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History of the UFC 10.16.07: UFC XVII – The Road to the Heavyweight Title

October 16, 2007 | Posted by Matt McEwen

The MMA world is all a buzz right now about Randy Couture leaving the UFC and giving up the Heavyweight title in an unprecedented move. Wait…..maybe it’s not so unprecedented. Back in late 1998, the then undefeated heavyweight champion Couture got into a contract squabble with the UFC and, when unable to come to terms, left to pursue his fighting career elsewhere. While it’s unclear how they plan on dealing with the current situation, 8 years ago they decided to have a hap hazard tournament featuring the debuting Pedro Rizzo and Bas Rutten, among others, to crown a new champion. Rizzo and Tsuyoshi Kosaka advanced last time in Brazil to take part in a 4 man tournament, facing Mark Coleman and Rutten respectively in the semi finals here.

Also this time out, we get another historic debut as Evan Tanner steps into the Octagon for the first time, while Pat Militech defends the lightweight title for the first time and some guy named Tito Ortiz returns to face the pride of the Lion’s Den, Jerry Bohlander.

Before we get to the fights though, we have a little bit of email correspondence to take a look at this week. First, Clemente Garza, who’s been going back to the beginning of this article:

”What’s up My name is Tito. So I’m reading your history of the UFC and I have to say it’s pretty good, but I just had to point this out. In the Royce Gracie vs Minoki Ichihara fight you said this:
“Under modern day rules, this fight would have been stood up fairly quickly, but Royce is content to ride on top of Ichihara for a while until he is able to isolate an arm and rolls into a textbook arm bar for the tap out victory. The crow actually thought Ichihara had reversed Royce, and cheered wildly. I guess Perry would have to say he settled for the arm, but he actually seems convinced it was a choke. I will go out on a limb and guess he was not Royce’s top student. Once they do figure out it was an arm bar, they are certain that it’s broken. Let’s just say it’s unlikely.”

Now those announcers were terrible but they were right at first, that is a choke Royce gets him with, watch it again he uses the gi to choke him, he never lifts his hips up as you should with an armbar. Bad camera angel but you can still see it. Anyways I had to point out, if you want to change it. That’s it. Peace”
I went back and gave the match in question a second look, and I’ve got to say that I just don’t know what he tapped to. Royce’s legs look almost in position for a triangle from the side, but they’re not locked. While he has the arm mostly extended, Tito is right saying that he did arch his hips and extend the arm. The only way to know for sure would be to ask Ichihara. Anyone know his number?

And then there is this from reader Patrick Lee:

”I really enjoy your series on the history of the UFC. Great to have you back. I was pretty distraught at the thought of not seeing anymore of these articles. I love the historic look at how the sport began and grew and how certain names developed. Great work.”

Thanks dude…..always nice to hear that someone enjoys these articles. Ok….on with the show!

UFC XIII: Road to the Heavyweight Title

A special treat this time around as I actually have a copy of the unaired prelim fight from the show.

Lightweight Fight

Laverne Clarke (1-0) vs Frank Carraci (0-0)

Carraci is a police officer from Louisiana. Did I mention this show is in New Orleans? That makes him a local boy. STRIKE 1. He also doesn’t take off his gi as he enters the octagon and appears to be about to fight in it. STRIKE 2. He is also 5 inches shorter than the 5’11 Clarke, who is known for his punching prowess. STRIKE 3. So, my mildly educated guess says Clarke wins going away here.

Since Clarke’s debut was unaired, I’ll give you a bit of a breakdown on him. He is a pretty good striker with big power, but he is a trainee of Pat Militech – who is in his corner here – so you know he is an all around fighter. He is tall and lean for the 170lb division, which works out great for his strikes.

Tony Mollineaux debuts as a ref here, as they start to take a bit of John McCarthy’s work load off of his plate.
The fight starts slowly, as neither guy engages too quickly. Carraci decides he wants it on the ground early, but Clarke throws him aside at first, then actually slams him down to the ground and utilizes some good ground and pound. Carraci tries rolling for an armbar, but Clarke is too strong for him.

And that is the story of the fight. Carraci doesn’t have the skills to stay on his feet with Clarke, so he wants the takedown to utilize his superior jiu jitsu. Only problem with that is Clarke is not only a superior wrestler, he is also MUCH stronger. Carraci proves he is pretty tough by taking as much punishment as he does and not backing down, but eventually has to tap out around the 7 minute mark due to the strikes he is taking.
Not a bad opening fight and Clarke looks to be ready to step up into the main card and fight some higher level competition.

Onto the big show….

The show opens up with a video package of the four heavyweights who will be taking part in the tournament tonight as the UFC kicks of the new year with a bit of a new look. It looks like they’ve improved they’re lighting a bit, and the new logo features a bald fighter who looks suspiciously like Bas Rutten standing over the UFC logo.

Goldberg informs us all that this is the first of “9 in 99” as SEG plans on presenting 9 events in 1999 as opposed to the quarterly events we’ve been used to for a few years. He and Blatnick also thank the fans for their support and helping the UFC to grow a bit, as this was the first event in quite some time to be aired on PPV in Canada. I was in university and stealing cable at the time, so I was unaware of that.

Funny bit – in hindsight at least – as they hype up the middleweight fight between Jerry Bohlander and Tito Ortiz, as Bohlander gets all the hype while all they say about Ortiz is “he should be a good test” for Bohlander. Good eye for talent there.

One more note before the fights – Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer fame is a judge for the event.

Middleweight Fight

Evan Tanner (0-0) vs Darrel Gholar (0-0)

Two debuting fighters here, one more noteworthy than the other. Gholar is a two time national freestyle wrestling champion. Blatnick says he competed at the same time as Gholar, and that he tended to blow up after strong starts, so that is something to watch for here.

Tanner comes out and looks really, really young. He’s already 27 at this point, but the last 8 years have been hard ones for Mr. Tanner, and you can really see that by looking at him here. He is in great shape – which really never changed – and has a normal haircut. Stay tuned to this article in coming events to find out why that is noteworthy.

They circle each other to start, and Tanner seems to be planning on using front leg kicks as his main offensive weapon. Gholar figures this out after the second one, which he grabs and sweeps Tanner for a big takedown. Tanner is active from the bottom, and secures a triangle, but Gholar actually powerbombs the man to the ground. Jeesh. Even more jeesh-worthy is that fact that Tanner held onto the choke. Gholar is able to pull his head free and gets to side control.

Side notes: Goldberg talks about Tanner learning the submission game by watching Gracie family instructional videos. That’s kind of cool. Also of note, Gholar’s corner man is the loudest, most annoying guy in the history of the UFC. And that includes Phil Baroni.

Back to the fight, and Tanner has a cut and welt under his left eye, but is still able to scramble up to his feet at the 6:20 mark and land a huge knee to Gholar’s head, which he follows up with a leg kick. I know that’s a lot of time to jump here, but Tanner’s guard defense is pretty solid, so Gholar wasn’t able to do a lot of damage. He did try hard though, which is showing in how tired he is now. As a matter of fact, he is so tired, that he starts running from Tanner, even turning his back to get away from him. He gets caught doing that though, taken down and choked out just under the 8 minute mark.

Decent fight and GREAT debut by Tanner who showed that he wasn’t just a wrestler, but someone who could strike on his feet and work submissions on the ground as well. Essentially, he is the prototype of the guys who were working their way onto UFC events by 1999. The quality of fighter was improving, and the quality and technicality of fights were improving as well.

Lightweight Fight

Mikey Burnett (1-1) vs Towsend Saunders (0-1)

Both guys are coming off split decision losses to lightweight champ Militech, and looking to get another shot at him.

Ken Shamrock makes his first of many appearances on the night as he is in Burnett’s corner.
I could do a play by play of this fight, but you would stop reading. Essentially, Saunders tries to shoot early on to get Burnett down, but Burnett is able to avoid the takedowns, lands a few punches – even scoring a knock down – but Saunders is able to survive and we end up with 12 minutes of bad boxing in regulation, then 3 minutes of the same in OT. Saunders did actually score a quick take down in OT, but Burnett got up so quickly it didn’t really matter.

Burnett wins a unanimous decision in a very slow fight. The most noteworthy thing is the amount of time they spend pushing the Lion’s Den as the top group in the sport and the best place in the world to train.
Quick video featuring Coleman and Rizzo. Coleman has been doing some training with Ken Shamrock, and finally feels 100% after his knee injury. Rizzo says he is ready for a war.

Vitor Belfort joins the broadcast booth and calls out Frank Shamrock. He says he has a title fight lined up for March…IF Shamrock will face him. Me thinks that Shamrock might be having a contractual squabble judging from the way they are essentially inviting Frank to come back.

Middleweight Fight

Jerry Bohlander (5-1) vs Tito Ortiz (1-1)

Ortiz has his “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” nickname in place this time around, and has former middleweight title challenger Jon Lober in his corner. He looks bigger than his first trip into the Octagon almost two years previous.

Bohlander is led out by Shamrock, and looks a good bit bigger than he did previously as well. He’s also sporting a beard, killing the baby faced look he had before too. They show a few comments that he made previous to the fight, and he seems to be quite the prick as well. He essentially says that Ortiz will need a fluke to even have a chance, and he himself is so good that he is essentially coming in with a win already.

Ok….let’s see how that works for you.

Tito engages first, throwing a nice overhand right and coming in right behind it with a double leg for the takedown. He pushes Bohlander’s head against the cage and avoids an armbar attempt. He frees up his hand and lands a few punches as he starts to show the ground and pound that would make him famous. Bohlander gets skittish taking the punches and scrambles, but ends up caught in an Ortiz guillotine attempt. Bohlander escapes and they are back on their feet, where Ortiz starts unloading with big uppercuts that rock the Lion’s Den fighter.

Ortiz takes the fight back to the ground and works out of the guard for a bit. After the punching burst, Ortiz just uses this situation to take a breather, and McCarthy restarts them at the 4:30 mark.

Ortiz immediately stalking Bohlander on the restart. He grabs him and pulls a Thai clinch long enough to land a nice knee and then disengage. He rocks Bohlander with a pair of combinations, then follows up with a big knee and another takedown. He avoids an armbar attempt and actually gains North/South positioning, out of which he delivers a few knees and tries an anaconda choke. He can’t cinch it in though, and they get back on their feet for a minute until Ortiz takes it back down. He pins Bohlander against the fence again and lands a few more punches as the 12 minute regulation comes to an end.

OT starts back on their feet where Bohlander tries to clinch against the fence, but gets taken down once again. They get back up and Ortiz lands a few big punches before taking him down yet again. A little lay and pray by Ortiz while Goldberg mention the winner maybe fighting Belfort at the next event, though the door is always open for “their honorable, respectable, wonderful” middleweight champion Frank Shamrock to return.

Oh yeah….big contract squabbles.

Bohlander ends up with a big cut over his left eye, and McCarthy stops the fight with 29 seconds left to look at it. The doctor calls for the fight to be stop and Tito wins in an absolutely dominating performance. So much for Bohlander, as this was his last UFC appearance.

Post fight, Tito fires his “guns” at the Lion’s Den corner in a move that would later be cited as the start of the Ortiz/Shamrock feud. Then, in a move that is the height of class, Ortiz puts on a T-shirt (the first of his many witty ones) that reads “Extreme Associates 3:16” on the front, and “I Just F**ked Your Ass” on the back. I guess Tito has always been a porn fan.

