After reviewing this card for the UFC, I knew in my heart it would be a good one. A lot of up and coming fighters mixed with championship belts up for grabs. It always amazes me how fast people will write a fighter off for a new fighter who has a lot of promise but is untested.
Eugene Jackson VS Keith Rockel: This fight was a toss up from the start. Rockel controlled round one - Jackson gave up positions but showed great defense, something he had been working on. This fight was do or die for Jackson who I like a lot because of the documentary Rites of Passage. (Check it out if you can). The second round seemed to be heading the same direction as the first with Jackson going for the takedown only to be reversed. Then Jackson replaced the guard and got a guillotine choke on Rockel, which looked pretty painful, forcing Rockel to tap out. Jackson has improved his ground skills a lot, and Rockel looked very solid and calm, with good skills.
Gil Castillio Vs Chris Brennen: This fight has been in the making for awhile - ever since both of them fought in the King Of The Cage. To Castillo's credit, in UFC 33, Castillio VS Menne was the best fight of the night. Gil moved up in weight for that bout, fighting at 182 from his normal 170. That doesn't seem like much weight but its amazing how much 12 lbs. can slow someone down. In this fight, Castillo controlled things from beginning to end, on the feet and with positions on the ground. Brennen should be in the UFC as he is a good fighter but on this night Castillo was a little too much for him.
Kevin Randleman VS Renato Sobral: Here is another fight that could have gone either way, making it hard to pick a winner. Randleman needed a win in a bad way and it showed. He was a lot sharper than the last few times we have seen him. Sobral is coming down from 240lbs to 205 lbs. and looked to be in great shape. Randleman had very powerful and explosive takedowns, which he did whenever he wanted, while Sobral went for submissions off his back. After 3 rounds it looked the same and Randleman got the decision.
Andrey Semenov VS Ricardo Almeida: Another very exciting match up- a Renzo Gracie black belt against the very game and tough Russian unknown. I say unknown lightly as he has been around for awhile but this was his first trip to the UFC. Almeida is a Jiu Jitsu technician and is very aggressive. Semenov seemed to be a little timid in the beginning of the first round taking some kicks to his leg and getting taken down. His defense on the ground was very good but after a few submission attempts from Almeida he realized he didn't want to play the ground game with him. After a few stand ups and a great throw by Semenov the first round was over and it was close. In the second round, Almeida did a great jumping-to-guard takedown and went for a chain of submissions - arm bar, knee bar, and heel hook. Semenov wanted it standing back up and at this point the Russian looked more in control -pushing the fight. After an exchange of punches, Semenov caught Almeida with a great right hook to the side of the head, which knocked him down. With a follow up punch to the head, Almeida looked to be in a world of trouble so the ref stepped in for the stoppage. This was another great fight with lots of action. The UfC would be foolish to let either of these guys get away from them.
Chuck Liddel VS Amar Suloev: This fight was another I was looking forward to. Liddel looked as though he had a tough night with Bustamante in UFC 33 and he was now in great shape for this fight. Suloev was another Russian and this was his first night in America fighting. This fight was all Liddel from start to finish. Landing punches and kicks at will, he dominated. Suloev was a very game opponent though and was rocked a few times but came back with his own punches and kicks. After 3 rounds of Liddel tattooing Suloev with punches and kicks, Liddel won by decision. Some complain that Liddel is a boring fighter but I like his style, aggressively defensive. I have met him twice and he is a very nice guy. Look what he does to fighters who really go after him - Metzger and Randleman both got knocked out two weeks apart from each other. Hopefully, he will get his title match after UFC 36.
Dave Menne VS Murilo Bustamante: This was for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Both fighters seem very down to earth and are great sportsmen, class acts all the way. The first round saw back and forth action with both landing punches and Bustamante getting the take down. Bustamante's fighting team, The Brazilian Top Team, is the best team out there right now. They are all great at Jiu Jitsu and striking, which makes them very dangerous. After some great first round action, it was clear this fight was going to be a war, Menne's specialty. He has a good style even though his fights go the distance a lot of the time; he has great heart and skills to go along with it. In the second round Bustamante caught Menne thinking about something else and scored a great right, dazing Menne. Bustamante got the hooks in and unloaded 5-6 punches until Big John called the bout right there. Bustamante looked great at 185lbs and that is probably a more natural weight for him to be. The win got to him a little bit and he got emotional. He was, however, very classy in his interview afterwards as Menne was also. I really can't say enough about either fighter.
Ricco Rodriguez Vs Jeff Monson: This fight was another good showing by Ricco, an up and coming heavyweight. Monson was last in the UFC at 205lbs and after looking at him 230lbs, I don't know how he cut that weight. This guy is a block of muscle and he has good ground skills along with a rock jaw. He took several knees, which should have put him down and out but he kept coming. He also took this fight on a short notice. Ricco was in control most of the match and was impressive. He had been training hard and has lost some more weight - this guy is at 240lbs or so but that's down from 300lbs. He has been working hard and its good to see. He has improved so much since I first saw him its amazing. In the 3rd round Ricco got position and let his hands fly, getting the ref stoppage. Again both these fighters should be back. I would like to see how Ricco does when he is really tested. Hopefully he will fight a top 10 heavyweight soon.
Jens Pulver VS BJ Penn: I was really looking forward to this
fight. Like Bustamante and Menne, Pulver is all class and a great
sportsman. A lot of people doubted him and with some of BJ's fights
not going past round one, it was easy to see why. But BJ had never
been tested like Pulver, who has been tested time and again and come
out on top. This was a great fight - first round had good solid back
and forth action with Pulver edging out Penn in points. The second
round saw Pulver totally dominated on the ground. The 3rd-5th rounds
were all Pulver landing great combos; he had Penn on the run and very
defensive. After 25 minutes of a great fight, Pulver got a majority
decision, which he totally deserved. Penn is a great fighter with
a lot of potential but Jens Pulver is the champ with the heart of
a lion. No one will be taking that belt from him for awhile. After
the fight, Jens was very emotional and gave a great post fight interview
- Jens you are the f***ing man.
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