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UFC 66: Liddell vs Ortiz 2 DVD Review



29 July 2007

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ufc 66

 


Cert: 15

Length: 167 mins

 

 

You know you're in amongst the marketable names when "Face The Pain" backdrops the graphical parade of the upcoming fightcard, and your girlfriend remarks "I know who all of them are". Either that, or it's a sign that you're watching too much MMA, and maybe it's time you got around to re-sealing the bathroom, like you said you were going to in January. The UFC returned to the MGM Grand in Vegas for their final happening of 2006, which equalled a welcome break from infuriating, witless Sunshine State audiences. I'll take what I can get...

The Fights

  • Light Heavyweight Championship
    Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz
  • Forrest Griffin vs. Keith Jardine
  • Chris Leben vs. Jason MacDonald
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Marcio Cruz
  • Michael Bisping vs. Eric Schafer
  • Thiago Alves vs. Tony DeSouza
  • Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Carmelo Marrero
  • Yushin Okami vs. Rory Singer
  • Christian Wellisch vs. Anthony Perosh

As touched upon, UFC 66 is crammed with fighters of "name" value, to varying degrees, yet not to be eclipsed, some of the lesser-noted fighters in attendance were certainly up for it. Heavyweights Anthony Perosh & Christian Wellisch kicked off the prelims with an engaging three-round war: Hungarian Wellisch took the first round in emphatic fashion (10-8, by my count), finishing the period in clear ascendancy, following up a knee strike with a salvo of punches, with only the clock coming to Perosh's aid. The Australian responded directly to the onslaught at the start of the second period, dropping Wellisch with a rapid-fire combo, and evened the tally of rounds won by way of a persistent rear-waistlock, working to find an opening from where he could attempt to finish. With everything up for grabs in the final round, both shot out of the blocks looking to exert, from where Wellisch inflicted significant visible damage, using further punching combinations to bust "The Hippo" open, which surely scored him some points with the judges. "The Hungarian Nightmare" shaded the stretch, and took a unanimous decision. This certainly qualifies as one of the great unheralded fights of the annum; "hidden gem", I believe is the term.

The freshly-moustached Steve Mazagatti pauses & mugs after his intro, awaiting a pop. Tosser. Yushin Okami's ascension up the Middleweight ranks continued with a third round victory, by tapout from strikes on the ground, over TUF3 veteran Rory Singer. The initial round was tensely tentative, with the latter fighter just shading the scoring in his willingness to press forward in search of an opening, as the Nevada throng elected to boo them somewhat vociferously. The contest clicked into gear in Round Two, as Okami secured the initial takedown, subsequently putting Singer on the back foot with a sweet kick to the midsection as affairs returned upwards. Okami front-swept from the clinch into guard, with the seconds running down in intriguing fashion, as the Nippon went back to his feet with Singer remaining on the mat & keeping him at bay with a succession of crisp kicks to the knees & head from his back, which had Joe Rogan gushing on commentary. The third saw Okami pick up a further takedown, passing into full mount across the space of a minute, and employing some swift ground & pound to force the tap, concluding a fight that took time to find it's rhythm, but once the feeling-out process was over, it was nowhere near the dud that the combination of announcers & crowd reaction would lead you to believe.

One thing that Gabriel Gonzaga & Carmelo Marrero have in common is that each can lay a decent claim to having contested (and won) the most atrocious fight in UFC history; Gonzaga against Kevin Jordan at UFC 56, Marrero against Cheick Kongo at UFC 64- the former offering was so deplorable, my cable-box actually gave up & crashed during the second round of Bravo's coverage (true story). Anyroadup, Marrero triumphed over Kongo by virtue of the Frenchman having practically no ground game to speak of, but BJJ-wizard "Napao" was always going to be a different ball game, a different kettle of fish.... a different everything, and so it proved. Gonzaga took the fight to mat & mount with astounding quickness & ease: Marrero escaped an initial anaconda choke by slipping his right arm in, after looking dead & buried at one point, but the academic finish wasn't long in coming, as the Chute Boxe man transitioned from a keylock to full-armbar for the tapout. Marrero was unequivocally outclassed here.

If memory serves, the final preliminary bout- Thiago Alves vs Tony DeSouza- was shoehorned onto the main broadcast, and it's not hard to understand why. Alves looked resoundingly impressive in seeing off the TUF5 assistant coach: an interesting titbit came at the end of the first round, with DeSouza stuck in the turtle position & Alves raining down punches, as John McCarthy showed quite the degree of leniency in not calling a halt to proceedings, whilst Joe Rogan mused that McCarthy's inherent knowledge of the fighters he presides over influences his decisions, and that he knew DeSouza wasn't in as much trouble in this position as many others would be. Desperation took control of the Peruvian into the second, and as he leapt in to close the distance, Alves nailed him with a big uppercut, a harsh knee to the face, and a barrage on the mat for the stoppage. McCarthy summed this one as he prepared to raise Alves' hand, audibly telling the Brazilian, "Tremendous job".

