UFC 44: Undisputed

September 26, 2003, Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

© By Marc Wickert

Once again, thousands of MMA fans surrounding the Octagon, and millions worldwide watching P-P-V, were summonsed by Bruce Buffer's velvet voice announcing, "Ladies and Gentleman, we are Live!"

Amongst celebrities in the full house were Shaquille O?Neal, Fernando Vargas, Bobby Jackson, Michael Clark Duncan, Jason Statham, David Silvera, Roger Craig, Trayceee, and boxing analyst and commentator Al Bernstein.

UFC 44

As part of an MMA culture exchange, PRIDE's executive producer Nobuniko Takada announced he would be sending Kazushi Sakuraba to fight in the Octagon, following UFC Chuck Liddell's visit to PRIDE, where he defeated Alistair Overeem earlier this year.

Liddell revealed he would be returning to Japan to face PRIDE's Quintan Jackson, telling Octagon announcer Joe Rogan, "Quintan is in my way (to a fight with Vanderlei Silva)."


Rich Franklin v Edwin ?Baby Face? Dewes (Light Heavyweight)

(Referee ? Sean Brockmole)

A good opening bout for viewers, submission specialist Dewes attempted an early guillotine choke, but was stopped in round 1 after a barrage of knee strikes and some serious ground'n'pounding by Franklin.

Result: Franklin by TKO, Round 1 (3.35).

Jorge Rivera v David Loiseau (Middleweight)

(Referee ? Larry Landless)

After Rivera entered the Octagon wearing King Richard-like head wear, these two experienced fighters elected to battle toe-to-toe, with Loiseau opening two gashes to Rivera's left temple with vicious elbow strikes. Rivera's cut specialist stayed busy at the end of rounds, and probably wished Jorge had kept his headgear on. But Jorge retaliated with uppercuts and worked the body with ripping punches and knees. Both men showed great courage, the fight eventually ending after the bell saved Loiseau.

Result: Rivera by unanimous decision.

UFC 44
Rivera v Loiseau

Tim Sylvia v Gan McGee (Heavyweight Title)

(Referee ? Big John McCarthy)

Another toe-to-toe fist-fest, this bout resembled the Couture v Liddell fight (UFC 43) with the traditional hands-up and straight punches winning over guard down and looping strikes. With martial arts greats Pat Miletich and Jeremy Horn in Sylvia's corner, and veteran trainer John Hackleman in McGee's corner, both fighters were determined to unload a salvo early in the bout. Tim's straight right soon caught Gan in the dynamite broadside, sending the 6'?10" McGee to the canvas. After the match, Sylvia directed a challenge to PRIDE's heavyweights: "Bring it on."

Result: Sylvia by KO, Round 1 (1.54).

UFC 44
Sylvia v McGee 

Andrei Arlovski v Vladmir Matyushenko (Heavyweight)

(Referee ? Larry Landless)

Billed as The Battle of Belarus, at 243lbs Andrei had too much reach advantage and was too strong a striker for Vladmir. Weighing in at 219lbs, Matyushenko would probably be better returning to the light heavyweight class. Arlovski was able to resist Vladmir's attempts to take it to the ground, and Matyushenko was penalised for kneeing a downed opponent, before being KO?d by a powerful uppercut from Arlovski.

Result: Arlovski by KO, Round 1 (2.14).

UFC 44
Ovlovski v Matyushenko

Karo Parisyan v Dave Strasser (Welterweight)

(Referee ? Steve Mazzagati)

With legendary Gene Lebell in Parisyan's corner, the battle started toe-to-toe before Karo initiated throws, adapting his judo techniques to the Octagon like a sawn-off 22. Parisyan dispatched a series of strikes prior to attempting a leg-lock, which the experienced Strasser escaped before unleashing some of his own punches, kicks and knees. Parisyan followed up with a knee-bar before throwing Strasser to the mat and submitting him with a kimura arm-bar.

Result: Parisyan by submission, Round 1 (3.52).

UFC 44
Parisyan v Strasser

Nick Diaz v Jeremy Jackson (Welterweight)

(Referee ? Steve Mazzagati)

Nick and Jeremy had met on two previous occasions with the result being 1-1. This was a battle between the submission specialist (Diaz) and the striker (Jackson). Jeremy showed excellent hands and improved submission avoidance, after an early takedown by Diaz. Jackson managed to unleash leg kicks from the ground to the standing Diaz's face, and faked being stunned by a strike, coming back with a straight right that narrowly missed Diaz.

UFC 44
Diaz v Jackson

Diaz opened Round 2 with a high kick attempt before taking the action to the ground and employing elbow strikes. Nick went for a rear-naked choke, which Jackson was able to roll out of, before applying some ground'n'pounding to Diaz.

The score seemed even at the beginning of Round 3, but after attempting a guillotine, Diaz was able to catch Jeremy in an arm bar.

Result: Diaz by submission, Round 3 (2.04).

Randy Couture v Tito Ortiz (Light Heavyweight Title)

(Referee ? Big John McCarthy)

Prior to this battle, the ?celebrity consensus? was for an easy Ortiz victory, with Con Air's "Johnny-23", Danny Trejo, shown having his photo taken with Tito.

In The ?Gon

Randy Couture appeared totally relaxed, with a smile resembling Jack Nicholson's Joker character. Tito circled the Octagon a la Mark Coleman, before adopting the Kevin Randleman ?Bouncing Kong? jump, which only seemed to amuse Couture rather than rattle his cage.

Round 1

Started out as a battle of the takedowns, with Randy slamming Tito to the canvas at 2.35, and attempting to choke out Ortiz. Tito eventually escaped, and at 3.30, both men elected to go vertical, in a quest to determine who had the better striking arsenal. Randy then branded his initials on Round 1 with a second takedown of Tito.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

Round 2

Ortiz tried to surprise Couture with a high kick. But Randy responded with another of his trademark takedowns, before forcing Tito against the fence, and administering a ground'n'pounding volley of elbows and punches. Tito's only retaliation was a verbal assault at the round's end.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

Round 3

Not having an answer to the ground combat, Ortiz tried to take the fight back to the feet. But Couture was happy with the horizontal warfare, and again slammed Tito on his back. Randy then picked up where he?d left off, neck-cranking Tito's head against the fence and snapping in more elbows, forearms and punches. At forty years of age, Couture was looking fitter and stronger than his twenty-eight-year opponent, who seemed exhausted from the frustration of not being able to follow his game plan.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

Round 4

Tito tried to start with another strike, as instructed by his corner, only to be taken down by the ?King of Takedowns?. Two minutes into the round, Ortiz gave his back to Couture after Randy dished out more g'n'p pain. At 2.10 Randy tried for a choke, then gained full mount position, with the fight being closely monitored by Big John McCarthy. Tito was able to escape being mounted, only to be forced against the fence, where Couture dispatched more elbows and punches to Ortiz.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

Round 5

Again Tito tried to introduce a stand-up battlefield, and managed to delay Randy's takedown until 1.30. At 2.55 Ortiz struggled to his feet only to be slammed back down straight away. Tito attempted a kneebar, but Couture avoided the hold, smacking his younger opponent's behind in a gesture that symbolised the thirty-year veteran giving his student a lesson in ringmanship.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

The defeat by unanimous decision obviously stunned Tito Ortiz, but the young fighter has a resilience, and displayed great sportsmanship when he tied the UFC World Light Heavyweight belt around Randy Couture's waist.

Sporting a big smile after the fight was Dana White: he knew MMA fans had been treated to a spanking good time.

UFC 44
Couture v Ortiz

For more on UFC 44: Undisputed – www.ufc.tv

Article written by Marc Wickert

Marc Wickert is one of the world's most respected martial arts journalists.

For years his articles have been published in America, Europe, Australasia, and on the acclaimed knucklepit.com website.

Having interviewed some of the most elite combatants of the No-Holds-Barred inner sanctum, and a hybrid fight system's instructor in his own right, Marc Wickert is also author of the now-famous self-defense manual Knucklepit.com - The Book.