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…on UFC 72 (live from Belfast)

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Things got hairy in the final round but Rich Franklin controlled much of his bout with Yushin Okami

The UFC’s quest for world domination continued yesterday with its second European trip in as many months. This time it was Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, that served as their home away from home, joyously received by the fans in attendance which made a mockery of the supposed troubles facing ticket sales at the venue. A buzz descends on a city that hosts a UFC and Belfast was no exception, seeing fans jet in from across the British Isles to supplement the local fans.

After an entertaining fight card, it would seem that the crowd was underwhelmed by the main event, featuring former middleweight champion, Rich “Ace” Franklin and Japanese up-and-comer Yushin Okami. Two awkward southpaws made for an awkward fight. Franklin, often a cagey fighter, could not establish a rhythm, while Okami sat back and tried to counter from distance. Having seen previous opponents be overwhelmed in the clinch, Franklin was mindful of this and did well to avoid engaging and playing to Okami’s strength. Franklin landed the more effective strikes and took the first round.

The second round was more tentative still, progressively drawing a hostile reaction from the fans, with Okami becoming increasingly hesitant. Franklin landed the better quality strikes and looked comfortable when the distance closed and he was in the clinch. The Ohioan was not overwhelmed by Okami’s much-vaunted strength and, again, took the round.

In the final round and with it all to do, Yushin Okami signalled that a more exciting third round was on the cards, opening with a flying kick. As Okami became less inhibited, so did Franklin and the fight opened up. Okami found himself in the clinch with Franklin again but this time he managed to execute an inside trip and went straight to side control. Okami transitioned to full mount but “Ace” minimised the damaged and reclaimed half guard. Okami made the ending very difficult with two submission attempts; a guillotine choke that was closer to submitting Franklin that it looked and a kimura which was less nasty than it looked. After escaping the latter, Franklin held top position to close the match out.

While Okami salvaged some pride in the third round, he clearly lost the fight overall. Franklin will deservingly move on to face the winner of the Anderson Silva/Nate Marquardt, having done everything that has been asked of him against two middleweights with flawless form.

Forrest Griffin was received like a rock star for his bout with durable Mexican-American Hector Ramirez. Back from a six-month lay-off which was beset by problems, Griffin looked back to somewhere approaching his best. Up on his toes and making himself an elusive target, Griffin moved in and out of the pocket, tagging his opponent and moving away. Ramirez just could not settle into the fight and Griffin’s form made this worse, showing improved kicking. Successful takedowns were few and far between for Hector and his attempts to keep Griffin down after the successful takedowns were futile.

As the fight wore on, Ramirez let the impetus slip away and resorted to despairing overhand shots, while Griffin controlled distance and range well, much to the delight of the crowd, who roared Forrest to victory with soccer-style chanting. It was academic that Griffin would take a shut-out decision but he tried on several occasions to finish the fight unsuccessfully, with Ramirez showing a good chin if not much else.

Griffin’s great friend, Rory Singer, did not have such a good night and must be kicking himself. After an impressive first round, which saw him ahead on the scorecards of two judges, he found himself being dominated and ultimately stopped by a highly-motivated Jason McDonald in the second round. Singer managed to stifle McDonald on the ground and get the better of the clinches on the feet. At one point, Singer mounted McDonald but could never land enough blows to gain a stoppage or sink in a rear naked choke when McDonald subsequently gave him his back. Finishing the round strong with a triangle choke, Singer looked to be heading to a shock victory.

However, McDonald came out in the second round fresh and motivated, immediately trying to take Singer down and succeeding. Putting on pressure from the top of Singer’s guard, he rained down blows which Singer could not stop. As a small corner of the arena sang “Old McDonald had a farm” in support of the Canadian, “The Athlete
” advance his position to half guard and then passed to full mount. McDonald did what Singer failed to do in round one and turned the pressure up another notch whilst in a dominant position. He pounded Singer until there was a stoppage to get back to winning ways.

There is no a play-by-play that can do justice to the bout between Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin. After interesting fights before, this had to potential to be very good and it exceeded that potential. The bout was initially strangely received by some of the crowd. However, that section of the crowd realised in the course of the first round that they were watching something very special; a bout full of technique, heart and perseverance. The first round was tentative by the standard of the fight, as both tested each other’s striking ability and Guida attempted several takedowns.

In the second round, it quickly became a quick, aggressive battle. Griffin had the better standup and initially managed to stuff takedowns for fun. When the match did hit the ground, they exchanged leglock attempts and Guida managed to get Griffin’s back whilst standing, leading to a sickening forward slam. Still, Guida kept coming. The third round followed a similar pattern; Tyson looking more comfortable on his feet and blocking the takedown but eventually falling foul and ending up on the ground. Both men were active from the top and bottom and it was this round, which seemed to many to be a certain Guida round, which settled it in Griffin’s favour, much to the vocal disappointment of the crowd.

In the pay-per-view opener, Ed Herman defeated Scott Smith in the second round by submission via rear naked choke. Aside from a single big right hand from Smith to a grounded Herman at the end of the first, it was all Herman and his trademark intense ground fighting. Takedowns were secured by “Short Fuse” at seeming will and Herman played to his strengths of submission and ground & pound. Herman was in Smith’s guard when he missed an elbow strike. As Smith escaped, he gave up his back, which led to the decisive, match-winning choke.

The undercard was based around the UFC débuts of two Irish fighters, Stevie Lynch and Colin Robinson, and Marcus Davis completing a lifelong dream of fighting in Ireland. Stevie Lynch looked overmatched against Dustin Hazelett, losing via a D’Arce choke in the first round. Colin Robinson put up more of a fight, getting into a dirty boxing war with opponent Eddie Sanchez and rocking him with a uppercut to the solar plexus. Robinson capitalised and even managed to mount Sanchez, who looked very close to being stopped. However, a botched armbar led to Robinson’s downfall, as he finished round one on his back. In the second, Robinson looked exhausted, which he later attributed to a massive adrenaline dump, and Sanchez made light work of him, taking Robinson down and stopping the bout with some ground and pound. Both Lynch and Robinson were received like massive stars and the disappointment was palpable when both lost.

On the other hand, Marcus Davis was successful against English fighter Jason Tan. Davis showed his trademark fast hands and managed to catch Tan with a pinpoint counter right hook, dropping down to capitalise on the situation for the TKO win. In a card filled with fighters of Irish heritage, it was this victory and the Forrest Griffin victory which gave the most joy to the fans in attendance.

The UFC plan to return to Ireland next year but this time to the Republic, heading for the Irish capital of Dublin. If it is as well-received there as it was in Belfast, we can only imagine it will be another success.

POST FIGHT PRESS CONFERENCE

Facts and figures:

The show had a paid attendance of 7,850 for a take of $1.2m. This is a new Odyssey Arena record, beating the former record holder, Dolly Parton. This was also the first event in the Arena’s history to be screened internationally.

Fight of the night: Clay Guida vs. Tyson Griffin.
KO of the night: Marcus Davis
Submission of the night: Ed Herman

What Dana said:

Dana was very nervous about this show, as he wanted to continue to break records. He didn’t want to be the number 2 event in the arena behind Dolly Parton.

He praised the fans and the amount of noise they made, saying 7,000 made the noise of 70,000.

Replying to a question, he noted there would be more Irish fighters in future. In 2002, the talent pool was quite shallow and it would seem that UFC 38 was a catalyst for MMA in the UK. Now, the talent pool is so deep and it will keep improving.

There will likely be a rematch between Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin.

Rich Franklin is next in line for the Middleweight title.

Dan Henderson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s light heavyweight title match WILL be title vs. title, winner takes both titles. When signing for the fight, Henderson made no mention of fighting at 185 and seems to feel more comfortable at 205. Dana said he wants Dan to stay at one weight or the other and would be reluctant to let Henderson switch between 185 and 205.

Dana also mentioned that PRIDE is “a mess” and it is still the plan to run the companies seperately. This will lead to the planned “Super Bowl of MMA”. However, the issues, which Dana did not go into, need to be resolved.

Kurt Angle is a “nice guy” but cannot go straight into the octagon. He would be destroyed by a mixed martial artist. If he’s serious about it and will train in MMA, then Dana will consider it but right now, it’s not on the cards.

The next show in Ireland will likely be next year and the UFC are looking at Dublin.

In his opinion, Dustin Hazelett and Ed Herman did well.

Finally, when asked, Dana said he did not watch K-1 Dynamite USA show.

What Rich Franklin said:

Rich did not see the fight going as it did. He tried to be patient and stay out of the clinch but when he got into the clinch, he became comfortable. Possibly too comfortable, which led to him being taken down in the third. He later confirmed that Okami was awkward and it made it hard for him.

He did not feel overwhelmed by Okami’s strength.

