MMA Review: #10: UFC 43: Meltdown May05

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MMA Review: #10: UFC 43: Meltdown

Bonjour.

After my quick stop-off in the form of Pride: Final Conflict, I’m moving back to the UFC side of things for these reviews for a while, to finish off the series of shows from UFC 35 to 45. This show, UFC 43, centered around the controversy over the Light Heavyweight Title, and was headlined by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, with guys like Vitor Belfort, Tank Abbott, and Kimo on the undercard. Certainly more star power than UFC 42, but would the Octagon action match that show?

UFC 43: Meltdown

06/06/03

Las Vegas, Nevada

-We begin with a quick explanation of how the main event has come about. Tito Ortiz, the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion was supposed to defend on this show against longtime #1 contender Chuck Liddell, but for a number of reasons (Tito had an injury, Tito was filming a movie, Tito wasn’t being paid enough, Tito was possibly ducking Liddell) Ortiz didn’t want to fight on this show. So rather than wait and put together Ortiz-Liddell at a later date, the UFC decided to have a fight for the ‘Interim’ Light Heavyweight Title, pitting Liddell against former UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture. Personally, I don’t like the idea of the Interim Title as I don’t see the need for two titles, but looking at it on the other hand, I guess it was better than having it seem like Chuck was being forced to put his #1 Contender status on the line again.

Heavyweight Fight: Frank Mir vs Wes Sims

Mir we’ve seen before, tapping out Pete Williams and Tank Abbott respectively, but he also took a real pasting at the hands of Ian Freeman at UFC 38. Sims is a newcomer to the UFC – this is his debut. His size is obviously the advantage, as he stands at a massive 6’9’. Sims comes off as a goof right away, nodding his head crazily as the official asks if he’s ready. They get underway, and Sims rushes in, only for Mir to quickly take him down. Sims has a weak guillotine choke locked on, but Mir easily gets into side control. Mir goes for an arm, looking for the submission, but then changes his mind, and goes into a full mount. He tries to rain down some shots from the mount, before Sims moves and Mir takes his back. Mir goes for the rear naked choke, but can’t get it, and they roll back with Mir still in the full mount. Mir gets the arm, and goes for an armbar, but Sims uses his strength to pick Mir up, and drop him on his head to break the move (ala Tim Sylvia against Ricco Rodriguez). Sims follows up by grabbing the fence and raining about five stomps down onto Mir, causing the DQ. Mir looks OUT.

Obviously Sims didn’t read the rulebook, or thought he was in Pride, because the rules of UFC clearly state that you cannot stomp/kick a downed opponent. Sims makes the situation worse after the fight by tossing his mouthpiece into the crowd and kicking the side of the fence like he’s been robbed or something. Couple this display with one of the extras – Sims basically taking jabs at Tim Sylvia’s weight – and it means that Sims is one of my most disliked fighters. Just total stupidity on his part really.

Heavyweight Fight: Ian Freeman vs Vernon White

Freeman is of course a fellow Brit, but I’ll try not to be biased. Vernon White is one of the Lion’s Den guys making his UFC debut, and he’s actually a late replacement for the injured Ken Shamrock. I think the UFC must have been kinda worried that people would be pissed at the loss of Shamrock, because the announcers are so much on White’s nuts here that it’s annoying. There’s no need to plug a fighter that much, even if they’re trying to cover up for the loss of a guy like Shamrock.

They exchange from distance to open the first round, and White gets an early takedown into Freeman’s guard. White tries to work from the guard, then decides to stand and drop shots down onto Freeman from that position. Back up, and White tries for the takedown again, and they exchange inside the clinch. Freeman then gets a takedown into White’s guard, where he hammers down with some shots. Back up, and White gets some good knees inside the clinch as both guys work for the takedown until the round ends. Pretty even first round here, both guys got some good shots in and neither man really got into control.

White refuses the glove touch to open the second for whatever reason. He throws some kicks from distance, while Freeman swings some punches, which White avoids by dodging back. They exchange, and Freeman gets some nice knees in the clinch. White kneels, and Freeman takes his back, and holds him in the position without really doing much. Freeman attempts to roll him over to get his hooks in, but White reverses causing Freeman to pull a quick escape. Freeman gets back into the behind position, and gets some punches in before they get back up. Now White takes Freeman’s back, and punches away, but when he goes for the rear naked choke Freeman’s able to turn over. White then gets the full mount, only for Freeman to buck him off. White throws a stomp, which luckily misses (he must’ve forgotten the rules too), and then goes back into Freeman’s guard. White punches in the guard, before passing to side control. Freeman tries to roll to escape, and White takes the opportunity to go for a kimura, but Freeman gets out and they get back to their feet in the clinch. White looks GASSED, and Freeman rocks him with a combo to end the round. Another close round, but I think White had the edge.

Round three opens up with White trying an elaborate spinning backfist, but Freeman avoids and NAILS White with a good combo of punches and knees. Freeman works the clinch, and tries a takedown but White reverses into the mount! White goes for a heel hook, and Freeman returns the favour, before both guys let go and come back up to their feet. White goes for a guillotine as they get up, but Freeman breaks and gets in another good combo. He grabs White into a front facelock, but lets go as both guys look very tired. Both work the clinch, using it to hold on as the time runs down, with neither man really doing much. The official breaks the clinch, and Freeman rocks him with another combo before the fight ends.

VERY close fight here. I’d have a hard time picking a winner…and so do the judges apparently, as the fight is declared a draw. I’d say that was a fair result as White had the second round, with Freeman pretty much controlling the third. The fight was slow in parts, but the action flowed for the most part, and it went back and forth enough to be entertaining throughout. Not a bad fight at all, though I’d be lying if I said Shamrock-Freeman wouldn’t have been more intriguing.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Marvin Eastman

This was Vitor’s big comeback fight after nearly a year out of fighting. From what I’ve heard, his run in Pride wasn’t nearly as exciting as his early run in the UFC, as he changed his game from more of a striking type to ground and pound/submissions. His next return to the UFC, in late 2001, was marred by claims of injury and an absence to film a Brazilian reality TV show. He finally returned to the UFC in June 2002 where Chuck Liddell beat him, and after a year, this was his return match. I’ve not heard of Eastman before, but he looks in shape here.

Eastman starts the fight by keeping his distance, and pressing the fight from there. Finally, Eastman shoots in, and Belfort grabs him in the clinch and gives him two HUGE jumping knees to the head, putting Eastman on the canvas. Before Marvin can even move, Belfort pounces and follows with a flurry of MACHINE GUN PUNCHES TO THE FACE!~! that stop the fight quickly. Holy shit. I’ve never seen hand speed like that before in my life…the announcers are saying that the ‘old Vitor’ is back, and if that’s what the old Vitor is like (I’ve only seen highlights, and the infamous Silva match), I need to see more. Eddie Bravo interviews Belfort post-fight, and rather than talk about the fight itself he decides to go on a crazy rant about how Jesus changed his life, before thanking his family and bursting into tears. Eastman finally gets up as Belfort is announced the winner, and HOLY GOD, the cut above his eye is SICK. Seriously, that thing looks like someone took an axe to his head. I have never seen anything like this in boxing or MMA, and Eastman has to be scarred for life from it. It’s not a good picture, but you can kinda see how bad the cut is here. Absolutely amazing.

Heavyweight Fight: Tank Abbott vs Kimo Leopoldo

Tank’s second fight back in the UFC was against another relic of UFC’s past, Kimo Leopoldo. I’d never seen Kimo fight until this one – although I’d heard about him being a bit of a headcase from Justin’s Journey Into MMA columns. One thing’s for sure – he certainly looks cool, with the crazy tattoos, including one of a huge cross on his back. Pity he didn’t carry the cross out on his back this time, as they showed in the video package going in. The package also showed him pushing Royce Gracie to the limit. The announcers keep harping on about how this fight is between the toughest men in Huntington Beach, California – but I think Tito Ortiz would beg to differ.

Anyway, Tank (as always) comes out swinging, only for Kimo to push his head downwards while sprawling into a front facelock. He quickly grabs a single leg, and takes Tank down into the half-guard, then moves into a full mount. Kimo slooooowwwly works for a head and arm triangle submission while on the mat, as the crowd begin to boo loudly. Rogan says that it’s because they’re not sure what’s going on, but I think it has more to do with them expecting a real brawl. Kimo eventually locks the hold on properly, and Tank taps out at just under two minutes. Well, that was a waste of time. Kimo says he’d been training a lot of Jiu-Jitsu and wanted to use it, which is fair enough, but I think every man and his dog were expecting an all-out brawl here. Another disappointing outing for Tank.

Interim Light-Heavyweight Title: Randy Couture vs Chuck Liddell

Okay, as I explained at the top of the review, this is for the ‘Interim’ Light-Heavyweight Title, with the winner to meet Tito Ortiz at a later date to determine an undisputed champion. Liddell seems to be the overwhelming favourite going in, with Joe Rogan seemingly being the only guy who thinks Couture can pull it off. His theory is basically that A, Liddell’s never faced a wrestler as good as Couture – a man who has more chance of getting him to the ground B, Couture’s only major losses were to *huge* guys in Barnett and Rodriguez, and in the Light-Heavyweight Division, Couture’s not a small guy like he was in the Heavyweight Division, and C, every other time they’ve expected Couture to lose (Belfort, Smith, Randleman, Rizzo), he’s won. Man has a point, let’s see what happens.

Liddell comes out with the WORST ENTRANCE EVER, with some guy looking like Dustin Runnels as ‘Se7en’ talking about Liddell, before we get blasts of weird pyro and a reworked Vanilla Ice song. Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds, it’s worse. They circle to begin, and Liddell swings with his looping punches, but Couture simply closes in more, unafraid of getting hit, and connects better. REALLY good gameplan. Couture backs him towards the fence, and gets a HUGE takedown into the half-guard, but Chuck shows his skill, and manages to stand up almost immediately. Randy works the clinch, getting some nice shots in, before Chuck breaks, and swings, right back into the clinch. Back out again, and Couture is just counterpunching brilliantly, stepping inside every time Chuck throws a big shot. Couture gets a nice 1-2 right-left combo as he really begins to push the fight, before he gets an awesome charging takedown right into the fence. He tries to hold Chuck down in position, but again Chuck manages to get up. Randy grabs a waistlock, but Chuck blocks a suplex attempt to end the round.

They both press to open the second round, before Couture gets a good right, into the clinch where they exchange knees. The clinch breaks, and Couture gets another good right. Couture continues to press, hitting a nice combo on the instep again, and he follows by coming in close to avoid the looping punches and hits some good jabs. My God, this gameplan is perfect. Every time Liddell throws a looping, knockout punch, Randy just steps into it and counters with a shorter punch. They go into the clinch once more and exchange more knees, and finally Chuck gets a good shot in as they break, hitting Couture with a sweet right hand. Randy works the left hook, catching Chuck a few times before Chuck swings another looping punch. Randy grabs a single leg, and gets the takedown into the guard. Chuck tries to stand up again, but he’s clearly struggling a bit more this time. He finally manages to get to his knees, and then stands, before taking Randy down into the half-guard! The announcers are quick to say that this could be the turning point in the fight for Chuck.

Chuck tries a low kick to open the 3rd, and Randy counters with a HARD LEFT JAB that snaps Liddell’s head back! Couture steps in and gets a solid uppercut, as Chuck’s nose begins to bleed. Randy continues to outstrike Liddell with the gameplan of stepping into the shots, hitting a 1-2 combo that rocks Chuck as the announcers are in awe, saying that if this were a kickboxing bout, Couture would be winning. Chuck obviously recognizes that he’s in trouble, and begins to swing punches with more abandon, but Randy clinches and gets some shots from there, before breaking back out and pressing the fight some more. Couture gets another sweet counterpunch, and gets the takedown INTO THE MOUNT! Liddell doesn’t even try to get out, seemingly exhausted, as Couture RAINS DOWN THE SHOTS until McCarthy stops the fight. Wow.

The fans are basically in awe, the announcers are in awe, and so am I. Couture’s gameplan was basically flawless here. He simply took the fight to Chuck, something he’s not used to, and pushed the pace, while stepping inside and counterpunching to avoid Chuck’s big punches. Randy immediately challenges Tito after the match, saying that if he wants the belt, he’s going to have to come and take it. This was a really good fight, and if you can’t find some inspiration in a 39 year old guy, coming off two major losses, beating a man who’s ranked near the top of the division and has only lost once, something’s wrong with you. All hail Couture, I guess.

The Extras

Again, the backstage stuff isn’t really notable outside of the little Wes Sims part, where he makes fun of Tim Sylvia’s weight. Sylvia comments that he’d like to knock Sims out, and yeah’I’d love to see that. The preliminaries are pretty good on this one, though.

Tra Telligman vs Pedro Rizzo is one of the only Rizzo fights I’ve enjoyed from what I’ve seen of him, as Tra comes out to fight, dropping Rizzo early. Rizzo is more than happy to oblige, and they go into a great slugfest with Rizzo showing why he’s considered such a devastating striker, stopping Telligman on a sick cut towards the end of the second.

Matt Lindland vs Falaniko Vitale has a completely freakish ending, as Lindland struggles for the takedown, before attempting a throw, and landing on his head, KOing himself early in the first round. Completely bizarre.

Yves Edwards vs Eddie Ruiz is pretty interesting, as Yves dominates from bell to bell, but just can’t finish Eddie, who shows as much resiliency as I’ve ever seen in MMA. One of the kicks Yves gives him is absolutely SICK. Edwards gets the unanimous decision in a one-sided fight that’s still entertaining to watch.

Final Thoughts

I liked this show a lot. In overall terms it’s one of the stronger DVDs as the preliminaries are all pretty decent (or just funny to watch – the Lindland incident) and there’s not a really slow match on the card. White vs Freeman went the distance but had a decent pace throughout, and it was a very close fight, making it a bit more entertaining. Belfort-Eastman was one of the sickest endings I’ve ever seen, complete with a horrific cut. I didn’t like the Tank Abbott match, but it was short at least. The main event was amazing to watch, as Couture just put on an absolutely classic performance, completely derailing Liddell. In overall UFC terms from what I’ve seen, I’d put this somewhere behind UFCs 40, 41, and 47 but just above everything else. Another really good show.

Scott Newman:

OratoryNewman@gmail.com