mma / Columns

HIstory of the UFC 11.19.07: UFC XXIII – Ultimate Japan 2

November 19, 2007 | Posted by Matt McEwen

Last time out at UFC XXII, the promotion but on the biggest match they possibly could. They also took the time to properly promote the match up in hopes that it would help turn around their ailing fortunes.

So, how did they make out?

Well, since UFC XXIII marks the beginning of the “Dark Ages”, I think you can put two and two together and figure out that they barely had $4 left to pay their fighters.

That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the UFC and SEG were in VERY dire straits here. This event is the first UFC not to see national video/DVD release, thus cutting out one of the main streams of income left available to the company. With the well documented PPV audience reduction, this loss of video distribution was seen by many as the beginning of the end of the UFC.

Of course, losing the video distribution wouldn’t be an issue until after the event, so would the UFC close out the millennium on a high note in the land of the rising sun?

We open up with the traditional promo video, hyping the heavyweight double header that headlines the show tonight. Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo returns to take on Tsuyoshi Kosaka in a #1 contenders match, while the now vacant – more on that in a moment – heavyweight title will be decided between Kevin “The Monster” Randleman and Pete Williams.

We’re also going to get a 4 man UFC-J tournament, the first tournament in several events and the final – I promise for real this time – one night tournament in UFC history. The idea was that this show would be used as a launching board to create a separate Japanese based UFC promotion to combat the rising popularity of both K-1 and PRIDE, which was actually going to be running it’s 8th event just two night later also in Tokyo. The only difference was that PRIDE would be running in a bigger arena with a more intriguing card.

Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick are ringside….I think. They actually look like they’re standing in front of a blue screen and then super imposed on the background. Maybe they didn’t go to Japan? There’s a third man for the first time in a little while, as James Werme is backstage and handling interviews.

Werme’s first interview is with Bas Rutten. Now, a lot of sources report that the heavyweight title was vacated due to Rutten suffering injuries while training and having to retire. This is wrong. He actually vacated the title to move down to middleweight, with an eye to challenging the recently retired Frank Shamrock in what could have been a huge fight for the UFC. The alternately refer to Shamrock as retired and “current middleweight champion”, so I don’t know if the title is officially vacant or not. Either way, Rutten would suffer injuries in training and never fight again for the UFC, while Shamrock would never fight again due to a bad case of hugeheaditis.

UFC-J Tournament Semi Finals

Katsuhisa Fujii (0-0, 6′, 219lbs) vs Matsutatsu Yano (0-0, 5’8, 203lbs)

No weight classes in UFC-J match ups, but other than that the rules are the same as typical UFC fights.

Yano is a high level collegiate wrestler, while Fujii has experience in Shooto, so they expect him to be the better striker.

Round 1

We get a full two minutes in before they throw anything meaningful at all, but they quickly separate and return to staring at each other. Excitement right there. Fujii is able to grab a Thai clinch and land a couple of nice knees, and Yano answers with a takedown, and some decent strikes. Fujii tries for an armbar, but Yano pulls free.

And that’s the round. 10-9 Yano, but nothing to write home about there.

Round Two

Two full minutes of nothing much to start this round out as well. Nothing like starting a show off with two counter fighters who are afraid to make the first move. Fujii actually lands a beautiful right hook that connects and drops Yano, and pounces to finish the fight.

Good finish to a boring round.

Kenichi Yamamoto (0-0, 6′, 204) vs Daiju Takase (0-1, 5’11, 170lbs)

Takase got dominated by Jeremy Horn in his UFC debut because he was giving up way too much size. So now he’s taking on the bigger Yamamoto. Why does that not sound like a good idea?

Yamamoto is wearing a weird looking hat and sunglasses in his graphic, so I guess he is one of those “charismatic” Japanese fighters. He’s a veteran of RINGS, so he’ll have a few skills.

For some reason, Takase is going to fight in his t shirt.

