MMA Review: #58: UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II Jul22

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MMA Review: #58: UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II

UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II

04/16/05

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. This was a landmark show for UFC as it was the first one following the Ultimate Fighter reality show, and ended up drawing the largest crowd and biggest buyrate in UFC history, mainly due to the furore surrounding the Couture/Liddell rematch.

Heavyweight Fight: Mike Van Arsdale vs John Marsh

This was just about the only fight on the card that I wasn’t highly anticipating, as both guys are the wrong side of 30, and hadn’t fought in quite a long time. World-class wrestler Van Arsdale had last fought in the UFC at UFC 17, while Marsh was coming off a win over UFC veteran Cabbage Correira in Superbrawl.

They circle to open the first round, and do pretty much nothing for the first minute, before finally clinching, where Van Arsdale gets a nice spinning takedown to side mount. Van Arsdale starts to land some nice short elbows to the body and the face, getting some real power on them and cutting Marsh above the eye. He moves into the 69 position, preventing Marsh from escaping, and then goes back to side mount and drops some more nasty elbows. Total control from Van Arsdale so far, some great wrestling skill to keep Marsh down. Van Arsdale lands some knees to the body and continues the elbow assault, clearly hurting Marsh at this point. Finally Marsh eats more elbows, before scrambling up to end the round in a front facelock. His eye’s badly swollen.

Into the 2nd, and Marsh presses, landing some punches into a clinch. They muscle towards the fence, where Marsh lands an elbow to break. They press with jabs, before Marsh backs him up towards the fence with punches, forcing him to shoot in for the takedown. Marsh sprawls back and lands an illegal knee to the head, but the official misses it. They come back up, circling off, where Van Arsdale lands a nice right hand, before faking a punch and shooting in for the takedown. Marsh blocks it well, and counters with a spinning takedown of his own, getting Van Arsdale in half-guard. Marsh works from the top, and takes Van Arsdale’s back, but just as he looks to have the rear naked choke sunk, the round ends! Wow, that was a bad break for him.

Third and final round, and Marsh presses the action into a clinch, but both guys look tired at this point. They exchange some knees and muscle around, before Marsh lands a big knee to the body, and Van Arsdale crumples! Van Arsdale turtles up as Marsh looks to pound away, almost taking his back again, but Van Arsdale suddenly gets a beautiful reversal to side mount! He starts working Marsh over with the elbows again, landing some really nasty shots and controlling Marsh completely. More elbows follow, before Van Arsdale traps Marsh’s arm and pounds away at the face, ending the round in side mount. We’re going to the judges, where Van Arsdale gets the unanimous 29-28 decision.

This actually turned out to be a lot more interesting fight than I’d expected, as both guys showed a good amount of skill, with Marsh – despite taking a bad beating in the first round – coming closest to ending things with the choke attempt at the end of the 2nd. When it came down to it though, the difference was simply Van Arsdale’s great wrestling skill, as once he got it to the ground, Marsh had no way of escaping, and Mike was able to control and pound him for long periods of time. It should be interesting to see him face Randy Couture at UFC 54, as Randy’s had problems with naturally larger wrestlers in the past.

Middleweight Fight: Joe Doerkson vs Patrick Cote

This was originally slated to see English standout Lee Murray taking on Cote in an expected stand-up war, but Murray’s Visa problems caused him to drop out of the fight, and Joe Doerkson (who actually holds a win over Murray) ended up stepping in, making the fight an all-Canadian one.

They get underway and Doerkson lands a left high kick into a clinch. Cote tries to block the takedown, but Doerkson keeps working and gets a nice throw to the side mount. Doerkson lands some knees to the body before Cote rolls to escape, so Doerkson takes his back and gets both hooks in. Cote rolls on top, with Doerkson still on his back. Doerkson goes for the rear naked choke, using his left leg to pull Cote’s arm away to expose the neck, but Cote to his credit defends really well, avoiding the submission. Doerkson shows excellent back control and keeps going for it, but finally Cote manages to escape, scrambling to his feet and looking to drop punches down into the guard. Doerkson comes up to his feet and eats a combo, but then gets another takedown to guard. He passes into side mount and tries an armbar, but Cote defends that well, too, so Doerkson goes to a triangle choke, and can’t get it to end the round. Pretty awesome opener there.

