MMA on DVD: UFC 64: Unstoppable

UFC 64: Unstoppable

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Randy Couture.

-Just a side note, the ninth and final fight here was supposed to be a Light-Heavyweight match between Keith Jardine and Mike Nickels, however, Nickels put out his back the day before the fight – right before the weigh-in I think – and couldn’t fight, and left Jardine with no opponent and no time to find him one, so the fight got scratched from the card.

Lightweight Fight: Kurt Pellegrino vs Junior Assuncao

This was Pellegrino’s UFC debut at Lightweight (although I think he’d fought there previously in his career) after losing in his Welterweight debut to Drew Fickett. Assuncao I believe was a replacement for Wander Braga who pulled out with Visa issues.

They begin and Assuncao presses forward with some punches, but Pellegrino ducks under and gets a quick takedown, where Assuncao gets a butterfly guard in. Pellegrino works to pass, landing some punches en route to half-guard. From there he gets the crucifix position and drops a series of heavy punches onto Assuncao’s face, but Junior manages to wriggle free. He rolls, but gives his back in the process, and Pellegrino hops on into back mount and works for the rear naked choke, getting it sunk in for the tapout.

Pretty one-sided affair, Pellegrino basically overwhelmed Assuncao from the off and didn’t give him a chance for any offense of his own. Really good showing from ‘Batman’ and I’m interested in seeing his next fight for sure.

Lightweight Fight: Clay Guida vs Justin James

Another good signing for the Lightweight division, Clay ‘The Carpenter’ Guida rose to fame earlier in 2006 by first defeating the highly-rated Josh Thomson in a five-round war, and then going on to lose another five-round decision to Gilbert Melendez, with both fights showcasing Guida’s wrestling skill, cardio, and incredible tenacity. His whole appearance, with the long, wild hair and crazy tattoos is a total contrast to his opponent here, who looks as close to the average clean-cut guy as you get in MMA. James was coming off an impressive win himself, a four-man tournament in the Extreme Challenge event.

Round 1 begins, and James looks to impose a left jab, blocking an early takedown attempt and breaking away with a knee. James lands some good knees into a clinch, where they muscle along the fence before the referee separates them. James begins to work the stiff jab as they exchange from the restart, then lands a big left knee into the clinch, but Guida gets a takedown off it and begins to work well from the top, standing to drop some heavy shots down. Guida continues to work the ground-and-pound, staying busy throughout and basically pounding James, before James locks up an armbar from the bottom! It looks pretty tight as he rolls to his stomach to finish, but somehow Guida manages to step over and wriggle his way free! Damn, slippery guy. More ground-and-pound from Guida follows to end the round, probably enough to take the round in fact.

Guida presses forward to open the 2nd, and James looks more cautious now, wary of the takedown. Guida shoots though and puts him on his back pretty quickly, controlling him well from the guard and continually landing strikes from the top. Guida keeps an incredibly busy pace from the position, standing to drop punches in short spats and generally just pounding away throughout, giving no chance of a restart. With 30 seconds remaining Clay lands two heavy elbows that seem to hurt James, and from there Guida goes into OVERDRIVE, just opening up with a mad flurry of punches and elbows that have James covering up, before hopping right into full mount. James turns his back, and Guida locks up a rear naked choke for the finish.

Very exciting fight throughout, Guida just brought an insane pace from start to finish and James kept up in the first round, but just got overwhelmed in the second. Guida just seems like a guy who brings it each and every time he’s out there (I’ve seen a few of his fights now and he’s always like that) and he’s definitely one of the most exciting ground-and-pound based guys I’ve come across. Just a great addition to the division, and a great debut for him here.

Middleweight Fight: Yushin Okami vs Kalib Starnes

Man, talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire. Or something like that, as TUF3’s Starnes was originally supposed to fight generally one-dimensional kickboxer Crafton Wallace in August, but got hurt, pulled out, and ended up with a far tougher test in Japan’s Yushin Okami here. I personally thought this was a pretty solid match on paper, and was one of the better ones on this card.

