Retro-Review: WFA 3: Desert Destruction

WFA 3: Desert Destruction

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Dave Bontempo and Maurice Smith. Pretty insane that this event was on the same weekend as UFC 40 (the first Ortiz/Shamrock card) too, as it’s easily the most stacked WFA card on paper at least. Imagine how cool it could’ve been to manage to go to both events live? Anyhow, Smith and Bontempo talk about the main event of Trigg vs. Hallman briefly, before moving to the first fight.

Featherweight Fight: Jeff Curran vs Todd Lally

Classic striker vs. grappler match here, with Curran being the BJJ-based ground fighter and Lally apparently more of a kickboxer. Before we start too, I’ll point out that the production values for this third show look much better than the first two; even the mat in the cage has a logo and everything and just looks more big-time.

Lally opens up by looking to use some leg kicks, but Curran closes in and gets a clinch. They muscle for position, before Curran drops to his back, but comes up quickly when Lally avoids the guard. Lally works with some more leg kicks, but Curran shoots in and gets a takedown to half-guard. Curran works to pass, and then slides beautifully into a top-side triangle choke attempt, and then transitions from that to an armbar, but Lally manages to work his way free into Curran’s guard. Curran wastes no time though, and uses his legs to elevate Lally momentarily, before slapping on a tight triangle from the bottom, and this time it’s good enough for the submission.

Curran looked slick as always in that one, and I’m definitely looking forward now to seeing him lock horns with the likes of Faber and Pulver in WEC’s 145lbs division.

Welterweight Fight: Jason Black vs Chad Saunders

Black is looking just as caveman-like as ever here; seriously one of the most intimidating looks in MMA I think. Don’t know all that much about Saunders, and I can’t seem to find much out about him either, so ah well.

Black throws a big right early to open the first round, and follows with a takedown to half-guard. Saunders reverses to his feet in the clinch, and they exchange at close quarters, where Saunders lands a good combo. Black gets the takedown again though, and begins to work methodically from the top with strikes. Saunders throws some elbows from the bottom, but Black continues to work him over with some good shots from the top, marking Saunders up all over his face. Black continues to work throughout, and opens up a cut on Saunders just before the round ends.

Second round, and Black lands some punches in close, so Saunders clinches, only for Black to get the takedown to guard. Black moves him into the fence and continues where he left off, working clubbing, short punches that land hard, and Saunders looks tired now, breathing out of his mouth badly. Black continues to grind away, the fight moving slightly slow, but he’s still doing enough work to avoid a restart, landing to the body and the head over and over. More of the same continues throughout the round, and as the round ends Saunders looks in great difficulty.

Black comes out ready for the third, but Saunders can’t answer the bell so the fight ends there. Black looked really good in this one, basically just beating Saunders up for ten minutes en route to the stoppage. Saunders had no answer for Black’s takedown or ground control, and couldn’t stop Black’s ground-and-pound. Excellent showing from Black and far better than his first WFA fight, that’s for sure.

Lightweight Fight: Vitor ‘Shaolin’ Ribeiro vs Eddie Yagin

Yagin is a guy fighting out of Enson and Egan Inoue’s school, and physically he resembles BJ Penn quite a bit I think. Shaolin was looking for his third WFA win on the bounce, after whitewashing Charlie Kohler and Joe Hurley previously.

Round 1 begins, and they press forward, before Yagin avoids Shaolin’s first takedown with a beautiful sprawl. Shaolin begins to work a stiff jab, but Yagin avoids another takedown and lands a glancing one-two. More jabs land from Shaolin, but Yagin avoids another takedown and lands another one-two! Surprising to see Yagin stuff the takedown thus far. Shaolin doesn’t look fazed though, landing some more jabs and a glancing high kick. Yagin looks to strike, but Shaolin continues to use his longer reach to land from the outside, before ducking a wilder punch from Yagin and shooting in to get the takedown. Yagin gives his back as soon as they hit the ground, and Shaolin grabs a waistlock and gets one hook in. He lands some shots and looks to transition to a triangle, but Yagin works his way out and stands. Shaolin stays on his back, so Yagin tries a couple of WILD cartwheel guard passes to end! Wow, really good round there.

They exchange from distance to open the 2nd, with Yagin again being able to avoid the takedown. Shaolin lands some jabs though, before shooting to the clinch where he gets an inside trip to half-guard. Yagin manages to get to full guard, but Shaolin lands punches from the top, before locking up the ARM TRIANGLE OF CERTAIN DOOM, and from there it’s academic, as Shaolin passes out to the side and chokes Yagin unconscious.

Yagin fought really well for a while there; avoiding the takedown and being able to stay on his feet even if he was probably losing the striking battle too. Shaolin is such a good fighter though and as soon as it hit the mat, Yagin looked in serious trouble and was finished pretty easily. A third impressive showing for Shaolin and you have to think he would’ve been in line for the WFA LW title had the promotion continued on.

Heavyweight Fight: Mike Van Arsdale vs Chris Haseman

Haseman is an Australian RINGS veteran, where he fought the likes of Jeremy Horn and Matt Hughes (no idea how, with the weight difference…) and here he was coming off a loss to Evan Tanner in his lone UFC appearance. Van Arsdale was making a return after a four-year layoff, and man is he looking JACKED here. Seriously huge guy. Hard to believe he made 205lbs, in fact.

They circle to open, and Van Arsdale lands a combo and then grabs a front facelock. Haseman backs off, but Van Arsdale catches a kick attempt and gets a takedown to side mount. Haseman manages to work to full guard, and keeps it tight, as Van Arsdale lands a few punches. He moves Haseman into the fence and lands a flurry, and continues to work Haseman over until the Aussie gives his back. Haseman manages to roll back to guard though, and the official stands them shortly after. They circle around, and it looks like the round will end before anything happens, but on the bell Haseman lands a body kick that CRUMPLES Van Arsdale! The referee even asks him if he wants out, as he can’t stand to get to his corner, but he manages to pull himself up and recover. Wow, that kick didn’t even look that hard, either.

Haseman looks to strike to open the 2nd round, but Van Arsdale quickly grabs him and gets a throw to guard. He lands some shots before standing, and Haseman scrambles up, but Van Arsdale drags him right back down and lands some knees to the body as the Australian looks to set up a kimura. Haseman sweeps into top position to try to close the submission off, but Van Arsdale just muscles his way free and gets back on top, where he opens up with some hammer fists that stun him. Haseman looks in trouble, and Van Arsdale senses it and opens up with a big flurry, and the ref steps in there.

Van Arsdale looked good throughout the fight outside of the one body kick, and muscled out of Haseman’s lone submission pretty easily. For his first fight in four years this was really good actually, but he didn’t end up fighting for over another year after this, and then took another year off after that! Would’ve been interesting to see what he could’ve done with more fight experience actually.

-Post-fight Frank Shamrock catches Van Arsdale on his way back to the locker room, and Mike explains that he pulled his shoulder early, but fought through it, and that the kick just knocked all the wind out of him but didn’t do any substantial damage.

Lightweight Fight: Josh Thomson vs ‘Razor’ Rob McCullough

Thomson was only 20 here I think, and he’s one of the few young guys who actually looks his age; even though he’s well-built he doesn’t look like a fighter at all at this point. McCullough has a shaved head and a goatee too, looking completely different facially to how he does now with the dyed metrosexual hairdo. This could be a really good fight actually based on what both guys are like today. General consensus from the announcers is that Thomson’s the better grappler while Razor has the advantage standing.

Thomson shoots into the clinch to open the first round, and shoves McCullough into the fence where they muscle for position, exchanging knees. Things get a bit slow, but Thomson suddenly decides to risk it all, and attempts a flying armbar! He misses though and ends up on his back in guard, where he immediately works for a triangle choke. Razor gets his head free, so Thomson tries an armbar instead, but Razor escapes that too and stands. Thomson joins him, and they press, and Thomson suddenly shocks everyone by landing a pair of superman punches! I believe Joe Rogan always says this was the first time he’d ever seen that move actually. Thomson follows with a takedown to side mount, where he lands some elbows and works his way into the full mount. Razor gives his back, and Thomson lands some punches from behind, until Razor works and manages to spin free into Thomson’s guard, but he’s sporting a badly bloody nose as the round comes to an end.

Round 2, and Thomson opens up with a fast front kick before shooting in, but he ends up on the bottom in guard. He keeps his guard active, working for a triangle, but Razor lands some punches from the top. Thomson catches him in a guillotine though and uses it to stand, where he breaks off with a knee. Another attempted superman punch misses, but Thomson follows with a takedown to guard, where he works McCullough over with some really good short elbows and punches, bloodying Razor’s face up badly. Thomson continues to stack up and work him over, and as the round ends, Razor looks badly hurt and very tired.

Announcers think he might throw the towel in, but instead he comes out for the third, only for Thomson to throw some kicks, land a combination, and get a throw to Razor’s guard. Man, Thomson is even owning him standing. Thomson continues to punch and elbow nastily from the top, before pinning Razor into the fence, working him over with shot after shot to the body and head. Thomson works into half-guard and looks for a kimura, but can’t get it, and so more punches land instead. Razor gets back to guard, but Thomson continues to land and works back to half-guard, where he hits some heavy elbows to the body. Thomson mounts and takes his back, where instead of going for the choke, he just continues to beat McCullough down until the fight ends.

I’ve got this 30-25 for Thomson, and sure enough, it’s a unanimous decision for the Punk, 30-26, 30-27, 30-27. Very, very good performance from Thomson to really announce his arrival on the scene, as not only did he dominate McCullough on the ground and basically beat the hell out of him, but whenever they were standing it was Josh that landed the better strikes too. And suddenly, thinking about it, I feel really really sad and annoyed that WFA went under when it did, as we were possibly *this* close to Thomson vs. Shaolin!

-Joe Rogan joins Frank again and talks about the show thus far, saying he’s been hugely impressed with Thomson and Shaolin, naturally. Thomson then joins us, shows that McCullough didn’t even leave a mark on him, and then tells us that he’s likely fighting Genki Sudo at UFC 41 in February. Wow, wish that fight would’ve come off.

WFA Light-Heavyweight Title: Marvin Eastman vs Alex Stiebling

Good match for this title as Eastman had looked pretty good in his last WFA showing, while Stiebling, despite losing his last two fights, was just fresh off his run in Pride that was largely a successful one. Plus, I always like the ‘Fighting Brad Pitt’. Apparently Stiebling had called Eastman a bitch at the weigh-in, too, making this one just a little personal.

Round 1 begins, and Eastman lands a HEAVY low kick into the clinch. They exchange knees, before Eastman opens up with a nice series of hard punches inside. Eastman follows with a takedown to half-guard, but Stiebling quickly gets back to guard, so Eastman stands. Stiebling joins him, but Eastman lands a NASTY leg kick, before LEVELLING him with a BRUTAL RIGHT CROSS! Eastman adds a couple of shots for good measure, but it’s already over and the ref steps in. Wild celebration post-fight, as Eastman says he’s finally reached his goal.

Very, very impressive showing from Eastman – probably the first time I’ve seen him fight and live up to his potential actually. Stiebling was never given a chance to get into the fight, as Eastman used his Muay Thai to destroy him really quickly, and the final right that ended things was extremely brutal. Highlight of Eastman’s career, probably.

WFA Welterweight Title: Frank Trigg vs Dennis Hallman

This was another logical title fight, despite Hallman never having fought in WFA before, as he’s a guy you can very easily hype up with those two remarkable wins over the then-UFC champion Matt Hughes. Trigg had looked very good in his first two WFA fights, so the stage was set for a good title fight here.

They press into the clinch early, where Hallman locks up a standing guillotine, but Trigg breaks off with a knee. They exchange a few strikes, but Hallman gets the better of it, so Trigg clinches, where he works Hallman with some dodgy rabbit punches that earn him a warning from the referee. Ref breaks them up, and they go back into the clinch briefly off the restart, but Hallman breaks with a good combination. Hallman presses forward, but as he lunges Trigg connects with a blatant groin kick, and then pounces, pounding away at Hallman before the referee steps in.

Replays show the kick did seem to be accidental at least, but Hallman looks badly hurt and stays down for some time. The referee checks with the State Commissioner, and then tells Hallman he’s got five minutes to recover, or the fight ends. Hallman can’t get up though, and after five minutes the ref throws it out and stops the fight….and they award the title to Trigg via ‘abandonment’. The f*ck? Surely it ought to be a no-contest if it ends on an accidental groin strike? I don’t understand that one at all – by that precedent, you could kick a guy in the balls and make it look accidental, and win fights all the time. Ridiculous decision to give Trigg the belt, even if it wasn’t strictly his fault, and a very unfortunate way to end the show.

-Bontempo and Smith wrap things up, and then we end there.

The Inside Pulse
: Shady main event aside, this is actually a hell of a show, and easily the best one the WFA put on in their short history. Not one bad fight on the card, and some very impressive showings – in fact, all of the winners outside of Trigg looked pretty great. With the added better production too, and a pretty strong roster of fighters, I wonder what the WFA could’ve been able to do if they hadn’t gone under after this show. I said in my first review that the dancing and club gimmick made the show feel a little seedy, but with the better production by this show it felt more unique than that, and definitely could’ve been seen as a viable alternative to the UFC at this time. Sadly though, after their best show, the promotion became defunct until it was unsuccessfully resurrected in 2006. Just shows how well Zuffa have done to build up the UFC into what it’s become I guess, when you see a company that put on cards like this one going under after just three attempts. Still, high recommendation for WFA 3, as it’s a show to check out for mostly all the good reasons.

Coming Soon….

UFC: 69, 70, 71 and 72.
WEC: 10 and 11.
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,

Scott Newman: