History of the UFC 12.03.07: UFC XXV - Ultimate Japan 3
Posted by Matt McEwen on 12.03.2007
The UFC heads back to the land of the rising sun to decide it's new middleweight champion as Tito Ortiz takes on Wanderlei Silva, a future champion makes his Octagon debut and we get a mini US vs Japan show.
Just one month after the debacle that closed out UFC XXIV, we head to the land of the rising sun for the third - and final - time for UFC XXV: Ultimate Japan 3. For the second straight time in the far east, the fans get to see a vacant title decided as Tito Ortiz goes head to head with Wanderlei Silva for Frank Shamrock's vacated middleweight title.
You can tell that we're moving towards the modern era of the UFC as the main event here could still be a plausible main event today. As a matter of fact, it would be a bigger showdown today as this was just before Silva fully embarked on the PRIDE career (he had fought there 3 times, but wouldn't be exclusive until the fight after this one) that would turn him into one of the most recognized fighters in the world.
No hype really put into any other fight on the card, though a pretty solid crew of Laverne Clark, Eugene Jackson and the debuting Murillo Bustamante all fight here.
The show opens up with an interview with Tito Ortiz, and he talks about how the loss to Shamrock was a big learning experience and has changed his MMA career. He's now concentrating on his cardio, as gassing late against Shamrock left him open for the beating he took in that fight. He's a lot more humble too - though that won't last too long - as he says Silva is the top middleweight in the world and that it should be a great fight tonight.
Before we get to the fights, we get an interview with matchmaker John Perretti (and if anyone knows what he ended up doing after the Zuffa purchase, please let me know), who breaks down some situations around both the Eugene Jackson and Laverne Clark fights tonight. First, Jackson has the flu, but is going ahead with the fight in spite of that. Secondly, Caol Uno was supposed to debut against Clark, but when that fell through, Daiju Takase stepped up, but a leg injury made him sit back down. As a last minute replacement, Koji Oishi has stepped in and will fight in the opening fight tonight.
We also have not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 - yes, 4! - judges tonight. Why? And what the hell happens if it goes to decision and it's 2-2? 4 judges is just a plain bad idea.
Lightweights (169lbs and under)
Laverne Clark (3-0, 5'11, 169lbs) vs Koji Oishi (0-0, 5'8, 156lbs)
Oishi comes out in a wrestling singlet, so you can guess what his background is. He's also pretty damned skinny, and against a true 170lber like Clark that could turn out to be a fairly big issue.
Oishi's game plan is to get the takedown, but when you're outweighed by probably 20lbs of muscle, you get thrown off pretty easy. It doesn't help that Clark has a very nice sprawl that he uses to full effect here as well. Not an action packed round at all, as Clark's offense is mostly punches off the sprawl break, while Oishi ends up tying Clark up against the cage for the last few minutes of the round.
10-9 round for Clark for the fact that he stuffed the takedown attempts and was only fighter to throw a punch.
Clark is a little more aggressive coming out this round, but that leaves him open for the double leg takedown from Oishi, and his sprawl doesn't save him this time. Clark uses his power to scramble up in a flurry, only for Oishi to take him down again. He mounts this time, but doesn't throw a single punch. Or try for any useful submissions. Clark is able to muscle a reversal and pin Oishi against the cage as the round comes to an end.
10-9 Oishi for the takedowns, but Clark is starting to physically dominate a little bit more this time.
Clark comes out swinging again, but gets taken down by Oishi once more. Clark muscles the reversal again, and spends the rest of the round on top throwing body shots.
You know when you can sum up a round in two sentences, it was not the most exciting in history. Clark wins the round and the fight, but I would have liked to see him finish the smaller, less skilled Oishi.
Joe Slick (1-0, 6'1, 198lbs) vs Ikuhis Minowa (0-0, 5'8, 179lbs)
Slick debuted at Ultimate Japan 2 in a bout that ended when his opponents knee folded under him on a takedown attempt and forced the fight to be ended early. They discuss how he has no real background in any one discipline, but rather has been learning MMA with the Militech camp.
Minowa is making his only UFC appearance, but should be recognizable to PRIDE fans. He's fought a who's who in the MMA world, though he has a less than stellar record to show for it all.
There is a pretty big size disadvantage here, so we'll see if that plays a role in the fight.
Minowa comes out a shoots right off the bat, but Slick ends up locking in a guillotine. It's hard to tell how deep it is as Minowa has an arm in on the choke but he looks quite uncomfortable. Minowa eventually pulls his head free and starts to work out of Slick's guard. They get back to their feet, where Minowa uses a nice hip toss and a trip to put Slick down two more times before the round ends.
Close round, but I'd give it 10-9 to Slick based on the tight submission attempt early on.
They both come out swinging, and Minowa shoots only for Slick to sprawl and try the guillotine again. He avoids it this time, and gets another nice judo throw once they are back on their feet. On top after the throw, Minowa does nothing and Slick is able to gain his feet, only for Minowa to pick him up and slam him down.
That turns out to be a bad move by Minowa though, as Slick controls his fall and locks in his third guillotine attempt. He's able to pull free one more time and the round ends with Minowa on top.
Another round that's hard to score. Minowa had the throws and takedowns, but Slick came close to finishing the fight with three solid guillotines. I'd probably go 10-9 Minowa.
They come out boxing again this round, except that this time Minowa is getting the best of it. Even still, it's Minowa that shoots, but he ends up on his back in 1/2 guard after Slick sprawls nicely. Slick quickly passes and mounts.
Now comes the moment of stupidity. Instead of striking from the mount, Slick passes over to side control, then tries a guillotine that allows Minowa to gain his feet. With the guillotine slipping away, Slick lands a very nice knee. As they break apart, Minowa lands a big right hand, then follows up with a high kick that absolutely splits Slick's eyebrow open. It gushes blood.
The cut ends the fight as the doctor won't let it continue as Minowa wins what was a really fun, strategic type fight. Slick needs to fall out of love with that guillotine though. I'm not sure if he did, as this was his last UFC fight, and he would be gone from the MMA world 8 months after this.
Heavyweights (200lbs and above)
Satoshi Honma (0-0,6'1, 218lbs) vs Ron Waterman (1-1-1,6'2, 260lbs)
So, for the third straight fight we have a smaller Japanese fighter taking on a larger American fighter. They've split the first two, let's see who takes the lead here.
Both guys come out in a pure wrestling stance, so I don't suspect we're going to see a scintillating stand up war in this one. Waterman is the first to shoot - with no set up at all - and is able to pull Honma down by pure brute strength more than by skill. He is able to take Honma's back, but let's the Japanese fighter turn and then starts pounding on him. Not much damage done here though, until Honma - who's gained 1/2 guard - rolls to his knees and eats about 4 knees from Waterman. In spite of those, Honma gains his feet and Waterman ends the round holding him against the fence.
Easy 10-9 round for Waterman here.
Waterman shoots again, and ends up literally crawling into Honma, and still scores the takedown. He pushes him up against the fence, but Honma's glove comes off and we get a restart.
Waterman shoots again, and Honma goes down against the cage again. From here, Honma's only offense is an armbar attempt, while Waterman just keeps pounding away, even taking his back at one point, until the round ends.
10-9 Waterman again.
They stare menacingly at each other for 2 minutes, then Waterman scores the takedown. From here, the rest of the round is Waterman's patented ground and lightly pound.
Waterman wins a unanimous decision and says goodbye to the UFC. He would go on to make an attempt at a WWF wrestling career, which never really panned out, and actually still fights now at the age 42 this past September.
Before the next fight, we get a quick interview with Eugene Jackson who says that he isn't trying to make excuses with the flu, and that he still thinks he's going to win tonight. It might effect his cardio a bit, but shouldn't be a major factor in the fight. Give him credit for not backing out of the fight.
Middleweights (170lbs to 199lbs)
Eugene Jackson (2-0, 5'8, 197lbs) vs Sanae Kikuta (0-0, 5'9, 198lbs)
Jackson looks like he will be physically stronger than the judoka Kikuta, but with the flu playing a factor he might want to get the fight done early. We'll see if he comes out really aggressive to get the fight over, or if he tries to conserve energy for a longer fight.
Kikuta starts out with leg kicks, but for the most part both guys are pretty tentative. Kikuta eventually bull rushes Jackson and eats some punches but gets Jackson down simply by overwhelming and surprising him. Jackson tries hard to get up, but gets pulled right back down. Guillotine attempt that goes nowhere.
Kikuta takes control on the ground and mounts. Oddly he tries a head and arm choke, but gives that up and throws a few punches, and then a few elbows. He rests after the flurry, then goes back to the head and arm choke. He lets it go again, but this time he transitions nicely into an armbar and Jackson taps out with 30 seconds left in the first round.
Nice debut win by Kikuta, and credit to Jackson for getting in there while sick.
Before the next fight, we get an interview with Big John McCarthy. He says that Bustamante - who debuts in the next fight - is the real deal and one of the best in the world. He politely says that his opponent - pro wrestler Yoji Anjoh - is not in his league. On the topic of Ortiz/Silva, he thinks it should be great fight between the two top active middleweights in the world right now.
We'll see if Bustamante lives up to McCarthy's hype. OF course, he's being fed as close a tomato can as can be fed in MMA, as Anjoh is more known as a pro wrestler than anything else. Blatnick doesn't give the Japanese fighter much of a chance.
