Remembering UFC 38: Brawl at the Hall

Hughes owns the belt while Brits go 2-2 in a highly memorable show.

After establishing a television show in the UK, it wasn’t surprising to see the UFC come to Europe. Set at the Royal Albert Hall, the same place The Beatles made their concert debut in 1963, the Brits were hungry for mixed martial arts and anxious to see what it was all about.

Despite a show that created new stars and offered surprises aplenty, once again, the UFC’s presentation has sucked the life from the human elements that build interest, build character and quite frankly, build a compelling reason to watch.

Remembering UFC 38 Brawl at the Hall

When the fighters were announced, no longer do we see any form of interviews, intros or flashy entrance music. Instead, we see the fighter’s name flashed over a generic screen of knockout footage from past fights. Does anyone really care?

Well, the hardcore fans know better and don’t mind shelling out the bucks for it. What about the wider audience, the one Zuffa is trying to go after by broadcasting fights on Fox? At least with this show, the athletes held up their end of the bargain and provided the fireworks that could have been 10 times greater with a little more room to breath.

WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP: Matt Hughes vs. Carlos Newton

Since Hughes first won the championship from Newton back at UFC 34, skeptics wondered if the controversial win-a double knockout from Hughes’ slam-produced a paper champion. But Hughes fired back and easily dominated #2 ranked Hayato “Mach” Sakurai to prove he is the champion.

In his own heart though, Hughes wanted one more shot at Newton to settle any doubt. As for Newton, the Canadian returned to Pride 17 and arm-barred the skillful Brazilian Jose “Pele” Londi-jons, who had actually knocked out Hughes during an eight-man tournament in Kuwait.

With enough heat for even a pro wrestling headliner, this was one of the most anticipated matches in UFC history and perfect for the British card.

In the first round, both men fought more tentatively than expected, before Hughes gained topside by thwarting Newton’s single leg takedown. Working him toward the fence, Hughes was ready to ground and pound, but Newton had other plans.

Barely a minute into the fight, Newton sunk in a tight arm bar that almost looked like curtains for Hughes. But the wrestler spun out of it and regained control. Hughes landed elbows from both half guard and side mount. When the 10-second warning was issued, he dropped bombs to seal winning the round with the judges.

Hughes wasted no time in taking Newton down in the second round. Aside from a brief standup exchange, the wrestler from Iowa completely dominated. At one point, trainer Pat Miletich yelled for Hughes to trap one of Newton’s arms with his legs in the side mount position.

By doing so, Hughes could inflict serious damage with right hands and elbows. With one minute left in the round, Newton took several hard shots to the face.

A minor exchange started off the third round before Hughes once again took his opponent down at will. Both men fought for control, but Hughes’ wrestling was too much. Eventually working to mount, Newton actually gave up his arm for the wrestler to try for his own arm bar attempt.

This worked in Newton’s favor as it gave him the chance to pull out and work from the top for a change. Working inside Hughes’ guard, he landed some punches and was able to take his back. With seconds remaining, Newton tried for the rear naked choke, but alas, time ran out.

In the fourth round, Hughes immediately shot in for the single leg and began to work from Newton’s butterfly guard. Passing to half guard, Hughes hopped over to side mount and started dropping some hard punches, elbows and forearms to the Canadian’s swelling face.

Once again trapping Newton’s arm with his leg, Hughes teed off with a series of strikes leaving no escape in sight. At 3:27 into the round, John McCarthy finally stepped in-Newton had taken enough punishment. With Hughes getting the definitive win, there is no doubt he deserves to hold the UFC welterweight championship.

Many look at Chute Boxe’s Anderson Silva to be his trump card, but whoever tangles with him must have a serious wrestling and submission base. Don’t be surprised to see one of the sport’s new crop to answer that call down the road.

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Ian Freeman vs. Frank Mir

The main event for the British audience was definitely this heavyweight match up between the man known as “The Machine” and Mir, the young up and comer who clinched two UFC victories over notables in under a minute. Many said that Freeman didn’t have a chance.

