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Always A Champion:
Couture Clinches Fourth Title, 3 KO’s Highlight UFC 49
By Loretta Hunt and Joe Hall
To an estimated audience of 12,157 and a live gate of over two million dollars (a first according to UFC president Dana White), UFC 49 optimized the action with speedy, fast-paced melees. Getting the pay-per-view rolling with three dynamic knockouts, stars of old and new gave it their all in some memorable encounters.
The post fight conference yielded its gems as well: Dana White openly chiding PRIDE officials for some kind of cross-over action between the two promotions, the announcement of UFC 51 to take place in Japan on December 12th, Vitor Belfort’s slip that he’ll headline that Japanese addition versus Tito Ortiz, and a few more tidbits to come in the next few days. As for the fights tonight:
Randy Couture got a standing ovation from the energized audience before he threw a single punch. They knew a champion when they saw one. After their second square-off fell short from a doctor’s stoppage back at January’s UFC 46, Couture and opponent Vitor Belfort picked up where they left off. Couture did exactly what he needed to overwhelm the light-heavyweight champion for three complete rounds, throwing a punch for the top priority clinch that would keep Belfort’s heavy hands tied up. Couture worked hard for the takedown, but the Phenom persevered, until referee John McCarthy stepped in to separate the two icons. Starting again, Couture was on Belfort again just as fast, pushing him against the cage once more. But this time "the Natural" got his takedown and went to work on Belfort’s face to round’s end. Round two and three mirrored its predecessor, as Belfort’s visage bruised and bled from Couture’s relentless elbows and strikes. Save for a sporadic armbar attempt here and there, Belfort did little to answer, taking his punishment with a disappointing thud. Stopping for a ringside doctor to check a nasty gash parallel to Belfort’s right eye in the second, there was question if the fight would continue or if Belfort, himself, would be able to carry on. Yet, the fight did carry on until the end of the third, with blood streaming down the Brazilian’s features as his corner rushed in to prep him for a fourth. Although his defeated expression betrayed him, it was the damage that convinced the ringside physician to call it off before a fourth could begin. His second light-heavyweight title, to go along with his two prior heavyweight title victories over his illustrious seven year career, Couture hardly shows any sign of stopping.
From the look of Chuck Liddell’s face, he probably wasn’t expecting such a tough night with Vernon "Tiger" White in the co-main event. Possibly taking a book out of Randy Couture’s strategy manual, White put the pressure on from the get-go, causing a messy but electric exchange between the two. Catching Liddell with a shot, White pulled guard, but with no hold in sight and Liddell backing out to stand, White was summoned to his feet by referee Mario Yamasaki. What transpired next was a time warp to be sure– a lopsided beating at the hands of Liddell who floored White numerous times, but couldn’t seem to satisfy Yamasaki for an intervention. To White’s credit, he rose from each thrashing, but couldn’t keep his balance long enough to nail Liddell again. Exchanging identical straight rights simultaneously, Liddell got the job done 4:05 in.
In a bit of an upset for the swing bout of the night, Joe Riggs forced Joe Doerksen to submit in the second round of their middleweight bout. Riggs had nullified his opponent’s touted ground game throughout the fight with superior strength, ground defense and an effective sprawl. Even when Doerksen did take the fight to the ground, he was unable to control Riggs’ hips, allowing the Arizonan back to his feet or to the top position. Late in the second round, the young fighter from Arizona used a series of forearm smashes to tear through Doerksen’s guard and cut the Canadian. It appeared that one of the blows may have damaged Doerksen’s nose shortly before he tapped out.
Sporting the official FCF cowboy hat, middleweight veteran Matt Lindland cruised to the cage for his rendezvous with first-time UFC entry Dave Terrell. Terrell, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, was expected to give the Olympic silver medalist a tough time on the mats, but it never got that far. Missing with an opening left cross, Terrell ducked Lindland’s return fire, and landed a flush counter left to his elder’s chin. Lindland fell fast, and Terrell was on top and landing numerous follow-up shots before referee Herb Dean could get in. Terrell gets the impressive knockout just :25 in, and opens the door for fan speculation. With KO power and an already well-documented ground game, is Terrell the next big thing?
With a resounding left hook, Idaho heavyweight and Justin Eilers introduced himself to UFC fans in a spectacular 1:14 seconds. Facing returning American Kickboxing Academy fighter Mike Kyle, a childhood friend as well, Miletich Martial Arts rep Eilers was the first to land a right after thwarting Kyle’s opening charge. Kyle answered the shot with another aggressive attack, getting the clinch and landing consecutive knees, at least one Eilers claims landed a bit too low for his comfort. Wincing in pain, Eilers summoned referee "Big" John McCarthy, who separated the two for a moment as Eilers collected himself. Restarted, both got their licks in, until Eilers connected the right hook and went in for the kill with some missed punches and a haphazard takedown effect. Kyle backpedaled, but couldn’t get out of the way of the decisive punch in time. With incredible discipline, a humble attitude, a great chin, and one of the most prominent MMA teams behind him, Eilers could make quite a dent in the heavyweight division in the year to come.
In the third preliminary bout of the evening, Chris Lytle’s pro boxing background served him well as he connected first with a hook that sent Hawaiian brawler Ronald Jhun back to the mat. Jhun recovered as Lytle pounced into his guard and the fight would remain here for the next few moments as Lytle controlled positioning nicely, securing side control at one point and stilting any submission attempts Jhun went for. To pick up the pace, the men were stood by the referee and finished the remaining 40 seconds.
In a word, it was grueling. The Diaz-Parisyan prelim opened with a burst of action, setting a pace thrilling to watch but impossible to maintain. Parisyan tossed his opponent to the mat early and began dropping a heavy right hand from the top position. He wasn’t in Diaz’s guard long before the first of several scrambles ensued on the ground. The fighters traded submission attempts in a way even the uninformed would find compelling. At one point Diaz hunted for a knee to torque, then nearly took Parisyan’s back, then nearly got Kimured. All of that in a matter of seconds. At another point Diaz slapped on his own kimura, forcing Parisyan to scramble for safety, which he found soon enough by somehow mounting Diaz while his arm was still being wrenched. It became clear midway into the second round that both fighters had burned 15 minutes worth of gas in five feverish minutes. Parisyan looked particularly fatigued, and his strategy turned to plodding forward in a constant search of a takedown. They weren’t quick or powerful attempts, just gutsy and persistent efforts that Diaz could not stop. Toward the end of the second it looked as though the Cesar Gracie-trained fighter was going to pick his exhausted foe apart on the feet, but Parisyan worked Diaz to the mat time and again. In the end his perseverance paid off, and he won a split decision.
As promised, tonight’s lead-off pairing between lightweight stand-outs Josh Thomson and Yves Edwards proved an fast moving outing, mostly on the end of Thomson, who kept the pressure on his opponent from the opening bell. Peppering Edwards with kicks, Thomson chased Edwards against the fence and secured the takedown, but neither could execute against the other on the mats. Edwards struggled to his feet, but couldn’t get much off but for a few stilted hooks while clinched tightly to "the Punk," who answered with some knees to the head and body. What makes Thomson such an exciting fighter is that he’ll keep the action moving at any cost. With less than a minute in the round, he paid dearly for that mantra when quickly spinning around to release Edwards from his waist. Instinctually pulling the spinning back fist as he has throughout his career, Edwards was on top of him to connect with a high right kick that tagged his neck and sent him down. Too stunned to protect himself from Edwards’ follow-up strikes, referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in to halt the action at 4:32 into the first round.
UFC 49: Unfinished Business Results
UFC 49 Weigh-ins Host Bevy of Fan Bonuses
By Loretta Hunt
Friday, June 20, 2004 - With MMA’s guardian angel Joe Rogan at the mic, the official UFC 49 weigh-ins kicked off today with a screening of American Head Charge’s ‘Cowards’ music video, chock full of Chuck Liddell’s UFC fight footage. Grunge-infused STEMM were also in attendance, the rockers responsible for the UFC’s ‘Face The Pain’ opening theme song. STEMM stayed on for autographs following the proceedings, along with former champions Tim Sylvia and Matt Hughes, as well as current UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. MGM overseers estimated 1,300 to 1,400 spectators turned out for all the bonus goodies. But, what they really came out for were the weights’
In the main event, former light-heavyweight champion Randy Couture and current champion will finally apprise their meeting back from late January, laying to rest any speculation fans might have as to who is the rightful owner of the golden hardware. It was UFC 46 where Belfort’s phenomenal reflexes caught ‘The Natural’ off-guard as he shot in for the clinch under a minute into the first round. Belfort’s glove seam grazed Couture’s eye and a doctor’s stoppage delivered the nimble Brazilian the belt. Tomorrow, the two will meet again to settle their ‘unfinished business.’ Today, both received warm greetings for their efforts, with Belfort coming in at 205 on the dot, and Couture clocking in just one pound lighter.
Ken Shamrock, two days fresh off reconstructive shoulder surgery, led his Lion’s Den charge Vernon ‘Tiger’ White to the stage. As his patriarch sternly looked on, White simply shrugged when he weighed in a comparatively light 200 pounds. Receiving the heartiest ovation of all, opponent Chuck ‘Iceman’ Liddell weighed in a pound over the light-heavyweight limit at 206 pounds. Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director ruled an allowance of the extra 12 ounces, as the two converged next to the scale for their staredown, the first legitimate one of the day. Stepping as close to each other as officials would allow, their glances elicited a genuine reaction from the crowd.
For the swing bout tomorrow night, you can bet the UFC is banking on a quotient mark to charge the end of their program. Middleweights Joe Riggs and Joe Doerksen should deliver a fast-paced affair, be it if the heavy-handed Riggs gets his sixth knockout in a row, or BJJ brown belt Doerksen gets the submission. Riggs came in at 185 pounds, while Doerksen was 184.5 pounds.
Olympic veteran Matt Lindland confidently made his way to the stage flanked by the Team Quest players. He’ll face Cesar Gracie BJJ black belt Dave Terrell tomorrow, rumored to have the submission kryptonite to the impervious Superman who has dominated the champion-less division for some time. Both athletes clocked in at 185 pounds.
To kick of the live pay-per-view, heavyweights Mike Kyle and Justin Eilers will most likely come to blows early. Kyles is a WEC champion and a power puncher by nature. Eilers, a product of the Miletich camp, can take a punch and dish it back. Growing up together in Idaho, they’ve played college football together, but in recent years, their paths have undeniably diverged. Tomorrow, these two childhood friends will have to duke it out to get a leg up in the UFC ranks. Eilers came in at 232 pounds today. Kyle was right behind him at 237 pounds.
Two of the more anticipated bouts by way of the hardcore contingency are the first two scheduled bouts of the evening. Lightweight leaders Yves Edwards and Josh Thomson could prove an even-matched pair tomorrow evening in all areas of the game. Today, AKA rep Thomson weighed in at 156 pounds, one pound heavier than allowable, but again the NSAC waived the formality. Texan Edwards chomped on a chocolate bar as he weighed in at 154.5 pounds, offering a taste to opponent Thomson as they squared off for photos. A game Thomson replied by puckering a kiss in Edwards’ direction.
Welterweights Nick Diaz and Karo Parisyan will be the second pair to enter the Octagon tomorrow, but it doesn’t make their match-up any less enticing. Parisyan, often ranked in the top five of the 178 pound division for judo across the nation, looked especially fit for his appearance today coming in at 169 pounds. Diaz, egged on by his Cesar Gracie compatriots sprinkled though the audience, weighed in at 168.5 pounds.
Third in order tomorrow night, boxer Chris Lytle answered the last-minute call to face Hawaiian brawler Ron ‘the Machine Gun’ Jhun, who had gone through Robbie Lawler as a potential opponent, and then Phil Baroni before he, too, dropped out to injuries. Jhun is making his sacrifices as well, agreeing to cut down from middleweight to welterweight for this bout on relatively short notice. It was evident today as he weighed in two and a half pounds heavier than allowable. NSAC officials gave Jhun two hours to cut the weight. Although not confirmed by press time, FCF had not heard to the contrary that Jhun did not make his requirements.