UFC 68: The Uprising
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. This was the first UFC event held in Ohio, and additionally, in selling out the Nationwide Arena, it also broke the attendance record for a North American MMA event at 19,079 spectators.
Lightweight Fight: Jamie Varner vs Jason Gilliam
Varner was coming off his UFC debut, a hard-fought loss to Hermes Franca, while Gilliam, an unbeaten fighter out of the Midwest, was making his Octagon debut.
Varner opens things with a low kick, and then stuffs a takedown attempt and ends up on top in Gilliam’s guard. He drops some punches, and then looks to pass, and Gilliam rolls and makes the mistake of giving his back. Varner flips him over to get both hooks in, really nice move, and from there he lands some punches before locking in a rear naked choke. Gilliam refuses to tap, and flips Varner off before inevitably passing out. Never will understand why guys do that.
Post-fight Varner mocks Gilliam for going to sleep, before celebrating by doing â€˜The Worm’. Well, I guess it is his nickname. Good showing for Varner who looks to be moving to the WEC now.
Lightweight Fight: Gleison Tibau vs Jason Dent
Tibau had put in an impressive enough showing in his debut against Nick Diaz, but it was clear that he was undersized at Welterweight, so this was his debut at 155lbs, against another man who had shown a lot of fight in losing his debut, Ohio’s own Jason Dent.
Dent presses forward to open the first round, and they exchange some punches briefly before Tibau gets a clinch and a BEAUTIFUL shoulder throw down to side mount. He lands some elbows and punches, before Dent manages to work his way into half-guard. Tibau locks in an arm triangle, but Dent keeps the half-guard tight to prevent Tibau from choking him out. Tibau keeps squeezing, but Dent defends well, using the â€œanswering the phoneâ€ technique, and even though Tibau’s close to a submission finish, the crowd begin to chant, â€œstand them up!â€. Ugh. Finally Dent pops free, and shortly after, the ref indeed brings them back to their feet. Dent lands a body kick, but gets his leg caught and Tibau puts him down with a counter right hand, into half-guard, where he lands some punches to end the round.
2nd round begins and they exchange strikes, with Tibau landing a nice left knee before following with a takedown to side mount. He punches away, looking to set up the arm triangle again, before going for a mount, which allows Dent to get half-guard. Dent works to full guard, but takes punches until the ref stands them back up. Dent presses with strikes, but takes some better counter shots from Tibau, and the Brazilian follows with a takedown to half-guard. Dent works to full guard again, but takes punches and then Tibau works his way to half-guard again as the round ends.
Clearly Tibau’s fight thus far.
Third and final round, and Dent senses the urgency and presses the action, but Tibau quickly gets the takedown again. He grinds away on top without doing too much damage, and then works to pass until the ref stands them again. Dent tries to strike, but gets too desperate and slips to his back on a high kick attempt, and Tibau drops a heavy left hand down into his guard, where he continues to land shots. Tibau passes into half-guard and then works to mount, where he lands punches, but Dent manages to survive to last out the round.
To the judges, and it’s a unanimous decision for Gleison Tibau. It just seemed like Tibau had too much for Dent to handle here, and although Dent’s defenses were such that Tibau had a hard time doing much damage and didn’t come close to finishing outside of the one arm triangle attempt, it was a highly one-sided affair.
Welterweight Fight: Jon Fitch vs Luigi Fioravanti
To say I was disappointed that they put Fitch on another untelevised prelim would be an understatement, especially as he was fighting another solid up-and-coming Welterweight in the form of Fioravanti, who was coming off two great knockouts in his previous fights. Ah well, at least I get to watch Fitch now. If you haven’t already gathered, I’m a big fan.
Fitch opens with a low kick, and it’s clear right away that there’s a big size difference here, with Fitch being larger. Still, he only just avoids a big left hook from Luigi. They go into a brief clinch, and Fitch lands a knee, but Luigi breaks off. Fitch shoots for a takedown and shoves Luigi to the fence in a clinch, where Luigi avoids a trip momentarily, but Fitch keeps working and gets him down in guard. Fitch passes to half-guard and knees the body, before taking Fioravanti’s back, but Luigi manages to turn into half-guard. He works to full guard, only for Fitch to escape out into side mount. Luigi does well to regain guard again, and then as Fitch lands some punches, he scrambles out to his feet. Luigi lands a hard right hand, but Fitch shrugs it off and gets to the clinch, only for Luigi to break off with a one-two. Fitch lands a high kick into another clinch, and they exchange knees to end. Luigi did much better than I was expecting there.
Fitch opens with another good low kick to set up a takedown attempt, but Luigi avoids nicely and breaks off. He avoids a single leg too, and then lands a low kick, but as they exchange strikes Fitch cuts him off and gets a clinch against the fence. He lifts him up for a big slam, and Luigi only avoids a nasty impact by grabbing the top of the cage. Luigi works to his feet, but Fitch pulls him back down, and as Luigi tries to spin off and take Fitch’s back, he slips off and allows Fitch to get on top. Luigi grabs at a footlock, but this enables Fitch to take his back, and he gets both hooks in, landing punches before sinking a rear naked choke for the tapout.
Fioravanti put up a spirited fight there, and did far better in the grappling exchanges than I’d expected, but Fitch was just a level above him in the end and once again showed why he’s one of the best 170lbs fighters in the world by finishing things off with the first opportunity he got. Good fight there.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Matt Hamill vs Rex Holman
Two Ohio natives here, and two noted wrestlers, as I believe Holman actually has better amateur credentials than Hamill. TUF’s Hamill is the clear fan favourite though, even if he can’t hear the cheers for him!
Holman opens with a low kick, but Hamill lands a superman punch into a rear waistlock, and tosses Holman to the ground. Holman comes back up, but takes another superman punch as he does so. Hamill blocks a takedown, but gets caught with an uppercut on the way out, opening a cut near the eye. They go into a brief clinch, but break off, and Holman appears to want to strike, which would be a good idea if only his strikes weren’t horribly crude. He shoots in, but Hamill reverses into top position. Holman reverses to his feet though, and then misses a wild uppercut. Suddenly Rex looks gassed badly, and takes some punches, while still trying to wildly strike. Holman comes forward, but tumbles down into the turtle position, and then takes some more shots as Hamill gets into his half-guard. Hamill eventually takes a back-mount, and flattens him out, landing punches until the referee steps in.
I’m still not convinced by Hamill, as even though he fought well here, his opponent completely ignored his own strength (wrestling) and gassed himself out badly by attempting to strike, which was clearly an area he just wasn’t proficient in. Some of the sloppiest striking I can recall seeing in the UFC in this one.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Renato â€˜Babalu’ Sobral vs Jason Lambert
Both of these men were coming off knockout losses; Sobral at the hands of Chuck Liddell, and Lambert to Rashad Evans, and so both were in desperate need of a win here. Personally I felt that Sobral would probably have too much for Lambert in the long haul, although Lambert certainly had enough skill to make it a close fight.
Round 1 begins, and they circle, before Babalu lands a low kick into a flurry, and then looks for a takedown. Lambert tries for a kimura, but ends up letting go into half-guard, before working into full guard. Babalu lands some punches and moves him towards the fence, where he looks to pass, taking Lambert’s back with one hook in. Babalu keeps working, getting the other hook in, and from there he looks to apply a rear naked choke, but Lambert defends well, avoiding the choke on a few occasions before managing to reverse to his feet in a clinch. Lambert opens up with some heavy uppercuts inside, clearly hurting Babalu, who tries to take him down again. They break off, and Babalu lunges forward, but walks into a BIG RIGHT, and Lambert follows with an uppercut to put Babalu down as the round ends! Wow, talk about a turnaround.
Babalu still doesn’t look right as they come out for the second round, and they press into the clinch, where Babalu throws some knees, only for Lambert to get a takedown to guard. He passes to half-guard, but Babalu reverses and they come back up momentarily, before Lambert gets him back down. He works with strikes inside the half-guard, until Sobral manages to work his way to full guard from the bottom. Lambert lands some elbows, and then the referee calls them back up. They restart, and Babalu comes leaping forward with what looks like a flying knee, but drops his hands and leaps right into a CRUSHING LEFT HOOK, right on the jaw, that knocks him silly, and Lambert follows up for the stoppage!
Nice! Early on it looked like my prediction would come true, as Babalu looked to overwhelm Lambert, but the Punisher fought through the early storm, and once he rocked Babalu to end the first round, it was all downhill for the Brazilian. It looked like he just never recovered from that first punch, and to leap right into a shot like that for the knockout was pretty surprising, as he completely dropped his hands. Huge win for Lambert, at any rate.
Welterweight Fight: Matt Hughes vs Chris Lytle
The first of three marquee bouts on this card, this was former champion Hughes’ first fight back after his shocking destruction at the hands of Georges St-Pierre five months prior. His opponent here, Chris Lytle, was coming off a disappointing (and controversial) loss of his own to Matt Serra in the TUF 4 finals, and interestingly had things gone differently, this could’ve been the Welterweight Title fight. Personally I thought the question here was more whether Hughes could finish Lytle, rather than whether Lytle could win, as Hughes on paper seemed far too overpowering for Lytle to handle.
Round 1 begins and Lytle looks to swing for the fences early, before grabbing a guillotine as Hughes takes him down. Hughes works his way out of Lytle’s guard to avoid the choke, and then gets his neck free into half-guard. He controls Lytle from the top, but Lytle works to full guard. Hughes works to pass again, and then gets to half-guard, but Lytle continues to defend well and takes no damage. Hughes manages to pass to side mount though, and works for his trademark crucifix position, pinning the arms to land a couple of elbows. Lytle uses a weird defensive technique, wrapping his legs around Hughes’ head, but this almost allows Matt to apply an armbar as the round ends.
They go into the clinch to open the 2nd, and Hughes gets a takedown to half-guard. Lytle still goes for the guillotine, but Hughes gets into side mount, and grinds away with elbows. Lytle continues to defend well, but Hughes cuts him with the elbows, and then takes full mount. Lytle does well to get to half-guard before taking any abuse, but eats some shots from there instead. Suddenly Lytle gets a headlock and uses it to flip Hughes over, surprisingly getting into top position! Hughes gets a half-guard and looks for a kimura, and Lytle then attempts the same counter Hughes hit on St-Pierre in the first fight â€“ the spinning armbar â€“ but Hughes avoids and Lytle ends up on his back again under a side mount, looking to reclaim guard to end the round.
Lytle presses forward to open the third, sensing the urgency, but Hughes gets another takedown into side mount. He continues to grind away with elbows, showing awesome top control, and then looks for a keylock, but can’t seem to lock it on as Lytle defends well. Lytle throws some knees from the bottom, but can’t get any sort of a reversal, and more elbows land. Hughes gets his knee on the stomach, and tries the crucifix again, but Lytle manages to block, and then as Hughes goes for a last-second armbar, Lytle slips free and finishes the fight on top.
Judges give it unanimously to Hughes in what I’m guessing was 30-27s all around. I saw a number of people online complaining about this fight, calling Hughes out for a boring fight, but let’s be fair here â€“ this fight was Matt Hughes by numbers, and it was only Lytle’s excellent defensive work that stopped Hughes from finishing things inside the distance. Don’t forget that Lytle has only ever been finished once, and that was via a cut stoppage. In reality, this was a solid, workmanlike performance from Hughes, who dominated the positioning and just overworked Lytle, doing his fair share of damage even if he didn’t finish. I found it a much more watchable fight on second viewing, too. Strong stuff for the former champion coming off a rare loss.
Middleweight Fight: Rich Franklin vs Jason MacDonald
Like Hughes, Franklin was coming off his own devastating loss, at the hands of Anderson Silva, and the question surrounding this fight was clearly whether Franklin had properly recovered â€“ both mentally, and physically â€“ from such a crushing defeat. MacDonald was riding a wave of momentum, too, after beating Ed Herman and Chris Leben, and this was clearly his chance to announce his arrival as a top contender in the 185lbs division.
They circle to begin, with Franklin landing a left hook, before MacDonald looks for a single leg. Rich defends the takedown attempt well and breaks off, landing a left hand and following with a knee and a combo that stun the Canadian! MacDonald recovers, and shoots in again, but Franklin blocks into the clinch, and they exchange some knees along the fence, muscling for position. Finally they break off, and Franklin catches him with a couple of nice combinations. MacDonald lands a good low kick, but takes a left hand as an answer, and then Franklin clinches and tosses him down to the mat. Franklin drops some punches from above, but MacDonald survives, so Franklin lets him up, and MacDonald shoots in and finally gets a single leg takedown to guard. Rich sweeps him, though, and drops some punches to end the round.
Between rounds we get a shot of Anderson Silva, sitting alongside the WWE’s Batista, in the crowd, and naturally, with this being Franklin’s home state, the poor Brazilian gets booed out of the building.
MacDonald opens the 2nd with a low kick and shoots in on a single again, but Rich defends it once more and lands some punches. Franklin breaks off, and MacDonald comes forward, but takes a counter left hand, and then looks for the takedown again. He gets Rich down, but Franklin works out of an attempted back mount and ends up on top in side control. He works to the full mount, and begins to land punches, as MacDonald looks in deeper trouble. MacDonald gets half-guard, but it’s only a short reprieve as Franklin mounts again, and then begins to land some really heavy shots, causing MacDonald to roll, giving his back. Franklin doesn’t go for the choke though, and continues to drop bombs, until MacDonald rolls again, but can’t escape the mount. More punches land to end the round, but as the buzzer sounds, MacDonald can barely stand.
Between rounds MacDonald’s corner throw the towel in; definitely a fair decision as it didn’t look at all like Jason was capable of coming out for another round. Post-fight Franklin looks both elated and relieved to have gotten the win.
Like with Hughes, this was a solid, if not spectacular performance from Franklin, to get back on the horse after being painfully dismounted in his last fight. MacDonald didn’t seem to offer much of a threat to the former champion as he couldn’t get Franklin to the ground, and on the feet he was clearly outgunned. Still, Franklin fought well in his first one back post-Silva, and this was an entertaining fight. Good stuff.
Middleweight Fight: Martin Kampmann vs Drew McFedries
McFedries was coming off an impressive debut win at 205lbs, over Alessio Sakara, and dropping to 185lbs here he looks absolutely HUGE. Just as big as any Middleweight I can recall seeing. Kampmann was coming off an equally impressive victory, over highly touted Brazilian Thales Leites at the TUF4 Finale, and he’d also racked up another UFC win earlier on against Crafton Wallace, too. As I mentioned, size difference is quite large here.
McFedries presses early as Round 1 begins, landing a big left hook and a follow-up right hand. Kampmann tries to impose his game, throwing a couple of kicks, but McFedries just wades forward throwing some HUGE POWER HOOKS, and ends up dropping Kampmann hard with a right, before following with one on the ground for good measure. Drew punches away for a moment and then decides to let him back up. He keeps pressing the action, showing no respect whatsoever for Kampmann’s punching power â€“ basically walking through a right hand â€“ and rocks the Dane again with a right-left combination. More big punches from McFedries land, as Kampmann answers with a combo to little effect. McFedries lands some more crazy power hooks, marking up Kampmann badly now, but Kampmann manages to survive and gets to a clinch, where he delivers a nice throw to side mount. McFedries blocks a full mount attempt, but looks a bit lost on the ground, and Kampmann throws some knees to the body before locking up an arm triangle, upon which he passes to the other side of McFedries’ body, and tightens it up until the Miletich fighter passes out.
Wow, talk about a turnaround there. Colour me hugely impressed with Kampmann’s survival skills, as he took some tremendous shots from McFedries and managed to weather the storm, and who knew that a guy who’s touted primarily as a kickboxer would be able to basically tool a Miletich fighter on the ground? McFedries showed some frightening power standing, but Kampmann turned out to be the more well rounded fighter and that was the difference in the end. Really fun fight while it lasted, too, even if the crowd didn’t treat it as such given that neither guy was a real â€œnameâ€ fighter.
UFC World Heavyweight Title: Tim Sylvia vs Randy Couture
Talk about a crazy main event. The original plan here had been for Brandon Vera to challenge Sylvia for the gold, but contract troubles pushed him right out of the scene, and after a week or so of rumors about Sylvia facing Gabriel Gonzaga, it was finally announced that the legendary Randy Couture â€“ about three months shy of his 44th birthday and over a year into retirement â€“ was returning to challenge Sylvia for the belt that he had held originally back in 1997!
Right away many fans â€“ myself included â€“ saw this as a terrible idea for Couture, as the reason he’d dropped down to 205lbs in the first place was that he was struggling with the larger size of men like Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez, and Sylvia was a larger guy than both of them. This wasn’t even mentioning the fact that Couture had recently lost twice to Chuck Liddell via knockout, and not only was Sylvia most well known for his striking power, he had also displayed excellent takedown defense in his last bout. All in all, this looked like a bad fight on paper for Couture â€“ but then again, people had counted Couture out before and last time that happened, he’d beaten Liddell and Ortiz on the bounce. And Sylvia had never faced a wrestler the calibre of Couture, and then there were the tales of Randy taking Sylvia down at will when they trained together some years prior. So while Sylvia was clearly the favourite, this was certainly an intriguing fight. The gameplans were surely simple â€“ Couture needed to close the distance and get under the long reach to get Sylvia to the ground, while Tim would want to stay standing and pick Randy off from the outside.
BIG pop for Couture, naturally, as the line about him being the most beloved guy in UFC history is no word of hyperbole. Sylvia gets a firmly mixed reaction, not quite as negative as he got at UFC 65, but certainly he’s not the most popular guy in the building. Size difference looks enormous, as you’d expect.
They begin, and Couture comes forward, throws a left leg kickâ€¦and suddenly lands a HUGE RIGHT HAYMAKER THAT KNOCKS SYLVIA FLYING!~! Crowd EXPLODE as Rogan and Goldberg can’t believe what they’re seeing. Randy closes in and pounds away, before getting a waistlock and pulling Sylvia down to the mat, where he takes the champion’s back with both hooks in! Sylvia manages to avoid the rear naked choke attempts though, and lays there with Couture on his back underneath him, using the time to recover from the first shot. This goes on for a couple of minutes, and referee John McCarthy outright tells Sylvia that he’s not standing them up, and he’ll have to work out of the position. This sets Rogan off on an AWESOME rant about the use of stand-ups in MMA, as Joe claims that he hates all stand-ups, and if a guy can hold you down for five minutes, then too bad, you should work out a way to stand up yourself. Meanwhile Sylvia continues to defend the choke attempts, and the round ends with Couture still on Sylvia’s back. Unbelievable opener.
They come out for the 2nd, and Couture lands a left hand and gets to the clinch, but Sylvia breaks off quickly with an uppercut. Couture backs off, and then uses the same low kick into overhand right combo again, and lands cleanly once more! He gets back to the clinch, but Sylvia lands a knee and shoves him into the fence before breaking off. Couture gets right back on him, working for the takedownâ€¦and he manages to get Sylvia down into half-guard! Sylvia works from the bottom to get full guard in, where he strikes from the bottom, but Couture begins to take over, landing shots from the top. Sylvia attempts to kick him away, but Randy keeps him firmly down, and bloodies his nose with punches from the top until McCarthy brings them back up. Randy wings a couple of hooks at him off the restart, and then gets the clinch. Tim lands a kneeâ€¦but Couture catches the leg, and gets a legsweep takedown as the buzzer sounds to end the round. Crowd are in awe at this point as Couture is absolutely OWNING him.
Round three, and Couture comes out bobbing and weaving like a boxer to avoid the long jabs of the champion, while throwing â€“ and landing â€“ some crazy, winging hooks of his own, just SWINGING for Sylvia’s head while Tim looks completely shocked at what’s happening to him. Couture continues to bob and weave as the crowd begin a loud â€œRANDY!â€ chant, and sure enough Couture lands another big right hand! Left lands to follow, but Sylvia answers with a knee. Couture continues to stay on top though, landing hook after hook and basically just schooling Sylvia with combinations, making the larger man look absolutely lost on his feet. Round ends and this fight is officially INSANE.
Into championship territory now, fourth round, and Couture is breathing heavy as it begins, no surprise given that this guy is almost *44*. He shoots in early for a takedown, but Sylvia gets a good sprawl off to avoid. They come up and Tim lands a knee inside, but Randy answers by getting a trip takedown to Sylvia’s guard! Tim keeps a high guard, teasing a triangle attempt, but Randy lands some good punches, posturing up to work him over to the body and the head. McCarthy stands them up again, and Sylvia just continues to plod forward, seemingly unable to do anything but jab, while Couture lands a couple more overhand rights before getting to the clinch, where he drops and gets a takedown to side mount! Couture works him over with some short elbows, and then steps into full mount, but before he can do any real damage, Sylvia rolls and slips out of the backdoor. Tim gets a front facelock, but Couture smartly keeps his hands firmly on the ground to avoid any knee strikes, and the round ends there.
Between rounds Pat Miletich looks LIVID, as it’s clear now that this is Randy’s fight, scoring has to be at least 40-36, and if Sylvia can’t stop him this round the belt is Couture’s.
Fifth and final round, and the crowd are on EDGE, sharing the same knowledge that Miletich has â€“ if Randy can avoid being stopped in this round it’s his fight. Randy opens with a right into the clinch, where Sylvia clips him with an uppercut, only for Couture to take him down to half-guard! Couture lands more elbows and punches as the clock continues to run down. Sylvia looks for some sort of leglock, out of sheer desperation seemingly, but Couture spins out to side mount, and knees the body while grinding at the face with elbows. He takes the full mount, and to say the crowd are DEAFENING at this point would be an understatement. Suddenly Sylvia escapes to his feet, but it’s to no avail, as Couture BRINGS HIM DOWN AGAIN!~! Couture sits up in Tim’s guard and lands more punches, and the clock counts down, with the crowd EXPLODING as the buzzer sounds, almost drowning out Rogan’s screaming on commentary. UNBELIEVABLE!~!
All three judges have it 50-45 for the NEW Heavyweight Champion, capturing his THIRD Heavyweight title, Randy Couture. Post-fight Rogan is SPEECHLESS!~! and who can blame him? Remind me never to doubt Randy Couture again. â€œNot bad for an old man!â€ says the new champion. Not bad indeed. Seriously, I did have this lingering feeling in my mind that somehow Randy would pull it out, but I never really thought it’d happen, certainly not in the manner it did, as Sylvia literally got sonned for a full 25 minutes, never having a true moment of offense after being put down with the very first punch Randy threw. In his post-fight interview Sylvia mentions a back injury and gets booed out of the building, poor guy.
But yeah, his overall record might not suggest it, but I think it’s hard to argue against Couture as the greatest UFC champion in the company’s history at this point. With SIX World Titles to his name now, it’d be a very difficult case. Unbelievable main event that still doesn’t cease to amaze me even all these months on. Crowd were insane for this and you cannot blame them at all as it was one of the most emotional fights I can recall ever seeing. Couture just continues to be probably the most inspiring athlete out there in almost any sport. How can you say a bad word about a guy who’s 44 years old, comes out of retirement, and manages to slay a giant like Tim Sylvia? Wow.
-And we end with a highlight reel of the night’s action.
The Inside Pulse
: UFC 68 is pretty much a must-see show purely for the incredible main event, as Couture coming out of retirement to beat Sylvia is just like something out of a Rocky movie, except of course it’s all real! Originally I was expecting to be recommending this for the main event alone, but on a rewatch this is actually a really good show. Undercard is a lot of fun, especially Fitch/Fioravanti, Lambert/Babalu is a pretty crazy fight, and Hughes and Franklin’s fights were both good too, especially the Hughes fight which I completely underrated on a first view. Still, the obvious selling point here is Randy Couture, and in that sense it’s a show that is definitely not to be missed. Highly recommended.
UFC: 69, 70, 71 and 72.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
Strike Force: Shamrock vs. Gracie.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.
Until next time,
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts