MMA on DVD: UFC: Fight Night 1

UFC: Fight Night 1

Las Vegas, Nevada

-This, then, was the UFC’s second foray into the free TV market on Spike, following the hugely successful Ultimate Fighter season 1 and the subsequent finale show, which of course featured Griffin vs. Bonnar and basically changed the landscape of North American MMA for good.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. They talk about the UFC’s new deal with Spike TV, which will feature a number of live Ultimate Fight Night shows like this one, as well as three more seasons of TUF and the UFC Unleashed show on top of that. Rogan then comments that the sport is finally exploding, and he gets more UFC questions than Fear Factor questions these days. Ah, if only you knew, Joe….

-Quick rundown of the card follows, with the basic gist of the night being the survivors from TUF 1 being put up against supposedly “more experienced” UFC veterans in their first real tests following the show. In reality guys like Pete Sell and Patrick Cote actually had *less* experience than the likes of Nate Quarry and Chris Leben, but I guess the point is that they had more actual UFC experience, or something like that.

Welterweight Fight: Josh Koscheck vs Pete Spratt

Koscheck, with his incredible wrestling ability and athleticism, clearly had one of the bigger upsides of all the TUF 1 veterans, and had been training with American Kickboxing Academy since finishing up on TUF. Here he was given what many people felt was the ideal opponent – largely one-dimensional striker Spratt, and the feeling was that if Koscheck could get the fight to the ground, which he probably would with relative ease, he could find a way to win. Although there was that one guy on Inside Fighting who called “Spratt by VICIOUS KNOCKOUT”…

Round 1 gets underway, and Koscheck comes forward, fires off a low kick, and then shoots in for a takedown. Spratt looks to defend but Koscheck secures the double leg and puts him down in half-guard against the fence. Kos lands some short strikes from the top, and then passes and takes Spratt’s back as he tries to roll. Spratt stands up with Koscheck on his back like a human lemur, and from there he gets his arm across Spratt’s throat and locks up a rear naked choke, and Spratt falls to his back and taps out.

Impressive win for Koscheck to take out a more experienced veteran in such short time, but then again it was to be expected given Spratt’s lack of ground skill against better grapplers. Nice finish though, I always like the standing rear naked choke.

Middleweight Fight: Nate Quarry vs Pete Sell

Quarry was perhaps the most popular non-Griffin/Bonnar TUF veteran, following a performance on the show that put him over as one of the few mature guys in the house. He’d already scored one UFC victory, knocking out Shonie Carter at UFC 53. Sell I believe had been laid off by injuries, but prior to this he had submitted Phil Baroni in his Octagon debut back in February.

Both men come out looking willing to strike, and Sell catches Nate with a nice left jab and a right cross. They exchange for a short period before backing up, and then Quarry comes forward and drops him with a short left hand. Nate follows up with a right as Sell looks to secure guard, but suddenly referee Cecil Peoples comes in for the stoppage. Sell looks FURIOUS with the decision, ranting and raving at Peoples, and upon seeing the replay the crowd boo loudly too, as it’s pretty clear Sell wasn’t out.

Normally I tend to side with the official on an early stoppage discussion, as it’s their job to make sure nobody gets badly hurt, but this was just a terrible decision from Peoples. Sell got dropped, but it was clear as soon as he hit the mat that he wasn’t out, Quarry’s follow-up punch didn’t connect especially cleanly, and Pete was blatantly trying to secure guard when Peoples stepped in! One of the worst stoppages I can recall seeing in the UFC, and interestingly these two are set to rematch on an upcoming card this September.

-Joe Rogan is joined by UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell, who talks about his preparation for his upcoming title defense against Jeremy Horn, the first man to defeat Liddell in the Octagon.

Middleweight Fight: Stephan Bonnar vs Sam Hoger

Finale runner-up Bonnar was the only TUF fighter on the main card here to be given an opponent also from TUF, in the form of the “heel” from the series (in the words of Joe Rogan), Sam Hoger. If I recall correctly there was a bit of a personal rivalry due to Hoger supposedly stealing beanie hats or something like that, but I think the matchmaking was more due to UFC wanting to give Bonnar an impressive win to capitalize on his popularity post-Griffin fight.

They circle off to open, before Bonnar gets a takedown to guard. Sam immediately stays active from his back, but Bonnar works to pass into half-guard. Hoger looks to lock up a kimura, but Bonnar works his way free and drops some elbows. Hoger gets full guard back, but takes some punches from Bonnar before locking up an arm triangle choke from the bottom. Bonnar looks in trouble for a split second, but Hoger can’t finish and ends up releasing, and from there Bonnar lands elbows and punches before passing to half-guard. Elbow from Bonnar cuts Hoger open near his right eye. Sam kicks off and stands, but takes a big knee from Stephan as they come up, and Bonnar ends the round with a flurry and two more knees to the face.

Round 2 opens with some feeler strikes, before Hoger catches an attempted spinning back kick and gets into a clinch. They trade punches though, and Hoger looks stunned, but as Bonnar attempts a takedown Hoger switches and ends up on top. They come back up quickly, and this time Bonnar trips him down and gets to full mount. Hoger gets a nice reversal though, sweeping Bonnar over into guard. Sam does little from top position and the referee brings them up. They exchange from the restart, and Sam catches a kick and gets a takedown to guard, but Bonnar locks in a kimura from the top and uses it to sweep Hoger over to full mount. Bonnar looks to finish, landing punches and elbows while avoiding Sam’s reversal attempts, but he can’t do it fast enough and the round ends.

Third and final round, and both men press forward and trade some punches. Bonnar gets a bodylock, and then switches to a rear waistlock and looks to drag him down, but Hoger drops for a kimura. Bonnar quickly escapes into half-guard, and then works to pass and takes the full mount, but Hoger reverses, getting a butterfly guard in from the bottom. Bonnar works him over with punches, but both men look exhausted at this point. Stephan continues to land punches, and then stands and tries an axe kick, but Hoger grabs the leg and attempts to lock up a kneebar on the buzzer.

All three judges score it for Bonnar, unanimous decision, and no arguments from me on that one. Pretty fun fight actually if a little sloppy, as Bonnar was always in control, but Hoger had enough skill and fight in him to make it competitive throughout. Not the best showing if Bonnar wanted to make himself look like a real contender, but from the perspective of putting on an entertaining fight this was fine.

-Forrest Griffin joins Joe Rogan to talk about his new found fame, saying he’s enjoying playing the rock star. Rogan asks Forrest if he believes he’s legitimately UFC calibre, to which Forrest says he is, but he’s definitely not ready for a title shot just yet.

-Rogan is then joined by actor Tyrese Gibson, who plugs his new movie ‘Four Brothers’ and says he loves the UFC, although this is his first time seeing it live.

Middleweight Fight: Chris Leben vs Patrick Cote

Pre-fight package calls Leben the “most controversial character from TUF”, and I would definitely agree with that one! He was faced with a man who was practically a mirror image here, in Canadian Cote, coming off a loss to Joe Doerksen (who was coincidentally Leben’s only loss at this point too). With two young guys who love to stand and bang, I was looking forward to this fight a lot.

Round 1, and they press forward until Leben shoots into the clinch. He muscles Cote into the fence and delivers some classic Ruas-style foot stomps, and from there they continue to exchange inside, muscling along the fence before breaking off. Cote comes forward and drills Leben with a solid right hand, but Leben answers right away with a left hook that snaps Cote’s head back. They clinch back up, and Cote blocks a takedown and breaks off. Leben presses forward, and they openly trade punches, both men landing cleanly en route to another clinch. These guys have quite the hard chins. They muscle in the clinch before breaking off into another exchange as the round ends.

Leben opens the 2nd with a good right hand, and then they wildly trade off into the clinch again. This time Cote gets a takedown to Leben’s guard, where he lands some punches before Leben works back up into the clinch. They break off, and Leben lands a good low kick and a left hand. Into the clinch again, and they exchange short strikes until Leben gets the takedown to guard. He lands some shots from the top, but Cote mainly blocks his punches until the ref stands them up. They restart, and Cote counters a sloppy high kick attempt and lands a right hand that knocks Leben off balance to the mat, but before Cote can follow the buzzer sounds.

Third and final round, and they press into the clinch again, and exchange some short strikes inside. Break off, and then they trade more punches into another clinch, where they exchange bodyshots. Cote looks for the takedown, but instead slips to his back in guard, and Leben lands a few elbows. Cote works to retain full guard and defends well, and Leben continues to attempt to land elbows from the top until the fight ends.

Pretty close one to call; the judges have it 29-28 Leben, 29-27 Cote, and then 30-27 for Leben, giving him the split decision victory. Honestly there was nothing in this one and it could’ve gone either way – I don’t have a problem with the decision as neither man did anything to warrant the clear-cut victory. Pretty lacklustre fight overall, with a lot of inactive clinching, although the trading of punches was fun.

Joe Rogan is joined by Wilmer Valderrama, who I believe is an actor or a comedian or something. Bad choice for a celeb interview methinks – he describes UFC as “underground” and “backyard”. Ugh.

Middleweight Fight: Mike Swick vs Gideon Ray

This was a prelim from earlier on the card, as Swick – re-nicknamed ‘Quick’ following his 20-second victory on the TUF Finale – faced off with Keith Hackney (!~!) student Ray, who was taking the fight on short notice after Keith Rockel suffered an injury in training.