Doerkson opens the 2nd with a good leg kick, but Cote tags him with a hard right hand, and follows with a good body shot and a nice left high kick. Doerkson tries a leg trip, but Cote blocks, so Doerkson throws him down to side mount again. Cote tries to reverse, but Doerkson gets a triangle choke locked on! Cote gets a short slam and then manages to wriggle free, sitting up in Doerkson’s guard to avoid the submission. Doerkson keeps getting his legs up for a sub, though, so Cote decides to stand back up. Doerkson joins him, and Cote stuns him with a big flying knee! Doerkson stumbles forward and eats some more knees, as Cote forces him to his back. Doerkson ties him up in guard, where Cote lands some punches. Doerkson tries an armlock, and they come back up, where Doerkson gets another nice takedown to guard to end the round.

Into the final round, and Cote opens up with some crisp combos, landing a hard body shot. Cote follows with a HARD right hand, and then a big uppercut, and Doerkson stumbles forward and DOWN!~! Cote dives on him, trying to finish with punches and elbows, but Doerkson recovers well and gets half-guard, eating some hard forearms along the way. Cote keeps landing elbows, but Doerkson suddenly gets a nice sweep to mount, and takes Cote’s back! Doerkson goes for the choke again, hooking the left arm down with his leg, and this time he gets it, as Cote taps out.

Awesome fight there, I’d call it a low-end contender for fight of the year. Both guys put on a really good showing, as Doerkson showed some great skill on the ground, pulling out some great transitions in the first and second rounds, before closing things off with some great Jiu-Jitsu skill in the third. Cote showed some good ground defences, but his main skill is standing and he looked great here doing that, busting out the flying knee and landing some really crisp shots in the latter two rounds. I look forward to seeing Cote return to fight Chris Leben in August, and I’m expecting him to win, actually. Just a great back-and-forth fight here.

Middleweight Fight: Ivan Salaverry vs Joe Riggs

With both of these guys coming off major wins in UFC in 2004, both were looking to cement themselves as solid contenders for the Middleweight Title with a good showing here. Pre-fight Riggs says that if he fights to his full ability, Salaverry won’t last fifteen seconds with him. Confident guy, then.

They begin, and Riggs blocks a high kick as they both press forward. They exchange some jabs and low kicks, before Salaverry shoots in, and Riggs sprawls to avoid. They come up in a front facelock, and Riggs lands some knees, so Salaverry drops to guard. Riggs lands a left, and takes his back as they stand in a waistlock, but Ivan blocks a suplex, and drops for a kimura. He transitions to an armbar, but Riggs powers through and Salaverry closes the distance inside the guard to avoid Riggs’s ground and pound. Riggs stands, looking to drop his trademark huge right hand down into the guard, but as he tries it, Salaverry lands two HUGE UPKICKS snapping Riggs’s head back, and he falls right down into a triangle choke! Riggs tries to escape, but Salaverry pulls his head down, and Riggs is forced to tap out there.

Pretty exciting fight while it lasted, as Riggs probably came in too confident for his own good, and completely underestimated Salaverry. For his part, Salaverry had a great gameplan, as he nullified Riggs’s dangerous punching power, and obviously did his homework and was anticipating Riggs’s attempt at dropping the big right into the guard. I think Salaverry’s a difficult fight for anyone at 185lbs.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral vs Travis Wiuff

This was actually the Swing Bout before the main event on the PPV, so I have no idea why it’s been placed here on the DVD. Ah well, not like it really matters. Wiuff was riding on an 18 fight winning streak coming into this, and boy, comparing him to what he looked like at UFC 40 (50lbs heavier) it’s like two totally different fighters. Babalu was also on a streak of his own coming into this, having won the IFC Light-Heavyweight Title in the tournament, beating Prangley, Shogun and Horn, and then going on to beat Pele, and picking up two wins in the UK Cage Rage promotion.

Babalu opens up by landing some jabs, but Wiuff clinches, and they muscle around, before Travis gets a throw to side mount. Babalu quickly closes full guard, and Wiuff looks to move him to the fence, but Babalu uses it to get back to his feet inside the clinch, and gets his own takedown to guard. Babalu works the body and head, landing some nice short elbow strikes to the face, before Wiuff tries to scramble out. Babalu takes his back, but Wiuff gets to his feet and turns into the clinch, and they stop things momentarily because Wiuff’s lost his mouthpiece. Restart, and Babalu gets another takedown to guard, landing some good punches. Wiuff scrambles, but ends up in a front facelock, and Babalu pulls guard for a guillotine, but Wiuff pops out. Wiuff then tries a guillotine of his own, but gets the same result, as Babalu escapes and lands some elbows, bloodying Wiuff’s nose. Babalu drops a big right, but Wiuff manages to get to his feet, and lands a combo into the clinch, where they exchange to end the round. Pretty even round that I’d probably give to Babalu.

