by Ricardo Mendoza – MMAWeekly.com


The World Fighting Alliance returned with its first show in almost four years on Saturday night in front of a national pay-per-view audience.  Looking to make a big impression with fans in its return show, the WFA’s management signed former Pride star Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and top middleweight Matt “The Law” Lindland to fight in the main event. In addition, this card saw the return of MMA legend Bas Rutten to active MMA competition after seven years on the sidelines.

The event looked promising, but the WFA hit its first snag just a couple of days before the event was to unfold.  Kimo, who was scheduled to fight Bas Rutten in his return fight, was unable to fight because he tested positive for anabolic steroids. Scrambling to find an opponent to fight Rutten on short notice, the WFA finally settled on Ruben “Warpath” Villareal as Kimo’s replacement. When the dust had finally cleared on the event, a night of mismatches and a controversial decision in the main event emerged from what once was a promising event.

In his first fight outside of Japan in four years, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was expected to not have much trouble with the smaller Matt Lindland. The Law held his own with Jackson during their 15-minute war, as the fighters traded slams in an exciting fight. Both fighters looked to get the first takedown of the fight when they clinched along the fence at the beginning of the first round, but it was Rampage who scooped Lindland up into the air and slammed him for the first takedown of the night.

Not to be outdone, Lindland then worked his way back up to his feet, scooped up Jackson, and slammed him to the mat. Jackson was able to get back to his feet, and they traded strikes in the clinch until Lindland went for a takedown and was able to get Jackson’s back. Lindland locked on a tight rear naked choke, and while most fighters would have tapped out, Jackson gutted it out and somehow managed to escape.

In the second round, Jackson was finally able to land some strikes that looked to have Lindland hurt at one point.  Jackson was also able to get takedowns and appeared to win the second round. Going into the final round, it appeared that each fighter had won one round, so the fight would be decided in the last stanza. Rampage landed a few nice punches, but Lindland responded with punches of his own and a high kick. 

During another clinch up against the fence, Lindland worked for a guillotine choke from a dominant position.  At that point, Lindland went for broke and attempted to finish the fight by submission by pulling guard with the guillotine choke still applied.  Jackson managed to escape, and just 25 seconds remained on the clock.  Jackson tried to pound on Lindland from the top in the final 25 seconds, and while he didn’t land any flurries, he did land an elbow that caused a cut on Lindland’s nose.

When the judges’ scores were read, it was revealed that one judge had the fight scored 29-28 in favor of Lindland, while the other two judges scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Jackson, so Jackson picked up the split decision win.  Going into the fight, most doubted that Lindland would be able to hang with Jackson due to the size and strength factors, but Lindland more than held his own and deserved to win the fight in some fans’ eyes.

Bas Rutten made his triumphant return to MMA by quickly dispatching his grossly overmatched late replacement opponent, Ruben “Warpath” Villareal. Rutten came out and landed some fast punches, while Villareal showed his incredible chin by just taking them and coming forward. Realizing that Villareal wasn’t going down easily, Rutten switched his focus to low kicks, the first of which sounded like a baseball bat when it made contact with Villareal’s knee area. 

After a couple more low kicks on the same spot, Villareal was limping, and an additional low kick put Villareal down for good.  Villareal could no longer continue and had to receive medical attention for his leg after the fight.  Much respect should be given to Villareal for stepping up to fight Rutten on less then two days’ notice.

When asked if he would be back for another fight, Rutten responded by saying that he needs to heal up before he can make that decision, and then he revealed that he came into the bout with more than one major injury.  Rutten came into the fight with a torn groin muscle (which is what made him hesitant to use low kicks), a dislocated rib (which caused him the most short-term pain during the fight), and a torn ACL in his knee (which is the most serious injury with the longest recovery time).  Rutten said that he will be going in for surgery on his knee in the near future.  Rutten’s foot was also discolored after the fight as a result of the final low kick that he landed.

