Affliction: Banned review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on November 29, 2009, 11:43 AM
-Hard to believe its well over a year now since Affliction arrived on the MMA scene with their big pay packets, massive ambition and well, little else really. Actually thatís not true Ė their cards were pretty great for non-UFC stuff in the US, and for a moment (read, the week leading into this first show) it looked like there was a possibility that the UFC might have some competition. That wasnít to be and Affliction is now firmly back in the Zuffa fold, but forgetting about all the financial implications and the rest of the nonsense surrounding the t-shirt company, were the shows all they cracked up to be anyway? Letís find out.
-Show begins with a live performance from Megadeth. Yes, this actually happened in 2008.
-Your hosts are Jay Glazer, Frank Trigg and ĎBigí John McCarthy.
-Side note but the ring theyíre using for this show looks HUGE. Unless itís my TV playing tricks on me, then itís much bigger than the PRIDE ring. I wouldíve rather seen them use a cage of course.
Extreme Couture vet Pyle had turned down a title shot in Elite XC for a more lucrative opportunity, which I guess wouldíve been this. Hard to blame him as at this point there was nowhere more lucrative than Affliction for his level of fighter. As for Ambrose, Iíve never heard of him. Ring introductions for this show are being done by Michael Buffer, which is always cool.
First round begins and Ambrose swings some punches into the clinch, where they exchange knees. Pyle gets double underhooks and brings Ambrose down, landing in side mount. Easy full mount for Pyle and Ambrose is in trouble. He gives his back and Pyle works to flatten him out, landing some punches to the head, and then as Ambrose rolls back to mount Pyle looks for an arm triangle. Ambrose slips free and gives his back again, and from there Pyle lands some more punches and then locks up a rear naked choke for the tapout.
One-sided squash match which is unsurprising given that Ambrose was pretty inexperienced and hadnít fought anyone on the level of Pyle before. Pyleís groundwork looked excellent here, basically like it always does against anyone outside of the real elite guys.
Lilí Nog was quite a late addition to this card and his original opponent had been Vernon White, who was removed due to a positive test for a banned substance. Bit surprising that they couldnít get anyone but natural 185lber Edwin Dewees to step in, but I guess it was on short notice. On a card with a few one-sided matches on paper this was perhaps the biggest mismatch.
Round One and Dewees tries to throw some kicks from the outside as Nogueira looks to counter with his left hand. Nogueira continues to stalk forward as Dewees throws out leg kicks, and finally he gets cornered and winds up in a clinch. Nog breaks off and lands a left hand that causes Edwin to drop to guard. Nogueira postures up to land some punches, and then he chooses to stand back up. Big knee to the body lands for Nog as he comes forward and he follows with another one from the plum clinch. Dewees ends up cornered and takes some more knees from the clinch, and then the Brazilian breaks and nails him with a combination. Dewees looks badly hurt and another knee and a big left hook drop him, and some punches on the ground finish things for Nogueira.
Total squash which was to be expected if weíre honest. Nogueiraís been like the forgotten man in the 205lbs division after his KO loss to Sokoudjou and the subsequent PRIDE crash, but heís put together some really good wins since then, this being one of them, and with him now in the UFC I think that status will change quickly.
Lindlandís name crops up on all of these UFC competitor-wannabe promotions these days and like Fedor, most of the ones heís been linked with have gone down the pan pretty swiftly. Actually Lindland might be worse as not only was he with Bodog and Affliction, but he also main evented the WFA debacle in 2006! Just to put things into perspective, by the way, Lindland (a guy who has drawn two of the lowest buyrates in MMA with his Bodog and WFA PPVs) was paid $225k to SHOW for this fight. And people wondered why Affliction had financial problems? Opponent Negao was a BJJ black belt with a middling record, and honestly it surprised me that Affliction couldnít get someone better to fight Lindland.
First round begins and Lindland drops Negao with a left hook right away! He grabs a guillotine and pulls guard with it, looking to finish early and he manages to sweep into top position too, but Negao grits his teeth and stays in the fight, managing to flip him back over. Lindland still has the choke though and flips him back over, but Negaoís got half-guard now and he manages to slip his head free. Lindland remains on top in full guard and he drops some punches before attempting a Mongolian chop that doesnít especially land cleanly. Points for style, however. Lindland continues to work the Brazilian over with some ground-and-pound, and then he stands to drop a big right down onto the face. Negaoís not really looking too good from his back at all here. With a minute to go Negao manages to escape to his feet, and they exchange some ineffective strikes with both men looking a little tired. Round peters out with both men throwing slow punches.
Into the 2nd and Lindland stalks forward and throws some decent punches into a clinch. Negao quickly breaks off and lands a good left elbow as Lindland tries to clinch. Combo from Negao and Lindland looks a little rocked, but he manages to close the distance and Negao lands some more shots inside. Left hook from Lindland answers in a bit of a crude exchange, and then Negao drops for a takedown. Lindland easily stuffs it and lands with another combo, then forces the Brazilian into the corner. Easy double leg from Lindland to the guard and he passes into half-guard. Negao looks trapped in the corner here, but the ropes are getting in the way of Lindland doing much big damage as he canít really wind up. Couple of good elbows do land though. Nice right hand lands for Lindland and he keeps Negao controlled on the ground. Crowd begin to get restless as little is happening with seconds to go, and Lindland remains on top to finish the round. I have this two rounds to none for Matt Lindland thus far.
Third and final round and both of these guys look exhausted now, exchanging some awful, ineffective strikes. Honestly I know some hardcores love Lindland but if this were two guys on TUF theyíd blast this sort of stand-up for sure. Crowd are booing now and rightfully so. Clinch from Lindland and he avoids a guillotine attempt before breaking off. Weak one-two lands for Negao pretty cleanly but thereís no power there. Iíd rather see Lindland pull a lay and pray special than this. Negaoís now dancing with his hands down like heís Anderson Silva, but heís taking punches and the only reason heís still in it is that Lindlandís power has seemingly disappeared as heís gassed, surprisingly enough. Negao even stuffs a takedown. Takedown attempt from Lindland and itís almost like heís just leaning on the Brazilian because theyíre both so tired. In the end Negao tumbles through the ropes and almost whacks his head off the wooden platform outside. Ouch. The ref decides to restart them standing and Lindland lands a solid knee, but Negaoís still standing and they end up clinched again. Trip attempt from Negao but Lindland easily avoids that and breaks off from the clinch to end an atrocious round.
Decision goes to Lindland, 30-26, 30-27, 30-27, but that was a genuinely awful fight. Negao offered pretty much nothing, and while Lindland looked good in the first round, he slowed down horribly in the later rounds and by the third he had zero power in his shots and even struggled to take the guy down. Iíve never been a Lindland fan but thereís no denying he used to be an elite-level fighter Ė now though Iím not so sure, and Iíd be more inclined to say that at 38 (or maybe 39 now) heís probably past his sell-by date, particularly if youíre judging on a performance like that.
Some fans were hugely interested in this fight; me not so much, as I couldnít seem to remove the stench of Whiteheadís run on TUF from my mind. I guess he had been on a massive thirteen-fight winning streak since his loss to Keith Jardine though, so hey, fighters do improve. He looks in far better shape here than he ever did in his UFC run, too. Babalu meanwhile had been hovering around the top ten since his great run from 2003-2006, and this was his first big fight really since his release from the UFC for choking David Heath unconscious. I was firmly behind Babalu in this one and couldnít really see him losing in any way.
Round One and they throw out some feeler strikes before Babalu lands a couple of solid leg kicks. Whitehead clinches and forces him into the ropes, but he canít take Sobral off his feet and he decides to break off. Takedown attempt from Babalu now but Whitehead blocks it and manages to force off a clinch attempt. Good jabs from Babalu and he avoids some punches from Whitehead before landing a low kick. Clinch from Whitehead and he pushes Babalu into the ropes again, where they muscle for position. Crowd begin to get a bit restless before they break off, and exchange strikes with Whitehead landing a nice uppercut. Big chant for Babalu as he stuffs a takedown attempt and clinches, but Whitehead breaks. Nice takedown from Babalu and he goes for a choke as Whitehead scrambles to his feet, but the American slips out. Round ends as Whitehead pushes forward. Bit of a dull-ish opening round actually. Largely even but Iíd go with Babalu for the takedown, basically.
Second round and Whitehead comes out swinging as Babalu pumps out the jab. Babalu stuffs another takedown and they end up clinched along the ropes again, but Whitehead still canít get him down and they separate. Good left hook from Babalu as Whitehead walks forward. Whitehead changes levels and looks for the takedown again, but once more Sobral does an excellent job of defending. Whitehead finally manages to trip him down to the guard, but he canít do much from the top as Babalu keeps a pretty active guard. Babalu locks up Whiteheadís right arm and it looks like heís prepping an oma plata or a triangle, but Whitehead avoids it and keeps top position. Ref decides to bring them back to their feet and Sobral lands a few punches into a clinch before breaking with an elbow and narrowly missing a spinning backfist. Clinch from Whitehead again but Babalu lands a good knee to the body and he controls Whitehead along the ropes.
Between rounds Babaluís cornerman is hilarious. Quick soundbite Ė ďBabalu, stop fucking around with this guy. Heís way tired. Youíre faster and stronger than this prick.Ē
Third round and Babalu opens with a nice low kick. Whitehead quickly shrugs off a takedown and then catches an axe kick and shoots, but Babalu gets a guillotine on the way down. They fall through the ropes though and that causes the crowd to boo. They restart standing as the announcers discuss how to avoid the fighters hitting themselves on the wood outside of the ring. Easiest solution? USE A FUCKING CAGE. Jabs from Babalu pepper the head of Whitehead, who definitely looks tired and canít get a takedown now either. Good body kick from Sobral and he follows with a short combo. Takedown again from Whitehead but once more they fall through the ropes as Babalu tries the guillotine. Crowd are really pissed off now. Couple of good straight punches from Babalu and Whitehead is looking gassed. He goes for another takedown but this time he gets caught in the guillotine without falling through the ropes and it looks quite tight. Babalu doesnít have full guard though and Whitehead works his way free into Sobralís guard. Oma plata from Babalu and it looks locked up, but Whitehead twists his way free back into the guard. Whitehead is doing nothing from the top here. Ref stands them up and Sobral lands a combo into a clinch and after they break he lands with a straight kick to the face. Wheel kick clips the side of Whiteheadís face and then he drops for a takedown and Whitehead grabs the ropes to block it. Sobral knees the legs and the round finishes there.
Decision has to go the way of Babalu I think as although Whitehead got takedowns he did nothing with them, and on the feet Sobral looked far better and landed the more powerful strikes. Whitehead looked pretty bad here if weíre honest. Babaluís decision, 30-27 from all three judges. Pretty dull fight as there were no really memorable moments and neither guy came close to finishing even if it was pretty clearly Babaluís fight.
Not sure why the WEC let Hominick go actually; granted heís not the greatest 145lber in the world but he almost always has exciting fights and is a name win for anyone who might beat him. Young, meanwhile, looks like perhaps the biggest 145lber Iíve ever seen, and heíd made some noise by beating Shooto standout Lion Takeshi in his previous fight.
1t round gets underway and they circle around and press with some feeler strikes. Neither manís really landing too heavily and itís a largely even exchange thus far. Takedown attempt from Young but Hominick defends it nicely. Good one-two lands for Hominick and then he shows good head movement to avoid a combo. About one minute to go in the round and itís been uneventful really, but Hominickís beginning to take over somewhat. Good body shot from Savant causes Hominick to stumble off balance for a second but he seems fine. More of the same follows to end the round.
Round Two and it begins exactly how the first round ended, with Hominick using his reach to keep Savant at bay. This isnít the most entertaining fight but itís the smart fight for Mark Hominick. Takedown attempt from Young and he switches to a double leg and manages to trip the Canadian down into the guard. Closed guard from Hominick and Young looks unable to do much at all, and then surprisingly Hominick throws his legs up, fakes a sweep and transitions into a triangle choke! Whoa. Itís not fully locked up with the ankle and knee though, and Young manages to powerbomb his way out! Young stands over him and almost puts himself in a heel hook, but Hominick doesnít go for it and Savant ends up back in Hominickís guard. Young postures up to try some punches, but almost gets caught in an armbar. He manages to get free but winds up back in the triangle, but like before Hominick canít quite lock it up. A third attempt and itís on tight, and this time he switches to a straight armbar and gets the tapout.
Hominickís ground game looked much improved there, triangle over Yves Edwards notwithstanding, and the second round was good and made up for a really uneventful opening round. Good win for Hominick when you consider how Young had handled Lion Takeshi.
-Intermission time of sorts as Megadeth play another track. And they cancelled Justin Levensí (RIP) fight for lack of time? Thatís pretty crappy.
After looking shot as a top-level fighter during his PRIDE run, Rizzo had actually made somewhat of a decent little comeback in 2007, knocking out Justin Eilers and Jeff Monson on the smaller circuit, and so he was given this rematch with Josh Barnett Ė remember their first fight in the UFC saw Rizzo cold-cock Barnett in one of the sickest finishes seen in the Octagon. Barnett had been fighting in Japanís Sengoku promotion since the PRIDE crash, and in fact this was his first fight on US soil since he was busted for steroids against Randy Couture back in 2002.
We begin and they exchange some early strikes, with Barnett using some front kicks to keep his distance. Spinning wheel kick misses for Josh, not seen him use that before. Barnettís actually keeping Rizzo at bay well here. Body kick lands for Barnett as Pedro looks like heís trying to play the role of counterpuncher as usual. Crowd begin to get restless with about 1:30 remaining as this is a slow-ish round, and Rizzo does a good job of shrugging off a clinch attempt. Nice combo from Barnett and then he glances a spinning kick off the gut of Rizzo. Good high kick and right hand for Pedro and the round ends there. Crowd shower the ring with boos and then pop massively as they show Andrei Arlovskiís face on the screen.
Round Two and Barnett circles out and lands a leg kick. Barnett tries to clinch but gets shrugged off again. Overhand right from Barnett is just about blocked by the Brazilian. Nice front kick to the face too. Combo misses for Rizzo as Barnett bobs and weaves like Randy Couture. Clinch is avoided by Rizzo again but heís not really getting off with his strikes, and suddenly Barnett catches him clean with a left hook and knocks him OUT COLD.
Beautiful shot from Barnett for the knockout; Rizzoís chin is well and truly cracked I think as this was the second time in four fights that he was knocked stiff like this, and in his late 30ís now heís probably done as a top-level fighter, but hey, nothing wrong with Barnett avenging a loss. Barnettís stand-up looked excellent here and he really is a great fighter, I just wish he hadnít been so stupid as to abuse steroids (again) earlier in the year as with the Affliction crash we mightíve seen him back in the UFC or at the very least in Strike Force. This fight wasnít great but the knockout certainly was.
Arlovski was perhaps the biggest signing Affliction made, as he hadnít washed out of the UFC with losses or anything like that Ė in fact Dana White says to this day that Andrei was the one guy he regretted not being able to re-sign. Affliction were offering him a ludicrous contract though - $500k with a possible $250k win bonus, so you can hardly blame him for jumping ship I guess. Rothwell had won his last thirteen fights, including all of his IFL fights, with wins over Ricco Rodriguez and Roy Nelson, but despite clearly being a threat I didnít think heíd be able to beat Arlovski simply because Andreiís always eaten up the powerful-but-slightly-sloppy guys heís faced before (with the exception of Tim Sylvia, of course).
Fight begins and Rothwell presses forward with punches as Andrei counters with a pair of low kicks. They clinch up as Rothwell looks to use his size advantage, but Andrei breaks off. Good right hand from Arlovski as Rothwell comes forward. Clinch from Ben again but Arlovski forces him back into the corner of the ring. Good right hand from Andrei to break and then he lands another leg kick. Rothwell pushes forward into the clinch again but Arlovski trips the big man down and winds up on top in guard. Rothwell rolls and Arlovski goes for a heel hook, but Ben manages to slip free and escapes to his feet. Nice low kick from Arlovski and speed-wise he looks on another level to Rothwell. Good right hook does land for Ben as he closes the distance into the clinch again, but Andrei again breaks off. Rothwell comes in swinging, but eats a hard counter right and a heavy uppercut staggers him! Rothwell is in trouble as Arlovski comes forward smelling blood, landing another good right hand and a combo, but Rothwell recovers well and throws a high kick that misses. Arlovski slows up, but then lands the right hook again. Andrei clearly learned from the Sylvia fight not to get overzealous. Good right hand and low kick from Andrei but Rothwell lands a big right hand into the clinch on the bell. Good first round, probably the best round of the night thus far actually! 10-9 Arlovski.
Round Two and Arlovski opens with a low kick and another combo. Rothwell swings into a clinch but gets rocked heavily again with a combo, and now Andrei UNLOADS on him with uppercuts and combos as Big Ben looks to cover up! This dude is tough as leather though and he swings right back before clinching. Trip from Andrei and this time he lands right in full mount! Beautiful hip escape from Rothwell brings him back to a butterfly guard, and then he quickly goes into closed guard. Rothwellís sporting a bad bloody nose now. Punches and hammer fists land for Andrei from the top and then he decides to drop back for a leglock, but it proves to be a mistake as Ben slips free and stands above him. Rothwell goes down now into Andreiís guard, where he opens up with some solid elbow strikes from the top as his own blood is running down all over Arlovski. Andrei ends up sticking halfway out of the ropes with Rothwell flailing on top, but heís not doing that much damage to be fair. Referee decides to stand them back up, and boy is Rothwellís face a mess. Arlovski looks ANGRY and sure enough he wades in with another big combo that hurts Rothwell, including a massive left high kick! Rothwell looks out on his feet as Andrei lands punch after punch, and then a HUGE JUMPING KNEE snaps Benís head back! Bell goes with Rothwell somehow still standing, incredible stuff. Arlovski is winning this fight but Rothwell is ridiculously tough.
Between rounds Pat Miletich tells Rothwell that Arlovski is ďtired, heís fucking tired!Ē but it doesnít look like it to me really.
Round Three and Rothwell swings into a clinch and forces Andrei into the corner of the ring. Crowd get restless as they muscle for position, but you canít blame these guys for being a little tired as this has been an incredible pace for two big men. Arlovski breaks off though and a big right hook stuns Rothwell again. Leg kick from Arlovski and finally a MASSIVE OVERHAND RIGHT and a BRUTAL UPPERCUT put Rothwell down for good.
Phenomenal fight. Iíd say itís the second-best Heavyweight fight of 2008 in fact behind Nogueira-Sylvia from UFC 81. Both men came out to fight and where Arlovski had looked horribly tentative in his last few UFC bouts, this was the return of the old Andrei Arlovski who was uber-aggressive and came out and killed the likes of Ian Freeman, Justin Eilers and Cabbage Correira. When heís on like this Arlovski is one of the most dangerous guys out there in MMA, and itís ridiculous how many people have written him off at this stage. Rothwell certainly didnít disgrace himself either as he kept swinging throughout and given how hard Arlovski hits, he took an inhuman amount of punishment before finally going down in the third. Pace was high throughout outside of the odd clinch and this lived up to the pre-fight hype entirely. Awesome stuff.
-Michael Buffer runs down all of the celebrities attending, including the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Zab Judah, James Toney, Donald Trump and some lesser ones too, as well as MMA stars Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz. This segues into ANOTHER Megadeth track. Gah!
Well, credit to Affliction for finally getting Fedor a live opponent Ė his first one, arguably, since he beat Mirko Cro Cop back in 2005. Sylvia had admittedly lost two of his last three Ė to Randy Couture and Rodrigo Nogueira Ė but he was a proven, elite-level Heavyweight and with his reach, size advantage and knockout power he was a clear threat to Fedorís title of best Heavyweight on the planet. I was taking Fedor to win as I havenít picked against the guy yet, but thereís no doubt that this was an absolutely awesome main event on paper, the best non-UFC main event since the heyday of PRIDE. As for the WAMMA Heavyweight Title, donít even ask Ė I donít see how an organization like that can even exist when they donít really acknowledge the UFC Ė the biggest MMA promotion - and vice versa.
Massive pop for Fedor in the ring introductions while Sylvia gets a mixed reaction with some boos. Thatís a little surprising given I didnít expect the US fans to really know Fedor, but I guess this is probably a hardcore crowd and the legend of this guy travels fast.
Weíre underway and Sylvia looks to use his jab, but Fedor lands a short left hook right away that wobbles him and follows with a WILD COMBO THAT DROPS SYLVIA TO THE GROUND! Fedor quickly pounces and takes his back with both hooks, and from there he locks up the choke and SYLVIA TAPS! Holy crap. Whole fight went 36 seconds.
That picture is pretty much the whole fight, which is terrifying. If there were any questions about the legitimacy of Fedor given his poor opposition since the Cro Cop fight then that performance just evaporated them. How can you question that? Sylvia at this point was a proven top-five level guy and Fedor just smashed him in under a minute. Unbelievable stuff. This was one of Fedorís most impressive performances and when you consider some of the stuff that he pulled in PRIDE then thatís something. Not much of a fight but as a main event they donít come much more climactic than that.
Post-fight Fedor tells Big John McCarthy that he wants to fight Randy Couture, which gets a massive pop. Obviously he didnít want the fight that badly though otherwise he wouldíve just signed with the UFC, damnit. Randy then comes into the ring and says he wants to fight Fedor but has to settle the issues with the UFC first. Hilarious looking back that heíd be back in the UFC fold just two months after this show. Well come to think of it, its hilarious to think that less than a year after this Affliction would be in the UFC fold as well!
-Show ends with the announcers discussing the hopes of the likes of Arlovski and Barnett against Fedor.
For all the hype that it received, I wasnít that impressed by this show. Sure, it was a strong card coming in, and Fedor-Sylvia was jaw-dropping while Arlovski-Rothwell was one of the best Heavyweight fights in recent memory, but outside of that, Barnett-Rizzo was horribly slow before the knockout and Whitehead-Babalu and Lindland-Negao were painfully dull. For such an expensive show I didnít think much to the production values either, but to be fair the Spartan feeling of the ring and what-not sort of fit well with the rock ní roll/gothic feeling Affliction were going for so I guess thatís fair enough. All that aside though, at the end of the day, putting aside things like star power, production values, financial stuff and Megadeth performances, what matters on an MMA card is the quality of the fights, and if Iím honest then there werenít that many quality fights here. Thumbs in the middle, leaning down.
Best Fight: Arlovski-Rothwell
Worst Fight: Lindland-Negao
Overall Rating: **3/4
UFC: 101-106, Fight Night 19
Affliction: Day Of Reckoning
Strike Force: Shields vs. Lawler, Carano vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Rogers
King of the Cage: Various shows