MMA Review: #78: UFC 55: Fury Feb09

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MMA Review: #78: UFC 55: Fury

UFC 55: Fury

10/07/05

Uncasville, Connecticut

-Your hosts are Mike Gold…wait…that’s not Mike Goldberg on announcing at all. Although he’s not formally announced on the DVD, UFC 55 was the first (and thus far only) appearance of Craig Hummer on commentating duties, filling in for Goldberg who had a prior commitment. Although Hummer made a few mistakes on commentary (he once called Arlovski ‘Avlarsi’, for example) and wasn’t as good as Goldberg, I actually didn’t find him that bad at all – nowhere near as bad as early Mauro Renallo, for one. Thankfully though, Joe Rogan is the co-host.

-On a side note, this card came under a lot of criticism online when it was finalized, as what looked to be a solid card ended up being raped by the sudden decision to put on a Spike TV Ultimate Fight Night just four days before the event, and UFC 55 lost two of it’s top fights in Evan Tanner vs. David Loiseau and Brandon Vera vs. Fabiano Scherner. Couple that with the fact that Ian Freeman, who was scheduled to fight Forrest Griffin, pulled out of the card with a serious injury and was replaced by Ron Faircloth, and we ended up with one of the weakest UFC cards in recent memory. Still, a weak card on paper often translates to a great card when it actually happens, so I still had high hopes for the show.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alessio Sakara vs Ron Faircloth

Alessio ‘Legionarius’ Sakara – as well as having one of the coolest nicknames in MMA – is an Italian boxer who recently held the IBF Junior World Championship. Now training with the Nogueira brothers, Sakara was originally slated to fight Elvis Sinosic here, but when the card got switched up, he ended up with Ron Faircloth as an opponent. I’m not 100% sure why Faircloth was given a UFC shot as his record is hardly what you’d call great, but I’m guessing it has something to do with the fact that he was willing to step in and fight Tim Sylvia on short notice at UFC 54 when it looked like Tra Telligman was going to have to pull out – maybe he signed a UFC contract at that point? I’m not really sure. At any rate, let’s get underway.

Sakara comes right out pressing with a sharp jab, and then lands a quick combination, showing fast hands. Faircloth looks to clinch, but Sakara shakes it off and comes forward again with a fast, HEAVY combo that has Faircloth wobbled! Sakara misses a big knee attempt, but then follows with some more devastating punches, and Faircloth stumbles forward, as Herb Dean looks about ready to stop things. For whatever reason he changes his mind though, so Sakara grabs Faircloth by the head and tosses him onto his back in guard. Faircloth tries to tie Sakara up from the bottom, but does a bad job of it as Legionarius rains down with some heavy elbows and a series of nasty hammer-fists. Faircloth offers no offense from his back, and very little defense either for that matter, as Sakara continues to punish him with elbows and punches in quick succession. At one point you can hear Faircloth’s corner screaming “Anything Ron, anything!” as Sakara continues to rain down shots. Not sure why this wasn’t stopped there as Faircloth wasn’t offering anything. Sakara stays in the guard, and continues to land to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and Sakara comes forward, but Faircloth kicks him RIGHT IN THE BALLS and Sakara crumples, looking badly hurt as the replays show that the kick was brutally accurate. Sakara’s dry heaving at this point – this is easily the most painful looking low blow that I’ve ever seen in MMA. The doctors check him over for a moment, and then it’s judged that he can’t continue, so they stop things there and declare the fight a disappointing no-contest.

In hindsight, Herb Dean probably should’ve stopped this at some point during the first round, but you can’t blame him for what happened I guess. It was just a huge pity for Sakara to come away from this with a no-contest, as he looked well on his way to an impressive and exciting debut win. He’s since been back to UFC and beaten Elvis Sinosic though, so I guess it’s not going to matter in the long run. Still, Sakara looked to be a sure-fire future star with this showing, showcasing some of the fastest hands we’ve seen in UFC in a long time, and I think he could go far.

Heavyweight Fight: Marcio Cruz vs Keigo Kunihara

The debut of Marcio ‘Pe De Pano’ Cruz was one of the most intriguing events for UFC in 2005, as it was not only his Octagon debut, but his MMA debut too, and for comparison, the last fighter to make his MMA debut in the UFC was actually BJ Penn. Cruz’s credentials came from the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling, where he’s somewhat of a legend, sporting multiple BJJ and Abu Dhabi titles, as well as notable victories over grapplers such as Fabricio Werdum and Jeff Monson. He’s now training with Renato Sobral, Gustavo Machado and the rest of the Gracie Barra Combat Team, so he’s definitely in the right place to develop his skills into an MMA game. Japan’s Kunihara is a Judo fighter who’d got some King of the Cage experience, with his only loss a dubious fight against Tony Bonello. This was an interesting clash of styles, for sure.

Both men come out with crude-looking striking stances, and they quickly head to the ground with Cruz pulling full guard. Kunihara looks for position, but Cruz immediately goes for an oma plata, locking the arm up as Kunihara tries to stand to escape. He manages to work his way free and stands, and Cruz presses with some punches, but keeps his chin VERY high as he throws them, seemingly a total novice striker. Into a clinch, and Kunihara gets a nice Judo throw to side mount, but Cruz works quickly for full guard. Kunihara moves him towards the fence, but mounts no offense from the top and things slow down badly, so the official stands them back up. They exchange crude strikes, and Cruz actually lands a nice right hand, snapping Kunihara’s head back. Cruz lands some leg kicks, and then goes for a takedown, but Kunihara blocks so Cruz pulls guard, only for Kunihara to stand back up to end the round.

They begin the 2nd and go right into a clinch, where Kunihara gets a half-throw and then tries a guillotine, but Pe De Pano immediately pulls out as soon as Kunihara goes to guard. Cruz grabs the legs and passes guard easily, and as Kunihara tries to escape, Cruz gets an over/under and spins right onto Kunihara’s back, applying a standing rear naked choke and STICKING HIS TONGUE OUT AT THE CAMERA AS KUNIHARA TAPS!~!

Word, that was an awesome finish with Cruz showing some charisma and showmanship to boot. He’s apparently done the same in the past though, actually pretending to surf on a guy’s back in a BJJ tourney, so hey, I’m a fan. His striking looked pretty dodgy I admit, but the speed and efficiency that he showed in finishing Kunihara the moment he got a half-decent position was almost scary, and if he can work on his striking, I can definitely see him rising up into the Top Ten at HW in the near future. Impressive debut from the Brazilian.

Middleweight Fight: Jorge Rivera vs Dennis Hallman

This was Rivera’s return to UFC action following a year out, as he’d seen success in the Cage Rage promotion, winning three fights and only dropping one to Anderson Silva. Hallman – who had fought at Lightweight and Welterweight in his previous UFC fights – was moving up to Middleweight here, claiming his well-known stamina problems were caused by his cutting weight. He actually looks in decent shape here, too.

Hallman charges right out of the gate and gets a takedown to side mount to begin, and looks for the full mount, attempting to set up a submission. He passes to the opposite side of Rivera’s body for some reason and then goes for the full mount again, but this time Rivera reverses over into top position. Hallman tries a triangle/armbar combination from the bottom ala Lee Murray, but Rivera’s clearly learnt from that experience and he manages to extend himself to avoid it, finally escaping and standing off. Hallman comes back up and looks for the takedown again, but Rivera blocks and they go into the clinch against the fence. Hallman muscles for position, but Rivera lands some hard, short elbows to the face, and then grabs a Muay Thai clinch and nails him with some knees to the body. Rivera breaks and rocks him with a one-two, so Hallman shoots in for the takedown again, but Rivera sprawls to avoid. Hallman falls to his back, so Rivera goes right into his guard and drops some HEAVY PUNCHES that stun Hallman badly, as he just allows Rivera to posture up rather than controlling his upper body. Rivera continues to pound away, and then stands back up, where Hallman misses a spinning backfist, before dropping for a heel hook attempt that Rivera avoids to end the round.

Hallman’s looking TIRED as the 2nd round starts, and sure enough, he comes out with a horribly telegraphed takedown attempt and eats a kick for his troubles. Hallman drops to his back looking gassed, and the official calls him back up where Rivera presses, landing a combination with a HEAVY uppercut that snaps Hallman’s head back. Rivera grabs the Muay Thai clinch and lands some knees, then works the clinch with some nice uppercuts. The action slows down and the official breaks them up, but they end up right back in the clinch where Rivera works him over with some dirty boxing, bloodying Hallman’s nose in the process. Rivera works the body, but things slow down badly again and the official breaks them once more. Hallman stands COMPLETELY static in front of Rivera, but Jorge just seems content to’stand there himself, before clinching again, landing a solid elbow to end the round.