In his post fight interview, he makes the great comment that he came into the fight at 110% mentally, which is about 100% of this game, while the rest is physical. Tito is not a math whiz, though he does want a title shot. It sure would be nice if they could build up a storyline to generate some interest in that….

Matchmaker John Perretti joins the booth and they chit chat about goings on a bit. He says the future of the middleweight title depends entirely on Frank Shamrock, and he doesn’t seem to think that Coleman has much of a chance against Rizzo tonight.

Heavyweight Elimination Fight

Mark Coleman (6-2) vs Pedro Rizzo (1-0)

Marco Ruas leads Rizzo out, who is no longer an unknown after his impressive debut win over Tank Abbot in Brazil.

Ken Shamrock comes out in Coleman’s corner. We’ll see if he taught him how to check a leg kick, as that is likely Rizzo’s game plan tonight.

Side note: The ring girls are….shall we say….unattractively dressed.

Coleman comes out shooting, and gets a takedown on his first attempt. Shamrock immediately starts yelling at him to stay calm. He looks like he has learned a bit from his work with Shamrock, as he isn’t up on his toes in the guard, and picking his shots from the top more selectively. Rizzo displays an effective defense on the bottom though, and doesn’t make too much damage. He is also doing a good job of spinning off the fence with his feet to avoid have his head caught. The first 5 minutes of the fight go this way before McCarthy decides to restart the fight.

Coleman looks like he might be gassing, as he is dropping his hands a bit and breathing deep. Even still, he manages to land a very nice left that catches Rizzo’s attention. Coleman tries for the takedown again, but Rizzo is able to sprawl and avoid, and now Coleman is definitely looking tired. Again, he’s thinking in the Octagon more, as he actually checks a leg kick, though the ones that have landed are making his leg ugly looking. He catches the next kick thrown at him and scores his second takedown of the fight at about the 9 minute mark. Coleman doesn’t do a lot on top, and we get another restart at the 10:39 mark.

Coleman shoots again, but Rizzo avoids and land a nice leg kick as regulation ends. Coleman would have to be ahead on points thanks to his takedowns, but on their feet it was always Rizzo coming forward and pressing the fight, even though he may not have been throwing as much as he should have been.

Coleman looks like he has gotten a second wind as OT starts, and manages to throw a leg kick of his own! Rizzo is being very patient waiting to engage as Coleman looks to be standing right in front of him…..he might even be hesitant to fight. Coleman tries a few more takedowns, but Rizzo avoids them, and we get a nice exchange as time runs out.

The announcers are pretty sure that Coleman won the fight, and I would probably agree, but Rizzo wins a split decision to advance in the mini tournament. Coleman showed a lot in this fight, and hinted at how good he could be, but would never step foot in the Octagon again. He would end up in PRIDE after this fight, where he would rebuild his reputation and eventually retire with legendary status.

Rizzo, while the winner here, showed what would become an unfortunate trademark of his, as he was too hesitant to finish the fight.

Lightweight Championship

Pat Militech (3-0) vs Jorge Patino (0-0)

Taking a page from Frank Shamrock’s reign, Militech’s first defense is against a guy making his Octagon debut. Not only that, but Goldberg tell us he is 1-3 in his last 4 fights. Very nice….really.

Both guys come in at the 169lb weight limit, but Militech is two inches taller at 5’10, and looks like the bigger fighter, even though Patino comes into the fight in very good shape. He is wearing a 100% Jesus t-shirt and has a cross shaved into the back of his head. I instantly dislike the man.

Once the fight starts, in spite of Goldberg and Blatnick telling us how explosive Patino is, I hate the man more for making me watch this fight. He spends the entire fight – which goes the 21 minute limit, running from Militech. He occasionally tries to engage, but 10 seconds every 5 minutes does not a good fight make. The crowd boos loudly throughout the fight, and I feel bad for Militech who really wanted to have an exciting showing after the wedgie fest in which he won the title over Mikey Burnett.

