UFC 45: REVOLUTION
by Scott Christ
UFC's 10th anniversary show had about a million problems going in. For one, there wasn't a strong card, with Matt Hughes fighting an unknown, if talented, Frank Trigg for the welterweight title as the main event. While Hughes is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, this was enough to warrant two fat guys slugging at each other to get billed as a "double main event," with Tank Abbott taking on Cabbage Correira.
There was almost no proper hype done by Zuffa for this card, though they made some great video packages that you could see on the internet. Granted, much of their fanbase is on the internet, but when you're trying to make the sport bigger, you can't simply stick to the fans you have. There's a line between alienating your diehards and branching out into people that aren't already buying the events, and they never even approached it for this, perhaps understandably. Something like this should have had three or four major fights. Instead, it was booked around the unbeatable Hughes and the UFC returns of Ricco Rodriguez and Robbie Lawler. Rodriguez's fight didn't even make it to the PPV. Frank Mir was going to fight Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title, which would have made this card fine in terms of drawing strength. Sylvia admitted to steroid use. Frank Mir was then going to fight Wes Sims, who had been disqualified against Mir at UFC 43. Sims then got injured in training. Then Mir was scheduled against Andrei Arlovski, another guy who's hot in the division, and, along with Mir, is sort of seen as the hopeful future of UFC's heavyweights. Arlovski was hurt in training.
So we got down to the point of Mir being scheduled to fight UFC 1 veteran Pat Smith, a 40-year old with a career record of 9-11. In terms of novelty, sure, why not? Smith lost to Ken Shamrock at UFC 1, then got his second-greatest claim to fame by KOing Scott Morris, the Texas ninja, at UFC 2.
But Pat Smith is suspended in Nevada for boxing, and that put the kibosh on that idea. And, really, when you're down to getting Pat Smith in, you just stop trying for replacements.
So Mir is out. Hughes and Trigg have a war of words that no one sees. Tank and Cabbage prepare to punch each other. The former heavyweight champion is such a risk of being a completely boring fight that you have his big hyped return to UFC on as a dark match against a washed-up guy you pay $175,000/fight to. Your heavyweight champion is roid raging. And really all you have going for you right now is your name and this Hall of Fame nonsense.
I guess I should get to the show and stop putting the subtle (subtle?) badmouth on UFC.
My picks were: Chris Lytle, Evan Tanner (because I refuse to pick Phil Baroni), Cabbage, Matt Lindland and Matt Hughes. I picked Ricco Rodriguez over Pedro Rizzo, Yves Edwards over Nick Agallar and Keith Rockel over Chris Ligouri in the prelims.
Let's just start with those, since they showed us nothing but clips afterward.
Yves Edwards beat Nick Agallar via TKO from strikes in a lightweight (155) bout at 02'14" of the first round. I really like Edwards, he's a good striker and his discipline is thugjitsu. Thugjitsu. Seriously. I was pretty interested in him fighting Din Thomas, but at least he still got to fight on the show unlike poor Frank Mir.
Veteran Rockel beat Ligouri via submission to a guillotine choke at 03'29" of the first round in a local boys middleweight (185) match.
Ricco Rodriguez managed to lose his third straight fight via unanimous decision, something of a downer for anyone that hates Pedro Rizzo and has a deathly fear of his contract being renewed. It's not that I think Rizzo is untalented at all, and I don't know that anyone does. He still has tremendous hands, but the game has passed him by. If he can, I expect him to stay with UFC. If they don't want to renew (it would be understandable), he can go to Pride and probably get more money anyway, since they have more to burn. Apparently just as boring of a fight as the company had feared.
Now, finally, mercifully, on to the live show.
Live on November 21 from the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Our commentators are MIKE GOLDBERG and JOE ROGAN. Doing post-match and backstage interviews is GREASY EDDIE BRAVO. The ring announcer is BRUCE BUFFER.
WELTERWEIGHTS - CHRIS LYTLE (10-9-4, Integrated Fighting Academy) v. ROBBIE LAWLER (7-1-0, Miletich Martial Arts)
A lot is still being made of Lawler dropping his last fight to Pete Spratt and the damage it did not only to his physical well-being (he had to have hip surgery from kicks, though Lawler denies that Spratt's assault on his walkers had anything to do with his surgery), but of his reputation. I picked Lytle to get the upset here because I thought he would be able to stand up with Lawler due to his pro boxing exploits. First round starts and Lawler gets a big ass slam pretty early. On the ground, Lytle tries a heel hook but Lawler fights out and starts throwing some punches to the ground from the stand-up. Lytle sneaks in a quick kick to the face. The bell sounds, I give the round to Robbie Lawler.