They begin and exchange some low kicks, before Ray comes forward…but Swick suddenly lands a LIGHTNING COMBO, left-right-left-right and sends Ray DOWN AND OUT! Holy God, that was quick. Like something from Vitor Belfort’s early fights.

Official time is 24 seconds, not beating Swick’s last outing but coming frighteningly close. Replays also pick up on the fact that Ray double-legged referee Herb Dean after he’d stopped the fight, which is pretty funny. Not the greatest opponent but this was still a mighty impressive showing from the Quick One, total highlight reel stuff.

Middleweight Fight: Nathan Marquardt vs Ivan Salaverry

Main event here was a curious one, as rather than go with one of the TUF matches they decided to try to create a new star at Middleweight, by matching newcomer, seven-time King of Pancrase Nathan Marquardt, with a guy who’d recently been making waves on the UFC undercards, Ivan Salaverry. Salaverry, for those who’ve forgotten, was coming off back-to-back submission wins over Tony Fryklund and Joe Riggs. Pre-fight they ask tons of other fighters who their pick is (and in a weird scene Rich Franklin and Evan Tanner, who fought each other about a month before this, are sitting together like best buddies) and it’s unanimously for Salaverry, with Paul Buentello being the only person to pick the more experienced Marquardt.

Interestingly enough during Marquardt’s entrance, Mike Goldberg outright states that Matt Lindland is currently the #1 contender at Middleweight, but the winner of this fight could jump over him if he were to lose to Joe Doerksen in two weeks time. I think that’s the only time they officially called Lindland #1 contender actually, as he was released after the Doerksen fight due to a disagreement over a sponsor.

Round 1 begins VERY tentatively, as they circle around with little action outside of Marquardt landing a few good leg kicks. Salaverry misses a strange axe kick attempt and then a spinning back kick, too, and the crowd begin to boo as Marquardt catches a low kick and gets a takedown to guard. Salaverry holds him in a tight guard, so Marquardt stands, and they continue to circle with little action.

Round 2 begins with Marquardt catching a kick and getting a takedown, but Salaverry keeps a tight defensive guard, not allowing him to do a thing, and the ref brings them up. Ivan fires off a decent combo, but takes a good leg kick and Marquardt continues to push forward, but lands little outside of the odd jab. Ivan looks for a takedown, but Marquardt blocks and gets on top, and Salaverry keeps the tight guard and slows down the fight even more, locking on a body triangle from the bottom and keeping the fight there until the round ends.

Third and final round, and the crowd are booing mercilessly at this point as both men continue to circle tentatively. Marquardt catches a kick and throws him down, but refuses to go to the ground, instead standing and kicking Salaverry’s legs until the ref brings him up. Salaverry shoots, but Nate blocks and tries a guillotine, only for Salaverry to spin to guard. Marquardt finally manages to pass, and looks to take the back, but Salaverry manages to avoid Nate getting his second hook in and stands. They circle off until Ivan shoots again, and this time Nate grabs a front facelock and lands a few knees, causing Salaverry to drop to all fours. He rolls and they stand, and we get more circling with little action until they clinch to end the fight.

Judges give a unanimous decision to Marquardt, but in a fight as dull as that one neither man comes off looking like a winner. I guess Marquardt was the slightly more aggressive one, so he picked up the win. It was just an unfortunate pairing I think, as both men are renowned counter-fighters, so they were waiting for the other man to do something and when they didn’t, we ended up with a horribly tentative fight with the main move being circling and squaring up. Things got even worse after the event, as Salaverry was released from his contract for the boring fight, while Marquardt ended up testing positive for steroids (though he was cleared later on) and his UFC career took well over a year to properly recover from the debacle. Horrible way to end the night.

-Announcers discuss the impressive showings from the TUF veterans, and we end with a highlight reel of the night’s action.

The Inside Pulse
: Where the TUF Finale blew everyone away by having the incredible Griffin-Bonnar fight as well as two impressive first round stoppages, I think this card showed the flipside of MMA, as we were treated to what basically amounted to one fun-if-sloppy fight, two squashes, one premature stoppage and two lacklustre, tentative decisions. Not to say it’s a bad card especially – Bonnar/Hoger is fun and Swick and Koscheck got highlight-worthy finishes, but Leben/Cote is a whole lot of nothing and the less said about Salaverry/Marquardt the better. The bottom line is probably that MMA fans should be thankful that the TUF Finale didn’t turn out to be a show like this. Thumbs in the middle, leaning down.

Coming Soon….

UFC: 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, Fight Nights 2-10, and the TUF III Finale.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman: