Minute-by-Minute: WFA “King of the Streets”

By Jake Rossen Jul 25, 2006
After a trifecta of shows in 2001-02, the World Fighting Alliance was re-birthed this past Saturday evening. Following the DOA Gracie Fighting Championships in March of this year, the promotion represents one of the few live-broadcast adversaries to the UFC’s domineering brand.

As a courtesy to those who were unable to order the pay-per-view due to DirecTV’s absentee scheduling — or, perhaps more tellingly, actually had a date with a member of the opposite sex on Saturday — I present these notes, gross exaggerations included.

10:01 p.m. “Here come the WFA!” There’s a distinct aroma of cheese that surrounds theme music that drops the brand name. See: “Men in Black” by Will Smith. Or, even more affrontingly, Smith’s track to “Schindler’s List.”

10:02 p.m. A montage of stock footage from the “old” WFA unravels. Since Jeremy Lappen and co. didn’t appear to be embracing the old “fight club meets the night club” mantra of John Lewis (Pictures)’ incarnation, I wondered why they even bothered assuming the name. Now it’s clear: they needed intro video.

10:03 p.m. Debuting MMA announcer Barry Tompkins joins the illustrious club of people who senselessly butcher Matt Lindland (Pictures)’s name, calling him “Lilland.” He joins such luminaries as Ken Shamrock (Pictures) (“Landland”) and Phil Baroni (Pictures), who once took the time to describe Lindland’s odor resembling nothing so much as “hot garbage.” This will be pertinent later.

Eagle-eyed viewers will remember Tompkins from his famous calls during Berbick-Tyson, Arguello-Pryor, and, most notably, Balboa-Drago in “Rocky IV.”

10:04 p.m. As Tompkins shills for the fight card, a shadow looms over him. I wonder if they’re broadcasting near Stonehenge. The camera zooms out to reveal Bill Goldberg, tenured professional wrestler and quite possibly the most intimidating Jewish man since Barry Diller.

Goldberg’s massive frame and Tompkins’ slight build hint at these two being from different species.

10:05 p.m. Seriously, he’s huge.

10:06 p.m. Kevin Bacon is introduced as the third man in the booth. Apparently, that movie he did about pedophilia wasn’t the career slam-dunk it promised to be.

10:07 p.m. I kid. It’s unfairly disposed Pride announcer Stephen Quadros. Who, in all fairness, does look like Bacon. After a particularly rough stint in prison.

10:07 p.m. Phil Baroni (Pictures) enters the frame and runs down odds on the evening’s fights. From a numerical standpoint, they don’t appear to be particularly competitive.

10:08 p.m. Baroni disappears, presumably to heckle Lindland for the duration of the evening.

10:10 p.m. Famed boxing announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr. introduces the first bout, a rematch between Rob McCullough (Pictures) and Harris Sarmiento (Pictures). Tito Ortiz (Pictures) appears in McCullough’s corner, an odd allowance considering the demoniac management style of the UFC.

10:14 p.m. The inaugural match begins. The crowd, rumored to be only at a fraction of The Forum’s capacity, is mired in darkness. If this spares me from the sight of hundreds of bald, tattooed clones, I’m cool with it.

10:20 p.m. Round one ends, with both fighters playing a very conservative game. And by “conservative,” I mean “really pretty boring.”

10:26 p.m. Round two ends. The action has picked up a little bit, but not so much that I stop wondering if “Road House” is on TNT.

10:31 p.m. Assessing his fighter’s performance, one of Sarmiento’s corner men labels his willingness to engage in McCullough’s stand-up game as “stupid.” Nothing like a little positive enforcement to keep those spirits up.

10:33 p.m. McCullough wins an underwhelming decision. Curiously, no one in the booth sprints to the ring for the post-fight interview. To the WFA’s credit, perhaps they realize that attempting to pull a rational thought from an adrenaline-pumped athlete two minutes after receiving blunt cranial trauma isn’t worth the trouble.

This appeared to be news to McCullough, who had a piece of paper at the ready – presumably a list of sponsors to thank in between gasps of air.

10:36 p.m. Bulbous Ricco Rodriguez (Pictures) swears vengeance against Ron Waterman (Pictures). I am shocked the California Commission is allowing someone in their third trimester to compete.

10:37 p.m. Goldberg issues “kudos” to Rodriguez for dropping 50 pounds and coming in under 300 bills. Everything’s relative.

10:38 p.m. Waterman enters the ring to Christian rock. It’s comforting to know that, in spite of all the war and famine in the world, God still takes time to assist someone in their quest to crack an orbital bone or two.

10:41 p.m. Rodriguez is announced as coming from Jean-Jacques Machado’s gym. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for them.

10:42 p.m. Celebrity Sighting: it’s Bruce Willis! The crowd, catching sight of him on the monitor, boos. Apparently, the wounds from his “Return of Bruno” album run very deep.

10:43 p.m. Goldberg snuffs out a WWE reference by Tompkins. Barry, used to breathing on his own, obliges.

10:46 p.m. Waterman, his 250 pounds of muscles craving oxygen, becomes a standing target for Ricco to fire off on at will.

10:48 p.m. During the round break, a confident Ricco refutes offers of water and instead begins inhaling a jar of Crisco; deflated, Waterman waves off any further punishment.

10:53 p.m. Ortiz follows out Ivan Salaverry (Pictures), marking the third time he’s accompanied someone to the cage tonight. I wonder how UFC brass feels about one of their marquee fighters being so visible in a competing promotion.

Whatever their impressions, I’m sure they’ll handle the situation with tact and class.

11:03 p.m. An exciting first round ends, with Salaverry scoring big with kicks against Art Santore (Pictures).

11:08 p.m. Salaverry ends Santore’s night with a flurry that leaves El Pachuco bloodied and looking like a stunt double for Sissy Spacek in “Carrie.”

11:11 p.m. An elated Salaverry takes off his shorts, and then poses for Jeff Sherwood at ringside. That’s an interesting progression of events.

11:13 p.m. In his pre-fight video package, Lodune Sincaid (Pictures) informs viewers that opponent Jason “Mayhem” Miller reminds him of a “blender: full of nuts and bolts, aggressive, but kind of pointless.” All righty.

11:17 p.m. Sincaid vies for the title of MMA’s worst nickname — an honor currently held by Dean “The Boogeyman” Lister — when Lennon announce him as the “Vanilla Gorilla.”

11:18 p.m. Referee Herb Dean (Pictures) is audibly booed, presumably stemming from his reluctance to be an accessory to manslaughter in the death of Ken Shamrock (Pictures) two weeks ago.

11:24 p.m. Miller forces Sincaid to a tap from a rear-naked choke, an ignoble defeat at the hands of an appliance. Perhaps he should’ve trained with the idea of facing a power tool instead.

11:27 p.m. Tank Abbott stirs up the crowd by making an appearance. Allegedly, a showdown with Butterbean still looms. I get goose bumps at the nadir of athleticism that promises to be on display there.

11:29 p.m. The Tale of the Tape lists Vernon “Tiger” White as being 34 years of age. Is that all? Seriously? White’s been around forever. I thought I caught him getting cooked by Helio in Brazil in ’56.

11:54 p.m. Ryoto Machida (Pictures) wins a decision over White. Karate lives.

12:00 a.m. Rueben Villareal is introduced as the late replacement for Kimo, whose pharmaceutical consumption was deemed too excessive. Tank is offering motivation in Rueben’s ear.

12:02 a.m. Bas Rutten (Pictures) defies the law of 10:01 p.m. and makes a theme song that drops his own name seem cool. (More impressively, he even helped lay down the track.) Rutten’s charisma is such that the Ultimate Fighter-fed crowd, who has never seen him fight, adores him. Ten years younger, and he’d likely be the biggest free-fight star in the States.

12:05 a.m. Lennon introduces Villareal. I wonder how his singlet got past the Unified Rules dress code.

12:08 a.m. Rutten lands some solid shots to Villareal’s face, who doesn’t seem to flinch. Uh oh.

12:10 a.m. Warpath’s Kryptonite is unearthed when Rutten begins a series of low leg kicks, the last of which drops Villarreal to a knee. It’s all over.

Considering his seven-year layoff, Rutten was surprisingly effective. In top shape, a fight between him and Chuck Liddell (Pictures) would virtually guarantee fireworks. (Liddell, at 37, is no spring chicken himself.)

12:12 a.m. Ortiz is shown in the company of Jenna Jameson, noted adult film star and bacteria trap. Google tells me Ms. Jameson recently sold her Club Jenna adult content enterprise to Playboy for an undisclosed sum … though it’s rumored to be in the multi-millions. Godspeed, brother.

12:15 a.m. Rutten offers commentary over the highlights of his bout, providing sound effects (“Gonk!”) at moments of impact.

12:16 a.m. An elated Rutten thanks his corner man and friend, “King of Queens” star Kevin James, who shrugs off the suggestion that he packs a big punch. That may well be, but in a fight I’d still have my money on Leah Remini via Scientology character assassination.

12:22 a.m. Lindland fulfills the prophecy written by his nickname and enters the arena to “I Fought the Law, and the Law Won.” Somewhere, Baroni is destroying a bathroom.

12:29 a.m. Jackson is introduced as a “PRIDE and UFC veteran.” Does being in attendance count?

12:35 a.m. Round one goes to Lindland, who scored with a big slam (canceling out Jackson’s) and sinking in a deep, deep rear-naked in an attempt to finish.

12:41 a.m. Round two to Jackson, who was very effective in the clinch before tossing Lindland on his head. Nice trip-to-takedown, too.

12:47 a.m. The deciding round appeared to favor Jackson slightly: he dazed Lindland with a punch before controlling him on the mat. Lindland spent an eternity working a guillotine but was then bloodied from his guard. Does an attempt to finish trump visceral damage? Until the commissions issue a hierarchy of its criteria, fights as close as this one will continue to be debated.

12:50 a.m. Jackson garners the split decision. Makes sense. Lindland looks perturbed.

12:52 a.m. “It was like fighting a smelly skunk! Man, you gotta take a shower!” Jackson sums up his thoughts on the bout. This marks two instances where an opponent makes mention of Lindland’s body odor. Coincidence? You have to wonder.

In all, it was a respectable first attempt to challenge the UFC over the airwaves. While both Jackson and Rutten have the potential to be big attractions stateside, the trick is getting them exposure to prospective customers wary of forking over $35 on an unproven commodity.

The UFC solved this problem by getting hours of basic cable advertising on a weekly basis. The WFA will need a similar outlet if they expect to stick around.

Either that or Goldberg needs to start drilling takedowns.

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