History of the UFC 11.05.07: UFC XXI - Return of the Champions
Posted by Matt McEwen on 11.05.2007
The UFC comes of age - and trust me, that joke wears thin quick - and introduces both the modern round structure and 10 point must scoring. Does the action in the cage keep up with such futuristic ideas?
It’s March 16th 1999 and the UFC makes its PPV return with UFC XXI: Return of the Champions. It’s also making a debut in a new venue as they head to Pat Militech’s neck of the woods and put the show on at the Five Seasons Event Center in lovely downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Well, at least it’s not Alabama again.
Of course, Militech will be on the card tonight as the local hero, and he will defend his lightweight title against Andre Pederneiras. Who is Andre Pederneiras you ask? In the scheme of things that was the UFC in 1999, he is yet another in the long line of “never been in the UFC before, but you get a title shot in your first day” challengers. I would assume that they were trying hard to build up their champions and challengers, but in the meantime we were treated to a lot of less than stellar championship matches in the middleweight and lightweight division.
Militech is not the main event tonight, even though he’s defending a title in essentially his hometown. That honor goes to the two “Returning Champions” of the show’s subtitle as Maurice Smith tries to end his two match losing streak against Brazilian legend and former tournament champion Marco Ruas, who hasn’t been in the Octagon in 3 ½ years.
The biggest news out of UFC XXI is not anything that happens in the cage though, but rather HOW things will be happening. Just as the UFC has “come of age” as Mike Goldberg will tell us umpteen times throughout the show, MMA grows up a little bit here with two huge alterations that are still in effect today – the five minute round structure finally gets introduced along with the 10 point must scoring system. As controversial as it is right now, the 10 point must system is a vastly superior system to the “pick a fighter” system they were using previously. Unlike today though, the scoring criteria were as follows: takedowns, throws, effective heavy striking and near submissions.
Without further ado…..onto our first UFC match up with real rounds…
Royce Alger (0-1, 5’10, 199lbs) vs Eugene Jackson (0-0, 5’8, 197lbs)
Alger was a big time college wrestling star at Iowa State University, so he is the hometown favorite here. This is his second trip to the Octagon, as he lost in his debut in less than impressive fashion at UFC XII, but he has gone 3-0 outside the UFC so he gets a second chance.
Jackson is considered a strong puncher and comes into the fight in great shape, which is more than can be said for Alger, who looks decidedly doughy at 199lbs.
Alger makes the first aggressive move of the fight, shooting in on Jackson at about the 30 second mark. Jackson shows some skill and athleticism as he is able to sprawl and scramble away from the two time NCAA champion Alger. Alger is persistent though, and shoots again, only to get his head trapped in a guillotine. He’s able to pull his head free, but Jackson uses the distraction to pull himself up and they end up against the cage.
Surprisingly, Alger looks pretty good on his feet and is able to land a couple of good shots and use them to set up and score a clean takedown. On the ground, he mounts quickly and starts to unload on Jackson. After the flurry, he tries for a keylock, but once that looks futile, he goes back to unloading. He over commits though, and Jackson is able to shrug him off and scoot out the backdoor and get back to his feet. Very nice by Jackson as a lot of guys would have turtled from all the punches he was taking.
Back up and this time it is Jackson who lands the big punch - a stiff short left that drops Alger, who immediately shoots for a desperation single leg. Jackson uses the position to land a knee, and then a couple more as the round ends.
Very tough round to score, but I would probably say 10-9 to Jackson for scoring the knockdown late and getting back to his feet out of being mounted.
Alger comes out looking pretty tired, and he might have punched himself out. Jackson easily shrugs off the first takedown attempt by Alger, but can’t avoid the second one. Once they’re on the ground though, Jackson is able to scramble and get back to his feet. Once they’re back up, one huge left drops Alger and the fight is over.
Winner – Eugene Jackson, Round 2, KO
That fight was decided by Alger’s lack of conditioning as much as it was by Jackson’s punching power.
Heavyweight (200lbs and up)
Tim Lajcik (0-0, 6’1, 228lbs) vs Tsuyoshi Kosaka (2-1, 5’11, 225lbs)
Lajcik is the training partner of Eugene Jackson, so their camp is trying to make it 2 for 2 in successful debuts tonight. Lajcik, though listed as being a skilled wrestler and coming into the fight in great shape, has a tougher road to ho though, as he is taking on Kosaka, a crowd favorite and possibly the most skilled heavyweight on the ground.
Both come out throwing – but not landing – front leg kicks to start out. TK shoots, as it is obvious his game plan is to get it to the ground, but Lajcik avoids and is actually able to take his back for half a second before TK spins to his back and starts to utilize the vaunted “TK Guard.” It’s just a butterfly guard, but Goldberg spends most of the fight talking about the “TK Guard”, and if I have to be annoyed by that, then so do you.
TK doesn’t hold full guard too long as Lajcik easily passes to ½ guard. He tries to posture up for punches, but Kosaka grabs a leg for a knee bar. Lajcik shows some skill as he rolls through the pressure all the way to the fence, where he manages to pin Kosaka’s head and land some big punches. They’re right in front of Eugene Jackson, who starts screaming some good instructions to his man.
Kosaka is able to use his feet to spin off the cage and free his head to avoid the worst of the damage, but he is already bleeding a little bit. He looks to be just trying to hold on through the end of the round as he is just tying up Lajcik’s hands. With 10 seconds left they get back to their feet, but the round ends before they engage again.
Round 1 easily goes to Lajcik.
The second round starts with a flurry. Kosaka throws a leg kick, but Lajcik answers with a flurry of punches which he uses to set up a nicely controlled takedown. He manages to mount for a second, but Kosaka grabs his leg and gets a deep looking knee bar. Lajcik is able to survive somehow, and ends up back in top position.
Kosaka is being more offensive from the bottom this time, as he tries for an armbar, but Lajcik easily pulls free and lands a few shots, one of which seems to have opened another cut on Kosaka’s face. With about two minutes left, they slow their pace a bit.
Kosaka tries another amrbar, but Lajcik avoids it and tries to pass the guard, only to have Kosaka fully reverse him and start pounding from the top. Lots of forearms and elbows out of side control. Nothing looks too big, but Lajcik is eating quite a few shots with his head pinned to the mat. The round ends with Kosaka landing some nice elbows to Lajcik’s side.
Tight round, but Kosaka probably pulled it out with the shots at the end.
That doesn’t matter though, as Lajcik’s corner throws in the towel. He was so groggy from the shots he was taking on bottom that he almost fell when he was in his corner.
Winner – Tsuyoshi Kosaka, TKO, Round 2
Middleweights (170lbs – 199lbs)
Flavio Luiz Mora (0-0, 5’9, 175lbs) vs Paul Jones (0-0, 5’9, 198lbs)
Mora is only 21 years old and this is his first trip to the United States as well as his first trip to the “Super Bowl of Mixed Martial Arts.” Goldberg loves saying that….it’s getting somewhat painful to listen to.
Jones has a wrestling background and unlike Alger earlier comes into the fight in great shape. Since he outweighs his Brazilian opponent by 23 pounds, I picture him scoring a quick takedown and just pounding out a victory over the smaller man.
Of course, since I think Jones will have an easy time, Mora drops him with his first punch of the fight. He jumps on Jones’ back but is unable to sink in a choke and Jones is able to shrug him off and gain the top position. Not exactly how I thought they would get there, but that’s about where I thought they would get to.
Mora looks for an armbar, but Jones avoids and pushes Mora up against the fence to pin his head down. Once he’s there he starts unloading on the smaller man and with about two minutes left in the round really lets go with the big shots. He passes into side control and looks for elbows and forearm shots. Mora eventually has enough of the beating and gives up his back, where Jones promptly ends the fight with a rear naked choke.
Winner – Paul Jones, Submission, Round 1
Good showing by Jones, though there would have to be some questions about his jaw. As for Mora, he should be fighting in the lightweight division as he looked skilled but was simply overpowered by the bigger Jones.
Before the next fight, we find out the main event of the next event. Finally – a little bit of forward thinking and promotion! The fight will be for the middleweight title as Frank Shamrock finally returns to defend his belt against the new poster boy of the UFC in Tito Ortiz. Definitely a good business decision to hype up this fight as much as possible, as it is essentially the only money fight they have left right, and with SEG really feeling the financial pinch after 2 ½ years off of nationwide PPV, this is their last ditch effort to win over a big audience. We’ll see how that goes next time out….
Middleweights (170lbs to 199lbs)
Daiju Takase (0-0, 6’, 176lbs) vs Jeremy Horn (1-2, 6’1, 198lbs)
Horn steps back into the Octagon looking to even up his UFC record after gaining his first win over a young Chuck Liddell the last time out. That shouldn’t be a problem, as just like the last fight, he’s taking on someone who should be a lightweight. That’s an even bigger mismatch now as Horn comes into the fight in the best shape he’s ever been in, hands down.
Takase is both young and small, so I suspect it might be a short, painful night for him.
Takase comes out boxing, and we’re told that this is where his strength lies. Horn is using a front leg kick as a counter, and it looks like his stand up game has dramatically improved. An extended feeling out process leads to Mario Yamasaki telling them to get it going, and Horn responds by unloading on Takase. They clinch, and Horn lands some knees and pulls him to the ground and takes side control. He lands some elbows, and looks to be setting up for a keylock, but decides just to keep pummeling Takase. He puts a knee on his belly and and mounts with about one minute left. He unloads some more, and Takase gives up his back.
Funny moment – Horn lands a shot near the back of Takase’s head, and Yamasaki warns him not to. So Horn, in complete control, starts miming different strikes and asking Yamasaki if each one is OK. That is when you know you’re dominating the fight.
He lands a few OK’d blows and Yamasaki mercifully stops the fight.
Total mismatch, but you can tell Horn just keeps getting better each time out.
Winner – Jeremy Horn, TKO, Round 1
Lightweight Championship (169lbs and under)
Pat Militech (4-0, 5’10, 169lbs) vs Andre Pedeneiras (0-0, 5’8,168lbs)
Pedeneiras is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert from……you guessed it…..Brazil! They also mention that he has some good judo pedigree as well, so it will be interesting to see if he translates that into anything useful inside the Octagon. Other than Karo Parisyan, I’ve never seen any judokas perform very well in MMA.
Goldberg mentions how there is no size difference thanks to the weight limit, but just a quick look will tell you Militech is a much bigger man. Pedeneiras is in great shape and probably only carrying 8 or 9 percent body fat, but Militech is just plain bigger.
Feeling out process to start. If you’ve watched any Militech fights, I’m sure you’re shocked by that. Militech closes and grabs a Thai clinch, which he uses to land some good knees. Pedeneiras grabs double underhooks and Militech struggles to get free as he obviously does not want to go to the ground. Whether that’s because his opponent is good there or he just wants to put on an exciting fight for once, who knows.
Militech breaks free of the lock, and starts to impose his will a bit, maneuvering Pedeneiras around the Octagon with his boxing skills. He pins up against the fence several times, landing a few punches, and that is where the round ends.
Easy round to score for Militech.
Militech comes out stalking his opponent, but still being cautious. He lands a nice right hand counter to leg kick which opens up a huge, gushing geyser of a cut over Pedeneiras’ eye. He jumps on Militech and pulls him down, but McCarthy stops the fight to take a look at the cut, and that is all she wrote.
Winner – Pat Militech, TKO, Round 2
Easily the most exciting Militech fight in the UFC so far, and he looked purely dominant in there. I feel kind of bad for Militech, as even though all he does is win, and he one of the greatest fighters ever, the announcers are always pointing out that his fights are boring. They’re not necessarily wrong, but I still feel bad for the guy.
Post fight, they say Mikey Burnett is in line for a rematch for the title, which would have been nice, but it never happens.
Heavyweights (200lbs and up)
Maurice Smith (2-2, 6’2, 226lbs) vs Marco Ruas (4-1, 6’1, 220lbs)
They label this the battle of the ages….though they could have gone with “aged” easily. It’s the 37 year old Smith against the 38 year old Ruas.
Smith is coming in off of two straight losses to wrestlers – Randy Couture and Kevin Randleman – while Ruas hasn’t fought in the Octagon in 3 ½ years since losing a controversial decision to Oleg Taktarov at Ultimate Ultimate 95.
Smith comes out throwing his trademark leg kicks – shockingly, Goldberg doesn’t mention 70 mph baseball bats – which Ruas must have expected, as he grabs the second one and gains a takedown quickly into side control. He has Smith up against the fence, but doesn’t throw a single strike. He has Smith totally controlled, but doesn’t throw a single strike. Strange strategy to say the least.
Smith eventually maneuvers off the cage and into the center of the Octagon, but still no strikes from Ruas. Once there, he is able to reverse Ruas, but gets caught in a leg submission. Smith is able to roll free and land a big right hand and begins to work out of Ruas’ ½ guard. Right at the end of the round, Ruas grabs a leg again and tries a kneebar, but time runs out.
Round 1 would probably go to Ruas, but it might not matter as he is having problems getting back to his corner on his left knee. He actually sits on the mat in his corner (cornerman still not allowed in the cage between rounds) and one of the guys in his corner tells him to:
”Get Up! Do not fucking quit! You’re a warrior! Do it for your family!”
However, Ruas knows the shape of his knee better than that douchebag and the fight is called. Too bad too, because it looked like it might have ended up being an ok fight.
Winner – Maurice Smith, TKO, Round 1
Post fight, Smith drops a huge bombshell by mentioning that Bas Rutten is vacating the heavyweight title and moving down to middleweight. WTF????? Why in the name of god would you go all through that “tournament” if the guy who wins vacates the belt without ever defending it. Jeebus.
So, with some time to fill, we get to see one of the prelims from earlier in the night.
Heavyweights (200lbs and up)
Ron Waterman (1-0, 6’2, 264lbs) vs Andre Roberts (1-1, 6’2, 350lbs)
Roberts is embarrassed by his last outing, when he tapped out to a broken nose in under a minute to Gary Goodridge. He wants to make some amends here tonight.
Waterman is looking to step up into title contention. He is an art teacher and high school football coach, who would go on to a minor bit of fame as one of the original signees of the WWF development areas. But I digress…
Roberts initiates the clinch to start, but Waterman pulls free and lands a few big punches, busting open Robert’s nose in what is fact becoming the big man’s trademark. After a couple of Waterman knees, Big John McCarthy stops the fight to have the doctor look at Roberts’ nose. They decide to let it go.
Both guys start swinging on the restart, and both are connecting with some pretty big shots, though Waterman starts to get the better of it and pushes the big man up against the fence and lands a knee. Roberts answers with a huge right that drops Waterman though, who immediately shoots for a desperation single leg. Roberts avoids that and as soon as Waterman is back on his feet, he is promptly knocked out by a huge left hand.
Winner – Andre Roberts, KO, Round 1
That was a damned fun little brawl.
The 411: This is the kind of show a hardcore MMA fan would enjoy. No fluff or muss, but a lot of good action once the fights start. There may have been a few mismatches, but sometimes those can be guilty pleasures. Very nice to see round structures introduced as not too many fighters out there could handle going 15 minutes non stop without tiring a lot.
A few interesting developments as well, as we know that Tito Ortiz will challenge Frank Shamrock for the Middleweight Championship in the latter's first fight in over a year. Also, after months of the "Road to the Title" tournament, we find out the title is vacated again, so there will have to be a new champion crowned somewhere down the line.....