The UFC built on its live event success from the Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock-headlined UFC 40 by drawing an overflow crowd of 11,707 to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for UFC 41 on Feb. 28, 2003.
The show featured a heavyweight title match between Tim Sylvia and reigning champion Ricco Rodriguez, but a middleweight grudge match between Matt Lindland and Phil Baroni nearly stole the show.
Lindland and Baroni had fought at UFC 34, and Lindland won a majority decision that was greatly disputed by the hot-tempered Baroni. That set up a rematch at UFC 41, and it was a back-and-forth battle that wound up overshadowing the main event.
Baroni kept hurting Lindland with right hands, but Lindland, a wrestling silver medalist in the 2000 Olympics, kept taking the fight to the floor. That helped him pull out the unanimous decision.
Tank Abbott returned from a stint as a professional wrestler in World Championship wrestling, but the UFC did him no favors as it paired him with submission specialist Frank Mir. Mir easily took down Abbott and submitted him in just 46 seconds.
B.J. Penn and Caol Uno met in a lightweight fight that was for the vacant belt. Penn appeared to do enough to come out with the win, but judges saw it three different ways. It turned out to be a split draw, and the belt remained vacant.
One judge scored it 48-47 for Penn. Another had it 48-47 for Uno. And a third saw it 48-48.
The main event proved to be the beginning of the Tim Sylvia Era, as the massive heavyweight won the title by crushing Rodriguez with a right cross on the chin. Rodriguez crumpled and Sylvia finished the fight with a brief ground-and-pound.
Matt Serra was announced as the winner of his lightweight fight with Din Thomas. But upon hearing the scores judge Doc Hamilton felt something was wrong, and he went to officials of the New Jersey Athletic Control Board. It turned out that Hamilton put his scores into the wrong column in the third, and he actually had Serra win. UFC president Dana White went into the locker room personally to let Thomas know that he had, indeed, won the fight via split decision.
Ken Shamrock sat in alongside Mike Goldberg as the color analyst on the pay-per-view broadcast with Joe Rogan missing the show.
The UFC hired Lisa Dergan, the wife of Major League Baseball player Scott Podsednik, to do in-cage postfight interviews.
Yves Edwards def. Rich Clementi, submission (rear naked choke), 4:07 R3
Gan McGee def. Alexandre Dantas, TKO, 4:49 R1
Din Thomas def. Matt Serra, split decision
Vladimir Matyushenko def. Pedro Rizzo, unanimous decision
Phil Baroni def. Matt Lindland, unanimous decision
UFC lightweight championship tournament finals: B.J. Penn vs. Caol Uno, split draw. (Title remained vacant) Frank Mir def. Tank Abbott, submission (ankle lock), 0:48 R1
UFC heavyweight championship: Tim Sylvia def. Ricco Rodriguez, KO, 3:09 R1 (Sylvia wins title)
- Matt Lindland
- Phil Baroni
- Tim Sylvia
- Ricco Rodriguez