Following on the heels of the success that was UFC 110 in Sydney, while also taking advantage of the fact that one of the countries in which Pride FC was massively popular, Thomas Huggins has created a new MMA organization in Australia, named Impact FC. The organization’s first two shows have taken place with only a few days of interval between them, with Impact FC 1 (Brisbane) on July 10th and Impact FC 2 (Sydney) on July 18th. Both cards were solid and stacked with MMA legends, former UFC and Pride FC fighters, including “Big” John McCarthy having a good part of the refereeing duties.
Impact FC 1 was headlined by former UFC Heavyweight champion Josh Barnett taking on physical specimen Geronimo “Mondragon” dos Santos. Barnett quickly got one of his patented side takedowns and easily passed to mount; Mondragon showed that he was in great physical shape as he started buckling for his life. While everyone was expecting Barnett to show his world-class top mount game, Mondragon was actually able to shake the North-american off and get back to his feet. But Josh’s wrestling is on another level and he got another takedown soon after; this time he was able to stabilize the mount and started raining down shots. Some were being blocked by Mondragon’s hands, while others were getting through. Dos Santos rolled to the side, Barnett had some more shots in and “Big” John had seen enough, awarding Barnett the TKO. Mondragon complained that he wasn’t hurt but the stoppage was legitimate. A short but very fast-paced fight in which overwhelming favorite Josh Barnett was able to dominate his opponent with superior technique.
Also on this show UFC and ADCC veteran Jeff Monson defeated another Brazilian, Bira Lima, by Unanimous Decision. “The African” Assassin Sokoudjou easily defeated the only man to hold a win over Júnior dos Santos, in Joaquim Ferreira; it was a very short fight in which Sokoudjou brutally punished his opponent from the half-guard, being awarded a TKO stoppage. Just one minute and twenty seconds; will Sokoudjou ever fulfill the promise he showed early in his career? He is still 26, so let us wait and see.
Carlos “Ronin” Newton, another former UFC champion, was unable to out-grapple relative unknown Brian Ebersole, with the latter winning through Unanimous Decision. Easily the upset of the night.
Brazilian Thiago Meller locked Australian Jai Bradner with a guillotine choke, Fábio Fernandes was able to get a rear-naked choke victory over Api Hemara, while Canadian Tom Waters got a TKO stoppage over Jacob Mahony.
The first fight of the night was actually the fight that was scheduled to be the co-main event. Former UFC fighter Karo “The Heat” Parisyan asked promoters to fight first instead and they obliged; Australian Ben Mortimer stepped in to replace injured Luís Dutra Jr. Mortimer gave Parisyan more trouble than expected, with the Armenian-born fighter being unable to dominate. He eventually got a rear-naked choke at the end of the second round, to get the win. But Parisyan, who hadn’t fought in about a year and a half, clearly needs to work on his cardio and conditioning, with ring rust being a reality for him.
Impact FC 2 did not have the participation of Bob Sapp, but the card was arguably even more interesting that the previous one.
MMA pioneer Ken Shamrock faced hard-hitting UFC veteran Pedro “The Rock” Rizzo. Shamrock actually looked to be in great shape, slim and ready to fight. Rizzo’s physique hasn’t always been one of his strong suits but he makes up for it with those devastating, baseball-like leg kicks. Rizzo has always been the best stand-up fighter between these two and it showed once again, with both men getting some shots in but the Brazilian getting the better of the exchanges. But then the first leg kick came and Shamrock showed that it hurt him; Rizzo smelled the blood and mixed some more punches with leg kicks. One of those downward leg kicks made Shamrock go down on one knee and Rizzo stepped in to finish the job, prompting “Big” John to stop it. Another short but entertaining fight.
In 2010 there are few MMA fighters that are as polarizing as Paul “Semtex” Daley. Released (I am putting it mildly) from the UFC following his post-fight antics in the fight against Josh Koscheck, this was Daley’s first fight since leaving the UFC. Paul is easily the best striker in the Welterweight division in the current MMA landscape but his ground game leaves a lot to be desired; on top of that there is that temperament of his. His opponent was well-known Brazilian Daniel Acácio, a longtime veteran of the sport, who has fought in Pride FC, M-1, Fury FC, Jungle Fight and MECA. Grappling advantage for Acácio and striking advantage for Semtex. This was a great fight, lots of action both on the ground and in the stand-up department. In the first round Daley hit Acácio with some huge bombs but Daniel showed his great chin and hung in there. In the second round Acácio was able to take Daley down but proved unable to keep him there; Daley punished with a barrage of knees, kicks and punches, even trying a spinning backfist. Still, the round was close because Acácio had the takedowns and top position for a good part of it. In the third Daley hit Acácio with a moving combination, Daniel tried for the takedown but Daley ended on top of him. A brutal driving elbow to the forehead opened a huge gash, the blood started flowing into Acácio’s eyes and he verbally tapped. Arguably the best fight in the two shows.
Soa Palelei, who was initially scheduled to face big Bob Sapp, was able to beat Brad Morris with a first-round keylock submission.
One of the most awaited fights on the second event pitted Pride FC veterans Paulo Filho and Denis Kang. Now, Filho’s somewhat bizarre post Japan career took another turn at the weigh-ins, when he decided to flash himself completely naked, not wanting to be covered with the towel. Anyways, the fight was on and Filho baited Kang into his guard in the first round; Kang obliged and spent the entire round on Filho’s half-guard, momentarily getting side control, while peppering the Brazilian with some short shots. The second round saw Filho getting the takedown and working from half-guard to the mount; unfortunately for him they were close to the cage and Kang was able to use the fence as further leverage for his technically sound bridge escape; Kang was then in Filho’s guard and was eventually able to get to the half-guard just before the end of the round. Apparently all still up for grabs in the final round. Filho quickly got the takedown and half-guard but the pass to side control opened the sweep for Kang, who got Filho’s back with the hooks in, but somehow Filho was able to reverse (great grappling in the third round) and get to side control. While attempting to get the back once again it was Kang finding the opening and getting back to his feet. By the end of the round it was Filho back again on top, in the half-guard of Kang. This fight was eagerly awaited for many years and, as a grappling match, did not disappoint at all. The judges’ decision awarded a split draw (one judge gave the win to Filho, another to Kang and the third judge saw it a draw). This clearly warrants a rematch.
Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Shogun’s brother, faced former Ultimate Fighter member Jeremy May and, while Rua was a heavy favorite, May rocked him very early on and could have finished the fight. May was unorthodox throughout, with several spinning high-kick attempts. Rua seemed very close to being finished, both on the ground and standing, but was eventually able to weather the storm, catch May with a standing guillotine, dropping to pull the closed guard still with the choke sunk in and getting the quick tapout. A great come from behind win for Ninja, 4 minutes and 12 seconds into the first round, in another fast-paced fight.
Yet another former UFC champion entered the cage in Australia, in Brazil’s Murilo Bustamante. His opponent was former Ultimate Fighter (expelled) cast member Jesse Taylor. Bustamante is 43 and he hadn’t fought in almost 3 years but he is still a better grappler than JT. Taylor had the strength, conditioning and the takedowns, but Bustamante had the better BJJ and sweeps. The fight was close, though, until Murilo started feeling dizzy and asked for the fight to be stopped. Whatever it was was (lack of sugar?) it gave Taylor a verbal tap win, a much needed victory for the North-american.
Jim York and Peter Graham had a lot of pounds inside that octagon but both were exceptionally agile, with York eventually getting a rear-naked choke win. Glover Teixeira got a TKO win over local fighter Marko Peseli, while Aussie fighters Richard Vaculik and Shane Nix both had submission (rear-naked choke and a north-south choke) wins over fellow countrymen Glenn Taylor-Smith and Manuel Rodriguez.
These were two great events in a country which loves fighting and MMA. Most of the fights were good and fast-paced, with a mix of newcomers and well-known MMA fighters, even with some legends in the mix (Shamrock, Rizzo, Bustamante). Refereeing was another plus, with “Big” John at the helm. On the other hand, what can these guys improve? The lighting on the arenas and the announcer (which botched a few sentences here and there, most notably at the start of the second event). UFC veteran Elvis Sinosic was solid as the in-cage interviewer and both commentators did a fairly good job.