Third and final round, and Hallman still stands static in front of Rivera, but Rivera seems content to stand off and pick a few shots rather than come in and finish him off. Hallman finally comes forward with a blocked punch, then tries a takedown, but Rivera gets the Thai clinch and reverses him into the fence again. They muscle one another with no real activity, and the official breaks them again. Rivera stands off, but I have no idea why as Hallman looks totally gassed out at this point, collapsing to his back on a high kick attempt. Rivera kicks away at his legs, and then drops into guard, where Hallman actually manages to roll for a kneebar, but Rivera manages to hold on to end the round, and gets the unanimous decision.

Well…this wasn’t actually as boring as I remember it being when I first watched it, but it was still a definite stinker. The first round wasn’t bad at all, but Hallman was completely exhausted from then on, and rather than actually attempt to finish it off, Rivera seemed content to strike from either distance or the clinch, and it made for a REALLY boring two rounds. Rivera’s style is just something that doesn’t entertain me, with the clinch fighting for the most part, and while I don’t like to criticise fighters, Hallman’s lack of conditioning is REALLY angering as it’s something that he could work on, and yet he seemingly chooses not to. One of the worst UFC fights of the year.

Welterweight Fight: Joe Riggs vs Chris Lytle

Yeah, you read right – Joe Riggs at Welterweight. I think Riggs’s drop from 300lbs at one point down to 170lbs is probably the biggest weight drop I’ve ever heard of in MMA. Incredibly, Riggs came into this one on the day of the fight weighing in at around 200lbs, after making weight at 170lbs the day before. I’m not going to get into the specifics of weight cutting, but let’s face it – losing 30lbs of water and then putting it back on CANNOT be good for the human body, no matter how scientifically Billy Rush gets his fighters to lose the weight. Back to the fight – Lytle was seen as a very tough opponent for Riggs, with his well-rounded skill set, but on a first look the size difference here is HUGE.

They get underway and Lytle blocks a high kick attempt into the clinch, where they muscle for position before Lytle gets a nice takedown, stepping right over into side mount. He works for position, but makes a mistake and Riggs gets full guard back. Riggs works from the bottom, taking some short shots from Lytle, but manages to lock on a full oma plata and sits up for leverage. Riggs lands a heavy punch with the oma plata still on, but Lytle rolls over into guard. Riggs postures up and stands, before dropping a HUGE WILD LEFT right onto Lytle’s chin! Riggs passes into side mount and looks for the crucifix position to drop elbows, but Lytle gives his back, and then rolls into half-guard. Lytle gets full guard back, but Riggs drops some MONSTROUS LEFTS down to stun him, and then stands and continues to drop the bombs to end the round, with Lytle’s eye closed at this point. Lytle looks wobbly as he goes back to his corner between rounds, and rightfully so after taking those shots.

They begin the 2nd, and Riggs lands a left hand and gets a body tackle to guard. He works for position, but Lytle gets a beautiful reversal and plants Riggs on his back in guard. Lytle works to pass, landing some shots to the body, but as the camera changes angle Lytle’s bleeding all over Riggs’s body, and they stop the fight as Lytle’s got a HUGE cut on his forehead. Replays from another angle show that as Lytle postured up, Riggs pushed the head away and caught him with a huge elbow strike to the head from the bottom, opening up the cut. Really gory one, too, got to be one of the deepest I’ve seen in recent memory.

Impressive debut for Riggs at 170lbs as Lytle had never been stopped in a fight coming into this one, but it’s interesting that he actually won the fight with skill rather than simply outsizing and overpowering his opponent. Sure, the caveman ground-and-pound was impressive, but he was destroying guys with that at LHW, too. With the problems he’s had in WW fights since, I’d say Riggs is better suited to fight at MW. At any rate, this was an entertaining little fight, albeit with an abrupt ending.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Renato Sobral vs Chael Sonnen

Pre-fight Babalu says he’s going to mess Sonnen up so badly his girlfriend won’t recognize him. Ha, gotta love Babalu. The reasoning for his anger was that the two had a fight in a smaller show that saw Babalu dominate Chael for three rounds. However, because the promoter had basically lied to the sanctioning body that it was a pro-wrestling match, and because he’d ‘booked’ Sonnen to win, the decision went the way of the American (you won’t find the fight on either man’s record due to the controversy). Babalu felt disrespected by Sonnen, and voila, there was a heated rivalry here.

Babalu looks INTENSE during the introductions, even busting out Wanderlei Silva’s patented wrist-roll. Jesus, he’s a scary man. They begin and Sonnen comes out trying a kick, but Babalu catches it and comes at him with right hands, and they go down into Sonnen’s guard. Back up into the clinch and Sobral gets another takedown, but Sonnen pops right back up so Babalu grabs a standing arm triangle choke. It looks like he’s got it locked on, but he can’t reach his bicep to properly squeeze it, and Sonnen manages to escape into the clinch where they muscle for position. Babalu gets another takedown, but Sonnen comes back up again and they separate, where Babalu throws a NASTY head kick that Sonnen partially blocks, but it still knocks him sideward. Babalu tries another takedown, but this time Sonnen reverses into Babalu’s guard and starts pounding away with punches and elbows, avoiding some upkick attempts. Sonnen gets some good elbows in, but Babalu manoeuvres from the bottom and gets a tight heel hook, causing Sonnen to SCREAM IN PAIN!~! Babalu wrenches on it, but Sonnen REFUSES TO TAP and Babalu keeps trying to finish it to end the round. Ha, that RULED.

Into the 2nd then, with Sonnen showing no ill effects from the heel hook. They begin, and Sonnen throws a kick, but Babalu counters with one of his own while he’s off balance, and he tumbles to his back. Babalu goes into the guard, but Sonnen shoves him away with his legs and then gets into top position in Sobral’s guard. Sonnen tries to pound away, but Sobral gets a triangle from the bottom. Sonnen slips out and manages to avoid, but leans right back down into it, and this time Babalu locks it up cleanly, and Sonnen falls to his side and taps out.

Definitely the fight of the night there. I was expecting a one-sided mauling from Sobral to be honest, but while Babalu did dominate, Sonnen put up a hell of a fight and showed that he deserved to be in UFC, though probably as a Middleweight (he came into this one weighing about 195lbs I believe). Still, an excellent fight from both guys and Babalu once again displayed the well-rounded talents that make him one of the top fighters in the world.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Forrest Griffin vs Elvis Sinosic

As I said earlier, Griffin was originally slated to fight England’s Ian Freeman here, but Freeman sadly suffered a bad injury (he fell off a horse, as it goes) that actually forced him into retirement, so Sinosic stepped up the card to fight the TUF winner. The general consensus was that if Griffin could avoid the submissions of Sinosic, it was his fight to win.

They begin and both come out looking to strike, with Elvis landing a nice one-two that Griffin answers with a stiff left jab. Elvis lands a pair of nice leg kicks, as they continue to exchange with Griffin pressing the action. Elvis counters Griffin’s punches well, landing a good right as the exchange goes on. They continue at a high pace, with Elvis getting the better of the exchanges, but Forrest keeps coming forward and lands a nice left hook to stun him. They go into the clinch and exchange, where Forrest lands a hard uppercut. Sinosic continues to land some solid counterpunches, but Forrest catches him with another nice left hook, and then follows up by continuing to land the left hand. Sinosic looks rocked, so Griffin comes forward with another left hook and then a flurry of uppercuts in a half-clinch, before NAILING him with a left hook that sends Elvis flying into the fence, and Mario Yamasaki stops things there.

I’ve seen people argue that this fight was stopped too early because Elvis wasn’t completely out, but c’mon, what would’ve happened had they let it continue? Probably a repeat of the Terrell-Lindland finish, which isn’t good for Elvis. As it goes, Sinosic was doing pretty well here until Griffin caught him with the left hook, and his stand-up looked better than I’d ever seen before. This might sound weird, but Griffin actually reminded me of early Liddell here, taking clean punches and shrugging them off thanks to a solid chin, before getting the win with crazy power hooks. I don’t think he’ll be able to beat Tito Ortiz, but hey, if he’s worked on his takedown defense, you never know…

Heavyweight Fight: Branden Lee Hinkle vs Sean Gannon

Ah, Sean ‘The Cannon’ Gannon. Probably the most controversial UFC signing of the Zuffa era, Gannon’s claim to fame – alongside his 1-0 MMA record – was a win over infamous underground street fighter Kimbo Slice, on a brutal video that was plastered all over the internet in late 2004. While Gannon had a ton of amateur credentials (you can find a list of them on UFC.tv) it was quite clear that he’d been brought in thanks to the Kimbo fight, and I was wondering how they’d push him without mentioning that fight, which you’d think would be bad for the reputation of MMA. As it was, though it’s cut here, Rogan actually PRAISED the Kimbo fight in a short interview with Dana White, and then followed up by saying that if he’d been driving to work and had spotted a fight like that, he’d definitely pull over and watch. Pimping a street fight on a pay-per-view of a sport that many people already frown over? I’d call that total insanity.

