mma / Columns

History of the UFC – UFC XV: Collision Course

July 30, 2007 | Posted by Matt McEwen

UFC XV: Collision Course

We open up the show – original air date October 17th 1997 – with a recap of the biggest upset the UFC had ever seen, as world class striker Maurice Smith broke the unbeaten streak of ground and pound specialist Mark Coleman. In the process, Smith proved a striker could be a wrestler with the right game plan, and helped to usher in a new era in MMA. Using the “Alliance” of Smith and Lion’s Den trainer Frank Shamrock as a template, wrestlers and grapplers began to learn to strike, while strikers began to learn how to deal with an advanced ground game. Eventually, the era of one discipline dominance that the UFC had been to this point – first the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu of Royce Gracie, then the wrestling of the likes of Severn and Coleman – would end, and the true, well rounded MMA competitor would emerge.

On tonight’s card, Smith will be defending against the exciting but no longer dominant Tank Abbott, who was a last minute fill in for the injured Dan Severn. I am going to say that Smith against Severn would have been painful to watch, so if ever there was a time to be happy about an injury, this is it.

In addition, we get a title elimination fight between the “Phenom” Vitor Belfort going against the undefeated Randy “They haven’t given me any of my nicknames yet” Couture. Belfort had destroyed everyone he had faced in under two minutes, and while Couture had looked good in winning the tournament in his debut, he id a HUGE underdog coming in here. The UFC were attempting to build around Belfort as their golden boy, and were attempting to pave the way to the title for him with opponents they felt he matched up well with. Also, Mark Kerr returns to the heavyweight tournament to defend his title

We get a nice shot of the crowd, and you can see that they were feeling the pinch now. Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, Missouri may have been a nice arena, but it is small looking.

Heavyweight Alternate Match

Alex Hunter (1-0) vs Harry Moskowitz (0-0)

For the first time, we get to see the alternate bouts on the PPV, which I think is a good thing.

Moskowitz comes into this fight with huge size advantage, standing 6’5 to Hunter’s 5’9, and 293lbs to Hunter’s 210lb frame. Moskowitz is the hometown fighter, and fights wearing a T-shirt which says “Tat-F’n-Too.” Both these things insinuate he will lose this fight.

Hunter starts looking to stick and move, but is the first to try for a takedown. When you’re giving up almost 100lbs and you are not a great wrestler, that might not be a good idea. Sure enough, Moskowitz catches him in a front headlock and starts looking for a guillotine, going so far as to even pick Hunter up off the ground with the move. They end up against the fence with Moskowitz leaning his back on it, and Hunter avoiding the choke out but not able to do much else.

The big man tries to land some elbows, and they mention a new rule that elbows and punches to the back of the head and neck are no longer allowed. Later on, they mention that headbutts are also now illegal, so we are moving very close to modern MMA rules.

Around the four minute mark of a match up that looks like both guys are just waiting for the other to make a mistake, Hunter manages to pull free and land a few decent punches. He tries for the takedown again though, and we end up right back where we started against the fence.

When they pull off the fence again, Moskowtiz easily moves to take Hunter’s back and pulls him down to the ground. He tries for the choke, but Hunter is able to reverse and gain side control, then easily hopping into the mount. He doesn’t do a lot from the dominant position though, and referee Joe Hamilton restarts them with one minute left in the twelve minute time limit. Both guys are totally exhausted and don’t seem to want to engage, until Moskowitz throws a big punch, leaving himself open for an easy takedown by Hunter as time expires.

Not an exciting fight by any means, as neither guy had a particularly great skill set and wouldn’t’ t last very long against any of the best of this era. Hunter pulls out a split decision as the fans boo him lustily.

Heavyweight Alternate Match

Houston Dorr (0-0) vs Dwane Cason (0-0)

Neither guy is very big – Dorr is 6′ and 200lbs, while Cason is 5’10 and 215lbs – but there is a huge difference in age, as the 20 year old Cason is almost half the age of the 39 year old Dorr. That could play a factor.

Their lifestyles are a bit different as well, as Cason is or was a collegiate wrestler while Dorr is a local boy (oh-oh) who is a state trooper. So, if Cason beats him up, will he be charged with assaulting an officer? Strike two against Dorr is that he is a karate expert and kickboxer with no ground experience. I do not see this going well at all.

Cason scores the quick takedown and pins him up against the fence. If Dorr had any clue what to do on the ground, he could probably submit Cason as he keeps straightening his arms out in almost a push up position, leaving him vulnerable to armbars. Dorr is smart enough to lock both of Cason’s arms at his side, and we get a bit of a stalemate for a bit. Once Cason pulls his arms free however, he is able to start landing big punches and gets the ref stoppage at 3:40.

Cason looked pretty good here, showing some patience in waiting for his chance to finish, but also showing some vulnerabilities a better fighter would probably take advantage of.

Heavyweight Tournament Semi-Finals

Gregg Stott (0-0) vs Mark Kerr (3-0)

Stott is a former Airborne Ranger and believes that he has designed the best hand to hand combat system in the world – Ranger International Performance – and is stepping into the Octagon to prove it.

That is going to get tested against Mark Kerr, who is (artificially) huge and was steam-rolling everyone at this point.

Stott is a short stock plug – 5’7, 222lbs – which plays against him as Kerr initiates a clinch and the fight is over one knee later. That was quick and brutal as Stott got put out cold in one shot.

Kerr will be fresh for the finals.

Dave Benneteau (2-3) vs Carlos Barreto (0-0)

Barreto is a Gracie jiu jitsu specialist from – where else? – Brazil, and is a big, long limbed guy, making him quite dangerous on the ground. Think of a more muscular Anderson Silva, as he has similar long legs and arms.

Benneteau returns for the first time since December 19995, and has put a few pound on since then. He is not out of shape, but does look thicker.

The fight starts with Benneteau clinching, only to eat a knee and get pushed up against the fence. Barreto lands a headbutt, which draws him a warning under the new rules. For the record, three warnings equals a DQ. With Benneteau pushed up against the fence, Barreto is trying hard for the takedown, and begins holding the fence to stop Benneteau from spinning off of it. He is being a bit smart about it though, using Benneteau’s body to block McCarthy’s view. Eventually though, McCarthy calls for the restart due to a lack of action.

On the restart, Barreto gets the takedown and moves to the Canadian’s back easily. Punches to the back of the head go without a warning but seem to anger Benneteau as he easily gets back to his feet. They clinch against the fence again, and this time Barreto gets the takedown and gains 1/2 guard. He lands some good punches out of the position before he stands up and lets Benneteau back to his feet.

A really good fight so far, and they back to the middle of the Octagon. They exchange some kicks and punches before Benneteau scores his first takedown of the fight. Caught in the guard of a BJJ black belt however, he allows Barreto to get back to his feet. They clinch against the fence and Benneteau lands the best punch of the fight with a nice uppercut. They spin off the fence and both guys are looking a bit tired.

Barreto tries for a kick, but gets his leg caught and taken down again. Benneteau gets a foot in the face as he tries to bypass the guard of Barreto. We’re about 7 1/2 minutes in as they start to slow a bit. Really quick pace up to this point. In this position, you get a good shot of the Che Guevara tattoo that Barreto has on his arm, so he instantly becomes a favorite of mine. Benneteau continues to work to pass the guard, but almost gets caught in an armbar and stands up rather than play with Barreto on the ground any more.

Barreto pushes him against the fence, and gets his second warning of the fight for holding the fence. One more, and he is DQ’ed. Due to the foul, McCarthy starts them back in the middle with 1 1/2 minutes left in the opening period. On the restart, Benneteau gets his third takedown and lands some punches as time expires.

Barreto comes out initiating the action in the OT, getting into the clinch again and pushing Benneteau against the fence. He gets the takedown and starts working from the top. Benneteau gets called for a foul for heel strikes to kidneys, which have now been made illegal as well. The OT ends in this position.

Personally, I would give a very tight decision to Barreto, but the judges see it differently as Benneteau gets a unanimous decision. This was a really, really good fight though. Probably the best time limit draw I’ve seen so far in the UFC.

Heavyweight Contender Elimination Match

Vitor Belfort (3-0) vs Randy Couture (2-0)

Couture says that wants to take the fight to the ground and see what Belfort has for him there. He thinks he can win, which would put him in a very tiny minority at the time. Couture comes out to the Octagon first, and is made to wait for a while as Belfort stalls.

Once he comes out, the fight starts with a flurry of punches that Couture easts. Belfort is in a squatting stance to guard against the takedown, which suggests to me that he was concerned about going to the ground in spite of being hyped as one of the best in the world on the ground. Couture gets in close and clinches, landing a few knees in the process.

Belfort tries for a single leg, but can not take the elite wrestler down. After shrugging off the takedown attempt, Couture is surprisingly walking forward towards the man who was the most feared striker in the UFC at this point. He keeps trying to grab the clinch, and each time he succeeds he lands knees and uppercuts and blocks most of the shots that Belfort throws back at him.

Belfort has enough of the clinch and breaks only to be taken down and gives up side control. Couture moves to a headlock and lands a few punches to Belfort’s wide open face. Belfort scrambles out gains full guard. Couture is able to land a few punches, but for the most part Belfort’s defense holds up. He tries for an armbar, and after some rolling, they are back on their feet.with Couture landing knees to a bent over Belfort. They separate but Couture is right back in close using his dirty boxing skills to dominate. Belfort starts to look wobbly.

Belfort makes a desperate attempt to pull guard but falls against the fence where Couture first takes his back, then lets him roll to his side and starts landing unanswered shots to Belfort’s face. McCarthy gives him plenty of time to do something, but has to step in and stop the fight after what seemed like 20 unanswered shots to the face.

This upset is probably even bigger than Smith beating Coleman, as Belfort was looked as being the future star who the UFC was hoping to build around. Now, it looked as if the 34 year old Couture might be the man to beat in the heavyweight division.

Heavyweight Finals

Mark Kerr (3-0) vs Dwane Cason (1-0)

Cason takes Benneteau’s place in the finals due to exhaustion. They mention that he has only been training in MMA for five months, and suggest that might not be enough to take on a a beast like Kerr.

Blatnick makes mentions that Kerr lost in the Olympic trials lost to some guy named Kurt Angle. I wonder whatever became of him?

As for the fight, Kerr starts with a leg kick and follows up with a takedown into 1/2 guard. Kerr mounts and Cason rolls to his stomach after a couple of punches and gets choked out in under a minute.

Kerr wins his second straight tournament and looks unstoppable at this point, but this would be his last appearance in the Octagon. Six months after this fight he would be in PRIDE for their second event, and wouldn’t fight in the US again until last November for the IFL in a loss to Mike Whitehead. He has been very open about his steroid use and abuse of painkillers, both of which were well documented in the HBO documentary “The Smashing Machine.” If you’ve ever wondered if a a junkie could fight, go have a look at that. A messy, messy picture of what can happen to an athlete.

Heavyweight Championship

Maurice Smith (1-0) vs Tank Abbott (6-5)

Abbott took the fight on about one weeks notice, so he is in bad shape, even by his low standards. As shown in his UFC debut, Smith is probably in the best cardio condition of anyone in the Octagon so that should be a factor if the fight goes any sort of distance at all.

Beck and Blatnick give Tank a lot of credit for taking this fight on such short notice and being as tough as he is. I’ll concur with those sentiments.

Smith takes the center of the Octagon to start, and smartly makes Tank chase him around. Tank wants to take the fight to the ground, but can not score the takedown and Smith starts throwing brutal looking leg kicks. Other than those kicks though, both guys seem to be keeping their distance out of respect of each other’s power.

Eventually, Tank gets the clinch against the fence and tries for the takedown again. He can’t take Smith down that way, but drops him with a right hand and pounces. He ends up in Smith’s guard as the champ seemed to recover quickly from the punch. Tank is able to pass guard but ends up right back in the guard. He postures up and lands a few big rights. Smith looks decent defensively on the ground, but vulnerable as well. He tires for a kimura, but is unable to to lock it in. Eventually McCarthy restarts them as neither is improving their position on the ground.

Tank looks quite tired, and is unable to move away from the leg kicks that Smith starts throwing. After the second one lands, Tank waves him off and verbally submits.

Considering he took the fight on a week’s notice, Tank did great here, and was easily ahead on points at the time of the stoppage. He was able to go a bit over eight minutes, and it would have been interesting to see how the rest of the fight would have gone if Tank was in better shape coming into it.

Post fight with Joe Rogan, Smith says he expected to be fight Tank for a bit, which makes his lackluster showing only seem worse.

The 411: The streak of good shows continues here. Other than the long, slow opening alternate bout, there isn't a bad fight on the show. On top of that, Randy Couture really starts to make his name here as he earned a title shot against Maurice Smith, who looked vulnerable on the ground against an out of shape Tank Abbott. Mark Kerr looked unstoppable in winning his second tournament before leaving the promotion, exiting with an impressive reputation in the Octagon. Next time out, we head to Japan where Couture tries for the title, Frank Shamrock and the middleweight title both debut, and Vitor Belfort sees if he still has it as he tries a quick comeback fight.
 
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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Matt McEwen

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