UFC 67: Silva, “Rampage” and “Cro Cop” Triumphant

Silva, “Rampage” and “Cro Cop”

By Mike Sloan Feb 4, 2007
LAS VEGAS, Feb. 3 — Before UFC 67 unfolded inside the sold-out Mandalay Bay Events Center, various unforeseen occurrences prevented things from going along as planned.

Saturday’s card was supposed to be another spectacular notch on the proverbial belts of the Zuffa brass, but a few twists and turns prevented the show from becoming everything it was intended to be.

For starters, middleweight contender and The Ultimate Fighter 4 winner Travis Lutter (Pictures) blew his chances of becoming champion before he even climbed into the Octagon. Lutter couldn’t make the 185-pound weight limit and thusly was prevented from fighting for Anderson Silva's belt. The fight was changed from a championship five rounder down to a regular three round affair and even if Lutter had found a way to beat the Brazilian, he would not have walked away with the title.

UFC president Dana White was visibly and vocally disappointed that Lutter failed to make weight, as it sabotaged the allure of having a world title battle as the main event.

However crummy that may have been, at least on showcase were the UFC debuts of Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Mirko Filipovic (Pictures). The two international stars, each making the most out of their careers fighting in the Japan-based PRIDE Fighting Championships, were expected to electrify the capacity crowd. But in keeping with the trend of unfortunate events leading up to the momentous occasion, their respective battles against Marvin Eastman (Pictures) and Eddie Sanchez were a little underwhelming.

While the three featured combatants on the card all followed through on pre-fight expectations and scored victories, the warriors achieved conquest in rather unforeseen ways: Rampage was supposed to obliterate Eastman with slams, “Cro Cop” was expected to kick Sanchez’s head off, and Silva was going to knock Lutter cold.

Many fans and media members figured that the best way for jiu-jitsu master Lutter to topple Silva would be to take the fight to the canvas early and often. There’d be no way Silva would be able defend his submission prowess. Again, things don’t always happen how they are supposed to.

It was Silva who wound up scoring a submission from his back, as he forced Lutter to tapout at the 2:11 mark of the second round. Lutter had been swept from the full-mount position in the first round and in the second Silva eventually snaked his way into trapping Lutter in a triangle.

Silva had the submission hold held tightly for several moments and when he realized that it wasn’t sunk deep enough to force a tap, he resorted to landing stinging elbows and fists onto the Texan’s head. Finally, after struggling through the somewhat tight triangle and unable to block the series of strikes, Lutter had no choice but to submit.

“You know what? I’m a stand-up fighter,” the Brazilian Silva said through his interpreter immediately following his triumph. “But my jiu-jitsu skills can match-up with anyone in this weight class. Obviously, you can see [that] by what I just did to Travis Lutter (Pictures).”

Many expected Silva to steamroll Lutter en route to yet another highlight-reel type of knockout, but his opponent was much tougher than most predicted.

Lutter was scored numerous takedowns and avoided every lethal strike in Silva’s arsenal. But when Lutter did bring Silva down onto the canvas, he was unable to capitalize as the champion prevented him from demonstrating submission mastery.

Lutter’s best attacks came late in the first when he scooted beyond Silva’s legs and fully mounted the Muay Thai-favoring fighter. From there he delivered several stiff strikes onto Silva’s face, but “Spider” timed the attacks perfectly and swept the Dallas resident with the grace of a thoroughbred.

In the end — though that several-second timeframe was a glimpse of what might have been as early in the next round — Lutter ironically found himself stuck in a triangle choke courtesy of the man he was supposed to manhandle on the ground.

Lutter eventually tapped and Silva was able to hold onto his belt, even though the battle was a non-title affair.

“To me, it was worth the belt,” Silva said of the non-title clash. “It didn’t matter. And if you want the belt, here it is. Whoever.”

In the co-feature, former K-1 and PRIDE heavyweight contender Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) finally made his long-awaited American mixed martial arts debut. The 2006 PRIDE Open-Weight Grand Prix champion took care of business like virtually everyone expected.

The only drawback from the Croat’s win was that it wasn’t courtesy of a decapitating left high kick or devastating punching. The stoppage occurred after “Cro Cop” mounted opponent Eddie Sanchez and rained down dozens of strikes.

Sanchez gave “Cro Cop” some tricky angles throughout their encounter and his darting in and out prevented the 32-year-old striker from really unloading with his patented widow makers.

Sanchez, fighting out of the North County Fight Club near San Diego, Calif., swiftly backed away from the calm stalking of the popular striker but he was unable to maintain that crafty defense. Sanchez’s relative inexperience inevitably bit him in the rear and he walked into a punch late in the opening round.

“It surprised me and I must say, [it frustrated me], because he was running all the time around me,” Filipovic, a man of very few words, said after his fight. “But that’s the name of the game. He has the right to do anything he wants.”

Moments later the brave and promising Sanchez was on his back with “Cro Cop” fully mounted and delivering many knuckle biscuits. It was simply a matter of when Sanchez would either be rescued or knocked out and “Cro Cop” wasted little time in finishing off his imperiled foe.

Finally, after several thudding punches rattled Sanchez’s head, the referee jumped in and stopped the action. The official time of the technical knockout came at 4:33 of the first round.

What’s next is pretty obvious: “Cro Cop” will land a title shot sometime later in the year, but the Croatian superstar was indifferent toward his future opponents.

“I don’t know,” he muttered. “It depends on the UFC.”

Dana White intimated that “Cro Cop” will fight on the April card in London and after that, provided he is victorious, will face the UFC heavyweight titleholder.

Another former PRIDE fighter, Quinton Jackson (Pictures), made the most of his long overdue UFC debut by avenging the first loss of his professional career. “Rampage” was able to score a sizzling multi-punch knockout over Marvin Eastman (Pictures) late in the second, allowing the chain-wearing “street soldier” to inch that much closer to a rematch with Chuck Liddell (Pictures), the king of the UFC light heavyweight division.

“I see the way I fought tonight: I think I need a little bit more sparring,” Jackson quipped following his win over Eastman. “I’m looking for sparring partners. I’m willing to pay.”

“When I get my skills back up to par, I’m ready to go,” he continued. “You know, talk to my trainers, and my team, see what the business is, you know, I got one more fight. All I want to do is put on a good show. This is my first time ever being booed in my life. I’m sorry for that. But man I had some jitters to work out. The UFC puts a lot of weight on your shoulders, baby.”

Jackson mentioned that he was rusty and didn’t fight his best fight. Credit must be given to Eastman, too, as he fought better than he has in years. He was able to avoid most of the Memphis native’s strikes and actually dished out several key punches along the way — one in particular seemed to buzz “Rampage.”

“He hit me with a good punch, and I was like, man, I gotta get Marvin out of here because he’s dangerous,” the 28-year-old Jackson said.

Jackson survived the slight scare and wound up stopping Eastman in memorable fashion. The two were in a clinch, giving each other as good as they got, but knowing that uppercuts already hurt Eastman earlier in the fight, “Rampage” unloaded a vicious sequence of uppercuts.

After three landed cleanly, the “Beastman” crashed frightfully hard onto the canvas, smacking the back of his head hard onto the Octagon floor. Eastman was out for only a few seconds, but he had taken enough damage to force the referee to intervene.

The official time came at 3:49 of the second round, giving an admittedly nervous Jackson his first ever UFC win, which could lead to a showdown with Liddell later in the year.
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