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UFC 21: Return Of The Champions review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 5, 2006, 7:26 AM

UFC 21: Return Of The Champions

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Jeff Blatnick, who talk about Pat Miletich’s homecoming title defense, as well as the main event between legends Marco Ruas and Maurice Smith.

-Goldberg explains the new rounds system, introducing the five-minute rounds for the first time, as well as the ten point must system based on effective striking, grappling, aggression and Octagon control. Same system as used today, except back here preliminary fights were only two rounds whereas now they are three. Before I’d watched the shows I wondered whether the Rutten/Randleman decision had anything to do with this, but looking at it now it just seems like they did it in order to attempt to get some more acceptance at a time when Senator John McCain was looking to ban MMA for good.

Middleweight Fight: Eugene Jackson vs Royce Alger

We’re opening with a fight between debutant Eugene ‘The Wolf’ Jackson, and hometown wrestling hero Royce Alger, who was armbarred at UFC 13 by Enson Inoue. Jackson looks in pretty good shape here, really cut up, while Alger’s pretty much the opposite, looking really flabby. Big pop for Alger though.

They begin and Alger comes forward and tries to shoot for a takedown, but Jackson manages to muscle him off. Alger shoots in again quickly, but Jackson sprawls to avoid this time and gets away again. Eugene comes forward swinging, but Alger gets a bodylock and forces him back looking for the takedown again, but this time Jackson grabs the fence to avoid and receives a warning. Alger drops a bit lower and manage to get him down to half-guard against the fence, where Jackson grabs a guillotine to hold him close. Alger pops his head out, but Jackson uses the fence to get back to his feet, angering the crowd who spot him holding onto it again. They exchange punches against the fence, and Alger lands a heavy combination and then drags Jackson to the mat and gets a side mount. Alger tries a keylock but can’t get it, so he gets a full mount and then OPENS UP with the punches, wailing away, but Jackson manages to slip free and get back to his feet. Alger comes forward, but Jackson catches him with a left to wobble him, and then avoids a takedown and rocks him with another left to end the round.

Into the 2nd and Alger looks tired, coming out with his hands low, but he manages to duck a swing from Jackson and shoots for a leg, but Jackson blocks it and avoids. Alger continues to press, getting a single leg, but Jackson immediately muscles out and Alger’s too tired to keep him down. Alger comes forward again, but walks into some heavy punches as Jackson backs up, and finally Jackson NAILS him with a big left hook for the knockout.

Alger didn’t look too bad in the first round but he tired out quickly and Jackson took over from there as he was too strong for Alger to take down, and had far better strikes standing. Proper highlight reel knockout too, UFC used it for years on their opening highlight package until they switched to the current gladiator format in 2002.

Heavyweight Fight: Tsuyoshi Kosaka vs Tim Lajcik

Lajcik is known as ‘The Bohemian’, no idea why he’d want to call himself that. He’s Eugene Jackson’s training partner and he’s a HUGE guy with a background in wrestling and submission fighting. Kosaka was looking to bounce back from his loss to Bas Rutten at UFC 18 in his first Octagon appearance since then, and he looks a lot smaller than Lajcik coming into this.

They get the first underway and TK lands a couple of kicks. Lajcik answers by winging some punches at him, but Kosaka ducks under and shoots for the takedown. Lajcik sprawls to avoid and then spins onto TK’s back in a nice move, but Kosaka rolls right into half-guard. Not much happens as Lajcik doesn’t really do much from the top, before Kosaka gets a leg and tries a heel hook. Lajcik manages to roll to avoid and then gets on top, landing punches on TK back into his half-guard. Lajcik continues to slug from the top, cutting Kosaka slightly, but he does no real damage and the round ends shortly after.

Into the 2nd, and Kosaka lands a low kick, then ducks a swing and shoots in, but Lajcik sprawls and spins over to a back mount again. Kosaka rolls and gets half-guard, same as the first round, but Lajcik passes to full mount this time. He sits up to try some punches, but Kosaka gets his legs up and hooks Lajcik down, right into a leglock attempt! Lajcik escapes nicely again, and gets on top in half-guard once more, where he lands some punches. Kosaka tries an armbar, but Lajcik avoids, allowing Kosaka to get a butterfly guard in the process. Lajcik gets inactive from the top again and not much happens, until Kosaka uses the butterfly to get a sweep, pinning Lajcik into the fence in a side mount. TK works him over with a series of hard punches and forearms to the head and body, really roughing him up, and the punishment continues until the round ends. Between rounds though Lajcik can barely stand and he’s got a weird look in his eyes apparently, so his corner throw in the towel there.

Lajcik was in control for most of this fight but he was unable to do much damage at all from the top position, and Kosaka stayed calm throughout and then once he was able to get on top, he really went to town and obviously hurt Lajcik a lot more than it appeared, as Lajcik was completely out of it when he got up. Pretty good performance from TK here.

Middleweight Fight: Paul Jones vs Flavio Luiz Moura

Moura is a young Luta Livre fighter coming out of Brazil who the announcers don’t know all that much about, while Jones is a local guy trained in shootfighting, and he looks quite a bit bigger than his opponent here.

They get underway and whoa, Moura drops him almost immediately with what looked to be a short right hand, and hops right onto his back, looking for a choke. He gets a high back mount, but doesn’t get his hooks in properly and Jones manages to escape and turn things around, landing some punches from the top as Moura gets a full guard. Moura tries an armbar, but Jones avoids it and moves him into the fence, where he works him over with a series of punches and forearms as the Brazilian just looks overmatched. More shots land from Jones, and he passes into a side mount and then lands some heavy elbows to the head. Jones takes his back, and then locks in a standing rear naked choke, before pulling Moura down for the tapout there.

Moura started off pretty strong, but as soon as Jones recovered from the early shot he just overpowered him, and the size difference looked to give Jones a big advantage as he basically outmatched the Brazilian guy. Jones would go on to lose to Chuck Liddell in his next UFC appearance, for those who care about such things.

-Bruce Buffer announces that Frank Shamrock vs. Tito Ortiz for the UFC Middleweight Title is signed for the September show, and we segue into a video package plugging the fight. Both guys join us in the Octagon, with Frank saying he’ll break Tito, and Ortiz calling himself the ‘Lion Tamer’, and saying that it’s going to be out with the old, in with the new. Both guys came off like total superstars here, much moreso than anyone on this show.

Middleweight Fight: Jeremy Horn vs Daiju Takase

Horn was only 23 here but already sported a record of 31-4-4, and he was coming off his now-famous chokeout win over Chuck Liddell at UFC 19. Big selling point for Takase is that he was able to beat Emmanuel Yarborough, the big sumo guy from one of the early UFCs, at one of the early Pride shows. Again like with the last match, there’s a big size difference here, as Horn looks a lot larger.

Horn works some leg kicks to begin as Takase circles like he’s looking for a big punch. Takase blocks a high kick, but more low kicks land from Jeremy and he follows with a combination of punches and some knees in a plum clinch. Takase shoots in for the takedown, but Horn ends up on top and gets a side mount, where he lands some knees to the body and some nice elbows to the face. Horn gets a big knee to the head and some more elbows, before taking a full mount and landing a vicious flurry. Horn actually stops at one point and asks the ref if he’s allowed to strike the back of the head from the mount position. Takase looks in trouble and with about 25 seconds remaining Horn flurries again, really pounding him now and the ref steps in to stop things there.

Dominating performance from Horn who just completely outclassed Takase in all facets of the game.

UFC Lightweight Title: Pat Miletich vs Andre Pederneiras

Interesting fight here as both of these guys are probably more well-known today for who they’ve trained, as Miletich has his famous camp with the likes of Hughes, Sylvia, Horn and Pulver, while Pederneiras is the Jiu-Jitsu trainer behind most of the Nova Uniao fighters such as BJ Penn, Thales Leites, and Vitor Ribeiro. I believe Andre had a big reputation coming into this despite only sporting one fight on his record, as he’d knocked out the top-ranked Rumina Sato in that one fight with a kick. Miletich had been criticised for some boring performances before this one, and had promised to shed the boring tag in front of his home state fans here.

No surprises with the crowd reaction, as Pederneiras gets booed, while Miletich gets a huge pop from the Iowa fans. UFC matchmaker John Peretti joins us on commentary for this one. They circle tentatively to open, throwing out some jabs to test their range, before Pederneiras lands a low kick, so Miletich rushes him and grabs a head clinch, hitting him with some knees to the body. Miletich forces him back into the fence, but they break swiftly and Miletich lands a good left hook into a brief punching exchange. Miletich continues to work the left jab, before landing a right back into the clinch. They exchange some knees and punches in close, and then come back out where Pederneiras tries to grab him for a clinch, but Miletich breaks with an elbow to the head. Pederneiras starts to look frustrated now and comes forward, into a left hook from Miletich but he starts waving his hands and dropping them to bait Miletich in, before landing a stiff low kick. They go into the clinch, and exchange knees and body shots to end the first round. Interesting that Pederneiras never really tried to get it to the ground there.

Into the 2nd and they both press the action, with Miletich working the left jab again. Pederneiras throws a low kick, but Miletich counters with a big right hand, catching him over the left eye and busting him wide open. Pederneiras looks stunned momentarily and Miletich lands a leg kick, then comes forward, but Pederneiras gets a clinch and pulls guard, where he lands an elbow to the back of the head. Miletich complains to John McCarthy who calls a stop to the fight to give Pederneiras a warning, but then they check his cut over and the doctors put a stop to things for good there due to the cut over the left eye. More exciting fight than Miletich’s previous UFC efforts, but it wasn’t exactly a barnburner either to be fair.

-The president of SEG awards Miletich with a medal for his achievements in winning the Lightweight title and defending it successfully twice. Miletich takes a shot at the internet fans in his post-match spiel.

-Mikey Burnett, apparently the #1 Contender for Miletich’s title joins us and cuts an AWESOME heel promo, calling out Miletich for “ducking him” and then referring to the Iowa fans as “nimrods”. He ends by calling himself the *real* Lightweight champion, and gets booed out of the building. Man was that a cool promo, basically classic pro-wrestling stuff. Shamrock himself should’ve taken lessons off this guy in his WWF run!

-Speaking of Ken, he joins us with the announcers, and talks about the announcement of Tito vs. Frank, saying that he’s glad Frank is back, and talking about how Tito “crossed a line” with the infamous Gay Mezger t-shirt. He goes on to discuss Mikey Burnett and basically accuses the UFC promoters of avoiding giving him a rematch with Miletich, and then he talks about his own potential comeback.

Heavyweight Fight: Maurice Smith vs Marco Ruas

Ken stays with us to call this fight and says that he feels Smith has the advantage standing, Ruas on the ground, and it’ll come down to whichever of them can “recapture their warrior spirit” and impose their will. Both guys are being pushed pretty heavily as legit UFC legends who have fallen from grace, Ruas for his UFC 7 tournament victory and subsequent loss in the Ultimate Ultimate and absence from UFC (ignoring his loss to Otsuka in Pride), and Smith obviously for the win over Coleman, and subsequent loss of the title to Randy Couture and the following loss to Kevin Randleman. They finally reveal Ruas’s age, too – he’s billed as being 38 here, which looks about right I guess.

Smith opens with some low kicks, but Ruas catches one and gets the takedown. He takes a head-and-leg cradle into side mount and pins him into the fence, but does pretty much nothing with the position for some reason and Smith manages to work his way back to standing after a while on the bottom. Ruas immediately brings him back down, into Smith’s guard this time, where nothing really happens for a while again until Ruas drops back for a heel hook attempt. Looks for a second like he’s got it, but Smith manages to roll to alleviate the pressure and then gets on top and nails him with a punch in the face, causing Marco to release. Smith gets into Ruas’s half-guard now and peppers him with some short shots, but Ruas rolls for another heel hook and almost gets it as the round comes to an end. Ruas limps back to his corner though and between rounds, despite his corner begging him to continue, he throws the towel in due to a knee injury.

Real letdown there as it looked to be a freak injury too – the replays can’t find anything to suggest that Ruas might’ve injured his knee in the fight – the best the announcers can come up with is that he might’ve twisted it as he rolled for the heel hook – but then Ruas confirms through his interpreter that he was carrying a knee injury coming in anyway, and didn’t want to pull out. Ah well, injuries happen, but this was a letdown.

Heavyweight Fight: Ron Waterman vs Andre Roberts

They decide to show us a prelim bout from earlier in the night, I’m guessing because the main event went so quickly. Hell most of the fights went down pretty quickly as it goes. Waterman was coming off an impressive and quick win at UFC 20 and the announcers were pushing him as a potential HW title threat there, while Roberts had lost his last UFC appearance pretty badly, suffering a broken nose at the hands of Gary Goodridge.

Waterman comes right out swinging and tags him quickly with punches and knees in a Thai clinch, looking much faster than the larger Roberts who’s in trouble early. Waterman absolutely BATTERS him with knees and then a long sequence of punches against the fence, I’m surprised Roberts is standing, and the official steps in there to check Roberts over as his face is covered in blood. They clean him up and decide he’s okay to continue, and when they restart Waterman continues to pummel him, backing him into the fence, but suddenly Roberts comes back with a big one-two that puts Waterman on the mat! H2O looks badly dazed and tries a shot, but can’t get Roberts down, and they come back up, Waterman still looking wobbly, and a BIG LEFT HOOK finishes things for Roberts there. Crazy comeback in a pretty exciting heavyweight slugfest, it looked like the difference was purely in the fact that Roberts could take a big punch while Waterman couldn’t.

-And we go back to the announcers who talk some more about Miletich and hype Frank-Tito again, and then end the show there.

Final Thoughts....

UFC 21 is pretty much a nothing show, even for the standards of it’s time period. Undercard is filled with squashes for the most part, and it’s not even like they’re hugely entertaining – stuff like Horn/Takase and Jones/Moura were more just, bleh than highlight-reel stuff. TK’s fight was pretty good and Jackson/Alger had it’s moments, but the two main events weren’t that great, especially Ruas/Smith which ended on a really anticlimactic note and wasn’t anything amazing while it lasted either. A show you’re probably best not bothering with, to be perfectly frank.

Coming Soon....

Pride: 9, 10, 11, and 18.
UFC: 61, 62, 63, and 64.
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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