MMA Review: #92: UFC 18: The Road To The Heavyweight Title Aug17

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MMA Review: #92: UFC 18: The Road To The Heavyweight Title

UFC 18: The Road To The Heavyweight Title

01/08/99

New Orleans, Louisiana

-We open with a video package highlighting the mini-tournament for the Heavyweight Title, as well as Pat Miletich’s first Lightweight title defense. On a completely unrelated note, it’s hard to believe that I only have seven UFC shows left to review before I’ve done them all!

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick. They talk about the HW fights between Coleman and Rizzo, and Rutten and Kosaka, before giving us a couple of mini-soundbites from them, with Coleman admitting to having bad cardio in the past, while Rutten talks about the hype surrounding his US debut.

-They introduce us to the judges for the night, one of which is none other than Dave Meltzer. Yeah, THAT Dave Meltzer. Pretty weird to see, I have to admit.

Middleweight Fight: Evan Tanner vs Darrel Gholar

We’re opening with the debut of Evan Tanner, taking on a noted Greco-Roman wrestler, apparently, in Darrel Gholar. Gholar is JACKED, while Tanner looks pretty much exactly the same as he does today, except for wearing wrestling shoes. Crowd give a HUGE pop for Big John McCarthy for some reason.

They get underway and circle, with Gholar firing out some jabs while Tanner looks to use kicks. Gholar catches one of said kicks and takes him down, but Tanner works into guard quickly. He works for a triangle immediately, and gets his legs hooked over, so Gholar tries a mini-powerbomb but Tanner keeps it locked in. Gholar finally manages to pop his head out, and then works his way into side mount, where he drops some elbows as Tanner looks for the guard again. Evan works the guard and ties him up nicely for a moment, but then Gholar uses some punches to pass into side mount once more, where he grinds away. Tanner gets guard again and ties him up once more, until Gholar gets a front facelock, but Tanner reverses to standing and shoves him into the fence, looking the much fresher fighter at this point. Some big knees to the body from Tanner land, causing Gholar to retreat back looking hurt. Tanner chases him down with a nice leg kick, and then lands some more knees against the fence. Gholar looks hurt so Tanner really opens up now, landing a vicious combination of elbows and his trademark bicycle knees, causing Gholar to back up again. Tanner chases him down once more with kicks, and this time as Gholar turns into the fence, Tanner gets his back and pulls him down right into a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Really fun debut for Tanner there as Gholar used his superior wrestling to get Tanner down early, but Evan was clearly the more skilled guy of the two and once he got it back to standing, his skill in the clinch was enough to completely overwhelm Gholar en route to the victory. Interesting too that for all his improvements, Tanner’s strengths here (brutal in the clinch, good off his back) are pretty much the same strengths he has now.

Lightweight Fight: Mikey Burnett vs Townsend Saunders

Both of these guys were coming off losses to LW champ Pat Miletich; Burnett in the actual fight for the vacant title at Ultimate Brazil, while Saunders was beaten in the original LW tournament back at UFC 16. Announcers are REALLY pimping the Lion’s Den here. They both agree that Burnett needs to keep this standing, while Saunders needs to get it to the ground.

They circle tentatively to open, with Burnett predictably looking to strike. Mikey rocks him pretty immediately with a big combination, and avoids a desperation takedown easily. Saunders comes back up, but Burnett decks him again, avoiding another takedown and then coming in with a vicious flurry! Saunders comes back up, looking very wobbly, so Burnett presses, avoiding another takedown and calling Saunders back to his feet. They circle and Burnett works the left hook, avoiding another takedown. He lands a couple of punches again, into the clinch where they exchange some knees. Back out, and they circle, with Burnett continuing to tag him with punches, albeit nothing like in the early stage of the fight. Saunders tries a takedown again, but Burnett blocks once more and continues to land, before trying a standing guillotine. Saunders works his way out, and they continue to circle with Burnett landing the better punches until the regulation period ends.

Into the three-minute overtime period, and Burnett comes out swinging, but this allows Saunders to come in with a takedown attempt that almost succeeds, but Burnett somehow manages to avoid in a good showing of skill. Into the clinch, and Saunders works the body, but Burnett controls him with double underhooks and lands some knees, pretty much outmuscling Saunders until the fight comes to an end.

To the judges and it’s an easy unanimous decision for Burnett, but post-fight he admits he’s upset that he couldn’t finish it. Well, maybe if he’d managed to land some more shots like he did in the beginning, he might’ve ended things. Exciting for maybe, the first two minutes, but then it turned into a bit of a snoozer.

-Vitor Belfort joins us momentarily and challenges Frank Shamrock to a title fight, pretty much hinting that he feels Frank’s ducking him.

Middleweight Fight: Tito Ortiz vs Jerry Bohlander

This was Tito’s return to UFC action after a couple of years away honing his skills. Pre-fight Bohlander claims Ortiz is a one-dimensional fighter, and against a guy who trains with the Lion’s Den, he won’t be able to do a thing. Ha, if only poor Jerry had known. Announcers are again pimping the Den though, to the point where even if you didn’t know what was about to happen, you’d probably be hoping for Ortiz to beat the hell out of Bohlander.

They begin and Tito presses and immediately gets double underhooks, and a quick takedown to guard follows. Ortiz pins him into the fence and lands some strikes from the top, as Bohlander tries to escape. Jerry manages to get out momentarily, but Tito quickly gets him on his back again, and then grabs a headlock, standing to deliver some knee strikes. Ortiz breaks off and lands a combo to stun him, following up with a series of big uppercuts, shocking the announcers. He gets a clinch and a nice foot sweep to side mount, pounding away at the head as soon as Bohlander hits the mat. Bohlander manages to get guard, but Tito drops punches and forearms until the actions slows enough for McCarthy to call the stand up. They circle and Ortiz lands a knee, and a left hand into a combo, but Bohlander comes back with a leg kick. Ortiz answers with another combo that rocks him once more, and Bohlander clinches, but Tito outmuscles him and shoves hi into the fence. Another takedown follows and Ortiz moves around into north/south, dropping some knees to the head. Bohlander tries some knees from the bottom, and you can actually hear Ken Shamrock in his corner calling for them, but it’s to no avail as Ortiz lands some elbows. Bohlander manages to get up for a moment, but Tito quickly brings him back down and pounds with some forearms against the fence. Ken’s instructions are sounding more and more desperate by the second. The referee stands them again, and Bohlander swings his way into the clinch, but Ortiz gets another takedown to half-guard, chopping away to end the regulation period.

Announcers admit that Bohlander needs to do something drastic in overtime as Ortiz is way ahead now. They begin and he presses into a clinch, but Tito lands a big knee and a right hand. Ortiz muscles him into the fence, landing a one-two before getting a takedown to half-guard. Ortiz controls him from the top, and then isolates his arm, enabling him to drop a HUGE elbow onto the face that cuts Bohlander’s left eye pretty bad. Tito lands a couple more, and they stop things to check Bohlander’s cut, and that’s it as the doctors call an end to it there.

Post-fight Ortiz mimes firing guns at the Lion’s Den corner, before pulling on a t-shirt reading ‘Extreme Associates 3:16’, ‘I just f*cked your ass’. Post-fight, Tito says he trained harder than he’d ever done before, and he wants a title shot some time in the future. He also mentions trying to make people realize that MMA is no more brutal than boxing. Pretty good little interview actually.

The announcers are treating this like a huge upset, but it was a complete shutout, just a totally dominating performance from Ortiz who outmuscled Bohlander, took him down at will, and allowed him no offense while continually pounding him throughout the fight. Really good comeback fight from Tito and I think everyone knows the story from here.

-Matchmaker John Perretti joins us and admits that the Ortiz/Bohlander result was a big upset. Ha, lord, they’re really hung up on the Lion’s Den on this show. Perretti goes on to say that he definitely wants to put together Frank Shamrock vs. Vitor Belfort, and then they discuss the Coleman-Rizzo fight and he questions whether Coleman has made the adjustments necessary to deal with a good kickboxer.

Heavyweight Elimination Bout: Pedro Rizzo vs Mark Coleman

Coleman comes out with Ken Shamrock in his corner as the announcers discuss that he’s spent time training with the Lion’s Den and surely that will have improved his game tenfold. Jesus, if I hear once more about how great the Lion’s Den is on this show I think I’ll scream. Thank the lord for Tito Ortiz, I guess. Anyhow, Rizzo was coming off a big knockout win over Tank Abbott on the preceding UFC Brazil show, and from what I remember reading this is a pretty controversial fight, so I guess it should be interesting.

They begin, and Rizzo comes forward, but Coleman gets a beautiful double leg takedown into Rizzo’s guard. Coleman grinds away with some forearm strikes, but keeps things methodical as the announcers mention that he wants to conserve his energy in order not to gas out. Rizzo shows some nice defence from the bottom, avoiding the fence and tying Coleman up, but Coleman still manages to land some elbows. He tries to pin Rizzo into the fence, but again Rizzo uses his legs to spin away. Coleman continues to work patiently in the guard until McCarthy stands them five minutes into the fight. Coleman looks slightly tired now, but as Rizzo presses forward Coleman wings a left hook that catches him nicely. Coleman swings again, but Rizzo avoids it this time and lands a hard leg kick. Coleman tries the wild hook again, but Rizzo counters with a one-two and another leg kick, before Coleman shoots in for the takedown. Rizzo manages to avoid and then escapes a guillotine attempt, but as he presses forward, Coleman catches a kick and gets a takedown to guard. He lands some elbows as Rizzo tries to tie him up, and avoids being pinned to the fence again. On eleven minutes McCarthy stands them again, and Rizzo gets an awesome sprawl to avoid a takedown. He presses forward and lands a leg kick, but doesn’t follow up, and that’s the end of regulation period.

Rizzo’s got three minutes to do some damage here I think, or this is looking like Coleman’s fight, announcers agree too. Rizzo comes forward to open the overtime period, but Coleman actually lands a leg kick of his own! Rizzo comes back with a left hand and a nasty leg kick, then avoids a takedown and follows with a combo, but Coleman again lands a leg kick. Coleman tries the takedown, but Rizzo avoids, but then despite Coleman looking gassed again, he simply comes forward and…stands in front of him doing pretty much nothing until the fight comes to an end.

Not the best fight there. We’re going to the judges, and the first has it for Rizzo, second for Coleman, and the third and deciding call – Dave Meltzer’s, in fact – goes to Rizzo, giving him the win by split decision. Terrible decision as even though neither guy really did much damage, Coleman at least took Rizzo down and was pretty active for the most part. Hell, I’d have given it to Coleman out of spite (I don’t think the ten-point system was in at this point) simply because Rizzo could’ve absolutely killed him standing, but didn’t because he’s a terrible counter-fighter who only comes alive if someone starts swinging for him. Honestly, talk about Randleman and Belfort all you like, but Rizzo to me is the most frustrating guy I’ve ever seen in MMA because he’s got the skill to be an absolute killer if he’d actually initiate the action, but I can’t remember one fight that actually sees him as the aggressor. At any rate, Rizzo advances to the title match, apparently.

UFC Lightweight Title: Pat Miletich vs Jorge Patino

Patino is another guy that I had no idea was fighting back at this point. Announcers are pushing him as crazy aggressive, which his record would suggest too, with his seven victories at this point all coming in under a minute and half. Miletich was coming off what many considered an unimpressive win over Mikey Burnett for the title, and this being his first defence he wanted to make a good showing. This being a title fight, it’s a fifteen-minute opening period, with two added three-minute overtimes should they be needed.

They circle to open and Patino shoots in for a takedown, but ends up in the clinch where they exchange knees, before Patino drops to guard. They come back up quickly, and Miletich presses forward, but Patino pulls guard again, and this time Miletich is having none of it and stands right back up. Patino follows, and Miletich presses, looking to strike, and they go into a brief clinch but break quickly. Patino misses a high kick, as Miletich continues to press without really landing anything. Patino continues to retreat and refuses to engage, as Miletich stalks him, but can’t really land anything effective. Into the clinch again, but they break off quickly and Patino lands a couple of leg kicks. Miletich comes back with a left hook and then gets a front facelock, landing some knees before Patino pulls out. Miletich continues to press as Patino backs away, and finally lands a nice high kick, so Patino swings his way into a clinch. Miletich gets a rear waistlock and pulls him down, but Patino rolls for a kneebar so Pat pulls right out and stands to avoid it. Miletich continues to come forward, avoiding Patino’s few strikes, and lands some low kicks. They exchange some jabs, and then Patino pulls guard again, but after landing some shots to the body Miletich stands again. Patino keeps backing away as Miletich stalks him, but then he gets a takedown to side mount…and does nothing with it. Jesus this is bad. Finally Patino tries the mount, but Miletich gets his guard back. Patino chooses to stand…and then suddenly loses the plot and goes for a LEAPING STOMP TO THE HEAD, but of course that’s illegal in UFC and McCarthy calls the foul. Miletich is okay, and they restart, but the round comes to an end there. Crowd are booing at this point, and rightfully so.

Into the first overtime period then, and Miletich presses and gets a front facelock, landing some knees, before Patino pulls guard. Miletich is having none of it again and stands back up, coming forward as Patino finally decides to fight and lands a couple of combinations. Miletich answers with a kick, so Patino pulls guard again, but once more Miletich just stands. Pat presses forward with some leg kicks, but Patino finally decides to get aggressive, and comes forward swinging into a clinch, but they break off quickly and Miletich presses to end. About as exciting as it sounds, yeah.

Second overtime period begins with more of the same, as Miletich presses forward towards the retreating Patino with kicks, before getting a good takedown to guard. He chops away at the body this time, before standing and surprising Patino by dropping a couple of heavy punches into the guard. Miletich brings things back up, and then goes for another takedown, but Patino counters with a guillotine attempt, and Miletich manages to hold on to end the fight.

To the judges, and Miletich gets the unanimous decision in what was a total yawner of a fight. I think this was just a case of the fight not living up to what the matchmaker expected at all, I mean, Patino was supposedly Mr. Aggression and yet here he was just backing away constantly and refusing to engage altogether. It was clear that Miletich wanted to stand, but when you’ve got a guy who’s constantly backing away, there’s not much you can do, is there?

Heavyweight Elimination Bout: Bas Rutten vs Tsuyoshi Kosaka

This is Rutten’s UFC debut and he’s receiving about as much hype as all the Lion’s Den guys put together, so you can imagine the level he’s getting. BIG pop for Bas’s entrance here, but hey, if you were told over and over that the guy was the WORLD’S GREATEST MARTIAL ARTIST!~! you’d pop loudly too. It IS Bas though so I’ll let them off. Poor Kosaka doesn’t even get a tenth of the hype. Announcers make sure to tell us that TK needs to get it to the ground, or basically he’s a dead man because Rutten is a DEADLY STRIKER!~! with the BEST LEG KICKS IN THE WORLD!~!

They get underway and TK blocks an early high kick attempt as Bas comes forward. TK shoots in for a takedown, but Bas blocks and lands some punches, but Kosaka keeps trying it and eventually takes him down to guard. Kosaka works him over with some punches and then passes into side mount, where he lands some elbows to the thighs, but Bas manages to wriggle free and escapes to his feet. Rutten tries a kick, but Kosaka catches it and gets the takedown to guard again, where he works the head and body. Bas comes back with some tight punches from the bottom, but Kosaka continues to work, and gets into side mount, where he elbows the thighs and the body. Rutten lands a nice knee from the bottom though and gets it back to half-guard, and then McCarthy calls the stand-up, claiming TK ‘wasn’t improving position’. Ha, come on – I thought the rule was that if you were active, it was okay? Dodgy stand-up there. They restart and Bas lands a low kick, pressing forward, but TK shoots in again and gets another takedown to half-guard. Kosaka gets the mount, but Rutten quickly scrambles and gets half-guard back. TK works the head and body again, as Rutten works to full guard and lands some shots from the bottom too. Both guys are cut at this point and bleeding on one another, this is a good fight. They continue to actively exchange in the guard…before McCarthy calls them up again. I really don’t get these stand-ups – they’re really active down there. At any rate, they circle off the restart, and Bas lands a vicious leg kick that causes TK to pull right back. Kosaka shoots in, but Bas avoids this one, landing another leg kick but missing a high kick off the follow-up. Rutten presses the action with a couple more kicks, and then avoids a takedown as the regulation period ends.

Into the overtime period and Rutten picks up the pace, landing a one-two and following with another, harder one, but he misses a high kick and TK lands a nice right hand. Rutten nails him with another one-two so TK clinches, landing a knee before they break off quickly. Rutten continues to press, landing another combo, but TK deflects a high kick attempt. Bas finally rocks him with a right hand, but then TK catches the following kick and goes for the takedown. Rutten manages to block, and breaks off with a knee, giving Kosaka the wobbles. Bas suddenly SMELLS BLOOD!~!, and closes in, hitting him with a big knee and then a series of VICIOUS PUNCHES to end things in the last minute. Really awesome finish and hey, I guess the ending did live up to the hype. And is that a really young Bang Ludwig celebrating with him there?

Post-fight Rutten says that he wanted to get TK a bit tired before going in for the kill, and his gameplan worked pretty well for the most part. He also says that Rizzo is his brother, but he wants the belt and he will be the champion. Well, the Rizzo fight never came about, and I guess that answers my question about why.

This was a really fun fight for the most part, as TK actually brought a really good fight as is per usual with him, but with the dodgy stand-ups as well as Rutten’s admittedly great striking, he was just outgunned in the end. I don’t know whether the hype on Bas was that deserved really, as Kosaka seemed to be having his way with him on the mat, but we’ll get onto that more when we see him fight next. Still, an exciting fight to end the night with.

-We end with a highlight reel of the night’s action.

Final Thoughts…

This is a bit of a middling show. The Ortiz, Tanner, and Rutten fights are pretty damn good, for sure, but on the flipside, Miletich’s title defense is a terrible, terrible fight that could work as a cure for insomnia, while Burnett/Saunders and Coleman/Rizzo are hardly the most interesting, either. The fact that the two elimination bouts didn’t actually lead to a title bout is pretty frustrating too, and renders the historical significance of the show meaningless. I’ll say if you’re unsure why Bas Rutten gets the hype that he does, or if you’re a big Tito Ortiz or Evan Tanner fan and want to see them in their really early days, it’s worth a look. If not, it’s hardly a must-see show.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 9, 10, 11, and 18.

UFC: 20, 21, 60, 61 and the TUF II Finale.

Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

WFA: 1, 2 and 3.

King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.

Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com