Friday, May 10, 2002
Bustamante Retains Belt,while The Rookies Steal The Show
Bustamante Retains Belt,
While the Rookies Steal the Show
By Jim Genia
Bossier City, Louisiana — It was a night of fresh faces, made bloody by hard fought battles and impressive displays of heart. UFC 37 "High Impact" is now one for the record books, and a card plagued by replacements and substitutes will go down as one of the most action-packed ever. Middleweight champ Murilo Bustamante proved again why he’s the best in the world — out-striking, out-wrestling, and submitting Olympic silver medallist Matt Lindland — but the real thrills of the night came in the preliminary bouts, where the rookies of the Octagon seemed to steal the show.
Though relegated to the preliminaries, no one doubted there’d be a war between welterweight AMC Pankration brawler Aaron Riley and Miletich-protégé Robbie Lawler [Pictured post-fight at right]. True to form, these two first-timers gave their all. Lawler showed off his heavy hands, landing blow after blow, while Riley gamely ate every one of them and kept coming. In the second round, Riley scrambled and took his opponent’s back, nearly sinking in the choke as Lawler remained standing and defended. In the third round, the seesaw battle continued. Lawler eventually earned the unanimous judges’ decision, but both fighters had earned the praise and recognition they deserved.
The other showstopper was the preliminary match-up of middleweight AMC Pankration fighter Ivan Salaverry and Russian warrior Andrei Semenov. These two men went at it at a breakneck pace, with Salaverry relentlessly attempting submissions and Semenov doggedly escaping each one. The punishment eventually took its toll, though, and as an exhausted Semenov was unable to effectively defend himself from Salaverry’s blows from the side-mount, the referee was forced to step in. Salaverry was victorious at 2:27 of the third round.
As impressive as the rookies were, middleweight champ Bustamante [Pictured post-fight at right] was no slouch in his derailment of the runaway locomotive known as Matt Lindland. Handing Lindland his first defeat in the Octagon, the Brazilian took him down and controlled him early in the first round. A near fully-extended armbar and a gesture interpreted for a tapout saw referee Big John McCarthy step in — only to restart the fighters from their feet after acknowledging that he’d made a mistake. Undaunted, Bustamante remained focused, avoiding Lindland’s strong flurries and landing a stunning right that sent the wrestler to the canvas in the third round. Capitalizing on Lindland’s condition, Bustamante sunk in the guillotine choke and got the tap — this one clear and undisputed — at 1:33 of round 3.
The action on the rest of the card was almost comparable. Japanese lightweight superstar Caol Uno engaged in a methodical and technical ground war with Texan Yves Edwards. Edwards, showing off some slick grappling skills himself, came close to landing a few submissions on the "submission specialist." Uno prevailed, however, and got the judges’ nod after three rounds. Also, lightweight monster BJ Penn looked relaxed and patient as he controlled Renzo Gracie-fighter Paul Creighton. Creighton — who lasted longer than Penn’s first three opponents in the Octagon — did his best to tie up the "Phenom," but ended up losing via referee stoppage due to unanswered strikes from the mount at 3:20 of the second round.
In the only heavyweight bout of the night, Ricco Rodriguez secured a win over veteran Tsuyoshi "TK" Kosaka. Keeping ahead in the scrambles, Rodriguez stayed on top for most of the fight (TK did have some impressive escapes). Unanswered blows from the mount forced the referee to stop that match at 3:25 of round 2. Rodriguez comes one step closer to earning his shot at the heavyweight belt. Representing the middleweights, "New York Badass" Phil Baroni talked trash about his opponent — Russian striker Amar Suloev — and backed it up with some devastating striking on the ground. Utilizing his newly-refined grappling technique (courtesy of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu trainer Ricardo Pires), Baroni weathered an illegal knee to the face and an armbar attempt to escape and gain the half-mount. There, Baroni rained down his fists of fury, knocking out Soloev at 2:55 of the first round. And in the most controversial fight of the night, welterweight veteran Steve Berger found his match called as he was hunting for a leglock on opponent Benji Radach. Radach, a Dennis Hallman-protégé and strong puncher, had floored Berger with a right and was continuing to nail him in the head — prompting referee Mason White to step in at 0:27 of the first round. Was the fight stopped too soon? Many thought so, but Radach got the win, while Berger will undoubtedly get another shot in the Octagon.
For the fans that had expected little, this card turned out to be an action-packed surprise. Bustamante kept his belt and looked good in the process, while a fresh crop of rookies made their mark — and secured their futures in the UFC. High Impact was a resounding success.
posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm