Earlier this month, UFC 287 marked the UFC’s return to Miami, FL for the first time in 20 years. Given Miami is amongst the better known cities in the USA, it comes across as a bit of a surprise there was such a wide gap in between appearances. Given some of MMA’s better known training camps make Florida their home, it makes it an even bigger shock. Is there a reason for the long absence since the UFC’s debut at UFC 42?
There’s a lot more nuance to give a proper answer to that question, but it’s possible a small part of the answer can be found in the UFC’s first trip there. UFC 42 wasn’t the rousing success UFC 287 was. That isn’t to say UFC 42 was devoid of memorable moments, but given cards are generally remembered for what happened at the top of the card, the event walked away with a less than pleasant stench attached to it.
The main event of UFC 42 saw Matt Hughes successfully defend his welterweight title for the fourth time. Sure, Sean Sherk had the most accomplished UFC career than anyone Matt Hughes successfully defended his title against this side of BJ Penn. But Hughes beat Sherk for much the same reason he beat Penn; Sherk’s greatest accomplishments came in the lightweight division. Hughes size was the biggest factor, exercising ground control for over half the allotted time. Sherk had some moments, such as flipping the script in the third round. However, even that was tainted by Hughes’ attempted armbar, the closest the fight came to being finished… and it wasn’t very close. It wasn’t a terrible fight, but not memorable either.
It wasn’t just the main event. The UFC 42 co-main event was designed to be a showcase for the then-21-year-old Robbie Lawler. It wouldn’t necessarily have been a huge disappointment had Lawler lost via spectacular KO from Pete Spratt.
Instead, it was a confusing loss as Lawler was forced to stop the fight after eating some low kicks, the official announcement stating a knee injury. It would later come out that Lawler’s hip dislocated, a legit reason to stop a fight. At the time though, with the understanding of injuries limited compared to where we are today – and we still have a long way to go – it was a huge letdown. It proved to be Spratt’s biggest win of his career.
Rich Franklin is easily the name that jumps off the page at UFC 42 given he became middleweight champion a few years down the road. But old school fans would recognize a LOT of the names. Duane Ludwig is probably better known as a coach to most modern fans, but he was very hyped at the time, coming off a victory over Jens Pulver after the former lightweight champion had left the UFC over a contract dispute. David Loiseau made a hell of a statement in his debut by tearing through Mark Weir in less than a round. Loiseau would go on to challenge Franklin for the middleweight title at UFC 58.
The two debuting fighters that left the largest impression at UFC 42 came from the contest between Rich Crunkilton and Hermes Franca. If the UFC was handing out Of The Night bonuses at the time, there’s no doubt these two would have run away with FOTN. I’ll have more on that a bit down the line, but Crunkilton would make the largest impact in the WEC, fighting for the lightweight title in that organization in 2007. Franca would claim that exact title in 2006 and defend it once, vacating it for the UFC. Franca would fight for the UFC lightweight title in at UFC 73, falling to Sherk in Sherk’s lone title defense.
Anyone on UFC 42 who ever held gold were all future champions at this point, even Hughes as he picked up the gold for a second time. I already mentioned Sherk would become the UFC lightweight titleholder in 2006 before being stripped for a controversial PED test failure. Franklin was a future middleweight champion, as was his opponent, Evan Tanner. In fact, Franklin would take the belt from Tanner at UFC 53. Of course, I can’t forget to mention Lawler either, his welterweight title victory coming over eleven years after this event.
I highly recommend Crunkilton and Franca’s fight from UFC 42. Crunkilton utilized his wrestling to secure some impressive takedowns. On the flip side, Franca was spamming for submissions at every opportunity. He got several of them in there tight too, only for Crunkilton to escape through miraculous means. One of the escapes involved Crunkilton’s arm dislocating. Despite that, Crunkilton continued to fight away. There were fun striking exchanges too. Even with some lulls, it’s a fight that holds up very well today.
Loiseau’s finish of Weir at UFC 42 was incredibly violent, even if the entirety of the fight itself was tepid in getting up to that point.
Ludwig’s contest with Genki Sudo at UFC 42 was a mixed bag. It had some dry moments, but it also had some fun swings in momentum down the stretch. Sudo’s typical antics were also interesting, as they always were. However, the legacy of the fight has nothing to do with the quality of the action. Continue reading to find out what I mean….
Other notable facts
After Sudo and Ludwig split the first two rounds at UFC 42, Sudo was putting a beating on a grounded Ludwig in the final round. He opened up a cut on Ludwig, bad enough the action was stopped to have the ringside doctor look at the cut about halfway through the round. When the action resumed, it was from a standing position, favoring Ludwig. Ludwig stormed back to snatch the round from Sudo, along with the win. The unified rules were amended so the action resumed with the fighters in the position they were in when the action was stopped. Crazy to think that wasn’t something they thought about before it cost someone a victory….
Mike Goldberg had a previous commitment, leaving Joe Rogan to do the play-by-play. His typical color commentary role was filled by Phil Baroni. Baroni wasn’t great in the role, but he also wasn’t as bad as you might think he would be.
Former Playboy Playmate Lisa Dergan served as the post-fight interviewer at UFC 42. Her most notable moment was when Rogan and Baroni mocked her at the end of the event.
Former boxing cruiserweight champion James Warring served as the referee for the contest between Franca and Crunkilton.
Spratt was offered a shot at Hughes’ welterweight title after his win over Lawler. Spratt released a statement shortly after the offer, stating he didn’t believe he was ready for the title shot. That was the official story for several years. The truth was, when Spratt asked for an increase in his show money for the title shot, the UFC balked, leading to Spratt and the organization parting ways. Spratt didn’t reveal that part of the story for several years. The truth always comes out….
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