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The Fray at Mandalay Bay
Introduction by Aaron Crecy
Forget for a moment that Vitor Belfort was a last minute scratch from UFC 33. And that a portion of the pay-per-view audience was deprived of the final nine minutes of the light heavyweight championship fight. For a moment, transport yourself to a ringside seat — or any seat for that matter — at the sold out Mandalay Bay Events Center on the Las Vegas Strip. Do this, and you would surely appreciate the latest rendition of the Ultimate Fighting Championship for what it was — an exciting show that featured well-matched fights from top to bottom.
That six of the eight fights on the card — and all of the bouts on the pay-per-view broadcast — went the distance, is testament to the competitive level of the combatants contracted by UFC talent scout Joe Silva. And the three fighters who served as fill-ins for those originally selected — Gil Castillo, Yves Edwards and Vladimir Matyushenko — were impressive even in defeat, displaying skill and courage versus highly skilled opponents.
How could the mixed martial arts purist not appreciate Jens Pulver, who stepped up to the challenge and beat ground fighter Dennis Hallman at his own game? Who could leave unimpressed with Tito Ortiz’s thorough domination of a game Matyushenko? What could be more ironic than Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Murilo Bustamante landing a stream of heavy right hands that damaged feared puncher Chuck Liddell? Would any deny that Dave Menne, by virtue of a devastating arsenal of knees and kicks that battered the relentless Castillo, is among the sport’s elite?
Unfortunately, the television audience may be left with a bitter taste in their mouths. Meanwhile, Zuffa faces the unenviable task of selling another event to what will surely be a skeptical target market in just over thirty days time. But let us not allow the disappointment outweigh the drama, because in the end, UFC 33 delivered as promised — compelling fights and courageous fighters.
Among the celebrities in attendance at UFC 33…
Chuck Norris, Chuck Zito, Mike Tyson, Shonie Carter (above right), and the very first UFC champ… Royce Gracie (above left).
UFC 33 Victory in Vegas
By Marc Scott
Photos by Aaron Crecy
Din Thomas vs. Fabiano Iha
Both Iha and Thomas were coming off losses in previous UFC’s. Both fighters wanted to prove that their losses were flukes.
Iha opened the match with kicks and Din countered with his strong punching. Iha managed to bring Din down and looked to apply one of his trademark arm-bars but Din defended well and Iha was unable to apply the submission. Din brought the fight back to standing and Iha seemed stunned by the power of Din’s punches he received while standing.
In the second round, Iha opened with an unorthodox flying punch. Which achieved very little. Both fighters clinched and Iha seemed to have the upper hand using strong uppercuts to bloody Din. In the third round though, Din came on strong with punches and Iha looked for the takedown. Both fighters found themselves again clinched against the fence. Din controlled the clinch with powerful uppercuts and Iha began to look tired and attempted to take Din down. After jockeying for position, Din landed in Iha’s guard and remained their through much of the remainder of the round.
Thomas def. Iha – Unanimous Decision
Ricardo Almeida vs. Eugene Jackson
Almeida came into this fight looking to avenge his loss to Matt Lindland. The match started strong, Jackson went to touch hands and Almeida flew through him trying a flying knee. Jackson seemed surprised and Almeida took the opportunity to bring Jackson down in a spectacular fashion. Jackson looked for a guillotine which Almeida defended well. Jackson ended up with Almeida in his half-guard from there Almeida worked his way up. Off a kick Jackson took Almeida down from there Almeida worked a strong triangle choke to get the win by way of tap-out at 4:06 of the first round.
Almeida def. Jackson – Submission (triangle choke) 4:06 1st Rd.
Jutaro Nakao vs. Tony DeSouza
This fight started off slow but ended with a bang. An uneventful first round with both fighters spending the majority of the first round clinched against the fence. The audience booed throughout the round due to the lack of action. The second round saw Nakao open with a strong right kick and devastating straight left punch which landed flush and brought DeSouza down. Nakao followed DeSouza to the ground and began striking the stunned DeSouza. DeSouza was unable to defend himself and the fight was stopped 15 seconds in the second round.
Nakao def. DeSouza – TKO :15 of the 2nd Rd.