Back to the fight – Branden Lee Hinkle, a wrestling-based fighter out of Mark Coleman’s Hammer House was also making his Octagon debut, and unlike his opponent, he’s got plenty of MMA experience, having fought all around the world in his career. In one of my less illustrious picks, I actually chose Gannon to win by knockout here. I know, I know…

They begin and Gannon presses, avoiding an early clinch, but Hinkle uses a headlock and gets a single leg down to Gannon’s guard. Hinkle works to pass, and gets into side mount, before mounting fully and dropping some elbows. Gannon avoids a keylock attempt, but Hinkle keeps trying it, only for Gannon to manage to avoid every time. Finally Hinkle gives up on it and just starts OPENING UP with heavy elbows, making MINCEMEAT of Gannon’s face as he’s wearing a horrific crimson mask within seconds. Hinkle continues to smash him with vicious elbows, and finally Herb Dean steps in to stop things. Nasty beating there, as Gannon was clearly outclassed as soon as the fight hit the mat. Hinkle looked decent enough, just your prototypical Hammer House fighter with good wrestling, good ground-and-pound, and a lot of keylock attempts. Thankfully nobody really took any notice of Gannon’s appearance, and I’m thinking he won’t be back any time soon.

UFC Heavyweight Title: Andrei Arlovski vs Paul Buentello

This was to be Arlovski’s first defence of the Undisputed Heavyweight Title, as the UFC finally stripped Frank Mir just before this event and awarded Arlovski (the Interim champ) with the title proper. Buentello had earned this shot by defeating Justin Eilers and Kevin Jordan in his previous UFC outings, but it was quite clear that he was probably overmatched by Arlovski, despite being a hell of a striker in his own right. Arlovski is looking scarier than ever here, with the full Wolfman look with the beard and ponytail. Personally, I was expecting a hell of a slugfest before Buentello fell probably late in the 1st.

They get started and Buentello comes out aggressively, pressing the action with punches, but suddenly he falls forward as Arlovski looks like he’s going for a takedown…and Big John McCarthy flies in for the stoppage! Arlovski celebrates like mad, as everyone – spectators, announcers, and probably all the fans at home are confused as hell as to what just happened.

The fans begin a loud chant of ‘BULLSHIT!’, but as Buentello is helped up, it’s clear *something* happened as his eye is cut and badly bruised. Then we go to the replays…

…and the chants stop dead as they show Arlovski duck a sloppy punch from Buentello and NAIL him on the chin to knock him completely out cold. Jesus Christ, Arlovski is DEADLY. Post-fight Arlovski says he’ll fight whoever UFC want him to, he’s a fighter and that’s his way. Anti-climactic ending on one hand, but on the other hand…that’s about as brutal a climax as you’re going to get. Fifteen seconds of devastation.

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

Final Thoughts…

UFC 55 got really bad write-ups when it happened, and in a way that’s understandable, as a variety of different factors made this seem like a lacklustre show. Most things seemed to go wrong for UFC here – Freeman’s injury, losing Goldberg on commentary, Sakara’s debut ending with a no-contest, Riggs-Lytle ending with an abrupt cut, the awful Sean Gannon debacle, and the main event only lasting fifteen seconds – and it’s quite understandable that people would be frustrated by a show that ended with Hallman-Rivera. With all that said though, there are some good fights on show – Babalu-Sonnen was excellent, as was Griffin-Sinosic while it lasted, and Cruz-Kunihara was enjoyable enough too. The main event, while short, is still incredible to watch for the sheer power of Arlovski’s punch, too. I can’t recommend this highly as it’s probably the worst UFC or Pride show of 2005, but if you’re a big fan of Arlovski or the Gracie Barra boys, it’s probably worth a look.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 27 and 28.

UFC: 13, 14, 15, 16, 56 and 57.

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

WFA: 1, 2 and 3.

King of the Cage: 18, 23, 30 and 32.

IFC: Shogun

Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com