UFC 46: Super Natural PPV 1/31/04 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay
Tito Ortiz didn’t fight, but it seemed like more his night than anyone else’s. He was the star of this awful PPV, which partly by design and partly because of awful luck felt more like an episode of UFC RAW. The bad luck part was the fights were short and lousy. Then again, that sounds like RAW. Once again that could have been partially made up for by showing some of an undercard that supposedly contained 3 good matches, even if after the main event, to fill out the allotted three hours. The main event was a natural disaster, but the show was so pro wrestlingesque it almost felt like a screw job. That left nothing but hype, hype, and more hype.
The hype was getting sillier and sillier. They had to keep mentioning the "celebrities" to show how hip UFC has become, and at one point Bruce Buffer seemingly introduced anyone known to more than 20 people worldwide. The silliness reached it peak when Mike Goldberg tried to put over that celebrities getting to see Penn fight was more important to him than finally winning a title. When they ran out of nonsense to say to build the fighters up, they stooped to trying to excite us that the middle of their ring is now a giant advertisement for getting loaded.
Ortiz was at ringside for the first fight, doing his array of corny punk expressions. They build up Lee Murray, who comes out looking like Hannibal the Cannibal, by talking about a supposed street fight win over (a drunk) Ortiz (at a bar after UFC 38). They had to wait to see if he won to get Ortiz involved and build up a sanctioned fight between the two, but Jorge Rivera wasn’t likely to surprise. However, they soon announced the main event of the next PPV, Ortiz vs… Chuck Liddell, and also the return of Roid Warrior Tim from his whopping four month suspension (almost as big a joke as MLB's 5-game suspensions for pitchers that winds up pushing their start back an entire day) in a title match against Andrei Arlovski. This more or less defeated the purpose of the initial angle since Liddell is a famous fighter people had been wanting to see fight Ortiz since the days when they thought both were big and bad, while Murray is a guy most people never heard of and may forget just as quickly now that his name opposition is fighting another name instead. Obviously it is good to have options, but one has to suppose Ortiz and Murray will both keep winning, which this night if any ever did shows is far from a given, and Ortiz wouldn't be in a battle for his career if he was a mortal lock. And if Ortiz does somehow manage to beat Liddell, they might want to give him a title shot right away instead of risking losing both names, which would be the case if Murray then took out Ortiz. Continuing the WWE theme, they had Ortiz & Liddell come out for the big "shoot" interview, which Ortiz tried to turn into a scene out of 8 Mile with a goofy rhyme about Liddell looking like a snowman. Finally, Ortiz was back at ringside for the main event, this time sitting next to WWE star Goldturd.
Lee Murray vs. Jorge Rivera 1R 1:45. Rivera is a banger, but his strategy was clearly to fight on the mat rather than testing Murray’s standup reputation. Rivera got the takedown, but Murray used his knees then legs to push him off. When Rivera dove back in Murray locked his arm. He couldn’t complete the armbar, but was able to transition into a triangle arm bar for the win.
Murray went on forever about how great he is, though Joe Rogan did get the fighters to talk about something of relevance, a big upgrade over the past shows where the fighters just did promos for their sponsors. Anyway, this led to Ortiz giving Murray the thumbs down. He also gave him the cut throat sign, which by this point I’d have to agree even though his actual meaning wasn’t take the mic off this guy and move on to something interesting. Tito showed he’s studied the lessons of Vince McMahon, portraying the Brit as an evil interloper. Now all we need is for Sgt. Slaughter to defect from Iraq to manage Murray.
Frank Mir vs. Wes Sims 2R 4:21. The "big" rematch of the UFC 43 illegal stomps to a downed opponent disqualification. They tried to get Mir to admit he wanted to injure Sims for revenge since that’s supposedly what we’d like to hear, but he’d only go as far as saying he wouldn’t mind if Sims tried to hold off tapping. This was the best fight by default, though it was one-sided and not impressive in the traditional manner.
Mir took Sims down into side mount within 15 seconds. What was impressive about the match is Sims managed to last the round, spending the next 4:45 in variations of Mir’s mount. Some fighters can’t do much from the mount even though it’s a great position for most, but Mir isn’t one of the mount nots. He used his greatly superior technical ability to work his way to a few legitimate submissions. He also threw some good punches and tough elbows, busting Sims’ face up. Sims claim to fame is his toughness, and he proved it here in somehow surviving.
Fatigue was the story of the second round. Surprisingly, it was Mir that was gassed. Mir’s stamina is always suspect, but it’s extremely rare to see the guy on the positive side of a 10-8 first round answer the second as the blown up one. Mir’s fatigue allowed Sims, who was rightfully somewhat tired, to do some mediocre striking, but Mir would take him down sooner or later. Most of the round was Mir riding it out, doing so little that John McCarthy called for two standups! After the second, Mir looked up at the clock. I figured he was seeing how much more time he had to waste to get to the next break, but Sims poor strike attempts left an opening for Mir to clinch. Mir delivered two knee lifts, a very good right hand and a big left hook for his first UFC knockout then proceeded to collapse from exhaustion.
Welterweight Championship: Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn 1R 4:39. I think you should win the title in your own weight class before trying to beat bigger guys, and Hughes is probably the last guy I’d want to move up to fight because he overpowers guys that move down to fight him. I have to admit I thought there was about as much chance of Penn succeeding in his other weight class quest as there was of Linda Fiorentino deciding to move in with Penn and his father because her car broke down. I assumed Penn would be in for another 25-minute ground and pound, but Hughes didn’t fight like Hughes. He had to cut too much weight late, but I don’t think that was it. It was more that he was exposed when he was finally out of his element against a fighter that has different skills (as opposed to when he was taken down by a lesser version of himself such as Sean Sherk). Hughes wins by being conservative. He uses his huge strength advantage to get the takedown, and then his primary goal is keeping his opponent on their back, where he does moderate damage but they do none. Hughes wound up at the disadvantage and he kept taking crazy risks rather than giving up a round for the chance to start again.
Penn’s striking speed clearly presented a problem for Hughes. It kept Hughes from just charging in for the takedown as usual. However, Hughes gave up on his bread and butter so quickly. Rather than regrouping when the second takedown was failing he kept at it, which allowed Penn to spin him over onto his back. It all happened so quickly that perhaps it was just great defense by Penn stopping a regular takedown attempt, but I thought Hughes stuck with it to the point of reaching.
Hughes didn’t want to fight from his back, so he tried an armbar then quickly moved to the ankle. Penn is far superior in submission, and while Hughes was trying to submit him without any body control he simply seized the opportunity to take Hughes’ back. Penn wasn’t too concerned about keeping Hughes’ back; he just wanted to keep Hughes on his own back because he’s not at all comfortable there and that position makes his strength advantage virtually irrelevant.
Hughes grew impatient after Penn dropped his first good punch down, going for another silly armbar. This allowed Penn to mount, so Hughes surprisingly surrendered his back. Hughes took a few punches then reached for Penn’s leg, leaving his neck totally exposed. Penn was all over this opportunity, choking Hughes out just before the round ended. Hughes early mistakes can be excused because it’s hard to just throw away an entire round, but it’s not worth it for a fighter like him to take chances with a minute left in the round. Unless he got the submission, which given what he tried there was almost no chance of, the round was lost anyway. Penn began crying, and was so emotional he couldn’t even finish a sentence without breaking up.
Carlos Newton vs. Renato Verissimo 3R. Like Hughes, Newton showed up but it wasn’t the Newton we know. He had visa problems and couldn’t get into the country until late Thursday, which didn’t give him enough time to cut weight. In order to keep the fight on the card, Verissimo agreed to move the weight limit up to 175. Newton was sluggish and completely ineffective, giving a career worst performance.
Despite the poor showing by Newton, Verissimo came off as the real deal and was certainly a huge part in Newton’s ineffectiveness. Verissimo’s performance is even more impressive when you consider he broke his thumb on the first punch. He showed excellent balance and control. When Newton tried for a takedown, Verissimo stayed on his feet until he was able to trip Newton up. Newton did get two takedowns, but wasn’t able to do anything with them. The first time, Verissimo tied him up until pulling off a lovely sweep. The rest of the time Verissimo controlled. He’s Penn’s BJJ trainer, and ridiculous as it might sound he showed far more dominating ground ability than Renzo Gracie did in his great match with Newton at PRIDE Bushido 1. Gracie allowed Newton to keep moving and attempting submissions, but Verissimo always had Newton under control. He pinned Newton like you’d see from a wrestler, but that didn’t result in Verissimo surrendering his submission game and having to resort to just using ground and pound. He punched, but more beating him down to open up submission attempts.
Verissimo roughed Newton up, but not in the traditional way. It just seemed like he was always pushing, prying, and/or twisting Newton’s body. He’s a lanky fighter, but he uses his size extremely well for leverage, and that allows for a different form of muscling than we are used to. All this doesn’t necessarily lead to victory, but if done right it can gas and break an opponent because either they are in irritating pain or they expend a lot of energy trying to combat the force pushing down on them.
I always expect Newton to at least have a very good chance to win, but once I saw what Verissimo was doing to him I didn’t see much hope. Newton was quickly out of ideas and energy, frustrated by his inability to get the takedown or do anything on the mat. Verissimo cracked him a few handful of times in standup, where Newton had his hands way too low, and just physically dominated him on the ground. By the time Newton got his second takedown, he was too tired to even try anything. Verissimo won a unanimous 30-27 decision.
Light Heavyweight Championship: Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort 1R 0:48. The final stake in UFC 46’s coffin came when the big event literally ended before it began. You couldn’t even see the finishing blow, if it can be called that, until the slow motion replays, and even then what was it really? Belfort backed away from a right and tried to counter with a left hook. The punch was avoided by Couture enough that it wasn’t a hit, but not enough that it was a complete miss. The stitches of the glove grazed Couture on the way by, slicing open his right eye fold which had been cut late in training. The skin of the lower eyelid was actually torn away, leaving Couture’s eyeball exposed and The Natural unable to control the movement of his eye lid. Couture will need treatment as soon as possible to protect his vision. He could have even needed surgery to keep from permanently losing control of opening and closing his eye lid, so there was no way the fight could have continued though Randy did keep fighting initially because he didn't understand what had happened to him. Given Couture lost almost immediately because a cut in a dangerous area was reopened, one would have to question whether the fight should have even taken place and why they wouldn't at least mention it on the show. In any case, as the cut was caused by an offensive move that isn’t illegal, Belfort gets the win. Nonetheless, this is the kind of finish that leaves everyone including the victor unsatisfied, arguing whether it should be a legitimate win, a win with an asterisk next to it, or a no contest while they hope/wait for the rematch.