by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND – The UFC’s debut on Saturday night in Northern Ireland started off with a great series of fights, but unfortunately finished with two lackluster decisions to end the night. Rich Franklin pulled out a unanimous decision over Yushin Okami and Forrest Griffin also pulled off a victory on the judges’ scorecards defeating Hector Ramirez.

Rich Franklin, who is currently the #4-ranked middleweight in the MMAWeekly World MMA Rankings, was told prior to his match-up with Yushin Okami that if he won the fight he was going to get the winner of the upcoming title bout between Anderson Silva and Nathan Marquardt. This guarantee seemed to almost lessen the former champion’s aggressiveness throughout the fight.

Franklin looked to be the better fighter on the feet as he landed better jabs and kicks in the first two rounds and just about everyone watching waited for Yushin Okami to wake from his slumber and start some offense. Even when the two fighters clinched, which seemed to be the position everyone predicted Okami would control, nothing much happened and the fighters had to be separated a couple of times during the bout.

The third round ended up being the most exciting of the fight as Okami finally woke up and took Franklin to the ground where he got the mount and started to unload punches on the former champion. Franklin was able to reverse the position, but then was almost caught in a guillotine choke, which was then transitioned into a very strong kimura applied by Okami. While it seemed like we were just seconds away from a tap out, Franklin withstood and got out of the hold as the fight ended.

Franklin won a unanimous decision, 29-28 on all three judges scorecards and will now watch the title fight on July 7th with peaked interest knowing he will fight the winner for the UFC Middleweight title.

Forrest Griffin got back onto a winning track with a dominant, but somewhat lackluster fight against Hector Ramirez. Griffin controlled the stand-up at every turn in the fight, landing good jabs and some thunderous kicks during all three rounds. The only real offense Ramirez got off was a takedown early in the first round, but after that the control shifted to Griffin who took advantage with his better stand-up game.

Griffin sounded somewhat despondent after the fight, obviously not as impressed with his performance as he would have liked, but he still leaves Northern Ireland with the big win over Ramirez.

Jason MacDonald had an impressive performance at UFC 72, coming back from a loss to Franklin in his last fight, and defeated former Ultimate Fighter housemate Rory Singer. MacDonald was looking for the takedown from the outset of the fight, but to Singer’s credit, he defended well.

When the fight did go to the ground in the first round, Singer was able to keep MacDonald at bay with a solid guard game. As the first session came to a close, Singer locked in a tight triangle choke that could have been big trouble had their been more time on the clock, but the round ended and MacDonald moved on.

The second round saw an exhausted Singer no longer able to defend MacDonald’s takedowns. MacDonald moved into the mount position and then started to reign down punches and elbows, while Singer struggled to do much more than put up his arms trying to defend. The referee had no choice but to stop the fight and give MacDonald the TKO victory.

In one of the best fights so far this year, Clay Guida and Tyson Griffin gave yet another example why the lightweight division is simply the most exciting division in mixed martial arts today. All three rounds were non-stop action as both Griffin and Guida exchanged takedown attempts and reversals.

Clay Guida exhibited unbelievable heart and stamina going after Griffin like an animal for every second of every round and Tyson Griffin was doing much of the same, trying move after move to end the fight.

The stand-up advantage seemed to go slightly to Tyson Griffin, but Clay Guida refused to give up on the takedown in their lightweight bout. When the fight did make it to the ground, Guida tried for every submission he could think of, including a knee bar that seemed like a fight stopper, but Griffin persevered and got out of the hold. So much action took place in this fight that these two unbelievable fighters deserve credit for what can best be described as a three-round war.

The UFC’s unofficial ringside scorer, Eddie Bravo, gave the fight to Clay Guida, but the judges disagreed and Tyson Griffin was given a split decision win. Guida was tremendously respectful even after a loss, and both fighters should be given a huge amount of credit for this absolutely unforgettable fight.

Ed Herman continued his winning ways by submitting the very tough Scott Smith in their middleweight bout at UFC 72. Herman looked dominant with his ground and pound game, throwing some devastating shots to his opponent, including a bone-shattering elbow that opened a huge cut on Smith’s nose. The fight was allowed to continue, but in the second round, Herman took Smith’s back after a scramble and locked in a rear naked choke that forced Smith to tap out.

In preliminary action, Marcus Davis realized a dream to fight in Northern Ireland by finishing Jason Tan by a TKO stoppage due to strikes. Eddie Sanchez weathered the assault of Colin Robinson in the first round. He then quickly took advantage of the gassed Robinson in round two, also earning a TKO stoppage due to strikes in their heavyweight bout. In the night’s opening fight, Dustin Hazelett overtook Steve Lynch in the first round and finished him off with an Anaconda choke.

While UFC 72 will go down as the organization’s first foray into Northern Ireland, most fans will likely walk away with a tremendous impression of two lightweight fighters who put on the show of a lifetime, while the main-eventers disappointed in their efforts.

Fight of the Night of course goes to Tyson Griffin and Clay Guida. While Franklin did earn a title shot and Forrest Griffin got back to his winning ways, MMAWeekly.com’s Fighter of the Night will be given to two fighters. Both Tyson Griffin and Clay Guida deserve nothing less than getting Fighter of the Night after such a performance, and both should have a very bright future in the ever-growing UFC lightweight division.

UFC 72 Full Results
Odyssey Arena
Belfast, Northern Ireland
June 16, 2007

Rich Franklin def. Yushin Okami by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28), 3 Rounds

Forrest Griffin def. Hector Ramirez by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27), 3 Rounds

Jason MacDonald def. Rory Singer by TKO (due to strikes) at 3:18, R2

Tyson Griffin def. Clay Guida by Split Decision (29-28, 29-28 Griffin; 29-28 Guida), 3 Rounds

Ed Herman def. Scott Smith by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 2:25, R2

Marcus Davis def. Jason Tan by TKO (due to strikes) at 1:15, R1

Eddie Sanchez def. Colin Robinson by TKO (due to strikes) at 0:32, R2

Dustin Hazelett def. Steve Lynch by Submission (Anaconda Choke) at 2:50, R1