MMA Review: #44: UFC 50: The War Of ’04 Feb11


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MMA Review: #44: UFC 50: The War Of ’04

UFC 50: The War Of ‘04


Atlantic City, New Jersey

This was probably the most injury-hit MMA card of 2004, as what started as a really loaded card lost a lot of it’s lustre after Phil Baroni, Trevor Prangley, Paul Buentello, John Marsh, Tra Telligman and finally Guy Mezger – one half of the main event – had to drop out, leaving UFC 50 with a hastily put together main event of Tito Ortiz taking on relative unknown Canadian striker Patrick ‘The Predator’ Cote. The card was still pretty loaded though, with fights involving Evan Tanner, Rich Franklin, and a fight for the vacant Welterweight Title with Matt Hughes facing Georges St-Pierre.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Frank Mir, replacing Joe Rogan for this show. He’s a really good announcer as it goes, adding a ton of insight even if he’s not as enthusiastic as Rogan.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Travis Lutter vs Marvin Eastman

This was originally supposed to see Eastman facing Patrick Cote, but with Cote moving up to main event, Lion’s Den member and Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Travis Lutter stepped in on short notice to take the fight. Eastman’s only UFC appearance prior to this was the massacre put on him by Vitor Belfort at UFC 43.

They get underway, and Eastman refuses to touch gloves for whatever reason. They circle for AGES, with basically no strikes thrown, as the crowd start to boo a couple of minutes in with no contact. Eastman finally starts to throw, but Lutter pretty much avoids everything, before trying a takedown, which Eastman blocks. Eastman attempts a flurry, but Lutter blocks it, and they continue circling to end the round. Awful round there, it’s like they didn’t want to be there.

Into the 2nd, and Eastman presses the action as they briefly clinch, but he still can’t land any strikes. Finally Eastman throws a sloppy low kick, and Lutter counters with an overhand right which appears to miss, but somehow manages to put Eastman OUT for the shocking KO. And I mean ‘out’ as in, completely unconscious, not moving. Replays show that Lutter caught him right on the edge of the chin, and Eastman was about a centimetre away from avoiding the shot.

Terrible fight to open the show, thank God it was only a prelim. This was a horrible performance from Eastman who I’ve been told is pretty good outside of the UFC, but between this, and the huge cut he got against Belfort, I don’t expect him back. Lutter is scheduled to face Matt Lindland at UFC 52 next.

Middleweight Fight: Ivan Salaverry vs Tony Fryklund

This was originally meant to be Phil Baroni vs. Trevor Prangley, but Baroni pulled out citing injury and was replaced by Salaverry, then Prangley dislocated a rib and Fryklund took the fight on a week’s notice. Fryklund was actually blacklisted from UFC prior to this thanks to his involvement in the Murray/Ortiz fracas following UFC 38, but I guess taking a fight on a week’s notice will get you back on good terms with the higher-ups. I like Fryklund from what I’ve seen personally, and he’s a Miletich fighter, so no complaints here. Salaverry had a good early showing in UFC 37, battering Andrey Semenov on his way to a TKO, but then lost a decision to Matt Lindland at UFC 39 and hadn’t been back since. Video package hypes him as a very well-rounded fighter.

They begin and Salaverry comes out throwing some kicks, but Fryklund blocks them. They briefly exchange, and Salaverry throws him down, but Tony comes back up quickly. Salaverry tries a high kick, but Fryklund catches it and they clinch, before Salaverry breaks with a flurry that decks Fryklund, and hits him with a HUGE SHIN KICK on the way down. Ouch. Fryklund tries to recover but Salaverry quickly follows up by taking his back and getting both hooks in. He hits a few punches and then tries a rear naked choke, but Fryklund blocks, so Salaverry repositions his legs into a figure-four bodylock and really cranks it, and Fryklund verbally submits quickly, actually screaming “My back, my back!” He looks really hurt post-fight, but I think he was okay; I didn’t hear anything different.

