Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks
Sunday, November 24, 2002
Mixed Martial Arts--- Friday night's UFC 40 card from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas had some lofty expectations to meet, and I believe the event did just that. Sure, it would have been nice if some of the fights had lasted longer, but there wasn't a single fight on the card that wasn't exciting to watch. Also, what would you rather have? An event like UFC 40 where the majority of the fights end in under five minutes, or a card like UFC 33 where most of the fights are boring stalemates that last 15-25 minutes and go to judges' decisions? UFC 40 is the kind of entertaining MMA event that is going to turn a lot of non-fans into casual fans, and a lot of casual fans into hardcore fans. If the show turns a larger percentage of the mainstream media into MMA believers in the process, that's just an added bonus. And if the announcement that Tank Abbott is making a comeback brings back a lot of fans from the early days of the sport, that's yet another added bonus.
In the most anticipated fight of the year, any remaining doubt that Tito Ortiz is one of the most well-rounded fighters in any weight class was erased when he completely dominated Ken Shamrock from the opening bell to the end of the fight. Mere seconds into the fight, Ortiz landed a combination of punches that seemed to stun Shamrock, and it was all downhill from there for the MMA pioneer. Other than one solid-looking punch that Ortiz recovered from quickly, Shamrock had no major offense in the entire fight. I expected Ortiz to win with a ground-and-pound strategy, but I never imagined that it would be this one-sided.
The two things that shocked me the most were Tito's stand-up abilities and his raw strength. Tito has made incredible strides in his stand-up kickboxing skills, and now looks like the kind of fighter that is always a threat to knock out his opponent at any given moment. This seemed to catch Shamrock completely by surprise, and he didn't seem to know how to react. Equally shocking was the fact that not only was Ortiz stronger than Shamrock, but he manhandled him like a rag doll and made it look easy to score takedowns. The look of disbelief on Ken's face after some of those powerful takedowns said all that needed to be said. In contrast to Shamrock's apparent sense of shock and panic, Ortiz looked remarkably calm and poised throughout the entire fight, measuring every blow and taking his time so as to avoid burning out.
Once Tito got Ken to the ground, he unleashed his always dangerous barrage of punches, forearms, and elbows, which quickly took their toll on Shamrock's face and mental state. A few unsuccessful submission attempts by Shamrock only served to put Ortiz in a better position to dish out more punishment from the side mount. By the time the second round started, Shamrock's submission attempts from the bottom position didn't appear to pose any threat to Ortiz, and it was very clear that Shamrock wasn't even in Tito's league as a stand-up fighter. The only way Shamrock could win would be to get a takedown on Ortiz and hope to eventually submit him from the top position.
Unfortunately, by that time in the fight Shamrock was far too battered and dazed to attempt any takedowns. At the end of the third round, with almost his entire face swollen and bloodied, Shamrock's corner threw in the towel. A mutual show of respect was eventually shown in the ring after the fight, as both fighters earned the other's respect during the fight. Shamrock was dominated by a younger and better fighter, but he was able to gut it out and survive for three full rounds, despite the fact that he was almost out on his feet (and his back) for more than ten of those 15 minutes. The fact that Shamrock was still defending himself and fighting back after 15 long minutes of non-stop Tito Ortiz offense is nothing short of amazing. There's no getting around the fact that he lost, but Ken Shamrock's heart and his sheer will to survive have earned him the eternal respect of the entire mixed martial arts community.
As dominant as Tito Ortiz was, UFC Welterweight Champion Matt Hughes can lay claim to having the most dominant victory of the night. While Ortiz did take a single jarring punch to the face, welterweight contender Gil Castillo did nothing to Hughes. It was predictable that Hughes would take Castillo down, but it's what happened next that decided the outcome of the fight. It became apparent very quickly that Hughes' ground-and-pound attack was far more smothering than it has ever been before. On the one occasion where it looked like Castillo was about to successfully get back up to his feet, it took about a half-second for Hughes to effortlessly slam him back down to the mat. Castillo seemed absolutely helpless and unable to do anything to stop the onslaught of punches and forearms.
This was Matt Hughes ground and pound at its best, with his opponent unable to stand back up, unable to get into position to go for a submission, unable to fight back with strikes of his own, and at times even unable to move. It was similar to watching Royce Gracie in the first few UFC events, in the sense that both fighters' offensive styles quickly immobilized their opponents and prevented them from doing much of anything except losing. In the minutes after the end of Round One, the bell rang to end the fight, and the Vegas crowd booed what initially appeared to be a doctor's stoppage. In fact, Castillo verbally submitted in his corner due to vision problems (which thankfully went away overnight) and a general battered state. The visibly upset Castillo was completely shut down by Hughes, but then again, everyone is getting shut down by Hughes these days. There's no shame in losing to the best 170-pound fighter in the world, and Castillo should keep that in mind in the weeks and months to come.
In the "I Want My Title Shot Now, Dammit" fight of the night, Chuck Liddell went up against Renato "Babalu" Sobral. A couple of early takedown attempts by Babalu failed, and like most fighters, he was not qualified to stand up and trade strikes with Liddell. After about two minutes of punches and leg kicks by Liddell, Babalu went from a standing position to flat on his back in an instant thanks to a devastating kick to the face. As Liddell tried to finish the fight with punches on the ground, the referee jumped in and stopped the fight, giving Liddell a TKO victory. Babalu would later complain that the ref stopped the fight prematurely, but let's take a look at the situation he was in. He had just been knocked down by a brutal kick, he was momentarily unconscious, he was lying on the mat prone and defenseless with his arms nowhere near his face, and Liddell was about to rain down more hard shots. Is that not the very definition of when a UFC referee is supposed to stop the fight? Liddell looked extremely impressive and will now hopefully get the title shot against Tito Ortiz that he deserves.
Going into UFC 40, a lot of people (including me) wondered whether Carlos Newton would still have his head in the fighting game and whether he would show up in good shape. Not only did he answer both questions with a definitive "yes," but he put on a submission grappling showcase in the process. Newton's opponent, former Golden Gloves boxer Pete Spratt, was just coming off a quick submission victory against a lesser opponent in his previous UFC fight, and seemed to know what he was doing on the ground. Newton quickly took Spratt down and made him look amateurish in the art of grappling, and it became clear within 15 seconds of the fight going to the ground that Newton completely outclassed Spratt on the ground. Everything Spratt did was just countered by Newton and used in some way to put Newton in progressively better offensive positions. The end came less than two minutes after the opening bell in the form of a Kimura armlock. Spratt had no choice but to tap out, and Newton scored the impressive submission victory in less than two minutes.
Prior to his fight against Robbie Lawler, Tiki Ghosen called Lawler over-rated and that he was going to beat Lawler at his own game with stand-up striking. This fight only lasted 90 seconds, but it was non-stop action and it started the live PPV off with a bang. Early on, Tiki played it smart and landed several hard leg kicks, causing Lawler's leg to turn into a shade of swollen red. In the sequence of events that made up the last ten seconds of the fight, Tiki landed a particularly hard leg kick that caused Lawler's leg to buckle. In the split second that it appeared Lawler was about to go down, Lawler landed a devastating right punch that knocked Tiki down, but not out. Tiki had barely hit the mat when, in one swift motion, Lawler landed another haymaker to the face that knocked Tiki completely out, giving Lawler the victory. A few minutes after the fight, when asked if he still thought Lawler was over-rated, Tiki's reply was, "Yeah, I do, they just stopped the fight because of a cut." Tiki appeared to legitimately believe that the ref stopped the fight due to a cut, and he appeared to have no memory whatsoever of being knocked out just minutes earlier.
In what was by far the most well-rounded, back-and-forth fight of the night, undefeated middleweights Mark Weir and Phillip Miller faced off. The fight appeared to be going in Weir's favor in the first round, as he dominated the stand-up game and looked a lot like Anderson Silva with his constant submission attempts on the ground. Both fighters managed to survive the other's numerous submission attempts and make it to round two. In Round Two, Weir landed a vicious shin kick that sent Miller tumbling to the ground. The referee made the best judgment call of the night by not stopping the fight, and Miller managed to survive Weir's immediate offensive flurry on the ground. At that point, Weir chose to stand the fight back up, which made sense given his superior stand-up skills. Miller's legs were wobbly, he looked like he was out on his feet, and it appeared that Weir might be seconds away from knocking Miller out. Instead, Miller wrapped up Weir and took him down, then landed some shots on the ground that caused Weir to roll to his stomach. A perfectly executed rear naked choke followed, and Weir was forced to tap out. In the span of 20 seconds, Miller went from looking like he was going to get knocked out at any second, to winning the fight by submission. A huge amount of heart and talent was shown by both men, and I'd love to see both of them get more fights under their belts in the UFC middleweight ranks.
In his pre-fight interview, Ian Freeman said, "There's not a man alive that can stand up when I punch him." He seemed to be quite cocky in his belief that his stand-up game was so much better than that of his opponent, Andrei Arlovski. Freeman appeared to have lost a large amount of weight in the past few months and looked to be in great shape, but his cockiness got in the way of what would have probably been his best chance to win (going for takedowns and trying to ground and pound Arlovski). Instead, Freeman tried to stand up and go blow-for-blow with Arlovski, who had a big reach advantage. Freeman came out swinging and was quickly stunned by a pair of Arlovski's punches. Even then, Freeman still didn't attempt any takedowns and seemed intent on winning or losing in a stand-up battle. Arlovski's punches continued to make Freeman increasingly wobbly until he finally went down in a heap, giving Arlovski the knockout win 90 seconds into the fight. Not only did Arlovski appear to be in much better shape than he was in his last few fights, but he also eemed amuch more aggressive and quick with his hands.
The only fight of the evening that wasn't shown on the PPV broadcast was the heavyweight fight between Vladimir Matyushenko and Travis Wiuff. Wiuff had a 30-pound weight advantage over Vladdy, but that didn't stop Vladdy from controlling his much less experienced opponent in every aspect of the fight. Vladdy's ground-and-pound attack became too overwhelming for Wiuff to handle, prompting a tap-out shortly after the four-minute mark in Round One. Wiuff took this fight on fairly short notice and could very well have a successful MMA career ahead of him, but it wasn't going to happen on this night.
Overall, UFC 40 has to be considered a smashing success. It would have been even better if more than two of the fights went longer than five minutes, but as I said before, the opposite is much worse if every fight is a 15-minute stalemate. By watching UFC 40, a new viewer could see examples of how a dominant submission specialist wins a fight, how a dominant ground-and-pound specialist wins a fight, how a dominant stand-up fighter wins a fight, and what happens when someone like Tito Ortiz is excellent at all three skills. Joe Rogan was there and was surprisingly good on color commentary, Tank Abbott was there, the mainstream media was there, and the biggest crowd in the history of the MGM Grand was there. All eyes were on UFC 40 in Las Vegas, and it didn't disappoint.