I expected a former UFC champion to receive more of a response.
As Tim Sylvia, the two time former UFC Heavyweight champion, made his way to the cage for the main event of Saturday night's Fight Tour event in Rockford, IL, I figured the divisive fighter would draw in the crowd - some cheers, some boos too probably. Instead, The Maine-iac was met with... not much. Instead, the crowd was much more interested in getting their picture taken with Rich Franklin at the commentary table.
No matter to Sylvia, who by this point must be accustomed to receiving a less than desirable response. Looking unphased by the crowd, he entered the cage to face his opponent, Patrick "The Bear" Barrentine, a submission fighter with a 9-5 record who had the distinction of coming out to the night's most unexpected walk-out music - "The Bear Necessities" from The Jungle Book. The kids song drew some boos from the very manly crowd, as well as a chuckle from Franklin.
Sylvia's official weight for the fight (always a point of discussion these days) was 280.5, making it a Super Heavyweight contest (though it was announced as simply Heavyweight), and giving him a weight advantage over the 268 pound Barrentine. Once the opening bell sounded, Barrentine shot in for the takedown. Sylvia sprawled nicely and began landing punches. They made it back to the feet once, only to repeat the same shoot and sprawl. Sylvia moved to side position and began landing more punches, along with some questionable elbows close to the back of the head, and at 2:09, the referee stepped in. Not the most dramatic performance, but Sylvia was never in trouble and managed to get the job done, which is what he needed to do after his January loss to Abe Wagner. And again, despite the win, no love from the fans for Tim.
Perhaps part of that response is the fault of the semi-main event, as local fighter Shayne Adams faced William Penn. Adams was originally set to face Sylvia in the main event, but with a three year gap since his last fight, the commission ruled Adams was not a suitable opponent for Sylvia and rejected the fight. As Adams came out, you could immediately see why Fight Tour planned for him to be in the main event. The crowd response was HUGE, easily the biggest of the night. Meanwhile, the pudgy Brett Rogers-looking Penn was met with violent boos for daring to stand across from the local superstar.
The fight was what you expect from this kind of Heavyweight fight - a crazy brawl with both men throwing shots and no plans on defending. Adams went for broke, connecting with a series of shots that looked to knock Penn out when suddenly... Adams was prone on the canvas, knocked out and defeated. And the crowd was irate. From my angle cageside, it was hard to see what exactly stopped Adams, and the big screen replay provided no further clues, but he was clearly done. In of sea of boos, Penn tried to get some love from the fans, but there was no winning them back.
Complete results and other observations from the night in the full article.
Stray observations on the rest of the night:
- The plan was for Sylvia and Adams to win here and meet at a future show, but with Adams losing, it looks like Tim Sylvia will face William Penn next time out, which will be fun, but is not exactly the kind of big fight that will get Tim back to the UFC.
- The best technical fight of the night was long-time UFC veteran LaVerne Clark vs. Sean Salmon. Salmon had initial success with his wrestling, but Clark reversed him on the ground and ground and pounded his way to a stoppage win.
- In the opening fight, Nate McCoy lost to Ruddy Gray via armbar. A bit of controversy here, as McCoy did not tap, but the referee called the fight off anyway. Probably a good call, as it looked like McCoy's arm was about to snap, and he was not escaping.
- A planned fight between Felice Herrig and Kelly Warren was cut when Warren did not make weight. Herrig instead did an in-cage interview that was pretty harsh to Warren (though never mentioning her by name).
- The show started with six amateur fights, most of which were over quickly. Best showing on the amateur card belonged to Doug Deback, who showed great aggression and heavy hands in a 15 second KO win.
- The other highlight of the amateur card was watching Jens Pulver make his way through the arena, drawing fans to him like bugs to a light. It's interesting to see how someone like Pulver gives off this aura of being both special and important, but also a totally approachable person who you can say hi to. The fans flocked to him, including more than a few women looking to have their shirts signed by the former champ and part-time Rockford native.
- Saliva performed during intermission. That is all there is to say about that.
Overall, the show may not have featured any surprise Fight of the Year candidates or amazing "you had to be there" moments, but it was a lot of fun. UFC vets being flocked by fans, seeing fighters you forgot about once again competing, crazy heavyweight slugfests, local fighters getting the superstar treatment - this had everything that makes regional MMA shows a blast.
In the end, it may be UFC fighter Jason Reinhardt who summed up the show best, taking to center cage at one point to urge the crowd to support your local MMA - these guys work hard to put on a good show, and we should support it.
Watching Saturday's show, I couldn't agree more.
August 20, 2011
Tim Sylvia def. Patrick Barrnetine (2:09 R1) via TKO
William Penn def. Shayne Adams (1:42 R1) via KO
LaVerne Clark def. Sean Salmon (3:22 R1) via TKO
Ruddy Gray def. Nate McCoy (3:00 R2) via Sub, armbar