Sunday, July 09, 2006

UFC 61 REPORT


Sylvia Outlasts Arlovski; Ortiz Gets Quick Win over Shamrock
By Thomas Gerbasi LAS VEGAS,
July 8 – The rubber match between Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski didn’t match the brief and explosive nature of their first two bouts, but Sylvia did enough to outlast ‘The Pitbull’ in their war of nerves before a sold out crowd of 12,400 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Scores were 48-47 twice and 49-46 for Ellsworth, Maine’s Sylvia, who repeated his April 15th win over Arlovski. The Belarus native defeated Sylvia via submission on February 5, 2005. “I definitely saw myself winning,” said Sylvia, 24-2. “Arlovski fixed his chin because I hit him hard many times. He’s a tough, tough guy.” The pace was measured early, with Arlovski working his leg kicks effectively and Sylvia looking for the big bomb. With a little under three minutes left, Sylvia’s first heavy salvo rocked Arlovski briefly, but after a short clinch, ‘The Pitbull’ came firing back and fought with a relaxed ease as Sylvia appeared tense as he stalked the challenger. The heavy punches kept coming in the second round, with Arlovski still scoring, but Sylvia answering by opening a cut on the left side of his foe’s head and the tense drama continued to play out in round three, with Sylvia starting to show the scars of battle via a mouse under his right eye as Arlovski again landed the cleaner blows between sporadic bursts of activity from the champion. The fourth round saw the crowd get restless, and Sylvia responded by picking up the pace and opening up cuts under Arlovski’s right eye and on the side of his left eye, but the final round played out like the previous four, with both fighters having all too brief moments of scoring activity, and leaving the bout in the hands of the judges, much to the chagrin of the packed house. In the UFC 61 co-featured bout, it may be safe to say that the feud between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock is far from over as Ortiz made it two in a row over his longtime rival, stopping the UFC hall of famer with a series of forearm strikes just 1:18 into the first round. The bout was not without its share of controversy though, as referee Herb Dean’s stoppage drew loud boos from the capacity crowd and prompted the Las Vegas police to enter the Octagon to keep an irate Shamrock from getting at Ortiz. “Look at my face,” said Shamrock, 26-11-2 who stated his case to fans after storming from the Octagon. “See, no marks.” But despite the protests, there was little doubt that the stoppage was just, after Ortiz landed five consecutive forearms on the head of Shamrock, who was not defending himself. “I was just doing my job, dropping elbows,” said Ortiz, 15-4, the former UFC light heavyweight champion. “He wasn’t responding or defending himself and Herb Dean did his job.” Shamrock looked to get the job done himself as he came out throwing heavy punches as he bulled Ortiz to the fence. But once Ortiz got his bearings, he picked Shamrock up and slammed him to the mat, leading to the fight ending series of strikes. Ortiz stopped Shamrock in three rounds in their first meeting on November 22, 2002. Josh Burkman scored the biggest win of his UFC career, earning a hard fought three round unanimous decision over Josh Neer in a welterweight bout. Scores were 29-28 twice, and 30-27. The two welterweights fought at a fast clip in the first round, trading strikes, with Burkman (18-3) holding a slight edge due to a knockdown scored with little over a minute left in the frame. Neer (17-4-1) rebounded in the second as he controlled matters at close quarters and on the mat. But midway through the round, it was Burkman rallying with hard punches to the head. Des Moines’ Neer, bleeding from a cut around his left eye, disdainfully called for more, and when it appeared that the momentum was going to swing back to him, Burkman finished the round with a slam to the canvas. Neer pushed the pace in the final round, and after some standup work, he got Burkman to the mat and attempted to lock in a triangle choke. Burkman responded with a thunderous slam and escaped further danger. Neer wasn’t done yet though, as he tried to work submissions on Burkman from the mat, but to no avail as the Salt Lake City native finished strong. Former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir won his first fight in over two years, eking out a three round unanimous decision over Dan Christison. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Mir, who was sidelined for 16 months due to a motorcycle accident in September of 2004. His first comeback fight, on February 4, saw him get stopped by Brazil’s Marcio Cruz. “I needed my confidence back as a fighter,” said Mir, whose last victory was his title-winning effort over Tim Sylvia on June 19, 2004. The first round was a tale of two halves, as Mir dominated the first 2:30 with strong strikes on the feet as well as a takedown of his foe, and Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Christison roared back in the final stages of the round with an armbar attempt and some solid standup strikes of his own. With Mir at 262 pounds, way over his prime fighting weight, fatigue looked to be an issue in the second for the Las Vegan, and Christison landed some hard point-scoring punches in the round. And once the fight hit the mat, Christison again was the more active of the two, even though he wasn’t in the dominant top position. Perhaps sensing that the fight was slipping away from him, Mir came out aggressively in the final stanza, and once he bloodied Christison’s nose, he pounded away with both hands, looking for the stoppage, but it didn’t come, sending the bout to the judges. Former welterweight Joe Stevenson made a successful jump to the 155-pound weight class with a bloody second round stoppage of Yves Edwards, whose cut forehead prompted a halt to the bout after 10 minutes of spirited action. “I can do anything I want to at this weight,” said Stevenson, 30-7. Showing why the lightweight division is the most exciting in the game, Edwards and Stevenson took turns in controlling the first round, with Edwards’ strikes dropping the Las Vegan to the mat, and Stevenson’s ground and pound piling up points in its own right. Edwards may have taken the round though with a triangle attempt in the final 15 seconds. Stevenson got the first takedown of the second round and pushed Conroe, Texas’ Edwards (29-11-1) to the fence in order to pound away with his left hand, opening a nasty gash on the top of Edwards’ head in the process. After a break in the action for the doctor to inspect the cut, the fight resumed on the mat, with Stevenson firing away but Edwards hanging tough and even making it to his feet before the bell. But though Edwards was ready to continue, the amount of blood from the cut forced referee John McCarthy to wisely call the bout on the advice of the ringside physicians just before the start of the final round. Hermes Franca returned to the UFC for the first time since April 2, 2004, and won his fifth consecutive fight of 2006 with an impressive third round submission win over late replacement Joe Jordan. “He’s a tough kid,” said Franca of Jordan, who replaced the injured Roger Huerta. “I tried to work my standup, and it worked well, but my jiu-jitsu’s better.” Franca (14-5) came out bombing with kicks and almost got Jordan’s back early, but the Iowan hung tough and avoided any more serious damage in the opening round, which drew the ire of the crowd due to the lack of sustained bursts of action. Picking up the pace in the second, Franca’s accurate strikes woke up the fans in attendance and drew a disdainful look from the iron-chinned Jordan (23-10-2). But practically all the offense in the bout was coming from the Brazilian, who potshotted the now bloody nosed Jordan. Looking to end matters, Franca quickly got a takedown in the opening stages of the final round, and after passing on a kimura attempt, a transition into a triangle choke finally produced a tap out just 47 seconds into the round. Olympia, Washington’s Jeff Monson, who caused a stir in the Mandalay Bay Events Center crowd by entering the Octagon to the strains of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, impressively stated his case for a heavyweight title shot as he halted Australia’s Anthony Perosh in the first round. “I deserve a title shot,” said Monson. “Arlovski and Sylvia are tough, but when I get the fight to the ground, it’s over.” After a fairly tame opening two and a half minutes, the two grappling standouts stood and traded on the inside, and Monson (24-5) landed a hard knee and right hand and Perosh (5-2) fell to the mat. A follow-up barrage brought in referee Herb Dean, and the fight was halted at the 2:42 mark. French kickboxing star Cheick Kongo made his UFC debut a successful one as he used a series of knees and uppercuts to stop Phoenix’ Gilbert Aldana via cuts in the first round. The end came at 4:13, as a nasty gash over the right eye of Aldana prompted referee Yves Lavigne to halt the bout after consulting with the ringside physician. “I’m happy to be here and to represent Europe,” said Paris’ Kongo, who lifts his record to 18-2-1. Aldana, who started strong behind two impressive slams to the mat but couldn’t stand with the technically superior striker, falls to 5-2. UFC newcomer Kurt Pellegrino got a rude welcome to the Octagon, as Drew Fickett submitted the Point Pleasant, New Jersey native in the UFC 61 opener. Pellegrino controlled the first round against the Tucson, Arizona veteran, both on the feet with his fast hands and on the ground with a solid but unspectacular ground and pound attack. The less than scintillating pace dipped even more in round two, with neither fighting gaining a decided edge in some uninspired groundwork. Pellegrino opened the third with a loud slam of Fickett, but a lapse of concentration on the ground allowed ‘The Master’ to lock in a rear naked choke that produced a tap out at 1:20 of the final round. “I was biding my time, hoping that I could get his back,” said Fickett, who improves to 30-4. Pellegrino falls to 13-2.
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