UFC 36: Steroid controversy

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The first time a steroid controversy hit mixed martial arts was after UFC 36, on March 22, 2002, when Josh Barnett tested positive for Boldenone (Equipoise, a veterinary steroid) after winning the UFC heavyweight championship from Randy Couture at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

After winning the title, Barnett and UFC immediately got embroiled in a contract dispute. Barnett, who always denied guilt for the failed steroid test, tried to conflate the Nevada State Athletic Commission's test results with the contract dispute.

Because this match occurred before Nevada had the authority to overturn decisions based on a drug test positive, it is still listed as Couture's first-ever loss in the octagon.

Barnett left for Japan, first for pro wrestling and later the PRIDE organization, and never fought in the UFC again. Couture, who had trained with Barnett in the past, refused to accept the championship back.

As the third live event in Las Vegas over a seven-month period, drawing 8,327 fans, the show established UFC could return to a market on a regular basis and draw, even though such a crowd would be considered a failure by today's standards. It was also a look into the future of crowds as this crowd was the smartest ever to see an event, reacting to subtleties in groundwork and understanding the submission game.

Couture had won the first round, and was on the verge of winning the second against his 243-pound foe, but got reversed and Couture couldn't defend off his back and ref John McCarthy stopped it at 4:25.

The other championship match saw Matt Hughes physically dominate Hayato Sakurai, one of Japan's best fighters, winning with ground-and-pound at 3:01 of round four. Sakurai, bothered by injuries from an auto accident several months earlier, was slammed down hard, knocking both the wind out of him. Several stand-ups were ordered as Hughes would take Sakurai down and hold him there. Sakurai even decked Hughes after a second round stand-up, but Sakurai's inability to stop Hughes' slams kept him from getting any other significant offense in a one-sided long fight.

The biggest match up to that point of Andrei Arlovski's career saw him knocked out with a left to the chin by Pedro Rizzo in 1:29 of the third round. Rizzo seemed intimidated early, as Arlovski had reach and strength on him, but Arlovski couldn't match the Brazilian's hand speed.

Rizzo used low kicks as his main offensive weapon, and one even put Arlovski down. Arlovski's lead leg ended beat purple before the match was stopped.

NOTEWORTHY

Of the 16 fighters who appeared on this show, 10 held UFC championships during their career: heavyweights Barnett, Couture, Frank Mir and Arlovski, welterweights Hughes, Matt Serra and Pat Miletich, middleweights Evan Tanner and Matt Lindland and lightweight Sean Sherk.

Mir came across as a superstar when he used a unique elbow lock submission to beat former top heavyweight contender Petey Williams in 46 seconds.

Serra put on a clinic on the ground, before putting Kelly Dullanty away with a triangle in 2:51.

Miletich lost his final match in the UFC to Lindland, in a match where the winner was to get a middleweight title shot. There was controversy over the finish, as Lindland had Miletich pinned up against the fence and fired 59 unanswered punches, however Miletich blocked most of them. Ref Larry Landless was criticized for an early stoppage, as Miletich was not hurt badly, but he also made no offensive moves, nor was able to get out of the bad position.

RESULTS

Sean Sherk def. Jutaro Nakao, unanimous decsiion
Matt Serra def. Kelly Dullanty. Submission (triangle choke), 2:58 R1
Frank Mir def. Pete Williams, submission (shioulder lock), 0:46 R1
Evan Tanner def. Elvis Sinosic, TKO, 2:06 R1
Matt Lindland def. Pat Miletich, TKO, 3:09 R1
UFC welterweight championship: Matt Hughes def. Hayato Sakurai, TKO, 3:01 R4 (Hughes retains title)
Pedro Rizzo def. Andrei Arlovski, KO, 1:45 R3
UFC heavyweight championship: Josh Barnett def. Randy Couture, TKO, 4:35 R2 (Barnett wins championship)