Meet The New Boss
GSP Dethrones Hughes; Sylvia Outpoints Monson
By Thomas Gerbasi
SACRAMENTO, November 18 – Georges St. Pierre has never been shy in proclaiming Matt Hughes as his mixed martial arts idol, even citing it as a reason for his 2004 loss to the longtime champion. But tonight before a packed house at Arco Arena, St. Pierre showed no respect to his hero in their rematch, scoring a one-sided second round TKO to win the UFC Welterweight Championship.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Hughes. “I really didn’t expect it to go down like that.”
Neither did most MMA observers, who figured the bout would be one of the most competitive of 2006. In the end though, it was St. Pierre who ran through Hughes with extreme prejudice.
St. Pierre (13-1) pushed the pace early behind leg kicks and the occasional punch as Hughes (42-5) took his time looking for an opening. At the one minute mark of the round, it was St. Pierre picking the action up even more emphatically as he put Hughes on his heels with his impressive standup, which nonetheless brought a smile from the champion. Two low kicks from St. Pierre halted his momentum though as Hughes was forced to take a short break to recover. The Canadian kept his focus upon the restart and went right back to working his faster hands and feet on Hughes and tossing off the Illinois native’s first half-hearted takedown attempt. With under 1:20 to go, St. Pierre opted to take the fight to the canvas and landed some strikes before standing and scoring with a knee. Hughes looked to get back into the scoring column by committing to a takedown, but St. Pierre brushed him off and finished with a right hand that dropped the champion just before the bell intervened.
Hughes began the second round with a smirk, but this was no laughing matter, as St. Pierre was not only winning the standup game, he was showing the physical strength to keep the champion at bay. With 3:45 left, St. Pierre hit paydirt, landing a high left kick that put Hughes on the mat again, this time, the bell wouldn’t save the longtime champion, and with referee John McCarthy’s stoppage at 1:25 of the second, a new king was crowned.
In the co-feature, Tim Sylvia retained his UFC Heavyweight Championship with a gritty five round unanimous decision over Jeff Monson in a fight that was a lot closer than the 50-45 and 49-46 (twice) judges’ verdicts.
There was no question who the victor was though, as the 6-8 Sylvia’s takedown defense and surprising submission attempts, coupled with harder striking, proved to be too much for the game Monson, who at 5-9 was giving up almost a foot in height to the champion.
The first round played out according to prediction, with Sylvia looking to fight from long range while stuffing Monson’s takedown attempts. The champion was successful in this endeavor, but what fans didn’t expect was to see Monson land the more effective strikes of the round against Sylvia, though they were more of the points scoring nature, not causing any real damage.
The packed house started to get restless in the second round, and the fighters responded, with Sylvia picking up his work rate as Monson continued looking for the takedown unsuccessfully, with Sylvia either sprawling or tossing ‘The Snowman’ aside with relative ease. All the while, the strikes from Sylvia started to land with more and more frequency as Monson was seemingly stuck in neutral.
Early in the third round, just when it appeared Sylvia was pulling away, Monson finally got a takedown and the crowd roared. Monson started to open up with strikes from inside Sylvia’s guard, but whenever he tried to pass, Sylvia kept him stationary and began firing back with strikes of his own from the bottom. With two minutes left though, Monson moved to side control and briefly locked in a choke that Sylvia slipped out of. The challenger continued to work ferociously, knowing that this may be his only chance to keep the 6-8 Sylvia on the mat, and after escaping from another choke attempt, the champion stood and referee John McCarthy brought Monson to the ringside physician to check on his cut and almost closed right eye. The doctor allowed the bout to continue, but two big knees by Sylvia dropped Monson just before the bell rung, and the end appeared to be near.
His right eye almost shut, Monson gamely came out for the fourth round and the fans responded by chanting his name. Sylvia continued to work the distance calmly, and when the bout did hit the mat in the second minute, it was Sylvia on top and in control from the side. Monson reached for a leg, but Sylvia escaped and almost got full mount on the tired challenger. Then suddenly, it was Sylvia working for a submission briefly, but Monson survived and fought his way into Sylvia’s guard where again ‘The Maine-iac’ shocked all in attendance as he worked for a triangle choke just before the bell sounded.
The pace understandably slowed early in the fifth round, as both fighters circled and looked for an opening that just wasn’t presenting itself. Midway through the round, McCarthy halted the bout and ordered both fighters to pick up the pace, and it was Monson trying for a takedown and getting rebuffed by Sylvia, who proceeded to attack the prone Monson with points scoring leg kicks until McCarthy ordered a standup with 1:15 left. With under a minute left Monson would again get turned away, kicked, and stood up, and as the seconds ticked away on the fight, it was Sylvia pushing the action to the bell.
Brandon Vera (8-0) left no doubt as to his viability as the leading contender for the UFC heavyweight championship as he only needed 69 seconds to blitz and stop former world champion Frank Mir (9-3), who at 1-2 since a serious motorcycle accident in 2004 has seen his comeback hit a serious snag.
Surprisingly, Mir opted to stand and trade with the superior striker in Vera and wound up paying for it, getting buzzed with a straight right hand and then getting more seriously hurt by a right knee in the clinch that forced him to seek the takedown immediately. On the mat, Vera didn’t let up, letting loose with punch after punch on the now bloodied Mir and forcing a stoppage by referee Steve Mazzagatti.
Iowa’s Drew McFedries promised to bring the heat against Alessio Sakara in his UFC debut and he delivered in punishing style, stopping his foe with ground strikes in the first round of their exciting light heavyweight contest.
McFedries (5-1) showed no trepidation in taking the fight right at Sakara (14-5) from the opening bell, landing with crisp punches and the occasional kick on the former pro boxer from Italy. Sakara got his rhythm though and started ripping through his foe’s defenses with vicious body shots and straight head punches, one of which sent McFedries’ mouthpiece flying and forcing a halt to the action as it was replaced by referee Mario Yamasaki.
With two minutes left in the round, McFedries opted for another form of attack as he took Sakara down, but within seconds the two were back standing and trading haymakers. This time though, it was McFedries controlling the action, and after a three-punch combination rocked Sakara, the Italian hit the mat in a delayed reaction. McFedries continued his attack on the canvas, forcing Yamasaki to stop the bout at the 4:07 mark.
Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson made it 2-0 as a UFC lightweight, improving to 31-7 overall with a first round submission win over Japanese standout Dokonjonosuke Mishima (17-5-2).
“That guy’s one of the best in the world,” said Stevenson of Mishima. “I’m just good at what I do.”
That he is, as Stevenson didn’t panic after a quick takedown by Mishima, instead locking in a guillotine choke that Misima fought hard to escape from. He did, but the second time Stevenson secured the choke, Mishima wouldn’t get out, as he was forced to tap out at 2:07 of the opening stanza.
Nick Diaz put together back-to-back UFC wins for the first time in over a year, impressively stopping Brazil’s Gleison Tibau in the second round of a scheduled three round welterweight contest.
Tibau showed his jiu-jitsu was no joke in the early stages of the first round as he worked on Diaz’ arm. But Diaz, much to the delight of his hometown crowd, worked his way out of trouble and started displaying his own ground techniques, eventually working his way into the top position with under a minute to go and letting loose with a series of elbows and punches until the round ended.
But while the first round was competitive, the second round was all Diaz, as ‘Diablo’ fought off a takedown by Tibau, and once the action did hit the mat, he fired off a sustained series of blows that forced referee Steve Mazzagatti to halt the bout at 2:27 of the round.
Debuting UFC heavyweight Antoni Hardonk (5-2) survived an early takedown from fellow debutant Sherman Pendergarst (8-4) to roar back and knock out ‘The Tank’ with a left to the jaw and right kick to the upper thigh. The end came at 3:15 of the opening round.
Light heavyweight James Irvin (12-3) had the Sacramento fans in his corner entering his All-California bout with Hector Ramirez (6-2-1), and ‘The Sandman’ delivered with an exciting second round TKO of the tough Norwalk resident.
The first round was frantic, with Ramirez almost putting Irvin away while working from his foe’s back. Irvin, cut over his right eye, managed to escape, but soon hit the floor a second time after missing a high kick. Ramirez pounced with only a few seconds left and appeared to be close to a stoppage victory, but the local hero managed to get up with the help of a missed backfist and a flurry of shots until the end of the round.
Ramirez wasted no time getting back in Irvin’s face to begin the second, and again, a series of punches appeared to have ‘The Sandman’ in trouble. But Irvin was resilient, buying himself more time until a big right hand dropped the ‘Sick Dog’ hard to the canvas. Irvin started to walk away, believing the fight was over, but it wasn’t, and it wasn’t until a follow-up flurry that referee Mario Yamasaki halted the bout at the 2:36 mark.
In the UFC 65 opener, unbeaten heavyweight Jake O’Brien notched his second Octagon victory with a less than compelling three round decision over Josh Schockman.
Scores were 30-27 across the board for ‘Irish Jake’, who issued Schockman (7-1) his first mixed martial arts defeat.
O’Brien controlled the bout from the start behind a series of takedowns and ground and pound attempts, though there was not enough sustained action to keep the crowd from getting restless. In retaliation, Schockman’s only offense consisted of a few leg kicks before the inevitable takedown by O’Brien, who improves to 9-0.