|Friday, June 6th, 2003, UNLV Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, housed the who's who of MMA, in a much anticipated fight card. UFC 43 brought the big guns in an all-star event. And even though the likes of Ken Shamrock was taken off the card due to a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (A.C.L.), the card still packed a punch with a grab bag of UFC veterans, old school and new school. The most anticipated match of the night was to see if Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell would be able to bypass the last, and only man standing in his way of the Light Heavyweight belt. Since Tito Ortiz didn't step up to the plate to give Chuck the shot he deserved, Randy "The Natural" Couture (two time UFC Heavyweight Title holder) dropped weight to try and accomplish what no other UFC competitor has tried to accomplish as of yet, and that is to attempt another title in another weight class.
Friday, June 6th, 2003, UNLV Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, housed the whos who of MMA, in a much anticipated fight card. UFC 43 brought the big guns in an all-star event. And even though the likes of Ken Shamrock was taken off the card due to a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (A.C.L.), the card still packed a punch with a grab bag of UFC veterans, old school and new school. The most anticipated match of the night was to see if Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell would be able to bypass the last, and only man standing in his way of the Light Heavyweight belt. Since Tito Ortiz didnt step up to the plate to give Chuck the shot he deserved, Randy "The Natural" Couture (two time UFC Heavyweight Title holder) dropped weight to try and accomplish what no other UFC competitor has tried to accomplish as of yet, and that is to attempt another title in another weight class. Heavily weighted as the underdog for this match, it was going to be interesting to see how Randy would fare in a lighter weight class. Can he outwrestle the ever-so-hard-to-take-down Liddell and will he be able to withstand Liddells powerful stand-up skills? Although this was the main event, other matches on the card rounded off the Meltdown card. Such names include, Vitor Belfort, David "Tank" Abbott, local favorite Frank Mir, Marvin Eastman, Matt Lindland, Pedro Rizzo and more.
In the preliminary bouts of the night, where new faces and new names find their places in the pre-lims, with such a power-packed card, some of the bigger names were placed as pre-lim bouts this time around. In the first match for the night, Pedro Rizzo faced Tra Telligman, who was not to be taken lightly. Telligman came to bring it and he brought out the best in Rizzo in what became one of the most exciting fights of the night, and a real ice breaking way of starting the night off--with a few solid BANGS!
In the first round, Telligman asserted himself as the aggressor, closing the distance and throwing down some hard shots. The two exchanged stikes with Rizzo getting caught and dropped to one knee, stunned, he clinched to regain composure. Rizzo tried to take the game to the ground, something that Rizzo is rarely forced to do, but he was unsuccessful. The two swung away and in the exchange of punches, Rizzo looked to have a small cut by the left eye. Telligman was the early dominant stand-up force by the end of the first round. The bell rang and the fighters went in their corners. Rizzo used this time of reflection as a wake-up call to take it in the next round. In the second go-around, Rizzo came out with leg kicks. Telligman took a clean shot to the face and cut. Smelling blood, Pedro threw a flurry of punches and worked to be the dominant opponent in this round. As the two clinched, Pedro outside leg tripped Telligman down to the canvas and ended up in Telligmans guard. Rizzo proceeded to ground and pound with heavy hands. The two showed great movement and continued to bring it back on their feet, exchanging punches and trying to override the other as the dominant competitor. This match deteriorated into a slugfest, where the two opponents exchanged and ate each others punches often. At one point in the round, Rizzo caught Tra with a solid knee that cut Telligman. The referee stopped the match to have the doctor check Telligmans cut. Tra was quickly cleared and the fight continued as the crowd began to roar once again. More damage was done to Telligmans face and the referee stopped the match to have the doctor check the cut once more, which was much worse than the initial stop. The ref signaled and the fight was over after the doctors recomendation. Pedro Rizzo took it in the 2nd round at a time of 4:25 due to cut stoppage.
In the next match-up for the night, Matt Lindland faced first time UFC competitor-Falaniko Vitale. The buzz around this match-up was just how seriously did Lindland take a relatively unknown Vitale? Vitale not green to the MMA pro circuit had a lot of fight experience behind him, coming from Honolulu, Hawaii. Vitale was a Superbrawl veteran and to hardcore fight fans, very well versed in his stand-up and ground skills. However, it wasnt so much the technical skills he possessed, it was his sheer natural strength and good balance that would pose to be a challenge for the likes of Lindland. Lindland, whos proven time and time again that hes a dangerous competitor, would most likely get the strength test of his career in this under-anticipated match-up of the night.
