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UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on January 28, 2010, 3:29 PM

UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort

Dallas, Texas

-Few odd circumstances surrounding this one. Firstly when the event was announced for 09/19 in Dallas in like July, they didnít announce a main event, before quietly announcing a Rich Franklin-Dan Henderson rematch would headline the show, despite nobody really wanting to see that fight. Within days the rumor was out that theyíd be changing it and sure enough, the fight was scrapped (looking back, Henderson wasnít even under contract so I donít get why they ever announced it) and with the Affliction promotion crashing and burning at the same time, Vitor Belfort was brought back into the fold and matched with Franklin at a Catchweight of 195lbs. The other effect that the Affliction crash had was the addition of a bunch of new fighters to the UFC roster, and so this card ended up with a bloated THIRTEEN FIGHTS as opposed to the usual ten or eleven. I believe that makes it the biggest card in the promotionís history.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Rob Emerson

Dos Anjos was still looking for his first UFC win at this stage, although heíd looked pretty good in a losing effort to Tyson Griffin in April, nearly catching Griffin with a CALF SLICER of all things. Emerson meanwhile, after a good 2008, had lost his previous fight via submission to Kurt Pellegrino. This was a close one to call but I was leaning towards Dos Anjos. Annoying side note Ė Mike Goldberg claims Emerson is ďundefeated since 2005Ē. Look, I know TUF fights donít count on a pro record, but you CANíT say a guy is undefeated when MILLIONS of people watched him get tapped by Nate Diaz on the TUF tapings. Itís just silly, come on.

We begin and they throw some feeler strikes before Dos Anjos lands the first telling blow, a nasty inside leg kick. Takedown attempt from Dos Anjos but Emerson shows some strong defense and shrugs it off. Emerson gets aggressive, swinging with some combos, but he takes a body kick from the Brazilian. Nice one-two lands for him too. Emerson canít seem to land anything here as heís clearly worried about standing in the pocket due to the takedown threat. Couple more hard leg kick land for Rafael. Body kick from Emerson answers. Single leg attempt from Dos Anjos but again Emerson does a good job of shrugging it off. Another leg kick lands for Dos Anjos and it almost knocks the leg out from under Emerson. Heís really lighting up the leg here. Another takedown is avoided by Emerson, however. Double leg attempt follows and this time it looks a little stronger, but Emerson still manages to stay on his feet. Finally with 20 seconds to go Dos Anjos gets him down, landing some peppering punches and elbows, but he doesnít have the time to pass to a dominant position. Surprising round in that it was 90% kickboxing and yet Dos Anjos dominated with the leg kicks.

2nd round and Emerson looks a little more relaxed now, but he still takes a vicious leg kick early on. Another one lands, answered by a leg kick from Emerson. Good combo from Emerson but it doesnít faze Rafael and he hits another inside leg kick. Another takedown attempt is stuffed, but Dos Anjos looks comfortable standing anyway and he lands with the leg kick again. Emerson is landing a lot more in this round though, particularly with his right hand. Strong double leg attempt from Rafael but again Emerson sprawls nicely. This time the Brazilian drives through and gets him down, but he aggressively goes for a guard pass and that allows Emerson to explode up to his feet. Two minutes remaining. Exchange continues and Emerson sprawls out of another takedown. Wild swing from Dos Anjos misses and he slips off balance momentarily. Emersonís leg looks badly marked up according to Joe Rogan. Another vicious leg kick lands and this time Emerson drops his hands in reaction. Heís limping now too. Combo from Emerson but Rafael answers by cracking the inside leg once more. Emersonís leg is jacked. Another one almost takes him off his feet. Clinch from Dos Anjos and he knees to the inside leg to finish the round. 10-9 Dos Anjos again and the leg kick is killing Emerson here.

Third and final round, and they exchange punches before Dos Anjos buckles him with the kick. Emerson manages another good sprawl, but this time Dos Anjos keeps going and gets him down. Emerson looks to scramble up, but gives his back in the process and now Dos Anjos has him back mounted with one hook in. Emerson rolls to half-guard as the camera catches a glimpse of his welted left leg. It looks like a battered piece of meat. Good job from Emerson of getting to full guard as Rafael feeds him some elbows. Emerson is tough as hell to take this sort of beating. More punches and hammer fists land, and Emerson almost scrambles up on a guard pass attempt, but Rafael keeps him down and passes to half-guard. He slides into side mount, and I think Emersonís explosive power is all but gone due to the leg kicks. As soon as Iíve typed that, Emerson explodes up to his feet in a clinch. Ha. Dos Anjos lands some knees to the body and drops for the takedown again, but Emerson defends and gets some separation. Leg kick again from Rafael and with a minute to go this is all but over. Emerson walks into a few punches and some more knees as he just canít put anything together. Another leg kick doubles Emerson over and now heís just swinging wildly, hoping for the best. Fight ends shortly after. Good fight.

Judges all score it 30-27 for Rafael Dos Anjos. That was a very impressive performance from him as heíd always been known as a grappler and yet he lit up a solid kickboxer in Emerson from start to finish, looking almost Thiago Alves-esque with his brutal leg kicks. Definitely a guy to watch I think based on what weíve seen thus far now he seems settled into the UFC. A little one-sided but as a leg kick clinic this was awesome.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Vladimir Matyushenko vs Igor Pokrajac

Longtime veteran Matyushenko was one of the refugees from Affliction, and he was one of the better arrivals from the promotion in my opinion as his only recent loss had been to Lilí Nog and heíd been running roughshod over the IFL 205lbs division prior to that. Never heard of Pokrajac before but apparently heís a training partner of Mirko Cro Cop. Seeing as Vladdy only tends to lose to tip-top guys I figured he was a lock here. Tale of the tape tells us Vladdy is now *38*. Didnít realize he was that old, damn.

Pokrajac presses forward early as Matyushenko looks very relaxed. Big right hand from Vladdy causes both men to slip off balance for a second. They clinch up and Matyushenko muscles him into the fence. Left hook from Vladdy breaks off. Good jab follows and then he goes to the body. Big right hand snaps Igorís head back. Suddenly Pokrajac is on the defensive. Leg kick from Vladdy and then he lands the right again. Superman punch from Pokrajac misses. Vladdy works the jab some more and then lands a right to the body. Crowd begin to get restless as the action slows down a little, and then Pokrajac lands a hard left hook and stuns Matyushenko with a flurry! Good takedown from Vladdy puts an end to that though. He works a neck crank from the guard and then stands over him, looking to pass. He tries to get past the legs but winds up back in full guard. Matyushenko stands to attempt the pass again, and this time itís more successful as he drops into side mount. Knee to the belly into full mount, but thereís only 20 seconds to go. Pokrajac holds on and then gives his back, but Vladdy slips off and winds up on his back with Pokrajac mounting him as the buzzer sounds. Close round to call but Iíd go 10-9 Matyushenko.

Vladdy takes some punches to begin the 2nd, including a glancing superman punch, but he doesnít look hurt. Overhand right answers. Good jab again from Matyushenko. Pokrajac steps in with a combo, but takes a hard uppercut as he lunges for a clinch. Stiff right hand snaps Pokrajacís head back. Superman punch from the Croatian misses and now Vladdy begins to tee off on him with combinations. Big uppercut rocks him and Vladdy flurries on him before hitting a BEAUTIFUL belly-to-belly suplex down into half-guard! Big punches follow as Igor covers up and it looks like this might be the finish. Matyushenko goes for full mount, but ends up in half-guard, not that it matters as Vladdy continues to nail him with punches, trapping the arm for good measure. It looks like heís got a keylock in, but Pokrajac holds on and eats some vicious elbows for his troubles. Pokrajac gives up mount and then Vladdy takes the back, where he works for the rear naked choke. Pokrajac manages to turn and shake him off somewhat, but Matyushenko stays on top and grabs a front choke as Igor looks for a double leg. He gives that up though and drops for a double of his own, getting Pokrajac on his back in guard. Round ends there. That round was all Matyushenko.

Third round and Igor pushes forward with some strikes, but takes an overhand right counter to a leg kick. Pokrajac really pushes forward but walks into another stiff jab and an uppercut. They clinch and Vladdy looks for a throw, but loses it and almost slips to the ground. Before Igor can capitalize though Vladdy gets a single leg to guard. Referee Leon Roberts calls an extremely fast stand-up when the action slows a little. Igor comes forward into a clinch as the announcers sing Robertsí praises for his job in the Condit-Ellenberger fight which I would wholeheartedly agree with. Roberts calls a break from the clinch and they continue to exchange into the clinch again. Action really slows as they muscle for position, before Pokrajac surprises Vladdy with a takedown to half-guard. Matyushenko ties him up though as Igor tries desperately to slide to mount. Reversal from Vladdy though and heís on top in the guard with 30 seconds to go. Igor ties him up and the fight ends there.

Iíd score this 30-27 for Matyushenko I think, and the judges agree, unanimous 30-27ís for The Janitor. First two rounds of this were really good, third less so, but it was still a solid win for Matyushenko to return to the Octagon with as he never really looked in any trouble and had Pokrajac beaten in all areas pretty much.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Eliot Marshall vs Jason Brilz

Marshall was fresh off a win over Vinny Magalhaes in one of the worst fights of 2009, while Brilz had reeled off two UFC wins in a row since his debut in September 2008. In my opinion you could pretty much toss a coin to decide a winner as both guys are solid mid-level contenders, and with that I took Marshall.

Circle to begin and Marshall throws out some long punches as Brilz stays on the outside. Couple of jabs land for Marshall as Brilz does nothing pretty much. Single leg attempt from Brilz, but Eliot stuffs it and pushes him away. Overhand right catches Marshall and Brilz uses it to close the distance into a clinch. Quick break follows. Another takedown attempt from Brilz is stuffed by Marshall and neither man gains an advantage from the clinch. Marshall breaks off and lands a couple more jabs and a leg kick. Right hand lands for Brilz and he muscles for a takedown, but still canít get Eliot off his feet. High kick from Marshall is blocked. Good body kick lands for him though before Brilz clinches again to end the round. Dull round.

More of the same to begin the second round, with Marshall staying on the outside, looking to keep his distance and strike. Deep single leg from Brilz but Marshall stays on his feet, doing a nice job of stuffing it. Eliot forces him into the fence for a moment, then breaks off. Another takedown attempt from Brilz ends with the same result, a clinch against the fence, and then Eliot breaks again. Brief exchange sees both men land shots. Clinch from Brilz and he lands a short right hand inside before pressing him into the cage again. Knee from Brilz catches Eliot in the groin though and the ref calls time. They restart and Brilz pushes forward swinging as Marshall stays on his bike and catches Brilz coming in with an uppercut. Good lord this is a bad fight. Brilz goes for the takedown again, driving Marshall into the fence with a crash, but he still canít get him off his feet. Yawn. Brilz finally gets him down for a second, but Marshall sprawls out and it looks like Eliotís going for a top-side triangle. Brilz pulls out though and weíre back standing. Brilz swings into the clinch again but they break off. Round ends there.

Round Three and Brilzís corner sound mad frustrated with this. They begin and Brilz pushes forward, but gets another single leg stuffed. They clinch up and Brilz really works to attempt to get him down, but still canít get him off his feet and Eliot shoves him away. Brilz just keeps going for the single leg, but he gets zero success with it again. Eliot is playing the worldís worst Lyoto Machida here, counterpunching and sort-of landing, but doing zero damage. Brilz canít capitalize though as he canít get the takedown. I canít believe the crowd havenít begun to boo yet. More of the same follows as Rogan is freely stating now that Eliot is looking to win on points while Brilz wants to fight. Fight mercifully ends a minute later.

Weíre going to the judges again and they have it 30-28 Brilz, 30-27 Marshall, and 30-27 giving Marshall the split decision. Well, Marshall improves to 3-0 in the UFC and 2-0 for 2009 with that, but man, itís hardly something to be proud of when your two fights were up there with the very worst of the year. Brilz tried, but he couldnít get anything going as Eliot defended the takedown, but I mean, the sub-Lyoto tactics just sucked. Sure, do that if youíre a world-class kickboxer with KO power, but last I looked, isnít Marshall supposedly this great BJJ guy? So why not USE YOUR BJJ? I could understand him wanting to kickbox with Vinny Magalhaes, but Jason Brilz is a different opponent altogether. Atrocious fight.

Welterweight Fight: Rick Story vs Brian Foster

Matt Hughes protťgť Foster was originally set to face Paul Daley here, but when Daley moved up the card to face Kampmann, fellow wrestler Story stepped in, looking to make amends for a June loss at the hands of John Hathaway. This seemed like a hard one to pick on paper but with Foster being a Hughes guy I ended up going with him.

Fight begins and both men push forward, and suddenly itís a SHOOTOUT as both men throw caution to the wind and start trading bombs! Jesus Christ. Eliot Marshall take note! Both men get rocked but Foster looks to have the advantage and comes wading in with punches. Takedown attempt from Story and Foster almost gets a guillotine, but Story pushes through and gets him down in guard where he lands elbows. Pass puts him in side mount and then Foster gives his back, but stands in a rear waistlock. Story pulls him down again and then turns for a double leg, dumping Foster to the ground. Elbows to the body from Story and he looks to mount, but winds up in half-guard. Someoneís bleeding I think but I canít tell who. Nice elbows from Story and he manages to hop into side mount again. Foster hip escapes to half-guard though. Story looks like heís going for an arm triangle, but Foster manages to shrug it off and scrambles back to full guard. Thereís blood everywhere now but I still canít tell whose cut. Story stands over him and tries to drop some shots, but Foster explodes up only to be taken down by Story again. Foster gets half-guard and then escapes, and itís another WILD TRADE with both men landing bombs! Looks like the blood is coming from Storyís nose. Seconds to go and they continue to throw down, before Story gets a clinch and forces him into the cage. Well, Foster got the better of the stand-up, but Story dominated him on the ground so the round goes to Story 10-9.

Into the 2nd and Foster misses with a high kick. Good left hand by Story and then he hits a single leg to guard. Elbow from Story and he passes into half-guard. He isolates the left arm and locks up an arm triangle, but heís still stuck in the half-guard. Surprisingly though Story manages to get the choke on tight enough from there and Foster ends up tapping out.

Tremendous strength from Story to tap a guy from the half-guard with an arm triangle like that. Fight was super-exciting as both men just came out throwing bombs, exchanging with reckless abandon, but the difference was Storyís wrestling as he was able to take Foster down and work him over from the top position. Excellent stuff from both men.

Lightweight Fight: Nik Lentz vs Rafaello Oliveira

Oliveira had come over from Affliction where he was set to face Takanori Gomi, but I guess UFC couldnít transfer Gomiís contract over directly (though he ended up signing a little later anyway) and so he was matched with Dan Lauzon on this card. Of course, Lauzon got injured and dropped out and so the unknown Lentz stepped in on short notice. With both guys being largely unknown, I was leaning to Oliveira purely because hey, if Affliction figured he was good enough to fight Gomi then he must surely have some skills.

Round One and they trade some strikes early before Oliveira grabs a clinch, then separates with a knee to the body. Trade continues and then Oliveira sets up a takedown with a combo and gets a double leg. Lentz grabs a guillotine, but it doesnít look tight and Oliveira ends up on top. Lentz reverses to his feet, and lands a right hand on the way out. Big right hand from Oliveira wobbles Lentz, and he quickly changes levels to go for a takedown. They scramble and Lentz ends up with a standing guillotine, and he jumps to guard and ends up being slammed down. Oliveira pops his head free and tries to keep him down, but Lentz scrambles to his feet again. Big combo from Oliveira lands and they trade some punches before Rafaello drops for another takedown. Slam follows and he lands in full guard. Lentz keeps going for the guillotine, but he canít get it and Oliveira passes to half-guard. Some good punches land but Lentz manages to regain full guard. Oma plata attempt from Lentz but Oliveira avoids it well. Good job from Lentz to escape to his feet and he lands a good knee inside the clinch. Nice combo from Lentz hurts the Brazilian and he looks in trouble, wobbled a bit, but manages to clinch. This is an awesome round. They break off and exchange some more shots before Lentz goes for a takedown and gets a slam, before Oliveira lands an upkick to end the round.

2nd round and Lentz opens with a nice body kick. Right hand to answer from Oliveira. Striking exchange follows before Lentz gets a takedown. Oliveira goes for a leglock but Lentz avoids and they come back to their feet. Nice combo ending with a leg kick from Lentz. Nice leg kick from Oliveira. Oliveira throws out some jabs, but Lentz keeps pushing forward and lands some nice shots of his own, including a right that puts the Brazilian on the retreat. Oliveira swings into a clinch, but Lentz breaks quickly. Takedown from Oliveira but Lentz has the guillotine again. Oliveira escapes and punches at the body, but Lentz goes for a kimura. Oliveira avoids it pretty easily and lands with some solid elbows. Lentz begins to do some good work from the bottom with hammer fists, and then he hits a scramble and gets a takedown of his own. Beautiful reversal from Oliveira puts him back on top though before Lentz can capitalize. This really is an excellent fight. Lentz is sporting a bloody nose. Lentz rolls and works his way up to his feet, and breaks with a good right hand. Flurry from Lentz but he doesnít land cleanly. Round ends on the feet.

Third and final round and I think this could still go either way. Good jab from Oliveira to open but Lentz hits him with a leg kick in retaliation. Oliveira is looking tired to me now. Lentz pushes the action but walks into some punches, and then the Brazilian gets a nice takedown to guard. Lentz keeps an active guard from the bottom, but Oliveira passes into half-guard. He canít get a full mount though and Lentz is landing some decent hammer fists and elbows from the bottom too. Oliveira lands some punches, but when he opens up Lentz escapes to his feet. Striking exchange and Lentz gets the best of it, before hitting a takedown and passing quickly to half-guard. Oliveira goes for a sweep, but Lentz avoids and stands over him, dropping some shots to the body. Good ground-and-pound from Lentz from the guard. Lentz might steal this fight with this work. Some really good punches land for Lentz, bouncing Oliveiraís head off the mat. Looks like Oliveiraís out of gas. Seconds remaining but Lentz stays on top and continues to do damage.

I think Iíd score this a draw actually, 10-10 in the first round, 10-9 Oliveira in the second, 10-9 Lentz in the third. Though Lentz couldíve taken the first round to be fair as well. Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 for Nik Lentz. Close fight but yeah, Lentz probably deserved the win particularly with the damage he did in the third round. Really good fight though, especially considering both men were making their UFC debuts. Iím definitely interested to see them fight again.

Lightweight Fight: Jim Miller vs Steve Lopez

Another injury-hit fight, this wouldíve been a super-intriguing fight between Miller and Thiago Tavares, but in the end Tavares was forced out and so Lopez, who Iíve never heard of before, stepped in. With Miller fighting a total unknown, I chose him as my lock of the night.

First round begins and both men come out throwing shots. Good leg kick from Miller and he gets the better of an early exchange. Miller continues to land the better punches, dropping Lopez to a knee off a left hook. Good body kick from Jim. Lopez is walking right into these punches from Miller. Couple of good leg kicks land for him too. Lopez sprawls to avoid a takedown though. Head kick lands glancingly for Miller but Lopez walks right towards him. Big left hook wobbles Lopez badly and a flurry puts him down. Miller gets on top in the guard and looks to capitalize, but Lopez does a good job of tying him up to slow the pace down. Lopez gets back up, but heís trapped in a guillotine and Miller forces him to his back, looking to finish. Lopez frees his head, but takes some punches and now Miller gets his back with one hook in. He tries to get full mount and lands some more punches, but Lopez scrambles to guard, taking a big left hand in the process. More shots from the top from Miller but Lopez ties him up. Miller drops back for a leglock, but loses it and they stand to close the round out. Good round for Jim Miller.

Round Two and they exchange punches early with Miller again getting the better of it. Good leg kick from Miller and he lands another right hand that wobbles Lopez a bit. Lopez comes forward swinging, but then he quickly steps off and waves the fight off, and it looks confusing for a second until the camera gets a shot of his left shoulder, which is sticking out, looking dislocated. Urgh. Replay actually shows the joint popping out on a lunging left hook attempt. Man, sick stuff.

Fight was shaping up to be a good one although I think Miller wouldíve won anyway, but that was a terrible break for Lopez as it was a total freak injury not even caused by Miller. Fight was fine for what we got and I was very impressed with Millerís striking Ė evidently he worked on it a lot after Gray Maynard basically out-boxed him to a decision in March.

Middleweight Fight: Tomasz Drwal vs Drew McFedries

This was Polish striker Drwalís first fight at 185lbs, which appeared to be a good move physically as he always looked a little soft at 205lbs to me. He had looked great in his last two fights there though, taking out Ivan Serati and Mike Ciesnolevicz. McFedries had bounced back from a couple of losses by knocking out Xavier Foupa-Pokam in May and we looked set for a slugfest here.

Drwal slips on a low kick early and McFedries swings some bombs that donít land. Inside leg kick from McFedries and he follows with an uppercut. Drwal pushes forward with a flurry and then looks for a double leg, forcing Drew into the cage. He switches to a single but McFedries works to defend it. They break off and Drew wades in with a short uppercut. Man, McFedries is REALLY swinging with his punches, although he hasnít landed yet. He pretty much throws Drwal off him in a clinch, too. Uppercut lands for Drew but Drwal clinches, gets a rear waistlock, and muscles him down, trying to keep himself in side mount. McFedries grabs the shorts though and muscles up to his feet. Drwal still has the waistlock though and he opens up with knees to the legs before they break off. McFedries wades in with some more power punches, but Drwal covers up and takes them, and then they TRADE OFF WILDLY with both men landing. Somehow both are still standing though and Drwal pushes forward and connects with a right that puts Drew on the back foot. Left hook lands for the Pole too. Uppercut by McFedries but he slips to his back and Drwal comes in with a double leg to guard. Drwal stands over him and drops some punches, and then he passes to full mount. McFedries gives his back and takes some more punches, but the round ends before the Pole can finish. 10-9 Tomasz Drwal.

Into the 2nd and McFedries gets tagged with a left hand, before Drwal grabs him in a clinch and muscles him down. Instantly he moves into side mount and McFedries looks gassed to me. Drwal controls him and then steps to take the back, and from there he quickly gets a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Decent fight and a good showing for Drwal in his first test at 185lbs against a dangerous opponent. It looked to me like McFedries blew his wad by swinging too wildly for the knockout in the first round, and when you waste energy by putting everything you have into every punch (see Josh Burkman) it never tends to pay off. Drwal looked more crisp standing, and to be fair Drew has never looked outstanding on the ground, so the result wasnít all that surprising in the end. Still, an exciting little fight for what it was.

Lightweight Fight: Efrain Escudero vs Cole Miller

This was originally set for the main card Ė as is to be expected with a TUF winner Ė but inexplicably it got bumped in favour of the Griffin-Franca fight. It turned out, of course, that the fight would be aired on Spike for free (along with the Drwal-McFedries one) prior to the PPV broadcast. Fresh off his win over bad boy Junie Browning, Cole was looking to take out another TUF 8 veteran, but the seasonís winner Efrain had a lot more skill than Junie and I expected his brand of wrestling and submission awareness to be enough to grind out a win over the American Top Team prospect.

We begin and both men look a little tentative, throwing strikes from distance as it looks like neither wants to make the first big move. Head kick misses for Miller. Good right hand lands for the ATT fighter though. Miller is looking to use his long reach here. Efrain presses forward, landing a left uppercut-right hook combo, but the crowd become a little restless as neither man has done any damage yet. Kick to the body from Cole but Efrain catches it and punches him down, before allowing him back to his feet. Good lunging right hand from Miller, but Escudero comes back with a leg kick. Nice knee from Miller and then he misses with a spinning back kick. Miller continues to push forward, looking to use his jab, but after a front kick and a missed head kick, Efrain grabs him in a bodylock and dumps him with a BIG SLAM! Cole gets back up right away, but heís clearly a little rattled as he walks into a short left hand. Miller looks wobbled and Efrain follows with a one-two and then a BIG RIGHT HAND that drops Cole hard! Few punches on the ground stiffen him up and thatís all she wrote.

Brutal, brutal stuff. Did not expect Efrain to carry such vicious power in his hands after watching his TUF run, but I guess thatís another string to add to his bow. Fight wasnít very action-packed until the very end, but man, the end made up for it as Efrain hit a nasty slam and then basically knocked the shit out of Miller. Tremendous win for him as Cole Miller to me was one of the toughest guys that a TUF winner has ever had to face in their first post-TUF bout and Efrain passed this test with flying colours.

Lightweight Fight: Tyson Griffin vs Hermes Franca

Odd situation surrounding this one as Franca came in at 159lbs, four pounds over the Lightweight limit, and Griffin ended up accepting a Catchweight. No idea what caused the botch in weight and I donít think Franca ever explained it either if I recall correctly. Strangely, this was Griffinís fifth Brazilian opponent in six fights too, the lone exception being Sean Sherk. I was expecting an exciting fight between these two with Griffin coming out with another decision win, as well, nobody tends to finish Franca and yet I couldnít see him beating Tyson at this stage.

First round and Christ, I have to say that Francaís light purple, permed hair is garish. Good leg kick from Tyson early on. Couple more leg kicks from Tyson and he follows with a lunging right hook to the body. Overhand right misses for Franca but Tyson misses his own counter. Another good body shot from Griffin. Overhand right and high kick are blocked by Franca. Crowd begin to get restless as Hermes just covers up to block a couple of combos. Another good leg kick for Tyson. Franca catches a leg kick and throws the right but Tyson just about avoids. Double jab from Griffin. Good left hook to the body from Tyson and really Hermes is looking very flat here. Lunging left hook drops Hermes to a knee but he pops back up instantly and looks okay. Nice straight left from Tyson. Pair of inside leg kicks land for the American. Round ends as Tyson dances around a little. Easy round for Tyson Griffin.

2nd round and they exchange kicks early. Flurry from Franca, and even though he takes a nice counter from Griffin he keeps coming and puts Tyson on the retreat! Good knee lands for Hermes, popping the crowd, and then he really swings for the fences, but Tyson avoids and lands a right hand of his own. Leg kick by Griffin is caught and Franca starts wildly swinging for the head as Tyson avoids and fires back with rights of his own. Good jab from Tyson as he finally gets his leg free. Tyson begins to settle down again, landing better counterpunches as Hermes steps in. Beautiful combo from Tyson snaps Hermesí head back but he shrugs it off somehow. Tyson is mixing it up nicely here, landing at will on Franca. Leg kick from Tyson and he avoids a winging uppercut. Awesome step-in leg kick from Tyson. Wild punches miss for Franca and he takes another leg kick. Leg kick again from Griffin and he follows with a STRAIGHT RIGHT THAT DROPS FRANCA! Tyson looks to follow up and punches away as Hermes desperately tries to regain his composure, but Tyson does a TREMENDOUS JOB, picking his shots and finally some big shots land and STIFFEN FRANCA UP!~!

WOW. Finally Tyson finishes a fight, and itís against Hermes Franca who basically nobody manages to knock out? Awesome stuff. The story of the fight was basically the crisper striker in Griffin picking apart the wildly-swinging Franca, but the key to the finish was the fact that Tyson didnít just throw wild bombs once he dropped him, he picked his shots smartly and landed clean punches to put him away. Probably Tysonís most impressive performance since his fight with Thiago Tavares in late 2007. Action-packed fight, too.

Welterweight Fight: Josh Koscheck vs Frank Trigg

Along with the returns of Belfort and Matyushenko on this show, we got another nostalgia trip in the form of Frank Trigg, who hadnít set foot inside the Octagon since a 2005 loss to GSP. Trigg had done well in his time away from the UFC, picking up big wins mainly at Middleweight over the likes of Mayhem Miller and Kazuo Misaki, but upon returning to the UFC he immediately dropped back down to 170lbs. Sadly for Trigg he was faced with a horrible stylistic match in Koscheck, who for all intents and purposes was a younger version of himself, with better striking, submissions and wrestling. My pick here was Koscheck by rear naked choke, and I was hoping Zuffa would keep Trigg around after the loss.

We get underway and they circle, throwing out some feeler strikes with neither man really landing. Good left hand from Trigg snaps Kosís head back but he looks fine. Right hook to the body from Koscheck. Exchange continues until an overhand right from Koscheck seems to clip Trigg on the neck, killing his equilibrium. Trigg steps off and eats a CRUSHING RIGHT HAND that drops him, and Kos pounces with some BOMBS for the stoppage!

Post-fight Trigg tries to claim an early stoppage, but thereís just no way Ė if Leon Roberts hadnít stopped things he likely wouldíve been seriously hurt. Looked like it was the wrist of Koscheck that clipped him to begin, then he got caught with the big right and from there it was over. Another big win for Koscheck Ė who would ever have thought this guy would be hitting highlight reel KOs all the time now? Ė and a disappointing return for Trigg, but thankfully heís been kept around and will face Matt Serra in a more favourable match next week. Not much of a fight until the KO if Iím honest, but the finish was awesome.

Welterweight Fight: Paul Daley vs Martin Kampmann

This wouldíve originally seen Kampmann meeting Mike Swick for a shot at Georges St-Pierreís Welterweight Title, but Swick pulled out with a concussion and so Paul Daley, who was supposed to fight Brian Foster on the undercard, stepped up to the plate. Of course, with Daley being a debutant, it was no longer a #1 Contenderís match, but thatís another story. This was quite a difficult fight to pick given that Kampmannís always billed as a top-level kickboxer and Daley is one of the best pure strikers in the division, but in my opinion Kampmannís actually better on the ground than he is standing, and so I expected him to use his advantage there and take Daley down and get a submission midway through the fight.

Kampmann presses forward early and after a brief exchange it looks like he wants to impose a jab, using his reach. Daley lunges in with a glancing left hook, but Kampmann quickly backs out of the exchange. Single leg attempt from Kampmann but Daley defends, landing an uppercut and a left hook to break off. Kampmann tries to step in again, but eats another quick left. Left hook lands again as the Dane looks to clinch. Kampmann again steps in, but takes the left hook and this time it snaps his head back and wobbles him for a split-second. Same thing happens again when Kampmann tries to clinch, as Daley lands another combo ending with the left hook. Nice right by Kampmann but he misses a knee. Finally Kampmann manages to get a bodylock and forces Daley into the cage, where he lands a knee, but Semtex breaks off with a left hook. Left hook lands again for the Brit and this time Kampmannís badly hurt, wobbling backwards! Daley closes in and UNLOADS, just hitting him with heavy shot after heavy shot, and finally Yves Lavigne steps in with Kampmann still on his feet. Unbelievable!

Post-fight they discuss how it mightíve been a premature stoppage as Kampmann was still on his feet, but to me it didnít look early as Kampmannís eyes looked like they were gone and I think he wouldíve been knocked completely unconscious if Lavigne hadnít called it when he had. Bottom line is he was done.

Really good debut for Paul Daley to cement himself in the top ten at 170lbs, and to me it was more a victory for great gameplanning, as Daleyís camp (the Roughhouse Gym, in my opinion the best camp in the UK) obviously did their homework and realized that while Kampmann does have good takedowns, he never shoots from the outside, instead using the clinch to get his opponent down. Every time he tried to clinch with Daley he was met with the left uppercut or left hook, which swiftly lead to the Daneís downfall. So as I said, great debut for Daley, a victory over a very dangerous opponent.

Heavyweight Fight: Junior Dos Santos vs Mirko Cro Cop

After a triumphant return to the UFC over Mostapha Al-Turk in June, the word was that Cro Cop had signed with DREAM and basically screwed Zuffa over, but that turned out to be a false report and after some negotiations with Lorenzo Fertitta, Mirko ended up signing a multi-fight deal with the UFC, this one being the first on the new contract. Dos Santos had been on a roll since his debut in the Octagon, crushing Fabricio Werdum and Stefan Struve, but Cro Cop, with much more experience and his deadly striking game, was easily his biggest challenge thus far. Still, the Cro Cop everyone knew and loved from PRIDE hadnít really been seen since, well, the last time he fought in PRIDE, and despite beating Al-Turk I wasnít too impressed with him in June. I was calling a changing of the guard here, with the younger, hungrier Dos Santos stopping Mirko with strikes.

Pretty major staredown pre-fight Ė Dos Santos is a seriously intense dude.

First round begins and Dos Santos quickly wades forward into a brief clinch. They break off but Dos Santos continues to push the action, playing the aggressor while Mirko circles on the outside. The famous left high kick just misses for Cro Cop. Body kick glances off the Brazilianís midsection. Into the clinch but Dos Santos breaks with a hard combination that hurts Cro Cop and has him covering up and retreating. Uppercut from Junior has Mirko on the run, but they wind up in the clinch and it looks like Dos Santos is cut, donít know what caused it though. They exchange knees inside before breaking off. Again Dos Santos walks forward with an uppercut into the clinch. Crowd begin a big ďCRO COP!Ē chant. They exchange some more knees and Cro Cop tries a throw, but Dos Santos defends and they pop right back up. Good right to the body from Junior. Good counter left from Mirko as Junior comes forward, and it stalls the Brazilian in his tracks. Left lands again for Cro Cop and he shrugs off a clinch. Big swing misses for Dos Santos now. Dos Santos wades in with some more punches but Mirko covers up to avoid. Junior clinches and forces him into the cage again and they muscle for position, before Mirko breaks and cracks him with the left hand again to end the round. Hard round to score actually as Dos Santos was the aggressor and hurt Mirko, but Mirko did begin to counterpunch nicely later in the round and cut Dos Santos quite badly. Iím going with a 10-10 actually.

Round 2 begins and they circle before Dos Santos lands a good right hand. High kick misses for Mirko. Couple of low kicks land well for Cro Cop but a left hook hurts him and Junior looks to swarm on him. Big right hook from Junior but Cro Cop counters twice with the straight left and lands. Nice right to the body from Dos Santos. Few glancing hooks land for Junior and he follows with an uppercut, but Cro Cop pushes him off before a flurry can land. Left high kick misses by a mile for Mirko. Left to the body and short uppercut from Dos Santos. Good right hand from Junior has Cro Cop covering up, and he tries to shove Junior away as he lands punches. They clinch up briefly and then break off. Junior is going to the body more often this round and it appears to be working. A knee lands to the body. Mirko keeps reaching forward as if to clinch, but then shoving Dos Santos away. Body kick attempt lands low on Dos Santos and he doubles over, causing referee Dan Miragliotta to call time. Junior recovers quickly and they restart. Left hook lands for Junior. 30 seconds to go. Straight right to the body from Dos Santos and a follow-up cuts Mirko over his left eye. Body kick from Dos Santos ends the round. Well, that was clearly Dos Santosís round as Cro Cop did little outside of a couple of left counters early on. 10-9 JDS.

Third and final round now and both men have taken their fair share of heavy blows in this one. Cro Cop surprisingly pushes forward to open, landing a stiff left hand in a trade. Juniorís chin holds up though and he fires back with a hard right to the body. Nice uppercut to the body from Dos Santos. Junior really begins to look for the uppercut now, but then changes it up and lands a lunging knee to the gut of the Croatian. Another one follows and Mirko looks hurt. Dos Santos wades in with another knee and Cro Cop looks like heís wilting. Good left lands for him but Junior answers with another right to the body and a knee. Mirko is firmly on the defensive now. Uppercut and brutal knee to the body land, and JDS follows with a BIG KNEE from the plum clinch that rocks Cro Cop! Uppercut follows and Mirko is on jelly legs. Junior grabs the plum clinch again and continues to channel Anderson Silva, landing with knees to the body and head. Short uppercut separates the clinch and Cro Cop steps back, covering his eyes, and itís pretty clear he wants out. Referee Dan Miragliotta waves it off there.

Well, that was an anti-climactic ending, as Junior didnít really knock him out so much as Mirko just decided at that point that he wanted out. Replay shows the uppercut caught him right in the eye socket, so I guess thatís the reason behind the finish. Fight was a solid one, really heavy-hitting, but it was a bit odd in a way as the first round was very even and both men got some heavy shots in, but by the second round Ė basically as soon as Dos Santos started to work the body, which is, coincidentally, the same tactic that allowed Cheick Kongo to beat Mirko Ė it looked like Cro Copís heart wasnít really in the fight and it was only a matter of time before Dos Santos got him out of there. The use of the knees really proved to be the turning point in finishing him, though. Dos Santos looked fantastic here as not only did he prove again that he hits hard, but he showed his chin is pretty sturdy too as he took some real shots from Cro Cop in the first and kept on coming. The only question mark for him now is his ground game. As for Mirko, many fans said he should probably retire after this one as it was pretty clear his heart wasnít in the game any more, and a few days after he actually announced his retirement (even admitting he was thinking about fishing at home in Croatia during this fight!) but has since renounced that and will face Ben Rothwell in February. As a long time fan of his Iíd like to see a return to form, but I doubt very much that weíll ever see that at this stage.

Catchweight (195lbs) Fight: Vitor Belfort vs Rich Franklin

In all honesty, after so many false dawns, Iíd given up hope on the ĎOld Vitorí ever returning for good long ago. So it was a shock to me when a slimmed-down, Randy Couture trained Belfort emerged at 185lbs in 2008 and knocked out Terry Martin with a more patient style to go along with his legendary fast hands. It was even more of a shock when Vitor came into his fight with Matt Lindland at Afflictionís show in February and sparked him out in under a minute. Suddenly the rejuvenated Vitor became a potential contender to Anderson Silvaís dominance at 185lbs, and when Affliction crashed as a promotion, ĎThe Phenomí was immediately thrust by the UFC into a main event situation against former champion Rich Franklin, with the possibility of an instant shot at Silva should he win.

The one thing that didnít make sense to me was the 195lbs weight. I mean, Belfort had refused to fight Gegard Mousasi at 205lbs in Affliction because he was supposedly a 185lbs fighter now, and obviously Franklin could make 185lbs with little trouble. But putting that aside, originally I was leaning towards Franklin winning, but after seeing the Countdown show and having my heartstrings pulled at by everything Vitor has gone through (as usual if Iím honest!) I ended up choosing Belfort by KO.

First round begins and both men look pretty tentative and patient. Franklin takes the center of the cage as Vitor circles round on the outside. Weíre a minute in and neither man has landed anything of any significance. Crowd are chanting for God-knows who, it sounds like two groups of fans chanting for both guys. Franklin tries a body kick that gets caught, but he avoids Vitorís counter. This is the most patient Iíve ever seen Vitor fight. Donít think Rich expected it either. Crowd begin to get restless as Rich misses a couple of right jabs. Two minutes to go though and Franklin over commits a little and they briefly trade, and this ends BADLY for Franklin as he folds on something I didnít quite catch. Franklin ends up on all fours and a few more punches on the ground finish things. Wow, that was fast.

Slow-motion replay shows Rich got cuffed by a left that landed to the back of the head and knocked out his equilibrium, and as he went down off balance Vitor landed a right, a left hook and another left to the temple for the knockout. Well, the first shot was a bit fluke-ish but once he had Rich hurt, the speed and accuracy that he used to finish him was frightening. And despite Richís star falling a little since the first Anderson fight, he still only ever lost to Dan Henderson in a controversial decision, making Vitor only the third person (alongside Silva and Machida) to finish him, so this was a huge win for the Phenom. Post-fight Vitor gives all of the glory to Jesus and then says that speed kills. Well, yeah. Not much of a fight to be honest as the punches that finished things were like the first ones that landed, but it was a nice highlight-reel return to the UFC for Belfort. I donít see him beating Anderson Silva but I always prefer seeing new challengers rather than rematches, so I welcome him in the title fight.

-Highlight reel ends the night. Whew. Please donít do thirteen fights again.

Final Thoughts....

UFC 103 is a strange one to judge in a way, as outside of Marshall-Brilz there are no terrible fights on the card, and everything from Escudero-Miller onwards ends in memorable, highlight reel fashion. Normally thatíd make a show one of the best of the year, but I donít know, it just felt like the card had something missing, even at a monstrous thirteen fights. I think itís the lack of a real marquee main event, as no offense to Franklin and Belfort, but a contenderís fight like that probably wouldíve served better as a semi-main than an actual main event. For me, thatís the biggest reason for moving 135lbs and 145lbs to the UFC, as a Featherweight Title fight couldíve main evented a card like this perfectly. Thatís another article though and to focus on what is on the show, well, itís a show with some highlight reel finishes, some solid fights, but itís lacking in anything truly memorable and at thirteen fights it drags on waaay too long. Thumbs up, just about.

Best Fight: Story-Foster
Worst Fight: Marshall-Brilz

Overall Rating: ***1/2

Coming Soon....

UFC: 104-107, Fight Night 20, TUF X Finale
Bitetti Combat 4
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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