Kalib opens up with a big right hand and then goes right in looking for the takedown. Okami shows some excellent defense though, refusing to go down, and eventually the ref steps in and breaks them up. They press forward with some strikes from distance, with Starnes blocking a couple of high kick attempts. Okami begins to take over, landing some clean, straight punches, and causes Starnes to back off, and then the Japanese follows with a hard uppercut into the clinch. Okami gets a trip to guard, where Kalib holds him with a guillotine. Okami looks okay though and works his way free, where he sits up to drop some punches. Okami tries to pass, but Starnes scrambles free and gets to his feet, where Okami grabs a standing guillotine and lands a couple of knees to enter a clinch to end the round.

They exchange from distance to open the 2nd, before Okami catches him with a fast, albeit glancing combination into the clinch. Starnes works some knees to the legs, and then Okami lands some of his own, before taking one to the groin and the ref steps in and calls time. They restart, and Starnes lands his first decent offensive move, a jumping kick leading into a hard right hand. They go into the clinch, and Okami blocks a single leg attempt, and then both men look to trip the other down before the ref steps in to break them up. They go back to the clinch from the restart, and this time Okami gets a nice takedown to Kalib’s guard, and then drops a couple of stiff rights that tag the Canadian. Starnes works to his feet in a front facelock, and then they break off, and Okami lands a good kick to the body, and continues to press forward before the time runs out. This has been Okami’s fight so far.

Into the third and final round, and they circle and exchange to open, with Okami landing another good body kick. Okami comes forward, and lands a lead left, followed by a nasty right uppercut that jacks Kalib’s nose. Starnes looks hurt and goes into retreat mode, trying to run away from Okami basically, before managing to get to the clinch. Okami gets the takedown, and passes to half-guard quickly, then into full mount. Kalib looks in deep trouble, and sure enough Okami pounds away until Starnes gives his back and covers up, and the ref steps in there.

Very dominant performance for Okami against a very solid opponent. Bit of a slow fight in parts, but it had its moments and the finish from Okami following the uppercut was really smooth. It’s cut on the DVD, but the original version of the fight I saw (from UFC On Demand) showed Kalib telling his corner after the 2nd round that “I can’t beat him to the punch, he’s too quick, and he hits a lot harder than me too”. That might be true, and I don’t like to make judgment on fighters, but it seems to me that Kalib for whatever reason sometimes runs into confidence problems when things don’t go his way (see his fight with Kendall Grove too). I like him a lot though so hopefully it’s something he’ll be able to overcome in the future. As for Okami, the guy continues to impress, and he could be a dark horse in terms of contenders for the Middleweight title in the future.

Lightweight Fight: Spencer Fisher vs Dan Lauzon

As far as I’m aware, Lauzon, the younger brother of Joe (who knocked out Jens Pulver at UFC 63) is the youngest guy to ever compete in the UFC at just eighteen. Announcers mention that he’s taken the fight against Fisher on short notice, but don’t mention who the original opponent was (I think Naoyuki Kotani), just that not many people wanted to fight Fisher. For good reason too, as he was coming off the sick flying knee KO of Matt Wiman at UFC 60.

They circle to begin the opening round, and Lauzon shoots in right off the bat, and surprises Fisher with a BIG SLAM! Spencer gets guard, but Lauzon stands over him and looks to pass, avoiding some upkicks and landing a couple of clipping punches. Fisher manages to keep guard, and lands some elbows from the bottom, but can’t seem to get off his back, and Lauzon controls him from the top and lands some punches of his own. Lauzon passes to mount momentarily, but Fisher gets half-guard back before any damage can be done. Dan stands to drop some punches, but Fisher uses the opportunity to kick him away and get back to his feet. Lauzon gets him down again right away, but this time Fisher pops right back to his feet, and breaks a clinch with a knee. Lauzon suddenly looks tired, and stands off, so Fisher comes charging forward with the FLYING KNEE OF DOOM!~! Doesn’t quite land clean, but Fisher carries on with the offense, landing some elbows and knees from close quarter. Lauzon goes down for a second, and takes a knee to the body, then Fisher backs off and the ref calls Dan back up. He looks wobbly, and Fisher closes in with a left uppercut and straight, and Lauzon goes down for the final time as the ref calls the TKO.

Really surprising one there, as Lauzon came right out of the gate and took the fight to his older, more experienced opponent, and actually dominated for the majority of the round, albeit without doing all that much damage. When it came down to it though, once Fisher got back to his feet, Lauzon looked heavily outgunned and more to the point, he looked exhausted from keeping Fisher down, and it was over quickly from there. Good finish from Fisher, but still, this was an impressive showing for someone as young as Lauzon – if he hadn’t tired when he did, who knows what could’ve happened? With more experience on the smaller circuit, he’s definitely a guy I wouldn’t mind seeing again.

Heavyweight Fight: Carmelo Marrero vs Cheick Kongo

I’m thinking this was supposed to be another showcase fight for Kongo, who UFC were trying to push as a future contender in the division following two impressive wins with strikes in his previous fights. Marrero was a largely unknown quantity, sporting a 5-0 record and a background as a wrestling coach out of Pennsylvania.

Round 1, and they circle around to begin, with Kongo throwing and landing a couple of low kicks. Marrero shoots in on a double leg, and gets it, taking the Frenchman down to a side mount. A few elbows and punches land, with some knees to the body, but largely its control from Marrero with very little damage being done. Kongo seems lost on his back though, and it takes him almost the whole round to scramble back to guard. Marrero moves him to the fence, and lands some punches to end the round. Boring round that goes to Marrero.

Kongo looks to strike to open the 2nd, but Marrero quickly puts an end to those thoughts, getting a bodylock and a trip to half-guard. Kongo attempts to work a guillotine, and uses it to stand, but Marrero quickly puts him back down. This time though he ends up in Kongo’s full guard, with the guillotine still on. He works his way free though, and then drops some punches before the ref brings them back up. Marrero gets another takedown right away, and nothing at all happens this time until the ref calls them up. Kongo tries to throw some low kicks off the restart, but Marrero gets another takedown to half-guard, and holds him there as the round ends. This has been awful so far, but I have it 20-18 to Marrero.

Third round and Kongo looks a bit more desperate, pressing forward, and finally he manages to block a takedown into the clinch. They muscle and Kongo tries some sort of throw, but Marrero reverses nicely and ends up on top in half-guard. Nothing happens though so the ref stands them quickly, and Kongo sprawls off the subsequent takedown attempt and gets into top position. Kongo lands some punches and elbows in half-guard, and then tries a keylock, but can’t lock it up and Marrero tries to reverse. Marrero gets back up, and gets another takedown to guard, but doesn’t get much done again and the ref calls another stand-up. Marrero shoots off the restart, but Kongo blocks and goes into the clinch to end the round. Kongo took that round I think but it’s clearly Marrero’s fight.

Judges have it as a split decision (?), 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 for Marrero. No idea how anyone could score that fight for Kongo, so what the judge who scored it that way was watching I don’t know. Horrible fight though throughout, as Kongo had zero answer for the takedown, but Marrero did nothing once it hit the mat and it became your classic case of lay-n-pray. The whole match completely backfired on the UFC, as Kongo’s credibility as a future HW contender was utterly shot, but the fight didn’t exactly launch Marrero’s star either as his win was such a boring and uninspiring one. Possibly the worst televised UFC fight all year even.

Welterweight Fight: Jon Fitch vs Kuniyoshi Hironaka

Outside of the title fights this to me was the best fight on this card, as highly-ranked Japanese Shooto star Hironaka – a man who a lot of fans ranked in the top ten at 170lbs – was signed by Zuffa and immediately matched with an incredibly tough opponent in AKA’s Jon Fitch, who had been quietly moving up the rankings himself, with wins over Brock Larson, Josh Burkman, and Thiago Alves in dark matches on the Ultimate Fight Night cards. In fact, this was to be Fitch’s first appearance on a televised card, which was something I’d been looking forward to for a while.

They go into the clinch right away to open the first round, and muscle for position while exchanging knees. Fitch gets a nice trip down to the guard, but Hironaka immediately locks up a triangle from the bottom. The hold looks quite deep, but he can’t seem to finish it off completely and Fitch appears to be fine, moving Hironaka to the fence in the hope of breaking the hold. Fitch begins to work his way free, landing some punches, and then finally escapes into Hironaka’s guard. He works the body and head with some stiff punches, and when Hironaka rolls to attempt an escape, Fitch takes his back. He gets both hooks in and works for the rear naked choke, setting it up with some chopping punches, but Hironaka defends and the round ends before Fitch can finish it off.

