UFC 64 FIGHT REPORT
Silva Scores Another Single Round Stunner to Win Middleweight Crown
By Thomas Gerbasi
LAS VEGAS, October 14 – Leading up to tonight’s 185-pound title fight between Rich Franklin and Anderson Silva, many wondered if the Brazilian’s 49 second blowout of Chris Leben in June was a fluke. It wasn’t, as Silva used a brutal Muay Thai clinch to dominate Franklin on the inside and stun the crowd in attendance for UFC 64 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center by scoring a first round TKO over the Cincinnati native to win the UFC middleweight crown.
“I feel like UFC’s my home and I’m here to stay,” said Silva, who was overcome with emotion after taking out Franklin, who was attempting to make his third successful title defense in his first fight back after a seven month layoff due to injury.
It was a war of nerves in the early going, but by the second minute of the first round, both fighters started opening up a bit more, with Silva securing a tight Thai clinch that produced a series of solid knees to the body and head, one of which jarred the champ briefly. Franklin waded right back into battle, but as he came in, Silva locked his hands around Franklin’s neck again, and this time a huge right knee left Franklin stunned and open for a brutal follow-up that included two more kicks and a final left knee that sent Franklin to the canvas, where referee John McCarthy wisely halted the bout at the 3:59 mark.
“I was not expecting him to be that strong in the clinch,” said Franklin. “I expected it to be my sweet spot and it gave me a lot of trouble.”
In UFC 64’s second title fight, it was a long time coming, but for the first time since 2002, the UFC has a lightweight champion, and his name is Sean Sherk, who grounded and pounded his way to a five round unanimous decision victory over a courageous Kenny Florian, who has come a long way from his days on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, but was unable to stop the charges of the ‘Muscle Shark’.
“I’ve been working for this moment my whole life,” said Sherk, the first UFC lightweight champion since Jens Pulver abandoned the belt in 2002. “Nothing was gonna stop me.”
Scores were 49-46 twice and 50-48 for Sherk, now 35-2-1.
Sherk immediately took Florian (7-3) to the mat, obviously intent on ending the fight early. Florian patiently regrouped while looking for an opening to land a submission, but Sherk was focused and stayed in control. Soon though, Florian saw his opening and sunk in a guillotine that looked dangerous for a bit until Sherk muscled his way out and almost got an armbar on Florian a few moments later before grounding and pounding his way to the bell.
Florian opened the second round with a couple of hard kicks, only to be put on his back by another Sherk takedown. But once on the mat, blood was evident from a cut on the side of Sherk’s forehead due to an elbow, and Florian was bleeding as well. After a visit from the ringside doctor, the action resumed on the mat with Sherk doing whatever he could to impose his will on Florian. Florian eventually fought his way out of trouble and reversed position on the Minnesotan with the two soon standing up and squaring off and finishing the round at a stalemate.
The third began with Florian working his Muay Thai, but in the blink of an eye, Sherk threw a left and shot in for a takedown and he again tried to manhandle the Massachusetts native on the mat. With a minute and a half to go, Florian gave up his back to Sherk briefly, but the ‘Muscle Shark’ was unable to capitalize and the two rolled back into the guard until stood up with 35 seconds left. That’s when the fun began as Sherk scored with some big punches and Florian answered with a couple of kicks at the bell that jarred Sherk and brought a huge roar from the crowd.
With blood staining the trunks of both men, the fourth round began with more solid kicks by Florian before a takedown by Sherk and more ground and pound from the former welterweight title challenger. With a little over two minutes remaining, the crowd chanted ‘Kenny, Kenny’ but Florian was unable to escape the smothering onslaught of Sherk who was doing enough damage to punish Florian and score points, but not enough to finish the fight, prompting a standup from referee Steve Mazzagatti with just seconds left in the round.
Sherk got his biggest takedown of the night to punctuate the start of the fifth and final round, and the pattern of the previous rounds continued as Florian was simply not strong enough to keep Sherk off him. But ‘KenFlo’ got new life with 3:30 left in the fight as Mazzagatti stood the fighters and he opened up again with the kicks. And in keeping to form, Sherk again looked for the takedown, but Florian sunk in a guillotine choke on Sherk in a last ditch effort to pull off the upset. Sherk escaped though and proceeded to pick Florian up and slam him with a huge thump, and that’s where the fight ended as the clock ran out, with Sherk earning a world title and Florian earning respect from the skeptics.
“Everybody underestimated Kenny except me,” said Sherk. “He’s a tough guy and we had a great fight.”
In undercard action…
Jon Fitch finally got his shot on television against Japan’s Kuniyoshi Hironaka after three straight UFC wins, and he let the folks at home see what all the fuss was about as he pounded out a three round unanimous decision in a highly anticipated welterweight bout.
Scores were 30-25 and 30-27 twice for Fitch, who lifts his MMA record to 17-2; Hironaka falls to 10-3.
“I’m a little upset with myself,” said Fitch. “I think I could have put him away on my feet. I think my striking was superior, I just didn’t let it go. But I think people will now recognize that I’m a threat in the division since people finally got to see me fight.”
Both fighters battled at close range early, with Fitch finally securing a takedown in the round’s second minute. Hironaka was undisturbed by this development though as he looked to secure a triangle choke on his foe. Fitch tried to pound his way out with knees and punches, and eventually, with 1:25 left in the round, he escaped and worked his ground and pound on Hironaka, eventually getting his back with under a minute to go, but the San Jose resident ran out of time before he could capitalize.
Fitch came out swinging in the second and after jarring Hironaka he was able to pick him up and put him on the mat and controlled most of the frame behind his ground attack, but Hironaka remained dangerous throughout as he kept looking for submissions. Fitch’s strength appeared to be too much though, and late in the round he really started to open up on the mat.
Again starting fast, Fitch rocked Hironaka with kicks and punches in round three, but the Tokyo fighter got his licks in as well, breaking Fitch’s nose with a shot straight down the middle. After the ringside physician checked Fitch out and allowed the fight to continue, the fight hit the canvas again, with Fitch controlling the action there enough to earn the victory.
UFC debutant Carmelo Marrero put a halt to the quick rise of France’s Cheick Kongo, using his superior takedown ability to upset the heavyweight contender via a close split decision.
Scores were 29-28 twice and 28-29 for Marrero, who improves to 6-0. Kongo falls to 19-3-1 in dropping his first UFC bout in three tries.
After eating a progressively harder series of leg kicks from Kongo, Marrero secured a takedown with just over a minute gone in the round and got side control on the Frenchman, the perfect spot for him to open up with knees to the side and forearms to the head for the rest of the frame.
Given his success in the first round, Marrero wasted no time getting the takedown early in the second, but this time Kongo countered with a guillotine choke that appeared deep, but Marrero was able to power his way out at the 2:45 mark. With two minutes left, referee Yves Lavigne stood the fighters up, but Marrero put Kongo right back down twice before the horn sounded to end the round.
After a slow first minute of the last round, the bout again hit the mat, with Lavigne quickly standing the fighters up as the action stopped. Kongo was able to fight off Marrero’s next takedown attempt, and when the Pennsylvania native went to the floor himself, Kongo pounced in search of a ground and pound KO and then a kimura, though both attempts failed. After a brief scramble to the feet, Marrero got another takedown but loose tape on Kongo’s gloves forced another standup which was a stalemate until the bell rang.
Lightweight contender Spencer Fisher survived a spirited effort from 18-year-old Dan Lauzon and improved to 20-2 with a first round stoppage of the New Englander, who was making his UFC debut in only his fifth pro fight.
Lauzon announced his arrival early with a huge slam of the heavily favored Fisher. ‘The King’ kept his cool though as he looked to goad ‘The Upgrade’ into a mistake. Two minutes in, Lauzon opened up with both hands on the mat, but while Fisher defended well, he was unable to get back to his feet until 1:30 remained in the round, and even then it was only briefly as Lauzon got another takedown. Upon rising again though, Fisher came armed with bad intentions and opened up with knees and strikes that visibly hurt the tiring teenager, who took the bout on late notice after Fisher’s original foe, Naoyuki Kotani had visa problems. Lauzon would gamely rise to his feet, but after a couple more knees and uppercuts, he hit the floor again, forcing referee Mario Yamasaki to halt the bout at the 4:38 mark.
“I think everything hurt him,” said Fisher. “The knee followed by the uppercut stunned him.”
Yushin Okami’s second fight in the Octagon was his most impressive, as he was steady and consistent in stopping ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ 3’s Kalib Starnes in the third and final round of their middleweight bout.
Okami, who defeated Alan Belcher in his first UFC bout in August, improves to 19-3; Starnes drops to 9-2-1.
The first round was mainly tactical, with a late guillotine choke attempt by Starnes waking up Okami, who finished the frame strong with a guillotine of his own and some hard knees and punches.
Starnes opened the second with kicks of his own, but Okami fired back with punches while stuffing the Canadian’s takedown attempt. After a brief stoppage for Okami to recover from a low knee from Starnes, the bout resumed but was again brought to a stalemate against the fence, forcing a re-start from referee Yves Lavigne. With 1:30 left in the round, the bout hit the mat, with Okami landing punches on his foe until the two made it back to their feet. By the end of the stanza, Starnes appeared winded.
Okami pushed the pace in the final frame, hurting Starnes with a right uppercut that forced him to turn and run to get away from the pursuing Japanese fighter. Moments later, the bout hit the floor, and Okami opened up on the now bloodied Starnes, who turned his back and forced Lavigne to stop the bout at the 1:40 mark.
“I trained really hard for this fight,” said Okami. “ I wanted to come out and put the pressure on.”
Ball of energy Clay Guida made his long-awaited UFC debut a successful one as he pounded his way through the defenses of Justin James and then sunk in a rear naked choke to defeat ‘The Pretty Boy’ in the second round of their lightweight bout.
James was effective with knees and quick strikes, but Guida got even with his ground and pound once the bout hit the mat. James (22-6) was always dangerous though, seemingly locking in an armbar late in the round that Guida was able to escape from.
There was more of the same from Guida (21-3) in the second round, though in a more pronounced fashion, and with under a minute to go in the round, Guida’s strikes stunned James, who defended the punches but then turned and allowed ‘The Carpenter’ to get his back and sink in a rear naked choke that produced a tap out at 4:42 of the round.
You may have to dock Kurt Pellegrino some points for his choice of entrance music (Hammer’s ‘Too Legit to Quit’) but there was no questioning the dominance of the Jersey native as he was in control from the start of his lightweight debut until he finished newcomer Junior Assuncao with a rear naked choke at 2:04 of the first round in the UFC 64 opener.
I was looking to take his back and submit him just how I did,” said Pellegrino. “A lot of my fights, I envision the outcome and I envisioned beating him.”
The win was Pellegrino’s first in the UFC in two tries and he improves to 15-2 in pro MMA. Assuncao falls to 5-2.
The light heavyweight preliminary bout between Keith Jardine and Mike Nickels was scrapped when Nickels aggravated a recent back injury Friday night and was forced to withdraw from the match.