Itís pretty crazy to see Haynes down at 170lbs now after fighting most of his career at 205lbs or above, but then I guess anything Joe Riggs can do, you know. This was Cummoís first fight in about nine months after layoffs from various injuries.
They circle to begin, and Cummo fires off a quick one-two. Punching exchange follows with Haynes swinging wildly, but neither guy gets really hurt and they go into a clinch, where Haynes gets a takedown to guard. Luke kicks him away and stands though, and then lands a body shot into another clinch. They break off and circle out, with Cummo throwing a couple of front kicks, using his range nicely. Exchange follows and Cummo rocks him with a big left hand, causing Haynes to shoot into the clinch, but Cummo muscles him off quickly and then begins to press, landing some nice combinations before avoiding a takedown at the end of the round.
Cummo continues to press forward to open the 2nd, landing a nice double left jab and following with a right. Another good one-two follows as Haynes looks to be being picked apart. Haynes gets a clinch but Luke breaks and follows with a straight kick to the body. More combinations from Luke as Haynes canít seem to find an answer, just winging wild punches that Cummo easily avoids. Finally Luke closes in and NAILS him with a big right hand, sending Haynes bouncing off the fence, and referee Kerry Hatley steps in to stop things....and Haynes gets him with a double leg takedown.
Post-fight Haynes tries to claim an early stoppage, but dude, if youíre tackling the REF instead of your opponent youíre definitely not with it. Cummo looked excellent standing in this fight, hitting sharp strikes and using his range well, and in the end he was able to use his more technical kickboxing to pick apart the brawling Haynes. Good showing from the TUF II finalist.
The renaissance of Marcus Davis has certainly been interesting to watch, as after the pro-boxer got pretty much tooled on TUF II by Joe Stevenson and then lost to Melvin Guillard on the Finale, many fans (myself included) figured the 33-year old would probably fade into retirement, just not well rounded enough for the top level of MMA. But proving everyone wrong, Davis trained harder, honed his skills, especially on the ground, and reeled off five successive wins on the smaller circuit before returning to UFC with two impressive victories over Forrest Petz and Shonie Carter. His opponent here, Spratt Ė another man criticised for not being well rounded enough Ė was coming off a UFC win of his own, over Jeremy Jackson following a stint on TUF IV. Pretty even match on paper I wouldíve said, with the ground advantage to Davis.
Round 1 and Davis opens with a quick left hand, before clinching and muscling Spratt to the ground. Davis passes to half-guard and almost gets the full mount, but Spratt scrambles and gets an elevator. Davis manages to stay on top though, and then passes to side mount, only for Spratt to scramble once more and regain half-guard. Davis stands up, before dropping back into the guard with some punches. This time he works to pass and gets more success, taking Sprattís back and locking in a body triangle. Spratt does well to defend the rear naked choke, stuck in the body triangle with Davis on his back for over a minute, but eventually he works free and turns into Davisís guard as the round comes to conclusion.
They circle to begin the 2nd, and Spratt lands a pair of seriously nasty leg kicks, marking up Davisís leg instantly. They exchange into the clinch and Davis slips to his back, so Spratt closes in with a combo, ending with a high kick! Couple more kicks land for Spratt, but Davis looks okay and then Spratt slips to his back on a high kick attempt and ends up in guard. Davis works to half-guard and looks to pass, but Spratt manages to escape to his feet. Davis grabs him in a headlock though, and gets a trip down to guard, before standing and dropping for a leglock. Spratt tries to defend, but Davis twists him up in an ankle lock for the tapout.
Another good win for Davis, who once again showed off his much-improved ground skills to tap Spratt after he seemed somewhat outgunned standing. Got to be one of the most improved fighters out there. For Spratt though, this was another disappointment, and he remains one of the most frustrating guys to watch Ė great standing but so far behind in the ground game. Decent fight though.
This was one of the more intriguing fights on this card for me, just because Iím a big fan of both men and always like to watch them. Both were coming off losses though, disappointing for different reasons. For Sell, heíd been firmly in control of his fight with Scott Smith before charging in with his hands down, looking for the finish, and getting caught and knocked out himself. For Leites, despite being one of the more eagerly awaited debutants of 2006, he had put in a largely unimpressive showing against Martin Kampmann and came off on the wrong end of a decision and a bit of a beatdown. Both were looking for some redemption here.
They circle to open the first round, and Sell avoids an early takedown attempt and clips Leites with a right hand. Thales keeps pressing though, and then gets a beautiful turning takedown into Sellís guard. He immediately locks up an arm triangle choke, passing from half-guard to the side, but from there he transitions into a back mount and gets both hooks in. Sell defends that position well, so Leites turns for the arm triangle again. Sell hooks Leitesí leg to block, but Thales transitions instead to full mount. Sell does well to scramble to half-guard, but eats some nasty punches from the top as he does so. Leites begins to open up with more shots from the top, before getting the arm triangle again, passing to the side to attempt to close it out, but Sell uses the answering the phone technique to defend, and survives the round.
Leites opens the 2nd with a sharp leg kick, and avoids Sellís punches. He shoots, but Sell blocks into a clinch and then muscles the Brazilian off. Leites lands another good leg kick though, and shoots once more, but this time Sell locks up a guillotine choke and pulls guard. Leites immediately steps to half-guard though, and then works his head free, before taking full mount. Sell gets back to half-guard, but it doesnít help him as Thales works from the top and lands some BRUTAL punches and elbows, marking Sellís face up badly. Leites mounts and tries the arm triangle again, but ends up releasing it and just continues to beat Sell down, punishing him with some really nasty elbows. Sellís face looks a MESS as they head back to their corners between rounds.
Third and final round, and Leites opens with some more leg kicks, before taking a bodyshot from Sell. Leites shoots in, but Sell manages to reverse and for the first time in the fight, gets on top in Leitesí guard. He stands though, and Leites shoots in to the clinch again. Sell manages to break, but eats a nice hopping knee and a left hand from Thales coming forward. Leites lands a right hand and then gets the takedown to guard, where Sell locks up another guillotine. Leites quickly works free into half-guard, then takes full mount and opens up with more elbows and punches, pinning Sell into the fence for good measure. More heavy shots continue to land and the fight ends with Sell just taking more punishment.
Leites takes the lopsided decision, 30-27ís all round. Probably wouldíve been even more lopsided had it not been for Sellís guillotine attempts, in fact you could make an argument for stopping that fight at various points I would say, Sell was barely defending from his back and took a tremendous beating. Leites was extremely impressive here, looking like the contender heíd been hyped to be pre-Kampmann fight, and he utterly dominated Sell for the full fifteen minutes, especially on the ground where Sell isnít exactly a slouch, either. Very one-sided fight but watchable at the same time.
After a horribly disappointing debut in a very boring fight with Jake OíBrien, Herring was thrown somewhat of a bone here, given a fight in his home state against probably the one guy that guarantees excitement every time simply because heís so sloppy and inexperienced in Brad Imes. Imes was coming off a layoff of around a year himself, and was looking to impress after suffering losses post-TUF II.
We get underway and they clinch up, and Imes surprisingly gets a takedown directly to full mount! Herring immediately rolls him though and Imes goes for an armbar from his guard, but Heath spins out and lands some elbows. Imes rolls into a weird reverse-guard position, and Herring is forced to work to avoid a footlock attempt, before ending up back in the reverse-guard. Herring lands some elbows to the tailbone and then the referee separates them, looking more confused by the position than anything else. They restart, and Heath comes wading in with some heavy punches, putting Imes DOWN with a big left! He pounds away, landing some big hammer fists and punches from side mount, but Imes manages to survive, still taking big shots. He turns into a front facelock, and then Herring spins to the back, but Imes rolls. Heath continues to bomb on him, so he rolls again, and ends up under Heathís side mount to end the round.
Round 2 opens and they exchange some BIG PUNCHES, and a combination by Herring sends Imes TUMBLING LIKE A BIG TREE!~! I LOVE BRAD IMES. Herring pounds away in the guard, and Imes simply eats the punches and manages to survive. Imes gets bloodied up badly before things slow up enough for a stand-up. Herring lands some more big punches from the restart, but Imes survives and continues to swing his own shots at Heath. Herring continues to land more heavy punches, and Imes shoots in, but Heath sprawls out and spins onto Bradís back, landing punches. Imes rolls and ends up under the side mount, before turtling up and taking more shots. Suddenly though Imes reverses and gets into top position, landing some of his own punches before the round ends!
Third and final round begins with ANOTHER big exchange, and Imes catches him with a good knee before clinching and shoving Heath to the fence. They break and exchange, and this time Imes NAILS him with a huge knee! He grabs a front headlock and lands another, and Herring goes down, so Imes spins and takes the back! Heath reverses though, and gains top position in side mount. Imes rolls into a front facelock, and Herring forgets heís in UFC and not Pride for a moment and lands a knee square to the top of the head. Ref steps in and calls time, warning Heath, and then they restart and clinch up, exchanging bodyshots. They break off before trading some more big shots into the clinch, where Herring gets a takedown to the guard and pounds away, and surprisingly Imes looks to go to the rubber guard as the fight ends!
Herring takes the unanimous decision, but credit where creditís due, Imes fought his heart out there despite never really having Heath in trouble. Honestly, Iím normally more of a fan of technical fighting, but Iíll always have a soft spot for Imes even though heís horribly sloppy just because you can always guarantee heíll throw caution to the wind and put everything into his fights. This was no exception as he took everything Herring dished out and came back for MORE. Plus, when he gets knocked down it looks comical. Very fun, if sloppy, fight.
Opening fight on the PPV portion was another Iíd been looking forward to, pitting TUF III winner Grove against up-and-comer Belcher, a man coming off one of THE best knockouts of 2006, a crazy right high kick against Jorge Santiago. General consensus was that Belcher would have the advantage standing, while Grove had the better cardio and perhaps ground skill too. Most, myself included, were expecting an explosive fight though, thatís for sure.
They press forward with feeler strikes to begin before Belcher grabs a bodylock and gets a takedown to side mount. He canít do anything with the position though before Kendall reverses to his feet, grabbing a plum clinch and landing some sharp knees to the body. Belcher breaks off and Grove lands a good right hand into the clinch, where they muscle for position before breaking again. Belcher lands a good body kick, but Grove grabs the plum clinch again and hits him with a hard knee and elbow. Kendall releases and then lands a pair of nice front kicks, using his reach. Good combination follows before Grove opens up with some more Thai-style knees to the body, really using his range, and then avoids a takedown to get on top in half-guard. They come up to the clinch, and Grove works well to defend a takedown attempt. He lands some more knees in the clinch before the ref breaks them. Grove ends the round with a combo and another straight kick before avoiding a takedown.
Belcher looks tired to open the 2nd, but comes out with a low kick, only to take another knee. He shoots for the takedown, but Grove defends it excellently and ends up on top, landing some hard elbows that cut Belcher open on the scalp, leaving a piece of skin hanging off in a gory visual. Belcher manages to scramble up and lands a good body kick, but Grove fires off with a combo and another front kick, keeping his range. Belcher hits another body kick, but Grove comes back with a body kick of his own and a BIG RIGHT HAND that stuns Belcher, sending him stumbling towards the fence. Grove comes forward with some more knees from the plum clinch, and then OPENS UP with some serious slashing elbows standing. BIG SLAM follows and Belcher ends up in half-guard, eating punches and elbows. Belcher manages to kick him off, but Grove drops down with a good punch and then locks up a choke variant, (Rogan calls it a DíArce, but Iíve been told itís actually a Brabo) and extends his body, and Belcher ends up passing out there.
Wow, that was a HUGELY impressive showing from Grove. Not only did he push a relentless pace that tired Belcher out fast and basically drained him completely by the second round, but he was against an opponent who was arguably a better technical striker, and for the first time I can recall, Kendall used his huge reach to his full advantage, keeping his range with long punches and especially the front kick, as well as utilizing the knees from the plum clinch. Iíd seen Grove as a solid prospect before this fight, but after it I can definitely see the guy as a major contender in 2-3 years at Middleweight if he continues to improve at the rate he has since 2006. Probably my pick for most improved fighter in recent years actually.
I believe this was originally booked for UFC 68 a month prior, but got moved to this show in order to get the hometown boy Swick a fight in Houston. Swick was on a major roll at this point, coming off his biggest win yet over David Loiseau, while Okami had been quietly gaining steam on the prelims, rolling over Alan Belcher, Kalib Starnes, and Rory Singer with little difficulty. Announcers are selling this as a potential #1 Contenderís fight even.
Swick paws with a jab to open the first round, and also lands a good body kick, but generally both look tentative as they circle and exchange the odd jab and kick. Swick tries a flying knee, but it turns out to be a mistake as Okami grabs a bodylock and shoves him into the fence, where he uses the underhooks to outright muscle Swick to the ground. Swick tries to stand, but Okami uses a front facelock to keep him down, and then gets on top in half-guard, where he lands some punches. Okami works for a kimura, twisting the arm up behind Swick, but Mike manages to keep the arm slightly bent and survives the round. Bit of a close call though and he looks rattled as he heads for his corner.
They press as the 2nd begins, and both men land some glancing punches from the outside. Okami gets double underhooks though, and follows with a powerful trip to guard. Swick tries to kick him off, and fails, but Okami doesnít do much from the top so the ref stands them. Swick presses forward, and finally lets his hands go, stunning Okami with a combo! Okami manages to clinch, and then works for the takedown, putting Swick on his back in guard again. Swick ties him up though, and the ref brings them back to standing, where Swick opens up and stuns him with some punches again, avoiding a takedown to end the round!
Third and final round, I have it as one round apiece so itís anyoneís fight. Swick looks to strike again and avoids the first takedown, landing a nice combination, but then Okami shoots again and gets him down to guard. Okami works to pass and then takes full mount, and from there he lands some solid punches as Swick turns from the mount to his stomach, and back again, eating shots as he does so. Referee gives Swick a LOT of opportunity to escape, as heís barely defending, just rolling back and forth, but he manages to survive and finally rolls out into Okamiís guard to a HUGE pop. Okami works the rubber guard to defend, but Swick passes to half-guard and lands some shots as the fight ends.
Crowd sound disappointed, as they know which way this oneís gone, and itís 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27 for Okami. Swick put up a solid fight and didnít really embarrass himself or anything, but Okami just proved to be too much as he was able to avoid Swickís striking outside of one or two moments and could seemingly get the takedown at will. Swickís main problem looked to be Okamiís far superior strength, as the Japanese fighter was able to muscle him to the ground with little problem from the clinch position, and this has affected Swick so much that heís dropping to 170lbs for his next fight. Another impressive showing by Okami though to knock off a guy who had been on a serious roll coming into this one.
Garcia had actually been scheduled for a fight about a year prior to this against Spencer Fisher, but was forced out by a broken leg. From what I read on him at that time though, he was seen as a really gutsy fighter with tremendous heart. Huertaís previous fight had only been about two months before this one, but had lasted all of nineteen seconds as Huerta got his opponent out of there in quick fashion.
Round 1 and Huerta presses forward, and they exchange briefly before Huerta gets the takedown. Garcia quickly scrambles up though, and they swing wild punches at each other, and follow with some wild kicks too, before Huerta gets another takedown to side mount. Garcia grabs a guillotine, but Huerta works free and lands some heavy elbows, before Garcia gives his back. Huerta gets both hooks in before Garcia rolls to mount and takes some more punches, but Garcia escapes to his feet and comes back swinging! Huerta answers and then lands a nice front kick (the photo of which was the Sports Illustrated cover) before shooting and getting a big slam. Garcia gets a guillotine on the way down, but Huerta quickly works out and lands some good shots. Garcia tries to work free, but Huerta passes to half-guard and opens up with more elbows, until they come up to the clinch and exchange knees. Garcia drops to take Rogerís back and looks for a kimura, but Huerta gets back up and lands a big knee, and they TRADE WILD PUNCHES with Garcia actually GRINNING. Huerta gets another takedown and passes to half-guard, landing some HARD punches from the top, but Garcia manages to scramble on top before the round ends! Wow that was action packed.
2nd round and we open with a WILD EXCHANGE of kicks and punches, both men just swinging with RECKLESS ABANDON!~! They clinch up and Huerta gets a takedown to half-guard, where he lands some big elbows. Garcia manages to get full guard, but eats some more shots there, before managing to scramble up and land a good knee of his own! More wild punches follow as both swing for the fences, landing heavy shots, but Huerta gets the better of it, and follows with a takedown to full mount. Big elbows land from Huerta, and Garcia tries to reverse and does manage to get back to guard. More punches land, but Garcia TAKES THEM LIKE A MAN and then kicks off to get back to his feet. The crazy exchange continues, and the crowd are deafening at this point. Huerta gets another takedown, and continues to beat on Garcia from half-guard to end the round.
Garcia shoots in to open the 3rd, but Huerta throws him off and follows with a combo. Huerta keeps coming with BIG POWER HOOKS, rocking Garcia before taking him down to guard. Garcia keeps fighting and tries a sweep, but Huerta avoids and lands some elbows in the half-guard. He continues to land and then mounts, before switching to side mount, but Garcia scrambles and somehow grabs a rear waistlock! He looks for the rear naked choke, but Huerta rolls out into guard and pounds away again, landing punch after punch after punch until the fight ends. Mad mutual respect post-fight between the two combatants.
To the judges and itís 30-27ís all around for Huerta, but man what a fight that was. Not the most technical of battles but for sheer heart and will itíll be difficult to top all year. Huerta dished out some tremendous punishment, but Garcia took it all, literally with a smile on his face, and answered by swinging right back. Bit sloppy to be considered a high-end FOTYC, but itís definitely there near the bottom of the list for me. People complain about Huertaís supposed push from the UFC brass, but seriously, when the guy is fighting like this how can you complain about him at all? Awesome stuff from beginning to end.
Co-main event was one of the more eagerly anticipated rematches in recent memory, as probably the two most successful fighters from TUF Iís Middleweight division collided again. Not only were expectations high because their first fight had been pretty damn good, but this one had become horribly personal, with insults traded all the way building to the fight before a nasty incident at the weigh-ins saw Sanchez almost shove Koscheck off the stage. Personally I was pulling for Diego as heís one of my very favourite fighters to watch, but I had never been as anti-Koscheck as some and was expecting an exciting fight here.
Big staredown pre-fight, and then they begin and circle off, with Diego avoiding a couple of right high kicks. Both men fire off some punches, with nothing landing, before Koscheck dodges a flying knee. Both men continue to avoid the otherís punches, and not much happens at all, with the only action coming from Koscheck as he lands a right hand, a jab, and an inside leg kick at different points. Crowd begin to get restless with about 30 seconds to go, when Koscheck shoots in and gets a big takedown. Diego immediately works for a sweep as they hit the ground though, and actually takes Koscheckís back, getting his second hook in on the buzzer. Dull opener.
2nd round begins with more of the same, with Diego landing basically nothing, and Koscheck only landing a little more than that. Kos does catch him with a big right hand though, and follows with a decent combo. Diego keeps trying to swing, but just canít land a thing, and Koscheck catches him with a leg kick and another solid right. Diego looks absolutely lost, but Koscheck still only picks him off with the odd jab from the outside. Crowd are seriously booing now as the second round ends with no fanfare.
Third and final round begins as slowly as the other two, with meandering circling and Sanchez landing nothing. Koscheck gets a good right hand in, but thatís about it, as the crowd continue to boo loudly. Koscheck continues to fight very tentatively, landing the odd shot from the outside as Diego tries to pick up the pace, but seems unable to put together any offence. Clock begins to tick down, and Koscheck ends the fight with a pair of glancing right high kicks.
Eddie Bravo scores it 30-27 Koscheck, describing it as a ďperfect fightĒ, but if you can call it that youíre insane. Judges have it the same way, leaving Diego 19-1, and Koscheck celebrating like he just knocked the guy out cold.
Honestly, I donít think Iíve ever felt this let down by a fight before in my life. I was expecting one of Diegoís usual crazy fights, with mad scrambles on the ground and all the different positions and stuff, and instead I got the second coming of Severn-Shamrock II with the endless circling. Did Koscheck fight a smart fight? Sure Ė he couldíve taken Diego down at will, but probably knew that Diego is the master of the scramble and would inevitably reverse him at some point. So instead he kept it standing and picked apart the lesser striker from the outside. However, it wasnít exactly like say, Cro Cop picking off Nogueira in their opening round Ė Koscheck maybe landed like five or six clean shots to Diegoís one each round, and this made for one of the dullest fights Iíve ever seen. How Koscheck can celebrate like he did, even though a win is a win, I donít know. I mean, Diego came off worse Ė the only thing worse than winning a boring fight is losing one and hopefully he can rebuild later in the year Ė but even in winning I donít think this did anything for Koscheck. I would say both men deserve equal blame in the end. Absolutely atrocious fight that brought down the whole card.
Main event looked on paper like one of the most one-sided UFC main events in recent memory, as TUF IV winner Serra challenged the seemingly unstoppable St-Pierre for his Welterweight Title. Seriously, I canít recall anyone outside of Serra himself who was giving ĎThe Terrorí a chance here, as he had only squeaked through the TUF IV tournament and hadnít exactly looked like a world-beater at WW in the past (although I always considered him an underrated Lightweight) while GSP was coming off a crushing defeat of arguably the greatest Welterweight of all time in Matt Hughes, and thatís not even mentioning his victories over Parisyan, Sherk, Trigg, Penn, and so on! Still, anything can happen in MMA, as we had seen a month beforehand in Couture/Sylvia. Generally the thought was that Serraís only chance was on the ground, where he would have a chance of submitting the champion, but the problem would be getting the fight to the ground Ė GSP after all had easily avoided takedowns from Hughes and Sherk. For St-Pierre, well, not many people mentioned his gameplan Ė he was just expected to win.
Round 1 gets underway, and GSP avoids Serraís early swings and fires off some glancing left kicks. Neither man lands anything major, although Serra catches him with a couple of good bodyshots coming in. About two minutes gone and it suddenly becomes clear that Serraís a lot harder to actually hit than was previously imagined Ė St-Pierre continues to fire kicks and punches but canít seem to catch him. Suddenly, Serra wings a wild right hook that catches GSP on the back of the head. It looks for a moment like GSPís slipped off balance...but suddenly it becomes clear that for the first time in his career, St-Pierre is badly stunned. Serra closes in with a flurry of punches, causing GSP to stumble around before sliding to the mat! He pops back up, but eats another HUGE RIGHT from Serra that hurts him BAD. St-Pierre tries a single leg out of sheer desperation, but Serra easily blocks, before sending him flying with another right hand! Crowd are going INSANE at this point as Serra takes full mount and pounds away for the stoppage!
Holy God. They say anything can happen in MMA, but Christ, for sure thatís the biggest upset I can ever recall seeing since I became a fan of the sport. I mean...looking back, it is true that nobody had ever clocked St-Pierre right on the chin before (Penn only busted him up cosmetically really) and it was impossible to tell how he would react when that happened, but for Matt Serra Ė MATT SERRA Ė to be the guy to do so is pretty crazy. GSP just didnít look comfortable right from the start, unable to get off with his strikes, while Serra was the opposite Ė completely relaxed and just waiting for his opportunity. Whether itís a fluke victory or the start of an amazing run for Serra we donít yet know, just as we donít know whether this is the start of a slide for GSP or simply a stumbling block, but regardless, in a year full of upsets this undoubtedly sits at the top of the pile. Incredible stuff.
-And we end with a highlight reel of the nightís action, discounting Sanchez-Koscheck as ďactionĒ of course.
If Sanchez-Koscheck had delivered in the way I had hoped, this probably wouldíve been considered one of, if not the best show of the year thus far. True, itís a long show with nothing outside of the main ending in the first round and a number of decisions, but when those decisions are fights like Huerta-Garcia and Herring-Imes you canít complain. Leites-Sell and Grove-Belcher are a little one-sided but still highly entertaining, and Swick-Okami does have slow points but thatís generally solid too. And as a GSP fanboy the main event is definitely hard to stomach, but thereís no denying itís a pretty amazing fight. But...itís the stinker that is Kos-Diego that puts a dampener on this card, as what was one of the more eagerly anticipated fights this year ended up being a damp squib. If you can ignore the existence of that one, then UFC 69 is generally one of the yearís better shows. Thumbs leaning up.
UFC: 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, Fight Nights 1-10, and the TUF III Finale.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.