by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Heavily favored Anderson Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, and Quinton Jackson each won their respective fights at UFC 67 in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.

One and a half pounds turned a contender into a pretender on the day before UFC 67 when Travis Lutter failed to make weight for his UFC Middleweight Title bout against Anderson Silva. After the fight, Lutter left the Octagon without a title and with a submission loss to the Middleweight Champion of the UFC, Anderson Silva.

It was clear to everyone before the bout that Lutter, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, would try to take this fight to the ground, where he believed he would have the advantage.

After a spectacular-looking flying knee from Silva grazed Lutter’s head, Lutter put Silva on his back and tried to ply his trade on the ground. It was Silva’s bodylock and tight guard that initially prevented Lutter from getting much of advantage on the ground.

The Ultimate Fighter Season 4 winner did eventually get the full mount, where he started to reign down punches on the champion. At one point towards the end of the first round, Lutter landed several heavy punches on Silva from the full mount, but Silva’s long legs eventually came to the forefront, as he swept Lutter and got out of the bad position.

In the second round, the opening was much the same with Lutter taking Silva down and trying to pass his guard, but this time Lutter got caught with an up-kick from Silva and found himself in a triangle choke from the #2 middleweight in the world.

Silva tightened his grip in an attempt to choke Lutter out, but Lutter stayed in the move for an extended period of time, relieving the pressure on his throat by pushing on the side of his own head with his hand.

Finally, while still in the triangle choke position, Silva landed some wicked elbows to the top of Lutter’s head, which prompted Lutter to finally tap out. With the win, Anderson Silva now moves to 3-0 in the UFC and also proves that he is not only the most dangerous striker at 185 pounds, but very skilled on the ground as well.

The UFC heavyweight division has taken much criticism over the past few years for the lack of overall talent being developed. The addition of Mirko Cro Cop, who is the #2 heavyweight in the world according to the MMAWeekly Rankings, boosted the UFC’s heavyweight division instantly. In many people’s minds, Cro Cop’s entry into the UFC put a ticking timer on how long it would take for the Croatian to hold the UFC Heavyweight Title.

The first stepping stone on Cro Cop’s road to the title was Eddie Sanchez, who entered the fight with a UFC record of 1-0, an MMA record of 8-0, and a complete understanding of the fact that he would be a tremendous underdog against one of the most dangerous fighters on the planet. The fight appeared to be a mismatch going in, and it appeared to be even more of a mismatch once the action got underway.

It was very apparent early on that Sanchez pinned his hopes of winning the fight on the possibility of a big haymaker landing on a fighter who is widely seen as the best striker in the business. Cro Cop literally stalked a backpedalling Eddie Sanchez throughout the fight and managed to throw some pinpoint jabs, as well as a few of his signature kicks. One particular leg kick sounded like a baseball bat slamming into Sanchez’s thigh, and the crowd reacted with shock at the kick’s enormous impact.

Cro Cop simply overmatched his opponent with fast hands and even threw a left high kick (which landed, but didn’t knock out Sanchez as many thought it would). With about a minute left in round one, a punch from Cro Cop floored Sanchez, and this time Cro Cop would follow Sanchez to the ground.

Cro Cop moved from side control to mount, where he landed strikes on the ground until referee Steve Mazzagatti stepped in to stop the bout. It might have been seen as a premature stoppage with different fighters in the ring, but it was completely justified in such a mismatch, and Sanchez did not protest the stoppage at all.

Cro Cop has now put his UFC debut behind him, and the timer moves that much faster for the championship bout that Mirko is sure to get very soon.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson made his long-awaited debut in the Octagon a successful one, as he defeated Marvin Eastman in another fairly one-sided fight. The fight never went to the ground until the very end, as both fighters were unsuccessful in their takedown attempts, and Jackson out-performed Eastman in the stand-up exchange.

Jackson, the #7 light heavyweight in the MMAWeekly Rankings, landed crisper shots from the outside and also landed some knees and punches from the clinch. After an uneventful first round, Jackson stunned Eastman with uppercuts from the clinch and won by TKO in the second round.