In round one, Lindland came out swinging for the fences but failed to close the distance and failed to connect any of his looping punches. In turn, Lindland resorted to his strengths. He attempted to take Vitale down but struggled. Vitale clearly showed how good his balance was and how strong he really was, giving an exceptional wrestler like Lindland a run for his money. The two clinched and Lindland had Vitale up against the fence and worked for a leg trip, but he couldnt get Vitale off his feet. Lindland persisted and as he struggled to take Vitale down, he managed to lift Vitale and twist Vitale in mid-air for the slam with a classical wrestling lateral drop. Vitale managed to tork his body for some sort of mid-air positioning, which caused Lindland to have to try and adjust, but in the end, Lindland got the takedown but landed wrong. He ended up with Vitales head slamming into his own and the rest of Vitales weight impacting on him. Lindland KO-ed himself. A surprised Falaniko Vitale was victorious in the 1st round in a time of 1:56 by Knockout.
Local favorite Frank Mir faced 610" Wes Sims in the first live PPV bout of the evening. Coming off an effortless win against the return of David "Tank" Abbott, Mir faced an opponent with a very large reach, a love for the use of his knees, and known for dropping his opponent on their heads. In the opening bell, Frank wanted to touch gloves but an anxious Sims scrambled across the Octagon and tried to get a shot in on Mir. Mir ducked and shot in with a double leg, obtaining a perfect 5 point throw, slamming Sims on his back. Mir maneuvered from side control to a full mount. He controlled the top position and worked to get Sims back as he struggled like a fish out of water. Mir finally got back control and attempted a choke, but finally ended up with an armbar after scrambling. Sims showed a lot of movement on the ground for a 610" heavyweight. He rolled out of the bottom position and pulled out of the arm bar. Sims stood up and surprisingly, slammed his foot into Mirs face, not once but a few more times, before the fight was stopped by referee Doc Hamilton. Mir clearly showed that he was dominating this round until the foul took place. Sims was sent to his corner and the doctor went in to check on Mir, who looked to be okay. He took only a black black eye from the incident. Referee Doc Hamilton stated the rules that "you cannot stomp on a downed opponent. If the downed opponent cannot continue, than the person is disqualified." The crowd went mad and started showing their feelings towards an un-professional Sims, who obviously showed that he was caught up in the moment of a fight. He disgracefully egged the crowd on as he was escorted out of the Octagon. Frank Mir won in the 1st round at a time of 3:56 due to Intentional Foul. Wes Sims is disqualified.
British sensation, Ian Freeman went up against Ken Shamrocks replacement, Vernon "Tiger" White. White proved to be a no lesser opponent for Freeman. White came out of the gate throwing the first punch but missed Freeman. White continued to move quickly and swiftly by shooting in and getting the double leg. He ground and pounded from Freemans guard but didnt really do any serious damage to the Englishman. The two were up and Freeman got the takedown on White and tried to pound on White from the guard. White countered with light shots from his back. Again, no real damage. White rolled out of the bottom position and the two were up on their feet. White showed he was the aggressor, throwing knees and landing several shots on Freeman.
In the second round, White continued to strike. Freeman and White exchanged a flurry of punches and kicks. The two started opened up further, throwing leather every which way. White tried to take it to the ground once more. The two scrambled for position and Freeman got control by obtaining top position. White showed how hard it was to keep him pinned in any one position. He slipped out and reversed the position, getting Freeman on his back. White took control and continued to show a lot of movement. White tried for a rear naked but Freeman wouldnt have anything to do with it. Freeman also, showed a lot of movement and continued to get out of Whites submission attempts. The two were back up on their feet. The crowd started to roar in excitement and amazement at how skilled and determined these two fighters were. Freeman showed that this round belonged to him but with all the efforts from both fighters, the rounds looked really close.
In the 3rd and final round, White attempted a spinning back fist and got caught with a shot from Freeman. Freeman started powering through his punches. The two continued to exchange strikes. The two were on the ground and both, made an attempt for heel hooks. Freeman, hanging on, tried to finish White with a leglock but White rolled out of it. Freeman caught White with another punch as the two were both gassing out. Freeman tried to throw everything he had right to the final bell. White tried to counter and defend. The round ended and it was up to the judges to decide the outcome of this exciting match. The judges gave White the first round at a score of 30-27. The second round was given to Freeman at a score of 28-29. The final round was scored 29-29. The match was a draw.
Time was allotted and the swing bout took place. Yves Edwards faced Eddie Ruiz. Ruiz, a relatively unknown competitor from David "Tank" Abbotts camp, took on the stand-up strengths of the "Thug-Jitsu" specialist.
In the first round, Edwards clearly showed improvement on his takedown defense, thwarting numerous ankle picks and double legs. Yves tried to keep it on his feet for as long as possible but Ruiz worked to take it to the ground with a relentless attack. After the tackle, Edwards was able to scramble and take Ruizs back and attempted a rear naked choke, but was unable to sink it. Ruiz worked to get out of the position but struggled to get Edwards off his back. Both fighters showed a lot of movement and they were both up on their feet. Ruiz took punishment on the ground and ended up being cut. The ref stopped the match to have the doctor check Ruizs damage. He was cleared and got back into the match. Edwards threw a barrage of punches and caught Ruiz, who fell back. Edwards showed he wanted to keep the fight on his feet as he would disengauge and walk back to the center of the ring. The crowd sensed Edwards confidence. Ruiz was up and Edwards came in with a spectacular high knee only to miss. He slipped and ended up on his back. Edwards showed he was definitely in control of this match up to this point. He was more aggressive with punches and kicks, but he couldnt seem to do any enough damage to Ruiz to put him out.
Round two, Ruiz caught Edwards shin in his face, dropping him. Not surprisingly, Ruiz showed that his chin was made of steel. Edwards stayed on him and attempted a triangle choke but was unsuccessful. Edwards followed up with some hard knees into Ruizs stomach and he threw a leg kick, once again, dropping Ruiz who continued on and took his lickings like a true warrior. Edwards gave it all he had and looked to have his work cut out for him with a tough-as-nails Ruiz. Ruiz tried with desperation to avoid Edwards hand and legs, but continued to catch Edwards barrage of punches and kicks. Ruiz showed true heart as he continued to make Edwards work for his win.
In round three, Edwards again, showed dominance to an opponent who was now showing some signs of fatigue. Edwards attempted more submissions with an almost successful triangle choke. Edwards threw more knees, dropping Ruiz once again, but Ruiz wouldnt stay down. Ruiz managed to take a lot of damage but hung in there and kept the fight going till the last round. Yves Edwards won by Unanimous Decision.
Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort faced K-1 veteran, Marvin "The Beastman" Eastman. Belfort came in with a new look and a new attitude. A very lean, shapely, focused, and not so clean-cut Belfort came into the Octagon. He had found religion and left the outcome of his fight and his performance "in Gods hands" as he stated in pre-fight interviews.
Eastman came out throwing an inside leg kick on a very calm and focused Belfort. Belfort aggressively came in on Eastman with a vicious high knee and knocked Eastman down then, he followed with a one-two combo before the ref jumped in to stop the fight. The old Vitor was definitely in the house. He rocked the stadium with his quicker than lightening movements. Eastman ended up with a nasty 2-inch gash above his right eye. Bar none, this was the worst cut seen in UFC history. Belfort took the win in the 1st round at a time of 1:10 due to ref stoppage.
Although David "Tank" Abbott didnt have a good run in his first fight back into the UFC after several years of fight hiatus, an old school veteran got to meet another old school UFC veteran--Kimo Leopoldo. The fans were hoping to see the old Tank Abbott doing what he was known to do--slug it out with the best of them. Two Huntington Beach bad boys were fighting for territory. What it all came down to was who was going to "own the streets of Huntington Beach" as the baddest. The outcome of this match didnt please the crowd as what most were hoping for. It ended up being another quick match for the Tank-ster.
The fight had the crowd standing up in excitement as the two opponents stared each other down. They each went after each other after the opening bell rang and Tank took a leg kick in the gut. Abbott went in to take Kimo down, but Kimo turned the tables aggressively pulling Tank to the mat on his back, getting the mount. Kimo maneuvered to get a front arm choke on what looked to be a hlepless old man. Tank was pinned and gasping for air. Kimo held on to the choke, sinking it in tighter and tighter. And what fans were hoping not to see--happened. Tank tapped. With the excitement of his victory, Kimo went over and kissed Tank on the head, as a bewildered Tank sat up from his loss. Kimo showed sportsmanlike conduct and told the crowd to cheer for Tank. Kimo expressed that he did exactly what he had set out to do--take it to the ground. Kimo Leopoldo won in the 1st round at a time of 1:59 by tapout.
In the much-anticipated final bout of the night, the crowd was waiting to see Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell get the long awaited opportunity of getting the title shot he deserved. The only man now standing in his way was the former two-time UFC Heavyweight Title Holder, now Light Heavyweight, Randy Couture. And although these were two very liked contenders, Liddell was heavily favored and Couture was the underdog. In the immortal words of Randy Couture, "I like being the underdog." It would be interesting to see if "The Natural" would be able to stop the reign of "The Iceman."
Liddell opened up with a flurry of punches and caught Couture with a knee. Couture then, surprised spectators and the like with a beautiful high amplitude takedown that shook the Octagon and Chuck. Couture couldnt keep Liddell down but started the match off with a tremendous slam! Both competitors were up on their feet and they exchanged some hard shots and both caught a few shots. The two clinched, and Couture known for his uppercuts off the clinch, showed to be the aggressor with strikes as he caught Liddell with more than a few shots. Couture ran Liddell off balance and got Liddell down on the canvas once more. Liddell was back up before Couture could get ground control on him. Couture worked for another takedown as the round ended.
In the 2nd round, Couture was the aggressor once more, stalking Liddell, and worked to out strike the kickboxer. Randys timing and head movement was the difference as the bout went on, slipping shots and doing more damage with his hands. Liddell got caught with one of many jabs and then the two clinched once more. Couture pushed Liddell off and got in two more shots. Liddell threw an inside leg kick that swept Coutures leg aside for a brief moment, but Couture kept on coming back with a relentless assault. Liddell looked to have a hard time closing the distance on Couture, as his looping punches didnt connect. Couture was faster and stronger in this lower weight class. In fact, Couture didnt look a day over 25 as an astonished crowd watch the soon to be 40 year old sting Liddell with beautiful combinations and a takwdown clinic. Couture also, clearly showed that he could outwrestle another top-notch wrestler like Liddell. Couture again, got Liddell down and this time, he ended up with control of the top position. He held Liddell down on the bottom and worked to keep him down this time, but Liddell reversed the position and the bell rang with him finally dishing out some punishment.
In the 3rd round, Couture came out on fire. He threw Liddell off with a quick leg switch and caught Liddell with a jab. The two exchanged punches and Couture showed yet again that he was the more effective striker as he landed more to Liddells bruised mugl. Liddell had a tough time countering against Coutures straighter punches and cadance. Couture threw a barrage of knees and threw an always-dangerous uppercut off the clinch. Liddell looked ever more frustrated, not being able to breakdown Coutures attacks. Couture stayed on Liddell and shot in, getting another beautiful, solid takedown on Liddell. Couture mounted Liddell and ground and pounded. Liddell worked hard to defend the punches but stopped defending as he ate a few big strikes. "Big" John McCarthy stopped the match and the crowd was in a brief state-of-shock. Even so, this big upset had everyone roaring for Couture as his performance went down in MMA history as one of the most amazing feats. This close to 40-year old showed that he was unstoppable and as the belt was placed around his waste, everyone was in awe of his accomplishment, and at the same time, felt sympathy for an outstanding competitor like Liddell who waited so long for this opportunity and was denied the opportunity from Tito Ortiz. And ended up fighting the last fight that stood in his way for the belt. Couture made an announcement to Tito Ortiz that if he wanted the belt, hed have to come in and take it from him. The crowd went wild. Randy Couture won in the 3rd round at a time of 2:40 due to ref stoppage.
In a night of debuts, returns, and even some surprises, UFC 43: Meltdown delivered another high-octane event. This whos who grab bag of mixed martial artists made this show one of the most memorable, giving spectators and hardcore fight fans superior performances and really showing what this sport is all about--real action. And basically saying that you cant get anymore real and/or technical than this sport did on this night of fights.