by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com


or click this link to go directly to the gallery:

Tim Sylvia retained the UFC Heavyweight Title when he defeated Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision in the main event of UFC 61 on Saturday night.

Previously, Sylvia silenced many of his doubters when he was able to beat Arlovski to regain the title at UFC 59 on April 15th, but it was clear going into UFC 61 that Sylvia would have to beat Arlovski again if he wanted to gain the respect of his remaining detractors.  For Andrei Arlovski, this fight was a shot at reclaiming the aura of invincibility that he had garnered during his reign as champion.

Most thought that this fight would end in the first round, much like the first two fights between Sylvia and Arlovski, but it turns out that they couldn’t have been more wrong.  The first round provided the most excitement in what was a tremendously lackluster fight for both men. Arlovski came out and landed some good leg kicks, which went virtually unchecked by Sylvia.

Later in the first round, Sylvia landed a straight punch that rocked Arlovski and sent him reeling back against the cage, in what was probably the best punch of the fight.  Unfortunately for Sylvia, he was not able to capitalize on the opportunity for a knockout.  Arlovski recovered, and the two went back to trading strikes in the stand-up position.

The remainder of the fight was a battle of attrition.  It looked as though both fighters understood and respected the power that their opponent possessed and didn’t want to engage and take a chance of getting caught.  To Tim Sylvia’s credit, while he didn’t throw as many punches, he did land more damaging shots and seemed more precise when he did so.

Arlovski stayed well outside of Tim’s powerful range, but in the process he kept himself from ever unloading anything significant of his own.  Arlovski threw punch after punch, but he never really caught Sylvia with anything that had power behind it.  The biggest mistake that Arlovski made was abandoning his leg kicks, which were looking pretty effective in the first round.  Arlovski appeared to be to waiting for Tim to make a mistake instead of going all-out for the win.

Sylvia, while definitely not having his best performance, didn’t try to throw too many haymakers and he kept his hands up, which is something that he didn’t do in his first two fights with Arlovski.  The fight went to the distance, which is five rounds for a championship fight, and all three of the judges scored in favor of Tim Sylvia, with scores of 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46.

Controversy is nothing new to the rivalry between Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, and another chapter has now been added to the growing book of hatred between these two fighters.  The announcements and ring entrances for this bout lasted longer than the actual fight.

Shamrock charged in as soon as the fight began, trying to catch Ortiz right away, but Ortiz maintained his composure.  Ortiz got a Muay Thai clinch and started to throw some knees, which looked very reminiscent of the knees that he landed in his first fight with Shamrock.  Ortiz then decided to go for a double-leg takedown and proceeded to pick Shamrock up over his shoulder and slam him to the mat.

Ortiz then pushed the action against the cage and landed a devastating elbow strike to Shamrock’s face.  Shamrock’s legs and arms seemed to go limp, if only for a moment, as Tito reigned down a series of elbows flush against his adversary’s head and face.  Referee Herb Dean quickly stepped in and called a stop to the action, which made Tito Ortiz the winner by TKO.

Shamrock popped up very quickly and started to ask why the fight was stopped.  The Octagon filled with security personnel, and the two rivals had to be kept apart as Tito celebrated his win and Shamrock appeared to be very upset with the stoppage.

Multiple replays showed the elbows landed by Ortiz, and it did look like Shamrock was getting nailed pretty hard by all of the strikes.  Anytime there is controversy like this about a referee’s decision, there will always be debate about whether it was a good stoppage, but it did appear that Shamrock was not intelligently defending himself, and that is cause enough to stop the fight.

While it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Shamrock will scream to the high heavens about the stoppage, it was again Ortiz who dominated the fight and walked out victorious.  Now we’ll just have to wait and see who Tito Ortiz will take on next, and whether or not it will be for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title.

Elsewhere on the card, former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir fought for the second time after recovering from a horrendous motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career.  Mir’s opponent was the Greg Jackson-trained Dan Christison.  This fight was crucial for Mir given the fact that he was dismantled by Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz in his first fight back from his injuries, and anything other than a dominant win would be seen as a defeat in many fans’ minds.

The entire fight was a back and forth struggle, with the only real dominance being shown by Mir with some solid takedowns.  Mir, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who is known for his quick submissions, almost got caught in an armbar by Christison, but Mir managed to escape effectively.  Mir had some decent ground and pound offense when he got Christison to the mat.  However, it was very clear approximately three minutes into the fight that Mir’s endurance was not up to par, and it looked like it might be his Achilles heel once again.

Ultimately, the fight went the distance and Mir did just enough to win the fight on all the judges’ scorecards.  Mir was awarded a unanimous decision victory, with scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 29-28.  If the former champion hopes to get back to where he was before his accident, he will need to drop some weight and focus on his cardio.  Mir’s speed and technique are what made his so dominant in the early part of his career, and he appears to have lost a step.

The swing bout of the evening featured new Team Punishment member Josh Burkman taking on Josh Neer, who was last seen defeating the welterweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter’s second season, Joe Stevenson. In what was probably the best bout of the evening, Burkman and Neer both displayed good stand-up skills and great movement on the ground.

Neer taunted his opponent for much of the fight, wagging his chin and challenging Burkman to hit him.  Despite the taunting by Neer, the only really solid punch of the fight landed was by Burkman, and it put Neer down and almost out.

Both fighters gained momentum on the ground at different points throughout the three rounds, as they went for submissions and punches while generally staying active at all times.  When all was said and done, Josh Burkman was awarded the unanimous decision victory due to his strong takedowns and ground control, with judges’ scores of 30-27, 29-28, and 29-28.

The opening bout of the PPV telecast featured Yves Edwards taking on Joe Stevenson, who was moving down in weight from 170 pounds to 155 pounds.  Stevenson looked just as strong as he usually does, as he went for takedowns and had good ground control.  Edwards was able to land some good shots in the first round, but found himself in the unenviable position of having Stevenson on top of him and taking some heavy shots to the head in the second round.

A large cut on Edwards’ forehead caused a lot of blood to pour out on to the Octagon floor, and the referee called a time-out so that the doctor could examine the cut.  Edwards was asked if he wanted to continue, and he said yes.  Despite the large amount of blood loss, the doctor allowed the fight to continue, and Edwards was able to make it to the end of the second round.

The bleeding could not be stopped in the period between rounds two and three, so the doctors finally stopped the fight, and Joe Stevenson picked up a very important win over a top-notch opponent.

The biggest event at UFC 61 may have come after the Ortiz/Shamrock match ended, when UFC president Dana White entered the Octagon and brought in Pride Middleweight Champion Wanderlei Silva.  White announced that if Chuck Liddell is able to defeat Renato “Babalu” Sobral when they fight in August, then Silva and Liddell will do battle in the Octagon in November.

Chuck Liddell made his way into the cage and had a staredown with Wanderlei Silva, as everyone salivated at the prospect of seeing arguably the two best 205-pound fighters in the world finally fight each other.  Although this could be a hardcore fan’s dream come true, we should not forget that once upon a time, Dana White made a similar announcement when he said that Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazuyuki Fujita would be fighting in the UFC, and we’re all still waiting for that to come to fruition.

In preliminary fights before the pay-per-view broadcast went on the air, heavyweight Jeff Monson was dominant in his TKO victory over Anthony Perosh.  Monson stunned Perosh about two minutes into the fight, and then Monson got on top of Perosh and reigned down hammer fists until the referee stopped the fight.

Hermes Franca defeated Joe Jordan with a very unique application of a triangle choke.  After working his way from side mount to full mount, Franca secured a triangle choke from the full mount position, and then Franca rolled to his side to finish the fight by submission.

Heavyweights Cheick Kongo and Gilbert Aldana engaged in a stand-up war until some knees and elbows from the clinch opened up a cut near Aldana’s left eye in the first round.  The doctor advised the referee to stop the fight as a result of the cut, giving Kongo the victory by TKO.

In the opening bout of the evening, Kurt Pellegrino appeared to be winning his fight with Drew Fickett, but Fickett was able to turn the fight around shortly after the beginning of round three.  Fickett took Pellegrino’s back and secured a rear naked choke for the submission victory.

Overall, UFC 61 truly did not live up to the hype that was put into its double main event.  While Shamrock may have some grounds to complain about the early stoppage, the fact remains that he was getting pounded on by Tito Ortiz, and nobody was surprised that Ortiz came out victorious in one-sided fashion.  Tim Sylvia held on to his title, but he was not able to do so as decisively as everyone would have liked.

While this show was a disappointment, the possibility of a fight between Wanderlei Silva and Chuck Liddell might make it all worthwhile in the end.

Full Results of Main Card Bouts

-Tim Sylvia def. Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision

-Tito Ortiz def. Ken Shamrock by TKO (referee stoppage) at 1:18 of Round 1

-Josh Burkman def. Josh Neer by unanimous decision

-Frank Mir def. Dan Christison by unanimous decision

-Joe Stevenson def. Yves Edwards by TKO (doctor stoppage) after the end of Round 2

Full Results of Prelim Bouts

-Hermes Franca def. Joe Jordan by submission (triangle choke) at 0:47 of Round 3

-Jeff Monson def. Anthony Perosh by TKO (referee stoppage) at 2:22 of Round 1

-Cheick Kongo def. Gilbert Aldana by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 4:13 of Round 1

-Drew Fickett def. Kurt Pellegrino by submission (rear naked choke) at 1:20 of Round 3


or click this link to go directly to the gallery: