Born of an almost carnival freakshow mentality where fighters of different sizes and skill sets were pitted against one another in ‟no holds barred‟ fighting (see the karate master versus the sumo wrestler!), The Ultimate Fighting Championship has definitely evolved. Okay, to be fair, it was also born out of an American attempt at a no rules fighting contest like vale tudo and as a showcase for the Gracie families jiu-jitsu, but the UFC was sold in a very cheap sensationalistic way. But, now the world of mixed martial arts has really grown into a bonafide sport of striking, submission, wrestling disciplines, with weight classes, rules, and regulations. While it still hasn't gained the sport pages and remains misunderstood in the mainstream (‟human cockfighting‟ is an oft used inappropriate term), it is growing... bit by bit, ever so slowly.
UFC 54: BOILING POINT took place on August 20th, 2005 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
James Irvin Vs. Terry Martin (Prelim): Light Heavyweights. James Irvin is built and has a spray tan skin tone to go with his muscle beach physique. Terry Martin is smaller, pudgier, with a wrestlers build. In this striker versus wrestler matchup, Irvin gets taken down where he flounders, struggling to stand up, while Martin holds him down and works some ground and pound. After one round of this, it seems like a washout, with Irvin's inability to fight from his back meaning eventual defeat. To everyone's surprise, Irvin opens the second round with one whopper of a flying knee, leading to a quick turn of fate.
Travis Lutter vs. Trevor Prangley (Prelim): Middleweights. Prangley and Lutter are actually fighters who had frequently sparred together, presenting an interesting case of two guys fighting with a friendly familiarity to one another. This technical match goes the distance with, except for two accidental low blows, Prangley giving no room to Lutter from the feet or ground. Round two finds Lutter bloodied. Commentator Joe Rogan does a good job of explaining to those unfamiliar with the ground/submission game why Lutter's particular sub attempts just wont work on a guy like Prangley.
Matt Lindland Vs. Joe Doerksen (Prelim): Middleweights. Lindland is to mixed martial arts what Chris Byrd is to boxing, a winning fighter who's style is one that doesn't inspire much excitement. Lindland's Greco Roman wresting pedigree assures that he goes for a clinch and take down where he hugs his opponent and remains close enough to not get damaged while often eeking out enough strikes and transitions to keep to the fight on the ground. Doerkson is a submission specialist and makes a few good tries at subs, but the fight is mainly Lindland maintaining calculated ground control for three rounds without dishing much damage. By round three you can hear anxious, bored, and most likely drunken fans in the audience shouting at the referee to stand them up.
Frank Trigg Vs. Georges St.-Pierre: Welterweights. The first broadcast fight of the night is an explosive one. Rising star Georges St.-Pierre flat-out mauls veteran Frank Trigg. From the very start, St.-Pierre is all over Trigg like a monkey on a cupcake, dominating him on the ground with strikes and submission attempts.
Diego Sanchez Vs. Brian Gassaway: Welterweights. Sanchez was a winner on the UFC and Spike tv's reality show The Ultimate Fighter. With his first fight on pay per view they give him a dangerous but limited opponent in striker Gassaway. While Gassway has a height and reach advantage, he has limited ground skills, which is exactly where Sanchez like to go. Sanchez goes to work on Gassaway, getting takedowns, ground control, and dominating with strikes until Gassaway is forced to tap in the second.
Randy Couture Vs. Mike Van Arsdale: Light Heavyweights. Couture is one of the true icons of he UFC, a two time heavyweight and former light heavy weight champ, an all around classy and respectful man who made the transition from world class wrestler to fighter with amazing ease. Van Arsdale made a big splash in his first few years of fighting in the late 90's but then fought sporadically. Since both men have huge wrestling backgrounds, it becomes a clinch, takedown, and ground game with Couture getting the best of it. By round two both men are breathing heavy and it becomes clear the winner will most likely come down to conditioning. By round three Couture gets an anaconda choke he was working the whole while fight for, half because of skill, half because Van Arsadle no just longer has any gas in the tank.
Tim Sylvia Vs. Tra Telligman: Heavyweights. Veteran Lion's Den fighter Telligman was a late replacement for Sylvia's original opponent. In this striking battle, Sylvia's 6'8 frame and superior reach advantage is too much for the 6'2 Telligman, who has to overextend and practically leap in with his punches. With literally only a second or two left in the first round, Sylvia goes for an uncharacteristic high kick that knocks Telligman cold. The DVD edits out all of the tense moments and wince educing replays that occurred live when all were concerned for Telligman's well-being after he didn't wake up right away and was carried out on a stretcher. He's okay, by the way, but the night resulted in his being part of Sylvia's highlight reel.
Chuck Liddell Vs. Jeremy Horn: The main event for Liddell's Light Heavyweight title. This was a real fan-friendly piece of matchmaking, pitting one of the UFC's poster boys and top stars against an underground mixed martial art veteran, wunderkind, gym rat, innovator, and longtime presence as a fighter and trainer who had defeated Liddell early in his mma career. So, with a win, Liddell could avenge an early loss or Horn, after years of being a respected fixture on the fight circuit, could finally get a shot at the big time. Known for his jiu-jitsu skill and ground game, Horn had promised to stand and trade with Liddell, who prefers to remain on his feet, avoid being taken down, and end a fight with strikes. Horn was confident because in 100+ fights he'd never been knocked out; however trading with Liddell, who only needs one good punch to end a fight, proved to be Horn's undoing. Liddell carefully circles and patiently waits, and ends up tagging Horn a few times in the first and second round, resulting in Horn tumbling to the canvas. Liddell takes the third round off and a battered Horn manages to win the third with some good leg kicks. But by the fourth round, Liddell's crisp punches send Horn to canvas again and he gives up. Horn later explained that he had blurred vision since the first round (I believe I read it was due to a broken nose and deviated septum) but still admirably continued to try and fight.
The DVD: Studioworks.
Picture: Full-screen Standard. Looks good. It is sports pay per view with typically nice production quality, no skimping, good lighting, smooth camerawork. Any awkward live moments/glitches were, of course, smoothed over or edited for the DVD release. No complaints technically, high bitrate, no severe compression issues.
Sound: Dolby Stereo, either English commentary or Spanish commentary options. Again, solid audio. Bombastic music cues (metal riffs) really punch through your sound system. The announcing team of Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg are always clear but also not domineering so you can hear the fight scuffle and often discern some of the cornermen's barking instructions.
Extras: Behind the Scenes (22:57). Various bits from the fighters weigh ins, medical check-ups, and pre and post fight locker room/backstage footage. Nice stuff, I actually wish there was more.
Now, one thing about the extras that I am puzzled by is the omission of a special they aired on Spike Tv. The special was a UFC 54 countdown/hype show focusing on Horn and Liddell. It showed them training and went over each fighters history and why the match at UFC 54 was worthwhile: a champ getting a chance to avenge an early loss, an mma veteran and underground hero finally getting a big main event match. I guess maybe there was a rights issues with it being co-produced by Spike, but it seems like a glaring mistake to not include the special as an extra on this release.
Conclusion: It is a pretty fair card, entertaining but not spectaular. Standouts worth repeat viewing are Trigg-St. Pierre and Liddell-Horn. Couture-Van Arsdale and Lindland-Deorksen are competitive but middling. Prangley-Lutter, Telligman-Sylvia, and Sanchex-Gassaway are one-sided, and Martin-Irvin provides the biggest surprise ending.
As a DVD reviewer and fight fan, it is my goal to get the UFC to alter some of their DVD practices. While editing out the live lags with promo filler and shots of celebs is a good thing, nixing the fighter ringwalks, post-fight interviews, and between round rest period is a big mistake. While some of the post and pre-fight fighter stuff can get repetitive, sometimes the fighters can have a cool intro or something interesting to say after a win/loss. Besides, its DVD, and you can always skip such things if you don't want to watch it and get straight to the fighting. I can also understand why they feel to sanitize some things like the brutal knockout of Telligman and the shaky moments that occurred while he was being attended by the doctors. But, it is also a combat sport and such things are part of the sports nature, so it seems like a big cop out to not address what happened and excise it from the event entirely.