Round 1

The fight starts with Takase jumping onto the bigger man and pulling him down into his guard. We spend two full minutes here with nothing at all going on. Yamamoto lands a couple of shots but quickly settles back down to doing nothing at all again. Takase isn’t looking for anything from the bottom as he locks in a body scissor to hold Yamamoto, who’s only answer is headbutts to the chest. Round ends here.

Takase sort of scored the takedown, and his defense was good, but Yamamoto landed a few shots and was more aggressive. Yamamoto 10-9 if I had to pick.

Round 2

Takase comes flying out with a high kick, but ends up eating a big right hand and gets taken down. Yamamoto lets him up, only to take him back down off a caught body kick. He jumps over him and passes guard. They scramble like crazy but end up back in Takase’s guard.

Goldberg and Blatnick discuss how, now that we have rounds, refs won’t be standing fighters up since they’ll restart at the first of each round anyways. Oh boy….that’s going to lead to some exciting fights. As a matter of fact, it already is.

Yamamoto gets to his feet with about 30 seconds left in the round. Takase tries a spin kick, but can’t land it and decides to just fall on his back and wait out the round.

Yamamoto lands an elbow after the bell, but no foul called on it, so he wins the round 10-9.

Round 3

Another high kick attempt by Takase, but Yamamoto takes him down again. You know a fight is bad when a Japanese crowd starts to boo a fight.

Takase tries a triangle from the bottom with 1:45 left, but Yamamoto avoids and gets to his feet for a second before Takase pulls guard again. Crowd boos again and that’s the last action of the fight.

Yamamoto wins a snoozer and advances to face Fujii in the final.

Middleweights (170lbs-199lbs)

Eugene Jackson (1-0, 5’8, 195lbs) vs Kei Yamamiya (0-0,5’11, 188lbs)

Matchmaker John Perretti said that Yamamiya is a better technical striker than Jackson, so we’ll see if he tries to bait the Japanese fighter in close to counter punch like he says. Yamamiya also fights in Pancrase, so he should at least be familiar with the ground game. Jackson’s main advantage looks to be power, as he is a much thicker, more muscular fighter.

Round 1

Yamamiya is a southpaw. Another wrinkle in his game. He lands his first left 1:15 into the fight, while Jackson – true to Perretti’s assessment – is looking to counter. Not much going on just like the first two fights, but you can see the intention and that both guys are actively looking for their spots, as opposed to just waiting. I guess you could call this aggressively waiting.

Yamamiya lands a right just as Jackson was starting a leg kick, and he goes down against the cage, more due to being off balance, but it was the punch that knocked him off balance, but he pops back up quickly. They clinch in an under/overhook position against the cage, then separate with 1 1/2 minutes left. They have two nice exchanges near the end of the round, with both landing decent shots, but no real damage done.

I’d probably score it for Yamamiya for both the sort of knock down and the fact he was coming forward a bit more, but a pretty even round.

Round 2

With Yamamiya having landed two flush left hands that did not hurt him, Jackson has to be a bit more confident and should be more aggressive in this round. They jab at each other the first minute, then they start throwing and landing big shots on each other. They both shake it off, smile and touch gloves.

Jackson follows a right leg kick in with a nice right hand that stuns Yamamiya a bit and he lands 2 or 3 more shots before Yamamiya is able to recover. Jackson slowly starting to take control now. They end up clinched against the fence, with Jackson landing nice short rib shots. They break but the round ends before they can engage again.

Jackson’s round 10-9, so all even going into the third.

Round 3

Jackson getting more opportunities now as Yamamiya is coming forward more now. They clinch against the the fence again, and you can see that both guys are getting a bit tired. After some more dancing around each other, and clinching a bit more, Jackson gets the better of another exchange. He then lands a nice short counter left out of nowhere that KO’s Yamamiya.

Damn….nice finish by Jackson. In his post fight interview, he says that he “wasn’t going to come to Japan and fight them on the ground. They'[d] kill me.” Points for honesty. He also mentions that he wants some sponsors so he can quit working 12 hours day and train full time.

Middleweights (170lbs-199lbs)

Joe Slick (0-0) vs Jason Delucia (2-1)

Slick is a Militech trained fighter making his debut, while Delucia is returning to the Octagon for the first time since UFC II, where he lost by submission to Royce Gracie. He’s spent the last few years fighting in Pancrase.

Round 1

I somehow missed the the heights and weights of both guys, but it doesn’t really matter that much. After a quick takedown by Slick, Delucia scrambles up but Slick grabs a body lock and tries a back trip takedown. The end result of this is Delucia’s leg bending awkwardly behind him and him shrieking in agony as the fight is called off.

NASTYNASTYNASTYNASTYNASTYNASTY. I shivered just writing that down.

UFC-J Tournament Finals

Katsuhisa Fujii (1-0, 6′,219lbs) vs Kenichi Yamamoto (1-0,6′, 204)

Fujii sprints to the cage, and he looks ready to get the fight started. Yamamoto on the other hand, very slowly dances to the ring wearing a hooded jacket. Not a ring robe, but like a hooded winter coat.

Blatnick – perhaps somewhat hopefully – makes the point that each of these guys may have been pacing themselves in the first round fights, and the finals should be better. I sure hope he’s right.

Round 1

Yamamoto comes rushes out to start the fight, but Fujii drops under a punch and takes him down to start working out of the guard. It takes a little while, but Fujii finally starts to land a few shots. Yamamoto scrambles up, but gets taken back down pretty quickly. Fujii passes guard for a second, but ends up with a front headlock after some scrambling. After a little more scrambling, Fujii lands a few more punches as the round finishes.

Slow start by both, but Fujii dominated the last minute and won the round 10-9 easily.

Round 2

They exchange to start and Fujii takes his back standing up, but ends up back in Yamamoto’s guard again. It’s really not fun to watch two guys do more or less nothing, which is what the round is right until the end. At that point, Yamamoto rolls for a kneebar out of nowhere, and the fight is over.

Another nice finish to a less than exhilarating fight.

Quick interview with matchmaker Perretti, who previews the two heavyweight fights coming up. He’s curious if Rizzo can still use the leg kicks against someone like Kosaka, and that Kosaka is going to have to eat some shots to get the fight where he wants it. The sound cuts out on his assessment of the main event, so I don’t know what he thinks about that one.

Heavyweights (200lbs and up)

Pedro Rizzo (3-0, 6’1, 233lbs) vs Tsuyoshi Kosaka (3-1, 5’11, 229lbs)

Rizzo definitely gets a title shot if he wins here. Of course, since he was supposed to be in the original tournament finals, some would say it would make sense for him to be facing Randleman for the title tonight, but whatever. At least they can build to the fight a bit.

TK already holds a win over the other half of the championship fight tonight in Pete Williams, so you know he thinks he deserves a shot at the title himself. Of course, since this is Ultimate Japan 2, that means he is the hometown boy, which means he is in big trouble here.

Round 1

First minute of the fight is mostly dancing. Rizzo is looking to counter as he appears to be concerned about the takedown when/if he engages.

TK is mostly trying leg kicks and Rizzo starts answering with right hands before starting to throw some leg kicks of his own. Here’s a good analogy for the leg kicks – getting hit with TK’s kicks is like being hit by a compact car….a Toyota Yaris perhaps….while getting hit by Rizzo’s kick is like having a 747 crash into you. You can just hear the difference on impact, and see the difference in the grimaces they make. The last one that Rizzo throws instantly welts up TK’s front leg, which is eventually going to take away the shot.

Hard round to score as TK was coming forward the whole round, but the striking was fairly even. 10-9 Kosaka I guess, but not a very exciting round at all.

Round 2

First minute of the round is all dancing again, then Rizzo starts moving forward a bit more.

This might be a good time to rant about Rizzo a bit – at this point, in his 4th UFC fight, there are two sides to Rizzo that have come forward. The first is an aggressive, devastating striker who finishes fights. The other – the one we’re seeing here, is a painfully patient counter fighter who wouldn’t throw the first punch if said his mother was a bad lay.

