Ufc 61: Ortiz Ends Shamrock’s Night Quickly, And Sylvia Goes Distance To Defend Title
UFC 61: Ortiz Ends Shamrock’s Night Quickly, and Sylvia Goes Distance To Defend Title
By Kelsey Mowatt
The Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, hosted UFC 61 "Bitter Rivals" Saturday night, and due to the pre-fight hype that has accompanied the cards co-main events, speculation was abounding that the UFC might have possibly set new pay per view records this evening. As is unfortunately to often the case, the under card match ups and not the main attractions tonight, offered the most compelling action.
One of the card’s co-main event featured former UFC Light-heavyweight Champion Tito Ortiz meeting the legendary Ken Shamrock in what was being billed as a "grudge" match. In what is now well documented history, the two Season 4 "Ultimate Fighter" coaches have a long storied past, including Ortiz defeating several of Shamrock’s Lion’s Den training partners, Jerry Bohlander and Guy Mezger, and pummeling Shamrock himself for a TKO victory, at UFC 40 in 2002. The pre-fight hysteria continued as each fighter walked out to the Octagon, as a roaring crowd and security guards greeted the fighters to make sure the two men did not begin the bout prematurely.
Unfortunately for fight fans around the world and in attendance, the fight itself would not live up to its ferocious hype, ending in just over a minute. As the opening bell sounded, Shamrock seemed to surprise Ortiz as the 42-year-old combatant rushed at him throwing left and right punches, momentarily pinning "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" against the fence. Ortiz calmly pushed Shamrock’s head away and transferred into a Thai clinch only to drop down in attempting to secure a double leg takedown. As in their first fight almost 4 years ago, Shamrock was unable to keep the fight standing as Ortiz slammed the Lion’s Den mentor hard to the mat. In similar fashion to so many of Ortiz’s previous wins, the former champ quickly pined Shamrock against the Octagon fence and began raining blows down onto the veteran fighter. Ortiz proceeded to land five unanswered thunderous right elbows to the head of Shamrock, prompting referee Herb Dean to jump in and rescue Shamrock who was doing little to defend himself. Shamrock rose to his feet almost immediately to vehemently protest the stoppage, as many in the Mandalay Bay audience also booed the fight’s quick halt. Despite the protests of Shamrock, his corner and many in attendance, the TKO victory was awarded to Ortiz at 1:18 of round one, improving the fighter’s record to 15-4. In a post fight interview with Randy Couture, Ortiz defended Dean’s decision to stop the fight, while also stating he would fight Shamrock again if needed.
UFC President Dana White then proceeded to the Octagon to announce that PRIDE 205 pound Champion Wanderlei Silva was in attendance and invited him into the cage. At this juncture it was also announced that current UFC LHW Champion Chuck Liddell would fight Silva in November, provided that Liddell defends his title against Renato Sobral next month at UFC 62. In what was no doubt, one on the nights more defining moments for hardcore MMA fans, Liddell and Silva then engaged in a somewhat theatrical stare down.
The night’s other main event pitted UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia against the former champion Andrei Arlovski in the highly anticipated rubber match. Sylvia regained his belt in April at UFC 59, after stopping Arlovski in the first round to avenge his UFC 51 loss to "the Pitbull," in February of 2005. The opening installment of this heavyweight fight saw both fighters eager to test the other’s chin, as each fighter measured their opponent with feints and jabs during the opening seconds. Arlvoski landed several telling kicks to Sylvia’s lead leg, causing noticeable swelling and redness around the Champion’s knee. As the first round appeared to be going in Arlovksi’s direction, Sylvia landed a stiff right cross that sent the former champion reeling into the fence. To his credit, Arlovksi quickly negated Sylvia’s attack by tying him up in the clinch and as the first round ended, he had once again resumed his pursuit of Sylvia.
The second round of the bout would set the tone for the remainder of the fight, as a pressing Arlvoski was consistently greeted and stifled by an effective counter punching game from Sylvia. The leg kicks in Arlovski’s arsenal that he had thrown so effectively in the first round all but disappeared, and Sylvia never was prey to the right cross that Arlovski used to drop the Champion in their previous two meetings. Still the second round of the fight was extremely close, and although Arlvoski lands a few blows to Sylvia’s midsection, his pace began to diminish by the end of the second round.
The third and middle installment of the fight saw the pace slow considerably, and with little notable offense being brought by each fighter, suspicions at this juncture that the fight might become a strategic five round effort, seemed to be confirmed.
The evidence of Sylvia’s effective counter punching became fairly evident by the fourth round, as Arlvoski was bleeding around both eyes, and his face was bruised and swollen. The fourth and fifth round were still extremely competitive, as both Arlovski and Sylvia were able to land a few punches and occasional leg kicks over the remainder of the fight. Despite the crowd growing restless due to the methodical approach by each fighter, the steady pace continued until the end of the bout, and neither fighter ever came close to ending the fight as the rubber match came to a conclusion. The judge’s decision rewarded Sylvia’s discipline and sound preparation, as he was granted a unanimous decision victory with a 48-47, 49-46 and 48-47 score.
The night’s swing fight included two of the UFC’s more highly regarded up and coming welterweights, as TUF Season 2 veteran Josh Burkman would take on Miletich Fighting Systems member Josh Neer. In a fight that saw great action from both fighters in the standing and ground positions, Burkman would land more of the telling blows, including a right hand that dropped Neer in the opening round and several hard takedowns that led to further ground and pound punishment throughout the bout. In the end the judges awarded Burkman for a well balanced performance against a resilient Neer, giving him the unanimous decision with29-28, 30-27, 29-28 score.
The pay per view portion of the event began with Yves Edwards taking on Joe Stevenson in a lightweight match up, and was Stevenson’s debut at 155 pounds in UFC competition. Despite starting the fight with bang by landing a left high kick to the head of Stevenson, the follow up flurry by Edwards would mark the fighter’s telling offense of the night. "Daddy" Stevenson would recover from this early setback to enact his highly regarded ground game, ultimately taking Edwards down only to severely cut the UFC veteran with numerous elbows to his head. By the end of round two, a horrifically bloodied Edwards was no longer allowed to continue as the doctor would stop the fight, making Stevenson’s debut at 155 a successful one.
Next to step into the Octagon were heavyweights Frank Mir and Dan Christison, with the former UFC Heavyweight Champion Mir looking to rebound from a loss to Marcio Cruz and Christison hoping to build upon a recent victory over Brad Imes in April. For most of the fight it appeared that Christison may in fact pull off the upset, as Mir at times was on the defensive both standing and on the ground. As round two ended, the exhausted former champion needed to clearly win round three, and Mir did just that. Promptly coming out and putting Christison on the mat, Mir appeared to be on the verge of stopping his opponent, punishing the New Mexico fighter with punches and elbows from side mount. Christison, to his credit, survived the onslaught to once again begin offence of his own as the fight came to an end. Despite being given the unanimous decision victory by the judges, with all three scoring it 29-28, the questions about Mir’s ability to once again climb to the top of the heavyweight division still clearly remain.
In the card’s dark matches; Hermes Franca submitted Joe Jordan with a triangle choke at 0:47 of round three, Drew Fickett defeated Kurt Pellegrino with a rear naked choke at 1:20 of round three, Cheick Kongo was awarded the doctor’s stoppage victory over Gilbert Aldana due to cut at 4:13 of round one, and Jeff Monson stopped Anthony Perosh in the first round with strikes to earn the TKO win at 2:22.