The Monday Morning Reverie: UFC 61

By Mike Sloan Jul 10, 2006
Queue Chris Farley’s trembling, nervous voice: “Remember when … the UFC … put on exciting pay-per-view events? … That was awesome!”

Already on the various forums and chat rooms throughout the mixed martial arts community there have been literally hundreds of complaints about Saturday’s dreadful UFC 61. Some, in typical forum fashion, seem adolescent, but for the most part the fans of the sport have a right to be bitter (pun intended).

This past weekend’s event, which took place inside the sold-out Mandalay Bay Events Center, was the worst Zuffa Pay-Per-View event in quite some, possibly since the abysmal UFC 33 some five years ago.

It’s a frustrating and peculiar situation one finds himself in when the most exciting bout of the night was a tactical affair between Joshes Neer and Burkman (to their credit, that fight actually was pretty decent).

Yeah, the bloodbath between victorious Joe Stevenson (Pictures) and Yves Edwards (Pictures) satiated our thirst, but almost nothing is more of a letdown than when a fight is stopped by a cut on the side of a fighter’s head. Fights that are stopped due to cuts around the eyes don’t annoy as much, but whenever someone is lacerated on the forehead or side of the noggin, the blood flow is usually too severe. From there, naturally, the fights are stopped and the fans are left with a vastly anticlimactic finish and a vast void of excitement to fill.

That’s not to say that Stevenson wasn’t going to win. In fact, “Daddy” looked better than he probably ever has and showed the skill set and game plan that made him an overwhelming favorite to win his portion of The Ultimate Fighter season two.

It was clearly the biggest victory Stevenson has notched on his belt thus far … and a win going in essentially was paramount. A second consecutive loss would have cast an ashen cloud over his promising career and he would have been labeled a mere flash in the pan by most. Luckily for Stevenson, he did his job and won the bout emphatically, even though it came via a spurious cut.

As far as Neer and Burkman go, the fight was as close and competitive as they come and since neither man really dominated the action, a rematch probably could happen somewhere down the line. Pondering the action for a little while, Josh vs. Josh was akin to the entertaining battle between Dave Menne (Pictures) and Gil Castillo (Pictures), which, coincidentally was on the UFC 33 card. So while the tussle between Neer and Burkman wasn’t something for the ages and certainly doesn’t rank among the top 20 or even 30 bouts in the history of the UFC alone, it was solid.

Frank Mir (Pictures) Should Reevaluate His Career

Is it me or does Frank Mir (Pictures) have to do much, much, much more work in the gym before he’s ready for the best heavyweights in the UFC (which, realistically, are just Tim Sylvia (Pictures) and Andrei Arlovski (Pictures))? I thought he lost his fight against Dan Christison (Pictures) but it was close enough to warrant a moderately dubious reaction the other way. I predicted that Mir would gas out completely after the first minute but he proved me wrong … he gassed out completely midway through the seventh minute.

The pre-fight rumors of Mir slacking in training appeared to be true, but then again, that is nothing new. The former UFC heavyweight champion has looked sensational against only three opponents: a faded and uninspired Pete Williams, the relatively inexperienced Roberto Traven and an arm-breaking performance against Sylvia. Other than that, Mir has not looked anything close to what his natural talents emit. It looks to me as though Mir has wasted his God-given talents beyond belief and he doesn’t seem to care one iota.

I have heard for years about how Mir allegedly puts forth as little effort as possible while preparing for a fight, a perilous procedure dating back to the time before the underrated Ian Freeman (Pictures) stopped him. If the UFC is still banking on Mir recapturing lost glory, they had better figure out something quick before he becomes a walking punch line in the MMA community. The guy has more gifts than almost anybody else who fights professionally in this sport, but he doesn’t put forth any effort for fitness and stamina.

The argument about his broken femur bone and the steel rods he has in his leg is a logical one, but like I said, I’ve heard about his lack of focus long before he wrecked his motorcycle. He gassed out completely against Wes Sims (Pictures) in their rematch, repeated that maneuver against Marcio Cruz (Pictures) and again this past Saturday in a gift decision win against Christison.

In all actuality, Mir lucked out in more ways than just the three official judges favoring him. Had Christison had the imbedded thirst for blood or that killer instinct, Mir would have been stopped in the third round and that’s a guarantee. However, “The Sandman” literally gave the last stanza to Mir, allowing the tide to take him out with a beached porpoise.