Bustamante scores the takedown by ducking under a lazy punch thrown out there by Anjoh, and quickly jumps to side control. Anjoh is able to roll and gain his feet, but Bustamante maintains a full body lock and quickly takes Anjoh back to the mat. Textbook pass of the guard by Bustamante into the full mount. He punches a little bit, but Anjoh surprise him - and me - by pushing off the cage with his feet and getting the reversal. Bustamante, however, stays pretty calm and goes for an armbar. Avoiding that, Anjoh smartly gets up off the ground and lets Bustamante up as well. Not avoiding the next takedown, Anjoh ends up mounted again and eats a few punches before being saved by the bell.
10-9 round for Bustamante, and it would have been 10-8 if Anjoh hadn't got that one reversal.
Bustamante ducks a punch and scores a takedown. It's like I'm watching the first round again. This time, Bustamante uses side control to secure a head and arm choke for the victory.
Very nice, very dominant win by Bustamante. More fights of his will be nice to see.
Interview with matchmaker Perretti yet again. He thinks Silva's big weapon is the knee strikes, but that Ortiz might be too tall for them to be fully effective. As for Tito, he might just take him down, and Perretti actually says this, that will make for a boring fight. Hopefully he's wrong, but I'll give him credit for admitting the possibility.
Middleweight Championship (170lbs to 199lbs)
Tito Ortiz (3-2, 6'2, 198lbs) vs Wanderlei Silva (1-1,6', 198lbs)
Since his last trip to the Octagon when he lost his title shot to Frank Shamrock, Ortiz looks like he really has been upping his training, as he looks in great shape.
Since his last trip to the Octagon, where he got redemption from the Belfort destruction, Silva has been on a winning streak in PRIDE, and got the Axe Murderer nickname, though it's never mentioned here.
We start out with Silva letting Ortiz come to him in the classic strategy of a striker who doesn't want to be taken down by a superior wrestler. Of course, the downfall of that strategy is impatience, and sure enough Silva ends up being taken down once he gets aggressive. For all the talk of how well rounded Ortiz has been becoming, all he does on top is throw weak, wild shots. Silva fends most of them off, but then tries to get aggressive from the bottom and ends up eating a few decent shots. After that. lots of movement and energy expended by both guys as they squirm all over the Octagon, but nothing else of note as the first round comes to an end.
10-9 for Ortiz, but he did little to no damage to Silva.
Silva forgoes the passive start this time out, and goes straight to throwing heavy shots. In a sign that things really aren't going well for him tonight, Silva gets rocked by a right hand. This time it's Silva shooting for the desperation double leg, but he ends up having to pull guard.
So, just like the first round, we learn an important mathematical equation, which goes as follows:
Good ground defense + (Weak striking from the guard X Inability to pass guard) = Two men laying on each other.
OK, so that's a bit of a stereotype and simplistic, but really there's not much of anything going on, and with the new "rounds mean we don't stand them up anymore" rule, the rest of the round is spent just like this.
10-9 for Ortiz.
Nothing at all thrown in the opening 1:15 of the round, which is when Ortiz shoots without a proper set up and finds out how nice Silva's knee tastes. It must have tasted bad enough to stun him, as he leaves a weak body kick hanging which Silva grabs and uses to that to land a big left that really hurts Ortiz. Silva smells blood and goes for the kill, but it's Ortiz's turn for the desperation shot, which succeeds. The last two minutes of this round go the same as the ending of the previous two rounds.
Ortiz controls the end of the round, but Silva wins his first round of the fight 10-9, to make it 29-28 Ortiz after 3.
We enter the championship rounds in less than exhilarating fashion as they do nothing for the first two minutes of the round. Silva eventually lands a nice left hand, only to be taken down and......well, you can probably guess how the round goes.
10-9 Ortiz, to make it 39-37, but that's a tough round to score due to lack of action.
The final round starts with Ortiz getting the takedown as soon as Silva tries to land a shot. Ortiz actually gets to side control, but that doesn't mean he actually accomplishes anything more than he did in the guard.
Ortiz wins the round, the fight, and the title in an OK fight. In spite of the win though, Ortiz looked very limited in everything but his wrestling and some flashes of skill on his feet. Silva's guard was good defensively, but his takedown defense was pretty much non-existent and the reason that he loss.
The 411: This is what you call the middle of the road - not too bad, but not too great either. I was a little disappointed in the main event, as I had hoped for Silva to show a little bit more of what would make him legend. Outside of the action, this is an interesting show as the house of cards that SEG had built up takes another major hit this time out. UFC-J was supposed to be a seperate, Japanese run UFC, but due to SEG inching towards bankruptcy this would be the last Japanese show. In an effort to keep income flowing, they started to ramp up their PPV schedule to a near monthly basis and were actively trying to get into new markets through the help of regulations. If you don't know how this story goes, well, then you're in for a few interesting reads in the coming weeks.