by Damon Martin
UFC 56: A Night Of Big Announcements And Lackluster Fights
By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly
Too much, too soon was the phrase that was being used to describe Quarry’s shot at the title so early in his UFC career but building on his popularity in the “Ultimate Fighter” reality show and his willingness to stand and trade with the best of them, the Team Quest prodigy stepped in to take his shot at Rich Franklin in his first title defense since defeating Evan Tanner at UFC 53 in June.
In a battle that truly showcased a champion in Franklin and a fighter who was just overmatched in Quarry, the fight ended early and very, very suddenly. Both fighters were quick to throw punches at one another to start the fight, but Franklin had an obvious reach advantage right away and landed a very solid shot to Quarry’s chin and it send the former “Ultimate Fighter” star down to the canvas
Franklin was quick to pounce on his downed opponent, but paused thinking that referee John McCarthy was moving in to stop the fight. To the contrary, the fight was allowed to continue and Franklin stood back up, while Quarry was on very wobbly legs. The Cincinnati native threw a few more quick combinations before landing an absolutely devastating left that dropped Quarry, rolling his eyes back into his head and his limp body fell, crashing to the mat as the fight was stopped and Franklin had his victory.
After the fight was over, Nathan Quarry was shown on camera with a badly broken nose, but despite his injury was still very humble in his defeat and will surely go back to the drawing board and make his way back to the UFC. Franklin on the other hand had to be happy with his unbelievably dominant performance. Now that Franklin seems to have mastered the art of cutting weight to get to 185lbs, he will be extremely tough to beat by anyone in the middleweight division, but look for Canadian stand-out, David “The Crow” Loiseau to be next in line for a title shot.
The co-main event of the evening had some of it’s excitement taken away when title contender, Joe “Diesel” Riggs was unable to make the required 170lb weight for his fight with champion Matt Hughes, thus it had to be declared a non-title bout. Riggs, who had only cut weight this severely once before in his fight with UFC veteran, Chris Lytle, took the fight on short notice, and even though the title wasn’t up for grabs any longer he still hoped to take the champion out in the fight.
Unfortunately for Riggs, he was facing the most dominant champion in UFC history in Matt Hughes. The fight didn’t stay standing for very long where Riggs had his best shot at winning. Instead Hughes took the fight to the ground and into his world of supreme grappling. Within a few quick moves and position changes, Hughes had locked in a very tight kimura that Riggs struggled to loosen himself from. Hughes tightened his clinch and eventually moved his opponent’s arm behind his back forcing the former 185lb contender to tap and even though a title wasn’t on the line, Hughes still dominated in his usual fashion.
The biggest part of the show came when UFC president Dana White made his way to the octagon to make a few announcements. Dana White revealed the coaches for the “Ultimate Fighter 3” show which will begin taping soon, and the bombshell that dropped left everyone gasping just a little bit. First, UFC legend Ken Shamrock was brought out, but shortly thereafter he was trumped when controversial former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Tito Ortiz was announced as the other coach.
Tito Ortiz’ long standing battle with president Dana White had been publicized ever since his last fight for the UFC when he defeated Vitor Belfort at UFC 51. There didn’t seem to be much hope to ever see Ortiz return to the octagon, but apparently they were able to lure him with a coaching spot on a very popular cable show as well as a three fight deal that will likely start with main event caliber match-up against “Ultimate Fighter” season 1 winner, Forrest Griffin in April.
Next up, Dana White revealed that former UFC Heavyweight champion, Frank Mir had finally been cleared to return to action and a fight with current champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski laid in waiting. It had long been rumored that Mir would return, but with a heavyweight division that is currently lacking any real talent beyond Arlovski, the UFC may finally have a title fight worth seeing putting their current champion in against Mir.
The last announcement almost stole the thunder from the triumphant return of the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz, as Dana White then told the crowd that he had signed another fighter to compete in the UFC, this time in the welterweight division. As the curtain was moved aside, B.J. Penn, former UFC champion and the last man to defeat Matt Hughes, made his way to the octagon.
While new fans to the sport may not know B.J. Penn, the fans that have followed the sport for a while now can attest to the fact that they never believed Penn would return to the UFC. After being stripped of the welterweight title in a dispute that involved Penn’s desire to fight in Japan for the K-1 organization, a lawsuit was filed by Penn against the UFC and when legal battles ensue, the process to draw them to completion can be very, very lengthy.
But somehow a new agreement was reached and now B.J. Penn will make his return to the UFC and work his way into an already stacked 170lb weight class and he will be looking to reclaim a title that he never lost.
The highlight of the UFC 56 undercard was a welterweight match-up with top contender, Georges St. Pierre against the returning Sean Sherk. While St. Pierre has now garnered the tag of being the future of the welterweight division, it is Sherk who came into the fight with a wealth of experience and a desire to prove he belonged back at the top of the weight class.
In what has become all too familiar with the fights involving Georges St. Pierre, he was once again able to dominate a world class opponent. Much like his fight with Frank Trigg at UFC 54, St. Pierre came out the aggressor and put pressure on Sherk right away. The biggest discrepancy in the fight had to be St. Pierre’s overwhelming reach advantage over his much shorter opponent. Sherk, who is a very accomplished wrestler, shot in on St. Pierre a few times but was unable to ever secure any takedown.
On the opposite end of the scale, it was St. Pierre who showed great takedowns, putting Sherk on his back a couple of times during the fight. As the fight went on, it was obvious that St. Pierre was the more dominant fighter and eventually he put Sherk on his back against the cage where he started to reign down punches and elbows from inside his opponent’s guard. One of the elbows landed, looking as if it broke Sherk’s nose and blood came pouring out, forcing the referee to jump in to stop the punishment, and Georges St. Pierre was victorious once again.
In his post fight interview, St. Pierre got down on his knees asking for another shot at the title, promising that his first loss was because of a mental mistake and that he was ready for another chance. Judging by his recent performances, St. Pierre looks more than ready for a title shot.
The remainder of the undercard is where the show really lost it’s steam driving into the main events of the evening. Jeremy Horn matched up against Trevor Prangley in a middleweight match-up. Three rounds of action saw some decent stand-up and while on the ground, Prangley was able to remain on top for the most part, Horn did try to transition into a few submissions. In the end, Horn was declared the winner by decision, although even he admitted that the fight could have gone either way.
The swing bout of the evening was a heavyweight fight between Kevin Jordan and Gabriel Gonzaga and words cannot even begin to describe how bad this fight really was. The commentators ripped the fighters during the bout, although Joe Rogan did say hello to his friend Wesley Snipes during the fight and said that he signed the contract and was just waiting on him, which was probably about the only interesting thing to happen until the very end of the match. Eventually in the third round, Gonzaga did a leaping punch that floored Jordan and got him the victory, which is quite good because the judges may have fallen asleep during the fight and forgot to keep score.
In other action, season 1 “Ultimate Fighter” participant Sam Hoger made his return to the UFC defeating karate expert, Jeff Newton by rear naked choke in the second round. Also, American Top Team member Thiago Alves was victorious over Ansar Chalangov by TKO, and in the only non televised bout of the evening, Nick Thompson was a winner by decision in his UFC debut over Keith Wisniewski.
Overall, the announcements made during the broadcast and Franklin’s highlight reel knockout were the best parts of the show. George St. Pierre continues to impress and with B.J. Penn making his return to the UFC it will be interesting to see who gets to Matt Hughes first. Rich Franklin successfully defended his title which is sometimes seen as a more difficult task than winning a championship, and proved that he may soon be referred to as the most dominant champion in the UFC.
The “Ultimate Fighter 3” will be worth watching just to see the fireworks between the coaches and especially between Tito Ortiz and UFC president Dana White. The fighters may not be compelled to perform for reality show fame, but Shamrock, Ortiz and Dana White will more than fit the bill on that end. And the UFC is finally booking on seeing Andrei Arlovski face Frank Mir for the heavyweight title.