UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson
Las Vegas, Nevada
-This was probably UFC’s biggest card of the year in terms of mainstream attention, as due to their biggest star defending his title against his biggest threat in the main event, the whole show garnered huge publicity and the weigh-ins were covered by ESPN, you had the Sports Illustrated cover issue, the big piece in ESPN magazine and so forth, which was ill for fans who had been waiting for UFC to break into mainstream for a long time.
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Wilson Gouveia vs Carmelo Marrero
This was Marrero’s debut at 205lbs after being tooled at Heavyweight by Gabriel Gonzaga, while Gouveia was coming off two impressive wins over Wes Combs and Seth Petruzelli in his last two fights.
They begin, and Gouveia comes out very casually, hands hanging low as they circle, not showing any respect for Marrero’s striking whatsoever. He avoids a couple of possible takedowns, and they exchange some shots with Gouveia getting the better of it. Couple of nasty leg kicks from Gouveia hurt Carmelo bad, and he looks wobbled and ends up shooting for a takedown. Gouveia blocks it, and then backs away before landing another leg kick, and this one buckles Marrero’s leg badly. Combo and knee to follow put Marrero down face-first, and he tries a takedown but Gouveia counters by slapping on a guillotine, and ends up in top position mounted with the guillotine, and Marrero taps out there.
Very good showing for Gouveia, although Marrero’s such a one-dimensional fighter he didn’t really offer much threat outside of his takedowns. Still, Gouveia’s leg kicks and striking in general looked great here and if he can stay healthy and continue to improve, he’s yet another name to throw into the mix at 205lbs.
Lightweight Fight: Din Thomas vs Jeremy Stephens
Stephens was making his UFC debut here, on his 21st birthday, and man, what a horrible opponent to be presented with in his debut, as Thomas had been on a serious roll following his stint on TUF 4, and was coming off an unbelievably impressive win over the tough Clay Guida in January. Pre-fight Stephens doesn’t exactly look intimidated though, confident guy.
Round 1 begins, and they circle off with some feeler punches, before Thomas pulls off a beautiful combination, landing a jab, slipping a punch and diving in with a nice takedown. Stephens keeps his guard tight as Thomas works to pass, and gets side mount momentarily, only for Stephens to reclaim half-guard, and then full guard. Thomas lands some elbows inside the guard, and then gets a nice pass to side mount, where he controls Stephens before flipping him onto his back and getting both hooks in. Very nice. Stephens works to defend the rear naked choke as Thomas works a body triangle. Thomas keeps trying the choke and then tries the Joe Doerksen trick of hooking Stephens’ arm with his leg, but as he does so Stephens wriggles free, and rolls into top position in Din’s guard! Crowd pop big as Stephens stands over him and ends up dropping some WILD punches, just swinging like a caveman although he doesn’t land clean, and the round ends there. Hell of a finish.
Stephens looks much more confident coming into the 2nd, and comes out aggressively, firing off some jabs before landing a spinning backfist! Thomas works his own jabs, but eats a left hook in an exchange, and Stephens follows with a nice double kick to the body. The exchange continues until Thomas shoots in and ends up pulling guard, and from there he quickly locks up an armbar. Stephens lifts him up to try to slam his way out, but ends up caught, and Thomas rolls into the submission and straightens it for the tapout.
Turned into a really good fight actually; for a while in the first round it looked like it’d be one-sided, but as soon as Stephens escaped the choke attempt he really got into the fight and acquitted himself well, despite losing in the end. Another good win for Thomas, but Stephens made an excellent showing in his debut too and it made for an exciting fight.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alan Belcher vs Sean Salmon
This was originally set to see submission fighter Eric Schafer take on wrestler Salmon, but Schafer suffered an injury in training and so Alan Belcher stepped in, moving up to 205lbs for the fight. Story he gives in the pre-fight package is basically that he was so pissed with his last performance (a loss to Kendall Grove) he just needed to get into the cage as soon as he could to redeem himself. Salmon was also looking for redemption following his becoming a human highlight reel at the hands of Rashad Evans and *that* high kick.
They circle to begin, with Belcher looking to create room for his strikes, before Salmon shoots for a takedown. He lifts Belcher up, but leaves his head out and Belcher clamps on a guillotine, and although Salmon gets a big slam, Belcher gets the choke on tight and forces the tapout at just over 45 seconds.
Wow, very disappointing for Salmon; he just made the classic wrestler’s mistake of leaving his head wide open and got caught. Kudos to Belcher though, he did what had to be done and picked up a relatively easy victory. Not much else to say really.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Thiago Silva vs James Irvin
Almost everyone was expecting a major slugfest here, as Irvin who pretty much always brings an exciting fight was matched with the latest â€˜next big thing’ from Chute Boxe, in the unbeaten Thiago Silva. Personally I was disappointed that this didn’t make the main card, as it was one of the fights I was most looking forward to seeing on the whole show.
Irvin comes out aggressively as always to begin, catching Silva off guard with a right hand and sending him to the mat with a leg kick, though it looks more like Thiago was caught off balance rather than being hurt. Irvin closes in and looks to pound away, but Thiago gets a bodylock and reverses, working against the fence for a takedown. Eventually he gets Irvin down, but as soon as they hit the mat Irvin taps out, looking in serious pain. Ref steps in and it’s clear something went wrong, and the replays show that Irvin’s knee twisted in a horrible way as he went down, with his leg caught under him. Blown ACL or MCL methinks.
Shitty way for that one to finish as it was shaping up to be a good fight I thought, but on the bright side, at least Silva wasn’t given the chance to experience â€˜Octagon shock’ in his first UFC appearance, and picked up a win without underperforming or anything like so many other debutants. Never good to see a serious injury though and I hope Irvin comes back healthy as soon as possible.
Middleweight Fight: Kalib Starnes vs Chris Leben
Opening fight on the PPV portion of the show was between two TUF alumni coming off losses, TUF 3’s Starnes against TUF 1’s Leben, a guy who had seen his stock seriously drop following a vicious knockout loss at the hands of Anderson Silva. Interestingly Starnes had been training with American Top Team preparing for this fight, and he’s got Denis Kang in his corner here.
Round 1 begins, and Leben comes out throwing some strikes, as Starnes moves around and seems to be looking to close the distance. He gets an early clinch, but Leben breaks quickly and looks for the big left hand as they go into a brief exchange. Leben slips on a high kick attempt but pops back up before Starnes can capitalize, and the exchange continues with Kalib landing a couple of good leg kicks. Leben continues his usual forte, swinging wildly, and ends up with a small cut on his head. Starnes gets a clinch, but Leben breaks off and lands a nice left, and looks to follow, but misses a spinning backfist and Starnes tackles him to the mat. Starnes works him over from guard with shots to the body and head, as Leben tries to secure the rubber guard. Finally with the clock ticking, Starnes lets Leben up, but NAILS him with a series of big punches on the way up that stun Leben badly as the round ends! Kalib probably stole the round with that flurry in fact.
2nd round begins with another even exchange, both men landing some good stuff, before Starnes lands a BIG straight right that rocks Leben back! Leben comes lurching forward, but Kalib gets a takedown again. Leben gets the rubber guard, so Kalib stands and drops another heavy right hand, and lands an uppercut too as Leben scrambles to his feet. Into the clinch, and they muscle for a moment before breaking off, and exchanging strikes with Kalib landing a sharp leg kick. Both men look tired now as the exchange continues, and Leben begins to take over, swarming on Starnes as he covers up to avoid the shots. Starnes comes back with a good knee to the body, and another exchange ends the round.
Third and final round, and Leben presses forward, landing a hard kick to the body in an exchange that appears to hurt Kalib badly. Leben closes in, but allows Starnes to pull guard, and from there he just clings on with a closed guard, with Leben just laying there allowing him to recover. Don’t think he realized how badly Starnes was hurt. Finally Leben stands and drops a left hand, but Kalib gets a sweep to top position, and they exchange shots inside Leben’s guard, with an elbow from Starnes being the best hit. Starnes stands and passes to side mount momentarily, but allows Leben half-guard as he attempts full mount, and from there Starnes lands some elbows to end.
Pretty close fight; I’ve got Starnes 29-28 myself, and sure enough it’s a unanimous decision for him, 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27. As I said, this was close, but Starnes landed the more telling shots in the first two rounds â€“ the flurry in the first and the big right in the 2nd â€“ and despite Leben having him hurt badly with the body kick in the final round he didn’t really capitalize. Bit of a sloppy fight as both men got pretty tired, but it was watchable enough.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Keith Jardine vs Houston Alexander
From what I can gather, Jardine was originally set to fight David Heath here, but Heath stepped up a month prior and fought Machida at UFC 70 on short notice, leaving Jardine with the relatively unknown Houston Alexander as his opponent. Jardine was coming off the biggest win of his career thus far, over Forrest Griffin, coming into this, and in the pre-fight package he even mentions that he’s â€œpissed off that he has to fight Houston Alexanderâ€ at this stage. Even at the weigh-ins though people started wondering about Alexander simply because he’s a HUGE guy at 205lbs, absolutely shredded. Still, it was clear that Jardine was the big favourite.