Good exciting fight and Salaverry looked really sharp, probably enough to give anyone in the MW division a handful. I may be wrong, but I believe he’s now part of Tito Ortiz’s revamped Team Punishment. The Prangley fight is now back on for UFC 52, too. Fryklund got really well beaten here, but he was taking the fight on a week’s notice and I don’t think you should look too far into his performance. I’d like to see him get another chance with proper preparation.

Middleweight Fight: Evan Tanner vs Robbie Lawler

Interesting fight here as Tanner’s a big Middleweight having dropped from LHW, whereas Lawler was moving up from Welterweight for the first time. I was actually picking Lawler here because I’m a big fan of a redneck type who can slug, but in hindsight it was definitely a poor choice. Tanner’s sporting cornrows in his hair here, officially making him the coolest-looking fighter in UFC by my book.

Lawler comes out pressing, looking for the big KO punch, and he misses a couple of early swings, as well as a big knee. They exchange some feeler strikes, and Tanner looks to work some low kicks, which worked against Lawler for Pete Spratt. Tanner starts firing off some good jabs, so Lawler gets a clinch and muscles him back to the fence, then gets a HUGE SLAM down to guard. Robbie tries some punches, but Tanner quickly gets his legs up and locks on a triangle, and that’s that at just over two minutes in.

Post-fight Kerri Kasem interviews Tanner, who immediately gets his arm around her. Ha, gotta love Evan’s style. He says he’ll fight David Terrell if that’s what the UFC officials want.

Lawler looked strong at MW but didn’t show any other skills as Tanner got the triangle as soon as it hit the ground pretty much. I think he’s been a bit exposed as a one-trick pony with the big punch, but hopefully he’ll be able to bounce back with a bit more experience, as he’s a marketable fighter. Speaking of marketable, it’s probably just a fashion thing for Tanner, but his somewhat bizarre haircuts make him stand out from the other fighters, and I think that’ll help him in the long run in terms of marketability. This was a good performance from him that you can’t fault in any way, and it was enough to earn him a Middleweight Title shot at the next show, which he capitalized on fully. Seems a really nice guy, too, you can’t help but like him.

Welterweight Fight: Frank Trigg vs Renato Verissimo

This was a fight I was looking forward to as for all intents and purposes; the winner would be #1 contender for the Welterweight Title. I picked Charuto given that he’d taken Matt Hughes to a close decision, and Trigg’s sub defences didn’t seem too hot when he faced Hughes himself.

They clinch to open and Trigg blocks a takedown, landing some knees to the gut. Charuto keeps working for the takedown, but Trigg blocks, and they eventually break. They exchange briefly, with Charuto landing a stiff right that bloodies up Trigg’s nose. Trigg gets a takedown to avoid any more punishment, and Charuto gets guard. He tries an armbar from the bottom, then goes for a leglock, but Trigg avoids by pounding down on his head. Charuto flips right over into a cool inverted guard, and transitions from that to a triangle choke, but Trigg pops his head out and starts to land some punches. Trigg gets a front facelock and they come back up, where they exchange punches before Trigg gets the takedown again. Charuto goes for a leglock, then back to the triangle again, and this time he locks it on TIGHTLY, and Trigg looks in deep, deep trouble. Crowd go apeshit thinking it’s over as Trigg struggles desperately, clearly having problems breathing, but somehow he manages to fight it, and powers out! Holy shit, that took some ridiculous strength. Trigg enters Charuto’s guard, and both guys look pretty gassed at this point, as Trigg stands up in the guard to end the round.

Into the 2nd, and Charuto tries a takedown, but Trigg blocks and grabs a bodylock. Back out and they exchange some punches, where Trigg lands with a nice combo, rocking Charuto. Charuto goes for a single leg, wanting no more of the standup, but Trigg blocks, and lands some vicious downward elbow strikes to the back of the head. They’re illegal, but hey, the official lets it go, and Charuto turtles up and eats some more nasty elbows, as Trigg really opens up. Charuto tries to escape, but Trigg gets into his half-guard, and starts really hammering down with the elbows, and the referee comes in to stop it. Trigg wins by TKO.

Definitely an exciting fight here, as Charuto’s Jiu-Jitsu skill pitted against Trigg’s wrestling made for an interesting styles clash. Trigg fought to win the fight – taking more risks than Matt Hughes did when he fought Charuto – and it almost cost him as the triangle choke looked like the end, but eventually it paid off as he was able to do what Hughes wasn’t, and finish the Brazilian. The downward elbow strikes (which UFC rules state are illegal) were a bit shady, but Charuto looked done for at that point anyway, so I don’t think it made much of a difference. Hell of a fight here.

-On The Mat with Marc Laimon is looking at the kimura armlock, otherwise known as the hammerlock. I love these segments, awesome stuff that explains some of the holds nicely for newcomers to UFC.

UFC Welterweight Title: Matt Hughes vs Georges St-Pierre

This one was of course for the vacant Welterweight Title that BJ Penn abandoned when he signed for K1. Interestingly enough, they make no mention of Penn and his victory over Hughes at all during the video package, or throughout the match, which is pretty weird, given that other guys that were stripped like Josh Barnett and Jens Pulver still get mentioned all the time. Most fans were picking Hughes to reclaim the belt here, the thinking being that while St-Pierre is an incredible young fighter, a fight with Hughes would be too much too soon for him.

Good staredown pre-fight, and frighteningly, ‘Rush’ actually dwarfs Hughes, which is incredible given that Hughes has always been hyped as a monstrous Welterweight himself. They get underway, and Rush works the left jab to keep Hughes at bay, before shooting in and getting a takedown. Hughes holds on in guard and manages to work back up to his feet, but Rush blocks a takedown attempt from him and they break off and exchange some jabs. St-Pierre throws a high kick that misses, so Hughes tries a takedown. Rush blocks it well, but eventually Hughes gets a nice slam to guard. Rush tries a kimura from the bottom, but Hughes blocks, so Rush gets his feet onto the fence and uses it to escape back to standing, muscling Hughes off in the process. They circle, and Rush lands a BEAUTIFUL SPINNING BACK KICK TO THE CHEST, sending Hughes staggering back about four feet to the fence!

Hughes looks hurt, and attempts an instinctual takedown, but Rush blocks it and muscles him off. They press and Rush lands a stiff jab, before Hughes tries the takedown again. Rush tries to block, but this time Hughes keeps coming and manages to bring him down into a side mount by the fence. Hughes holds him down, as Rush tries to escape, and works his way back to full guard. Hughes tries to work for position as the time ticks away in the round, and finally he throws a short flurry, so Rush tries a kimura, but Hughes gets an AWESOME counter, spinning over right into a textbook armbar, and Rush is forced to tap out, EXACTLY as the horn sounds to end the round! Damn, that was an unlucky break.

Post-fight Rush lifts Hughes on his shoulders as he celebrates with the Welterweight Title belt. Quite the awesome fight here, and a bit of a shocker too as St-Pierre was definitely winning the round until Hughes busted out the armbar finish. Hughes had more trouble taking St-Pierre down than I’ve ever seen him have before, and Rush also appeared to be the stronger man in the grappling exchanges; despite ending up on the bottom twice, he was able to muscle Hughes off throughout the fight. Add in the fact that St-Pierre was controlling the striking portions, landing some great shots like the spin-kick, and I’d have to say that outside of the BJ Penn fight, this was probably Hughes’s toughest challenge to date. Both guys are fighting on the UFC 52 card – Hughes defending against Frank Trigg, and St-Pierre against Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller – and you can bet I’ll be rooting for them both.

Middleweight Fight: Rich Franklin vs Jorge Rivera

Rich ‘Ace’ Franklin was originally a Light-Heavyweight, and following two spectacular KOs of Evan Tanner and Edwin Dewees, he was being pushed as one of the stars of that division. Then he went to Japan and was KOd by a relatively unknown fighter (his only career loss) and ended up waiting over a year for another UFC shot, cutting down to Middleweight to make a return. Tough Puerto Rican Rivera was coming off a convincing win over Mark Weir in the UK Cage Rage promotion going into this.

They begin the first round with a clinch, and Rivera lands a knee to the groin immediately. Franklin gets time, but recovers quickly, and they restart and clinch up again, where Franklin gets a takedown to side mount. Rivera works and gets a half-guard back, but misses a sweep and Franklin ends up back in side mount. Back up, and they back away and circle before going back into the clinch, where both men work the body. Franklin forces him towards the fence, and lands a nice knee to the head and follows with a jumping knee strike, back into the clinch. Franklin shows some great skill in the clinch, controlling Rivera’s right wrist, which allows him to land some vicious uppercuts and body shots. They continue to exchange in the clinch, before breaking off, where Rivera stuns Franklin with a flurry, only for ‘Ace’ to answer with a right hand that sends Rivera to the mat! Franklin closes in with a flurry as Rivera grabs a single leg to recover, but still looks in trouble, as he comes up and eats a combo and then a vicious high kick. Another combo stuns Rivera, and he clinches and eats some uppercuts and body shots to end the round. Rivera was really in survival mode towards the end there.

2nd round begins how the first left off, in the clinch, as they exchange some knees and elbows. Franklin has a nasty lump under his left eye, probably brought on by one of the elbows, but Mir then points out that it could’ve been caused by Rivera’s head, as they’re rubbing heads in the clinch constantly too. Franklin starts to get the better of him in the clinch again, but Rivera lands a HARD knee to the gut that stuns him, and breaks free with a combo. Franklin lands a couple of good leg kicks from the outside, and they clinch again, where Rivera works the body, taking some uppercuts as he does so. Franklin gets a takedown to half-guard, and pounds away, before trying what looks like a triangle choke from the mounted position, but Rivera escapes and they come back up and exchange in the clinch to end the round. Both guys are looking battered now; this is a total war.

They exchange into the clinch again to open the third round, and Franklin muscles him back to the fence and works him over with punches, which Rivera gives right back. They break, and Rivera presses, but Franklin gets a takedown to half-guard. Franklin’s right eye is cut badly at this point, blood spilling all over Rivera and the mat. He works for position, and lands some elbows though, working into a side mount. Rivera looks tired and hurt, as Franklin gets a full mount and lands some hard punches, bloodying Rivera up. Rivera tries to scramble out from the bottom, but Franklin controls him, passing back into a side mount, and then getting a nice armbar for the tapout.

Post-fight they ask Franklin if he wants to fight Tanner again, and he says if it’s right for the company, he’ll do it.

Great fight here, not the most exciting, but a total war and the type of fight that makes you realize exactly what kind of punishment these guys take. Franklin probably came away looking the worse for wear, but in reality, he controlled about 80% of the fight, and I’d have given all three rounds to him had it gone the distance. Rivera is a tough, tough guy – most fighters would’ve wilted under Franklin’s power in the first round flurry he had – but Franklin’s skill level just seemed to be one step above his. I’d expect Franklin to push for a title shot soon, but I’d also like to see Rivera make a return to the UFC too.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Tito Ortiz vs Patrick Cote

This was originally scheduled to be Tito Ortiz/Guy Mezger part III, but in probably the most shocking and disturbing MMA story of 2004, Mezger suffered a mild stroke, I believe, in training, and was forced to drop out with a week to go. I’m not sure of his status at the minute, but you have to hope he’ll be able to make a full recovery.

At any rate, rather than get a replacement from elsewhere, Patrick Cote, originally slated to face Marvin Eastman, was hastily moved up the card to the main event. The Canadian slugger quickly started the war of words, saying he’d shock the world and KO Ortiz; Tito had a glass chin, amongst other things. Quite a few people brought into the possibility of an upset, too, given that Tito was coming off the two losses to Couture and Liddell. Mir and Goldberg simply say Cote has a ‘puncher’s chance’.

Staredown begins, and Cote just doesn’t look like a match for Ortiz physically – Tito is ripped as usual, while Cote looks like a chubby Middleweight.

