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UFC 20: The Battle For The Gold review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on October 26, 2006, 9:53 AM

UFC 20: The Battle For The Gold

Birmingham, Alabama

-We open with a video package hyping up the Heavyweight Title bout between Randleman and Rutten.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick.

Lightweight Fight: LaVerne Clark vs Fabiano Iha

Armbar specialist Iha was fighting with Ruas Vale Tudo at this point, rather than Team Punishment (which I’m thinking didn’t exist at this point) who he ended up with later. Clark was fighting out of Pat Miletich’s camp, and the announcers push that he’s a seriously explosive stand-up fighter. He also looks much bigger than Iha. And hey, Mario Yamasaki is the referee! I had no idea he was around this far back.

They circle to begin, and Clark lands a couple of glancing shots as Iha comes forward looking to close the distance. Clark then catches him with a right hand and follows with a left uppercut, stunning Iha who goes down, but as Clark follows up, Iha grabs his leg and looks for a leglock. Clark rolls to avoid, and once he’s out of danger Yamasaki steps in to check a cut on Iha, and man that’s a lot of blood. Looks like a nasty gash on the forehead probably caused by the uppercut, and the doctors stop things there. Clark looked pretty good with his striking there, but for whatever reason he didn’t end up back in UFC for almost a year after this, and eventually went on to lose a rematch with Iha in later years.

-Pat Miletich joins us and gives credit to Clark, before talking about the ‘boring’ tag that he’s been given thanks to his fights with Mike Burnett and Jorge Patino. He admits that he hasn’t been in the most exciting fights to date, but promises to be much more aggressive next time out. And this leads us into...

-A plug for UFC 21, headlined by Miletich’s next title defense, and a battle of former UFC champions between Maurice Smith and Marco Ruas.

Middleweight Fight: Wanderlei Silva vs Tony Petarra

Petarra is apparently a submission fighter with a record of 1-0 at this point, while Wanderlei was looking for redemption following his infamous 44-second KO loss at the hands of Vitor Belfort at UFC Ultimate Brazil. Announcers mention how Silva’s looked forward to fighting in the US for a long time and this match is very important for him.

Petarra gets a clinch almost immediately and muscles Silva into the fence, dropping low for a takedown as Silva blocks and lands some knees to the body. He narrowly misses a big knee as Petarra continues to shove forwards in the upper-body clinch, desperately looking for the takedown. Silva reaches up and gets a plum clinch and begins to land some knees as Petarra continues to muscle forward, but finally the tactic catches up with him and Wanderlei lands a series of VICIOUS KNEES to drop Petarra for the KO.

Pretty much a Silva-by-the-books win as Petarra’s tactics basically played into his hands, as if he was actually asking Silva to grab the back of his head and knee him in the face.

-We are joined for an interview by Tito Ortiz, who tells us that he was impressed by Silva’s performance in the prior match. Tito mentions that he’s risen to the top of the rankings quickly, but now he’s there, he wants to fight Frank Shamrock.

Lightweight Fight: David Roberts vs Marcelo Mello

Announcers make mention of the fact that Roberts, at just 19, is the UFC’s youngest fighter to date. Little is known of Mello outside of a Vale Tudo background in Brazil, and strangely enough Sherdog actually has this as being his lone MMA fight.

They press the action to open before Mello shoots in and gets a double leg slam into side mount. He passes to full mount quickly, and opens up with a series of elbows, causing Roberts to panic and roll to his stomach, giving his back. Mello doesn’t bother with the choke though, instead opening up with more vicious elbows to the head, and John McCarthy comes in for the stoppage there.

Not much to see in that one at all, just a total squash.

Heavyweight Fight: Ron Waterman vs Chris Condo

They’re showing us a prelim fight from earlier in the night now, as wrestler Ron Waterman makes his UFC debut against another debutant in Chris Condo. Announcers push Waterman as a “sculpted athlete”, and yep, he’s huge. Condo though, without sounding harsh, is anything but sculpted.

They clinch quickly, and Waterman immediately shoves him into the fence and muscles him down to side mount. He tries to mount, but ends up in half-guard, not that it matters, as he opens up with a flurry of left hands to the face of Condo for the quick stoppage.

Another complete and utter squash that was over before it had begun, really. Waterman didn’t even come off that impressively as it was so quick, and visually it just looked like an athlete beating on some random fat bloke they’d pulled off the street outside the arena before the show.

-Matchmaker John Peretti joins us and slams Condo’s performance. Well, you signed him up, mate. Only got yourself to blame.

-A video package for the Heavyweight Title bout is shown, following the story of the belt as Randy Couture won it from Maurice Smith before vacating, and then we go into the UFC 18 mini-tournament and how Pedro Rizzo dropped out of his fight with Bas Rutten and was replaced by Kevin Randleman (who beat Smith) in tonight’s title bout.

Heavyweight Fight: Pete Williams vs Travis Fulton

‘Ironman’ Travis Fulton, despite being just 21 here, already had reportedly well over 70 fights. His record currently stands at somewhere around 172-41-9, making him the most experienced fighter in the history of MMA. This though was one of just two appearances he made for the UFC. Williams was coming off a submission win over Jason Godsey, and looking to rebuild himself as a potential HW title contender following a loss to Tsuyoshi Kosaka at UFC Japan.

They circle to begin, and Williams lands a couple of kicks. Fulton appears to be looking for the big right hand to counter Williams’ low kick, as Pete comes forward and misses a high kick. Williams clips him with a one-two, so Fulton clinches him and they muscle into the fence, before breaking off with Williams landing a good leg kick. Fulton shoots in for a takedown, but Williams blocks and gets on top in a side mount, landing some shots from the top. He mounts him, but Fulton uses a nice back-door escape, but Williams stays on top and lands some more elbows in Fulton’s butterfly guard. Williams drops back for a heel hook attempt, but Fulton rolls to alleviate the pressure, and manages to slip out, reversing position and getting on top in Williams’ guard. Fulton starts to work from the top, opening up with some nice punches, but then Williams catches him unawares with an armbar from the bottom, and straightens it out for the tapout.

Not a bad fight actually – Fulton showed some half-decent skill in escaping the mount and the heel hook, but just got caught napping in Williams’ guard and never saw the armbar coming, surprisingly enough.

-Marco Ruas joins us and tells us how excited he is to be back in the UFC fighting Maurice Smith. Upon being asked who his ideal opponent would be, it’s no contest – Rickson Gracie.

-They air a highlight package of the fights so far, which in the case of the first three, is basically the whole fight.

Heavyweight Fight: Pedro Rizzo vs Tra Telligman

They’re billing Telligman’s weight as “unknown” here, somewhere around 230-240lbs the announcers are guessing, God knows why they don’t know it, did they not have weigh-ins at this point? Anyhow, Rizzo was on quite the roll here, despite dropping out of the HW title bout, as he was still unbeaten and had defeated UFC legends Tank Abbott and Mark Coleman before this one.

They begin and Telligman immediately charges out of the gate swinging, stunning Rizzo immediately with some big punches. Rizzo fires back and we get a WILD EXCHANGE!~! for a few moments before they finally slow down, no way they could keep that pace for long, and circle off. They continue to exchange, but it’s a much slower exchange now and presumably after tasting his power in the early exchange, Telligman makes the decision to shoot for a leg. Rizzo blocks the takedown, so Tra drops to his back, but Pedro backs off, and Telligman’s forced to stand. They restart, and Rizzo presses forward, landing a couple of shots as they circle around. Rizzo continues to bring it, stunning Telligman with a combination before backing away, and then quickly he closes in again, landing a hard low kick, and finally a VICIOUS RIGHT HAND that decks Tra for the KO.

Pretty crazy fight for a while there. Rizzo’s one of those guys who always fights to the pace of his opponent – if the other guy brings it, Pedro brings it right back and you’re normally in for an exciting fight – see the two Telligman fights, or the fight with Josh Barnett, for example, but if the other guy doesn’t push the pace, you’re normally in for a snoozer. This, as I say, was one of the former, and the opening minute was one of the wildest slugfests I’ve seen in UFC off the top of my head. It slowed down, but it was bound to, and it hardly took away from the fight. Really exciting one there.

UFC Heavyweight Title: Bas Rutten vs Kevin Randleman

Aaah, this is a fight that’s still talked about today, six years later, for practically all the wrong reasons. Should be interesting to see it, at any rate. We’ve been through the path to this fight plenty of times, so no need to retread it. Rutten seems to be the more popular guy going in, and is by far the more hyped of the two by the announcers, despite Blatnick normally favouring his fellow wrestlers. Seriously, if I hear the term WORLD’S GREATEST MIXED MARTIAL ARTIST!~! again, however cool a guy Bas is, I think I’ll scream. Big pop for him, though. As with all UFC title bouts, this is a fifteen minute first round, with two three-minute overtime periods.

They get underway, and Bas misses an attempt at a front kick as Randleman circles around him, before shooting in and getting the takedown to guard. Randleman opens up with a wild flurry, Rutten covering up for dear life on the bottom, and he does manage to deflect some of the shots, but Randleman passes into side mount and works him over with hammer fists and forearms, bloodying Bas up over the nose and under one of his eyes. Rutten tries to land some knees from the bottom, but none of them land clean. Bas manages to work his way back into guard, but takes some more punches in the process. He looks for an armbar from the bottom, but Randleman avoids it easily and then opens up with another big flurry, moving into side mount in the process. Randleman continues to grind away as Rutten winces badly now, blood all over his face. Bas manages to get back into half-guard and deflects some of Randleman’s punches, then he gives his back momentarily, but quickly ends up back in half-guard. Randleman slows down now and Rutten manoeuvres back into full guard, so McCarthy calls time there to check Bas’s cuts. The doctors basically tell him outright that his nose is busted, and offer him the chance to quit, but he decides to continue and they restart standing.

Rutten comes forward, but Randleman catches his first attempt at a kick and gets a takedown to guard again. Rutten tries to tie him up immediately this time, and actually lands a couple of shots from the bottom as Randleman has noticeably slowed down at this point. Rutten looks for an armbar from the bottom, but telegraphs it, and Randleman avoids it easily and passes into side mount. Rutten manages to get back to half-guard before any damage can ensue, but Randleman continues to control him easily, offering him no way out from underneath. Rutten scrambles into guard, and from there McCarthy calls another stand-up to check Bas over. They restart, and Bas stalks forward, but Randleman dodges a kick and muscles him into the fence, and works for another takedown to guard. They exchange in the guard with Rutten a little more active this time, working some elbows to the back of the head that open a couple of cuts on Randleman’s scalp, the blood showing through on his bleached hair in a cool visual. Bas continues to work some palm strikes from the bottom as the first period comes to an end.

We’re into the first period of overtime, and Bas comes out looking to strike, but he misses a high kick, and Randleman catches a low kick attempt and gets the takedown again, with Rutten quickly going into closed guard. He re-opens the cut on Randleman’s head with a couple of elbows, and then tries an armbar again, but Randleman avoids and controls him from the top, landing fewer strikes now, but still dominating the position as Rutten looks unsuccessfully for a way out. The exchange in Bas’s guard continues to end the period.

So we’re now in the second and final overtime period, and Bas seems to know he needs to do something, probably finish Randleman, so he comes out and lands a kick to the body, then manages to avoid the takedown for the first time. Rutten keeps coming forward, but misses a lunging right, and Randleman plows him into the fence and gets the takedown again. They both land short blows from inside the guard, and the exchange continues to end the fight.

We’re going to the judges, and it surely looks like Randleman’s fight, the announcers agree too.....but instead it’s a split decision for Rutten. Randleman storms off in disgust pretty much, and his corner are absolutely fuming. Rutten does his best to justify the decision (“I landed a good liver kick in overtime, I was hitting him from the bottom”) but sorry Bas, nobody is buying it. Mark Coleman gets an interview post-fight and basically points out that Randleman was robbed, albeit not in those words.

So yeah....I’d argue that this was probably the worst decision in a big fight in MMA that I’ve ever seen, especially something as big as the UFC Heavyweight Title fight. I mean, I’ve watched the fight three times now and I still can’t see how you can justify giving Rutten that decision. The only damage he did was cosmetic damage, cutting Randleman’s head, and while he was arguably more active from the bottom at points, it doesn’t change the fact that firstly, Randleman’s flurries did more damage anyway, and secondly (and most importantly), Randleman controlled exactly where the fight took place, Rutten didn’t have an answer for his takedowns, and he was unable to get back to his feet or come close with a submission from the bottom. In all honesty, and don’t get me wrong, I like Bas as a personality and I respect him a ton, but it felt like SEG had decided that he’d be the new face of the company, so he was winning no matter what if it went to decision. And win he did, albeit in the worst way possible.

And, we end there.

Final Thoughts....

As a show on the whole, this is nothing special really. Full of squashes for the most part, although Telligman-Rizzo is a fun brawl. Still, it’s definitely worth a look for the main event alone, as although it’s not what you’d call a great fight or anything, the shady decision makes it a must-see regardless. If you’re one of those people who loves to criticise the judges and thought stuff like Griffin-Ortiz or Bonnar-Jardine was a bad decision, well, watch Randleman vs. Rutten and you might think twice. Recommended for the curiosity factor around Rutten-Randleman, but if you can get hold of the main event alone, you’re probably better off doing that as the rest is just your run-of-the-mill UFC stuff from this era.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, and 18.
UFC: 21, 61, 62, 63, 64 and the TUF II Finale.
Cage Rage: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17.
WEC: 10 and 11.
WFA: 1, 2 and 3.
King of the Cage: 15, 18, 21, 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42 and 48.
Best of Shooto 2003 vols. 1 & 2.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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