by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
In front of a packed house in Sacramento’s Arco Arena, Canadian stand out, Georges “Rush” St. Pierre saw his dream come true when he defeated Matt Hughes to become the new welterweight champion.
After an injury forced him out of their last scheduled match-up, St. Pierre came into the bout with a renewed energy that saw him take the center of the octagon right away looking to chop away at the champ. Hughes seemed content to stand up with St. Pierre for much of the first, while the Canadian threw an effective mix of jabs and kicks that kept his opponent off balance. A couple of St. Pierre’s low kicks ended up catching Hughes in the groin calling a stop to the action but the unintentional shots didn’t cost St. Pierre any points, only a warning from referee John McCarthy.
In the 2nd round it was more of St. Pierre’s stand-up that made the biggest difference in the fight. Hughes was never able to secure a strong takedown and St. Pierre got stronger as the fight went on, landing punches and kicks at will. After throwing leg kick after leg kick, St. Pierre set in on one final shot as Hughes ducked to grab for a takedown and reminiscent of the kick that Chuck Liddell landed on Renato “Babalu” Sobral a few years ago, the Canadian followed through with a heavy head kick that floored Hughes instantly. As soon as the champion hit the canvas, St. Pierre attacked like a pit bull and started to throw some very powerful punches, followed by a few more devastating elbows, and John McCarthy stepped in to stop the action. With the TKO, Georges St. Pierre becomes the new UFC welterweight champion after dominating Hughes like virtually no fighter has done before.
The heavyweight title fight on the card was referred to as “David vs. Goliath” as the 6’8″ champion, Tim Sylvia took on the much shorter 5’9″ Jeff Monson and it was this huge height difference that play a major factor in the fight. Monson shot on multiple occasions throughout the fight trying to get Sylvia to the ground where he would surely have an advantage but the champion’s sprawl was very impressive, and Sylvia was able to keep the fight standing. Unfortunately, Sylvia’s defensive nature in defending against Monson’s takedowns, made him very tentative to throw any effective punching or kicking combinations.
Later in the fight, Monson was able to secure a takedown and instantly the crowd jumped in anticipation for the former Abu Dhabi submission champion to go to work. But again the huge height difference allowed Sylvia to keep Monson away and the Maine native deserves much credit for holding off his opponent and keeping a very strong guard during the ground action. It was actually Sylvia who would eventually get on top of Monson on the ground in a later round and go for an Americana and after being reversed, transitioning into a triangle choke. Neither put Monson in any serious danger but Sylvia was able to show how far his ground game has progressed since submission losses to Frank Mir and Andrei Arlovski.
Five grueling rounds later, Tim Sylvia won a unanimous decision on all the judges scorecards and remains the UFC heavyweight champion.
The top contender for Sylvia’s title was also determined on Saturday night when the undefeated Brandon Vera stepped in against former champion Frank Mir. Everyone in the world has been waiting to see if the old Frank Mir would ever show up again after rehabbing from a leg injury suffered in a motorcycle accident over two years ago. It was apparent from the opening seconds that Vera was the stronger fighter when he came out swinging, landing some good jabs and keeping Mir away from any potential takedown. At only about a minute into the action, Vera landed a straight punch to Mir’s face that wobbled the former champion. Vera followed with some knee strikes from the clinch that put Mir on the ground. Some heavy and unanswered shots followed, causing the referee to stop the fight and Brandon Vera remains undefeated in his professional career and will now likely get a shot against Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title.
Miletich trained Drew McFedries made a dramatic debut in the UFC after a slugfest with Italian heavy hitter Alessio Sakara. It was non-stop action from start to finish and while it seemed at every instance that Sakara was definitely the better striker, McFedries proved to have a chin of granite taking shot after shot and not going down. Eventually, McFedries landed a solid shot to Sakara’s chin and the Italian basically layed down from the punch, to which McFedries followed with strikes on the ground that got him the TKO win and an impressive initial appearance in the octagon.
Joe Stevenson continued his climb up the lightweight rankings with a win on Saturday night over Pride veteran Dokonjonosuke Mishima. After giving up a takedown in the opening seconds of the fight, Stevenson secured a very tight guillotine choke that looked like it would finish the bout but to Mishima’s credit he was able to make it out and get back to a dominant position on the ground. It was Mishima’s positioning that eventually led to his downfall though as Stevenson again and again got the guillotine choke and one final roll saw Mishima tap out and Joe Stevenson gets his 2nd win at 155lbs.
Overall, UFC 65 was an exciting card with lots of action and only one decision on the main card. Georges St. Pierre just put a whole new look to the 170lb weight class after it seemed like Matt Hughes might never lose again. Now the champion, St. Pierre becomes the hunted with fighters like B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez hot on his heels for title shots. Sylvia did dominate much of his title fight with Jeff Monson but lack of action caused the fight to go 5 full rounds without many fireworks, but if the victorious Brandon Vera has anything to say about it, their championship bout will be exciting no matter how long it lasts. Fight of the Night should definitely go to Drew McFedries and Alessio Sakara for simply throwing down in their bout, while Fighter of the Night definitely goes to Georges St. Pierre for realizing his dream and winning the UFC welterweight title.