Gil Castillo vs. Dave Menne
Easily the fight of the night, though Menne was clearly dominate, Castillo never gave an inch. Though bloodied and bruised he showed great heart and attacked throughout the fight. Menne used strong leg kicks and skillful reversals to clearly control this entire fight. Over and over, Castillo would try to take Menne down, Menne would sprawl and go for a guillotine choke. Though Menne was unable to finish the chokes, the strategy served him well throughout the fight. When Castillo would successfully take Menne down, Menne would punch his way standing. During the clinch, Menne used sharp knees and strong punches to punish Castillo.
Menne wins the unanimous decision and takes home the belt.
Menne def. Castillo – Unanimous Decision
Matt Serra vs. Yves Edwards
Matt Serra planned to finish this fight on the ground. He started by quickly bringing Yves Edwards down. Matt looked for an ankle lock and then transitioned to a heel hook which Edwards rolled out of. Edwards ended up with Serra in his half guard which Serra quickly passed to gain side control. Edwards worked his way up standing and as Serra came in, landed a strong uppercut which dazed Serra. Serra went to the ground with Edwards in control. Serra managed to reverse positions and ended the round with Edwards in an armbar, as the time ran out.
Serra spent the start of the second round attempting to take Edwards down. Edwards defended well, but Serra began to take control of the fight, when Serra eventually took Edwards down. Serra took Edwards back and attempted a rear-naked choke, which though Edwards defended against seemed to secure Serra’s dominance of the round.
The third round had Serra yet again try a rear naked choke from the takedown. This time, Edwards stood up with Serra on his back. Edwards managed to pry Serra off his back and they both ended sitting on the mat. After a scramble to get up, Serra moves in to take Edwards down again. Edwards attempted to use his knees but the fight ended with Edwards taken down yet again.
Serra def. Edwards – Majority Decision
Murillo Bustamante vs. Chuck Liddell
If this fight had a script, it would read simply Bustamante shoots, Liddell defends.
Bustamante spent this entire fight trying to bring Liddell to the ground. Liddell would sprawl and Bustamante would stand up and look to shoot again. Over and over again, this would repeat itself. Bustamante showed a surprising amount of striking skill at various points in the fight choosing to go toe to toe with Liddell. Bustamante managed to stun Liddell on more than one occasion with punches. Liddell fought a very defensive fight, but he also fought a smart fight, by keeping the fight standing. He could use his punches and kicks to keep Bustamante at bay. When the fighters would clinch, Liddell would have the upper hand with his strong uppercuts and hooks. This strategy won Liddell the unanimous decision, though the crowd seemed unconvinced and boos could be heard throughout.
Liddell def. Bustamante – Unanimous Decision
Jens Pulver vs. Dennis Hallman
Sometimes two great fighters, two exciting fighters who bring in talent, athleticism and a hearty rivalry can have an incredibly unexciting match. Though the match saw a few moments of excitement, almost the entirety of the five rounds was spent with Pulver in Hallman’s guard. Before the fight, Hallman claimed that Pulver would not last on the ground with him. Pulver in fact, lasted much, much longer. On the ground, Pulver’s defense against submissions proved too much for Hallman. When the fighters stood, Pulver clearly had the upper hand. There was only one moment when Hallman had Pulver in danger with an armbar on the ground. Other than that, Pulver dominated throughout the fight. In the waning seconds of the last round, Hallman out of desperation even attempted a pro-wrestling flying dropkick, which was completely ineffective. Jens Pulver retains the championship belt in an unexciting match.
Pulver def. Hallman – Unanimous Decision
Tito Ortiz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
A last minute injury forced Vitor Belfort to drop from the evening’s main event. Vitor was replaced by Vladimir Matyushenko of the rAw fighting team.
Matyushenko fought a very defensive match against Tito and spent much of the match on the ground with Tito in control. Matyushenko appeared strong enough to prevent Tito pnching an effective offense. Much of the match was spent with Tito in Matyushenko’s guard while Matyushenko held on. When the fight would be standing, Matyushenko would throw strong but ineffective punches. Tito was able to defend against the attacks and throw counter punches.
Only in the final round did Tito come on with a strong enough offense to clearly dominate a round. The majority of this fight being spent with Tito attempting to open up an attack and Matyushenko holding.
Ortiz def. Matyushenko – Unanimous Decision