Mir is so skilled and so marketable, yet he is dangerously close to being tagged the biggest waste of talent this side of Kimo. If his uninspired win over Christison is indicative of how his career will unfold from here, he should just save himself further embarrassment and call it a day. It seems as though nothing will get his juices flowing. A title shot against Sylvia is within his grasp, but he doesn’t appear to be hungry enough, and this is coming from an admittedly huge Mir fan.

The only bright spot is that Mir possesses enough decency not to give himself a ridiculous and hokey nickname. There are far too many nonsensical nicknames floating around the world but Mir has relented. At least we can thank him for that.

Tito and Ken Part III? Let’s Hope Not

For the love of Gollum, please don’t let there be a third fight between Ken Shamrock (Pictures) and Tito Ortiz (Pictures). I have to go on record right now by stating that I firmly believe referee Herb Dean (Pictures) stopped Shamrock prematurely, but the dreadlocked third man did the right thing.

Sure, he erred by stopping it too quickly, but I’d much rather have Dean stop it too early than too late. Shamrock was hit with two brutal elbows and three meager ones, all of which came in succession and all of which were unblocked.

Let’s face it, Ken was not going to survive that position. Had Dean let it go any further, Tito would have delivered as many elbows as he liked. Dean simply allowed Shamrock to avoid anywhere from three to 30 more.

With that said, let’s hope this doesn’t lead to a third duel between the two fierce rivals. As most politicians say when vying for the public’s vote: Enough is enough! Ken didn’t stand any chance of beating Tito the first time and he was on his way to getting pummeled in the rematch. The fight is not even competitive and sans some miracle one-punch knockout that flattened “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” the fight never will be.

However, UFC president Dana White is a brilliant man and knows what will and won’t sell. He knows what fans want to see and knows what fans will shell out their hard-earned cash for (is that why he found a bogus loophole in Matt Lindland (Pictures)’s contract?). That said, you can bet your last dime that come early next year we will see “The Grand Finale to the Biggest Grudge Match in History!” or “The Trilogy Will Finally End Tonight!”

And boy, do I mean finally.

I honestly don’t even see how in any way, shape or form that the most ardent Ortiz or rabid Shamrock fan can fathom stomaching another go ‘round by these two enemies. But then again, it appears as though a proportionate bulk of the TUF crowd is like the zombified MTV audience, which no matter what imitation gangsta rapper or mascara-wearing emo “metal” band the network tries to shove down their throats, they’ll rush out to their suburban malls and squander daddy’s money.

Obviously, not every newcomer to the UFC shares that mentality, but like most retail conglomerates in America, what you want to buy and what they want you to buy are two different things.

And boy, the fans will eat it up faster than Delta Burke at a Vegas buffet.

Also, with Chuck Liddell (Pictures) scheduled to fight Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) for what is actually the undisputed 205 pound title in November, the rumored rematch between Ortiz and Liddell for the February Super Bowl card is in jeopardy.

So, I bet there will be a third showdown between Ortiz and Shamrock and you can exclude me from that one. Zuffa will market it with the “controversial stoppage” angle and Shamrock will rant about how he was unjustly stopped and that he was close to turning the tides … blah, blah, blah.

Tito will continue to what he always does and make Shamrock look like a complete idiot in terms of trash talking. And it will be the more publicized fight on the card featuring the main event between Sylvia and Mir. Ugh. Hopefully lawnmower racing or some dog beauty show will be on ESPN that same night because, if not, I’ll have nothing to watch.

Heavyweight Title “Fight”

After the third round concluded and literally thousands of boos rained down into the Octagon, it was clear that the “fight” between UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia (Pictures) and challenger/former champ Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) was going the distance. While respect is given to every man who climbs into the ring or cage, it would have been nice if one of the two men got a little gutsy and tried for the knockout.

Save for a few brief flurries, most of the contest saw each man flicking single jabs and hooks at each other. Arlovski had a tremendously difficult time in getting on the inside for his power punches as Sylvia thwarted most of his attacks. Yet he never once tried for a takedown where his sambo background would have given Sylvia hell. Nor did he throw more than five leg kicks from the start of the second round on.

Arlovski did show a better chin than most gave him credit for, but even still, Sylvia didn’t do enough to try and put the quicker Belarusian away.

Both fighters had the fight won, but neither wanted to prove to the world who was the best. Instead, what we were treated to was five rounds of tedious stalking without the titanic knockout finish most expected. The fight was one of the worst the UFC has delivered in quite some time and it was so dull, in fact, it would give most of the heavyweight fights in boxing a run for their money.

One thing the victorious Sylvia can take away from this fight is that he proved that he clearly is the best man in the UFC roster at heavyweight. Arlovski was pelted in the second fight and was made to look ordinary in their rubber match. Maybe it was Sylvia’s size and/or the fact that his concussive power got inside his challenger’s head.

Looking back, it’s quite humorous to hear Sylvia complaining before the fight that his bout with Arlovski was getting hardly any press or promotion despite being the main event. He was squawking that he felt wronged by Zuffa and that he was angry enough to prove that his fight deserved more attention than Ortiz-Shamrock II.

All of that pre-fight talk and look what we got: a rotted ‘possum carcass of a title fight filled with more boos than a haunted house. Instead of this contest being a perfect, succulent antipasto for what could have been a possible meeting between “The Maine-iac” and one of PRIDE’s top four heavyweights, Sylvia and Arlovski served up a heaping helping of castor oil.

I wonder who is more confident that the four top heavyweights in PRIDE — Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures), Mirko Filipovic (Pictures) and Josh Barnett (Pictures) — would crush anybody on the UFC’s heavyweight roster: Dana White or Nobuyuki Sakakibara?

I bet I know who is more embarrassed …

Closing UFC 61 Tidbits

I can see our good friend Bill O’Reilly now, with his smug demeanor and condescending arrogance if he watched the Yves Edwards (Pictures) fight: “Harrumph! Look at all that blood. And that Dan White guy tried to tell me this human cockfighting is safer than prize fighting? Hah! That just proves how right and smart I am!” …

What a catastrophe the main event turned out to be. Forget the fact that it was the dullest UFC fight in years, it wound up sucking up more than 40 minutes of TV time. Had the fight ended early or if it was five rounds of incendiary action, I wouldn’t have been irritated that none of the off-TV bouts were shown. Instead of watching Hermes Franca (Pictures) choke Joe Jordan (Pictures), Cheick Kongo (Pictures) stop Gilbert Aldana (Pictures), Drew Fickett (Pictures) submit Kurt Pellegrino (Pictures) or Jeff Monson (Pictures) wallop Anthony Perosh (Pictures), we got to watch Sylvia and Arlovski stare at each other for five full rounds. Thanks, guys. …

It was thrilling to see that The Ultimate Fighter season four has already been filmed and will debut on Spike TV in August. I am also looking forward to seeing the new Red Rock Station Casino in “suburban” Las Vegas for Ultimate Fight Night 6. …

In trying to close out the UFC 61 portion of this column, the event wasn’t overly horrible. Sure, the fights pretty much sucked more than a Hoover vacuum, but it could have been worse. Zuffa could have done the PRIDE/K-1 thing and signed on pro wrestlers and overweight sumo warriors to fight. Oh wait, too late. Ken Shamrock (Pictures) and Frank Mir (Pictures) were on the card.

But it’s OK, though. One final positive outlook is that the FDA can conclude their quest for a reasonable and safer cure for insomnia: just sell DVDs of UFC 61 “Bitter Rivals” to the pill-pooping public. Bitter Rivals? More like Bitter Disappointment. …

The WFA Showtime Special

Even though this is a UFC 61 column, I must include that awesome half hour lead-in for the World Fighting Alliance’s monstrous card on July 22 in California.

The WFA is the first MMA company to my knowledge to be aired on what is a mostly boxing cable network and their segment was fabulous.

Details about the WFA’s deal with Showtime are sketchy right now, but with the way Showtime has been absolutely murdering HBO in terms of having far better boxing events, it’s safe to say Showtime knows what they’re doing.

The WFA did the right thing by showcasing Bas Rutten (Pictures) and Kimo as well as many of the under card fighters. Having the “Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros give his insight was ingenious, too. But the most important aspect of that 30-minute special was when the fight organization had MMA journalists Loretta Hunt from Full Contact Fighter and our very own editor Josh Gross give their expertise.

The sport of MMA doesn’t have better journalists than Gross and Hunt and the WFA is wise in using the MMA media to their advantage. Isn’t that what the UFC did (using Hunt and Gross) a few years ago when they were struggling? What a co-inky-dink!

Hopefully it’s a legitimate deal and it allows the WFA to offer a meaningful alternative to the UFC for the fans of mixed martial arts. The WFA is as serious as a heart attack and they appear to have all their acumen in line. The WFA should allow better competition for the sport and that is a positive occurrence. Because at the end of the day, competition is great.
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