedown. They’re both looking for the counter punch at this point. Rizzo manages a high kick, but nothing else this round. 10-9 Rizzo.

Third round and Rizzo finally gets the left and then right hand to knock Arlovski into next week, breaking his nose in the process. DAMN. I’ll give it to Ricco, he called that one, although not in the first round as predicted. God I hope they don’t give Rizzo yet another title shot as a result of that.

UFC Heavyweight title: Randy Couture v. Josh Barnett

Couture gets Barnett against the fence and takes him down with underhooks, then fires away from the top, but nearly gets caught in the armbar. Couture tries for a kimura on the mat, but Barnett reverses to a kneebar attempt, and they fight up to the fence again. They fight from the clinch until the end of the round. 10-9 Couture in a good first round.

Second round and Couture gets the takedown and controls from the top, but Barnett suddenly grows a set and tries a guillotine before getting the top and firing away with all guns. Barnett seems to toy with the idea of doing a submission, but then wisely goes back to beating the hell out of Couture. He can’t finish, but then he just lets it all go and fires away until Big John stops it and awards the title to Barnett by TKO! That is actually Couture’s first ever loss. This would seem to herald a new era for the heavyweight division and set up a rematch with Rizzo…but a pesky drug test revealed why Barnett’s physique was so much better here, and we suddenly had another vacated title. This one reminded me a lot of the Couture-Lesnar title change, actually, where Randy ended up on his back and just got overpowered. Zuffa was not happy about that title change or the subsequent drug-testing debacle.

Prelims, Heavyweights: Frank Mir v. Pete Williams

Frank Mir was still the new hotness at this point. Mir comes in with a high kick series and pulls guard, then finishes at 0:40 with a SICK arm crank. Williams’ arm was literally twisted in a direction no body part should go in. And that’s it for the career of Pete Williams.

Good show overall, but the ridiculous money problems and vacated titles didn’t bode well for the future of the UFC under Zuffa. Things would, however, begin to change soon.

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