Jackson admitted after the fight that he had never been so nervous before a bout, but he was happy to get past this one unscathed. He also commented that it was the first time in his career that he had ever been booed during a fight, and he added that he feels as though he needs another fight before he takes on Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight Title. Liddell was shown at ringside during the bout and appeared to be rooting for Rampage, who gave Liddell his last loss back in 2003.

Roger Huerta won his fight against the debuting John Halverson, but not without some controversy, which may call the Nevada State Athletic Commission into action. As the fight opened, Halverson shot in on Huerta, who defended the takedown effectively.

Huerta then landed what appeared to be a knee to the head while Halverson was on the ground, which would be illegal under the Unified MMA Rules that have been in place in the United States since 2000. Referee Yves Lavigne could be heard on the PPV broadcast warning Huerta about the illegal knee to the head on the ground, as Lavigne said, “Watch the knee to the head!”

When the knee landed, Halverson’s body went limp and he was pretty much out, at which point Huerta got in the rear mount position and landed about 15 punches to the head of the defenseless Halverson before the referee stopped the fight. Huerta was given the win by TKO, despite the fact that the referee had just warned Huerta for the illegal knee that knocked Halverson out.

In the post-fight interview, Huerta said that he landed the knee to the shoulder, not the head. Upon inspecting the slow-motion instant replay with a Tivo on a frame-by-frame basis, it’s still not completely clear, as part of the knee appeared to land on Halverson’s head and part of the knee appeared to land on Halverson’s shoulder.

In any case, it appeared that any foul on Huerta’s part was purely accidental, as he definitely appeared to be aiming for Halverson’s shoulder. It’s just a question of whether part of Huerta’s knee connected with Halverson’s head instead of his shoulder.

The result of this bout may or may not be changed to a no-contest at a later date, depending on what the Nevada State Athletic Commission decides.

In the opening fight of the PPV broadcast, Patrick Cote was finally able to secure his first official win in the UFC (his two wins on TUF 4 are technically considered “exhibition bouts”), as Cote defeated Scott Smith by unanimous decision. In his prior UFC fights, Cote performed well against fighters like Tito Ortiz, Joe Doerksen, and Chris Leben, but he came up on the losing end of every one of those bouts.

Cote showed superior striking in the bout, opening with leg kicks and then using a very effective jab during the fight. In the second round, Cote appeared to stun Smith with a big punch and everyone jumped in anticipation of Cote pouncing on Smith, but unfortunately he didn’t and the fight continued. After the finish, Cote admitted that he thought Smith would uncork a right hand, reminiscent of the shot that finished Pete Sell in their match-up.

Cote was definitely the better striker and won the fight on all three judges’ scorecards. The crowd booed heavily, not because they disagreed with the judges’ decision, but because they did not find the fight very exciting. In a funny moment during the post-fight interview, Cote was thanking all of his training partners and then he added, “Thanks also to everyone who is booing me right now! I’m going to be back and then you can come back and boo me again!”

If you stopped watching the pay-per-view broadcast immediately after the main event, you missed one of the best fights of the night, as Frank Edgar and Tyson Griffin stole the show with a sensational preliminary bout that Edgar won by unanimous decision. These two undefeated lightweight fighters put on a heck of a show with a back-and-forth contest in which both fighters displayed great skill in kickboxing, wrestling, submissions, and submission defense.

The stand-up exchanges and ground transitions offered the kind of competitive action that was largely absent from the top three bouts on the card. Edgar ultimately won the fight, but not before appearing to almost having his leg broken in the process.

For most of the fight, it was a closely contested struggle that Edgar appeared to be winning by a slight margin. With less than one minute left in the fight and Edgar seemingly ahead on the scorecards, Griffin applied a sick kneebar. Edgar skillfully rolled out of it as much as he could to relieve the pressure, but even then, the torque on his knee was nasty-looking. Edgar punched away at Griffin’s thigh and managed to hang on until the bell rang to end the fight.

The judges gave the fight to Edgar (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), handing Griffin the first loss of his MMA career. Both of these fighters looked like they have the potential to be future stars in the lightweight division.

In the other preliminary bout that aired after the main event, Terry Martin won his first UFC middleweight bout, as he knocked out Jorge Rivera in just 14 seconds. Martin had previously gone 0-2 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, but a newly slimmed down Martin said confidently before the fight that nobody would be able to handle his punching power in the 185-pound division. He was correct on this particular night, as Martin decimated a highly respected fighter in Jorge Rivera.

Rivera landed a leg kick in the opening seconds of the bout, but when Rivera threw a high kick a few seconds later, Martin caught the kick with his arms and landed a brutal punch to the side of Rivera’s head. Rivera went down with Martin on top of him as if Martin had gotten a takedown, but in fact Rivera was almost completely out as a result of Martin’s punch.

When the two fighters hit the ground with Martin on top, Martin landed two punches to the head almost instantaneously, and referee Herb Dean showed why he is one of the best in the business as he stopped the fight and spared the unconscious Rivera from any further punishment.

Martin said in the post-fight interview that he wants his next fight to be against Mike Swick. MMAWeekly’s Rumors section lists Swick on the UFC’s April 7th pay-per-view line-up facing Yushin Okami, who is 3-0 in the UFC.

In one of the two prelim bouts that did not air on the PPV broadcast, Ryoto Machida made his UFC debut and beat TUF 1 contestant Sam Hoger by unanimous decision. It was Hoger’s first fight since a controversial decision loss to Rashad Evans last April, and Machida’s first fight since a one-sided decision victory over Vernon “Tiger” White last July.

Hoger and Machida came out ready to fight, and Machida got the upper hand by knocking Hoger down with punches in the first round, then knocking him down again with leg kicks in the second round, and then once again with punches in the third round. Hoger put on a gutsy performance in withstanding Machida’s Muay Thai onslaught, but it was Machida who won the fight by unanimous decision in his impressive UFC debut.

In the other preliminary bout that did not air on the PPV broadcast, Dustin Hazelett defeated Diego Saraiva by unanimous decision. Hazelett won the first two rounds with his ground and pound offense. The action picked up in round three, as Saraiva landed a high kick and Hazelett responded by landing a high kick of his own and then knocking down Saraiva with a knee from the Thai clinch. Hazelett won the fight in a clear-cut unanimous decision.

UFC 67 didn’t feature any title fights, but we did get the chance to see Anderson Silva display his versatility in a bout that does earn Fight of the Night honors. To Travis Lutter’s credit, despite not making weight to get a title shot, he did fight pretty well and should be commended for his performance. Silva reaffirmed the fact that he deserves to be the UFC Middleweight Champion, and it may be a long while before anyone else will hold that title.

It’s hard not to automatically want to hand Fighter of the Night honors to either Mirko Cro Cop or Quinton Jackson since their respective UFC debuts were so one-sided. Jackson had the tougher fight against Eastman, while CroCop simply outmatched his opponent, Eddie Sanchez. But Fighter of the Night to Anderson Silva, who once again showed that he may be a step or two above the rest of the 185-pound class in the UFC by submitting a dominant ground fighter like Travis Lutter.


-Anderson Silva def. Travis Lutter by submission (strikes while in a triangle choke) at 2:11 of Round 2

-Mirko Cro Cop def. Eddie Sanchez by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 4:33 of Round 1

-Roger Huerta def. John Halverson by TKO at 0:19 of Round 1 [result may or may not be changed to no-contest at a later date due to knee on the ground]

-Quinton Jackson def. Marvin Eastman by TKO (referee stoppage due to strikes) at 3:49 of Round 2

-Patrick Cote def. Scott Smith by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

-Terry Martin def. Jorge Rivera by KO at 0:14 of Round 1

-Frank Edgar def. Tyson Griffin by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

-Ryoto Machida def. Sam Hoger by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

-Dustin Hazelett def. Diego Saraiva by Unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)