UFC 42: Wrestler vs. wrestler
UFC 42 was supposed to be held in Las Vegas and headlined by the long-awaited Tito Ortiz light heavyweight title defense against Chuck Liddell.
But Ortiz pulled out of the show, and the April 25, 2003, event was moved to Miami’s American Airlines Arena, where it drew a disappointing crowd of 7,500 for a Matt Hughes vs. Sean Sherk welterweight title match.
Sherk came into the fight with a 22-0-1 record for a battle of wrestling powerhouses that Hughes took by a unanimous decision, in his toughest contest since winning the title.
After Hughes took the first two rounds and busted Sherk’s right eye, Hughes seemed to tire in Round 3. Sherk got two takedowns and cut the champion above the right eye. It looked to be anyone’s fight going into the fourth, but Hughes came out strong. The champion got a takedown and used vicious ground-and-pound that opened several new cuts and lumps on Sherk’s face, which clinched the decision he took on scores of 48-45, 48-47 and 49-46.
The show featured a night of what, at the time, were considered upsets. Journeyman Pete Spratt, who came in with an 11-5 record, beat undefeated 21-year-old Robbie Lawler, battering Lawler’s right leg with low kicks and even catching him with a belly-to-belly suplex. After more kicks to the leg in the second round, Lawler no longer could stand, having suffered a dislocated hip that ended the match.
Another unbeaten welterweight, Romie Arum, being groomed for a shot at Hughes, was upset by a unanimous decision in a match with Dave Strasser, who dominated all three rounds.
In a light heavyweight match between two men who later would meet for the middleweight title, Rich Franklin stopped Evan Tanner in only 2:40 in what at the time was a big upset. Even though Franklin came in with a 12-0 record, Tanner was an established star with an international reputation. Tanner’s attempts to clinch and throw knees were thwarted, as Franklin kept escaping and was the more accurate striker, catching Tanner with a right uppercut and three overhand rights before it was stopped. The Miami crowd felt the stoppage was premature, but it also largely was a crowd of people who never had seen the sport.
But the best and most talked-about fight of the night featured two men who had made their reputations fighting in Japan, Duane “Bang” Ludwig, at the time a top-level kickboxer, and Genki Sudo, a submission specialist, and led to a change in the unified rules. The match was even going into the third round. Sudo took down Ludwig and was doing a number on him, breaking his nose and cutting him above the right eye. Ref John McCarthy stopped the fight to have the doctor look at Ludwig. But because of the rules at the time, when the doctor ruled the cut wasn’t bad enough to stop it, they started from a standing position. When Sudo went for another takedown, Ludwig landed on top and did a lot of damage in the final 1:40, closing one of Sudo’s eyes, which got him a split decision.
The only reason Ludwig escaped from the bottom was because he was bleeding so badly, and that gave him the chance to turn the fight around.
Because of the controversy about how Ludwig won, the rules were changed so that in such a situation, the match is restarted in the same position as when it was stopped.
Mark Weir def. David Loiseau, KO, 3:55 R1
Hermes Franca def. Richard Crunkilton, unanimous decision
Romie Aram def. Dave Strasser, unanimous decision
Genki Sudo def. Duane Ludwig, split decision
Rich Franklin def. Evan Tanner, TKO, 2:40 R1
Wesley Correira def. Sean Alvarez, TKO, 1:46 R2
Pete Spratt def. Robbie Lawler, verbal submission (injury), 2:28 R2
UFC welterweight championship: Matt Hughes def. Sean Sherk, unanimous decision (Hughes retains title)
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