In a lackluster fight, Ryoto “Lyoto” Machida made his U.S. debut against MMA veteran Vernon “Tiger” White. Both fighters looked to counter-punch for the vast majority of the fight, and what ensued was both fighters stalking the other without doing much.  Lyoto landed more in the way of offense than White, but that’s not saying much. In the final round, Lyoto finally took White down and took his back, but was unable to secure the choke. 

Lyoto won a unanimous decision in a fight that most fans would probably like to forget. Next time around, U.S. fans will hopefully see the Lyoto who knocked out Rich Franklin in 2003, because that Lyoto didn’t show up on Saturday night.

In what looked like the biggest mismatch of the night, Jason “Mayhem” Miller easily dominated Ultimate Fighter alumni Lodune Sincaid before submitting him with a rear naked choke late in the first round. Shortly after the fight started, Miller was able to land a knee to the body that appeared to hurt Sincaid.

Miller pulled Sincaid to the ground and got his back, but was unable to secure the choke. Sincaid reversed him, but Miller went for a leg lock and used the submission attempt as a way to get Sincaid’s back again.  This time, Miller did secure the choke, as he first applied the choke to the chin before he was able to slide it down to the throat area for the tapout.

In an exciting fight, Ivan Salaverry showed what made him a top contender in the UFC’s middleweight division by dispatching a very game Art “Pachuco” Santore in the second round by TKO. Santore came out with punches and kicks, while Salaverry was content to be more technical and counter Santore’s aggressiveness with kicks.

Salaverry landed an array of leg kicks that appeared to hurt Santore’s legs, and body kicks that appeared to knock the wind out of Santore.   The variety of kicks paid off for Salaverry late in the second round when he landed a high kick that rocked Santore.  Sensing that the end was near, Salaverry dropped Santore to the mat with punches, then mounted Santore and landed punches at will until the referee stopped the fight. Although he was still alert, Santore was unable to defend himself from the barrage of punches, hence the stoppage.

In his most impressive performance since winning the UFC Heavyweight Title in 2002, Ricco Rodriguez battered Ron Waterman with punches to get the TKO victory. Waterman was unable to take Rodriguez down, and the effort seemed to cause Waterman to gas out.  Rodriguez made him pay for it with a couple of overhand rights, which spelled the beginning of the end for Waterman in this fight.

Though he was also winded, Rodriguez landed punches and knees for the rest of the round.  After the first round, Waterman’s eye was swelling up, and the doctor stopped the fight.

The opening fight on the live PPV broadcast looked more like a kickboxing match than an MMA bout, as “Razor” Rob McCullough won a one-sided decision over Harris Sarmiento. McCullough landed at will throughout the fight, particularly with leg kicks.  As the leg kicks added up, Sarmiento was much less aggressive in the final two rounds.  Sarmiento’s swollen and discolored leg seemed to limit his explosiveness and mobility, and McCullough won all three rounds handily.

On the non-televised undercard, Jorge “Van Damme” Oliveira and Marvin Eastman fought to a draw, as neither fighter was able to impose his will on the other during the fight. Both fighters seemed to be holding back in the early stages of the fight, as neither landed anything significant in the first round.  The same could be said for the second round until late in the round when the two fighters traded some hard punches.  Eastman got the better of the exchange and opened a cut under Oliveira’s eye. 

The two fighters started the third round aggressively, with both fighters landing good shots, but the action stalled for rest of the fight and neither fighter looked committed to finishing the other. After three rounds, one judge gave the fight to Oliveira, another judge gave it to Eastman, and the third judge scored the fight a draw, so the end result of the fight was a draw.

Coming in as a late replacement for Jose “Pele” Landi-Jons, Martin Kampmann looked good in disposing of Edwin Aguilar by TKO in the first round. Kampmann landed a few heavy shots that downed Aguilar, and the referee stepped in to prevent Aguilar from taking further punishment.


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