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Five observations

What we can take away from UFC 75

Posted: Monday September 10, 2007 12:02PM; Updated: Monday September 10, 2007 3:34PM
Thanks to his trainer, Jackson came out focused and pounded Dan Henderson for a unanimous decision.
Thanks to his trainer, Jackson came out focused and pounded Dan Henderson for a unanimous decision.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
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Trainer Juanito Ibarra. He was the guy wearing the red fisherman's hat in the background all night Saturday. He has been training Quinton "Rampage" Jackson for over two years, during which time Rampage has not lost.

As of late Ibarra has worked with Michael Bisping and Cheick Kongo, meaning his guys notched wins in all three of the marquee fights Saturday.

It was Ibarra who kept Rampage focused on his showdown with Dan Henderson when all around the champ wanted to dwell on his first-round knockout of Chuck Liddell. Little known fact: Ibarra trained Oscar De La Hoya for several years before the Golden Boy won gold.

2) MMA is not immune to hometown judging

Though constantly trying to distance itself from the deflated world of boxing, UFC took a step back toward its combat counterpart Saturday night with Bisping's split decision win over Matt Hamill. Judge Chris Watts scored all three rounds for Hamill, who did the only real damage with his fists in an uneventful fight, but judges Cecil Peoples and Jeff Mullen inexplicably scored the fight 29-28 Bisping. Hamill dominated the first round, had the only takedown and won the boxing in the second. Bisping may have won the final round, but it was close. It's hard to imagine how Hamill did not win at least the first two rounds, which would have given him the fight.

The fight was in London, and Bisping, an English native, was cheered heartily when he entered the Octagon to "London Calling" by The Clash. (Hamill entered to "Born in the USA"). When the decision was announced, though, even thousands of homers booed.

3) Play-by-Play man Mike Goldberg has a commentator crush on Joe Rogan

Goldberg has the first lady thing down. He leans into Rogan when Rogan spews color, keeping his laser like stare fixed with uncanny focus. Hard to blame him. Rogan is a great color guy, and he actually shaved for UFC 75 (don't worry, he still hasn't purchased cuff links for his French cuffs). My favorite was in round one of the Bisping/Hamill fight when both Goldberg and Rogan called "inside leg kick" in unison. Goldberg: "Sometimes we say things at the same time." Awwwww.

4) It's time to admit Pride was overrated

Since Zuffa LLC, the owner of UFC, purchased the Pride Fighting Championships in March, MMA enthusiasts have scoffed at the idea that UFC fighters could stand with the best from the Asian league. For starters, the latter enjoyed a larger following among typical sports fans in Asia than UFC did in America, and had among its ranks Fedor Emelianenko, the consensus top fighter in the world.

On Saturday, UFC light heavyweight champ Jackson was never in real danger against double-Pride-title holder Henderson. (Note: Though Jackson has extensive Pride experience, I'm counting him with UFC because that's where he has been of late, and was when Zuffa acquired Pride and the UFC/Pride debate heated up). After the fight, Jackson confessed that the only body parts hurting were his knuckles, "from going upside [Henderson's] head." Additionally, Mirko Cro Cop, who was considered the most dangerous striker in the world when he fought in Pride, has looked completely helpless in two straight losses in UFC. That brings me to my next observation...

5) The Cowboys wouldn't practice on a basketball court...

Nor should UFC fighters stick to a conventional, roped boxing ring. Cro Cop hadn't trained in a cage before his UFC fight in April when he was knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga in the first round. Gonzaga got Cro Cop on the ground, shoved him up against the cage and battered him with elbows. When Cro Cop got up, he was so dizzy he couldn't block a vicious high kick that put the lights out.

Cro Cop's Saturday opponent, Kongo, is a striker like Cro Cop, and the bout seemed to be a perfect chance for Cro Cop to stay on his feet, get a win and get his confidence and UFC profile back up. But all Kongo had to do to take the Croatian parliament member out of his game was to shove him up against the cage. Cro Cop could do nothing but clinch and hope to block the flurry of knees when he repeatedly found himself with his back to the fence. Cro Cop supposedly did some cage training before this fight, but it clearly was not enough.