Six UFC veterans -- including a former heavyweight champion and three former title challengers -- found mixed results against lesser-known international opposition Tuesday at the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv at Israel Fighting Championship: Genesis.
In the evening’s headliner, former UFC heavyweight champion Ricco Rodriguez took a bland-but-clear unanimous decision over well-traveled Spaniard Daniel Tabera.
Rodriguez was never in trouble during the three-round contest, checking leg kicks and scoring repeatedly with takedowns as his undersized opponent struggled on the mat. Though he tired significantly as the fight went on, Rodriguez pressed the action throughout. Tabera’s pre-fight entrance to Los del Rio’s infamous “Macarena” -- complete with dance -- was the most action he would offer on the night.
Originally scheduled as a 205-pound affair, Rodriguez missed weight by more than 10 pounds on Monday, forcing him to surrender 20 percent of his fight purse to Tabera. After the fight, Rodriguez offered apologies for flubbing his light heavyweight debut, citing numerous lingering injuries.
“I didn’t make weight. I came in a little heavy,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a work in progress.”
The win was Rodriguez’s 10th in a row and seventh straight in 2010 alone, prompting him to call out rival Jeff Monson for a potential rubber match at the next IFC event.
In the co-feature, Monson easily grounded Sergei Shemetov before forcing the Russian to tap to a keylock at 4:09 of the first frame. Post-fight, Monson announced his own plans to drop to 205 pounds in the near future.
Monson and Rodriguez have met twice before, with Rodriguez halting “The Snowman” in the third round at UFC 35 in January 2002, and Monson gaining revenge by unanimous decision in December 2008.
Two-time UFC title challenger Frank Trigg scored the event’s only knockout, dispatching Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Roy Neeman in the first round of their 180-pound catchweight bout.
In his first fight since being released by the UFC in February, the southpaw Trigg landed hard left hooks at will, dropping Neeman against the cage and pounding him out just 2:36 into the fight.
“Upset of the Night” honors belonged to little-known Israeli Moshe Kaitz who survived a late surge from Hermes Franca to take a unanimous decision over the former UFC lightweight title challenger.
Kaitz was strong early, working for leglocks, armbars and choke attempts on the mat, and outboxing a befuddled Franca on the feet. Late in the third round, Franca connected with a hard uppercut and achieved full mount, but Kaitz was able to tie up Franca, weathering the storm to see the final bell and secure the upset win.
Franca has now lost four straight and six of his last seven bouts, including a pair of losses earlier this year to Iowa’s Eric Wisely.
Colorful veteran Shonie Carter dropped a hard-fought decision to Israel’s Jeremy Knafo. After absorbing a barrage of strikes from Knafo early, Carter took top position and pounded Knafo to even out the match in the second round.
However, the 38-year-old faded late and twice had his mouthpiece knocked out by Knafo’s hard combinations before losing on the judges’ scorecards. It was Carter’s fifth straight loss, and his seventh in his last eight bouts.
After the fight, “Mr. International” announced that he could be stepping out of the cage for the very last time.
“All you beautiful, wonderful people here in Israel, you may well have just witnessed my retirement fight,” said an emotional Carter, who received a standing ovation from the Nokia Arena crowd.
Elsewhere, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou defeated Lithuania’s Valdas Pocevicius, dominating the opening two rounds and coasting through a dreadful third before taking a unanimous decision.
Pride veteran Daniel Gracie won his first MMA bout in four years, submitting Martin Wojcik with a rear-naked choke at 2:17 of the first round.
Thiago Meller grabbed his patented guillotine choke before transitioning to an armbar, forcing Ariel Abargel to tap just 35 seconds into their lightweight bout.
Standout grappler Alexandro Ceconi used his superior ground technique to submit Vitaly Shemetov with a triangle choke at 4:48 of the first round.
Vitali Karberski won a workmanlike unanimous decision over Serob Minasyan.
Israeli veteran and former TUF 8 hopeful Ido Pariente armbarred 19-year-old American debutante Joshua Hewlett at 2:54 of the first round.
Local fighter and late replacement Roy Peretz opened up the show with an upset, tapping France’s Fabrice Riconneau with a triangle choke three minutes into the first round.