MMA Review: #29: UFC 48: Payback Nov09

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MMA Review: #29: UFC 48: Payback

Hey.

Going in, UFC 48 was probably the least anticipated UFC show of 2004, mainly because the main event of Ken Shamrock vs. Kimo Leopoldo didn’t really hold up well against some of the other UFC main events that we’d become accustomed to seeing. That said, the actual card was very strong on paper, with the Phil Baroni/Evan Tanner rematch, Matt Hughes taking on BJ Penn’s trainer ‘Charuto’ Verissimo, and the biggest fight – a Heavyweight Title fight between the returning Tim Sylvia and submissions expert Frank Mir. While the main event didn’t shine like UFC 47’s did, for me, the card was still a good one, and the show looked interesting going in.

UFC 48: Payback

06/19/04

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. On a note about these two, I’d say they’re my favourite commentary team right now, far ahead of Pride’s Mauro Renallo and Bas Rutten (though not quite as good as Quadros/Rutten was), and a lot better than any of WWE’s combinations. I wasn’t sure on Rogan when I first got into UFC, but now I love his enthusiasm, as well as his insights and constant referrals to older fights.

Middleweight Fight: Trevor Prangley vs Curtis Stout

Striker Curtis Stout was scheduled to fight British star Lee Murray on this card, but after Murray was forced to drop out (for reasons I’ll get into later) Lion’s Den/American Kickboxing Academy fighter Trevor Prangley stepped in. Prangley is a wrestler from South Africa.

Stout comes out and immediately lands a hard leg kick, but Prangley closes in and gets a takedown to guard. Prangley moves him towards the fence, and works some ground and pound, before passing to side mount. He keeps landing, as Stout tries to escape, and manages to push off the fence using his feet, almost taking Prangley’s back in the process. Prangley manages to get back into Stout’s guard, and keeps working as Stout tries an armbar, but can’t get it on. The official stands them for inactivity, and Prangley immediately shoots in for a takedown, but Stout sprawls nicely and lands two HARD KNEES, stunning Prangley, who manages to recover and take Stout down to guard. Prangley works in the guard with some body punches as Stout remains defensive, to end the round.

Round Two, and Stout lands a couple of hard leg kicks, but Prangley grabs a bodylock and slams him down to half-guard. Stout tries to sit up, but Prangley uses the movement to pass to side mount, where he locks on a side neck crank, and works the hold, causing Stout to tap out at about a minute in. Impressive performance from Prangley who took the fight on short notice, and pretty much dominated Stout with his wrestling and ground skills.

Welterweight Fight: Georges St. Pierre vs Jay Heiron

Canadian Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre was coming off a good win in his debut against Karo Parisyan, while Heiron – a training partner of Phil Baroni – was making his Octagon debut.

Both men open with some jabs, and Heiron blocks an early takedown attempt. They press, and Rush throws a high kick, and then a spinning back kick, between jabs. Rush keeps pressing, and suddenly staggers him with a right hand as they jab, and follows with a left hook! Heiron looks rocked, and goes for a single leg, as Rush blocks, and pounds away at the head. Back up, and Heiron still seems rocked, so Rush DECKS HIM with a right! Heiron grabs a single leg to recover again, but Rush blocks, and then NAILS him with a right, left, right combo, sending him crashing back towards the fence. Rush closes in, and DESTROYS him with elbows and punches on the ground as the official comes in to stop things. Rush celebrates with a backflip, spinaroonie, and kip-up, as I’m officially a fanboy after seeing two of his fights. St. Pierre has since lost a title opportunity to Matt Hughes, but he’s young and he’ll be back, and he’s hugely marketable, too. This was an incredibly impressive performance, as he just tore through Heiron.

Lightweight Fight: Matt Serra vs Ivan Menjivar

Menjivar, like Serra, has a reputation as a grappler, so I’m expecting a ground-oriented war here. In the video package before the fight, Serra emphasises that he wants to have an exciting fight, so let’s hope he lives up to that.

Round 1, and Serra catches a kick, getting a takedown to half-guard. Menjivar works back to full guard, but Serra works to pass, and gets a side mount and then the full mount. Serra takes his back, but Menjivar works back to his feet, and Serra grabs double underhooks, using some knees to prep a takedown. He gets the takedown to guard, where Menjivar tries a kimura before Serra passes to side mount. He tries to step over to the full mount, but Menjivar gets back in full guard. Serra keeps working to pass, but Menjivar’s ground defenses seem really strong, and he keeps the guard. They work back to their feet in a clinch, and exchange some knees, before Serra gets a takedown to half-guard, and passes to side mount. Menjivar gives his back, and then attempts a heel hook as the round closes.

Serra opens the 2nd by ducking a punch and getting a takedown to half-guard, but Menjivar shows good defenses again and works back to full guard. Serra lands some shots in the guard, and keeps working to pass, which he does, into half-guard and then full mount. Menjivar holds on, but Serra takes his back and gets both hooks in, rolling him over to attempt a rear naked choke. Menjivar blocks the choke nicely, and works up to his feet in a rear waistlock, where he tries a kimura. Serra suddenly gives him a German suplex (!), but lands right in the kimura, and Menjivar locks it right out, getting guard for leverage, just as the time runs out! Hot finish to the round, who knows whether Serra would’ve ended up tapping, as the hold looked locked in

Third and final round, and Menjivar throws some strikes to open, into the clinch where Serra gets a takedown to guard. Serra lands some elbows in the guard while working to pass, and gets into half-guard. Serra tries to mount, but Menjivar blocks, and tries a triangle, which Serra avoids and goes back to Menjivar’s guard. Serra works to half-guard, but Menjivar defends once more and gets his full guard back, before suddenly trying a triangle, and transitioning to an oma plata! Serra manages to escape quickly into a side mount, showing some awesome skill, but Menjivar manages to get back to half-guard, and then full guard, as the fight ends. We’re going to the judges, and the winner, by unanimous decision, is…Matt Serra. No surprises as Serra controlled 90% of the bout, but to give Menjivar credit, his defenses were really good, and he probably came closest to finishing with the kimura. Interesting ground war in this one.

Middleweight Fight: Evan Tanner vs Phil Baroni

This was a rematch of one of the most controversial fights of 2003, and the first one on the card with the ‘Payback’ theme. For those who don’t know, Baroni was dominating Tanner with strikes in their first fight, and looked to be on his way to a KO, until the official stopped the fight to check on Tanner’s cut. This gave Tanner chance to turn things around, and he came back with a vengeance, ending up in full mount, battering Baroni with elbows. The official stopped the fight, apparently mis-hearing Baroni’s instructions to let it continue, and Baroni lost his temper, swinging punches as the referee. Given Baroni’s lay-off, and volatile personality, I was fully expecting him to knock Tanner out in a matter of seconds in this one. However, Baroni changed his training greatly going in, and that would turn out to be instrumental here.

They circle to open, and it’s immediately notable that Tanner looks a LOT bigger than Baroni here. Baroni in fact looks a lot, lot smaller than he’s ever done before. They jab from distance with Tanner looking to avoid the strikes and close the distance, and he does so with a clinch, and a takedown to guard. Tanner moves him to the fence, but Baroni stands, so Tanner slams him down back to guard. Tanner lands some elbows in the guard as Baroni works to stand, and does so. Tanner works for another takedown, as Baroni tries a guillotine. Tanner escapes to the clinch, and they break momentarily, before Tanner clinches again and lands a good knee. Baroni lands a right on the way out, but Tanner then grabs a Muay Thai clinch and lands some knees to the head. Back out, before Tanner lands some more Muay Thai knees to close, as it seems like Baroni’s almost playing possum, standing right in front of Tanner without attacking.

Into the second, and Tanner opens up with a combo, and some knees. Tanner lands more knees, as Baroni seems reluctant to even engage with him. Tanner keeps landing combos, and simply turns away from any punches Baroni throws, as Phil seems out of it, standing in front of Tanner and letting him punch away! Tanner lands some good combos, then gets a clinch against the fence and lands elbows and uppercuts. Tanner gets a takedown to mount, but Baroni stands before any damage can be done. Baroni suddenly looks GASSED, as it’s clear from this point that he’s not playing possum, and something’s definitely wrong. Tanner gets a takedown to half-guard, and lands some body shots, as Baroni just lies there looking tired to end the round. Wow, Baroni’s new training clearly isn’t paying off, as he looks exhausted and just not with it.

The third and final round picks up where the second left off, as Tanner takes potshots at Baroni who just stands in front of him. Tanner simply comes in, punches, and moves away, as Baroni seemingly has no answer. Baroni FINALLY responds, landing a body shot as Tanner moves away, and then follows with some HARD shots to the back of the head that stun him! Tanner backs off as Baroni presses, and lands a good combo, rocking him! Baroni closes in with punches, but Tanner escapes and shoots in for a takedown. Baroni sprawls, but Tanner forces him back to the fence, and keeps working for a takedown. The official separates them, and they restart, where Tanner ducks some punches and gets a nice takedown into the guard, closing the fight with some elbows. We’re going to the judges, and unsurprisingly, Tanner gets the decision. This was a HORRIBLE fight from Baroni, as he seemed mentally lost out there, unable to do a thing against Tanner. When he finally opened up and hurt Tanner in the final round, he just didn’t close in to try to finish, and Tanner avoided easily. I think it’s best for Baroni to return to his old style of training. On the flip side, this was a great performance from Tanner who continues to grow as a fighter at Middleweight.

-We get a UFC Update package, and the first thing on the agenda is the Lee Murray situation. Murray has a court case that’s giving him Visa problems, hence why he dropped out of this card and hasn’t been in the UFC since January. According to Lee’s Sherdog interview, though, his case should be wrapped up by now, and I’m expecting him back at UFC 51 or 52. The package also announces Chuck Liddell vs. Vernon White for UFC 49, and shows how Liddell’s popularity has gone through the roof post-UFC 47 and his KO of Tito.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Hughes vs Renato Verissimo

Obviously the interest in this one was built from the fact that Charuto Verissimo is BJ Penn’s trainer, and Penn was the guy who finally dethroned Hughes and took the Welterweight Title at UFC 46. However, not ONCE is Penn’s victory over Hughes mentioned here, and Penn’s name in fact isn’t ever mentioned. Given that other guys who left and abandoned titles (Murilo Bustamante, Jens Pulver) are still mentioned in a good light in UFC, this shows just how pissed off they were at BJ’s actions.

Hughes immediately shoots in to open the fight, and muscles Charuto back trying a takedown. Charuto blocks, but Hughes gets him against the fence and takes him down to half-guard. Hughes muscles for position, and gets a side mount, then takes Charuto’s back, but Charuto suddenly spins over and gets a triangle choke! Hughes tries a powerbomb to break it, but doesn’t really connect, and Charuto LOCKS the choke on, as it looks like Hughes will tap! Hughes struggles, then falls to his back, with Charuto mounting him while still holding the triangle! Somehow Hughes escapes into the guard, and damn, that was probably the craziest submission escape I’ve ever seen. Hughes moves him to the fence, and throws some tentative strikes, clearly spooked by the submission skill, but Charuto uses his legs to move away from the fence, and almost gets the triangle again! Hughes stands to escape, and then goes back into the guard, unable to initiate any major ground and pound for fear of a submission. Hughes escapes another triangle choke to end. Crazy round here with Charuto showing some mad submission skill, and Hughes using incredible power and technique to escape.

Round 2, and Hughes ducks a punch, grabbing Charuto and slamming him down into a rear waistlock on the mat. Charuto suddenly rolls and almost takes Hughes’ back, but Hughes escapes into Charuto’s guard again. Hughes passes to half-guard, but gets put back in the full guard, where he just holds Charuto down without really doing anything. The fans start to get restless, booing after a while of this, as Hughes just seems content to hold Charuto down. Charuto goes for another triangle, before they get stood up for inactivity. Hughes gets another takedown to guard, and holds Charuto down to end the round. That round was lay and pray out of the Mark Kerr School from Hughes.

Final round, and Charuto blocks a shot, but Hughes uses some knees, and muscles him down to half-guard. Charuto gets back to full guard, and Hughes works for position rather than striking, getting into half-guard where he finally lands some solid elbows, cutting Charuto over the eye. The official stands them again, but Charuto looks tired, and Hughes gets another takedown to half-guard where he tries a kimura. Charuto blocks that, so Hughes lands some more solid elbows, and they stay in the position as the fight ends. We’re going to the judges again, and the winner, by unanimous decision, is Matt Hughes.

This decision caused a ton of discussion on the MMA boards when it happened – discussion that’s still going on now – as a lot of people thought Charuto should’ve won the fight, while others were just disgusted that two of the judges gave it 30-27 to Hughes, meaning he won all three rounds. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’ve no doubt that Hughes won the fight, as the UFC uses a 10 point must system with someone winning each round, and Hughes almost definitely won the second and third rounds. If it were in Pride, Charuto would get the decision due to his coming closer to finishing the fight, but Pride scores a fight throughout the rounds, not round-by-round. However, there’s no way Hughes won the first round, and for anyone to give him that is crazy in my book. At the end of the day, though? Hughes won, in albeit a less conclusive fashion than usual.

-We go to this show’s On The Mat with Marc Laimon segment, as he explains exactly how to utilise the straight armbar from the guard. How prophetic this segment would prove to be…

UFC Heavyweight Title: Tim Sylvia vs Frank Mir

Well, while Kimo/Shamrock was the main event of the show, this was clearly the biggest fight, as it was for the vacant Heavyweight Title, and featured the long-awaited return of Tim Sylvia. My pick going in was obviously Sylvia, as he’s one of my favourite fighters, but the general consensus was that the stand-up hugely favoured Sylvia, and the ground game hugely favoured Mir. Sylvia was the general favourite, though, as the question surrounded whether Mir could actually get him on the ground in the first place. Mir’s a Las Vegas boy, but the crowd seems more for Sylvia.

They get underway, and Sylvia lands a good knee in the opening exchange, then gets a HUGE takedown to guard. Sylvia moves him to the fence, but Mir gets an armbar, and locks it on! Sylvia tries to escape, trying to lift him up for a slam, but suddenly referee Herb Dean rushes in and breaks it up, saying that the fight is over! The crowd are less than pleased with that decision, as Mir stands up looking confused, while Sylvia is irate, asking Dean why he’s stopped it. Crowd start a loud BULLSHIT chant, as Dean tries to explain that Sylvia’s arm is broken, despite Sylvia walking around the Octagon seemingly in no pain. The announcers talk about a possible restart, as we get the dialogue between Mir and Sylvia:

“We can fight again.”

“No, we can fight now, it’s not over.”

Crowd are booing more by the second, as we go to a replay…and suddenly everything becomes clear, as from a different angle, we get the SICKEST VISUAL IN MMA HISTORY as Tim’s arm SNAPS inside the armbar. For those who haven’t seen it…

Crowd are still booing, despite clearly viewing the breakage on the replay. Mir, ever the crowd-pleaser, says post-fight that he’ll rip the arm clean off if that’s what the crowd want to see. Sylvia STILL wants the fight to continue, gaining respect from me for his toughness/craziness. How the adrenaline masked that kind of pain, I don’t know. A lot of people would claim this was a ‘controversial’ stoppage, but I think it was a great, brave decision from Herb Dean, who managed to stop any further injury to Sylvia’s arm. Mir is the new Heavyweight Champion, and while this isn’t my favourite fight for obvious reasons, it is very interesting to watch.

Welterweight Fight: Frank Trigg vs Dennis Hallman

This was a huge grudge match dating back to a fight in 2002, where as far as I know, Trigg got a TKO victory over Hallman by kicking him below the belt. This was Trigg’s first UFC fight following his loss to Matt Hughes at UFC 45, and Hallman’s first since UFC 33.

Crowd still aren’t happy post-Sylvia incident, and UFC officials had to be hoping for an exciting fight here. They open and press, jabbing from distance, and Hallman tries a takedown, then decides to pull guard. Trigg holds him down, as Hallman looks for a submission, and the crowd are booing immediately, clearly restless. Trigg stands and starts dropping some punches, as Hallman looks for a leglock. Hallman makes the same mistake that Mir did against Ian Freeman, trying for the leglock while Trigg’s pounding down on him, and Trigg lands a couple of really good shots, bouncing Hallman’s head off the mat. Trigg comes back down into the guard, and pounds away, landing some heavy elbows, then stands and punches down onto Hallman for the KO, before flipping him off to celebrate! Well, that wasn’t boring, thank God, and the KO got a nice pop from the crowd. Dominant performance from Trigg.

-The announcers confirm via Dr. Margaret Goodman that Sylvia suffered a fractured forearm, and is on his way to the hospital for X-Rays.

Heavyweight Fight: Ken Shamrock vs Kimo Leopoldo

This was a rematch from UFC 6, incredibly, as Ken had tapped out Kimo with an ankle lock in that fight. The main questions here surrounded Ken, as he claimed to be 100% healthy for the first time in years, and was ready to make his ‘proper’ comeback. Joe Rogan mentions that if the healthy Ken who fought Fujita in Pride shows up, Kimo could be in trouble. Tito Ortiz joins us on commentary.

Both guys get big pops for the entrances and introductions, crowd are slightly more for Ken, though. Awesome staredown as the rules are explained. They get underway, and Kimo grabs a clinch. They muscle for position in the clinch, exchanging knees, and Kimo looks to overpower Ken, forcing him back towards the fence. They keep exchanging knees to the midsection, but suddenly Ken comes forward with a HUGE knee to the chin to break the clinch, sending Kimo crashing to the mat! Ken stands over him for a second, then hits a couple of punches to the head, and the referee stops it as Kimo is OUT. Crowd go apeshit for Ken, as he gives a really heartfelt post-fight interview, dedicating the fight to his father (as it was Father’s Day) and saying that he might not be the best fighter in the world, but he’ll fight anyone there is to offer. This was awesome, as Ken’s one of the most respectful and classy guys out there, and it’s great to see him begin what hopefully will be a successful comeback.

-Highlight reel of the night wraps things up, and boy, from the live crowd perspective, Ken REALLY saved that show.

Final Thoughts…

Well, it wasn’t as good as UFC 47, but c’mon, that couldn’t be expected. I think this show gets an unfairly bad rep, as outside of the final two rounds of Hughes/Verissimo, everything else is good stuff. Baroni was disappointing, but Tanner put in an excellent performance to take him out. Hughes/Verissimo was probably the worst fight of the night, but even that had a dynamite first round, and everything from there is short and exciting. Sylvia/Mir is one of the most interesting finishes you’ll see in MMA, and while it wasn’t the one I was hoping for, it’s still pretty amazing to watch in a horrific kind of way. Shamrock-Kimo isn’t the best main event, but the crowd were into it and it has a great finish. I’d recommend this show, if only to see the Sylvia/Mir finish. Not the best show from UFC to follow the blockbuster 47, but not as bad as some made out, either.

Peace,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com