Saturday, October 1, 2011

UFC on Versus 6: Land of the Giants

Back in 1996, UFC 8 was appropriately called 'David vs. Goliath' because it featured a tournament of massive heavyweights competing against smaller lighter weight fighters. This was at the time that athletic commissions did not sanction Mixed Martial Arts, thus there were no weight classes. On that night, it was one of the "smaller" fighters, Don 'The Predator' Frye who won the tournament.

While today's UFC is much different as all fights are sanctioned and has fighters competing in various weight classes, this past Saturday night's UFC on Versus 6 card looked eerily similar to UFC 8. That's because the main card featured a few fights where the height disparity between the combatants was extremely evident. On this night however, it was the "Land of the Giants" as the much taller fighters all won and did so convincingly; and it all started with the UFC Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Champion Dominick Cruz.

Cruz (19-1, 6 KO's 1 subs), known as 'The Dominator', did just that against his much shorter opponent Demetrious Johnson (9-2, 2 KO's 4 subs). At only 5'3", Johnson is aptly nicknamed 'Mighty Mouse', but on this night he just looked like a mouse without the might as he was quick, but that's it. Cruz was not only taller, standing 5'8", but he was stronger than Johnson in every facet and it showed clearly; especially in the clinch and on the ground where the champ displayed superior grappling skills.

Johnson had some moments throughout the five rounds, but they were far and few in between as he found himself having to chase the much taller champion and he paid for it. By the end of the fight, Johnson's left cheek was so swollen; he looked like he had a Blow Pop in his mouth. He was resilient though, even surviving two separate rear-naked choke attempts by the champion; one looked so tight, I remarked to my friend, "it's a wrap," but it wasn't. Nonetheless, in much the same fashion that he defeated Urijah Faber three months ago, Cruz handled Johnson in every way, only more "dominating."

If you thought five inches was a clear height advantage, how about a foot? (See photo above) That was the advantage 6'11" heavyweight Stefan 'Skyscraper' Struve' (22-5, 5 KO's 15 subs) enjoyed over his opponent Pat 'HD' Barry (6-4, 5 KO's), yet it was on the ground, not standing, that Struve won. Both kickboxers by trade, Struve and Barry, measured each other with round kicks and punches early, but in the second round during a clinch, it was the much taller Struve who went for a guillotine choke.

While he couldn't secure it, the move worked to his advantage as the fight dropped to the ground, where Struve used his long lanky legs and wrapped up Barry in a triangle choke. In a desperate and dramatic effort, Barry stood up with Struve wrapped around him and tried to power his way out by slamming him, but it just made it worse. Struve didn't flinch and the choke just got tighter; this time Barry wasn't getting up as he tapped at 3:22 of the second round.

It didn't take that long for 6'2" welterweight (170 lbs.) Anthony 'Rumble' Johnson (10-3, 2 KO's 2 subs) to dispatch of his opponent Charlie Brenneman (14-3, 5 KO's 2 subs), although the ending seemed premature. Brenneman AKA 'The Spaniard', who is four inches shorter than Johnson, figured his best opportunity to win would be to take the fight to ground. What he didn't count on was Johnson being so strong there. So after getting controlled and pummeled by Johnson on the ground he decided he'd better get up. That was a big mistake.

After scrambling to get back to his feet, Brenneman caught a left round kick flush to his face that knocked him down flat on his back. However, while the kick knocked him down, it didn't knock him out, as he appeared ready to defend against Johnson pouncing on him. Neither he nor Johnson ever got the chance though as referee Mario Yamasaki jumped in and stopped the fight. While I'm all for fighter safety and feel the outcome was inevitable, this was clearly too soon. The end came at 2:49 into round one.

Speaking of premature stoppages, Mac Danzig (20-9-1, 5 KO's 1 sub) and Matt Wiman (14-6, 4 KO's 4 subs) fought in a rematch of a fight they had last year, which was stopped prematurely when Wiman was attempting a choke. On this night, there was no early end as both fighters went back and forth battling each other both standing and on the ground with Wiman earning a unanimous, but close decision. The fight was so close and entertaining, it earned fight of the night honors.

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