Simply MMA: UFC Ultimate Japan
Posted by Jamie Meikle on 02.20.2010
Couture gets his first title shot, Frank Shamrock makes his debut and a future MMA legend makes his one and only octagon appearance.
It's another first for the UFC this weekend as they head to Australia for UFC 110. So I figured I'd go all the way back to December of 1997 and review the UFC's first event outside the US, Ultimate Japan. However while UFC's trip down under this weekend is another part of Zuffa's plans for global domination, for SEG ( the previous owners of the promotion ) they were just glad they could find somewhere to hold an event without any hassle, protest or court dates. On the card we have Randy Couture challenging Maurice Smith for the Heavyweight title, Frank Shamrock makes his debut against Olympic Gold Medallist Kevin Jackson to determine the UFC's first Middleweight champion, Vitor Belfort returns and a four man Heavyweight tournament including Tank Abbott and Kazushi Sakuraba. Not bad eh?
Live from Yokohama Arena your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick.
Heavyweight Tournament semi final 1 - Yoji Anjo vs Tank Abbott
Tank returns to the Octagon after his defeat to Maurice Smith at UFC 15. Pro wrestler Anjo makes his UFC debut here and is probably most famous for getting his ass kicked by Rickson Gracie at Rickson's Academy.
Tank immediately pushes Anjo against the cage and manages to slam the pro wrestler to the ground. Tank lands a bunch of punches from Anjo's guard while pressing him up against the cage. Action slows down from here as with Tank landing only a few punches. Anjo manages to catch Tank in an armbar but loses it after being hit by more strikes. McCarthy brings them back to their feet at the four minute mark but Tank gets the takedown and back into the guard of Anjo. Nothing really happens after that so let’s fast forward to them getting stood up at the nine minute mark. Tank is GASSED by this point. Anjo lands a few legkicks but Tank presses him up against the fence and takes him down again. Ugh again nothing happens as Tank seems content in staying in the guard. Let’s just skip to overtime.
Same ole shit in overtime except Tank manages to get half guard. What a horrible fight. Tank gets the decision. Let’s move on.
Heavyweight Tournament semi final 2 – Conan Silvera vs Kazushi Sakuraba
It's kinda surreal to see Sakuraba in the Octagon. He actually is a last minute replacement for fellow Kingdom team-mate Hiromitsu Kanehara who got injured. Carlson Gracie student Silvera makes his UFC debut here.
Sakuraba shoots and manages to get the takedown. Silvera goes for the leglock from the bottom but Sakuraba goes for one of his from the top. Silvera grabs Sakuraba's arm and manages to pull him to the ground and grabs his back. Kimura attempt by Silvera but Sakuraba spins free. Back on the feet and Silvera lands some punches to Sakuraba who goes for the single leg but out of nowhere McCarthy stops the fight.
Crowd, Sakuraba and the rest of Team Kingdom are livid. Wow, bad call by McCarthy (something you don't usually hear) It was clear Sakuraba was going for the shoot despite being caught by a left uppercut. Shame as it was a fun fight up until the early stoppage.
So it looks like we're getting Abbott and Silvera in the finals...NOPE! It is announced that Abbott broke his left hand during the Anjo fight so he is unable to continue so we are getting Sakuraba vs Silvera II in the finals. I ain't complaining.
Middleweight Championship – Frank Shamrock vs Kevin Jackson
Jackson is coming off his victory in the UFC 14 middleweight tournament while Shamrock makes his debut here.
They meet in the middle. Jackson pushes Frank up against the octagon and gets the takedown but Shamrock immediately catches him in an armbar and gets the tapout at 16 seconds!
Damn! Not a bad way to make your debut. Sweet submission victory for Shamrock who becomes the company's first middleweight champion.
Superfight – Joe Charles vs Vitor Belfort
Belfort of course is coming off that devastating loss to Couture while Charles makes his first appearance in the octagon in two years.
Vitor gets double underhooks to start us off. He pushes Charles against the fence before getting the takedown and transitioning to side mount and the full mount soon after. Charles manages to buck him off but gets his arm caught as Belfort looks for a kimura. Charles tires to spin out of it but ends up giving up his back. Charles manage to roll Vitor off him and tries to stand but again 'The Phenom' gets the takedown right into the side mount. Charles again gives up his back which Belfort takes full advantage off. Vitor looks for the choke. Charles breaks free for a brief moment but again Belfort looks for the rear naked choke. Charles spins free but ends up mounted where Belfort finishes him with the armbar.
Was not expecting that. I guess Vitor wanted to show the world he had a good ground game and submission skills. Mission accomplished then. Fun fight even thought it was one sided.
Heavyweight Tournament Final – Kazushi Sakuraba vs Conan Silvera
Alright! The rematch that was...20 minutes in the making is finally upon us.
Here we go...again. They clinch to start us off with Silvera eventually getting the takedown. Kimura attempt by Sakuraba and he almost gets it as Silvera tries to spin out of it. Sakuraba eventually lets go as Conan tires to get the back. They stand up as Silvera looks for a choke but Sakuraba get the takedown. Now Silvera looks for the kimura but Sakuraba gets out and gets the armbar for the submission victory as Team Kingdom flood the octagon to celebrate.
Another fun fight between these two with some good grappling exchanges. Haven't seen Silvera anywhere else and I’m not sure why the UFC didn't sign him to a long term deal as he showed potential here. For Sakuraba well that's another story.
Main Event - UFC Heavyweight Championship Match – Maurice Smith vs Randy Couture
Couture earned his shot at the title after defeating Belfort back at UFC 15. Smith makes his second title defence since defeating Mark Coleman at UFC 14. They play the American national anthem which is a nice touch.
Here we go! Smith lands a couple of leg kicks before Couture gets the takedown and gets to the side mount. Couture lands some punches to the head of Smith and remains in half guard. Keylock attempt by Couture which Smith manages to escape but gets mounted in the process. Smith does a good job of avoiding damage and controlling Couture from the bottom and manages to get back to half guard. They stay in this position for while before Smith manages to get full guard. Couture postures up and tries to pass the guard but eats some upkicks for his troubles as we hit the eight minute mark. Smith uses the butterfly guard to buck Couture off but Randy grabs the back before Smith can get up. Smith manages to get back to half guard and again they stay in this position for while with Couture landing a couple of hammer shots and elbows from the top. Couture finally manages to transition to side mount but as he goes for the mount Smith reverses him . Smith tries to get back onto his feet but Couture ends up pushing him back down to the ground and back in the guard. Couture pushes Smith against the fence and lands some more punches before going back to side mount. Smith rolls and gives up his back as Couture lands more punches before Smith rolls back to the side mount and stay in this position until the round ends.
First overtime begins. Smith goes for a legkick but Couture telegraphs it and gets the takedown and is back in the side mount and they stay in this position until the buzzer.
Final overtime begins. Smith lands a couple of punches as Couture shoots but the wrestler manages to take him down and again back into side mount. Couture moves to the north/south position. Fight ends with Couture in side mount.
Dominating performance by Couture in my eyes as he was able to take Smith down frequently and controlled him on the ground. We go to the judges for the second time tonight. Somehow one judge scores it a draw but the other two have more sense and give it to Couture who wins his first belt in the UFC. Decent fight, I enjoyed more on the second viewing. It definitely was slow at places but it ain't the worst fight I've ever seen.
The 411: Good show overall. Apart from the Abbott fight everything else is good. If you’re a fan of the ground game you’ll love this show. Plus from a historic point of view, it’s essential for any MMA fan to add to their collection as you get Couture and Shamrock winning their first titles and Sakuraba making his only UFC appearance to date. So this show gets a solid recommendation from me.