2nd round, and Fitch comes out aggressive, hitting Hironaka with a combo and then a left high kick, before getting a hard slam down to guard. Fitch works him over with some hard punches, standing to drop some especially nasty ones. Hironaka tries a triangle again, but Fitch uses it to pass the guard, only for Hironaka to quickly get guard back. He tries a sweep, but Fitch keeps top position. Hironaka turns to attempt a kneebar, but Fitch avoids it well and lands some more nice shots back into Hironaka’s guard. They slow down a little and the ref calls the standup, and from the restart Fitch lands a combo, a good knee and then a BIG LEFT HIGH KICK that catches Hironaka on the side of the face, stunning him. Fitch takes him down again, to half-guard, and Hironaka gets butterfly guard back but takes some elbows. Hironaka goes for the triangle again, but can’t lock it up, and takes more punches, and Fitch continues to work him over, landing some heavy elbows to end the round.

Third and final round, and Fitch opens aggressively again, landing a right body kick before tagging Hironaka with a couple of one-two combos. Both men exchange some punches, with Fitch catching him with a nice straight right, and they go into a clinch momentarily and break. Hironaka throws a weak spin-kick, but then lands a heavy punch and Fitch decides to tackle him back down, into guard again. Ref steps in quickly though as Fitch’s nose is seriously bloody, and the doctor checks him over, but gives him the OK to continue and they restart in Hironaka’s guard. Fitch is bleeding badly at this point, but he continues to work Hironaka over, landing punches and heavy elbows to mark the Japanese up badly, really bruising his face. Ref calls the stand-up, and Fitch lands a low kick before taking him down again. Hironaka gets the butterfly guard, but eats some more punches and elbows for his trouble before the ref decides to call them up again. They restart, and Fitch ends with a big right cross that snaps Hironaka’s head back, practically on the buzzer.

I’ve got it 30-27 for Fitch, and the judges basically agree, giving it 30-27, 30-25 and 30-25 for the unanimous decision for Fitch. Solid, entertaining fight for the most part with some outstanding moments, and a very strong performance from Fitch to basically dominate a guy who was a tough, credible opponent. Hironaka fought well and I’d be interested to see him return in the future, but really Fitch had all the offense in this one outside of the first triangle attempt and the one strike that damaged his nose. With his improving striking and submission game to go with his already outstanding wrestling, Fitch is definitely a threat to anyone at 170lbs and I could see him contending for the title before 2007 is out.

UFC World Lightweight Title: Sean Sherk vs Kenny Florian

When the Lightweight division was reinstated back in March, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before they decided to crown a champion, but the fight that UFC put together for the vacant title was somewhat of a surprising one. Rather than use more proven (at 155lbs, anyway) talent like Spencer Fisher, Hermes Franca or the like, it was Sean Sherk – a highly ranked Welterweight dropping to 155lbs for the first time – and Kenny Florian, a guy who had only had one fight at 155lbs himself – fighting for the gold. Naturally there were some complainers, mainly people saying that Florian didn’t deserve a title shot after only beating Sam Stout and Kit Cope, but I guess they wanted a “name” fighter in the slot, and Florian did look impressive in beating Stout (who’d looked very good against Spencer Fisher) so hey. Most, myself included, were expecting a shutout win for Sherk, however.

I’d go amiss here if I didn’t mention Kenny’s DOPE entrance, coming out dressed as well, basically Raiden from Mortal Kombat. Yeah yeah, I know that wasn’t his aim, but it’s the first thing that came into my head, damnit.

Florian looks to strike to begin, but Sherk gets a quick takedown right into side mount. Florian scrambles back to guard immediately though, and then Sherk works to pass, working his way into half-guard. Sherk tries to land some shots, but Kenny deflects them well, and then does well too to get back to full guard. He tries a guillotine, but Sherk’s not in danger and he passes to half-guard and then works his head free. Sherk lands a couple of lefts, and then looks to mount, before passing to side mount instead. Sherk gets a full mount, and then surprisingly goes for an armbar as Kenny tries to scramble out, but Florian ends up on top and avoids the submission. Sherk reverses quickly though, putting Kenny on his back once more, and then lands some good punches, the first real meaningful ones of the fight, as Florian gets his guard back. Round ends as Sherk looks to land a quick flurry. 10-9, Sherk.