They get underway, and Cote immediately starts swinging for the fences, looking for the big KO shot. They go into a brief clinch, and then break, where Cote lands a big right hand to the chin and DROPS TITO TO HIS KNEES! Tito pops back up quickly, and motions for Cote to bring it, but as Cote comes forward swinging, he ducks and BLASTS him with a big double leg takedown to guard. Smart fighting from Ortiz there. Tito starts to work him over with the elbows, landing a couple of heavy shots. He punches away, and lands some short elbows, as Cote looks to hold on for the restart, rather than try any subs. Ortiz moves him towards the fence, and lands some more shots there. Cote brings his legs up to attempt a submission, but Tito blocks it easily, and keeps landing elbows, working him over with some heavy shots until the round ends.

Into the 2nd, and Tito grabs a quick bodylock, bringing Cote down to the mat. He gets a ride and lands some knees to the body, then Cote rolls and Tito ends up in a side mount. Ortiz drops some forearms down onto his face, but Cote gets a half-guard back, eating some more elbows in the process. Cote looks fine, but Tito keeps landing, until Cote gets full guard back. Ortiz keeps working him over with some short strikes, but nothing really damaging, as Cote isn’t even cut. Round ends with Tito landing some more elbows.

Cote presses the action to open the third and final round, and starts throwing some crisp combos, but Tito blocks them nicely. Cote keeps coming, throwing combos, and then blocking a takedown and answering with a right, but Tito blocks them all with his forearms. Cote starts to work him with some jabs, but then steps off, looking for the KO shot, and Tito avoids and gets another takedown to half-guard. ‘He’s not getting up’, says Mir, helpfully. Tito stacks him against the fence again, as Cote gets full guard back, but Ortiz lands some punches. Tito starts to land the elbows again, nothing major, but a constant barrage, and Cote tries to escape, but can’t. Ortiz keeps landing elbows to end the round, but then stands up, looking upset with his performance as the fight closes off with the crowd sounding restless.

We’re going to the judges for the first time in the night, 30-27, 30-26, 30-26 all for Ortiz, who gets the clear unanimous decision.

Post-fight Tito says he was unhappy with his performance, he wanted to entertain the crowd and he didn’t really manage that. He puts Cote over as being a tough kid, and says he just wants to fight from now on.

Not the most exciting fight, but I think a lot of people were unfair to Tito in how they slated him after the performance. Seriously, it was a no-win situation for him. If he’d blasted through Cote Elvis Sinosic-style, UFC would’ve been accused of setting up a tomato can for their poster-boy to beat on. If he’d lost to Cote, he probably would’ve been finished as a top-level fighter. And winning in the fashion he did meant that all the cynics would claim he was a has-been. Be fair, a win’s a win, and Ortiz did what he had to without taking any major risks. He stuck to what he was good at, and Cote turned out to be a tough guy who could take a lot of punishment. Credit to Cote is due too, he took some nasty shots on the ground, and despite not really showing much outside of his big right in the first, he didn’t seem fazed by fighting UFC’s poster-boy in a PPV main event for his debut. Not a really exciting main event, but not as horrible as some made out, either.

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

Final Thoughts…

This was another solid show from the UFC, who had a really strong 2004 overall. It wasn’t blowaway great like UFC 47 or 49, but most of the fights were exciting, with some great finishes in there too. Fight of the night in terms of excitement was probably St-Pierre/Hughes, but Franklin/Rivera was a hell of a war, too. Tanner’s performance was highly impressive, as was Trigg’s, and Salaverry’s. The main event wasn’t the strongest fight, but it’s not as boring as some have made out and doesn’t take away from an overall solid card. UFC 50 isn’t the greatest show of all time, but it’s pretty much entertaining from top to bottom, and it’s definitely worth a look.

For the next review…I do have a copy of UFC 51 on tape, but because Bravo cut some of the segments out (and only one of the prelims was shown, too) I’ll probably wait until the DVD is released to review the show (probably a couple of months’ time). So next up will likely be Pride Bushido Vol. 3. Until then….


Scott Newman: