UFC 28: Randy repeats
In hindsight, UFC 28 on November 17, 2000, in Atlantic City, was one of the more important shows in company history.
It wasn’t so much what happened in the cage, although Randy Couture became the first two-time champion in company history when he beat Kevin Randleman to win the heavyweight title in the main event.
It was more that MMA was given provisional approval as a sport by the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. It was the regulation in New Jersey, and eventual creation of the unified rules, that led to Nevada’s pivotal approval and the eventual return to widespread pay-per-view nearly a year later.
Larry Hazzard, who headed the commission, said afterwards he thought it was a fantastic show and talked of what great athletes the two men in the main event were. This led to him approving the sport for good in the state.
An interesting aspect of this show is New Jersey at the time insisted on same-day weigh-ins, not allowing the current system where fighters routinely get in the cage at 15 pounds over their weigh-in weight and some have blown up as much as 30 pounds in one day.
But there were problems, because the backstage scale everyone was using to monitor their weight was four pounds off the commissions scale, meaning fighters who weren’t under weight all had to cut four pounds the day of the show. Ultimately, everyone made weight.
The commission, the strictest UFC had ever been supervised under up to that point, also nixed a Jeff Monson vs. Chuck Liddell fight at the last minute because of questionable CTS scan results in Monson’s preflight testing.
As for Couture, he had won the heavyweight title three years earlier from Maurice Smith, but due to a contract dispute, never returned to defend it. This was Couture’s first fight since dedicating himself to MMA full-time, as before, even though he fought regularly, MMA was a way to pay the bills so he could continue as an amateur wrestler. But when he failed to make the Olympic team in 2000 in Greco-Roman, at the age of 37, he announced his retirement from his original sport.
It was Greco-Roman vs. folkstyle wrestling in the main event, and Couture tired Randleman out standing in the third round, took him down and finished Randleman, who seemed to have no answer as to how to defend himself on the ground.
Randleman had won the first two rounds with takedowns and ground and pound.
In some ways, the card remained amateur hour, even with increased supervision. In the opener, Jens Pulver knocked out John Lewis in 12 seconds with a thunderous left. However, because the commission timekeeper started his watch early, and didn’t realize it was over until several seconds late, it was recorded as a 35-second knockout.
Two heavyweights that would be among the best of this decade debuted on the show. Andrei Arlovski took out Aaron Brink in 55 seconds with a reverse armbar. Josh Barnett stopped 6-10, 296-pound “Giant” Gan McGee, a former Cal Poly San Luis Obipso wrestling star when McGee tired in the second round, allowing Barnett to get the takedown and finish him with punches and elbows from the mount.
Mark Hughes, the twin brother of longtime former welterweight champion Matt Hughes, was is often seen in Matt’s corner, this time had the roles reversed with Matt cornering him. He took down Alex Steibling at will to win a unanimous decision, but fans booed the match.
Ben Earwood def. Chris Lytle, decision
Mark Hughes def. Alex Stiebling, decision
Jens Pulver def. John Lewis, KO, 0:15 R1
Andrei Arlovski def. Aaron Brink submission (armbar), 0:55 R1
Josh Barnett def. Gan McGee, TKO, 4:34 R2
Renato Sobral def. Maurice Smith, decision
UFC heavyweight championship: Randy Couture def. Kevin Randleman, TKO, 4:13 R3 (Couture wins title)
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