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Length: 158 mins
With Georges St Pierre crocked, the epitaph for season four of The Ultimate Fighter, set up as it was for the traditionally prestigious Superbowl weekend, took an early blow in the allure stakes. Yet, with fifty per cent of the double main event bolognaised, Zuffa still had one title fight to….. whoops… step forward, Travis Lutter. The longtime also-ran outlasted seven other middleweights of similar stature on the group’s reality series to bag an otherwise improbable championship shot, only to weigh in above the 185lb limit come the big day, rendering the fight a three round, non-accolade affair. Dipstick.
The new annum was embraced on 03.02.2007: this event showcased a swanky new graphics package for the “Tale Of The Tape” and suchlike.
- Anderson Silva vs. Travis Lutter
- Mirko “Crocop” Filipovic vs. Eddie Sanchez
- Roger Huerta vs. John Halverson
- Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Marvin Eastman
- Scott Smith vs. Patrick Cote
- Jorge Rivera vs. Terry Martin
- Tyson Griffin vs. Frank Edgar
- Lyoto Machida vs. Sam Hoger
- Dustin Hazelett vs. Diego Saraiva
The opening prelim served as a decent coming out party for lanky Jorge Gurgel-trained lightweight Dustin Hazelett, who showcased his abilities in all aspects bar finishing, in a three round shut-out of Diego Sariava. A similar summarisation could easily be lent to Ryoto Machida’s performance in the adjacent fight. The initial bout was noticeable for two things- firstly, the glaring gaps in the audience; ’twas the same story during the pre-show when I was in Vegas for UFC 49, and I’m as baffled by it now as I was then. Come on people, you pay enough for tickets, and you’re supposed to be fans of this stuff… the casinos will still be there when it’s all finished (something else I know only too well from August 2004… ahem!). The other pertinent aspect was the woefully inept turn from referee Yves Lavigne, whose ridiculous haste to stand the fighters up aborted two unfolding struggles on the canvas in the early going, before the bald boob well and truly surpassed himself by stopping the action just as Sariava had gotten a firm grip of Hazelett’s arm, and looked primed to make a submission attempt. Joe Rogan did me proud on commentary by passionately illustrating just how ludicrous this was. From start to finish, Saraiva struggled to overcome Hazelett’s overwhelming reach advantage, which served him well whilst both upright and on the ground: a decorous start to proceedings.
Individual performance plaudits were the order of the day as Ryoto Machida, fresh off a stint with the ill-fated WFA, systematically dismantled everyone’s favourite MMA midcard heel, Sam Hoger. “The Alaskan Assassin” got literally nothing in, as “Lyoto” picked off counter-punches to drop the Mietich man, seemingly at will, and passed the guard with relative ease whenever affairs hit the floor. Like Hazelett, a similar inability to finish constitutes the only hole that was there to be picked, as the cerebral Brazilian coasted to a unanimous 30-27 verdict.
The ridiculously talent-laden 155lb division was bestowed another name to keep an eye on, as debutant Frank Edgar squeezed a desperately close decision from Tyson Griffin, in the early front runner for Fight Of The Year. The latter opened the stronger, edging the frenetically paced initial period in attempting a front guillotine, prior to landing a tasty double-leg takedown and scoring with some ground ‘n pound from half-guard. The newcomer evened things up in Round Two, inflicting significant damage on the ground, and saw out the final five minutes to ensure triumph, not only managing to survive a deep kneebar until time elapsed, but also masking a suspect low-blow from Steve Mazagatti (whose stock rose immeasurably on this night, in light of the calamitous Yves Lavigne show). A must-see morsel, this: Griffin was strong enough in defeat to ensure minimal damage to his longer-term prospects.
Terry Martin is one of those fellas that I’d simply forgotten all about, especially in the wake of his conclusive defeat at 205lbs to the walking definition of forgettable that is James Irvin. His fourteen second, right hook enabled, knockout of middleweight gatekeeper Jorge Rivera on this evening will, by contrast, long remain in the memory. Upon emergence, Martin looked positively ripped having trimmed down for his debut at 185lbs, and on this evidence, his prospects at this weight class are promising. One for the next “Ultimate Knockout” compilation, no doubt.