Into the 2nd, and Babalu comes right out and throws a HARD kick, but Wiuff catches it and gets a takedown to guard. Babalu looks to set up a triangle, but then transitions to a tight armbar, and rolls through with it, and that’s it as Wiuff’s forced to tap at just past 20 seconds. Really nice submission finish from Babalu there, who was looking at the UFC 54 co-main event against Randy Couture until he tore his triceps at the end of May. Wiuff just got caught cold in the armbar, but he’s since won two more fights on the smaller shows, and I’d expect him to be brought back to UFC sooner rather than later. Not a bad fight at all there.

Welterweight Fight: Georges St-Pierre vs Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller

This was originally scheduled for UFC 48, but Miller was forced to drop out due to legal troubles. The entrances are sadly cut on the DVD, but Mayhem actually made one of the best I’ve ever seen in MMA, wearing a pro-wrestling mask and going crazy, throwing dollar bills into the crowd. Just a crazy, charismatic guy. Rush is currently my favourite fighter, so please excuse any bias here.

They get underway, and Mayhem comes out dancing around like a maniac, but when he throws a low kick, Rush catches it and sends him down to his back. Rush lands a kick to the leg, and then delivers an AXE STOMP TO THE BODY!~! Mayhem grabs the foot for a leglock, but Rush pulls out, and they come back up, where they exchange some jabs. Rush lands a nice right hand into the clinch, where he lands a good knee, and a sharp right hand to break. Mayhem lands some mid-kicks as they continue to exchange, but Rush generally lands the better shots, narrowly missing a spinning backfist as Mayhem ducks under, didn’t even look like he saw it. They continue to exchange from distance, into the clinch before Rush breaks with a good elbow. They exchange jabs, and Mayhem throws a high kick, but Rush suddenly comes forward with a HUGE right and muscles him into the fence! Rush gets the takedown to half-guard, but Mayhem uses some crazy flexibility and tries a leglock. Rush pulls out and stands, so Mayhem KIPS UP, only for Rush to KICK HIM IN THE HEAD!~! God, that spot RULED.

Mayhem wipes some blood off his face, before Rush lands another axe stomp to the body, and this one hurts Miller as he turtles up. Rush smells blood and starts to pound away, then goes for a kimura, and it looks like he’s got it, but somehow Mayhem wriggles out into a front facelock before they come back up to standing. Rush lands a nice knee and muscles him to the fence, where we get the classic visual of Mayhem grinning while his nose pours with blood. Rush gets another takedown, but Mayhem comes right back up and eats a spinning back kick to the body. Another takedown from Rush, and this time he passes into half-guard, landing punches and elbows to end.

WOW, that was one of the most entertaining rounds of MMA I’ve ever seen.

Into the 2nd, and they exchange into a clinch, as Rogan tells us that Marc Laimon’s yelling at Miller to ‘use retard strength’, but try as he might, he can’t take Rush down at all. Rush sprawls back to avoid a single leg and forces his way on top in Miller’s half-guard, landing some heavy elbows, before taking Miller’s arm. Mayhem rolls through and tries another single leg, but Rush blocks, and gets back on top in half-guard. Rush pounds away with the elbows, then mounts, and takes Mayhem’s back, but Miller rolls through and finally gets Rush down, sitting him up against the fence, only for Rush to just stand right up before he can do any damage. Damn, St-Pierre is STRONG. Mayhem tries another takedown, but Rush blocks and pounds the body with some elbows, then gets on top and lands some more elbows to the face. Rush mounts him and gets an armbar, but Miller steps over him, and somehow avoids it, just as the round ends. Mayhem is taking a BEATING here, but he’s loving it, seemingly, as he walks to his corner with a grin on his face.

Into the third and final round, and Mayhem presses with strikes, but Rush gets the takedown to guard, pounding away and blocking a nice sweep attempt. Mayhem goes for a triangle, but he can’t get it, and Rush lands some BRUTAL ELBOWS that bloody his nose even more. Miller gets his legs up to attempt a submission, but Rush is having none of it and avoids, so Mayhem rolls through and tries a single leg. Rush blocks it and gets on top again, before landing some more shots and going into the full mount. Rush pounds away, then goes for a straight armbar, as Mayhem grabs his hands together to block. Rush simply pulls them apart and looks to have the submission, but Mayhem somehow reverses over into a side mount! DAMN, he’s flexible. Crowd go apeshit as Miller lands some punches and knees to the body, desperately trying to do some damage, but it’s to no avail as Rush rolls him over and continues to punish him with elbows. Back up, and Rush pulls him back down with a takedown to end the fight, as the crowd give them a HUGE ovation. And rightfully so.

We’re going to the judges, and it’s a clear unanimous decision for St-Pierre, as really it was a one-sided fight. But God, what a one-sided fight it was, as Rush bust out some of the coolest stuff you’ll see in MMA with the spinning strikes and the crazy axe stomps, and despite taking a beating, Mayhem gave the best account of himself that he could against such an awesome opponent, showing tremendous heart as well as an absolute bucketload of charisma. Next on St-Pierre’s list is Frank Trigg, while Mayhem’s fighting tomorrow night in Superbrawl and will probably return to UFC in the not-so-distant future. Back to this fight for a second – it was probably too one-sided to be considered a contender for fight of the year, but I’d rank it pretty highly in terms of my personal favourite fights. If you’re after fifteen minutes of non-stop action, you can’t go wrong with this one. Awesome fight.

Middleweight Fight: Matt Lindland vs Travis Lutter

The announcers push that Lindland’s pretty pissed off that Rich Franklin got a Middleweight Title shot before him, but hey, you have to rebuild yourself if you get KOd in 26 seconds like Lindland did by Terrell. Lutter was coming off the surprising KO victory over Marvin Eastman going into this, but not many people thought he stood a chance against Lindland. ESPECIALLY a pissed off Lindland.

Lindland gets a quick clinch right away and they muscle for control, with Lindland landing some knees and forcing him back to the fence. Lindland gets a waistlock takedown to half-guard, but Lutter gets full guard quickly and before Lindland can do anything, Lutter sweeps him over to mount. Lindland clings onto him, as Lutter works the body, then reverses up to the clinch where he works with some rabbit punches. Lindland lands a good knee to break, but then goes right back into the clinch, working Lutter with some dirty boxing. Lutter gets a takedown to half-guard, but Lindland reverses and gets back into the clinch, closing the round off with some knees and uppercuts.

Into the 2nd we go, and Lindland gets a quick takedown to guard, where he taps away with some weak punches. Into half-guard, and he looks to mount, as Lutter tries an escape, but ends up back in half-guard. Lindland controls him, and Lutter attempts to escape, but ends up being caught in a standing guillotine, and Lindland falls back into half-guard forcing Lutter to tap out.

What is it with BJJ black belts being caught in the guillotine this year? Anyhow, post-fight Lindland claims everyone’s ducking him, and that he wants a title shot. Turns out he’s not being ‘ducked’ though, as he’ll have to go through Joe Riggs to get his title shot at UFC 54. As for this fight, it was pretty boring, as Lindland controlled Lutter for the most part, but caused no damage whatsoever. Typical Lindland fight really, if you want to see why people consider him boring, watch this.

UFC Welterweight Title: Matt Hughes vs Frank Trigg

This was the long-awaited rematch built to by a ton of shit-talking from Trigg, who earned his shot by crushing Dennis Hallman and Charuto Verissimo. Hughes enters to ‘A Country Boy Can Survive’ and gets a HUGE pop, which shows that people are learning that he’s the MAN. We get a mad intense staredown before we begin too, with both guys getting right in one another’s faces.

They press to open, and Trigg blocks an early high kick attempt. Into the clinch, and they muscle for position, towards the fence, where Trigg lands a knee to the gut, and follows with a knee to the groin. Hughes turns to referee Mario Yamasaki to call for time…but he IGNORES it, and Trigg follows up with a flurry and HUGHES IS DOWN! Trigg pounds away looking for the finish, getting the full mount, but Hughes somehow recovers and manages to hold on, as Trigg takes the advice of his corner and relaxes. Hughes rolls to escape and Trigg gets his back, looking to sink a rear naked choke, but Hughes blocks. Trigg keeps going for it though, and suddenly it looks like he’s got it sunk, as Hughes’ face starts going purple…but somehow he escapes, and PICKS TRIGG UP OVER HIS HEAD! RUNNING POWERSLAM!~! Crowd EXPLODE as Hughes takes the mount and BRINGS THE PAIN, pounding away with punches and elbows!! Trigg rolls and Hughes tries the rear naked choke, but Trigg rolls back to the mount and eats some more elbows, his eye being busted wide open now. Hughes takes his back again, getting both hooks in, and this time there’s NO ESCAPE as he sinks the rear naked choke, and TRIGG TAPS OUT!~!

