Monday, July 10, 2006

UFC 61 Live Thoughts

I went to UFC 61 this weekend in Vegas. It was my first time credentialed at an MMA event, and I had an absolute blast. It was obviously very poorly received on PPV, but I enjoyed it a lot for two primary reasons. First was just my level of access and proximity. Second was the fact that the undercard was better than the main card and redeemed some of the problems with the main card.

I left on Saturday morning with James and Andres from the Long Beach Press-Telegram. We made it there early so we were able to hit the casino. James had an incredible run with blackjack, and made upwards of $200 on one table before and after the show. I on the other hand decided to bet on the fights for the first time ever. It was not a good first outing, which is probably for the best as far as encouraging me to gamble in the future. I put $20 on each of the main card fights, and went an impressive 1 for 5, only picking Tito Ortiz right. So I lost $75, sadly. I feel someone redeemed by the Mir-Christison fight, which I thought Christison won and would have brought me about even. But it was not an impressive showing overall.

We went down to get our credentials, and had to wait for a while to get our pictures taken and developed. This was not all for naught, as we were waiting with the ring girls. In the past, I haven’t really seen the point of ring girls, because I’m usually a little farther away from the octagon. Well, I certainly reconsidered this evening being closer to them, because they are absolutely gorgeous. As opposed to them getting in my way of watching the fighters get ready, my eyes couldn’t help following them around the cage.

After getting that taken care of, we headed to the backstage entrance, which was very cool. Frank Mir came in right in front of us. Just about everyone you could think of was around: Dana White, Marc Ratner, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, Chuck Liddell and so on.

We went to our seats first row ringside, and got our laptops set up for the evening. We were on the side of the octagon where Yves Edwards was busted open. The fighters would walk right in front of us when they left the cage, which would prove interesting throughout the evening.

I was seated next to a nice gentleman who I conversed with throughout the night. He said he went to UCLA and was primarily a boxing writer, and I helped him out with some of the intricacies of MMA while he told me a lot about the boxing game in LA. Well, I tuned into the Fernando Vargas-Shane Mosley HBO preview special last night back in LA, and who should I see multiple times, but the same guy talking about the fight! His name is David Avila. Maybe he’s well known in the boxing community, but I didn’t have a clue.

I wrote up the preliminary results for the Press-Telegram, and will provide a link when I have it. It was a good undercard. In the first match of the night Drew Fickett actually called the finish to the fight, saying he would win be rear naked choke. It was an impressive called shot, particularly since he wasn’t facing Frank Trigg (Hey, Frank jokes about it, so can I). Cheick Kongo physically reminds me a lot of a younger Ernesto Hoost. Gilbert Aldana looked good early against him, but this is probably his last UFC fight. It was annoying to hear the crowd vociferously boo Kongo for waiving a French jersey after the fight.

The crowd also booed Anthony Perosh when he was announced as being from Australia, so apparently there must be some strong anti-Australian hostility among some people. Jeff Monson who beat him looked good, but not good enough to beat Tim Sylvia. He came out to Imagine by John Lennon, which was quite the entrance music. Monson is going to need to bull Sylvia to the ground quickly to have a chance in their title fight. It was nice to see Hermes Franca back in the octagon, and he looked good in his performance.

Joe Stevenson-Yves Edwards was quite the spectacle, with blood pouring all over the place right in front of me. It was annoying to see in 2006 people are still employing the tactic of driving your opponent into the cage and throwing elbows to open up cuts and get a blood stoppage. It was even more annoying to hear Stevenson disingenuously act like that wasn’t his intent in the post-fight interview. Still, Stevenson looked good and Yves badly needs a win.

I thought Dan Christison won his fight with Frank Mir pretty clearly 29-28. The key was the first round, because Christison won the first and Mir the second. I do have to give Mir credit for winning the third round handily after losing the first two and gassing. That said, this was not a good fight, and I will be surprised if Mir’s next fight is shown on the main card. He looks like a shell of his former self.

Ken Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz was quite the spectacle. The crowd was electric. There didn’t seem to me to be as much energy as Ortiz vs. Griffin or Gracie vs. Hughes, but it was damn close. I thought this was an awful stoppage by Herb Dean. Shamrock was intelligently defending himself. People take elbows in MMA fights. To me Griffin was in worse shape at a couple points in the Ortiz vs. Griffin fight, and he came really close to pulling the win off. Shamrock should have been given the opportunity to come back, particularly in such a major fight. That said, I don’t want to see a rematch. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, even if Shamrock should have had the opportunity to get there.

The scene after the fight was incredible. Shamrock was just going nuts. I was expecting a brawl between the two corners. The police came into the ring with guns in their holsters, and it was like a flashback to those NWO angles in 1996. Luckily for Ken, he realized this was a shoot and not a work, so he backed down and didn’t try to go through them to Tito. He then stormed out of the ring and right in front of me was playing to the crowd and yelling. Tito then came out of the ring and people were throwing drinks. One hit me, sending liquid all over me and my laptop. I had to go borrow a towel from the cut man. Crazy spectacle.

They then went to the Wanderlei vs. Chuck announcement, which I am very excited about. That is a hell of an intriguing fight, and now I’m rooting like hell for Chuck to get by Babalu. For a while I didn’t like Wanderlei, but I think I will be rooting for him in this fight. Chuck’s chin is really strong, and it better be because he is going to have to weather a storm. I’m leaning towards picking Wanderlei, but I may change my mind fifty times between now and the potential fight.

Josh Neer vs. Josh Burkman was a nice little fight. Burkman keeps getting better, and he looked really good here. Neer did too much posturing, and just didn’t look as good as Burkman. Neer left the ring crying, and was clearly very upset about the loss.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Tim Sylvia was unquestionably dull, but it was better close to the ring because they were hitting each other hard and you could hear the shots and see the damage. Arlovski had the vampire fangs and beard, but shaved his chest again, which was the kiss of death for him. He needs to go train with some top of the line fighters. There were some fans that left before the decision was announced. I thought Sylvia deserved the nod. Arlovski was taken to the hospital immediately after the match, and he was limping badly leaving the octagon. Sylvia was as well, and both guys took a lot of damage.

From there I headed to the press conference with Tito Ortiz, Dana White and Tim Sylvia. Ortiz is very charismatic, and Dana impressed me in person as well. I even got a question in myself, asking Dana if they are going to have the rights to Pride footage to air to promote the Wanderlei-Chuck fight. That’s important for the promotion of the show. We drove back after the show, and I managed to make it the whole way without falling asleep, crashing and dying, which was a positive. Props also go out to James Melroy for putting his life in my hands with 7 hours of driving while knowing the name of my blog is “Smashmouth Driving.”

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great report. Sounded like a blast. One thing, you mentioned your question but not the answer: So will the UFC have the Pride footage of Wanderlei to promote the fight or not?

Can't wait for November!

11:49 PM  
Anonymous The New Revelation said...

Nice write up. Found your blog again through your plug on the Wrestling Observer website.

After seeing the way Wand went after Fujita... if Wand can show up healthy, considering Liddel's layoff... I think Liddel is a dead man. That might be a bit hyperbolic, but I'm not sure there is anyone in the UFC can do what Wand did in the last fight.

Did you get the idea that people in the arena knew who Wand was? My biggest problem with the UFC is their lack of depth and the poor cards they put together. I want North America to wake up to Pride and I'm hoping that Silva can help do this.

Also... did you hear that Couture said over the weekend (as reported on The LAW) that he'd come out of retirement to fight Silva or Fedor. Couture vs. Fedor??? I'd pay $100 on PPV to see that.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good write up. One problem though, whats wrong with driving someone up against the fence and throwing elbows? This isn't an old-fashioned newb thing here. All the great wrestlers in the UFC do it, like Couture and Ortiz. If people don't like it, then the fighters ought to learn how to defend against it.

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Responding to the last comment, I can't fault fighters for employing the elbow strategy (esp. those like Tito and Loiseau that are honest about it), but I think the problem is it is counter-productive to deciding who the better fighter is. It is almost a loophole, since you can open a non-dangerous cut on the head and get a stoppage instead of a definitive KO or sub win.

1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good read. I'm assuming Dana didn't answer your question?

2:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't see the problem w/ the elbows... obviously grappling isn't the end all be all its proponets claim it is if it has no defense for someone in your guard throwing elbows.

6:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst it is unbelievably awesome that Wanderlei Silva is coming to the UFC, it does pose a very serious risk of them exposing their golden boy to a serious beating at the hands of someone that their audience knows very little about. It is for this reason that I doubt we will see Fedor, Cro Cop or Nog against Tim Sylvia in the near future... there's no upside in it for the UFC.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Todd Martin said...

Glad people enjoyed the report. Dana did answer the question, and said that UFC will have rights to use Pride footage to promote the fight. Actually, he said no at first, but then reconsidered and said while he wouldn’t own the footage, he would be able to use it for promotional purposes.

No, I did not hear anything about Couture coming out of the retirement. It looks like that has not made the rounds yet, but that would be huge news as well if that were to happen. As far as the Wanderlei reaction, no, I did not get the idea that people in the arena knew who he was. Certainly some did but not all that many. This isn’t too big of a problem to me, because UFC TV specials are doing such a good job building fights, and you only need about 10 minutes to sell people that Wanderlei is worth seeing.

I don’t like the elbows against the cage to open cuts for the reasons stated here. They lead to the better fighter not necessarily being proved. In the Stevenson-Edwards, I had the fight even at 19-19 going into the final round, and Edwards traditionally has had better cardio than Stevenson. I would have liked to see how the third round would have turned out, particularly since Edwards was ready to keep fighting.

Wanderlei is unquestionably a big risk for Chuck. He easily could win this. But I don’t view it as that big of a risk for UFC, because they can bring Wanderlei back, and he will quickly become known to the UFC audience. With the stare and his style, he’s to me the Pride fighter most marketable in the US. If he beats Chuck, that sets up a marketable match against Tito and then a rematch against Chuck. There’s also the possibility of him against Randy I suppose, which was teased before. It’s a different story if they bring in a Ricardo Arona or Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Hell, even Fedor as good as he is wouldn’t translate perfectly because he’s kind of mellow and low key. I think Cro Cop could be a big star, though.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Dave Ling & Franchise said...

Really enjoyed the write-up.

Todd, dude, Silva is going to wreck and destroy Liddell. Silva is a bad, bad man. All UFC needs to do is put together a video package like WWE did a couple years back when Mysterio was coming in, to hype and build up the re-arrival of Silva. When WWE did that Mysterio came in and was way over, UFC could easily do the same with the amount of TV they have with Spike and TUF4 and get this fight to sell.

Looks like Phil Baroni and Fujita are going to fight at the November show. Interesting to see who they match those guys up with, especially Fujita since the heavyweights in UFC are tremendously weak. Same with Baroni has a couple more match ups at 185 whether they go with Loiseau or Marquardt, either way should be a good fight as long as they don't go with Leben.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Rich O said...

I agree this show was exactly what UFC didn't need with their strong momentum going in. That's the problem with real fights is sometimes they suck and sometimes they're great. I wonder if the old K1 concept of pushing for exciting fights versus smart fights wasn't ahead of it's time.

On a side media note, Ron Borges of the Boston Globe wrote not one, but two features on UFC that made the front sports page on a quiet (read non-Sox day) that was very positive. This is important as he is considered both one of the best boxing (and football)writers in the country and a boxing purist. While the article shed no new light, the fact a BOXING writer admits MMA is cahllenging boxing and wrote such a positive piece is HUGE

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Phil said...

By the way, go to ESPN.com's home page if you want to read another in the endless array of poorly researched UFC stories.

1:58 PM  
Blogger 17Haze said...

Great report Todd.

This was the first UFC PPV that I have actually bought instead of watching it on DVD. So I was disappointed but probably not as much as I would have been if I bought every PPV.

Like Dave said in todays report, it seems like everyone in the media is overlooking the bad show because it is still all new to so many in the media. So the show isn't as much a negative as it could have been.

I'm looking forward to Silva vs. Liddel a great deal. I think it could be a great fight. I just hope Chuck wins and everyone is on his bandwagon. I mean you have to go for the U.S. guy right? We can't win Olympic basketball anymore and we sucked in the World Cup and World Baseball Classic. But it would be huge in the MMA world if the American could knock out the Brazilian.

5:19 PM  
Blogger Swain said...

Wow, credentials. You're better than WFA President Jeremy Lappen.

All kidding aside, I'm intensely jealous. Well, in hindsight not so much, but seeing a fight live from ringside must be an experience.

7:29 PM  
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