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Length: 311 mins
UFC 23: Ultimate Japan 2
Confession time- I’ve been putting this one-off. Setting out with best intentions, settling down with Mr Daniel’s finest malt & a jumbo bag of Dorito’s to watch UFC 23: Ultimate Japan II, I wasn’t long in getting acquainted with the land of nod. It’s been a while since anything- film, sport, television or otherwise- has put me to sleep, but Semaphore’s 19.11.1999 Tokyo is as tedious as these bad boys come.
Away from Stateside restrictions as they were, the famed UFC one-night tournament made a one-off return on this night, and hasn’t been seen since. They signed out with a real turkey, and no mistake. The first semi, in an arena backdrop akin to the venue where DDT tape their utterly pointless television, pit Shooto veteran Katsuhisa Fujii against Masutatsu Yano. No idea, vis a vis the latter. The feeling-out process would’ve been ample opportunity to go for a comfort break, and possibly sojourn down the road for a newspaper, had I been thinking on my feet. Yano shot, Fujii blocked & followed up with a combo to the body; Yano shot, avoided an armbar & sat in guard until the clock ran down… sum total of the action in Round One. An overhand right from Fujii rocked his opponent, and a further barrage drew an early second-round stoppage. Underwhelmed I was, despite the tasty finish- if I only knew what was a-coming….
….Daiju Takase vs Kenichi Yamamoto, the second semi, is up there with Gabriel Gonzaga vs Kevin Jordan in the running for most mind-numbing MMA fight in history. It started interestingly enough, with Takase immediately leaping into guard in order to work from the bottom. Aside from the hardcam shot providing an amusing moment at the onset (the in ring cameraman’s lackey tripped over a loose cable as they were leaving the octagon), that’s the extent of my notes which, coupled with the fact that the normally placid Oriental crowd were driven to booing during the third, should tell you everything you need to know. Yamamoto picked up the decision: after sitting through fifteen minutes of this, you won’t care either way.
Eugene Jackson & Keiichiro Yamamiya stood & traded, albeit without too much vigour, for two rounds. After that last fight, I’ll take what I can get. The American finished in the third as Yamamiya, not put off from pressing by the fact that he was eating a myriad of counterpunches, pushed right into a left-hand swing for the instant KO. A decent enough fight, and a rose between many a thorn.
Evidence, as if were needed, that this event was truly cursed came in the fourth fight, as UFC 2 veteran Jason DeLucia leg buckled beneath him- David Buust angle- as he attempted to block a takedown by Milletich fighter Joe Slick early in the opening round.
Up to this point, it had been all action, and a salubrious outing appeared to be on the cards. Typical.
Earlier victors Fujii & Yamamoto once again brought banality by the bucketload in the tournament final, as the latter continued in the opening round as he’d spent his previous fifteen minutes of fight time, doing precisely diddly squat. I’d have stopped the fight on general principal at the five-minute break. As it was, when he finally elected to burst into motion, midway through the second, Yamamoto spun out of guard into a kneebar for the immediate tapout. Win the accolades through tactical battle he may have, but the UFC-J tournament champion got there in thoroughly insipid fashion.
It was up to the Heavyweights to save the day, so when Pedro Rizzo ambles out of the dressing room….I was Genghis Khan in a previous life, wasn’t I? Slow, tentative, deliberate… up to the mid-point of Round Two, there’s nowt going on until Rizzo begins to make ground on Tsuyoshi Kosaka, opportunistically scoring with his trademark inside leg kicks. The boring Brazilian picked up the pace in the final round, knocking TK down with a left & following up with a stiff right to force the stoppage from John McCarthy. Mostly a waste of time, this one actually got going in the home stretch.
Finally, Kevin Randleman decisioned Pete Williams across five rounds to lift the heavyweight strap. Zzzzzzz. No, seriously, that’s all the analysis you’re getting- sick to the back teeth of this horror show of a card, I was simply elated at the chance to go & do the ironing. In fairness, Randleman acknowledged, post fight, that it was in all likelihood a snoozer.
Simply put, there is no reason why anybody in their right mind should endeavour to watch UFC 23.
UFC 24: First Defence
“First Defence”, they christened UFC 24: the event emanating from Lake Charles, Louisiana on 10.03.2000 couldn’t possibly be any worse than it’s predecessor. Could it?
Proceedings kicked off in delectable lightweight fashion, as Jens Pulver turned in a dominating performance en route to a second-round stoppage of Frank Shamrock trainee David Velasquez. The future “Little Evil” branded his authority on a stimulating first period, scoring with a number of heavy left-handed shots, taking the battle to the mat & ending the round in mount. A most unique side-headlock takedown saw the Milletich-man assume a similar position early in the second, and the finish was inevitable after a flurry of ground & pound. Salvation for this set, at long last!
The man who would go on to head up the American Kickboxing Academy (alumni including Mike Swick, Paul Buentello & Josh Thomson) “Crazy” Bob Cook’s one & only octagon foray came at this event, against perennial UFC jobber Tiki. My notes on this one are all over the place, for the simple fact that with heights & weights almost identical, both men goatee’d, balding & sporting black trunks, it was at times difficult to establish (from the long shots) which fighter was which. It’s Tiki, so I shouldn’t have to spell out the outcome- simply put: Rear Naked Choke, Round Two.
Two enjoyable fights in a row equals a brief pause & lie down to recuperate.
Things cooled off a notch as Dave Menne ground out a deserved three-round decision over Fabiano Iha. The opener saw some neat exchanges in the clinch, but from Round Two onwards, it became apparent that Iha was running on empty in the standup department, hence he was constantly looking to get into guard. Menne had free reign to work from there, but never really looked like finishing the fight. By no means a stinker, yet a calm following the comparative storm.
Lance Gibson & Jermaine Andre? No, me neither. Still, the semi-final of the main card was contested at a fair pace, and the initial round ended in blistering fashion, with Andre escaping a fully extended armbar into standup, and immediately landing a series of stiff punches as the clock ran out. Gibson controlled a vast portion of the second from the guard, as he looked the superior fighter on the mat throughout, whereas Andre displayed the clear striking edge, hence it was something of a bolt from the blue when Lance scored a quick third-round KO with a massive knee from the clinch. A lack of expectation going into something can often prove fruitful, as this fight proved.
The major downside to UFC 24 is the lack of anything that could be construed, either now or at the time, as a marquee fight. Indeed, a pair of prelims- a most salubrious two-round decision win for the debuting Shonie Carter, and an unsuccessful bow for our very Ian Freeman (I’ll finish his book one day, I swear)- sandwiched the “main event” (emphasis on the quote/unquote), in which gargantuan slugger Ted Williams played first round punching bag for Steve Judson before his first real offence, a combo of two big right hooks from the clinch & a short left, saw him score the knockout, to conclude an ultimately unpolished affair.
As a package, this double-disc set is lacking in almost all the key areas: with no “name draw” for more recent converts, and no occurrences of any historical significance, the only enticing aspects were only ever going to come in the form of a hidden gem or two. In that respect, Pulver-Velasquez & Cook-Tiki served up scraps, but following as they do the optical debacle that is Ultimate Japan II, they never had a prayer of salvaging any kind of recommendation.
Points: 3 / 10