Whew. Good lord, was that a fight. I’ve never seen anything like it in MMA before, and even months on, I still end up leaping around and going crazy for the ending whenever I watch it. The fact that the referee ignored the low blow was appalling, but for Hughes to be able to come back from that and just destroy Trigg in the second half of the fight was incredible to watch. Hughes once again proves why he’s the MAN at 170lbs. Just…wow. If you’re any sort of MMA fan you NEED to see this fight. Definitely one of, if not THE best fight of 2005. I’m still having trouble picking between this and Bonnar/Griffin actually. As I said, this is a total must-see fight.

UFC Light-Heavyweight Title: Chuck Liddell vs Randy Couture

This was of course the fight everyone had come to see, as the two coaches from The Ultimate Fighter would finally face off in their own long-awaited rematch. For those who don’t know, UFC 43 saw their first meeting as Liddell was expected to crush Couture (who was coming off two straight losses in the HW division) for the Interim Light-Heavyweight Title, only for Couture to shock him by out-striking him en route to a third round TKO victory. Liddell had worked his way back into #1 contender’s status with KOs of Tito Ortiz and Vernon White, and with Couture’s issue with Vitor Belfort settled, this became THE money match for UFC. Both guys get monster pops upon entrance, with Couture actually entering to Hendrix’s version of the Star Spangled Banner, causing Rogan to have a seizure. Crowd are going CRAZY for the introductions.

Finally we get underway, and Couture presses forward as Liddell circles off, looking to counterpunch. Liddell lands a good leg kick and keeps circling off, as neither land any significant shots. Couture continues to press, and finally comes forward and lands a good right hand into a clinch, but they break off quickly, and Couture calls for time, claiming an eye problem. Replays show he caught a thumb in the eye as Liddell tried to push him off during the clinch. After moments of baited breath they finally restart, and Couture continues to press, but this time Liddell catches him with a good left hook. Couture looks hurt and comes forward wildly swinging, but Liddell NAILS HIM WITH A HUGE RIGHT COUNTERPUNCH!~! COUTURE IS OUT!~! LIDDELL IS THE NEW CHAMPION!~!

Holy God, was that a brutal KO. One of the best KOs of all time, I’d be willing to call it. Take into consideration that Couture had never been KOd before, and it’s even more incredible. At the time some people said that the fight was actually anticlimactic, but c’mon, that punch is a climax if I ever saw one. Couture actually said after the first fight that the adjustments Chuck needed to make were only minor, and he made them here, choosing to constantly circle away from Couture rather than allow Couture to dictate the pace of the fight and get into clinches with him, and it paid off as Couture got sloppy with his striking, and as everyone should know, Chuck Liddell is the best counterpuncher in MMA.

Next up for Liddell is Jeremy Horn as Chuck looks to avenge one of his other two losses, and if he does that successfully, you’ve got to think he’ll be after Rampage next. I guess this wasn’t what you’d call a great fight, but hey, it was an absolutely classic KO.

We wrap up the night with a quick highlight of the action.

Final Thoughts…

This is an awesome, awesome show from top to bottom. The only fight I’d consider to be pretty slow is Lindland/Lutter, and everything else ranges from solid to bonafide contenders for Fight of the Year. Best of the bunch is Trigg/Hughes, but Cote/Doerkson and Mayhem/St-Pierre aren’t far behind at all. Add to that the sick KO of Couture in the main event and the culmination of Liddell’s years of work, and you’ve got one of the greatest MMA shows you’ll ever see. Highest recommendation, and I’d advise you to rob your grandmother for the money to get hold of this one on the strength of Trigg/Hughes alone.

Coming Soon…

Pride: 25, 26, and Bushido 4, 5, 6 and 7.

UFC: 7, 8, and 53.

The Ultimate Fighter DVD set

Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

WFA: 1, 2 and 3.

WEC 9: Cold Blooded: featuring Joe Riggs vs. Alex Stiebling, and Chris Leben vs. Mike Swick.

Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2, featuring Takanori Gomi vs. Joachim Hansen, and Joachim Hansen vs. Vitor Ribeiro.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com