FanPost

UFC 15 - Collision Course

**This is the 17th post in a lengthy series taken from my MMA blog.  Be sure to check Fight Rankings for more in this series, which includes cumulative fight and fighter rankings from the first seventeen UFC events.**

Less than a week after PRIDE made their debut in Japan, the Ultimate Fighting Championship has returned with their UFC 15 pay-per-view event.  The UFC has only ever seen competition from Pancrase, a promotion that seemed to have a bit of a working relationship with the UFC.  Ken Shamrock, Maurice Smith, and Yoshiki Takahashi are among the fighters who have competed for both promotions, but things with PRIDE seem a bit different.

PRIDE put on two fights with four of the UFC's biggest names just six days before the UFC's next event and on the other side of the world.  It seems that the UFC fighters were put in UFC style fights just days before a UFC event and it's clear that PRIDE is trying hard to capitalize on the fame of these fighters.  Will there continue to be overlap between the UFC and PRIDE?  Can the two promotions broker some kind of agreement regarding talent?

As previously noted during my PRIDE 1 write-up, Dan Severn was in a unique position for these two events.  Severn was slated to fight Kimo for PRIDE before a UFC 15 Heavyweight Title shot against kickboxer Maurice Smith.  Severn's fight with Kimo went an excruciating 30 minutes, but it didn't seem like Severn had any physical difficulties with the fight.  Will he still be competing on this event?

And long gone are those other big names who fought at PRIDE 1.  We haven't seen Kimo, Oleg Taktarov, or Gary Goodridge for sometime and now there's a new crop of stars in the UFC.  Smith, Vitor Belfort, Randy Couture, and Mark Kerr have recently emerged as the best the UFC has to offer.  Smith vs. Severn has the makings of an interesting striker vs. grappler contest, while we'll see Belfort fight Couture in a Superfight for a heavyweight title shot.

We'll also see a heavyweight tournament featuring Mark Kerr and the returning Dave Beneteau, while the middleweight tournament is taking an event off.  There are only five main fights along with two alternate bouts, so this definitely seems to be an abridged UFC event.

As we've seen in the last few UFC events, rules and formats have been altered to protect fighters and to regulate the UFC in the face of mounting opposition.  UFC 15 will make some more radical rule changes that will directly impact the fights in the promotion.  I'll discuss more of those changes in this write-up, but I can safely say that the UFC is well on its way to going from spectacle to sport.  On with the show!

UFC 15: Collision Course - October 17, 1997

Previous Editions

The show opens up with highlights of Maurice Smith's upset victory over Mark Coleman, where Bruce Beck claims in a voice over that Smith had "no chance".  You have to love the UFC tearing down their new Heavyweight Champion like that.  You can play up the fact that it was an upset, but don't act like Smith is some bum who scored a fluke win.  Just say Coleman is great but Smith was better.  It's not very hard.

We learn right away in the highlight video that Smith won't be taking on Dan Severn, but rather, "the most dangerous man in the octagon" Tank Abbott.  I would say that his loss to Vitor Belfort automatically prevents Tank from claiming that moniker, but what good is reasoning in the SEG days of the UFC?

As an aside, it's no wonder that SEG quickly became bankrupt and were forced to sell the UFC.  They had no clue how to market fights and fighters and did an exceedingly poor job publicizing their rule changes that were made in an effort to become a mainstream sport.  SEG seemed perfectly content being some underground phenomenon regardless of how much debt they took on.

Bruce Beck welcomes us to Mississippi, hosting the UFC for the first time.  He clarifies that Dan Severn injured his hand, forcing him out of tonight's main event.  How on earth could Severn have injured his hand in that fight?  He landed maybe two punches in that miserable contest.  I'm just going to speculate that Severn had an ingrown fingernail and couldn't compete this evening.

They had apparently asked Mark Coleman to rematch with Smith, but Coleman couldn't accept the fight due to injury.  Now we have a fight with a sloppy, barroom striker against a more technical kickboxer.  It should be an interesting fight for about one or two minutes.  Should the fight go past that mark, Tank Abbott will likely wear himself out.

The UFC has held true to form in their longstanding tradition of not announcing key rule changes.  For the first time in the UFC, headbutts, groin strikes, kicks to a downed opponent, and strikes to the back of the head have all been outlawed.  These are all serious rule changes that will really impact the competition we see during this and all future UFC events.

The heavyweight tournament will feature Mark Kerr against Greg "Ranger" Stott and Dave Beneteau against Gracie jiu jitsu practitioner Carlos Barreto.  Beck makes a note that the alternate fights will be aired on this broadcast, though I'm not sure why two alternate fights are needed for a four man heavyweight tournament.  I guess that is for the unlikely event where both finalists can't continue?

Beck throws to Joe Rogan who is with Dr. Richard Istrico, the UFC's lead doctor, to discuss the injury to Dan Severn.  He basically injured the ring finger on his right hand and Istrico says that Severn can't compete, but that thankfully the injury isn't "life threatening."  Holy shit, this guy is the best doctor ever.  Imagine the work he had to do to make sure Severn would survive such a crippling injury.  Why on earth would he need to clarify that the injury won't kill Dan Severn?  What kind of a freak finger injury would end in death?  Maybe a brown recluse spider bite or necrotizing fasciitis, but certainly not an injury sustained in a fight with Kimo.

The first contest of the evening will be the alternate fight between BJJ practitioner Alex Hunter and Harry Moskowitz, who is a "freestyle fighter".  I think freestyle fighter just means he's a big guy with no skills who was brought in as a warm body.  The announcers don't mention any specific disciplines, but Jeff Blatnick says that "size and power" is Moskowitz's best trait.  Oh, he sounds good.

Alex Hunter actually defeated Sam Fulton at UFC 14 in an alternate fight, so he's previously had success in the UFC.  Harry Moskowitz is a taller fighter by eight inches and he weighs 83 pounds more than Hunter, so there's a serious size difference in this fight.  We'll have to see if this size advantage makes up for Moskowitz's apparent skill deficiency.

Bruce Buffer has returned as the announcer and he is still pretty bad.  To open the event, he asks the crowd if they're ready for "THEEEEEE ULTIMATE FIGHTING CH-HAMPIONSHIIIIIIIIP".  The poor guy couldn't even get out the word "championship" without sounding like a tool.  Bruce Beck clarifies that the alternate bouts will only be twelve minutes long with no overtime periods.

The fight begins slowly and Hunter starts the action with a takedown.  Moskowitz defends the attempt and tries for a guillotine choke, but the hold never seems to be threatening.  Moskowitz even picks Hunter up from this position, but the choke isn't deep.  Hunter pulls out of the hold, but takes some knees prior to breaking the clinch.

Moskowitz moves in for some punches, but Hunter tries for a double leg takedown and backs Moskowitz up against the fence.  Moskowitz attempts another guillotine and tries to secure the hold based on strength alone.  He's landing some knees and elbows on Hunter, who has yet to mount any significant offense in the first third of this fight.

Hunter is able to break free and and land some big punches of his own before trying another double leg takedown.  Moskowitz is again able to defend the attempt and is backed against the fence by Hunter.  Moskowitz is working to land strikes from the clinch, while Hunter breaks free and lands some more punches of his own.

Hunter inadvertently gives up his back and Moskowitz takes the opportunity to sink in a rear naked choke.  Unfortunately, he's more on Hunter's side than on his back and can't hold onto the hold for long.  Moskowitz tries to finish the hold on the mat, but Hunter escapes and ends up in side control!  Hunter quickly moves to the mount position and is now firmly in control.

Moskowitz is working to keep Hunter from posturing up and landing big strikes.  Moskowitz tries to buck Hunter but is unsuccessful.  Hunter is landing very infrequent strikes and has done very little from the mount.  Thank goodness there are only two minutes left in this fight - it's not been a very exciting affair.

Beck and Blatnick suspect that Hunter is in the lead and I can't argue with that.  Moskowitz didn't look too impressive on his feet, though he did a good job defending takedowns and staying busy.  Hunter's time in full mount might have been enough to secure the victory, but it's still a pretty close fight.

Hunter does so little from full mount that referee Joe Hamilton stands both fighters up with one minute remaining.  Both fighters are exhausted and are completely uninterested in engaging.  Hamilton restarts the fight and both men slowly circle.  With about 20 seconds left, Moskowitz misses some punches and gets taken down.  The fight ends with Hunter on top of Moskowitz, which might be enough to sway the judges.  In a fight where very little happened, the fighter who spent more time on top will likely be the winner.

And indeed, Hunter ends up taking a split decision victory in this contest.  Moskowitz doesn't seem very pleased with the decision, but it's tough to argue with that.  Moskowitz looked much more comfortable on his feet, but did very little.  His strikes didn't do a lot of damage and his submission attempts were never threatening.  Hunter wasn't active himself, but spending a third of the fight in full mount was enough to score the victory.

The second alternate fight will be between Houston Dorr and Dwayne Cason.  You might remember both of these fighters from...I don't know, the one time that you saw UFC 15 many years ago?  Maybe you're a member of the Door or Cason family, then you might also have some vague recollection of this fight.

Cason does have some big names in his family, as Beck tells us that he is the nephew of boxers Leon and Michael Spinks.  Cason is also an amateur wrestler so it seems like he has the pedigree to compete in the UFC.  Dorr, a kickboxer, will be the fan favorite in this fight as he's a Mississippi State Trooper.  Dorr is also twice as old as the 20 year old Cason, which could be a detriment to the elder fighter.  Bruce Buffer is nice enough to pronounce Cason as "Carson", perhaps correcting the fact that the fighter was born without the letter "r" in his last name.

When the fight begins, you can see that Houston Dorr has also curried the favor of the crowd with his American flag trunks.  Dorr opens up with a quick leg kick but gets taken down.  Cason is throwing some big punches to his downed opponent.  Cason is postured up in Dorr's guard and the crowd is chanting for Houston Dorr to recover from this.  Dorr is able to grab both of Cason's arms and Cason is unable to do very much from full guard.

Cason is able to free his arms and Dorr then attempts to hold down Cason's head.  Dorr has kept Cason from being very busy, with Cason mostly landing some light body strikes.  Dorr is throwing some shots from the bottom that don't bother Cason.  At the 3:30 mark, Cason really picks up with his offense and starts throwing some big punches!  Cason is landing a number of these blows and Dorr appears to briefly go unconscious!  Referee Joe Hamilton stops the fight in favor of Dwayne Cason.

Cason was in control for that entire fight.  The only offense Dorr was able to muster was the opening leg kick and some punches from the bottom.  Cason didn't have to do a whole lot in this one.  He scored his takedown, landed big punches, and won the fight.  Pretty simple for Dwayne Cason.

Beck and Blatnick check in on the UFC chat on AOL, but they don't show the actual chat in progress.  It's very disappointing that I just have to hear Michael DePasquale describe some of the tamer comments instead of seeing the insane chat logs that I've grown accustomed to.  There's still a lot of fighting left so it's possible they'll show some of the chat room later in the evening.

Beck also tells us that the UFC will be making its debut in Japan on December 21, 1997.  The event will be appropriately titled Ultimate Japan, where the winner of Couture/Belfort will fight the winner of Smith/Abbott, so we've basically got a four man tournament tonight heading into UFC Ultimate Japan.

A clip of Randy Couture is shown discussing his skills and his upcoming fight with Vitor Belfort.  Couture is looking quite accurately like a wrestler from the 1990s in his ASICS shirt and dingy U.S. Olympics hat.  I have to say that the state of MMA apparel hasn't improved very much in the last 15 years.  Yes, it looks like Couture hit up a Salvation Army prior to being interviewed, but is it that much worse than having an ugly t-shirt covered in dragons and tribal patterns.

It's now time for the main draw of the heavyweight tournament.  The  first match in the tournament semifinals will feature Greg Stott and Mark Kerr.  Kerr is the reigning tournament champion having gone 2-0 in the UFC 14 Heavyweight Tournament.  Greg Stott is apparently a former U.S. Army Ranger who has developed his own style called RIP - Ranger International Performance.  He calls it the most "expeditious and effective" fighting style, so he thinks rather highly of himself.

Mark Kerr looks as frightening as ever.  He seems to have taken some extra...vitamins since his last UFC appearance.  He is massively muscular and is purported to weigh 253 pounds.  At 6'1", that's an absolutely massive frame.  He's also six inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than Stott.

Look who it is!  It's the "just bleed" guy!  During the prefight introductions, they show this fine UFC fan amongst the crowd.  For some reason, I didn't think this guy would come until many events down the road, but here we are.  Staring straight at the tortured, grimaced face of MMA fanhood in 1997.

To be fair, the guy is probably drunk right now.  It's also possible he was drunk when he commanded his wife or mother to paint his head and body prior to attending this event.  Just by looking at him, my guess is that this guy lives his life in a constant drunken stupor.

As Mark Kerr is introduced, one of his cornermen is busy massaging Kerr's humungous shoulders.  I can't imagine the work that goes into maintaining such muscles.  I'm assuming that Kerr's coach is rubbing in topical horse tranquilizers to ensure that his muscles don't gain sentience and turn against Kerr during the fight.

Greg Stott is absolutely lacking the physique of Kerr.  I figured that being in the military would require a certain amount of physical fitness, but Stott looks more like a fat baby in shorts that are way too small.  He looks like Patton Oswalt from the twin men have a conversation parody video.

Thankfully for all parties involved, it's a very short fight.  Stott opens up with some ridiculous punches that miss Kerr by a few feet.  Stott actually stomps the mat as he punches, reminding me of a professional wrestler who does a poor job disguising the fakeness of his strikes.  Kerr quickly grabs Stott and lands an incredibly powerful knee to the head.  The crowd groans as Stott falls to the mat in a heap.  Kerr landed the single knee and didn't need to follow it up with any additional strikes.  In just nineteen seconds, Mark Kerr broke Greg Stott's skull into a million tiny pieces.