Of the Silva and Marquardt, he obviously wants to fight Silva, due to the history between them.

He did not feel in danger in Okami’s third-round kimura attempt and actually felt the earlier choke was closer to getting submission.

What Yushin Okami said:
Yushin said that Rich Franklin is one of his favourite fighters and he learned a lot from the bout. He felt he gave a good performance and that Rich is probably the best fighter with whom he’s ever been in the cage. He will try and take this experience and use it to make him a better fighter.

What Forrest Griffin said:

His post-match apologies was to people to whom he’d been rude. Forrest said the pressure of fame get to you and he felt he’d lost a little of himself for a while. He has bounced back from that and wants to apologize to those he offended when it was all getting a bit too much.

He felt he gave a good performance and Ramirez was tough.

He appreciated the football crowd atmosphere, calling it cool. It was not a distraction and if he got that sort of reaction, he’d jump at the chance to come back.

He said that the six month layoff was a double-edged sword. While it probably helped him in some ways, he feels he let himself go a little and it played with his head mentally. It was tough making weight for the fight and he’s had some terrible luck with injuries and infections, notably the staph infection he had. However, he feels good to be back.

When there was discussion of a fight between Tito Ortiz and Forrest within the next year, Forrest said he wanted the fight. Dana confirmed that it was originally meant for this card but Tito wouldn’t fight in Northern Ireland. The fight could be on the cards and it depends on the outcome of Tito’s fight with Rashad Evans.

What Jason McDonald said:

He felt Rory Singer was disrespectful at the weigh-in and it backfired on him, as it lit a fire under “the Athlete”.

He said his slow starting can be a problem but he felt much better coming out for the second than he did for the first.

He agreed with Okami that Rich Franklin was the best fighter he has ever faced and it was an excellent measuring stick to see just how far he has to improve to make the upper echelons. He feels he’s one of the best around but Franklin and Silva are a class above.

What everybody else said:

Eddie Sanchez felt that his opponent, Colin Sullivan, was a tough fighter but he didn’t feel hurt in that fight and that the armbar in the first round helped him regain top position. Colin Sullivan said he delivered on his promise of an exciting fight, ending via a knockout. Sullivan mentioned that he felt an adrenaline dump and, as a result, he was exhausted after just one round. He also appreciated the massive reaction for him and mentioned that the UFC was head and shoulders above anything they (he and Lynch) have ever done. Stevie Lynch said the crowd reaction was awesome.

Marcus Davis said that, although dangerous, he wanted the win to be by knockout and would not have taken a submission if it was there. His dream is to fight, not win titles and, as a result, he is living the dream. When some mention the nine-in-a-row as a fluke, he laughs it off, saying it is the luck of the Irish. Marcus also mentioned that he toured Northern Ireland for a few days leading up to the show, looking at historic landmarks and visiting new places.

Tyson Griffin was unsurprised by the reaction to his win, as if you win a split decision and finish the match on your back, the crowd are not going to understand this being a victory. Tyson felt he won the match. Likewise, Guida felt he won the match and said he entered a good performance

Quinton Jackson was also in attendance, being his usual shy and retiring self, suggesting Marcus Davis is copying his fighting style.

After the conference, I managed to speak to Jay Hieron about the Los Angeles Anacondas and he seems very positive about the team’s chances to win the World Team Championship, speaking highly of his teammate Chris Horodecki.

Facts and figures:

The show had a paid attendance of 7,850 for a take of $1.2m. This is a new Odyssey Arena record, beating the former record holder, Dolly Parton. This was also the first event in the Arena’s history to be screened internationally.

Fight of the night: Clay Guida vs. Tyson Griffin.
KO of the night: Marcus Davis
Submission of the night: Ed Herman

What Dana said:

Dana was very nervous about this show, as he wanted to continue to break records. He didn’t want to be the number 2 event in the arena behind Dolly Parton.

He praised the fans and the amount of noise they made, saying 7,000 made the noise of 70,000.

Replying to a question, he noted there would be more Irish fighters in future. In 2002, the talent pool was quite shallow and it would seem that UFC 38 was a catalyst for MMA in the UK. Now, the talent pool is so deep and it will keep improving.

There will likely be a rematch between Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin.

Rich Franklin is next in line for the Middleweight title.

Dan Henderson and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson’s light heavyweight title match WILL be title vs. title, winner takes both titles. When signing for the fight, Henderson made no mention of fighting at 185 and seems to feel more comfortable at 205. Dana said he wants Dan to stay at one weight or the other and would be reluctant to let Henderson switch between 185 and 205.

