Hughes Reclaims Welterweight Title;
Trigg, Salaverry, Tanner Trio Impress
By Loretta Hunt
October 22, 2004 — It wasn’t Hughes at his sharpest, but it was Hughes the champion once again, as the quiet Illinois farm boy grasped the UFC welterweight title a second career topping time tonight from the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With a dramatic armbar victory just one second shy of the first round closing, the humble Hughes got the warmest ovation from the estimated 8,000 in attendance, proving he still has the staying power to represent the promotion and the sport for another term on top. 7-0 Canadian dynamo Georges St. Pierre was virtually flawless in the first loss of his career, taking Hughes down first and often making the 37-4 seasoned pro look the novice of the two with a fluid performance. St. Pierre was strong, strong enough to get to his feet off of Hughes’ takedowns. He was also versatile, tagging his elder with a punch here and there and frustrating Hughes to the point of recklessness. Nowhere was this punctuated more than when St. Pierre fired off a spinning back kick and sent Hughes flying back in a scene straight out of a Bruce Lee flick. But in the end, Hughes’ experience shone through when he was able to capitalize off a relatively elementary mistake the up-and-comer made from his back in not pinning his opponent’s leg to hinder his mobility. With two fights left on his UFC contract, the confident, congenial 23-year-old St. Pierre is one of the best finds the promotion has ever come across.
Tito Ortiz also got back to his winning ways tonight as well, taking on a game, but outmatched Patrick Cote who moved up from the undercard when Guy Mezger had to drop with a training injury. The main event was to be expected of a 5-0 newcomer with some big hands and not much more, and a returning ground and pounding former champion in desperate need of a victory following two of the most high profile losses of his career. Barring Cote’s one right hook that sent the Californian to his knees for but a brief second, Ortiz had his way with the tough Canadian fighter for all three rounds. To Cote’s credit, he hung in there and had a brief stand-up rally in the final round, but Ortiz played his game as he should and clipped the striker down. It was a tedious but necessary game plan, and even Ortiz himself remarked the fight’s blandness must have been a letdown. Speaking from the podium following the fights, a limping Ortiz said he twisted his ankle in warm-ups that night. UFC president announced Ortiz and Vitor Belfort a leading consideration for UFC 51’s Superbowl Saturday event in February. Nothing has been signed as of yet.
In a three round war of the clinch, Boston native Jorge Rivera gave Rich Franklin a much tougher time than some expected, answering with punches and knees and even tagging Franklin out of his game in the second round. Sporting a nasty mouse and at one point bleeding heavily from a cut on his brow, Franklin had to work for his armbar victory that came late in the third round. But, it was the evenly matched clinch work that made up the majority of the fight, with Franklin edging out the Team Elite fighter with countless reversals along the fence and knees to Rivera’s sides.
Welterweights Frank Trigg and Renato "Charuto" Verissimo hardly disappointed in what many correctly predicted would be the most technically-fulfilling match-up of the night. From the get go, the pair’s immediate clinching yielded a stalemate for control, as both made multiple attempts at takedowns that never came. Separating, it was 6’1" Verissimo’s healthy reach that delivered him a sound punch that jarred Trigg, who went on auto-pilot with a double leg takedown. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt sunk in his first of numerous triangle choke attempts, but Trigg worked free and managed himself into guard. From there, Trigg did what he does best– posting up and landing powerful punches as he folded his lanky opponent’s body against the fence. But, Verissimo was a slippery target, moving to a leg lock but eating a couple of punches along the way. On their feet again, Trigg went for the throw and fell into the triangle choke again, but this time barely escaped with his consciousness intact. A depleted Trigg slumped back to his corner, but was ready to roll by the second round bell, quickly revealing that it was Verissimo lacking in the endurance department. Landing some clean shots that dazed the Brazilian on his feet, Trigg easily got his final takedown, and worked his ground and pound for the referee stoppage 2:10 in.
Evan Tanner has officially found a new home in the 185-pound division with an efficient and speedy handling of Robbie Lawler, who tried his luck at middleweight tonight after running with the welterweight pack for the last two years. The Team Quest fighter looked poised and relaxed on his feet, keeping the young Miletich brawler at bay with well-timed kicks and a couple of jabs that immediately registered with a nasty welt under Lawler’s right eye. Getting the clinch, Lawler raised his elder up and down to the mat, throwing off a couple of elbows before falling right into the triangle choke. Tanner forced the tap 2:22 without having to secure an arm across to complete the move. Three wins deep in the division, it doesn’t take much to realize Tanner will be fighting next for the currently vacant title. With teammate Matt Lindland suddenly a big question mark following his UFC 49 loss to Dave Terrell, the young Cesar Gracie charge might very well be Tanner’s opponent when the time comes.
In preliminary action, middleweight Ivan Salaverry was on fire tonight as he met an overwhelmed Tony Fryklund at every turn with a superior grasp of all the skills that make mixed martial arts the endearing sport it is. From a quick exchange of leather, the AMC Pankration rep attacked with a lightening fast takedown, but Fryklund stayed afloat just in time to thwart a hip toss in a frenzied pace that wooed the audience immediately. Backing out, Fryklund acknowledged his opponent’s prowess with a shake of his head, but went in for more. Catching Salaverry’s leg, Fryklund got a good slug in as a wobbly Salaverry tried to balance and push himself off the cage. Reversing the action, Salaverry unloaded on Fryklund, who took a crisp right hook and then a brutal left kick to the face as he went down. Salaverry pounced on Fryklund’s back and tried to work the rear naked choke, but it was a figure four body lock the Miletich fighter verbally submitted to as the pressure on his back became too much to ignore.
It wasn’t looking promising when pensive light-heavyweights Marvin Eastman and Travis Lutter clocked in one of the slowest first rounds to ever open a UFC event. Always a tense and jumpy competitor, kickboxer Eastman was the first to tag after a full minute and twenty-four seconds of strikeless stalking. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Carlos Machado, Lutter attempted the takedown but was amply stuffed with a fend-off flurry of Eastman punches that quickly ceased once the two separated. The arena rang with the crowd’s displeasure as the bell sounded the welcome death of this uneventful round. Eastman probably got his corner’s call to pick up the pace, which he did with a kick and a punch forward at the second round bell. Deflecting another shoot, Eastman looked to have Lutter in jeopardy with a left hook that sent him back against the fence. Eastman followed up with a right kick, simultaneously opening the door for a walloping right hook that knocked the Las Vegas fighter out cold.
UFC 50 Results: