by Drew James - 06/03/2005
This Saturday, The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its return when they present UFC 53: Heavy Hitters, live from the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Many questions will be answered on Saturday, the most important being, will the astonishing popularity of UFC 52: Liddell-Couture 2 carry over and sell a card without a notable fighter headlining it?
A record crowd of 14,562 were on hand at the MGM Grand for UFC 52. It was the largest crowd to witness a Mixed Martial Arts event in North American history. Hats off to Dana White and Zuffa for giving the fans the match they wanted and deserved.
Couture puzzled Liddell in the first fight, using good footwork and actually out striking the striker, stopping the Liddell in the third round. This surprised many because Couture is renown for his wrestling skills while Liddell is considered one of the most deadly strikers in the sport.
Couture did his fair share of slamming but the real surprise was his superior standup. The roles would reverse in the rematch, as did the result, after Liddell turned the tables, and easily out struck the favored Couture, knocking him out at 2:06 of the first round.
The card also featured outstanding performances from rising Canadian star George St. Pierre and UFC Welterweight champion Matt Hughes.
Altogether, I'd have to say that UFC 52 was undeniably one of the top three Ultimate Fighting events in the 12-year history of the organization. That being said, try not to be too disappointed when you don't see Randy, Chuck, or Tito fighting on Saturday's card. Dana White is clearly using UFC 53 as a way to promote and give exposure to some of the young prospects and overlooked veterans.
At Heavy Hitters you'll be seeing two recently crowned champions making the first defenses of their titles. Also, Forrest Griffin and Nate Quarry from Spike TV's hit reality series, The Ultimate Fighter, will make their UFC PPV debut in separate fights.
In the main event Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski will make the first defense of the UFC interim Heavyweight title as he faces former Iowa State Linebacker and fan favorite, Justin Eilers. Coming off a first-round knockout loss to journeyman heavyweight Paul Buentello, Eilers looks to have been better suited in an NFL training camp than the UFC octagon.
Since debuting at UFC 49, Eliers has compiled a record of 1-1 inside the octagon, the win was a knockout of good friend and fellow UFC newcomer Mike Kyle. Even though experience and the odds both heavily favor Andrei Arlovski, Eilers is a very forceful striker and Arlovski has lost all three of his fights to strong strikers.
Both Arlovski and Eilers share a common opponent in Wesley "Cabbage" Correira. Eilers lost a very close split decision, while Andrei Arlovski dismantled Correra from the opening bell, eventually stopping him with a flurry of punches in the second round. Eilers can pack as lethal a punch as any heavyweight in the sport but his lack of a ground game and submissions will be a lot to overcome against an opponent as dangerous as Andrei Arlovski. This will be Eilers first fight since leaving Pat Miletich's camp for that of the legendary Jeremy Horn. Look for Horn to drastically improve Eilers ground game and Jiu Jitsu.
If you've never seen Arlovski in action, you're in for a treat, as he may be one of the most exciting strikers in the UFC today. Andrei Arlovski has compiled a record of 5-2 inside the octagon, most recently was a first round submission of the 6'8 Tim Sylvia for the interim title. After dropping the giant Sylvia with a single right hook just thirty seconds into the fight, Arlovski showed good discipline and sensational submission skills as he ditched the lunging ground strikes and instead locked a hold of Sylvia's right leg, submitting him with a guillatine foot lock.
After suffering knockout loses in his first two UFC contests, Andrei Arlovski has turned his career around winning four in a row and all the short way. In fact, Arlovski has never had a fight go to the judges' scorecards or even past the second round. Sounds like a lock, until you take a look at the loss column. All three of his defeats have come by knockout and the one thing you don't want to be lacking against a fighter like Eilers is a strong chin. Arlovski will have to rely on his strong kickboxing and exceptional dexterity to keep Eilers off balance early on.
In the co-feature and what most hardcore MMA fans consider the real main event of the night, we'll see a rematch from UFC 42 when Evan Tanner defends his UFC Middleweight belt for the first time against rising star Rich Franklin. In their first fight, it didn't take long for the debuting Franklin to find his mark, as he staggered Tanner with a straight right in the first round and followed up with a flurry of strikes until the referee stepped in to stop the match.
It was deemed somewhat as a controversial stoppage but it looked like Tanner was getting hit by every punch being thrown. Both men have been red hot as of late, Franklin is coming off a quick win over UFC legend Ken Shamrock and Tanner has won four in a row since losing to Franklin, including upsets of Phil Baroni and David Terrell. The odds for his last fight were +180, his opponent Terrell was heavily favored at -240. Most experts will tell you Franklin is a lock but that's just not the case. Tanner is 3-0 since dropping to middleweight and has looked better and better as his career progresses.
Entire UFC 53: Heavy Hitters Card*UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship*
Andrei Arlovski (8-3-0)
vs. Justin Eilers (9-3-1)
*UFC Middleweight Championship*
Evan Tanner (33-4)
vs. Rich Franklin (19-1)
*Light Heavyweight Division*
Forrest Griffin (10-2-0)
vs. Bill Mahood (12-2-1)
Matt Serra (13-3-0)
vs. Karo Parisyan (21-3-0)
Nick Diaz (10-3-0)
vs. Koji Oishi (11-3-4)
David Loiseau (12-4-0)
vs. Charles McCarthy (7-2-0)
Nate Quarry (6-1-0)
vs. Shonie Carter (66-12-7)
Paul Buentello (17-7-0)
vs. Kevin Jordan (7-2-0)