UFC 84: Ill Will review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on May 26, 2009, 10:00 AM
UFC 84: Ill Will
Las Vegas, Nevada
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. It should be noted that this was the first show to be sponsored by Bud Light, which was I believe a pretty huge development for Zuffa in breaking UFC into the proper mainstream.
-It’s worth pointing out too that the weigh-in for this show was perhaps the most eventful weigh-in in UFC history (it’s on the bonus DVD as an extra actually) as we had Tito Ortiz come out with a t-shirt reading “DANA IS MY BITCH” as the UFC president wasn’t there, Goran Reljic randomly headbutt Wilson Gouveia, a crazy staredown between Jardine and Wanderlei, and Sean Sherk booed out of the building in between chants of “STEROIDS!”.
Carwin’s debut was pretty interesting in the fact that well, any Heavyweight prospect is interesting these days and Carwin was 8-0 coming into the UFC, all first round stoppages, a former Division II national champion in wrestling and the dude is HUGE. Like Brock Lesnar huge, ripped up at 260lbs. His opponent, AKA’s Wellisch, hadn’t fought since a win at UFC 76 over Scott Junk.
They circle off and Carwin comes right out looking stiff, throwing heavy, straight punches. Wellisch clips him with a right hand as Rogan talks about Carwin’s lack of head movement. Doesn’t mean squat though as Carwin lands a DEVASTATING RIGHT HAND that knocks Wellisch silly.
Absolutely brutal knockout. If you watch closely you can actually see the mouthpiece fly out of Wellisch’s mouth, scary stuff. Carwin didn’t really get chance to show anything outside of the knockout, but who cares? As far as debuts go you can’t get more definitive than that.
Dong became the first ever Korean fighter to enter the Octagon with his debut here, and the ‘Stun Gun’ was sporting an impressive record of 9-0. I believe his debut caused Korean TV channels to air the UFC live for the first time too, which is cool. England’s Tan was his opponent for reasons I don’t know, as he hadn’t been seen in the Octagon for almost a year. Mike Goldberg tells us Tan’s been training with BJ Penn for this fight though, which is interesting. And man, Dong is seriously cut up, very impressive physique.
They get started and Tan comes forward swinging, but walks into a right hook that drops him to his knees. He looks for a takedown, but Dong stuffs it and lands a pair of knees to the body. Tan really goes for the single leg, but Dong blocks and elbows the side of the head, cutting the Englishman open. Tan still can’t get Dong down, and in the end the Korean tosses Tan onto his back and takes full mount. Tan takes a lot of shots and ends up giving his back, but can’t shake Dong off. Tan scrambles and tries to grab the legs, but ends up flat on his back again under the mount. Hammer fists land for Dong before he stands and drops a big left hand right onto the jaw. Tan to his credit keeps trying for an escape, and manages to get a butterfly guard, but he just continues to take punishment with punches and elbows. Dong passes to mount again, where he lands some more brutal elbows. This is a serious beating that the ref ought to think about stopping really. It’s Steve Mazzagatti I think though so hey. HUGE series of elbows land for the Korean as Tan looks to try anything now, attempting to lock up a kimura. Knee to the belly position follows as Dong brutalizes him some more. That’s a 10-8 round if I ever saw one.
I’m surprised Tan is even coming out for the second. Tough guy, obviously. He tries a high kick to begin, but Dong avoids it easily. Nice left counter from Dong too. He slips and Tan gets a clinch, but again he can’t get the takedown and Kim lifts him up and just drops him to the ground. Tan pops up to try the takedown again, but Dong blocks and then delivers a beautiful judo throw down into side mount. He looks for the full mount but Tan blocks, and gets into half-guard. Tan tries for the rubber guard, but it slips off and Dong lands a left hand to pay him back. This is nasty. Dong works to pass again and hops right into side control with little trouble, and from there he rams his elbow into Tan’s throat. Christ. He looks for full mount again but Tan gets a butterfly guard in. Dong jumps right out of it though and gets back to side mount. Full mount swiftly follows. Big left elbow lands as Tan scrambles back to butterfly guard, but Dong hops right out of it to side control again. Tan does a good job of getting back to full guard, but it doesn’t really help him as Dong lands a couple of VICIOUS elbows to the head. More punishment follows until the buzzer sounds. I’d probably call it 10-9 but this is still one of the most one-sided fights I can remember seeing recently.
Third and final round, and Tan swings and closes the distance, but Dong hits another sickening throw and lands right into knee on belly position. This time he traps Tan’s arm and drops some nasty elbows, bouncing Tan’s head off the mat, and this time Mazzagatti spots that Tan’s gone and stops the fight. Looks like Tan was out cold actually, eyes rolling back and everything.
Total one-sided beatdown, very impressive debut for the Korean fighter. Tan looked overmatched to be fair and that was probably the case, but it meant for a highlight reel of throws, guard passing, and brutal elbows for Dong. Surprised it went on as long as it did to be honest as the first round especially was a massacre. Entertaining stuff though.
Another debut in the third fight, with Yoshiyuki Yoshida – the man who’d won Japan’s Cage Force tournament in 2007, beating formerly top ten ranked Akira Kikuchi into retirement in the process – making his first Octagon appearance to take on inexplicable fan favourite ‘War Machine’. Well, I can sort of understand Koppenhaver’s popularity after the fight he had on the TUF VI Finale, but even so. I was expecting War Machine to put up a spirited fight, but end up falling to the more talented Japanese fighter in the late rounds.
Round One, and War Machine presses forward with a low kick. They exchange some punches into a clinch, where Yoshida hits a HUGE JUDO THROW to slam Koppenhaver onto his back. Yoshida lands in side mount and War Machine scrambles, but gets caught in a guillotine and from there Yoshida transitions to an anaconda choke and rolls him over, and War Machine ends up passing out rather than tapping.
Beautiful choke for the finish, one of the best submission finishes of the year in fact. War Machine simply made the mistake of clinching as opposed to striking from the outside, and it was over as soon as he got thrown really. I might’ve been overestimating War Machine but I never expected that to be so quick and easy for Yoshida. Third impressive debut on the trot, too!
The UK’s Etim made a rare US appearance here, surprising as the next UFC show was in England anyway. Originally he was scheduled to fight fellow striker Rob Emerson, but the Saint picked up an injury in training and so Rich Clementi – fresh off a close win over Sam Stout at UFC 83 – stepped in on short notice and became one of the few fighters to do back-to-back UFCs, particularly in the modern era with monthly PPVs or close to that. I was pulling for Etim, naturally, but on paper this was a tough match for him.
They begin and Etim throws out some nice low kicks, but Clementi looks calm and goes for a takedown. Etim does well to avoid it, and circles back out, where he continues to work the low kicks. Nice left hand into a leg kick combo lands for the Scouser. Clementi comes back with a couple of low kicks of his own. Etim lands a glancing head kick, as Clementi tries to walk him down and close the distance. Clementi manages to get a takedown to half-guard, where he looks to pass. Etim tries to use the fence to get to his feet, and gets a full guard, but Clementi works to keep him down and lands some hammer fists. Nothing too damaging though and the ref brings them back to their feet. Clementi just about blocks a head kick, and then comes forward aggressively, but Etim lands an uppercut that drops him! Etim ends up on top, but Clementi recovers quickly and manages to deflect most of Etim’s following barrage. They come back to standing and Etim narrowly misses another high kick. Clinch, and Etim lands some nice knees inside and then breaks off and clips Rich with a left hook on the way out. Another left hook lands right before the buzzer. Good opening round, I’d probably give it to Etim for the damage he did standing I think.
2nd round, and Clementi wastes no time in coming forward with an uppercut. Etim circles off and looks to pick him apart with strikes, but Rich takes a leg kick and gets a nice single leg down to half-guard. Etim grabs a guillotine as Clementi tries to pass, but it doesn’t really look tight enough and Rich works his way free. Clementi slides his leg free into side control, but Etim does a decent job of defending and Clementi doesn’t really do that much damage from the position, just landing some short punches to the side of the head. Etim looks a bit stuck on his back as Rich continues to chip away, but then we get a controversial call as Yves Lavigne stands them up. Well, Clementi *wasn’t* doing much if we’re being honest, but I don’t like to see stand-ups from a position of dominance like side mount. Good body kick from Etim from the restart, and Clementi looks for a takedown, but gets caught with the guillotine again and Etim pulls guard with a body triangle, but Rich pops his head out quickly. Etim holds the tight guard and holds onto the head, preventing damage again, as Clementi tries to stay busy from the top to avoid another stand-up. Round ends inside Etim’s guard. Definitely Clementi’s round that time, but this is a close fight.
Into the 3rd, and Etim opens with a stiff jab and a knee to the body. Clementi grabs a bodylock though, and manages to force Etim to the ground again, landing in half-guard. Clementi grinds the elbow into Etim’s face and tries to land punches, but Etim defends pretty well again, getting back to full guard. Clementi tries to stay busy with some chopping left hands, but they don’t really do much as Etim blocks, although it’s enough for the ref to let them stay down there. Crowd begin to boo now as the action slows up, with Etim continuing to deflect Clementi’s punches. Referee finally brings them back up, and Clementi looks tired and takes a glancing high kick. Etim avoids a takedown and lands a big knee, but Clementi comes in on a single leg and gets Terry down again. Etim grabs a guillotine but it’s loose and Rich quickly works his way out into half-guard. Round ends with Clementi in top position.
Pretty clear-cut decision I think then, 29-28 Clementi for me. Judges agree, scoring it 29-28 unanimously for ‘No Love’. Pretty good fight for the most part, although the third round got really slow when Clementi was stuck in Etim’s guard without doing much damage. Etim showed a much improved ground game from the Tibau fight, as he took very little damage from his back and largely controlled Clementi there, but his takedown defense still looked porous and it ended up costing him the fight, as he clearly had Clementi outgunned standing but just couldn’t keep the fight there long enough. Good win for Clementi though, especially considering he’d taken the fight on short notice.
Sokoudjou’s UFC debut against Lyoto Machida had been hugely disappointing, so as a fan of his I was looking forward to his next fight, and I was definitely excited to hear that he’d been matched up with Nakamura, who on paper was a good match for the African Assassin stylistically – Sokoudjou appeared to have the advantage in all areas, including Nakamura’s area of expertise, judo.
Sokoudjou comes forward with low kicks early, as surprisingly Nakamura looks willing to strike with the African. Some really powerful leg kicks land for Sokoudjou and then he catches Nakamura with a body kick too. Nakamura looks to clinch, but eats a knee and then a right hand on the way out. Sokoudjou continues to land the same combination, the left hand into the right leg kick, as Nakamura tries to swing wildly to counter. Good superman punch into a knee strike from the African. Flying knee almost lands for Nakamura, and then he catches Soko with a right hand. Crowd begin to get a bit restless now as Sokoudjou has visibly slowed down the pace at this point. Announcers point out that Sokoudjou’s right knee is heavily taped and maybe indicative of an injury suffered in training, particularly as he’s slowed down with the kicks now, but right as they say that he lands the right low kick again. Bodyshot from Nakamura and he tries to clinch, but Soko avoids and lands a right on the way out. With seconds remaining on the clock Sokoudjou comes forward with a body kick, and then NAILS Nakamura with a short right hand that drops him! He closes in to finish, but the buzzer sounds to save the Japanese fighter.
Or not. Between rounds they stop the fight as Nakamura tumbles off his stool, not sure whether he’s just out of it from the punch or his leg is gone due to him falling awkwardly on it as he was knocked down. Doesn’t really matter as it’s the same result, TKO for Sokoudjou. Not the most explosive fight after a good start, but the ending was another highlight reel for the African Assassin, beautiful shot right on the button.
Post-fight Sokoudjou calls out Shogun, a fight I’d have loved to see, but we never got it as Sokoudjou ended up washing out of the promotion after one more fight.
Salaverry’s last Octagon appearance had been pretty much exactly a year before this; a knockout loss to Terry Martin, and rumors of his retirement should he lose here abounded. His opponent was another UFC debutant on this card, Brazilian Top Team’s ‘Toquinho’ Palhares, who brought in a strong reputation from Brazil for aggression and stellar grappling. Physically Palhares looks like a clone of Paulo Filho, well, the squat, muscular Filho from the PRIDE days, not the bloated shadow of Filho that we saw in WEC.
They get underway and Palhares quickly closes the distance, grabs a bodylock, and slams Salaverry to the ground. He lands in side mount and controls Ivan right away. Beautiful step into full mount from Toquinho, top level grappling. Salaverry rolls and gives his back, and Palhares gets both hooks in and even crosses his feet which is normally a no-no, but the guy is obviously so confident in his grappling that he doesn’t care. Ivan manages to control the hands to prevent a choke, and then tries to scramble his way out, but that’s all the opening Palhares needs and he slides into a BEAUTIFUL armbar for the tapout.
Unbelievable display of BJJ from Palhares – Salaverry is a pretty damn good grappler and he just got tooled by Toquinho, it wasn’t even close. The way he transitioned into the armbar from back control was just insanely slick. And this card is pretty crazy as every debutant thus far has looked really impressive, some seriously good signings for the UFC then.
Original plans would’ve seen Rashad Evans fighting Silva here making this card ridiculously stacked, but Evans was moved to the next card to fight Chuck Liddell (which fell apart anyway) and so the little known ‘Samuray’ Antonio Mendes stepped in. Most fans were pretty high on Silva following his destruction of Houston Alexander, and I think everyone was picking him to continue his unbeaten streak by beating Mendes here.
Round One begins and Mendes DECKS HIM WITH A LEFT HIGH KICK! Damn! Mendes pounces and looks to finish things, but Silva survives and gets back to his feet, grabbing a clinch briefly. They break and Silva ends up on his back again, slipping while throwing a leg kick, and Mendes gets on top in the guard. Mendes chooses to stand and swings his way into a clinch, but Silva overpowers him and shoves him to the fence, where Mendes tries a judo throw but slips to his back. Silva drops a heavy punch from the top and passes to side mount, and from there he steps into full mount. Mendes looks in trouble now as Silva lands some heavy blows from the top, keeping the mount as Mendes scrambles. Mendes gives his back, but then rolls back to mount and takes some REALLY vicious shots, and he decides to tap out there to avoid taking any more punishment. Thiago’s mount is DEATH.
Fun little fight as Mendes came out like a house on fire and landed a really heavy kick, but Silva survived and once he got on top it was pretty much over, as he overwhelmed Mendes badly and really punished him with the ground-and-pound. Probably the most exciting Thiago Silva fight yet actually.
Although Penn-Sherk and their trash-talking feud got a lot of the publicity for this card, as is the norm with Tito Ortiz it was his fight that the majority of fans were talking about coming in. Not so much that he was fighting the unbeaten Machida who had made all of his opponents look silly thus far into his UFC career, but more that Tito had partaken in a huge war of words with UFC president Dana White and was promising that this would be his “last ever fight” in the Octagon as it was the final one on his contract. Admittedly we’d heard that from Tito before, coming into the Vitor Belfort fight in 2005, but this one seemed much more like Tito’s Last Stand, as even negotiations with Lorenzo Fertitta – which had brought the Huntington Beach Bad Boy back last time around – had failed. The conspiracy theorists would even have you believe that Dana was trying to use Machida as somewhat of a hired gun – the only guy who was guaranteed to make Ortiz look bad on his way out due to his unorthodox style.
Personally I didn’t know what the hell would go down. Would Tito indeed get clowned? Would he be granted an interview if he lost? And what the hell would happen if he won? Was the whole feud between Dana and Tito real, or was it just a work to draw more interest into the Machida fight? Basically then in a way, this was the closest thing I can think of in MMA terms to Survivor Series 1997. Which makes it a pretty big deal.
Crowd are SUPER hot for this one as Mike Goldberg openly talks about this being Tito’s last fight in the UFC. Big “TITO” chant as they get started, with Machida landing a low kick. Tito looks to push the action, and goes for an early takedown, but Machida quickly avoids the shot. Inside leg kick from Lyoto and he stays elusive, avoiding another takedown and a right hand as he backs off. Knee to the body from Lyoto and they clinch up, but Machida surprisingly shrugs Tito off. Ortiz tries to work his combos to close the distance, but Machida’s having none of it and just stays out of range. High kick from Tito misses and Lyoto lands a body kick in retaliation. Ortiz continues to push forward and narrowly blocks a head kick, but when he gets a clinch Machida shrugs him off again. Beautiful low lead kick into a high kick lands for Machida. Tito begins to look frustrated now as Machida stays elusive, and then lands a jumping kick to the body. Another body kick lands and then suddenly Lyoto closes the distance, gets a bodylock and SLAMS TITO DOWN! Lyoto gets the Hughes crucifix position and bombs away...but the buzzer sounds to a MONSTROUS pop from the crowd. Crazy stuff.
Into the 2nd, and Lyoto continues to dance around, landing a left hand counter as Tito steps in. Tito keeps pressing forward, but can’t land a thing and you can visibly see him getting frustrated more and more as he can’t work out what to do against this guy. Another takedown fails and Machida makes Ortiz pay with a hard body kick. Front kick narrowly misses, but a leg kick lands, and then he avoids a pair of hooks from Tito. Tito backs up a little and Lyoto cracks him with a high kick after faking a low kick. Some of the strikes this guy hits are amazing, really. Tito chases with punches again but still can’t land anything. Leg kick from Machida. Ortiz shoots for a takedown, but Machida hits a nice sprawl and gets a front facelock, so Tito decides to pull guard. They come back to their feet quickly though, and a big knee from Machida hits Tito in the chest area as he comes forward. With seconds remaining Tito taunts Machida, telling him to bring it, and sure enough Lyoto hits a one-two. This gets Tito mad and he chases Lyoto down and finally lands a body kick on the buzzer, probably his first good strike in the fight. This is a seriously interesting fight at this point.
Between rounds Tito complains about Lyoto running, but he’s catching him on the retreat all the time. Third and final round. Tito again presses the action but Lyoto remains as elusive as the sasquatch or something. HILARIOUS moment follows as referee Yves Lavigne takes a tumble in the background, must’ve slipped or something, it gets a huge pop regardless. Tito manages to clinch and lands a knee and a couple of hooks to the body, but Lyoto quickly separates. Nice left hook to counter a low kick from Machida. He avoids another takedown and then blocks a high kick. Ortiz even tries a plum clinch but Machida quickly escapes. Right hook finally lands from Tito and he gets the plum, and then they exchange from close quarters with both men landing. Tito tries desperately to get him down but just can’t finish it, and Machida breaks free momentarily before they clinch again. Referee breaks them up and Tito walks right into a HUGE KNEE TO THE GUT THAT CRUMPLES HIM!~! Tito collapses in pain and Machida looks to finish, pounding away from Tito’s guard, but Ortiz manages to survive. Tito closes up the guard and they exchange short punches from there, and then with 30 seconds to go TITO LOCKS UP A TRIANGLE CHOKE FROM NOWHERE!~! Holy crap it’s locked up and Machida tries to roll but can’t get free, and Tito looks to get the armbar as well, but somehow Machida manages to wriggle free! Crowd are DEAFENING at this point, this is insane. Fight ends with Machida in Tito’s guard. Incredible third round.
That was a picture-perfect shot. Judges all score it 30-27 for Machida, despite the triangle attempt. Post-fight Machida says the triangle was really close, and he was thinking he would’ve died before tapping. Awesome. He puts Tito over as a tough guy and a legend of the UFC, and says he’s happy with his win.
And shock horror, they give Tito an interview too and he puts Machida over as a stud, but says he was difficult to fight as he was so elusive. And then he says he has personal problems with Dana White, but puts over the Fertittas and the UFC in general and won’t rule out a return to the Octagon because the fans are the greatest fans in the world. Really classy stuff from Tito as he could’ve easily slammed Zuffa and didn’t. I guess this didn’t turn out to be a Montreal even if Tito hasn’t returned to the company yet.
On a first watch I didn’t enjoy this fight at all but man, it’s pretty incredible on a rewatch as you can see Tito just unravelling as he realizes he can’t hit Machida or even get close to catching him, and Machida uses his elusive style to perhaps his best effect up to this point, catching Tito with some beautiful counters, particularly the knee to the body. The ending was unbelievable as just when it looked like curtains for Ortiz he nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, only for Machida to once again slip out of his grasp. It’s not for everyone but this fight turned me into a fan of Lyoto and with all the drama surrounding Ortiz’s Last Stand I’d be tempted to call this a very low end FOTYC.
Gouveia had been on quite a run at this point, reeling off four successive victories, over Wes Combs, Seth Petruzelli, Carmelo Marrero and Jason Lambert to really raise his stock. He was faced with newcomer Goran Reljic, a Croatian with links to Mirko Cro Cop, but also a stellar grappling background as he’d won numerous grappling tournaments in Europe. Reljic was unbeaten at 7-0, but admittedly hadn’t faced anyone as good as Gouveia yet. The fight was given a bit of a personal twist too after the events of the weigh-ins, where Reljic threw out a random headbutt during the staredown.
Round One gets underway and Gouveia lands a leg kick, as Reljic just throws out some HUGE left high kicks, swinging them wildly. Gouveia deflects one with his arm but it still sounds sick. Another one actually snaps Gouveia’s head back despite him blocking it with his arm. They exchange some punches with Reljic landing some nice counters. Nice low kick from the Croatian. Another left high kick glances off the arm. Good low kick by Gouveia, answered with a heavy body kick from Reljic. Couple more high kicks are blocked and Gouveia’s arm looks bruised up. Gouveia hurts him with an uppercut and then a flurry to follow up, so Reljic jumps to guard. Reljic tries to go for an oma plata, but the buzzer sounds before he can lock it up. Good opening round on the feet.
Second round, and they start a little more tentatively, throwing out some feeler strikes before Reljic lands another high kick. Gouveia catches him off balance as he throws another kick, and as Reljic comes up the Brazilian looks to land a flurry, hurting him with a big left hook. Reljic ends up on his back in guard, where Gouveia tries to drop some bombs, stacking up, but the Croatian looks okay in half-guard. Reljic kicks him away and stands, and then counters a kick with a nice short left hook, and that stiffens Gouveia up and puts him down! Reljic pounces with some big shots, and Gouveia stops defending as the Croatian lands some hammer fists, and Herb Dean stops it there!
This actually won the Fight of the Night award which surprised me as I didn’t think it was *that* great, but then I guess everything else went quite fast and they didn’t want to give the award to Tito. Not that the fight was bad or anything – it was a lot of fun with some crazy strikes being thrown particularly from Reljic, and this was a good debut win for him to knock off a guy on a hot run. Both men have since dropped to 185lbs and Gouveia’s seen mixed success, but Reljic hasn’t actually competed since as he injured his back training for a fight with Thales Leites. Hopefully he’ll be back some time in 2009.
This was a fight I’d been looking forward to from the moment it was announced, as both men are extremely intense and love to throw down, pretty much guaranteeing a wild fight. Jardine was coming off the biggest win of his career, over Chuck Liddell at UFC 76, while Silva had his back to the wall following three successive losses, and realistically needed a win here to stay afloat in the UFC’s most stacked division. I was picking Wanderlei, no real reason, just figured he’d come out more aggressively as he had more to lose. Jardine looks incredibly intense during his entrance, about as intense as I can ever recall seeing him. He might be a quiet, unassuming dude outside the cage but he’s possibly the most intimidating looking guy in the whole of MMA for me. Like a disciple of Satan or something. And Silva matches him in the intensity stakes because well, he’s WANDERLEI FUCKING SILVA. And he’s shaved his head again!
Pre-fight we get the BEST STAREDOWN IN MMA HISTORY. I’ve said that before – about Frye-Shamrock, Silva-Arona and Guida-Huerta, but this one tops them all for me. Silva looks like he’s just come off a ten-year stretch and is about to kill again, while Jardine just looks demented, chewing his face off. This fight RULES already and it’s not even started yet!
We get underway and Jardine circles off and narrowly misses an overhand right. Jardine throws a leg kick, but Silva counters with a short right and a left hook that PUT JARDINE DOWN! And Silva SMELLS BLOOD and comes in swarming, throwing BOMBS and no sooner has Jardine gotten up he’s down again! This time Silva pounces and begins to just smash him, and eventually he GRABS JARDINE AROUND THE THROAT and KNOCKS HIM SENSELESS!~!
Terrifying stuff. Like a bar fight or something but if that happened in a bar fight Silva’s going down for GBH. Post-fight Jardine is just OUT OF IT, but eventually he comes round and they help him out of the cage.
Jardine was just never given a chance to get out of the gate as Silva caught him early and just swarmed him, and as Houston Alexander showed, Keith Jardine doesn’t react well to being swarmed on like that. Awesome comeback from Wanderlei though after his losses, vintage Silva in fact like something from the height of his PRIDE career. Crowd loved it, too. How can you go wrong with legal assault like this? Awesome stuff.
And to top it all off we get this, the huge grudge match to culminate the biggest MMA feud of the year. Everyone knows the story but let’s go through it again. Sherk wins the Lightweight Title in 2006, defends it against Hermes Franca in 2007 but tests positive for nandrolone and gets stripped of his belt, despite his pleas of innocence, including passing lie detector tests and stuff. Nobody’s really sure whether he was juicing or not. BJ Penn steps in and wins the vacant title, and immediately tells Sherk he’s dead, then begins to taunt Sherk about the positive steroid test, pretty much killing Sherk’s reputation in the eyes of the fans. So Sherk’s pissed at BJ for the trash talk and wants to kill him, while BJ thinks Sherk’s tainted the sport with his steroids and wants to kill him. Best part of the feud? The bit in the Countdown special where BJ’s punching the pads while shouting about Sherk: “What did he take?” “NANDROLONE!” *WHACK* and so forth.
Crowd is off the hook again for this as if they haven’t seen enough tonight. Penn is the huge crowd favourite while Sherk gets booed out of the building, poor guy. Well, I guess you wouldn’t cheer Dwain Chambers if *he* walked out into an arena, so hey. Surprisingly they touch gloves pre-fight. Unsurprisingly the staredown doesn’t quite match Jardine vs. Wanderlei.
Round One and Sherk comes right out of the gate and dives for a leg, but BJ stuffs the takedown and breaks away with a right hand. Leg kick from Sherk and he is swinging for the fences early, but Penn looks to use his longer reach to impose his jab. Nice left hook catches Penn cleanly but he has a chin of iron and eats it right up. Right hand lands for Penn and he begins to pump out the jab. Chant of “STEROIDS” begins as Sherk closes the distance momentarily into a clinch, but BJ breaks off. Both men are trying to work the jab now, but Penn’s is more effective as Sherk’s shorter arms make it harder for him in these exchanges. Nice leg kick from Sherk though. Sherk’s right eye looks bloody now. Exchange continues with Penn catching him with a beautiful right hand and then a super-stiff jab. Leg kick lands for Sherk but Penn catches him with a knee and an uppercut. Penn continues to work the jab, with Sherk looking to counter with the left hook, but it’s pretty clear that BJ is winning these exchanges. Round closes with another jab. 10-9 for Penn.
No touch of gloves for the 2nd, and it’s more of the same as Penn looks to work the jab. Couple of solid low kicks land for Sherk but Penn answers with a body shot, uppercut and a knee. Left hook lands for Sherk and he follows with a good combination of short hooks inside as Penn tries to grab a plum. “STEROIDS” chant starts up again, loudly this time as Penn lands another jab. Good left hook from Sherk as he comes forward, but overall again its Penn getting the better shots in, and Sherk’s face is marked up pretty bad at this stage. Great head movement from BJ too, as he avoids Sherk’s hooks. BJ continues to jab and even when Sherk lands he doesn’t look hurt especially. Leg kick from Sherk but Penn counters with a nice right hand. 30 seconds to go and Penn lands a leg kick of his own. Another good jab lands and now Sherk goes for a single leg, but BJ stuffs it easily. Penn is basically killing him with the jab here.
Third round, and Sherk really needs to turn it up now. And sure enough he comes out swinging, but Penn’s head movement is exceptional and he avoids the majority of the blows while continuing to jab, jab, jab away. Nice combo lands for BJ too, left hook and right straight. Wild combination from Sherk but Penn makes him pay with some hard counterpunches. Announcers are outright saying that Sherk’s strategy seems puzzling now, as to why he hasn’t looked to get Penn down yet. Sherk begins to land some more leg kicks as Goldberg mentions spotting him shaking his right hand as if it were hurt. Big left hook from BJ with 30 seconds to go. 5 seconds to go now and Penn comes exploding forward with an uppercut that sends Sherk backwards into the cage, and follows with a HUGE FLYING KNEE!~! Sherk goes down HARD and Penn pounds away, but the buzzer sounds before the referee steps in.
Buut....Penn walks away waving his hands and yelling “He’s done” and Mario Yamasaki agrees with him, stopping the fight there. No complaints from Sherk either as that knee pretty much killed him dead. Sick, sick shot. The uppercut that started it was reminiscent of the shot he hit on Caol Uno at UFC 34 in fact.
Post-fight Penn tells Sherk he’s free to come to Hawaii and train with him any time, surprising given the amount of trash BJ talked about the steroids, but I guess it was more to sell the fight. Rogan asks him about whether he’s staying at Lightweight or moving back to Welterweight, and sure enough BJ then calls out Georges St-Pierre to a big crowd pop. And Sherk pretty much admits he was out of it at the end as he didn’t even hear the buzzer go to end the round.
Not the most eventful fight in the end then, outside of the explosive finish, as Sherk came in with a weird strategy and didn’t really go for takedowns, instead seemingly trying to tire Penn out on his feet, but BJ’s cardio was obviously there this time and rather than gassing he just kept Sherk on the wrong end of his jab for the full three rounds for the most part. Wasn’t a bad fight in any way, and it felt epic with the crowd heat and the backstory, but I’d have rather seen some ground work from the two at least. Ah well, with an ending like that who can complain?
-And we hit the highlight reel after that.
In my opinion, UFC 84 is up there with the best UFC, hell, best MMA shows of all time. Top ten, perhaps top five even. There’s literally not one bad fight on the card. The preliminary fights are pretty much one highlight reel finish after another, Silva-Jardine is one of the most brutal knockouts you’ll ever come across, and Ortiz-Machida just has a big time feel as Tito’s Last Stand and comes off as a really unique fight. Main event isn’t all *that* great and the show is admittedly missing a high-end FOTYC, but then with finishes like Carwin-Wellisch, Yoshida-Koppenhaver, and Penn-Sherk you hardly even need another great fight. This is the best show of 2008, period. Highest recommendation.
Best Fight: Ortiz-Machida
Worst Fight: Etim-Clementi
Overall Rating: *****
UFC: 85-96, Fight Nights 14-17, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.