Second round we slow down a lot and the ignorant UFC crowd tends to boo when people take a moment to refocus on the fight, so we get lots of booing mixed in here. The entire round stays in the stand-up with the two trading flurries. Lytle is throwing a lot of leg kicks as bait, and Lawler keeps backing away from them. Obviously it's a good idea to avoid being kicked in the legs, but he seems way scared of the idea. There are a few points in this round where Lawler smiles at some of Lytle's punches connecting. Lawler lands a wicked body shot toward the end of the round. Bell sounds, I'm going with Lytle as he had Lawler on the awkward defensive for the majority of the round.
Third and final round is underway, we start with a circle that the crowd boos some more. Lawler lands some good leg kicks, Lytle hits a right, and now we're into some major league showboating from both guys. Honestly this is a really good fight so far. Exchange of punches, and Lawler lands a good one that catches Lytle on the chin and puts him down. Lytle is aware though, and tries to lure Lawler to the ground. Lawler isn't going, so John McCarthy stands him up. More circling and Mike and Joe are really letting fly on the dumb sports references and Joe is going completely nuts with "throwin' some bombs." Lytle gets in close and manages to get behind Lawler, scoring a german suplex. Nothing comes of it, and the round is over. I go with Lawler on the strength of the knockdown, which makes it 2-1 Lawler on my card, but I could see it going either way. The guys hug and exchange pleasantries in a classy moment.
The cards are in: Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision. Exciting fight.
Royce Gracie video.
MIDDLEWEIGHTS - EVAN TANNER (17-3-0, Team Quest) v. PHIL BARONI (5-2-0)
Here's the thing. I really dislike Phil Baroni. The guy is an asshole. On the other hand, I really like Team Quest, which is sort of Baroni's de facto rivals given that he had the beef with Matt Lindland, and, at least in his own mind, still has one. Baroni has two losses, both to Lindland, both pretty decisive. And yet he still says things like, "If Matt Lindland wants to step up..." Do you mean if Matt Lindland wants to step down and fight you again? Tanner is dropping down from fighting at 205 after a real debacle of a loss to Rich Franklin at UFC 42. The idea coming in is that Baroni, who tends to get overrated due to him once absolutely demolishing Dave Menne, can overcome Tanner since Tanner isn't the world class wrestler that Lindland is, and any advice Lindland gives him will be for naught once Baroni starts throwing in the stand-up. It's a logical conclusion, but I'm taking Tanner. And the closer it gets to the fight, the more I actually believe it. Baroni LOOKS like a fighter so people want him to be more than he is. Sounds like SOMEONE is being groomed as the new Ken Shamrock.
Baroni's got his whole retarded posse with him, Tanner has guys like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson with him. Right away, Baroni rocks Tanner. And he rocks him again. Tanner is cut pretty bad and the fight is stopped to get it looked at. Restarted, and Tanner gets him in the clinch, where he's dangerous. Tanner starts hitting some knees to the body and wearing Baroni down. Right now, you can see that idiot Phil Baroni has not learned one goddamn thing from those Lindland fights. He comes out throwing like a maniac, and sure, he hits like a son of a bitch and he's a bad dude, but he never, ever thinks about preparing himself for the idea that he might NOT get the knockout. And that's pretty cute as a tagline, but in reality, you need to not gas yourself in the first half of the first round, which is what he's done again. Tanner scores a takedown and is raining elbows and right hands. Larry Landless steps in and calls for the fight to end at 04'42", apparently thinking that Baroni told him to do so, but Baroni is furious, because he didn't. Baroni throws some shots at Landless, which any ordinary Joe would never get away with, and would never be brought back after, but I would assume Baroni won't be held to such a standard given that he's the New York Badass and all. It was a bad call by Landless, in fact a horrible call. And I admit readily that there is no way Phil Baroni would ever quit in a fight. But the thing that's going to be overlooked possibly is that Tanner was maybe 10 seconds away from winning that fight. The other thing is that Baroni probably could have held on for 18 more seconds and made it out of the round. So it's really unfortunate all around, it either robs Evan Tanner of a legitimate and big victory, or it robs Baroni of being able to come out for the second round on his feet and ready to go. Honestly I think Tanner had him due to Baroni's own stupid gameplan, but we'll never know. They'll have a rematch and they should. Baroni settles down a little and he and Evan show some mutual respect.
Bunch of replays and brouhaha later, Baroni apologizes backstage for his actions after the fight.
HEAVYWEIGHTS - CABBAGE CORREIRA (13-4-0, Grappling Unlimited) v. TANK ABBOTT (8-9-0, Vodka and Cheeseburgers Fighting)
Usually I'm not a big fan of seeing Tank Abbott fights, but hell, if you're gonna see a Tank Abbott fight, let's see Tank against the new age Tank. I expect it to be exciting at the least. Tank looks in pretty good shape (well, for Tank), weighing in at 253 for the fight. Cabbage was half a cupcake under the 265 limit. Bell sounds, and before I can even make any hilarious jokes, Tank Abbott has been rocked. Cabbage is landing some brutal knees to the head, and has opened up a rather nasty gusher over Tank's right eye. The fight is stopped so the doctor can check it out - then the fight is just stopped altogether at 02'14" of the first round. Cabbage performs his dance (the cabbage patch, duh) and flips Tank off, which Tank's corner takes great offense to. Suddenly, a corner-clearing brawl is about to break out, and for some goddamn reason, CHUCK LIDDELL is in the middle of the octagon holding people apart. This was bizarre and shoddy and amateur and made this company look ridiculous. After the dust clears, Abbott gets a standing ovation for getting his ass kicked.
During the rest of the show, Eddie Bravo talks to John McCarthy, who says Tank said he couldn't see out of his eye due to the blood, and that's a stoppage. He talks to Cabbage, who says he's going after Kimo next. Kimo, like Tank did coming into this, has one fight left on his contract, so I guess he's the new old fart exterminator. And he talks to Tank, who seems somber about it all and wishes it hadn't been stopped. The fight is never really addressed except for after the fight, Joe Rogan really lays down the law on everyone involved, calling the ordeal "bullshit." Tell it, Joe.
Ken Shamrock video. I'm not even going to go over their stupid top ten as it was a farce. No disrespect to the guys that deserved to be there and all, but any top ten UFC legends list that has Tank Abbott at #4, Ken Shamrock at #2 and doesn't have Frank Shamrock at all because he's blackballed is bogus, so what's the point. I will get my goddamn commemorative casino chips though.
MIDDLEWEIGHTS - FALANIKO VITALE (15-2-0, Grappling Unlimited) v. MATT LINDLAND (9-2-0, Team Quest)
This is a rematch from the bizarre UFC 42 fight where Lindland went to slam Vitale and ended up knocking himself out when he hit the mat. Vitale had shown some good strategy, being able to hold off Lindland's takedowns, and the rematch was pretty interesting. Until it started. Vitale goes for a leg kick, slips, and Lindland pounces. Lindland stays on top and controls the rest of the round. First round to Matt Lindland.
Stand-up goes absolutely nowhere forever, lots of clinching. What little happened was in Lindland's favor in this round too. 2-0 Lindland, Vitale needs a KO or submission to win.
Third round is as follows: Niko is on top on the ground, gets nothing, Lindland escapes and is able to get a full mount, and starts with the ground n' pound until Vitale taps seemingly from being bored with how shitty he fought here more than anything. Lindland wins via submission from strikes at 04'23" of the third.
WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT - FRANK TRIGG (challenger, 10-1-0, Real American Wrestling) v. MATT HUGHES (champion, 30-3-0, Miletich Martial Arts)
The place looks pretty empty since a lot of people apparently just came for the Tank fight. How depressing. Trigg shoots in right away, and by god we got us a wrestling match. Hughes with a huge slam, and back to more straight wrestling. Trigg is holding his own and then some on the ground with Matt Hughes, which is saying a ton about his conditioning and ability. But then it happens. Trigg makes one mistake, and all of a sudden Hughes is on his back and has a rear naked choke in deep. Trigg taps out standing at 03'54", they hug, and all is well with the world. Trigg seems to be an on-screen prick, and not only that, but he seems to be a hell of a wrestler. It's just that Hughes is as close to unbeatable as anyone has ever been besides I dunno, Rickson Gracie.
So what did we learn tonight? We learned that Miletich Martial Arts and Team Quest are undoubtedly the top two teams in American MMA, there is absolutely no competition for either of them. Well, we knew that already, but this cemented it and then some.
Evan Tanner and Phil Baroni will fight again and they should. Baroni needs to change his gameplan because he's lost three times and every time it's the same damn thing. He goes for the first-round KO, doesn't get it, and he's finished. He's got great ability that he doesn't utilize to its fullest extent, then talks shit about how he's the best in the world at 185.
Trigg has another fight left and if UFC still wants Robbie Lawler to be someone, then they'd be wise to keep Lawler the hell away from Trigg, who would smoke him. There's not much left at 170 for Matt Hughes. He would be best to fight Dennis Hallman, who has tapped him twice in under a minute, and get that final piece done. He has beaten Carlos Newton twice (once decisively, once retardedly) and now B.J. Penn is talking about moving up to 170, but fighting Hughes right away would be a horrible idea. Lawler just isn't ready for Matt Hughes.
Tank Abbott should be finished unless they want to give him one more fight and gamble on drawing money with him against Ken Shamrock. Shamrock would tap Abbott in about a minute at this point, which I'm pretty sure has to be getting through to even the most ignorant and annoying of all Tank Abbott supporters.
The biggest problem tonight was all the crap that came about. The post-Tank/Cabbage ridiculousness did nothing for UFC and nothing for either of those guys' careers in UFC. Phil Baroni may have really cost himself with his tantrum, although he had a real gripe there. Frank Trigg proved himself as a very worthy fighter in under four minutes, being able to wrestle with Matt Hughes. He just made a mistake, which you can't do.
UFC 46 is on Super Bowl Saturday and will be main evented by Randy Couture and Vitor Belfort for the light heavyweight title. I'll be back for that. Will YOU?