There a few exciting flurries in the fight, though they’re few and far between. One actually features the only piledriver I’ve ever seen in MMA competition, as Patino shoots and gets his head caught between Militech’s legs, after which he tries to lift him up, but ends up dropping Militech who falls backwards while holding Patino’s waist and hits a picture perfect piledriver. At another point, Patino tries to stomp Militech on the ground, and that is good for a foul.

After 21 minutes of mostly tedious “action” – McCarthy was constantly telling them to stop dancing and start fighting – Militech wins a unanimous decision.

Heavyweight Elimination Fight

Bas Rutten (0-0) vs Tsuyoshi Kosaka (2-0)

Rutten comes into this fight on a 19 fight (18-0-1) unbeaten streak in Pancrase and is the best known MMA fighter in the world to have not fought in the UFC yet. This is his US debut, and he has been pretty heavily hyped. Remember what I said about the new logo – that’s not by accident.

Kosaka has had one impressive showing in the UFC against Kimo, then a fairly odd showing against Petey Williams in Brazil where neither man would strike on the ground. He is probably the best heavyweight in the UFC on the ground, and since Rutten is a much smaller man (6’1, 211lb vs 5’11, 228lbs for Kosaka), that could be a big factor.

Rutten comes out swinging for the fences with a high kick that is blocked, but he lands a nice punch combo on TK. The Japanese fighter wants no more of the striking game and takes Rutten to the ground rather easily. Blatnick states that is probably the biggest weakness in Rutten’s game – he can be easily taken down. TK pushes Rutten’s head against the fence and easily passes into side control, but Rutten scrambles to his feet.
He doesn’t have a chance to unleash any strikes though, as TK quickly takes him down again, landing a few right hands in the process. He passes to side control again, and starts to elbow Rutten’s side and thigh. Rutten answers with knees to the head. TK switches to ½ guard and starts to land good short punches to Rutten’s ribs, but McCarthy stands them up for lack of action at the 5:50 mark.

On their feet again, and this time Rutten is able to get a big leg kick in. A bit of bobbing and weaving by both guys and TK is able to come away from it all with yet another takedown. Around the 8:00 mark, with both guys on the ground, both are bleeding. The action picks up a bit with both guys landing strikes, but they get restarted again at about the 9:50 mark.

Rutten lands a nasty looking inside leg kick that hurts TK and instantly welts up his leg. He’s able to sprawl and avoid another takedown and keep the fight standing. He misses another high kick, but avoids another takedown attempt and lands a nice punch at the end of regulation.

Rutten really came alive the last 60 seconds or so, but TK took the first 11 minutes so he is definitely up on the score cards.

They feel each other out for a bit to start OT, until Rutten lands three nice 1-2 combos that each hurt TK. After the third, he scores a big knee to TK’s face, then a big right hand. TK tries to grab a kick and score a takedown, but eats another knee, followed by yet another before Rutten finishes the fight with a flurry of punches against the fence.

That was a really good fight that had a lot of technical aspects, a good comeback by Rutten and a scintillating finish. You can’t really ask for more out of a fight than that.

Pedro Rizzo, who theoretically will be fighting Rutten for the title at the next event, is the first man into the cage to celebrate with Rutten. They train together, so it will be interesting to see if they really do fight. Rutten actually lays down in the middle of the Octagon next to the new logo, and the resemblance is uncanny. Do you think they have high hopes for Bas in America?

The 411: Kind of a mixed bag fight wise. The main event was really good, and had a great KO ending, but there were a couple of snoozers early on. This is a hard one to top as far as debuts and returns go, as Tito makes his presence known for the first real time, Tanner debuts, Burnett, Bohlander and Coleman all say goodbye to the Octagon, the Ortiz/Shamrock feud can be traced back to this show, and Bas Rutten takes a big step towards the heavyweight title. Definitely worth a watch if you're a big time MMA fan.
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend

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Matt McEwen
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