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Length: 174 mins
An appropriate alternate subtitle to this event, emanating as it did from the Mandalay Bay on 14.10.2006, may very well be “UFC 64: *crrrrrk* Joe Silva to Dana White’s office. Joe Silva to Dana White’s office on the double.” With marketing of fighters, positioning of challengers & building to future fights every bit a part of the genetic structure of MMA as it is crucial to Pro Wrestling, that wonderful tool called hindsight suggests that the matchmaking for the UFC’s return to their Nevada homebase didn’t entirely lend itself to this concept.
With Joe Rogan absent for reasons that aren’t elaborated on, Randy Couture lends his insight to this one, alongside Mike Goldberg.
UFC Middleweight Title
Rich Franklin vs. Anderson Silva
- UFC Lightweight Title
Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian
- Jon Fitch vs. Kuniyoshi Hironaka
- Cheick Kongo vs. Carmelo Marrero
- Spencer Fisher vs. Dan Laozon
- Yushin Okami vs. Kalib Starnes
- Clay Guida vs. Justin James
- Kurt Pellegrino vs. Junior Assuncao
In a fashion strangely reminiscent of the Griffin-Lee fight that opened the previous event, Kurt Pellegrino pronunciated his drop into the Lightweight category by submerging Brazilian opponent Junior Assuncao in mercurial order, the green-thatcheted Yank passing Junior’s butterfly guard to land punches from the crucifix position, prompting his younger foe to give up his back, from where Pellegrino sunk in a Rear Naked Choke for the first round tapout.
Rhetorical question time: just how jam-packed talent laden is the UFC at 155lbs? I cannot or the life of me comprehend how they saw fit to send the division on a twelve month-plus hiatus. The second lightweight prelim was an arresting two rounds of action, with unrelentingly aggressive debutant Clay Guida giving the Rear Naked Choke it’s second conclusive outing of the evening, en route to a submission victory over Justin James. Round one was absorbing stuff, with Guida imposing his will via ground & pound for the most part, but James looking at one point to have pulled out an improbable victory by weathering a tense storm & fully applying an armbar from the bottom, holding on for several seconds before Guida somehow wriggled free. CG shot into guard at the onset of the second, ultimately unleashing a flurry from where he transitioned into full mount, causing James to roll & the conclusion to follow. Clay Guida, ladies & gentlemen…. one to keep an eye on.
Japanese middleweight contender Yushin Okami & Canadian opponent Kalib Starnes appeared to be fighting in slow motion following the frenetic energy burst that was Guida vs James. Okami was generally transcendent throughout the opening two rounds, capitalising on his early work in the third by taking a tiring Starnes to the mat, passing guard & opening up with an unanswered rally from the back position to force the stoppage. Okami has quietly snuck into contendership at 185lbs, and remains undefeated in the Octagon at the time of writing.
Lightweights!! The Pay Per View portion of UFC 64 opened, like it’s predecessor, with the Lauzon family declaring war on the Milletich Fighting System, albeit with the opposite outcome. Dan Lauzon, younger brother of Jens Pulver-vanquisher Joe, would go on to be forbidden from TUF5 participation by Spike TV, as at 18 years old, they wouldn’t permit him to reside in a house where alcohol is freely available under their watch. The teen likely got a touch over-fervent in his UFC debut here, opposite the underrated Spencer Fisher, figuratively blowing his wad from the opening blocks, slamming Fisher to the mat early & working to keep him prone, to the point that when “The King” was finally able to revert to an upright position, Lauzon found himself needing to catch a second wind, hence backed up, offering Fisher the opportunity to press the standing exchanges & force the stoppage with a left hand combo. A pretty alluring morsel, while it lasted.
The matchmaking catastrophe began in earnest with the first heavyweight clash of the evening, with the ongoing establishment of intended-contender, Frenchman Cheick Kongo, grinding to an emphatic halt at the hands of strictly-wrestler Carmello Marrero. With Kongo being primarily a striker, Marrero was clearly going to have little trouble taking him to ground & keeping him there, herewithin lay the problem: Marrero was early Koscheck-esque in his inability to do anything on the mat besides lay ‘n pray. Hence, when this tedious outing fizzled out after fifteen minutes, Marrero’s split decision victory (are you kidding me? What numpty scored that fight for Kongo? Cecil Peoples isn’t even involved here!) served to completely obliterate Kongo’s momentum, of which a grand total of 0% transferred to his conqueror, by virtue of how his triumph came about. Whichever perspective you choose to view this fight from, it was an unmitigated disaster.
The welterweight division has a depth below the “Big Three” of Hughes, St Pierre & Penn that isn’t afforded as much spotlight as some may argue it should be. Perhaps the biggest victim of this situation is Jon Fitch, whose name I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing in conjunction with contendership status. At “Unstoppable”, he impressed in modest fashion for the umpteenth time, orchestrating a three-round shut-out of Kuniyoshi Hironaka, displaying ascendancy from within the guard, and landing some excellent striking combos while standing, particularly at the mid-way point of the second round with a stiff knee followed by a left kick to the head. The judges’ unanimous decision was academic, and Fitch will continue to be criminally ignored, no doubt.
Had you surveyed any demographic of MMA aficionados, when the resurrection of the 155lb division was announced, as to who the first two men to contest the championship would be, the list of names derived would likely read “Yves Edwards, Genki Sudo, Matt Serra, Josh Thomson, Hermes Franca, Duane Ludwig” and possibly one other. Neither longtime 170lber Sean Sherk nor TUF1 finalist Kenny Florian were synonymous with the term “Lightweight”- indeed, prior to this night they had a total of one lightweight fight between them- but their inclusion in festivities clearly served to give Zuffa a marquee bout with which to relaunch the belt. This is one fight not to show the Daily Mail reader in your household if you want them to give it a rest with that “barbaric filth ought to be banned” claptrap: the notoriously sharp elbow shots that have become a calling card of “KenFlo” find their way into the equation from inside the guard in Round Two, opening a gash on the top of Sherk’s head that positively pissed blood for the remainder of the five periods. Despite the puddle-encrusted mat, the fact that even between round & post-fight the cut continued to gush, and the total transformation in shade of Florian’s initially-white shorts, Sherk controlled the tenor of the tussle with his superior wrestling, control from the top and ground & pound. The abominably nicknamed “Muscle Shark” put the exclamation point on a dominant performance in the closing minutes of the final round, lifting Florian above his head and, after Steve Mazagatti admonished “KenFlo” for grabbing the fence, propelled him downwards, bouncing his head off the mat. Stationed as I was in the real world, with my eyes open, I felt in necessary to finally welcome Mazagatti to the party, as Florian had only been holding the fence for half the bloody fight. Once again, the decision was never in any doubt: Sherk accepted his newly won strap, and chewed the fat with Couture, claret continuing to stream down his face.
Conspiracy theorists (of a sort) have pointed to Rich Franklin being the protected chosen face of the Middleweight division. Whilst there is evidence to suggest this, not least Zuffa’s baffling freezing out of Matt Lindland, there is a counter argument to be had in that Nate Quarry’s shot at gold reflected the depth of the division at the time, whereas few could protest that David Loiseau wasn’t a deserving challenger. There are also signs that suggest that while they were sure of a competitive fight, UFC top brass felt that their poster boy would almost certainly overcome Anderson Silva. They were wrong on both counts- the main event of “Unstoppable” was far from competitive, as Anderson Silva assertively butchered Franklin to take his championship in under three minutes. Locking in a relentless Muay Thai clinch, “The Spider” rocked Franklin’s torso at will with strong knee shots, prior to switching to the chin, landing a succession of clean knees, one gargantuan shot to the face, a high kick & one final knee, prompting John McCarthy to mercifully step in & end the carnage. Post fight, “Ace”, nose across his face, confessed that his gameplan was all to cock. Even in defeat, Rich manages to maintain the air of a bloke who’d been fun to hang out with.
The two title fights are impactful stuff, for completely different reasons. Elsewhere, Jon Fitch & Clay Guida turned in impressive individual performances, and while Okami-Starnes wasn’t particularly inspiring (and Kongo-Marrero was utterly catastrophic), this was still a solidly above average turn from the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Points: 7.5 / 10