UFC 72: Northern Ireland debut
Yushin Okami’s long road to a UFC middleweight title shot derailed at UFC 72 in a match that has since been used to question the way the 10-point must system is implemented.
The show on June 16, 2007, the company’s debut in Northern Ireland at Odyssey Arena in Belfast, was headlined by Rich Franklin vs. Okami, largely to determine the top contender for Anderson Silva.
The three round fight saw almost nothing happen in the first two rounds. Franklin appeared stronger when they locked up in Round 1, but neither did much.
Okami did nothing in Round 2. Franklin did very little, but he did enough to win the round.
Round 3 saw Franklin come out and try to do something, but Okami took him down, got the mount, took him down again and threatened Franklin with attempt at a guillotine, and seriously threatened him with a Kimura that was deep enough that Franklin after the fight expressed concern his shoulder was about to get ripped out, but he did escape the move with 30 seconds left.
The 29-28 decision for Franklin based on the 10-point must criteria was just. But in reality, for the fight as a whole, Okami clearly won.
Okami hasn’t lost since that fight, but due to a series of injuries, is still waiting for a title shot.
The most memorable fight on the show was an undercard split decision in one of the best UFC fights in history. Tyson Griffin beat Clay Guida in a fight that could have gone either way, and was top three in most polls for match of the year. Even though he was taken down, Griffin took the first round because he blocked most of Guida’s takedown attempts and had the better stand-up. In round two, they exchanged submissions and Guida had the edge, getting a kneebar that was close to finishing and a choke right at the end of the round that was dangerous. Guida ended the fight on top and ground and pounded Griffin in the last minute after an even first four minutes of the third round. But Griffin got the decision, which was heavily booed by the crowd when it was over.
The show drew the arena’s all-time record gate of $1,193,300, breaking the mark set by a Dolly Parton concert.
It was also one of the rowdiest and funniest crowds ever, including, when Jason MacDonald was facing Rory Singer, singing “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”
The difference in the Forrest Griffin people grew to love as a fighter and the Griffin who was a complete fighter was evident here, as he showed far better speed and footwork standing to befuddle and take a decision win over a game Hector Ramirez.
Current Strikeforce star Scott Smith lost via second round choke to Ed Herman. There were several reversals on the ground in the first round, which the crowd loved.
Marcus Davis, a New Englander of Irish heritage, became UFC’s local star, playing up his heritage before the show. He delivered on fight night by knocking out Jason Tan in just 1:15 after a right to the jaw and four punches on the ground.
Quoteworthy: “It was pretty close. There was a lot of pressure on my shoulder. I was a little nervous.” – Franklin, on Okami’s near-submission.
Marcus Davis def. Jason Tan, KO, 1:15 R1
Dustin Hazelett def. Steve Lynch, submission (rear naked choke), 2:25 R2
Eddie Sanchez def. Colin Robinson, TKO< 0:32 R2
Ed Herman def. Scott Smith, submission (rear naked choke), 2:25 R2
Jason MacDonald def. Rory Singer, TKO, 3:18 R2
Tyson Griffin def. Clay Guida, split decision
Forrest Griffin def. Hector Ramirez, unanimous decision
Rich Franklin def. Yushin Okami, unanimous decision