ANAHEIM, CA. – Just like that a short and sweet right uppercut ended the world heavyweight title bout between Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovsky in Southern California’s first engagement with the Ultimate Fighting Championship series.
“This is the day we’ve all dreamed of,” said Dana White, UFC president and CEO who finally realized his dream of a California audience.
Former heavyweight world champion Sylvia dispensed with that informal title and grabbed the belt back again with an astonishing right uppercut and a flurry of blows on the downed Belarusian fighter Arlovsky. He was stopped at 2:43 according to referee Herb Dean.
“I work on that uppercut a lot,” said Sylvia (23-2).
The heavyweight title fight was a rematch of a fight that saw Arlovsky down Sylvia with an overhand right a year ago. It happened once again just a minute into the fight.
“I thought s—t, déjà vu,” Sylvia said. “He dumped me and I got right back up.”
Arlovsky jumped to the attack but Sylvia was able to escape the ground and get back on his feet. Feeling that he had the taller American hurt, Arlovsky rushed back in to finish him. That was a mistake.
“I felt I was doing well. I underestimated him,” Arlovsky (11-4) said.
What came next was a sneak right uppercut on the point of the chin that dropped Arlovsky just like he dropped Sylvia in their previous fight. Indeed it was déjà vu.
“I think it’s the greatest feeling. It’s unbelievable. I love being the underdog,” Sylvia said.
In another hugely anticipated fight, with a throng of 17,000 screaming fans waving flags and banners, Tito Ortiz the homeboy entered the octagon against popular Forrest Griffin, the winner of Ultimate Fighter reality television show. It was Ortiz’s ground attack versus Griffin’s punching aggressiveness.
In the first round that scenario played out with Ortiz battering Griffin on the ground with elbow smashes that ripped a cut across the side of Griffin’s left eye. It was a big first round for the Huntington Beach native.
The second round found a bloodied Griffin using his quickness to thwart Ortiz’s take down attempts and turn the fight into a boxing contest. With his longer reach he was able to land several scoring combinations including several big right hands to the jaw.
Both Ortiz and Griffin figured the final round would decide the contest. Ortiz surprisingly outboxed Griffin with quick one-two combinations and a final take down that decided the fight. As the horn ended the final round, the crowd favored Griffin, but the judges scored the fight a split-decision win for Ortiz 28-29, 30-27, 29-27. The crowd booed the decision.
“I guess I’m the bad boy,” Ortiz (14-4) said who hobbled out of the octagon with an injured left knee. “Forrest fought a great fight and you have to respect that.”
Griffin, who was unable to use his toughness to overcome Ortiz’s experience, was satisfied with his effort.
“He won it with the take down,” Griffin (12-3) said graciously. “I feel so good I’d like to go another two rounds.”
Ortiz said his Big Bear Mountain training contributed to his stamina.
“It really helped a lot,” Ortiz said. “I was in the best shape of my life.”
Griffin was excited about the response he got from the fans.
“At the end of the first round I looked at the clock and thought ‘if I land a few big punches I could steal the fight.’ Unfortunately, I was unable to do that,” Griffin said. “There’s nobody in the UFC that I can’t fight. I’m a dog.”
American middleweights Evan Tanner (36-7) of Utah and Justin Levens (7-2) of Laguna Niguel traded ground skills immediately in the first round. During an entanglement, Tanner was able to gain an arm bar triangle that forced Levens to tap out. Referee Herb Dean stopped the contest at 3:14 of the first round.
“I didn’t have a team to train with in my other fights,” said Tanner. “I saw the opening for the triangle choke. I have been working on that in training.”
American heavyweight Jeff Monson (21-6) faced the much taller Brazilian Marcio Cruz (2-0) and should have had problems with arm reach but turned out to be the superior puncher. In the first round a short stiff jab dropped Cruz but he was able to escape on the ground. Cruz bloodied Monson and took the first round on all the judges’ cards. The second round found Monson countering Cruz’s kicks to the leg with a counter right. But when Cruz tried to take him down, both were able to block any advantage. A third round saw both fighters even on the ground but Monson scored the better punches. The judges scored it 29-28 for Cruz and 30-27, 29-28 for Monson.
“I boxed him but he was a tough guy, a good jiu-jitsu guy,” said Monson from Minnesota.
Sean Sherk’s (29-2-1) desire to win helped him win over the judges in his bout against Nick Diaz (11-6) in a welterweight contest. All three rounds were very close with neither fighter able to effectively win the fans’ appreciation. But all three judges scored it 30-27 for Sherk.
Armenia’s Karapet Parisyan (23-3) used a throw down to gain an advantage against the taller Nicholas Thompson (23-9). After another take down, Parisyan was able to mount Thompson’s stomach and the end was near as he slashed the Virginia native with a right elbow across the forehead causing a bloody gash. Several blows to the head forced Thompson to tap out at 4:44 of the first round in a welterweight bout.
“It took me a while but I still got it,” Parisyan, 23, said.
David Terrell took advantage of Scott Smith’s indecision during a referee’s order and was forced to tap out from a rear naked hold at 3:08 of the first round of a middleweight match. Smith claimed referee Marco Lopez ordered a break while both were clinched. But Terrell kept a hold and made Smith submit.
“I was just trying to break him down,” said Terrell (10-2) out of Sacramento. “The referee said break but I kept going or else he’d take my head off.”
Smith was angry but refused to whine about it.
“I was told to obey the rules,” said Smith (11-2) from Oak Grove, California.
After taking a beating, Thiago Alves Araujo (16-3) turned the fight around with a bone-cracking right hand to the chin that immediately dropped Derrick Noble (17-8-1) in a middleweight bout. The Brazilian pounced on his American opponent with nonstop punching and forced referee Cecil Peoples to stop the fight 2:54 of the first round.
In a light heavyweight contest Jason Lambert used his superior ground skills to tie up the heavier and speedier puncher Terry Martin at 2:37 of the second round. Lambert took down Martin and mounted him from behind and pounded him with both hands in forcing referee Big John McCarthy to end the contest.
Standing at the podium in front of a large press section, White smiled almost embarrassingly at the turnout.
“This was the best one,” he said slowly.