Dana also mentioned that PRIDE is “a mess” and it is still the plan to run the companies seperately. This will lead to the planned “Super Bowl of MMA”. However, the issues, which Dana did not go into, need to be resolved.

Kurt Angle is a “nice guy” but cannot go straight into the octagon. He would be destroyed by a mixed martial artist. If he’s serious about it and will train in MMA, then Dana will consider it but right now, it’s not on the cards.

The next show in Ireland will likely be next year and the UFC are looking at Dublin.

In his opinion, Dustin Hazelett and Ed Herman did well.

Finally, when asked, Dana said he did not watch K-1 Dynamite USA show.

What Rich Franklin said:

Rich did not see the fight going as it did. He tried to be patient and stay out of the clinch but when he got into the clinch, he became comfortable. Possibly too comfortable, which led to him being taken down in the third. He later confirmed that Okami was awkward and it made it hard for him.

He did not feel overwhelmed by Okami’s strength.

Of the Silva and Marquardt, he obviously wants to fight Silva, due to the history between them.

He did not feel in danger in Okami’s third-round kimura attempt and actually felt the earlier choke was closer to getting submission.

What Yushin Okami said:
Yushin said that Rich Franklin is one of his favourite fighters and he learned a lot from the bout. He felt he gave a good performance and that Rich is probably the best fighter with whom he’s ever been in the cage. He will try and take this experience and use it to make him a better fighter.

What Forrest Griffin said:

His post-match apologies was to people to whom he’d been rude. Forrest said the pressure of fame get to you and he felt he’d lost a little of himself for a while. He has bounced back from that and wants to apologize to those he offended when it was all getting a bit too much.

He felt he gave a good performance and Ramirez was tough.

He appreciated the football crowd atmosphere, calling it cool. It was not a distraction and if he got that sort of reaction, he’d jump at the chance to come back.

He said that the six month layoff was a double-edged sword. While it probably helped him in some ways, he feels he let himself go a little and it played with his head mentally. It was tough making weight for the fight and he’s had some terrible luck with injuries and infections, notably the staph infection he had. However, he feels good to be back.

When there was discussion of a fight between Tito Ortiz and Forrest within the next year, Forrest said he wanted the fight. Dana confirmed that it was originally meant for this card but Tito wouldn’t fight in Northern Ireland. The fight could be on the cards and it depends on the outcome of Tito’s fight with Rashad Evans.

What Jason McDonald said:

He felt Rory Singer was disrespectful at the weigh-in and it backfired on him, as it lit a fire under “the Athlete”.

He said his slow starting can be a problem but he felt much better coming out for the second than he did for the first.

He agreed with Okami that Rich Franklin was the best fighter he has ever faced and it was an excellent measuring stick to see just how far he has to improve to make the upper echelons. He feels he’s one of the best around but Franklin and Silva are a class above.

What everybody else said:

Eddie Sanchez felt that his opponent, Colin Sullivan, was a tough fighter but he didn’t feel hurt in that fight and that the armbar in the first round helped him regain top position. Colin Sullivan said he delivered on his promise of an exciting fight, ending via a knockout. Sullivan mentioned that he felt an adrenaline dump and, as a result, he was exhausted after just one round. He also appreciated the massive reaction for him and mentioned that the UFC was head and shoulders above anything they (he and Lynch) have ever done. Stevie Lynch said the crowd reaction was awesome.

Marcus Davis said that, although dangerous, he wanted the win to be by knockout and would not have taken a submission if it was there. His dream is to fight, not win titles and, as a result, he is living the dream. When some mention the nine-in-a-row as a fluke, he laughs it off, saying it is the luck of the Irish. Marcus also mentioned that he toured Northern Ireland for a few days leading up to the show, looking at historic landmarks and visiting new places.

Tyson Griffin was unsurprised by the reaction to his win, as if you win a split decision and finish the match on your back, the crowd are not going to understand this being a victory. Tyson felt he won the match. Likewise, Guida felt he won the match and said he entered a good performance

Quinton Jackson was also in attendance, being his usual shy and retiring self, suggesting Marcus Davis is copying his fighting style.

After the conference, I managed to speak to Jay Hieron about the Los Angeles Anacondas and he seems very positive about the team’s chances to win the World Team Championship, speaking highly of his teammate Chris Horodecki.

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Written by Michael Farrow

June 17, 2007 at 3:22 am

Posted in MMA

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