MMA Review: #25: UFC 31: Locked & Loaded Aug12

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MMA Review: #25: UFC 31: Locked & Loaded

Hey.

Rather than return to Pride for the review (for reasons I’ll explain at the end of the piece), it’s time once again to go back into UFCs past again, this time to May 2001 and UFC 31. At this time, Randy Couture was still the Heavyweight Champion as opposed to being the Light-Heavyweight Champion, Pat Miletich was still primarily a fighter, and Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz were still good buddies. How things change. Still, despite all the changes in the three years following this show, do the fights still hold up?

UFC 31: Locked & Loaded

05/04/01

Atlantic City, New Jersey

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg, Jeff Blatnick, and Frank Shamrock. This is also the first show that operated under the current weight class boundaries, with Heavyweight (206lbs-265lbs), Light-Heavyweight (186lbs-205lbs), Middleweight (171lbs-185lbs), Welterweight (156lbs-170lbs) and Lightweight (155lbs-) being the different classes.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Matt Lindland vs Ricardo Almeida

Today’s top-ranked Middleweight Matt ‘The Law’ Lindland was still fighting as a Light-Heavyweight here, against another fighter who’s now a Middleweight, Brazilian Ricardo Almeida.

Almeida comes out with some leg kicks, but Lindland gets a quick takedown into the guard. Almeida looks for an armbar, but Lindland avoids well, and moves him towards the fence. Lindland moves into the half-guard, and starts to work the body, as Almeida tries to get free by elevating Lindland up. Matt stays on top, though, and lands some forearms. Lindland keeps working, before they come up and he comes forward with a flurry of punches. Almeida tries a takedown of his own, but Lindland blocks, and then kneels just outside the guard, trying some jabs downwards. Almeida kicks him in the head, drawing a foul (for kicking the downed opponent) as the round comes to a close.

Lindland opens the second with a good left, as Almeida tries a couple of high kicks. Lindland gets another decent left, but he’s clearly uncomfortable striking, and clinches up. Almeida breaks and lands some punches, but Lindland grabs double underhooks, and takes him down into the guard. He tries to move him towards the fence once more, only for Almeida to use his feet to push himself away from it. Lindland drops some shoulder strikes, and holds him down to prevent any submission attempts. He comes out of the guard kneeling, and Almeida boots him in the head once again. The referee calls time and gives Almeida another foul, before Lindland clinches to avoid a flying knee upon the restart. Lindland grabs a waistlock, and delivers a HUGE GERMAN SUPLEX to get Almeida down, before he rolls back into guard. Lindland works the body, then stands and gets some kicks to the legs with Almeida on his back to end the round. Lindland’s clearly in complete control of this one.

Third and final round, and Almeida presses to open, but Lindland clinches and gets another takedown to the guard and starts working the body. He stands again, and then gets another takedown back into Almeida’s guard. Lindland tries to move him towards the fence again, but when he kneels up out of the guard, Almeida kicks him in the head AGAIN, and the referee calls for the DQ. Almeida’s head seemed to be somewhere else completely with those kicks (Pride maybe?) but it didn’t exactly cost him the fight as Lindland was dominating anyway and would’ve got the easy decision. I don’t get people who call Lindland’s fights boring, as he seems to bust out some really cool stuff for the most part. Granted he doesn’t look like a star, but still, he can get the job done.

-We see highlights of the preliminary fights, featuring Tony DeSouza over Steve Berger via decision, and BJ Penn (in his UFC debut) over Joey Gilbert by TKO.

Heavyweight Fight: Semmy Schilt vs Pete Williams

This was Schilt’s debut in the UFC, and he’d been fighting mainly in the Pancrase organization beforehand. Williams was making a return to the UFC after about six months away, following his loss to Kevin Randleman for the vacant Heavyweight Title. As with most Schilt matches, the size difference is ludicrous here.

Schilt comes out looking to strike from distance, but Williams gets a nice takedown into the guard, wanting nothing to do with the standup. Schilt simply holds his wrists to prevent any strikes, as Williams moves him to the fence but can’t really do much. Why doesn’t he try those downward elbow strikes that Evan Tanner uses when his wrists get grabbed? Williams suddenly moves into the full mount position, but again he can’t do much as Schilt holds him. The strength difference must be huge in this one. Schilt gets it back to half-guard, as Williams tries to drop some forearms to close the round. Williams just seemed physically overwhelmed even though he got the top position.

Schilt comes out for the second round and lands a front kick, then avoids a takedown and barely misses a big left. Schilt presses the action, and gets a HARD BODY KICK that puts Williams down. Schilt makes him stand back up, and he’s looking hurt. Semmy lands a leg kick, and avoids a takedown before pounding the body. Back up, and Schilt nails a high kick, a body kick and a jab that rocks him badly. Pete staggers back, then tries another takedown, but Schilt avoids and lands a left, a hard body kick, and then another drilling left to KO Williams at 1:30 of the second round. Williams basically got taken apart standing, and once he couldn’t get Schilt down, it was over and done with.

-We get the announcement that UFC 32 will be headlined by Tito Ortiz defending his Light-Heavyweight Title against Australian Elvis Sinosic. Sinosic and Ortiz do the showdown thing in the Octagon, and appear to have a ton of respect for one another. In a funny spot Tito makes him touch the title belt, saying it’s the closest he’ll be getting to it. The show is of course next on my review list.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Serra vs Shonie Carter

Serra’s now a Lightweight, and Carter for some reason isn’t in the UFC any more. Not sure why as he’s hugely charismatic, coming out dressed like a pimp. The finish of this fight is pretty famous, too.

Serra presses to open the first round, and grabs a single leg takedown into the half-guard. Serra passes to the full mount, but Carter quickly powers up to his feet before any damage can be done. They clinch, and Serra jumps and pulls guard. Serra tries an armbar, then transitions over to an oma plata, but Carter manages to roll out. Serra gets a side mount with Carter on all fours, and tries another oma plata, but Carter avoids and comes back to his feet with a single leg. They press, and Serra rocks him with a HUGE high kick, staggering Carter. Carter grabs the clinch, so Serra goes down to his back, and grabs a heel hook. Carter avoids, but ends up getting mounted, and rolls, giving his back to Serra. Serra gets both hooks in as the crowd fire off a huge ‘SERRA!’ chant. Carter blocks the choke by grabbing Serra’s hand, and manages to turn, and stand up. They press, and Carter blocks a takedown, so Serra pulls guard again and tries a triangle choke. Carter avoids, and drops some good punches, then stands, before faking a kick and DROPPING SERRA WITH A SPINNING BACK ELBOW!~! Round ends with Serra down, looking stunned, after one of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen in MMA. Incredible opener here, one of the best rounds of fighting I’ve ever seen.

Carter lands a good left to open the second as Serra presses. They clinch, and Serra tries a takedown, but Carter counters with a single leg, and pulls a cradle down into Serra’s guard. Serra tries to prep some submission attempts, so Carter stands back up. Carter lands a good leg kick, and then blocks a high kick before Serra clinches. Carter blocks another takedown, and lands some knees to the midsection. Serra pulls guard, and almost ends up getting mounted, but grabs a heel hook to prevent it and Carter has to work to escape. They come back up in the clinch, and Carter gets a hiptoss takedown into the half-guard. Back up, and Cater sprawls to avoid a takedown, ending up in Serra’s guard. Serra comes up with an attempted Capoeira kick (!), but Carter grabs a front facelock to end the round. Serra’s looking tired at this point.

Serra clinches to open the final round, and pulls guard. They come back up inside the clinch and exchange knees, before Carter gets a leg trip takedown and punches away just outside the guard. Serra gets full guard, and tries a triangle, but Carter avoids and stands. Serra comes up and shoots in for a takedown, and they simultaneously exchange takedown defenses, before Serra ends up taking his back! Awesome reversal sequence there. Carter escapes into the guard, and they come up in the clinch before Serra tries to pull guard again. Carter holds him up this time, though, and then lands some knees in the clinch. He avoids a takedown, and Serra looks really gassed now. Carter blocks another shot, and grabs a headlock takedown before hitting the body. Serra tries another triangle, so Carter stands, and fakes a kick, before HITTING ANOTHER SPINNING BACKFIST to KO Serra at the end of the third! I never would’ve expected Carter to be able to pull the move off, let alone TWICE in one fight.

This was an amazing fight, one of the best I’ve seen, I think. There was non-stop action throughout, as it went back and forth, and Serra’s hyper-active Jiu Jitsu against Carter’s excellent defense and unorthodox striking made for one hell of a battle. Plus, where else are you going to see someone get KOd by a spinning backfist? Carter celebrates with a one handed cartwheel, as I’m wondering more and more why he isn’t in UFC any more.

-Pedro Rizzo ‘Up Close’ feature is next, and it goes through his early Judo background, before explaining how UFC legend Marco Ruas actually trained him for free. Interesting stuff.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Chuck Liddell vs Kevin Randleman

This was Randleman’s first fight as a Light-Heavyweight, and from what I know, they were pushing him for a title shot at Tito Ortiz on one of the upcoming shows. Liddell on the other hand had a 2-1 record in UFC at this point, and wasn’t known as one of the tip-top guys like he was today. He was also a training partner/friend of Tito, which (I’m guessing) is one of the reasons they put him against Randleman here.