They get underway and circle off, with Jardine raising his arms almost like a chimpanzee for some reason, maybe taunting. Brief exchange follows and Jardine wobbles him with a left hand, but as he closes in Houston grabs a clinch and suddenly lands a series of HUGE PUNCHES from close range! Jardine looks in trouble and then a BIG UPPERCUT puts him down by the fence! Crowd explode as Jardine manages to get to his feet, but Alexander just goes POSTAL, landing huge shot after huge shot, and finally he nails Jardine with another uppercut, a big knee, and a BRUTAL UPPERCUT that puts Jardine out cold and sends his mouthpiece flying. Jesus.
Whole thing lasted like 45 seconds, but what a 45 seconds it was. Initially it looked like Alexander was in trouble when Jardine landed the left, but he quickly recovered and then just SMASHED Jardine with ruthless power. Unbelievable debut for Alexander and another huge upset in a long list of them in 2007. One of the craziest fights you’ll ever see.
Middleweight Fight: Terry Martin vs Ivan Salaverry
This was Salaverry’s big return to UFC action following a couple of years in the wilderness after the horrible Nathan Marquardt fight, and he was presented with quite the opponent â€“ Terry Martin, who was coming off a 14-second knockout win over Jorge Rivera in his debut at 185lbs.
Martin presses forward to begin, but Salaverry stays on the back foot and circles off, landing some crisp leg kicks as he avoids Martin’s punches. Martin lands a nice right hand though and then closes the distance, forcing Ivan into the cage. Martin gets a rear waistlock and lands some knees to the legs, as Salaverry looks to hook the arm, and then Ivan avoids a slam attempt and hooks up the kimura from the front ala Sakuraba. Martin’s having none of it though, and he lifts Salaverry up and delivers a BIG SUPLEX, dropping Ivan on his head! Salaverry turtles up, and Martin lands a few hammer fists before the ref stops it.
Wow, I’d call that a bit upset myself as I’ve always rated Salaverry highly, but Martin ran right through him. Wasn’t the most skilled of victories as the win came purely by brute force, but you have to give it to Terry â€“ he stopped a skilled veteran in very short time. Pretty exciting little fight even if it was over before it really had a chance to get going.
Welterweight Fight: Karo Parisyan vs Josh Burkman
There was a lot of hype around this semi-main event, as most fans were anticipating the fight of the night if not a FOTYC from Burkman and Parisyan, two guys known for their aggressive and exciting styles. Personally I thought Karo would be too much for Burkman to handle at this stage in his career, but I was still looking forward to seeing the fight. Pre-fight video is interesting as Karo’s scar across his right cheek from the Fickett fight is really evident; that was a seriously nasty cut.
We get a MAD STAREDOWN before the fight begins, and as Round 1 opens both guys come out swinging for the fences. Brief tie-up follows, but they quickly break and Burkman lands a leg kick, only for Karo to grab the leg and nail him with some hard right hands. Into the clinch, and Karo avoids a takedown and breaks with a right. They trade punches, and Karo lands a big right hand, and follows with a nice right hook coming forward. Burkman continues to swing wildly, before catching a kick and surprising Karo with a takedown to guard. Burkman stands and tries to land some punches, but Karo scrambles up and answers with some shots of his own. They clinch, but Karo breaks with a heavy combo and then delivers a HUGE JUDO THROW that puts Burkman square on his back! Burkman rolls and Karo grabs a front facelock, then releases and they come back to standing. Exchange follows, before Burkman shoots and drives him into the fence, but Karo hooks a standing kimura and Burkman is forced to work to avoid that as the round ends.
Burkman comes out for the 2nd round looking tired, and his pace is clearly slower as Karo lands some good combinations, avoiding Burkman’s swings to catch him with counterpunches as well. They trade off for a moment and Burkman looks to have stunned him with a right, but Karo comes right back with two right hands that hurt the TUF II veteran. Burkman looks exhausted now, breathing through his mouth, and he gets tagged continually as Karo picks him apart with punches, avoiding a takedown in the process. Nice one-two lands from Karo before Burkman clinches, but Karo breaks with a knee and a combo, and follows with a good leg kick and a right hand before the round ends. Burkman is GASSED here.
3rd and final round, and Burkman comes out swinging again, only to eat a left hand. They exchange and more of the same follows, with Burkman’s swinging punches being nullified by far better technique from Karo. They clinch and muscle for position, though, and Burkman lifts him up and gets a slam! He looks to pass guard, but Karo gets a kimura, and then reverses to his feet shortly after. He tries his trademark rolling kimura, but Burkman avoids it well and they come back up to the clinch. Karo breaks with punches, and then lands a nice left, before avoiding a takedown as the exchange continues. Burkman tries the takedown again, but Karo blocks, and Burkman keeps on swinging to end the fight.
Judges have it unanimously 30-27 for Parisyan, no other way they could go really. As I suspected going in, Karo basically appeared to be on a higher level than Burkman in all areas, and despite putting up a decent fight Burkman was worked over for the most part. The main problem was that Burkman was swinging for the fences constantly, which completely drained his cardio, while Parisyan’s stand-up was more technically sound and allowed him to pick Josh apart for the majority of the fight. Fun fight and probably the fight of the night, even if it didn’t quite live up to the expectations of a possible FOTYC going in.
UFC World Light-Heavyweight Title: Chuck Liddell vs Quinton â€˜Rampage’ Jackson
And finally after four years of waiting, one of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history was finally on, as Liddell, on a devastating run of seven straight knockout victories, was given a chance to redeem the one loss he hadn’t avenged, that being to Quinton â€˜Rampage’ Jackson in the 2003 Pride Grand Prix. It seemed that the majority of fans (myself included) thought that Liddell had improved enough over those four years to be able to avenge the loss, while Rampage appeared to have gone downhill since then, but many were also picking the challenger, Randy Couture included. Undoubtedly this was *the* most anticipated UFC main event of 2007.
Interesting reaction to the entrances, as Rampage gets pretty firmly booed by the Las Vegas crowd, while Liddell as always gets the monstrous pop. Pre-fight they also show Pride Middleweight Champion Dan Henderson in the crowd and announce that the winner will fight him in a unification match later in the year. Big staredown before the fight, and finally, we’re on.
Round 1 gets underway and Liddell immediately circles off, moving around on the outside while Rampage takes the center of the Octagon. Very little happens in the first minute outside of a couple of glancing shots, before finally Rampage raises his arms and tells Liddell to bring it on. They exchange shots and Rampage lands a right hand that causes Liddell to back off. Liddell soon gets on the offensive again though, and comes forward with a big left hook to the bodyâ€¦.but leaves his head wide open and Rampage comes over the top with a HUGE RIGHT HOOK ON THE BUTTON!~! Liddell goes DOWN, and Rampage immediately finishes things off with some shots on the mat! New Champion!
Yeah, beautiful shot for the knockout. Post-fight Henderson enters the Octagon to hype the upcoming match with Rampage, though it appears the crowd don’t really know who he is. Good reaction to Rampage with the belt too, less boos now.
Immediately following the loss there were reports of Liddell not really training properly for the fight and living more of a â€œrock starâ€ lifestyle than he should, but hey, Rampage still had to get the job done and he did it in style. Huge win for him to capture the belt (his first world title in fact) and it the future I believe we’ll look back at this fight and see it as the dawning of a new era for the UFC, with one of the most marketable fighters in MMA on top of the world. Newer, mainstream fans complained that the fight was too short and not epic enough, but fuck them, sez I. How can you get more climactic than the challenger knocking out the champion with a shot like that?
-Highlight reel follows and then we end with a shot of Rampage with the belt.
The Inside Pulse
: This was undoubtedly one of the biggest shows in UFC history and it certainly lived up to the hype, top-to-bottom being one of the most entertaining cards I can remember. No bonafide FOTYCs let it down somewhat, but there’s definitely nothing on the boring side here, with even the sloppy Leben fight being pretty fun. You’ve got nice technical displays (Thomas-Stephens), crazy slugfests (Jardine-Alexander) and a very good Burkman-Parisyan fight, and then the main event, despite being a little short, definitely lived up to the hype with a jaw-dropping ending to the night. Show of the year? A definite contender. Two thumbs up and a high recommendation for UFC 71.
UFC: 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, Fight Nights 10-11, and the TUF IV Finale.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.
Until next time,
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts