Ex-Pride Fighters Headline UFC 67

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2/6/07 12:28:59AM
Article by: Lars B.

The most notable debut was that of Mirko Cro-cop who brought his larger than life reputation across the pond to battle a relative newcomer of the sport, Eddie Sanchez. As Eddie Sanchez entered the cage you could tell that this was one of his more nervous moments on earth, knowing that he was about to take on one of the most dangerous fighters on the face in the world. As the lights dimmed and the crowd began to stir with the anticipation of Cro-cop, people wondered what music he would choose to enter the famed Octagon. Maybe some popular Croatian tune that would internally light his fire? Maybe a tune from the Karate Kid…..”You’re the best around! Nothings gonna ever keep you down!”….. Nope. Cro-Cop enters to the theme music of PrideFC! Wow! Not many fans in attendance knew the significance of the music that he was entering too, but hardcore fans knew what that familiar beat of the drum was. But Cro-Cop was not there to represent Pride or the UFC. He was representing Croatia and Mirko.

As the first round began you could tell that Sanchez was already in survival mode, back-peddling and circling away from that thunderous left leg of Mirko. Sanchez looked like a mouse trapped in a snake’s cage looking for a way to escape. Cro-Cop slowly stalked his prey undoubtedly knowing the ultimate fate of his opponent across the Octagon. Sanchez threw wild haymaker after wild haymaker but rarely connected. Cro-Cop unleashed one of his infamous left kicks to the side of Sanchez and from that moment on the North American MMA fans knew that they had a new superstar on their hands. Cro-Cop’s superior hand speed and power was no match for Sanchez, but you have to give the California native credit for even stepping into the cage.

Cro-Cop repeatedly peppered Sanchez with left jabs and eventually landed a left high-kick to Sanchez’s head that sent him reeling backwards. With every punch and kick that the Croat threw the crowd gasped in amazement at the power and speed in which he delivered his strikes. One no more relevant than a low right leg-kick to the left thigh of Sanchez that sent shockwaves through the arena as the capacity crowd let out a collective groan. Cro-Cop eventually forced Sanchez to the ground after a flurry and Steve Mazzagatti jumped in as he had seen enough and called a halt to the fight at 4:33 of the first round due to repeated strikes on the ground.

It was an impressive debut that introduced the deadliest striker in MMA to the UFC. Mirko will inevitably get a shot at the belt in a few fights, but I cannot see anyone in the UFC heavyweight division being able to even come close to defeating him. The UFC will eventually sign Fedor, whether it is through the purchase of Pride or from the direct acquisition of the #1 HW on the planet, and we will see Fedor/Cro-Cop II. That, my friends, will be the biggest fight in MMA history

Former Pride light-heavyweight contender, Quinton Rampage Jackson was looking to make a big statement in his Octagon debut against one of the few men on the planet that has defeated him. Marvin Eastman defeated Rampage 6 yrs ago in KOTC 4 via a judge’s decision. This had the makings to be a great stand-up fight, and it was at times, but the first frame saw the fighters clenching and being separated multiple times by referee Big John McCarthy. Rampage looked hesitant most of the 1st round, admitting after the fight that it was the most nervous he has ever been before a fight. Jackson controlled the round and solidified it on the judge’s scorecard with a flurry at the end of the round that had Eastman on the verge of being taken out.

Round 2 was a completely different Rampage. He looked as though he loosened up and began to throw his punches with confidence, and this translated directly into entertainment. Eastman did a good job of making a fight out of it, but Rampage eventually got what he wanted when he landed 3 consecutive upper-cuts to Eastman’s jaw that sent him pummeling to the canvas. Rampage followed and landed a few more punches before BJM could jump in and stop the fight.

Rampage admitted after the fight that he was not ready to fight Chuck and he needed at least one more fight before challenging for the LHW title. It is almost sickening when the UFC hype machine already starts promoting a fight when it is more than 6 months off, but that is exactly what they did when the cameras cut to Chuck in the first row. Rampage/Chuck II will be a great fight, don’t get me wrong, but lets just not have it shoved down our throats for the next year. Overall it was a solid debut by Rampage. Many expected a huge slam that would bring the crowd to their feet, but Eastman proved to have a solid base and good wrestling skills that prevented Jackson from spiking the Beast on his dome. When all was said and done, Rampage stood with his hand raised and the crowd screaming, but all he could hear was “cha-ching”.

In the main event of the evening, if you want to call it that, Travis Lutter took on Anderson Silva in a non-title fight. Travis Lutter’s embarrassing weight issues did not sit well with the crowd and they expressed this as he entered the arena.

Many questioned if Lutter would be able to get the fight to the ground, where he is most comfortable, due to his drained physical state after cutting that much weight the day before. The question was answered quickly in the first frame as Silva landed a beautiful flying knee to the side of Lutter’s head, but the Texas native took the blow impressively and brought the fight to the ground as he grabbed a double-leg. Silva eventually kicked off Lutter and attempted to escape but he was quickly corralled again and brought back into the jiu-jitsu world. Lutter eventually gained mount and began to rain down unanswered punches to the face of The Spider. It briefly looked as though the fight was going to be stopped due to the lack of defense posed by Silva, but his gangly Kareem Abdul-Jabar-esque legs were long enough rise up and sweep Lutter as he was allowed to scramble back to his feet as round 1 ended.

Silva was unable to defend another slow takedown by Lutter as round 2 opened, and the fighters found themselves back in a familiar position. Silva found an opening to deliver an up kick to the jaw of Lutter and then transitioned nicely into a triangle choke that looked to be sunk in pretty deep. To Lutter’s credit, he fought the submission valiantly and remained within the triangle for 1:30 before submitting to elbow strikes to the head. The Spider unleashed his prey from his legs, jumped to his feet and gave the crowd his patented air-guitar hip thing. Still weird to me.

This fight was not surprising in the fact that Silva won, but how he won. No one expected Silva to be able to submit the accomplished grappler on the ground, but he proved to many doubters that he does have a pretty good ground game as well. Now that this debacle called TUF 4 is semi-completed can Dana now be reserved in the fact that having a game show to determine who fights for a belt is not a great idea? I hope so.

UFC 67 had a very weird feeling to it with 3 former Pride fighters headlining the card, no titles on the line, and Joe Rogan was not wearing a black shirt. Mirko and Rampage proved that they are great fighters and will be huge stars here in the US as long as they can deal with the booing. Overall, the card was mediocre at best. This goes to show you that it isn’t about the names on the card, but about the competitiveness of the matches. Fight fans do not want to see a hopeless Eddie Sanchez get seriously hurt in the cage. But marketing has to be done and I guess we all have to accept that.
2/6/07 2:01:20AM
Great writeup man, I especially like the "Joe Rogan not wearing a black shirt" detail lol
2/6/07 3:48:29PM
yea v good
2/7/07 5:26:28PM
Thanks guys!
2/7/07 5:29:21PM
Great job dude.
2/12/07 8:37:29AM
Great Article ! keep up the good work.
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