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History of the UFC - UFC XVII: Redemption
Posted by Matt McEwen on 08.20.2007



MMA returned to the PPV airwaves on May 15th 1998, live from the Mobile Civic Center for the UFC’s late spring/early summer event. This quarterly schedule they are on would be a lot nicer to deal with if they stuck somewhat to the seasons. But no, that would be too easy. So, we get an event in May, just two months after their first show of the year and five months before their next live event. Go figure.

Anyhow, the tagline for UFC XVII was “Redemption,” so you’re probably asking whose redemption we’re dealing with here. The answer is the returning Mark “The Hammer”Coleman, finally getting back in the Octagon after his shocking upset at the hands of Maurice Smith 10 months previous. He was originally supposed to be taking on Heavyweight champion Randy Couture, but Couture suffered an injury a few weeks prior to the show and they replaced him with Lion’s Den competitor Pete Williams. That will be our main event tonight.

Also tonight, Tank Abbott is going to be looking to reestablish himself as a top flight UFC contender as he taking on Brazilian Hugo Duarte, who will be making his UFC debut. In addition, we have a third heavyweight “SuperFight” – and I use that term loosely – as Mike Van Arsdale and Joe Pardo debut against each other here tonight.

We also get a middleweight (which has a 171lbs-200lbs limit) tournament, which features four debuting fighters, including well known Brazilian competitor Allan Goes, future UFC title holder Carlos Newton and UFC 75 headliner and current PRIDE middleweight and welterweight champion Dan Henderson. Definitely a star studded crew here. You sharp readers out there can throw the moron card at me, since I said last week that the tournament at UFC XVI was the final one. My bad.

Now, before we get down to the nitty gritty here, I would be remiss if I didn’t make mention of John Peretti. I mentioned him in passing last time out, as UFC XVI was the event where he took over as matchmaker for the UFC. He formerly worked in that regard for the now defunct Extreme Fighting promotion, which explains why that promotion was talked about so nicely in past events. Anyhow, Peretti’s goal was to put together the best, competitive fights possible. To that extent – and just when anyone takes over a promotion – you will be seeing a lot of debuts in the upcoming shows as new eyes bring in new guys. Like that rhyme? I just made it up.

Bad poetry aside, one of these new faces debuting would be Chuck Liddell, who debuted in the untelevised (dammit!) middleweight preliminary fight, defeating Noe Hernandez in not only his UFC debut, but his MMA debut as well. Great – most famous fighter in history, the title of the column is “The History of the UFC”, and I miss out on his debut fight. Jeebus help us. For the record, Chuck won be decision.

Also untelevised was a heavyweight “exhibition” fight between Andre Roberts (0-0) and Harry Moskowitz (0-1), which Roberts won by unanimous decision.

There was one other non-televised fight on this card, and it went on AFTER the PPV went off the air, as Frank Shamrock (2-0) defended his middleweight title for the second time, taking on the debuting Jeremy Horn (0-0). As opposed to his first two UFC contests, it took Shamrock 16:30 to gain the submission victory over the game but young Horn. This fight was taped and shown on a PPV known as A Night Of Champions, which was a compilation of older fights, with this previously unseen fight as the only reason for a fan to buy. Oh….those UFC marketing gurus…..milking every dollar out of the few people still able to watch their shows….

Onto the show.

Middleweight Tournament Semi Finals

Dan Henderson (0-0) vs Allan Goes (0-0)

Henderson competed for the US at the 1992 and 1996 Olympics in Greco Roman wrestling, and made his MMA debut a year previous to this event. He won the 1997 Brazil Open tournament, winning a four man tournament there. He is of course a very well known fighter now, so it is fun to see him getting his start here. At this point, he is part of the RAW team along with his longtime friend, Randy Couture. It was in training with Henderson that Couture was injured.

Goes is no slouch himself, and is fairly well known in MMA circles. He currently competes in the IFL for the Seattle Tiger Sharks. He was also involved in a brawl with Tank Abbott in Puerto Rico at the David vs Goliath tournament in 1996.

This is a strange fight once they get going. The spots where you would expect Henderson to be stronger, he isn’t really. And when you expect Goes to have control, he doesn’t.

They feel each other out to start, with Henderson looks like he wants to stick and move, while Goes seems like he wants to concentrate on using leg kicks to Henderson’s front leg. About 1:40 in though, Goes lands a big right hand which floors Henderson. Goes’ stand up was not thought too highly of, while Henderson reportedly had some boxing skill, so Henderson going down early was pretty surprising. Anyhow, when Goes tries to capitalize, Henderson catches him in a leg lock. So now the wrestler has the jiu jitsu expert in a leg lock.

Goes is able to roll and get out of the hold, and they end up back on their feet where Goes becomes the obvious aggressor. He eventually pulls Henderson down to guard, and we get to see just how good the Brazilian’s guard is. Henderson’s top defense is pretty good, and is actually able to land a few shots. He is keeping himself out of any position to be submitted, and is able to bust Goes’ nose, which begins bleeding pretty heavily. Goes eventually makes an attempt at a kimura, but Henderson is able to stand up out of the guard, and we’re back to a standing fight.

Surprisingly, Goes decides he wants to keep it on the ground as he drops down a few times hoping Henderson will come down with him. Nothing doing there though as Henderson is as dumb as he looks. In addition, it must really kill Goes in the judge’s eyes in terms of aggression.

Of course, just as I’m thinking that, he lands a huge left and drops Henderson for the second time in the fight and that one hurt. In trying to follow up though, Goes kicks the downed Henderson before jumping on him and locking in a rear naked choke. Ref Joe Hamilton pulls him off though as the kick he threw was illegal. Huge mistake by Goes as he had the fight won here, and Henderson has a chance to shake off the cobwebs and recover enough to continue.

They start again with about a minute left in regulation, but do nothing as time runs out.

OT begins with them staring at each other, with Henderson eventually initiating a clinch. Goes is able to shrug out of it though, and starts throwing more the leg kicks he has been intermittently throwing all fight. They are really starting to add up as you can see Henderson flinch with each one. For the first time on their feet Henderson gets the best of an exchange, as he lands a couple of nice upper cuts.

Goes is exhausted with about a minute left in the fight, but gets a break when his glove comes off. The ref is forced to stop the fight while they repair it, which takes about a minute and gives him a nice break. Once they restart, they trade some shots before Goes drops to pull guard again. The ref stands him back up as Henderson wants it on the feet, and the fight ends before they get going again.

Fairly good fight with neither guy dominating, but I would lean towards Goes due to the two knock downs, but his constant dropping made it look as if Henderson was getting the best of him at times, and he did have a foul against him for the kick when Henderson was on the ground.

Those must be the deciding factors, as Henderson gets a unanimous decision.

Bob Gilstrap (0-0) vs Carlos Newton (0-0)

Gilstrap trains with middleweight champion Frank Shamrock and former heavyweight champion Maurice Smith, so despite me having no clue who he is, he must be half decent.

Newton is only 21 here, and easily the smallest competitor in the tournament. They list him at 187lbs, but he is more likely around 180lbs, while the other competitors are all closer to 195-200. He is another former Extreme Fighting competitor that Peretti tapped early in his UFC tenure as Newton had debuted for them when he was only 19. They pump him up as a “Zen Master” which always annoys me when it comes to fighters. I guess it is that if you are so at peace with yourself and the world, why do you hit people? I’m not entirely ignorant of the spiritual side of martial arts, but come on.

Despite being much smaller here, I would say Newton should have a strength advantage as he is in great shape, while Gilstrap is, shall we say, doughy.

They meet in the center of the Octagon, where Newton promptly grabs a double leg on the bigger man and slams him to the mat, where he easily mounts him. He tries for an arm bar which Gilstrap is able to avoid, but easily transitions to a triangle choke and gets the win in 53 seconds.

This was an impressive debut by Newton, and one that sets him up nicely for the finals against a tired Henderson.

Heavyweight SuperFights

Mike Van Arsdale (0-0) vs Joe Pardo (0-0)

Pardo is trained by Royce Gracie, so should have some considerable ground skills. Van Arsdale is an accomplished wrestler and is very, very strong. This should be a good fight between two debuting fighters.

Pardo starts out by going for the takedown, which is easily stuffed by Van Arsdale. He must be confident about it, as he starts playing some mind games – looking away, dropping his hands, etc. They start swinging fairly wildly at each other, and Van Arsdale ends up scoring a knock down with a side kick to the solar plexus. He jumps on top and starts working out of ½ guard. Pardo tries for a heel hook, but Van Arsdale show he has trained submission avoidance as he rolls to relieve pressure and is able to pull free. He lands a few big shots as he jumps back on top of Pardo, who for his part is able to gain a full guard.

Van Arsdale is able to posture up and land some big shots, allowing him to pass to ½ guard again. Even though he is doing OK on the ground, he allows Pardo back up.

On their feet again, Van Arsdale looks fresh while Pardo looks tired and at least a bit frustrated. His right eye is starting to close, as some of those shots he took really did some good damage. Another takedown attempt by Pardo is easily stuffed, and Van Arsdale forces Pardo onto his back and again is in ½ guard. Not much goes on there, and McCarthy restarts them after Van Arsdale’s finger pops out of his glove.

On the restart, Van Arsdale stuffs yet another shot, and again works out of Pardo’s ½ guard for a bit before deciding to stand back up. This time when he stuffs Pardo’s ill advised shot, Van Arsdale gains side control. A concerned Pardo rolls, and Van Arsdale takes his back for a second. Pardo is able to roll to his back, but starts eating big punches and he is forced to tap out.

Very impressive debut by Van Arsdale, as he was totally dominant here. As for Pardo, he was one of Gracie’s top students, and was decimated. In case you wondered why Gracie left when top level wrestlers starting showing up in the Octagon, here is a good reason.

Hugo Duarte (0-0) vs Tank Abbott(7-6)

Duarte is a Vale Tudo veteran making his Octagon debut. He is a big puncher, who has finished most of his fights very quickly. He thinks Tank is a bully, and he wants to teach him a lesson. That seems to be the run of the mill comments for Tank’s opponents.

Tank comes in looking the best I have seen him, as he dropped 30lbs and is down to 250lbs.

They both come out swinging, but Duarte shoots and is able to take Tank down. He goes for an arm bar, but Tank is able to avoid and actually take Duarte’s back. He starts to jackhammer his head with huge rights, and McCarthy is forced to stop the fight just 44 seconds in.

On the replay, it looks like one or two of the punches landed to the back of Duarte’s head, but not maliciously. Tank was just throwing, and most landed to the side, but Duarte did move his head and some hit the back of his skull. Either way, impressive win by Tank over a well thought of opponent.

Middleweight Tournament Final

Dan Henderson (1-0) vs Carlos Newton (1-0)

After the first round of the tournament, Newton should be the much fresher fighter, so that could play a factor. Henderson is physically bigger and more powerful, so that could very well play a hand in the outcome as well. The middleweight champ Frank Shamrock jumps in on commentary for the fight, but doesn’t add a whole lot. Just thought I’d mention that he was there.

Newton come out very aggressively, and lands some good shots. McCarthy actually yells the words “That’s it!” after a nice right by Newton lands and Henderson drops, but it turns out he is going for a takedown, and the fight continues. Very close to a repeat of the Sakuraba scandal from Japan. Once they are on the ground, Henderson pushes the smaller Newton against the fence and is able to hold him there in spite of some scrambling. McCarthy restarts them on their feet at the 3 minute mark.

Newton actually slams Henderson to the mat this time, and jumps to side control. Henderson is able to gain his feet without taking too much damage, and once again we are back on their feet where they trade punches. Henderson pushes the smaller Newton against the fence and lands a big flurry of knees. Newton has to have a hard head as those looked like they hurt. Henderson ends up with a front headlock, and Newton falls back to guard. Henderson again positions Newton up against the fence and lands some punches. After two or three minutes in the top position, he lets Newton back up.

Following up on the groundwork laid by Goes in the first round, Newton throws a leg kick which really hurts Henderson, but doesn’t immediately follow up on it. No contact at all for literally a minute, until Newton fakes a low leg kick and instead goes high and absolutely smokes Henderson. He is out cold for at least an instant as he drops flush on his face. Honestly, I can’t believe that wasn’t the end of the fight.

Newton pounces on top of the fallen Henderson, but the wrestler rolls to the top position and gets into Newton’s guard. Damn….he recovers quick. He is able to actually lift Newton while in his guard and slam him down. It’s not too damaging, but it looks cool. They end regulation in this position and both guys look exhausted as they head to their corner.

Newton comes forward to start OT and lands another kick to the head which Henderson is again able to recover quickly from. He eats a big right though, and that one puts him down for the second time in the fight. Newton is too aggressive in following up though, and Henderson is able to score another takedown. Newton stays active on the bottom, looking for a kimura. They get back to their feet right as time expires.

With the two knock downs, I would give this fight to Newton. He was the more active, aggressive fighter, while Henderson really only had the takedowns to his credit. Not a blowout by any means, but I’m still shocked that Henderson wins a split decision.

Really good fight, and the middleweight tournament itself was quite good. Sadly, we will not see Newton back in the Octagon for about three years, while Henderson won’t return until next month, almost 10 years after his win here. Damn finances! PRIDE was getting going pretty good by this point, and was a very attractive financial option for a lot of fighters, which would prove to be a pain in the side of the UFC for years to come.

Before our televised main event, Goldberg takes the time to announce that colour commentator Jeff Blatnick has been named the new UFC commissioner. He says they want to work with state commissions to get the UFC sanctioned nation wide, as well as stressing what a great sport this is, and not “No Holds Barred” fighting.

Main Event SuperFight

Pete Williams (0-0) vs Mark Coleman (6-1)

Williams is a last minute fill in for Randy Couture here, but was training for a fight against Dan Severn, so he thinks he is pretty well prepared for this fight.

Coleman is coming back after 10 months on the DL, and looks as ripped as ever. He injured his knee in training after the Smith loss and missed out on his rematch as a result. In the “Smashing Machine” documentary, Coleman claimed that he came back way too early from the knee injury as he needed the money. 10 months to tear the ACL – well, one or two of the CL’s in the knee anyways – have surgery, rehab AND train for a fight…yeah, I’d say he might have come back too soon. Add in the fact that Pete Williams is an entirely different fighter than Randy Couture, and this one could spell problems for “The Hammer.”

Williams comes straight out to start the fight, and is able to avoid Coleman’s initial shoot, but succumbs pretty quickly. Proof that it is never a good to rush straight at a wrestler. Go figure.

Once they’re on the ground, Coleman tries his usual ground and pound tactics while in Williams’ ½ guard. Williams is pretty active on the bottom, trying for an arm bar and almost locking it in. That’s about as close to finishing a fight as you can get without actually doing it. Instead, Coleman uses the fence to relieve the pressure and moves back into Williams’ guard.

They spend a long time in this position. Coleman lands a few decent shots, but Williams is able to avoid a lot of them. At about the 5:30 mark we get a restart.

Coleman is actually able to land a big right hand that rocks Williams, and is probably the best punch I’ve ever seen him throw. In spite of that though, some fatigue is starting to show in Coleman, as he keeps dropping his hands and he is flat footed.

Seven and a half minutes in and Williams is starting to pinpoint Coleman’s front leg with some nice kicks. They are so effective that Coleman is flinching at everyone, and he apparently didn’t bother to learn how to block them in his time off.

He seems to be tired of the kicks and decides to take Williams down, and even gets his back. Williams uses the fence to stand up with Coleman still holding his waist, and eats a couple of reach around upper cuts for his troubles. Williams is able to turn around, but Coleman holds up against the fence. He is not just leaning on him though, as it looks like he is expending a lot of energy and almost trying to drive Williams THROUGH the fence. He grabs a double leg and pulls Williams down to the ground, and spends the last two minutes of regulation in his guard. I would say Coleman is well in the lead going into OT, but he looks pretty tired.

Williams comes straight forward to start the OT and immediately lands a couple of big punches that rock Coleman, who tries for a takedown in response but eats a HUGE knee for his troubles. Coleman shakes that off, but is obviously stunned. Williams feints with a jab and lands a brutal high kick – his shin goes right across Coleman’s face – and gets the big upset KO victory.

That is the epitome of a highlight reel KO, and is probably one of the most replayed KO’s in UFC history.

Pretty entertaining fight with a great OT. Williams knew he was behind and his only chance to win was to finish Coleman, so that is what he went out there to do. If only more fighters who knew they were behind would respond like that….


The 411: Not a bad show at all, and fun for all the debuts if nothing else. No bad fights (though there may have been a bad decision or two). No fight is an all time great, but you do get a quick win by Tank and one of the best KO's in history in Williams nearly kicking Coleman's head off.
 
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend





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