Stott manages to get back to his feet as Jeff Blatnick wonders if that was the fastest fight in UFC history.  Perhaps he forgets gems like Don Frye knocking out Thomas Ramirez or Gary Goodridge elbowing Paul Herrera until Herrera's head fell off.  This certainly was a quick bout, but not the quickest we've seen to date.

Joe Rogan inexplicably calls this the fastest fight in UFC history before interviewing Mark Kerr, who will probably be 100% fresh for the finals of the tournament.  When the interview is done, Bruce Beck clarifies that both of the fights I previously mentioned were quicker than Kerr's victory tonight.

Bruce Beck discusses Ultimate Japan a little further and says that Kevin Jackson will be returning to action at that event.  Jackson previously looked impressive in winning the middleweight tournament at UFC 14 and it will be good to see him back in action.

Maurice Smith and Tank Abbott are interviewed in anticipation of their fight later this evening.  Smith says that he'll be wary of Abbott's power, but suspects that Tank will tire out as the fight goes on.  Smith must have brought in some very smart people during camp to help him figure that one out.

We move on to the second semifinal bout between Dave Beneteau and Carlos Barreto.  I'm sure we all remember Beneteau for his early UFC losses to Dan Severn and Oleg Taktarov.  Since then, the Canadian lost to Dan Bobish in Brazil but picked up a win over Patrick Smith in Japan.

Carlos Barreto gives a prefight interview in Portuguese, but thankfully, his extremely quiet and slow translator is here to clarify nothing.  Barreto is a Carlson Gracie BJJ practitioner, so he definitely has some skills that can be capitalized on in the UFC.  Barreto is undefeated in 1997 with wins over Paul Varelans, Kevin Randleman, Dan Bobish, and Geza Kalman.  He's got the skills and an impressive resume, so this will probably be a great fight.

The fighters seem pretty evenly matched in size, though Barreto has a height advantage.  Both fighters are near the current heavyweight limit, which doesn't happen very frequently in the UFC.  A lot of heavyweight are still around 225 pounds or less, so we've definitely got a couple of bigger guys ready to square off.

Beneteau moves in for the clinch early and the fighters trade shots.  Barreto backs Beneteau against the cage and seems to be working for a takedown, but ends up landing a headbutt when the attempt fails.  True to the new rules, Big John McCarthy warns Barreto and issues the fighter a foul.  We've never seen a disqualification in the past, but it will take three fouls to disqualify a fighter.

Beneteau is trying to grab Barreto's head, but Barreto is able to stay free of Beneteau's grasp.  Barreto is liberally grabbing the cage, which is really preventing Beneteau from being able to do anything while backed against the cage.  Big John is very quick to break the clinch, presumably due to the fence grabbing.  Oddly enough, Barreto is only penalized for the headbutt and not the fence grabbing.

Barreto is quick to work for the takedown after the restart and is successful.  During the scramble, Beneteau gives up his back and Barreto sinks his hooks in!  Barreto starts throwing some big punches to the back of Beneteau's head, another foul that goes uncalled by Big John.  If we're going by the three strike rule, we've got three pretty clear fouls with only one having been called.

As Barreto is throwing those punches to the back of the head, he gets too high and Beneteau is able to buck his opponent and escape!  With both men back on their feet, Barreto seems a bit more comfortable striking though I'm sure both men would like to be on the mat.  Beneteau rushes Barreto and doesn't even attempt a takedown, so Barreto initiates the clinch and backs Beneteau against the cage yet again.

It looks like Barreto goes for a takedown, but now Beneteau grabs the fence which clearly prevents Barreto from completing the takedown.  This allows Beneteau to claim a half guard position, where he postures up and lands some serious punches.  Beneteau is actually forcing his knee into Barreto's chest and this makes the punches look a lot more devastating.  During this flury, Barreto works back to his feet and breaks free from the clinch at the four minute mark.

Barreto is definitely getting the best of the striking, throwing some powerful body and head kicks that appear to affect Beneteau.  Barreto lands a big left and moves in for some more strikes, but Beneteau scores a takedown.  Beneteau doesn't stay there for long as he moves back to his feet and allows Barreto to stand.  Beneteau might have some trouble in this fight.  He doesn't want to deal with Barreto's BJJ, but Barreto also seems to be getting the best of striking exchanges.

Barreto lazily moves into the clinch, which allows Beneteau to take control and back Barreto against the fence.  Barreto lands an occasional knee, but Beneteau connects with some big uppercuts.  Beneteau breaks from the clinch again and both fighters seem very tired.  Both Barreto and Beneteau spend time resting their hands on their knees.  When Beneteau leans over to rest, Barreto nearly connects with a big kick to Beneteau's head.

The fighters circle a bit and Barreto attempts a low kick, but Beneteau catches the kick and lands a takedown!  Beneteau is in guard and Barreto seems interested in working for a triangle.  Beneteau goes to posture up but gets caught with a big up kick and forgets that idea.  Beneteau isn't staying very active and is unsuccessful in attempts to advance position.  Barreto is throwing some punches from his back, but doesn't have much success.  It looks like Barreto is working for a gogoplata or a triangle, but Beneteau very slowly backs out of guard and stands up yet again.

Barreto seems interested in trading strikes with Beneteau, but the Canadian is persistent with the clinch and won't give Barreto any space to work.  Big John again breaks the clinch with little time to work and restarts the fighters yet again.  Before either fighter can do anything on their feet, Beneteau lands yet another takedown and is back in guard.  Barreto has a single let in butterfly position, but I don't think it matters.  Benteau's strategy is pure lay and pray and he just wants to spend as much time as he can on top of Barreto.  Beneteau's strikes are weak and infrequent, but he's in a dominant position.

The regulation portion of this fight ends with Beneteau on top of Barreto.  Bruce Beck says the crowd will explode at the end of regulation, but it more accurately sounded like a bunch of indifferent southerners politely cheering and/or groaning at Beneteau's lackluster offense.  The first half of regulation was pretty exciting, but that came to a prompt halt when both fighters were clearly worn out.  The break before overtime is spent with two large fighters trying desperately to catch their breath.

During the overtime, Big John warns Barreto's corner that the fighter received a second foul for grabbing the fence.  One more foul, and Barreto will be disqualified from this fight.  We've yet to see a disqualification in the UFC, but many of these rules are also very new.  We could be in for another first in the UFC tonight.

As has been the norm in this fight, Barreto and Beneteau clinch with Beneteau backed against the cage.  Barreto is still grabbing the fence!  For whatever reason, Big John is deciding to repeatedly warn Barreto instead of disqualifying the fighter as promised.  Barreto works for a takedown and is successful, moving into Beneteau's guard.  The last half of overtime is spent very boringly in guard, Barreto doing very little aside from throwing harmless looking strikes.  At one point, Beneteau is fouled for kicking Barreto from closed guard, but the fight ends uneventfully.

At this point, one thing is clear: both men are super tired.  I'm not sure who has the edge in this fight.  Beneteau seemed to be in control for more of the fight, scoring takedowns and spending a lot of time on top of Barreto.  Then again, Barreto controlled the overtime and Beneteau was really inactive when he did gain an advantageous position.  This is certainly a closer fight that was initially very promising, but fell flat when both fighters were almost immediately winded.

In the end, it's Dave Beneteau who is declared the winner of the fight.  Barreto seemed confident that the victory was his, but the Brazilian is gracious in defeat when congratulating Beneteau and his corner.  Beneteau will move onto the finals to fight Mark Kerr, a fight that seems very lopsided at this point.  Beneteau won't be able to out wrestle Kerr and his fight was significantly longer than Kerr's.

In his post fight interview, Beneteau concedes that he may not be able to fight Mark Kerr in the finals.  Beneteau vows to make an "executive decision" when deciding whether or not to compete in the heavyweight tournament finals.

But now, it's time for the first half of tonight's heavyweight double bill.  Vitor Belfort will face Randy Couture to determine who will get a shot at the UFC title at Ultimate Japan.  Belfort has shown destructive striking talent early in his UFC career and he differs greatly from a proven wrestler like Randy Couture.  Couture says that nobody has taken Belfort down and that's what he plans on doing.  Belfort has yet to show off his BJJ skills, so this could be the first time we see what Belfort can do on the mat.

Jeff Blatnick tells us that Couture placed ninth in Greco-Roman at the wrestling world championships just one month prior.  Couture was a very accomplished wrestler, and though he didn't have the wrestling success of a Kevin Jackson or Mark Schultz, but his skills have still translated nicely in the UFC thus far.

After Couture makes his way to the octagon, Bruce Beck tells us that Belfort is stalling before his entrance to play mind games with his opponent.  The UFC's crack staff gets some footage of Belfort in his trailer backstage as Blatnick insists that Belfort will eventually come out to fight.  And to think, I was really concerned that Belfort was going to back out of this fight last minute and not try to earn his shot at the UFC Heavyweight Title.

There's maybe a five minute wait before Belfort makes his way to the cage accompanied by Carlson Gracie.  It sounds like this crowd is firmly behind indifference for this fight, with Belfort being the favorite between the two active fighters.  This Mississippi crowd seems pretty dead.  Is there any way we could put Dave Beneteau and Carlos Barreto on trial for killing this crowd?

The fight opens up with Belfort looking for an opening to land some strikes.  He throws a combo at Couture that is mostly deflected.  Belfort loads up for some big hooks, but Couture quickly clinches his opponent.  Couture works for a throw, but Belfort maintains his balance and stays on his feet.  Belfort has Couture backed against the cage while Couture holds onto a front facelock.  Belfort grabs Couture's leg and attempts a single leg takedown, but Belfort gives up on it and breaks the clinch.

It looks like Belfort was holding onto his opponent's trunks since there is a huge tear on the right leg of Couture's trunks.  It's clear that Couture is planning to clinch Belfort whenever the Brazilian starts throwing punches.  Around the two minute mark, Couture clinches Belfort but eats some big uppercuts.  This just prompts Couture to sink in some overhooks and hold on for dear life.  Couture is trying to tie Belfort up as best as he can, and since Couture is conscious, I would say he's been successful.

Belfort throws a quick 1-2 combo, but Couture ducks under and lands a nice double leg takedown!  Couture is in half guard and quickly transitions to side control.  Couture isn't looking to strike quite yet, but is putting a lot of pressure on Belfort's chest and neck in an attempt to make his opponent uncomfortable.

Couture sinks in a headlock and starts throwing left hands and Belfort tries to turn Couture over.  Couture avoids being put on his back and maintains the headlock during the scramble, but ends up moving to Belfort's guard.  Couture has been pretty inactive on top aside from the few punches he landed from the headlock position.

At the 5:30 mark, Couture begins to posture up and land some punches on Belfort.  Couture has a hand behind Belfort's head for control as he postures and throws single punches.  Couture postures up again, but Belfort rolls out of guard after possibly looking for an armbar.  Belfort rolls onto all fours and is back on his feet, but Couture is in control with another front facelock and is landing some big knees!  Belfort blocks a lot of the shots and pulls away from the facelock, but Couture quickly clinches again and lands a number of uppercuts of his own.

Now Belfort is answering back with some big punches, but Couture is throwing some big left hands!  We're seeing some heavy duty dirty boxing in this fight, perhaps the best example of it in the UFC thus far.  Couture is landing a lot of his punches and Belfort's defense is faltering.  Belfort looks out of it and is staggered against the cage!  Couture moves in and throws some massive rights that go unanswered!

It looks like Belfort drops to the mat in an attempt to pull guard, but he's so exhausted at this point that he can't get Couture to follow.  Instead, Couture stands over Belfort and drops some big knees to the head of his downed opponent!  I guess that kicks against a downed opponent have been banned, but knees are just fine!

Couture gives up on the knees and starts throwing punches, but Belfort gives up his back to avoid being destroyed by Couture, who obliges Belfort by taking his back.  Couture is still having success with punches from Belfort's back and the Brazilian is just trying to cover up at this point.  Couture throws a series of left hands that are barely defended and Big John calls a stop to this fight!  Randy Couture has earned a shot at the UFC Heavyweight Title in an outstanding fight!

Randy Couture came into this fight playing second fiddle to the much hyped Vitor Belfort, but Couture has shocked the world with this victory.  Couture's wrestling was very good, but it was his striking that proved to be key.  Couture landed some really heavy shots and withstood Belfort's assault, which lead to the TKO victory at 8:17 in the fight.

Couture encourages the "USA!" chants from the crowd, who are now thrilled that Couture ended up being successful.  The crowd didn't seem firmly behind either fighter at the start, but this was just the performance Randy Couture needed to rally the fans behind him.  That was a very impressive performance from the wrestler, whose next opponent will be the winner of tonight's Maurice Smith vs. Tank Abbott title fight.

Couture said this fight went to plan, as he anticipated weathering the early storm before utilizing his Greco Roman wrestling and his takedowns to control the fight.  He tells Joe Rogan that he went out there very relaxed and tried to have fun.  He also says he's excited for his next fight, since he's "always wanted to go to Japan".  I'm sorry, but there is absolutely no reason for anybody to dislike this guy.  Randy Couture seems like the nicest guy who, more than anything, is just happy to be along for the ride.

It's now time for the finals of the heavyweight tournament, and unsurprisingly, Dave Beneteau will not be participating in the heavyweight finals tonight.  Dwayne Cason will be filling in to fight Mark Kerr in the tournament finals.  Cason defeated Houston Dorr earlier in the evening, but he's facing a much scarier opponent in Mark Kerr.  Beneteau tells Joe Rogan that he's not 100% ready after his earlier fight and doesn't feel like he would have been able to give his all against Kerr.  Without saying it outright, Beneteau says he has no chance of beating Mark Kerr.  I probably would have done the same thing, though I would have given that interview with piss running down my pant leg.

Through the evening, we've learned that Cason claims to be able to do 1500 push ups, push a truck two miles, bench press 500 pounds, and squat lift over 800 pounds.  Blatnick and Beck don't mention whether or not Cason trains with Pat Robertson, but it sounds likely.  If these claims are to be believed, I think Cason will win the fight by hurling Mark Kerr miles into the air and winning by decision when Kerr fails to land until after the fight is complete.

Kerr, the larger fighter by two inches and forty pounds, talks about his desire to get back into wrestling sometime in the next year.  He definitely has some awesome wrestling credentials including an NCAA Wrestling Championship.  Blatnick tells us that Kerr previously finished second in the wrestling nationals to eventual 1996 U.S. gold medal winner Kurt Angle.

Bruce Buffer introduces Kerr as "The Specimen", a nickname I don't remember hearing previously.  Specimen is very appropriate, since Kerr is a physical specimen who likely also has to submit frequent urine specimens based on his abnormal shape.

Within the first 20 seconds of the fight, Mark Kerr takes Dwayne Cason down.  This is bad news for the alternate, as Kerr quickly takes full mount with Cason pinned against the cage.  Cason gives up his back in a last ditch effort to avoid the blows, but Kerr sinks in a rear naked choke.  Cason seems ready to tap before the choke is even locked in, but quickly submits to the submission hold.  Mark Kerr has won his second fight in this tournament in under a minute and has now won his second consecutive tournament!

Well that was unsurprising.  Mark Kerr has absolutely run through two opponents in this tournament and, really, has yet to be challenged in the UFC.  He is massively strong and is an incredible wrestler, following in the footsteps of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Mark Coleman.  Kerr says after the fight that he's done with the tournaments and is looking for a Superfight or a Heavyweight Title fight.  He hints at matches with Maurice Smith, Randy Couture, and Vitor Belfort.

Interestingly enough, Kerr says he would rather not fight a wrestler at this point.  He says that at this point, the wrestlers need to fight competitors with different disciplines to prove that wrestling is superior.  Rogan spends quite a bit of time talking to Kerr about his training.  Kerr reveals that he's spent a lot of time training in jiu jitsu and he feels like the UFC is a competition that fits him very well.

A video package of the ham-faced John McCarthy is shown, since he's apparently important enough to highlight during the UFC's pay-per-view event.  He's certainly become a staple of the UFC thus far officiating the majority of the events, but is he really important enough where highlights need to be shown?  It's strange seeing a random group of stoppages with Big John shown as the main focus.

With that, it is now time for the main event for the Heavyweight Title between Maurice Smith and Tank Abbott.  We get the standard highlight videos and prefight interviews for both fighters, though Tank's video is abrupt on account of being a late replacement.  During Smith's entrance, Beck claims that Maurice Smith has really improved his submissions under Frank Shamrock at the Lion's Den.  It will be interesting to see if Smith decides to take this fight to the ground given Tank's notable punching power.  Tank Abbott is the big fan favorite in this fight and the Mississippi crowd makes it known during the introductions.

This fight starts with Tank being aggressive with his punches, but Smith answers with a leg kick.  Tank tries a takedown, but Smith defends it nicely and stays on his feet.  Smith is circling around the cage as Tank stalks forward, looking for his opportunity to potentially knock the champion out.  Tank is being very cautious, understandable given Smith's excellent kickboxing skills.

Tank rushes in with some punches to set up the clinch against the cage.  Tank throws some single punches from the tie up, but doesn't seem to do much damage at first.  Tank then lands a big right hand that stumbles Smith, who falls to the mat!  Tank rushes in to follow up with some punches, but Smith has recovered almost immediately and is keeping Tank in his guard.  It looks like Smith has kept his wits about him and that he was simply knocked down.

Tank is making efforts to pass the guard and is successful in moving to side control.  It's a nice transition by Tank, though I'm sure a more capable fighter on the ground could have defended the move.  Tank postures up to land some punches, but Smith quickly adjusts and moves Tank back to guard.  The crowd is chanting Tank's name as we hit the four minute mark of the fight.

Abbott postures up from the guard and lands some right hands, but is unable to maintain the attack and goes back to rest his weight on Smith.  Maurice Smith seems interested in working for an arm submission, but he gives up the idea quickly.  Smith is almost able to buck Tank and reverse positions, but Abbott is able to maintain his top position.  Abbott is throwing occasional punches, but as he is wont to do, Tank seems to have gotten a bit tired.

Abbott again moves from guard to side control and is throwing some more big rights, but Smith blocks most of the punches.  Smith adjusts and is able to move Tank back into his guard once again.  Smith is again working for the keylock as Tank moves back to side control, but he's unable to get the leverage needed to finish the hold.  Tank spends some more time between side control and guard before Big John restarts the fighters at 7:30 in the contest.

Abbott is very, very tired at this point.  If Tank gets tired when coming into fights on regular notice, imagine how exhausted he must be having accepted the Heavyweight Title fight on such short notice.  Tank can't be in the best of shape right now, while we've seen Smith go through this before.  After the restart in the Smith/Coleman fight was when Smith did most of his damage, so let's see if he can repeat that here.

Tank lurches forward out of the restart and gets hit with some huge low kicks.  Tank is completely unable to respond to the kicks and Big John sees fit to stop the fight!  This contest is over and Maurice Smith has retained his UFC Heavyweight Title!  It just took Smith 30 seconds out of the restart on account of Abbott being miserably tired.

This is probably the worst shape Tank has been in after a UFC fight.  Most of the time, Tank will be moving around and chatting with his corner, but now he's laying flat on his back and looks completely winded.  I can think of few fighters other than Tank who would fare so poorly on short notice.

Maurice Smith seems very happy in his postfight interview and says that he'll be going to Disneyland prior to his Ultimate Japan fight.  Joe Rogan also talks with Tank, who says "fuck it, I don't give a fuck about a beating."  He clarifies that he fights for the fun and says that if he was in shape, this fight wouldn't have been close at all.  Bruce Beck clarifies that Tank Abbott verbally submitted at the end of this fight, so Smith is the winner via submission due to strikes.

Now we'll get to see Maurice Smith defend his title against Randy Couture in Japan.  We've already seen Smith defeat a stellar wrestler like Mark Coleman, though Couture likely has more of a gas tank and better striking than Kerr.  And Couture was successful against a serious striker in Vitor Belfort, though Smith has proven he can go deeper into fights than Belfort.

Coming out of this event, the three big names in the heavyweight pictures are Smith, Couture, and Mark Kerr.  After two tournament wins, Kerr is definitely in a position to become one of the best heavyweights in the UFC.  However, this is going to be the very last time we see Mark Kerr fight in the octagon - he will never compete in the UFC again.  Kerr will move on to fight exclusively for PRIDE over the four years.  Kerr gave in an interview in the early aughts where he said that SEG was hardly paying any of the fighters dating back to their first event.  Because of this, Kerr will spend the next four years fighting in Japan.

This is very disappointing for the UFC as Kerr is primed to be a huge star.  Kerr's dominating wrestling and massive frame have led to great success in the UFC, but because SEG won't pay one of their top heavyweights, he will be defecting.  That goes to show how mismanaged the UFC was under SEG rule.  Not paying fighters and facing extreme government and public resistance has been difficult for the UFC and losing fighters is a definite consequence of that.

So we'll get to see the UFC venture to Japan in December 1997 for their first ever event outside of the United States jurisdiction (including Puerto Rico).  I guess there's no better way to avoid American government pressure than to avoid the American government as a whole.  We know Couture vs. Smith will take place and Kevin Jackson will return to compete.  Aside from that, we'll have to wait and see what the UFC has in store.

Greatest Fights of UFC 15

  1. Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort
  2. Maurice Smith vs. Tank Abbott
  3. Dave Beneteau vs. Carlos Barreto
  4. Mark Kerr vs. Dwayne Cason
  5. Mark Kerr vs. Greg Stott
  6. Dwayne Cason vs. Houston Dorr
  7. Alex Hunter vs. Harry Moskowitz

Top Ten Fights Through UFC 15

  1. Royce Gracie vs. Kimo Leopoldo - UFC 3
  2. Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort - UFC 15
  3. Don Frye vs. Tank Abbott - UU96
  4. Maurice Smith vs. Mark Coleman - UFC 14
  5. Royce Gracie vs. Dan Severn - UFC 4
  6. Royce Gracie vs. Keith Hackney - UFC 4
  7. Oleg Taktarov vs. Tank Abbott - UFC 6
  8. Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock - UFC 1
  9. Ken Shamrock vs. Dan Severn - UFC 6
  10. Marco Ruas vs. Paul Varelans - UFC 7

Greatest Fighters of UFC 15

  1. Randy Couture (1-0)
  2. Mark Kerr (2-0)
  3. Maurice Smith (1-0)
  4. Dave Beneteau (1-0)
  5. Dwayne Cason (1-1)
  6. Alex Hunter (1-0)
  7. Vitor Belfort (0-1)
  8. Carlos Barreto (0-1)
  9. Harry Moskowitz (0-1)
  10. Tank Abbott (0-1)
  11. Houston Dorr (0-1)
  12. Greg Stott (0-1)

Top Ten Fighters Through UFC 15

  1. Royce Gracie (11-1-1)
  2. Mark Coleman (6-1)
  3. Dan Severn (9-3)
  4. Ken Shamrock (6-2-2)
  5. Don Frye (9-1)
  6. Oleg Taktarov (6-2-1)
  7. Maurice Smith (2-0)
  8. Randy Couture (3-0)
  9. Mark Kerr (4-0)
  10. Vitor Belfort (3-1)

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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