The Weekly Wrap: Sept. 19 - Sept. 25

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By Jack Encarnacao Sep 27, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

Top Story

On a night in which the Ultimate Fighting Championship went head-to-head with one of boxing’s biggest stars, one of the most feared punchers in mixed martial arts returned to form.

Vitor Belfort put down Rich Franklin at UFC 103 on Sept. 19 in a performance that removed the veneer of cliché from the phrase “the old Vitor is back.” The first-round finish came on the heels of his knockout against Matt Lindland, as he ran through two of the sport’s most accomplished middleweights in short order. Franklin kept a methodical pace until Belfort found his range, throwing a hook that clipped the former middleweight champion and dropped him on all fours. Belfort stood over Franklin and fired off shots, eventually landing a left that closed the deal 3:02 into round one. Belfort credited karate training with Lyoto Machida’s camp for the KO, which earned him a $65,000 bonus for “Knockout of the Night.”

While the win came at a 195-pound catchweight, the UFC immediately began trumpeting Belfort as ready for a fight with middleweight champion Anderson Silva. The promotion did not make much of the fact that Belfort had to visit the scales three times to hit the 196-pound threshold for his match with Franklin. Only a month ago, Belfort was prepping for a crack at Fedor Emelianenko at heavyweight. As for Franklin, the 35-year-old told he could see himself retiring in the next year or two.

The fight headlined the UFC’s debut in Dallas -- a 13-fight card that drew 17,428 fans to the American Airlines Center. The crowd translated into a $2.4 million gate, an all-time record for a sporting event in the building. Arena owner and UFC bondholder Mark Cuban was on hand, standing and cheering. While the atmosphere was lively, UFC 103 likely came in a distant second in the pay-per-view battle against Floyd Mayweather’s 12-round trouncing of Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas. Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports reported the boxing show definitely did one million buys and potentially more -- a jump from Mayweather’s last PPV outing in 2007. Estimates for UFC 103 were not in by week’s end, but it followed a UFC 102 show that drew approximately 435,000 buys. That show was headlined by a bigger draw in Randy Couture. UFC President Dana White said in a podcast the larger amount of press coverage the boxing fight received demonstrated that MMA remains far from mainstream.

The UFC made an honest effort, broadcasting a commercial-free pre-show on Spike TV the hour before the pay event went live. The broadcast did a 1.0 rating for 1.4 million average viewers, lower than a typical live UFC Fight Night would do on the network.

The special was headlined by a top-shelf performance by “The Ultimate Fighter 8” winner Efrain Escudero, notching the first knockout victory of his career over Cole Miller. Escudeo threw a left faint followed by a crushing right straight that finished the fight in the first round. The win was impressive considering Escudero needed two trips to the scales to make weight and needed an IV to rehydrate. The broadcast also featured Tomasz Drwal submitting Drew McFedries via second-round rear-naked choke, plus pre-taped wins by Jim Miller and Rick Story. Story’s victory over Brian Foster was a high-octane battle that also aired on the pay-per-view broadcast and earned Story a $65,000 payout for “Fight of the Night” and another $65,000 for “Submission of the Night.” Story finished Foster with an arm-triangle choke in the second round.

Also shining at UFC 103 was Tyson Griffin, as the lightweight put on one of the strongest performances of his career against Hermes Franca. Griffin, showing new sharpness in his hands, became only the second person to knock out Franca in the Brazilian’s 27-fight career. Franca came out with wild looping shots, including a Mortal Kombat-grade uppercut, which Griffin countered with strong fundamentals. Griffin used an inside leg kick to set up a straight right that dropped his opponent, and then rained down 30 shots that eventually put away a scrambling Franca. The Brazilian missed weight by four pounds a day earlier and thus paid $15,000 to Griffin.

Decidedly less impressive was Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, who may have experienced his Octagon swan song in his loss to Junior dos Santos. Cro Cop received audible crowd support as he entered the arena, but the support deflated as the fight unfolded. Dos Santos put together the harder, more damaging punch combinations and forced Cro Cop to whiff on a few trademark high kicks. Dos Santos came on strong with a series of hard knees in the third round, along with an uppercut from the clinch that struck Cro Cop’s eye socket and caused the Croation the wilt. The win came by verbal submission; all three judges had the fight 20-18 going into the final round.

The legendary Filipovic was dejected as he left the cage, a towel draped over his head. He required hospital attention after the fight and received an indefinite medical suspension from the Texas athletic commission. Though he said before the fight he planned to win the UFC heavyweight title or die trying, Cro Cop told the Croatian Web site that he cannot muster the same fire that made him an MMA icon and openly questioned his future in the sport.

UFC 103 also saw an inauspicious return to the Octagon for Frank Trigg. The welterweight’s first fight in the UFC in four years lasted 1:25 after Josh Koscheck dropped him with a huge right hand and followed up for the TKO. Koscheck called out Matt Hughes after the fight -- a challenge Hughes scoffed at in an Internet posting later in the week. White told the organization would likely cut Trigg after the loss, but there was a change of heart later. Trigg said he would retire from the sport if he were cut.

In another bout at 170 pounds, Martin Kampmann went from being one win away from a title shot to being knocked off his perch by UFC newcomer and unranked welterweight Paul Daley, one of the division’s heaviest hitters. Kampmann waded into a firefight with Daley, who won exchanges by getting through crushing left hooks that staggered Kampmann backwards and caused referee Yves Lavigne to step in. The camera flashed to Mike Swick, Kampmann’s original opponent, at cage-side, and White pushed a Swick vs. Daley matchup after the event.

Also picking up wins at UFC 103 were Vladimir Matyushenko (unanimous decision over Igor Pokrajac), Rafael dos Anjos (unanimous decision over Robert Emerson), Eliot Marshall (split decision over Jason Brilz) and Nik Lentz (unanimous decision over Rafaello Oliveira).
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