Randleman presses to open, and gets a bodylock against the fence. Liddell blocks the takedown, showing his tremendous defense, and then breaks the lock. They come out, and Liddell lands a HUGE LEFT HAND that sends Randleman falling backwards, then pounces with a flurry of punches before the official comes diving in for the stoppage. Randleman looks pissed off with the stoppage, but c’mon, he was OUT. Liddell celebrates with…who else? Tito Ortiz. Seeing these guys here is not only surreal, but it makes me lean more and more towards Tito’s story of the reasons why he didn’t fight Liddell (“Chuck was my friend, and I didn’t want to fight my friend”) as they come across for all intents and purposes as best buddies.

This was a sweet knockout, and pretty much put Liddell on the map as one of the very best LHWs in the world. The loss pretty much signalled the end of Randleman’s UFC career, as he went on to beat Babalu Sobral in a preliminary fight at UFC 35, before moving on to Pride. Another great fight on a show that hasn’t disappointed yet.

UFC Welterweight Title: Pat Miletich vs Carlos Newton

Miletich, the champion, was unbeaten in the UFC over a period of three years at this point. The announcers try to play Newton up as his total opposite, as he’s young, flashy, and more likely to take risks. Carlos enters to Men In Black, dancing around with shades and a black suit on, basically proving the announcers right I guess.

Both press to open, and Miletich clinches as they muscle for position. They exchange knees and body shots, before Miletich breaks with a right. Miletich lands a couple of good shots, as Newton presses the action. Newton keeps coming forward, but Miletich looks to counter, and lands some nice counterpunches to keep Newton at bay. Newton tries a takedown, but Miletich blocks and keeps landing some sweet counters. Newton gets the takedown right at the end of the round, into the guard, but can’t do anything with it as the round ends.

2nd round, and Miletich presses to open, but Newton catches him with an awesome spinning takedown to the side mount. Pat comes back up, but Newton grabs a guillotine. Miletich counters with a takedown to side mount, and lands a good shot as Newton escapes. Newton nails him with a hard knee as they come up, and they trade punches, with Newton now becoming the aggressor. Miletich keeps counterpunching, and then lands a NICE high kick that snaps Newton’s head back. Newton counters a left with a takedown to the guard, and works in the guard as Miletich tries to escape, to end the round.

Into the third, and Miletich presses, landing a good combo and a couple of good low kicks. Miletich hits a good knee in the clinch, but the ref calls time as Newton gets a thumb in the eye. They restart, and Miletich lands a hard combo, but Newton gets a takedown to the guard. Newton works in the guard, moving Miletich towards the fence, where Pat attempts an escape. Miletich almost gets to his feet, but Newton takes his back and grabs a TIGHT headlock choke, almost wrenching Miletich’s head off, and Pat’s forced to tap out, giving us a NEW Welterweight Champion! Miletich throws his gum shield down in fury, as Newton celebrates. Pretty cool fight here, as Newton was basically taking a pasting from Miletich’s counterpunches, but got one opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. This would’ve been an adequate main event and enough to gain this show a huge recommendation, but hey, why stop here?

-Randy Couture close-up feature, which explains how he got into MMA on a chance phonecall, incredibly. Another good segment.

UFC Heavyweight Title: Randy Couture vs Pedro Rizzo

Pedro had a ton of momentum coming in, as his only loss was his previous title shot at Kevin Randleman, while his last fight was a huge KO of Josh Barnett at UFC 30. Couture brings Dan Henderson with him, and if anything, looks in better shape three years on. Crowd heat is off the hook for the introductions.

Couture comes out for the opener trying for the clinch, but Pedro answers with a good shot. Couture finally grabs the clinch, and works to muscle him towards the fence. Couture lands some knees, and opens up with his trademark dirty boxing, hitting some rabbit punches and uppercuts, before Rizzo lands a knee to break. Couture comes forward with a big takedown, ramming Rizzo right into the fence, where he begins to pound away in the half-guard. Rizzo tries to cover up and block, but Couture continues to pound away just outside the guard, opening a huge cut on Rizzo’s head. Couture keeps hammering away with the forearms and punches, coming VERY close to finishing before the round closes out. If that had lasted maybe 30 seconds more, the fight’s over. As it was, Rizzo was very lucky.

