History of the UFC 11.12.07: UFC XXII – Only One Can Be Champion
Having struggled financially since being banned by most PPV carriers at the beginning of 1997, the UFC pulled out it’s biggest possible match up and put forth it’s best marketing campaign in years for the main event of UFC XXII: Only One Can Be Champion.
At UFC XXI, they began the build towards the September 24th showdown between their superstar middleweight champion Frank Shamrock and the brash, budding superstar Tito Ortiz. Beyond the obvious of two good fighters stepping into the Octagon against each other, subplots abound in this one.
Shamrock had not stepped into the Octagon since October 1998 when he defeated John Lober at Ultimate Brazil. There had been some contractual issues, as well as the well documented ego of Shamrock, that delayed his next defense. With so much time off, the question of how much rust the 26 year old Shamrock would have on his considerable skills was of intrigue. Also, Ortiz would be the first challenger to Shamrock’s title who was not making his UFC debut in the title fight. So, for the first time in his reign, we had a fight where regular UFC fans actually knew both fighters and would actually have a rooting interest for or against both of the fighters.
As for Ortiz, he had spent the year that Shamrock was away establishing himself as the undeniable top contender. He returned to the UFC and dominated Jerry Bohlander, then did the same in avenging his loss to Guy Mezger. In the process, he set off a heated feud with the Lion’s Den as a whole, and Frank’s older brother Ken Shamrock in general. While slightly removed from the Den, would Frank be looking to exact a little revenge on Ken’s behalf here?
With all that going on, this is easily the biggest fight the UFC has put on in ages, and they put all that they had left into making it a success. So, with that back drop, we head to the bustling metropolis of Lake Charles, Louisiana and the fights….
The show opens up with a hype video, featuring comments from both sides of the main event in an interview at UFC XXI which unfortunately was cut from my copy (side note – I can’t wait until I’m watching full PPV copies rather than the 2 hour, fight only, edited versions).
After that, we get some comments from Blatnick and Goldberg, and Goldberg wonders if Shamrock’s recent marriage will soften him. Frank told him it’s made him meaner, and Goldberg says all married men will understand that one. Me thinks Mike might not be a happily married man.
Prior to the televised fights, there were two unaired prelim bouts featuring the debuts of a couple of guys you might have heard of. Jens Pulver (0-0) went to a two round draw against Alfonso Alcarez (0-0) while Matt Hughes (0-0) won a unanimous three round decision over Valeri Ignatov (0-0).
Heavyweight (200lbs and up)
Tim Lajcik (0-1, 6’1, 228lbs) vs Ron Waterman (1-1, 6’2, 259lbs)
Goldberg this is the first fight of the night because they want to start out with an exciting fight, and these are the guys to do it. We’ll see about that I guess, though the suggestion that the loser of this fight is probably out of the UFC should make for a good fight.
We start out with a bit of boxing. Blatnick comments that Lajcik might very well be the better wrestler, but Waterman is the bigger wrestler, and 30lbs can count for a lot on the ground. Waterman looks like he agrees as the shoots and gets the early takedown and starts to work out of 1/2 guard, before quickly passes to side control. It looks like his submission skills are limited to an attempted head crank, which he thankfully gives up on and throws a few short lefts.
As Waterman is on top, you can quickly see Tank Abbott sitting at ringside. Interesting, since he was in the middle of WCW career by this point I think.
Back to the fight, and Lajcik rolls to his belly to avoid the punches, which is never good…..unless the man on your back is named Ron Waterman and doesn’t know how to sink a choke in. After getting nothing out of two dominant positions, he allows Lajcik to gain his feet, though he holds on a waist lock from behind and pushes the smaller Lajcik against the fence. His offense from this position was knees to the thigh before Lajcik is able to spin and get to a face to face position. Now Waterman’s offense is limited to hugging.
Blatnick is very unimpressed by Waterman’s skills shown so far, and I agree. He’s a good, strong wrestler, but his stand up looks weak and if he had any submission skills he could have finished the fight within two minutes. Right as the round ends – with more hugging – Waterman lands a low blow which John McCarthy calls a foul.
Round one would have to be scored 10-9 for Waterman, but the foul makes it 9-9.
Side note which I should mention in regards to in fight fashion – while TapOut trunks are now all the rage and gis and pants are no longer worn, wrestling shoes are still allowed and both guys are wearing them. Fighters wearing shoes are still allowed to kick, which I find odd.
We start out with more boxing, but now it is noticeable that Lajcik is more skilled and Waterman is almost purely defensive. In addition, he is cut on the side of his nose. Waterman wants to get it back to the ground where he was at least in control, but Lajcik sprawls on the takedown attempt and ends up in Waterman’s guard. In his fight against Kosaka, Lajcik did a fair bit of damage from the guard, so it will be interesting to see how he does here.
The answer to that is not so good. Waterman is strong enough to shrug him off and get back to his feet. Once he’s up, you can see a cut over his left eye and swelling over his right. Lajcik lands a very nice left hand, which Waterman answers with a sloppy shot for a double leg which Lajcik easily avoids. Back up again, and Waterman is able to land a couple of decent left jabs, then follows in with another shot. Lajcik stuffs this one again and ends up in Waterman’s guard. The round ends with Lajcik on top, and both guys are looking pretty tired.
Lajcik’s round, 10-9, which puts him up 19-18 on my scorecard.
The final round starts with Waterman obviously desperate for a takedown, and actually scores it when Lajcik backs into the fence trying to avoid it and gets his legs ripped out from under him. Waterman gets his opportunity to do damage on top, but doesn’t do any at all really. With about a minute left in the round, after more than two minutes with Waterman just laying on top of Lajcik, he starts to throw some weak shots. That’s the round in a nutshell.
I think Lajcik may have landed enough short shots from the bottom to take the striking portion of the scoring, but that was Waterman’s round for the takedown and controlling the fight. That makes it 28-28 on my card for a draw.
All three judges see it the same way, and the show opens with a draw in an unimpressive showing for both guys in a make or break fight for each of them. Waterman would get another shot at the next event, while this would Lajcik’s swan song in the UFC. He retired in 2002 with a record of 7-6-1.
Lightweights (169lbs and under)
John Lewis (0-0, 6’0, 160lbs) vs Lowell Anderson (0-0, 5’6, 158lbs)
Both guys making their UFC debuts here, but Lewis is more experienced in competition, having fought in several Extreme Fighting and Vale Tudo events, while Anderson is a top Gracie Jiu Jitsu students who had fought challenge fights for them, but this is his first foray into MMA. Both guys are pretty small for the division, as both are about 10 pounds under the division limit, though Lewis is very ripped. Despite being 6 inches taller and about the same weight, he looks like a much larger man than Anderson.
Decent looking stand up battle to start, though not much landing for either guy. Lewis slowly starts to take control, using his reach and superior skill to get a few good shots in. Lightweight champion Pat Militech is on commentary, scouting out possible opponents, and he likes what he sees in Lewis.
Lewis lands a big left hand, but for the most part the round consists of feinting and dancing. Anderson tries hard, and even initiates a clinch at one point, but he eats a knee and gets pushed off.
Round one goes easily to Lewis, but I think he could have actually ended the fight if he was more aggressive. Not a lot of action there at all, as I’m sure you could tell by the three sentences I summed the round up with.
Anderson comes forward and wants to clinch again to start the round, but Lewis easily spins him to the cage, only to let him go and move back to the center of the Octagon. He must be enjoying dancing around Anderson.
After a couple more clinch attempts and getting shrugged off, Anderson jumps up onto Lewis and pulls guard that way, but then neither guy does anything at all on the ground.
Whew….that was a more boring round than the first and I have no idea how to score it. Lewis landed more strikes – though that doesn’t mean he landed a lot, just more than Anderson – while Anderson tried to push the pace and did pull Lewis down. I guess 10-9 Anderson if I had to pick.
Anderson comes out swinging God bless his heart, but he gets caught in Thai clinch, eats a knee to the body and two to the face, and his corner throws the towel in as he runs away from Lewis.
Dynamic end to a bad fight. Lewis really could have finished it off anytime he wanted to but he sat back and waited for his chance which, while smart, does not make for an exciting fight.
Winner – John Lewis by TKO
Heavyweight (200lbs and up)
Jeremy Horn (2-2, 6’1, 229lbs) vs Jason Godsey (0-1, 6’2, 251lbs)
Horn as a heavyweight? Interesting. He has gotten bigger and better every time out, but an outright move to heavyweight is surprising as he will go from usually being the bigger man in the cage to usually the smaller. We’ll see how he makes out giving up 20lbs in this one. Horn looks a bit softer this time out, which makes sense since he is 30lbs heavier.
Godsey debuted back at UFC XIX, losing by a quick submission to Pete Williams.
Leg kicks to start by Horn. He lands a good counter right but Godsey uses his sized advantage to muscle him up against the cage. They separate, and Godsey scores a takedown with a quick shot. Horn closes his guard and avoids any damage, then tries to scramble up. Godsey stays on top, but get caught with a quick armbar and the fight is over before you know it.
initially, it looked like Horn did not get full extension on the armbar, but on the replay you can see that he does, but damn if that isn’t just an odd way to get an armbar.
Winner – Jeremy Horn by submission, Round 1
This is the end of Godsey’s stay in the UFC, but he has fought as recently as May 2006 and has a record of 16-16.
Middleweights (170lbs to 199lbs)
Paul Jones (1-0, 5’9, 198lbs) vs Chuck Liddell (1-1, 6’2, 199lbs)
Liddell has the “Iceman” nickname this time around, but no beer belly. Chuck with abs is just odd to see. This was many, many beers ago.
Jones won a mismatch in his last fight, but he got dropped by the first punch thrown by his 20lbs lighter opponent, so I think I might know how this might go.
Jones shoots immediately, as he wants no part of Liddell on their feet. Liddell sprawls and they’re right back on their feet. Repeat that sentence, except this time Jones is able to hold Liddell against the cage for a second. Back off the cage, another shoot, another sprawl. Amid all this excitement, they mention that Liddell has been training with Tito Ortiz and Team Punishment since his loss to Jeremy Horn.
Liddell pulls free of Jones and lands a few punches. Jones shoots again, and Blatnick thinks that he exhausted himself with all the shots and holding Liddell against the cage. His hands are dropping, and he just barely blocks a high kick from Liddell. Jones shoots again, and grabs an ankle, but Liddell is in full control as he drops to knee and grabs Jones’ ankle in return. They scramble and Liddell lets him up, where we see Jones has busted his face up bad enough that McCarthy wants to take a look at him. The doctor calls the fight off due to the cut.
Winner – Chuck Liddell, Doctor Stoppage, Round 1
Not the most exciting fight in history, but dominant performance of Liddell as Jones wanted nothing to do with him in there.
With a little bit of time to kill after two quick fights, we get a heavyweight prelim from earlier in the night.
Heavyweight (200lbs and up)
Brad Kohler (0-1, 5’9, 234lbs) vs Steve Judson (0-0, 6’1, 230lbs)
Kohler debuted at UFC Japan, losing by armbar to Tra Telligman in a prelim fight, while Judson is a BJJ expert with some Pancrase experience. He’s in pretty good shape and looks pretty athletic, but Kohler is a freaking TANK. The man is huge.
Kohler gets a textbook double leg takedown and tries for guillotine, but he lets it go and they get back to their feet. Judson dances around a little bit and Kohler absolutely UNLOADS with a right hand on the button and Judson drops. I don’t mean he fell down, I mean the man crumpled face first onto the ground. THAT is a KO.
Surprisingly, this was Kohler’s last fight in the UFC. Not that he was great in there or anything, but you’d figure after a highlight reel KO like that he’d get another look, but nope.
Winner – Brad Kohler, KO, Round 1
Before we get to the main event, we get videos recapping each of the participant’s respective careers in the Octagon. This is the first UFC event that has that “Big Fight” atmosphere around it that most of the current main events manage to attain. Here we go…..
Middleweight (170lbs-199lbs) Championship
Frank Shamrock (4-0, 5’10, 198lbs) vs Tito Ortiz(3-1, 6’2, 199lbs)
Shamrock gets a big ovation coming out, and Goldberg actually “shushes” Blatnick in the booth. Classic.
Shamrock throws a leg kick and gets quickly taken down, but it looks like Ortiz wants to test his stand up and lets him back up. Ortiz is able to spin around Shamrock and lift him and take him down again, only to let him back up again. Ortiz shoots again, but Shamrock is able to sprawl this time, but still ends up on his back with Ortiz in his closed guard. Very active opening two minutes.
Ortiz tries to push him up against the fence, but Shamrock uses his leg to first stay off the cage and then spin away. Ortiz working very hard on top to keep Shamrock down, and Blatnick mention that this might be a strategy by Shamrock to tire out Ortiz.
Shamrock is able to scramble to his feet – and eat a few punches in the process – but Ortiz rips his legs out one more time and land a big shot right at the bell.
Easy round to score as Ortiz took him down at will and landed some decent shots. 10-9 Ortiz.
Shamrock tries a high kick on the initial exchange that almost lands. Ortiz responds with a bull rush takedown and ends up in 1/2 guard. Shamrock does a great job controlling Ortiz’s posture and avoiding damage on the bottom. The last 4 1/2 minutes of the round stays here, except that with 10 seconds left Shamrock scramble up and tries a guillotine, only to have Ortiz take him down again.
The second takedown at the bell makes it another 10-9 round by Ortiz. He’s not dominating, but he is winning. As you can tell, not a lot going on here as it was Ortiz laying on top and Shamrock showing top level ground defense.
Inside leg kick by Shamrock lands to start the fight, then tries a high body kick which doesn’t. Ortiz clinches but Shamrock lands a knee and they get tangled up and go to the ground. It looked like Shamrock was trying for an arm, but Ortiz shifted his weight and ended up controlling the takedown more and actually ends up in side control. For some reason, no strikes at all from there. He starts looking for a head an arm choke, but Shamrock quickly rolls to guard. The round is half over at this point.
Shamrock postures up and Ortiz actually takes his back for a second, but they separate and they’re back on their feet with two minutes left.
Ortiz lands a left, but Shamrock lands a big left in the clinch. Ortiz is stunned a bit and immediately takes Shamrock back to the ground. The round finishes with nothing more substantial than rabbit punches by both.
Shamrock looked better in that round, but two more takedowns, dominant position for a few seconds and submission attempts give Ortiz the round, 10-9. That makes it 30-27 on my scorecard.
Left jab by Ortiz and right kick by Shamrock exchange to open up. The leg kicks by Shamrock are starting land a bit more consistently and add up some damage. Ortiz is definitely tiring, but he’s not quite exhausted, while Shamrock looks pretty fresh and is getting very aggressive in his stand up. He lands a big right hand, but Ortiz shoots and takes him down once again.
He doesn’t do much on top though, just laying there as we reach the two minute mark of the round. Shamrock adjusts to a 1/2 butterfly guard and his rabbit punches are starting to add up a good bit. Ortiz tries to answer with elbows, but none land cleanly. Shamrock is able to reverse with about a minute left, and unloads a flurry of punches as they get to their feet. Ortiz shoots again, but ends up clutching Shamrock’s ankle as he unloads with hammer fists to Ortiz’s head.
With about 5 seconds left, Ortiz taps out.
Winner, and still champion, Frank Shamrock, Submission, Round 4
Too bad for Tito, as he was well ahead on the scorecards, and was probably winning the fourth round up until the end, but he gassed and got beaten down. We’ll see if he makes any adjustments to his game after this tough loss. In a classy move, he dons a Frank Shamrock t-shirt as opposed to his usual post fight wear.
Post fight, Shamrock says his plan was to tire Tito out, just as Blatnick suggested early on. It’s good to see that success hasn’t gone to Frank’s head, as he says that he is the best athlete ever to step into the Octagon and no one will ever beat him until he gets bored. Then he retires. Yup…he retires. To his credit, he does get a bit humble afterwards, saying his owes a lot of his success to his training partners.
The 411: That was a pretty good show. The main event was quite good, while no fights were offensive in any way. And the Kohler KO is worth seeing for sure. Then, there is the importance of things going on - LIddell returns from his loss and looks good and is working with Team Punishment, Ortiz loses his biggest match yet but might have learned a valuable lesson and Shamrock retires as the undefeated middleweight champion. Of course, now that he's retired two of the three divisions don't have champions anymore. Maybe they'll start rectifying that next time out in Japan. And, as I mentioned in the intro, this was an important event business wise for the UFC as well. Was it a success on that front? I'll fill you in on all the details next week.....
|Final Score: 8.0 [ Very Good ] legend|