by Al Yu (Photos by Ken Pishna) – MMAWeekly.com
The Ultimate Fighting Championship made its debut at the Target
Center in Minneapolis, Minn. this Saturday in front of 15,082 fans. Georges
"Rush" St-Pierre headlined the UFC 87 fight card defending his UFC
welterweight title against Jon Fitch. Brock Lesnar returned to the Octagon
taking on Pride and UFC veteran Heath Herring while Roger Huerta and Kenny
Florian faced off in a lightweight match that could determine the next
contender for BJ Penn’s belt.
Jon Fitch brought his impressive 15-fight winning streak into
the biggest match of his career when he faced UFC welterweight champion Georges
St-Pierre. Unfortunately for Fitch, his momentum was stopped when he ran into a
brick wall that was the French Canadian.
There were countless times when St-Pierre had Fitch in trouble
but the American Kickboxing fighter showed an incredible heart and somehow
managed to persevere. Despite his will to survive, Fitch’s championship dream
was cut short as he would go on to lose a unanimous decision and give St-Pierre
his first successful title defense.
After the fight, BJ Penn entered the Octagon to officially
challenge St-Pierre. The champion later responded, “I will give a shot to
everyone who deserves it. BJ Penn deserves it.”
The crowd erupted as Brock Lesnar made his entrance into the
Octagon. After losing his UFC debut to Frank Mir, Lesnar needed to make a
statement. He did so with his first punch. One clean right landed from the
former wrestler that sent Herring reeling back to the canvas and Lesnar
dominated the rest of the round with his incredible strength and control. The
remainder of the fight mimicked the first round as Lesnar’s wrestling prowess
proved too much for the “Texas Crazy Horse.” The hometown favorite enjoyed his
first UFC victory and showed the world his potential.
“Can you see me now? Can you see me now?” yelled Lesnar after
the fight. “I fell off the horse when I fought Mir and I got back on that
stallion and rode off on it. I’ve been trying to work on everything every day
to be a complete fighter and a contender in the UFC.”
In the big upset of the evening, Rob Emerson made quick work of
the heavily favored Manny Gamburyan. Emerson dropped Gamburyan with a right
hook at the start of the round and followed up with a fight ending left hook as
Manny attempted to get up. It was an impressive 12-second performance for the
Ultimate Fighter season one runner-up Kenny Florian delivered a
message in arguably the highest profile fight of his career. The cheers of the
Minnesota fans were overwhelming as they listened to the introductions for the
highly anticipated match-up between Florian and Roger Huerta. “El Matador” had
the support of the crowd.
The first two rounds were close and could have gone either way
on the judges scorecards. In the third, both fighters had great scrambles and
entertained the crowd with subtle acknowledgments of landed shots. Florian
landed the cleaner strikes in the final round and earned a unanimous decision
by all three of the judges.
“I know how hard it was to fight Roger Huerta. I trained very
hard for him and he’s going to be a champion,” said Florian after the fight. “I
didn’t want to get into a brawl with him; I wanted to be technical and I think
I was able to do that.
“I was very surprised I wasn’t able to submit him. He’s very
strong, very technical with his hips. He’s tough as nails,” added Florian. “I
really wanted to have a dominant performance against Roger. It’s up to the UFC
(whether I get a title shot).”
Jason MacDonald showed great poise in avoiding and defending the
submissions by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Demian Maia. When most fighters
would have tapped, MacDonald endured and won the approval of the fans in an
entertaining grappling match. Unfortunately for MacDonald, Maia showed why he
is a jiu-jitsu world champion when he submitted his Canadian opponent with a
rear naked choke in the third and final round. The win put the Brazilian into a
list of potential contenders for the UFC middleweight title.
In a fight that Joe Rogan coined as the “battle of the nerds,”
Tamdan McCrory and Luke Cummo faced off in welterweight action. McCrory was the
aggressor early on, leading in with strikes and landing uppercuts from the
clinch. The fight went to the ground on many occasions and the “Barn Cat”
displayed his jiu-jitsu skills as he controlled the fight from Cummo’s back.
McCrory had many slick transitions but was unable to submit the tough Cummo. In
the end, all three judges awarded Tamdan McCrory the unanimous decision in what
was easily considered the best preliminary fight of the night.
Cheick Kongo put himself back into the heavyweight title picture
with a first round TKO over Dan Evensen. In a fight that many expected to be a
stand-up war, the French kickboxer took the fight to the ground. After the
fighters were stood up for a second time, Kongo landed a devastating straight
right hand that dropped Evensen. Subsequence strikes on the ground forced the
referee to halt the fight.
“Everyone knows I deserve a title fight,” said Kongo. “I want to
be the best fighter in the world and I will show more than I did tonight when I
get a title shot.”
In the battle of the newcomers, IFL veteran Andre Gusmao and Jon
Jones put on an entertaining fight with a few spinning backfists and a couple
of unfortunate low blows. Jones played the role of aggressor for the entire
fight, using his reach to fatigue his opponent. The fight had a few memorable
flurries but was highlighted by Jones’ striking and athleticism. The judges saw
it the same and awarded Jones the unanimous decision.
Team Quest fighter Chris Wilson earned his first Octagon victory
with a dominating performance against Steve Bruno. Throughout the fight, Bruno
attempted numerous takedown attempts only to have almost all of them defended
against, allowing Wilson to control from a dominant position. The American Top
Team from dropped on many occasions by Wilson but showed a lot of heart in
enduring the subsequent punishment. After three rounds, Wilson earned a
Former Ultimate Fighter contestant Ben Saunders submitted
newcomer Ryan Thomas in the evening’s opening bout. The two fighters exchanged
early with Saunders landing left kicks to Thomas’ side. After two rounds, the
effects of the kicks took its toll and Thomas crumbled to the mat, allowing
Saunders to finish with an armbar.
“I thank Ryan for taking the fight on short notice. He’s a
warrior,” said Saunders.
-Georges St. Pierre def. Jon Fitch by unanimous decision (50-43,
-Brock Lesnar def. Heath Herring by unanimous decision (30-26 on
-Rob Emerson def. Manny Gamburyan by KO at 0:12, R1
-Kenny Florian def. Roger Huerta by unanimous decision (30-27 on
-Demian Maia def. Jason MacDonald by submission (rear naked
choke) at 2:44, R3
-Tamdan McCrory def. Luke Cummo by Unanimous Decision (30-27,
-Cheick Kongo def. Dan Evensen by TKO (strikes on the ground) at
-Jon Jones def. Andre Gusmao by Unanimous Decision (30-27,
-Chris Wilson def. Steve Bruno by Unanimous Decision (30-27) on
-Ben Saunders def. Ryan Thomas by submission (armbar) at 2:28,