Couture presses to open the second, but when he shoots in for a takedown, Rizzo counters with a BIG kick to the midsection that hurts the champ, and grabs a front facelock. Back up, and Rizzo easily avoids another takedown attempt, before landing a hard leg kick and a good punch combo. Randy tries to come forward, but Rizzo hits him with another hard combo and sprawls to avoid a takedown. Couture stays down, crawling forward for another attempt, but Rizzo sprawls again. Back up, and Couture looks very tired. Rizzo lands another hard punch, and a leg kick that buckles Couture’s knee. He keeps teeing off with combos and leg kicks, as Randy tries to clinch, only for Rizzo to easily avoid. Rizzo keeps coming, landing a punch and then a BIG HIGH KICK that bloodies Couture’s nose. Rizzo sprawls to avoid another takedown attempt, and then lands a kick, before avoiding the clinch. Rizzo then DROPS HIM with a short right! Rizzo punches away as Couture tries to cover up on all fours, but can’t finish him off as the round ends. I’d say Rizzo was as close to finishing here, as Couture was in the first round.

They circle to open the third round, and Couture tries to clinch and land some uppercuts, but Rizzo quickly backs off. Couture shoots in for a takedown, and Pedro gets a nice sprawl and holds him. Rizzo stands and lands some shots with Couture still on all fours, then goes back to the front facelock. Couture stays down as Rizzo comes up, trying to avoid more shots, but the official stands him. They call time for Couture’s nose, and check it over, before restarting. Couture avoids a leg kick, and gets a takedown into the guard. Randy lands some shoulder strikes and forearms, albeit very slowly, as he tries to get some energy back. Couture keeps him held down, but doesn’t do much as he’s clearly tired, and the round ends. Even round for the most part.

Rizzo lands a combo as Randy comes forward to open the fourth round, before they clinch and Couture lands some hard uppercuts. Couture keeps working the clinch, until they come out and trade as Randy comes dangerously forward ala Barnett. Randy gets a single leg, but Rizzo escapes, so Couture fakes a kick and then tries a takedown, but Rizzo sprawls to avoid again. Back up, and Couture counters a punch with a DRIVING TAKEDOWN in the center of the ring, into the side mount. Couture drops some forearms, but Rizzo manages to get to full guard. Couture holds him down to end. This was probably Randy’s round, with the clinch work at the beginning and the hard takedown to end.

We’re into the fifth and final round, and they both press and exchange from distance as Rizzo avoids another takedown. Couture looks to clinch, but Pedro avoids and counters, then avoids another takedown with the sprawl. Back up, and Rizzo gets a leg kick, before avoiding another takedown. Both men look tired as Rizzo holds him in the front facelock, seemingly content to stay in the position to catch his breath. Rizzo starts to land some body shots, and then comes up, as it seems like another good combo could finish Randy off, but Rizzo still seems to want to counterpunch. They exchange from distance, as time begins to run out quickly, but as Couture shoots in, Rizzo catches him with a HARD kick to the upper thigh and midsection, putting Couture down! Rizzo finishes off with a flurry, but the fight closes before he can end it.

We go to the judges, and the winner is…Couture! Rizzo looks absolutely gutted beyond belief at the decision, as Couture himself looks almost surprised. This was a phenomenal fight, probably second only to Herring-Nogueira in terms of Heavyweight matches that I’ve seen. Was the decision the right one? I’m not really sure, as it was a uber-close fight that went the distance, and both men had definite chances to finish it off properly. I think if Rizzo had come forward and pressed the action a little more in the third, and especially the fifth, he could’ve had the match won, but once again it was his inability to really engage the fight that cost him. Couture’s guts and determination really shone through here, as he came close to finishing in the first, but ended up having the hell beaten out of him in the second and was lucky to survive the round. Just a tremendous main event overall, and one that I can’t praise highly enough.

Final Thoughts…

UFC 31 is easily one of the best UFC shows I’ve seen, if not maybe THE very best. There’s not a bad fight here, and everything outside of Almeida-Lindland ends in a hugely dramatic way. Serra-Carter is exciting from bell-to-bell, Newton-Miletich and Randleman-Liddell both feature huge upsets and crazy finishes, and the main event is just one of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen. The card is one of the rare ones that you can watch completely from start to finish, without being bored by any of the fights, and in both UFC and Pride, that’s hugely rare. If you can find some way of getting hold of this show, do it, as you’ll be entertained throughout.

I’ve decided to finish up my collection of UFC before moving back to Pride for the reviews, so expect UFC 32, 33, 34, and 48 sooner rather than later. Until then,

Peace,

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com