Round 2 begins with much of the same, as Florian lands a couple of body kicks, but gets taken down quite swiftly by Sherk. This time though, Kenny pushes the head off and lands an elbow, slicing Sherk open quite badly on the scalp. Ref calls time as Sherk begins to bleed like a faucet, and man that’s a lot of blood. They restart in the same position after a doctor check, and it looks like Florian’s having more difficulty with the blood as it’s running onto his face. Kenny tries some more elbows from the bottom, but Sherk opens up with the punches now, and then passes to half-guard. Florian tries to use his feet on the fence to reverse, but Sherk mounts. Kenny tries a reversal from the bottom, and almost gives his back, but ends up on top in Sherk’s guard, and again Sherk tries the armbar. Kenny avoids it deftly, but Sherk reverses to his feet, and shoots in again, but this time Florian avoids the takedown and ends the round on his feet. Quite a difficult round to score there, I’d go Sherk 10-9 based on the positioning and his work from the top, but I could see people scoring it for Florian based on the damage he did with the elbows.

Third round, and Sherk actually starts the round with blood pouring down his face as they just can’t seal the cut up. Kenny throws some kicks again, but Sherk counters with a nice left hook and a takedown to half-guard. Florian tries to reverse, but Sherk keeps him down and lands a couple of hard hammer fists. More grinding with the elbows follows by Sherk, as he continually punishes Florian with shots to the face. Finally he gets into side mount, and Florian gives his back. Sherk can’t get his hooks in though, and Kenny rolls, but ends up back where he started, on his back in guard. Ref calls a stand-up and Florian lands a nice body kick, before both miss some winging punches. Sherk grabs a front headlock and lands some knees, and follows with a combo, but Kenny fires right back, hitting a high kick and following with another that’s RIGHT on the buzzer, almost late even. BIG pop from the crowd for that exchange. Gotta go 10-9 Sherk again though.

Into championship territory now, fourth round, and Florian throws the high kicks again to begin, with Sherk blocking them. Sherk comes in with a fast, low shot, but Florian manages to avoid it, and damn near runs into one of the Octagon posts in trying to escape. Sherk keeps coming though, and shoots again, this time getting the takedown to half-guard. Kenny tries the elbows from the bottom again, but Sherk continues to grind away, and then passes to side mount, where some seriously blunt, heavy elbows land. Florian tries a reversal, but can’t go anywhere, although he does get full guard back. Sherk passes right back to half-guard though, and then into side mount, before Kenny manages to use the fence to his advantage again, spinning back to full guard. Another guard pass from Sherk, into half-guard, and a series of brutal elbows land, marking Kenny’s face up, before they slow down and the ref stands them up. Kenny lands a good body kick off the restart, but the round then comes to an end. I’ve got that another 10-9 for Sherk, meaning right now it’s 40-36 and Florian needs a KO or sub to take it.

Fifth and final round then, and Sherk opens with a good low kick, before catching an answer from Florian and getting a nice takedown to guard. Sherk lands a flurry of punches from the top, and easily avoids an armbar attempt from Florian. More elbows from the top follow, but things slow down a little and the ref brings them back up. Kenny gets a couple of glancing high kicks off the restart, but nothing major and Sherk gets another takedown, with Kenny holding a guillotine this time. Florian uses the fence behind him to work back to his feet, but Sherk lifts him right up and delivers a MONSTER SLAM, BOUNCING KENNY’S HEAD OFF THE MAT! Sherk passes to mount, and somehow Kenny has it in him to reverse, but Sherk takes him right back down to the mat and lands some more elbows to end the fight.

To the judges, and it’s a unanimous decision for Sherk, 49-46, 49-46, and 50-48. Personally I had it 50-45 (same as Eddie Bravo FYI) but 49-46 is understandable if you give Kenny the 2nd for the cut. How you end up with 50-48 I don’t know, but we’ll choose to ignore that methinks.

Anyhow, on first viewing back in October I enjoyed this fight immensely, but on a rewatch it doesn’t hold up all that great – granted it was a great show of control, and ground-and-pound from Sherk, and Florian came off looking as tough as hell for taking what he did, but in reality the copious amounts of blood and the fact that it was a title fight disguised what was really a one-sided, somewhat pedestrian fight overall. Sherk hasn’t defended the title since due to injuries, but I’m awaiting his first defense with baited breath, as I can’t wait to see him face off with some of the more proven guys in the division. As for Florian, well, he lost as most expected, but I think he definitely opened a few eyes with a gutsy performance, so kudos to him, too.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Rich Franklin vs Anderson Silva

Maaaajor main event for this show, even if it didn’t quite have the mainstream appeal of some of UFC’s other main events in 2006. Champion Franklin had looked, well, like the title of the show, unstoppable since moving to 185lbs, stopping Evan Tanner and Nate Quarry in devastating fashion, and putting a horrific beating on David Loiseau over five rounds, but the majority of fans recognized that this would be his toughest test to date. Anderson Silva – fresh off blitzing the Cage Rage promotion – had entered UFC with an incredible debut performance, taking just 47 seconds to knock out the supposedly iron-chinned Chris Leben, basically landing nine laser-sharp strikes to do so. A few people were questioning whether Silva should get a title shot after just one fight in the promotion, but personally I wasn’t complaining – Silva was as proven a challenger as anyone UFC could’ve found, and to me this was as intriguing a main event as any all year.

Entrances are quite interesting here, as we see Silva come out looking as cool and confident as ever, while Franklin definitely looks more tentative than we’ve seen him in the past, sporting a nasty black eye, too. Good staredown, BIG pop for Franklin in the introductions, and we’re ready to begin….

They circle tentatively to open things, exchanging a couple of low kicks with Silva landing the best of the bunch. Some more strikes from distance are exchanged, before they close in and Silva grabs a plum clinch. The Brazilian challenger lands some heavy knees to the body, as Franklin tries to answer with some punches and uppercuts from the inside. More knees to the body land, and then Franklin tries to pull away but ends up being OVERPOWERED by Silva, who basically tosses him into the fence, still holding the head in the plum clinch. Few more heavy knees to the body land, and then one big one to the chin rocks Franklin badly, and he staggers backwards! Silva follows with more knees to the body, and now Franklin’s hands drop and we get an absolutely horrible moment of pause where Franklin stares at Silva wide-eyed, as if pleading with him to stop. Crowd seem shocked now as Silva breaks away momentarily and narrowly misses his elbow-uppercut, before grabbing the plum clinch again and landing a DEVASTATING KNEE TO THE FACE!~! Franklin’s nose EXPLODES ON IMPACT and he staggers back, and Silva follows with a pair of high kicks and another knee that puts Franklin DOWN AND OUT. We’ve got a new champion.

Not much more you can say, really. Execution would probably be the best word. Post-fight Franklin claims he came in with a bad gameplan – he had no idea Silva would be so strong in the clinch, and in fact he thought the clinch would be his “sweet spot”. To say he got that wrong would be a gross understatement. I gave Silva a fair chance of winning this fight, about 50/50, but this was still the most shocking fight of 2006 to watch, not in terms of who won, but how Silva won. I mean, seriously, he just ran through Franklin like a knife through butter, and the end was swift and painful as soon as the Brazilian got the plum clinch. As far as big fights are concerned, this was the most devastating performance of 2006. That’s all there is to say, really. Incredible showing from Silva.

-We end the night with a quick highlight reel of the fights.

The Inside Pulse
: While it’s not quite as great as the best UFC shows of 2006, UFC 64 is still pretty strong. Granted, Marrero/Kongo was probably the worst fight the promotion put on all year on PPV, and sure, the two main events were one-sided, but there’s still entertaining fights like Guida/James, Lauzon/Fisher and Fitch/Hironaka on tap. And even if there weren’t, the shocking nature of the Silva/Franklin bout would almost make this show a must-see anyway. So not the greatest UFC of all time and probably not in the top five of 2006, but a strong enough show nonetheless and worth a recommendation. Thumbs up.

Coming Soon….

Pride: Total Elimination 2005, Critical Countdown 2005, Final Conflict 2005.
UFC: 65, 66, 67 and 68.
Cage Rage: 19.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman: