While I wouldn’t call UFC 73 one of the best fight cards I’ve ever seen, I really don’t have many complaints. The telecast was a lot more smooth than the season finale of The Ultimate Fighter and I felt there was a better payoff with the results of some of the bouts.
Based on the booing from the Sacramento crowd I’m sure that novice fans may not feel the same way about the card as I do considering there was so much technical defensive posturing on display. In order to really appreciate the transitions and the escapes I think you have had to be following MMA for several years.
I’ll break things down fight-by-fight…
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Heath Herring – Herring was up for this fight and it showed. I thought this was an excellent match with more technical ability demonstrated during your average heavyweight encounter. Nogueira’s boxing was excellent in the first round as he was really letting his hands go and bring them back in a defensive position to limit Herring’s counter opportunities. I was very surprised though that the fight wasn’t called after Herring landed the high kick and tried to finish it with strikes while Nogueira was on the ground. Yves Lavigne is definitely liberal when it comes to calling the fight. Herring got some heat from the broadcasters for allowing Nogueira to get up but I think it was a good call because Lavigne didn’t want to call it and by putting Nogueira in a position where he had to stand up on his own he forced the issue as to whether he should be allowed to continue. Nogueira showed tremendous heart in being able to continue and doing what he needed to do to win the fight.
Sean Sherk vs. Hermes Franca – This was not an exciting fight outside some of those huge knees that Franca landed. Sherk is a total machine. He not only ate the knees but took away any chance Franca had to follow them up by being able to drop levels and secure the takedown. His conditioning was also sick. He had a full court press on Franca for nearly the entire fight and didn’t seem to tire. Sherk’s fighting style isn’t impressive but he fights to his strengths so I don’t see how anyone can fault the guy for how the fight went. I think the only person at 155 lbs. in the UFC lightweight division that has a chance to beat him is B.J. Penn. If Penn is insistent on moving back up to welterweight then I think the UFC is going to need to get Takanori Gomi into the UFC in order to have a marquee lightweight title match to build towards.
Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz – If you’re not a fan of wrestling then you probably weren’t a fan of this fight but I loved it. I thought it was intriguing seeing the two jockey back and forth for position. Considering it was so close, there was a lot of drama whenever the two would lock up because you knew that if the takedown was successful it could decide the round and in the end, decide the fight. Tito was able to get the quick takedown in the first by setting up the shot with a high kick, which is exactly the type of thing I’ve been saying he should do for months now. Was I also the only one that noticed that Tito was able to attempt his shot from closer in because of that kick? It looked like a much cleaner shot and it’s a lot harder to defend the takedown when someone shoots in close as opposed to further out where you can drop your hands, adjust your body weight distribution, and stuff the takedown. Maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks? Ortiz was huge! I knew he’d have a size advantage but until I saw him and Evans standing face-to-face during the pre-fight instructions I had no idea how pronounced it was. Evans is the more versatile wrestler and has better technique, however, Ortiz was able to control the wrestling position earlier based on pure strength. It’s a shame that he held onto the cage in the second round because he ended up getting taken down anyway and would have won the round and the fight had he not lost that point. Kudos for John McCarthy though for making the right call. By losing that point he gave Evans a chance to escape with his perfect record in tact by simply winning the final round. One thing that surprised was just how fatigued Ortiz looked in the third round. He looked very wobbly at one point. I have no doubt he trained hard for the fight so maybe he was winded due to all the weight cutting before the fight? Cutting as much weight as Tito does has a way of neutralizing someone’s stamina no matter how hard they trained leading up to the fight. Evans looked winded soon after the first round started as I could see he had trouble controlling his breathing when he was against the cage after the initial takedown. As a fighter, Tito is probably disappointed with the outcome. However, being the marketer that he is you know that he’s loving the fact that a money rematch is set up for his next fight. If Tito had to fight someone like Forrest Griffin or Keith Jardine in his next bout the buyrate wouldn’t be anyone near as high as Tito vs. Rashad II will be. More buys means a bigger cut for Tito and it improves his bargaining position. It’s a rematch I definitely want to see happen.
Anderson Silva vs. Nathan Marquardt – I thought Silva made a fatal error when he threw that high kick and Marquardt caught it and worked the single leg attempt. When he got the fight on the ground and got half guard I thought it was going to be a repeat of Silva vs. Lutter, except with a different outcome. Marquardt also showed a great chin and instincts after he ate that big shot from Silva and then dropped levels to go for a single. I was also surprised at the start of the fight when Marquardt charged Silva. Marquardt is a counter puncher and is not normally someone who will force the action like that. While Silva is easy to take down he’s not so easy to finish once he’s on the mat. He once again defended himself well and was able to finish the fight. I picked Marquardt to win but didn’t underestimate Silva. I realize Silva is one of the most dangerous eight-point strikers (feet, knees, elbows, and fists) in all of MMA and he was able to get the fight back where it needed to be after Marquardt had achieved half guard at one point. It was a short fight but I still came away impressed with both.
Kenny Florian vs. Alvin Robinson – Robinson looked a lot like Thiago Alves to me. Same build and similar face. Kind of weird, huh? Yet another impressive win for Florian who might be one of the most underrated fighters in the world. The guy keeps finding new areas in which to improve. He looked to be in incredible condition. I liked how he called out Sherk for not finishing the fight during his post-fight interview. It shows that Florian also knows how to market himself.
I’ll have more thoughts Sunday morning on Steve Cofield’s show on Sporting News Radio sometime in the 10 a.m. ET hour.