The Brit had suffered several defeats in a row, including a major beat down at the hands of Valentijn Overeem at Too Hot To Handle 2. But in November 2001, he roared back with an amazing victory over Brazil’s Carlos Barretto.

Though Mir was 12 years his junior and had three inches on his height, this was the most important fight in Freeman’s career. Just before learning of the fight, Freeman’s father was diagnosed with cancer and didn’t have long to live.

Training at AMC Pankration with Josh Barnett, Freeman bettered his game and was ready for the young and hungry Mir, who had shed 15 pounds to tip the scales at 237 pounds-still 18 pounds heavier than his opponent. UA spoke with Barnett about what AMC put him through. “With Ian, we focused on four parts:

  1. Takedown defense
  2. Conditioning
  3. Submission defense and
  4. Boxing technique

We drilled very intensely, as well as [broke] each section down to its simplest parts and worked solid technique. We knew that Ian could hit and that Frank had never been tested, so we thought we could be the first!”

As the first round opened, Mir showcased his traditional martial arts background with an assortment of ineffective kicks as Freeman fired back with connecting straight rights. Up against the fence, Mir’s last minute shoot resulted in him pulling guard to fend off the Englishman’s assault. Trying for a submission, Freeman swatted him with another right hand, catching him flush.

Mir craftily moved to a knee bar attempt by using his feet, but Freeman stayed clear. Both men worked their way to their feet and here, Freeman broke Mir’s confidence by tying up and landing knees, uppercuts and right hands. These strikes took their toll, despite Mir getting the takedown and eventual mount. Mir appeared in a daze even though he had a dominating position.

Mir then went for a leg submission, but that proved to be a huge mistake as Freeman flipped him over and took control. Mir held onto a foot, but Freeman battered him with strikes. The Englishman stood up in guard, and Mir shot in again, but Freeman sprawled and continued his ground and pound action.

At this point, the crowd belted out, “F R E E M A N!” Blood began to stream down from Mir’s face as Freeman battered him with elbow shots. As they began to rise to their feet, referee “Big” John McCarthy broke them up to check Mir out with the doctor. Mir took a few steps and collapsed.

When McCarthy asked him to continue, Mir’s punch-drunk look signaled waving off the fight at 4:35. Freeman smiled as he scaled the Octagon fence for his big win.

As interviewer Ryan Bennett began to question him, Freeman replied, “Sorry to go off your question, but, ‘Yo England, I did it!'” The crowd went crazy at this gesture and rightly so. Then, unbeknownst to anyone, Freeman said that his father had been diagnosed with cancer while training, and he almost pulled out of the fight.

He dedicated his amazing, and quite surprising, win to his father-who actually had passed away the night before as his family kept the news from him so not to break his concentration. This was a gripping moment in the show and something that could have been dealt with in a more humanistic manner.

Either way, Freeman demonstrated a sheer will to win, and despite what he was up against, both mentally and physically, he epitomized a true mixed martial artist on this night.

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Phillip Miller vs. James Zikic

Combat Grappling’s Miller was a virtual unknown, but his 13-0 record said otherwise. Just before competing in the UFC, he won the WVC 15 eight-man tournament, banging out both Brian Foster and Sean Gray in one night. Against London’s Zikic, a religious 25-year-old who had to come to grips with his sport of choice before moving forward, Miller had his hands full.

In the first round, Miller fought hard for the takedown and had to settle for sitting in Zikic’s half guard. Miller was able inflict some damage, namely a cut under Zikic’s left eye from continued elbow shots.

In the second round, Miller had a more difficult time getting the takedown, Zikic wearing him down by keeping him in half guard and working back to his feet. With less than a minute left in the round, Miller mounted him, but the resilient Brit got back up to the sound of his countrymen cheering for joy.

In the third and final round, Miller kept shooting in, but Zikic’s defense was getting stronger, and it began to wear down the American. One failed attempted at a takedown gave Zikic the upper hand for the first time in the match. He was able to land a flurry of strikes from Miller’s guard, before opting for a back mount choke.

Unable to get in his hooks, Miller regained control until the last minute of the fight. Both men got back to their feet to trade punches, and Zikic appeared the fresher of the two. At one point, it almost looked as if Zikic could have knocked Miller out, but time ran out. Miller’s wrestling that dominated the first two rounds won him the fight by unanimous decision.

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Genki Sudo vs. Leight Remedios

Despite the UFC’s lifeless entrances, Sudo, decked out in traditional samurai garb, gave the fans a flashy introduction with his robotic-like movements and threw confetti into the crowd. With a 3-1-1 record, Sudo had trained with Bas Rutten and defeated the likes of Pancrase star Nathan Marquardt before falling to the current Pancrase middleweight champ Kiuma Kunioku by decision in 2000. His British opponent had an 11-2-1 record, most recently falling to Phil Johns at Hook n Shoot: Kings by decision.

In the most action-packed round of the entire event, Sudo played with Remedios in the beginning, even showing up the comically unorthodox Caol Uno. Sudo danced, threw wild kicks and baited the timid Remedios before shooting in on him and driving him to the fence.

Sudo landed some punches, but decided to stand up in his guard to better his position. When Remedios rose to his feet, Sudo attacked with left-right combinations, backing the Brit to the fence again. In a remarkably showy move, Sudo attempted a flying triangle, missed and then caught him with another triangle on the ground.

Sudo had it in tight and even landed several elbows, but Remedios pulled out and even had to avoid an armbar. Standing up in Sudo’s guard, Remedios kicked his legs for a seconds to close out the round.

Sudo took on a more serious demeanor in the second round as Remedios connected with several low kicks. Tying up with Remedios, Sudo pulled off a beautiful throw and landed in side mount. Sudo worked the top position, clutching the opposite arm of his opponent as he tried to get up.

In the blink of an eye, Sudo spun around, took Remedios’ back and sunk in the fastest rear naked choke possibly in the history of the sport. As soon as he locked it in, Remedios tapped out at 1:38. Few had heard of Sudo before this fight, but like so many others, all it takes is one performance like this to make someone a fan. Sudo will no doubt have a future in the UFC, but he’ll have the best of the best to deal with in vying for the lightweight title.

MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Mark Weir vs. Eugene Jackson

Britain’s Weir was a tae kwon do champion; few thought he could make it in MMA. But his unblemished record said otherwise, and a debut win over Jackson could raise eyebrows. It did more than that, as Weir needed only 10 seconds to knockout out Jackson-the fastest knockout in UFC history.

Weir threw a front leg round heel kick and slipped a short right hand that caught Jackson right on the chin and dropped him. Jackson’s looping right hand, thrown simultaneously with Weir’s punch, went limp around the Brit’s shoulder as he collapsed.

Weir landed a few more punches until referee Larry Landless intervened. It took Jackson a few seconds to come to, and the English crowd was joyous over such a devastating win for the 6′ 2″, 33 year old. At press time, Weir might replace Phil Baroni to go up against former middleweight champ Dave Menne at UFC 39.

The show originally had three dark matches, but Gil Castillo was dehydrated and had to withdraw from his fight against Tony DeSouza. Returning from back-to-back losses, Australian Elvis Sinosic desperately needed a win. His opponent, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, lost his last fight to Kevin Randleman by decision; he needed a win as well to stay in the running in the light heavyweight division. Over the course of three rounds, Sobral battered Sinosic on the ground-the Aussie’s jiu-jitsu proved ineffective.

Every time Sinosic pyramided his legs for a submission, Sobral would stand up and remove himself from possible danger. Then, he’d go back to breaking him down. Sobral won by unanimous decision. The third dark match originally pitted Evan Tanner against Vladimir Matyushenko, who had to pull out due to a training injury.

His replacement, Australian Chris Haseman, was a sturdy veteran who put up a good fight, but Tanner utilized his wrestling skill to dominate the bout-also winning by unanimous decision.

Despite any quibbles over presentation, the UFC has once again broken new ground and offered up a major show with major backing to a market that desperately needed to see it to believe it. This should open more doors for Europe, though promoter Bas Boon has done tremendous things with his Too Hot To Handle promotions in Holland.

Zuffa should be commended for carrying the torch into new directions; now, they just need to reassess their model and decide what audience they are really trying to capture.