With about two minutes left, Rizzo starts to pick up the pace a bit, but TK tries a takedown. Rizzo scrambles back up and throws a few more front leg kicks, which are really starting to hurt, to end the round.

Rizzo’s round, 10-9, so all tied up at a round apiece going into the third.

Round 3

Once again, they dance for the first minute, but then a big left hand thrown by Rizzo momentarily drops TK. He gets back up quickly, but tries a desperation takedown. Rizzo pulls away and with TK on his hands an knees, lands a brutal punch right to the nose that prompts McCarthy to step in and end the fight.

Another great one-shot finish to an otherwise disappointing fight.

Heavyweight (200lbs and up) Championship

Kevin Randleman (1-1, 5’10, 212lbs) vs Pete Williams (3-1, 6’3, 244lbs)

Randleman is looking for a little vicarious revenge for Mark Coleman, who was destroyed by a Williams head kick in their fight, while Williams is looking to bring a championship back to the Lion’s Den for the first time since the days of the “SuperFight.”

An oddity in this fight, as Williams has a 30lbs size advantage but is likely at a strength disadvantage to the freakishly strong Randleman.

Round 1

Randleman runs across the Octagon to immediately shoot for a takedown, but they grapple all over the Octagon before he can get it. Williams closes his guard, while Randleman uses a neck crank to try and open it up. He gives up the crank and tries a side headlock, but gives that up and starts landing a few shots.

Williams is able to scramble up, and lands a few punches and actually mount Randleman – though somewhat awkwardly – but time runs out before he is able to finish the fight.

After the bell, Randleman stays down on the mat holding his left arm and ribs. It looks like the fight is over, but he gets up and goes to his corner and looks like he’ll continue.

Have to give the round to Williams, 10-9, thanks to the flurry at the end.

Round 2

Randleman catches an early leg kick but can’t score the takedown off of it. It looks like his left is still hurting him, and Williams is doing his best to target the area. However, Randleman is able to score a takedown with a trip out of the clinch. Once they’re on the ground, Williams rolls for an armbar, but Randleman pulls free works out of the guard some more. He postures up, but doesn’t score a lot.

Tough round to score, but I think I’d give it 10-9 to Randleman. 19-19 overall.

Round 3

Williams initiates with a leg kick about 40 seconds in and Randleman grabs it and ends up with a front headlock for a second before Williams moves to guard. Both guy spend the rest of the round landing rabbit shots at best and laying and praying at worst.

Randleman’s round based on the takedown I guess, 10-9. 29-28 Randleman.

Round 4

Championship rounds begin…Randleman waits 45 seconds for the takedown this time. That’s all the action of the round.

*Side note* – Goldberg made his 10th “Super Bowl of MMA” comment during this fight.

Randleman’s round, so 39-37 going in to the fifth round.

Round 5

Takedown is again at the 45 seconds mark, but this time Randleman is able to gain Williams back. Of course, he throws no strikes and tries no submissions…just uses an ankle pick to ride Williams. Fun times, I tells ya.

Williams rolls for a leg, but they end up back on the feet, where Williams looks really tired. Since we always hear about how much the Lion’s Den has the best cardio in the business that’s a bit of a surprise.

They don’t throw anything at all on their feet, and McCarthy has to step in and tell them to fight. Randleman scores one more takedown, but can’t hold Williams down this time. It doesn’t matter though, as time runs out.

Randleman wins in a fight that I hope I never have to watch again. I forgot about how boring a fight with a dominant wrestler who can’t strike or submit anybody could be to watch.

Though, we FINALLY have a heavyweight champ who might actually stick around. What a novelty.

The 411: How to put this gently.......this show sucks monkey dick. It's really rather painful and boring to watch. The tournament was bad, and the only fight maybe worth watching was the Eugene Jackson one. A lot of really good finishes, but the problem was staying awake to get there. Next time out will be headlined by Randleman defeniding against Rizzo, so let's hope that will be better.
 
Final Score:  3.0   [ Bad ]  legend

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Matt McEwen

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