Our very own Michael Bisping came through his first "official" UFC test, although he looked shaky on occasion against Eric "Red" Schafer. Scoring the first round stoppage with a succession of heavy duty shots from upright as Schafer vainly tried to cover up on the canvas, "The Count" reached this stage through sheer dogmatism, as "Red" blocked a low kick to capture a straight-forward takedown, almost gaining the upset with an arm triangle. A hectic affair, while it lasted.

Recently engaged in a surprisingly intellectual "Why is pro-wrestling fixed?" discussion with one of the uninitiated villagers, I invoked the spirit of the promoter's ethos in search of a fitting simile, by explaining that Amir Khan will no doubt win his next fight, as his opposition will be carefully selected to protect his future marketability (in much more depth than this, naturally, but you get the picture). All of this got me thinking about relative MMA rookie Marcio "Pe De Pano" Cruz, and how Zuffa did him no favours whatsoever after he totally schooled former heavyweight champ Frank Mir in his second ever pro outing, throwing him in firstly with Jeff Monson, and here with disgruntled, fallen ex-champ Andrei Arlovski, reducing his record to 2-2. Must've upset a few characters with the Mir destruction job, methinks. The expected game of drawing the engagement into each man's domain ensued, with matters falling into Cruz's world of the canvas, where the BJJ World Champion scrambled to crank in an ankle-lock, with "The Pitbull" responding by kicking him square in the face, earning an admonishing from Herb Dean. The ref looked to stand the fight up, much to "Pe De Pano's" chagrin, so the green light was given for them to continue on the mat- Arlovski capitalised by launching an immediate right, and following up with a cluster of fists, prompting Dean to call it. Coupled with the contentious decision he dropped to Monson, Marcio Cruz has cause to feel significantly hard done by in his last two fights, for my money.

I don't believe I've ever bemoaned this here, so I will: Chris Leben, you crazy fool, why swap the awesome moniker of "The Cat Smasher" for the infinitely more mundane "Crippler"? Canadian Jason McDonald gained a measure of retribution for his compatriot & namesake Thacker, continuing his mini-run as Team Quest-TUF alumni spoiler by guillotine choking Leben into second round unconsciousness, building on an impressive debut victory over Ed Herman. A scrappy but tenacious affair, this one... as is par for the course when the man from Oregon is involved. On the subject of spoilers, the Forrest Griffin juggernaut - suffering minimal loss of momentum from a close decision loss to Tito Ortiz- took something of a derailing in the semi-main: the dumbfounded TUF1 champion openly wept following his opportunistic annihilation at the hands of Keith Jardine. Griffin looked to be controlling the early standing exchanges, before a counter-uppercut from "The Dean Of Mean" put him on the back foot, with the Albuquerque native suddenly "feeling it", going berzerk with a supersonic barrage of standing blows, causing John McCarthy to step in. Fireworks indeed.

The title attraction, in both senses of the expression, of UFC 66 pit against each other two of the three names most synonymous with the league's longtime marquee division. With the Garden Arena already popping for Chuck Liddell & Tito Ortiz, the houselights went out & a single spotlight shone on the mid-Octagon gathering for Mario Yamasaki's pre-match instructions.... coooool. The opening exchanges illustrated that the challenger was game, quickly closing & then re-establishing distance after getting quick leg-kicks in, with Liddell drawn to respond mid-round with a pair of counter right hands, eventually landing a left swing to the temple, dropping Ortiz to the mat, from where the round exploded into life. Liddell extended to finish, unleashing shot after shot, with Ortiz strategically manoeuvring to minimalise impact- a strong visual example of what is meant by "intelligent defence". The former poster boy began the second round intently, looking to even up the scores by pressing forward, picking off kicks but getting caught with a further counterpunch as he shot in for a takedown. The challenger eventually scored a massive rear takedown to shade the round, although the champion sprung up immediately. The opening minutes of the third period followed a similar pattern to the preceding two, yet when "The Iceman" finally landed his first solid combo of the fight, Ortiz immediately looked to engage in a slugfest, ending up on the wrong end of a left hook & trademark Liddell follow-up flurry, which inevitably spelled curtains. A tactically engrossing main event, even more so when watched back to back with their first clash at UFC 47, the biggest fight the company had to offer certainly didn't disappoint on any level, which is a rarity in itself.

Haemorrhaging star-power, UFC 66 boasts an almost unparalleled run of decisive finishes, with the one contest that did go the distance having the good grace to be a bit of a cracker. Add in a couple of highlight reel finishes courtesy of Alves & Jardine, and you've got an event that should walk into anyone's all time top five.

Points: 9 / 10

Stew Boyd

Buy It:

UK: DVD

USA: DVD



.

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