Canadian Patrick Cote made his Octagon bow in 2004; in 2007, he finally got his arm raised for the first time, at the conclusion of an exasperating three rounds opposite Scott Smith. The crux-point of rarely stimulating scrap came midway through the second, as “The Predator” rocked Smith with a strong right, but failed to follow up (possibly out of fellow respect for his opponents explosive stand-up capabilities), denying himself a chance to finish. Smith appeared comparatively indolent from that point on, and Cote was awarded a clean sweep of tens from the judges.
Finally… “Rampage” has landed in the UFC! Quinton Jackson avenged his first career defeat to Marvin Eastman (hey- I’ve got that fight lying around somewhere on some random King Of The Cage compilation!) via second round stoppage, landing a volley of uppercuts and a pair of unanswered blows on the canvas to draw the stoppage, following a tentative (nerve-riddled) first period. The forerunning period was highlighted with an almost sex-wee inducing intense staredown between the two…. unfortunately, the post-event editing- which usually serves as a most welcome fat-trimming vehicle- cut out Jackson’s victory chat with Joe Rogan, which boasted the line of the night, about it being “high time for some black-on-black crime!”
Nineteen seconds was all it took for the fast rising star- and cleverly positioned Hispanic ethnic- Roger Huerta to dispose of John Halverson: the debutant lost his balance when “El Matador” blocked a kick, enabling his to land what appeared at first to be a glancing knee. Huerta took up the back, with Halverson clearly doing nothing to prevent this, but still had to land a flurry of unanswered punches before Yves Lavigne awoke from his slumber and called the fight. Way to go, Yves! Why ruin a perfect evening? Subsequent talk of controversy regarding the knockout knee was disproved by multiple replays, which illustrated that the blow was clearly absorbed by the shoulder- not the head- of the downed Halverson. As in becoming customary: top-notch lightweights, lots of ’em….
There was a time, not so long ago, when a heavyweight coming off a debut win would be protected to the hilt…. a case of unfortunate timing, then, for Eddie Sanchez, whose role on this evening was the one of designated whipping boy: Mirko F***ing Cro Cop needed introducing to the casual audience, after all…. alas, the clip machine reared it’s head in unwanted fashion for the second time, as Cro Cop’s pulse-racing emergence to the strains of PRIDE’s live opening theme is absent. I love that piece- anyone who can sort me out an MP3 will be making a tremendous friend, guaranteed. Anyhow, you know how this one went…. the KO, arriving with about a minute of the first round to go, may not have been faith-affirming stuff, and of course it all went a bit soul-crushingly awry from here, but at the time this was something truly special: “The Croatian Sensation” was in the UFC, baby! Exciting times, they briefly were.
The odds were heavily stacked against Travis Lutter to begin with. Surely disheartened by making the most glaring of improprieties, “The Serial Killer” was irrevocably destined to be processed into mincemeat at the hands of Anderson Silva. With such thoughts at the forefront, imagine the surprise when he who would be challenger took the first round, scoring a pair of takedowns, passing guard into side control and attempting to finish with an armbar- made of sterner stuff, that lad. The TUF winner began the second in close fashion by once again taking proceedings to the great leveller for he that was the mat, but a moments lapse saw him get caught with a kick from the guard, with “The Spider” calmly locking in a rigid triangle choke upon Lutter’s descent, which he subsequently supplemented with continual elbows and punches from his back. Lutter staunchly held out, but ultimately had nowhere to go, leaving him no choice but to tap at 2:11 of the round
Griffin vs Edgar remains to date the best fight of 2007. Take away the hype and anticipation surrounding them, and the first Octagon forays of Quinton Jackson and Mirko Cro Cop are solid, rather than blowaway, showings- obviously their respective immediate fortunes flew to polar extremes. Whilst the first pair of prelims won’t set a lot of fires alight, Cote vs Smith was only thing on the card that touched snoozer territory, making this a steadfast-enough 2007-berth for the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Points: 7 / 10