Date: August 21, 2004
Location: Las Vegas
If you are ever in Las Vegas and somehow, someway find yourself in the position of getting free tickets to a UFC event, you should go, no matter what.
It may sound funny, but for UFC 49 (like other previous shows), some free tickets were given away near the end, to give the television viewing audience the idea that the promotion was packing arenas to the rim—salesmanship at its finest.
And those fans who did take advantage of free tickets were treated to one hell of a great night of fights.
UFC 49 was the exact opposite of UFC 33; nearly every fight ended in a stoppage, and many of those stoppages were highlight-reel worthy. It wasn’t just a good night of fights, it was great.
It was also significant; UFC 49 was the last event that saw lightweights fighting under the UFC banner until UFC 58, in 2006. It’s honestly hard to believe this little mini “Dark Era” for lightweights ever happened, given the fact that the UFC now has weight classes for fighters below 155 pounds.
But with Penn gone, Jens Pulver gone, Caol Uno no longer significant, etc., there didn’t seem like much of a division to be had, perhaps. The UFC has never been in the business of promoting the average alone; if it is going to showcase something, it wants to have great names leading the way.
Whatever the reasoning, the lightweights went out with a bang that left many fans sad their time was over.
In the opening fight of the night, Lytle defeated Ronald Jhun via guillotine choke early in the first round; a good beginning to the night. Jhun looked like the kind of fighter who would run all over Lytle, but once again, appearances are not what the sport is based upon.
Next, the only lightweight bout on the card: Edwards vs. Thompson.
It’s ironic that now Thompson is one of the top lightweights in the division for 2014, whereas Edwards is perhaps on the downhill slide of a once-great career.
At UFC 49, both men were fighting not for a title (since there wasn’t one to be had) but for the bragging rights of being dubbed by the UFC as the best lightweight in the world.
Both men came out tight, coiled and ready to explode, showcasing the speed and skill we now sadly take for granted in the lower weight classes. It was an excellent fight that turned into a jaw-dropping ending near the end of the very first round.
After a grappling exchange that saw both men rise to their feet, Edwards had Thompsons back and it looked like he might get a trip-takedown if he wanted it. Instead, Thompson ended up getting enough room to throw a kind of spinning backfist.
Well, the backfist missed, but the counter of Edwards did not. He seemed to anticipate the move of Thompson and timed a jumping roundhouse kick to the head that landed perfectly, just as the backfist of Thompson passed by.
Thompson ate the kick flush, and both men fell to the floor. Edwards pounced and landed more blows until the referee called the bout off. It was an incredible display of timing and aggression and easily one of the greatest head-kick endings ever.
Then, Justin Eilers of the Miletich camp threw down with friend Kyle in a heavyweight slugfest that did not last long, but it was memorable. Eilers stopped Kyle via knockout at 1:14 of Round 1 and somewhere James Irvin was smiling.
After the preliminary bouts had concluded, it was time for the main event, which started off with a bang as Matt Lindland took on David Terrell, teammate to the Diaz brothers, Gilbert Melendez and Jake Shields.
Coming into the bout, Lindland was making it known that he was involved in a new love affair with the art of striking. This affair was being enabled by John Hackleman, the coach of Liddell.
Sadly for Lindland, Terrell was having the same affair, and it turns out he had been there longer and had the better tools. Terrell rushed Lindland and blew him out of the water, knocking him out cold in under 30 seconds.
Next up, Diaz took on Parisyan in a fight that saw Diaz uncharacteristically less than optimistic about his chances against Parisyan in the pre-fight preamble (which can be seen on the DVD release of the event). Diaz said he didn’t feel like the matchup suited him, but that didn’t stop him from giving Parisyan all he could handle in the fight, which saw a great deal of grappling and striking involved.
If the two were to fight again, no doubt Diaz would be much bolder and would probably wipe the mat with Parisyan; but at UFC 49, it was the latter who won the bout, via unanimous decision in the only fight that went to the judges.
Next came Joe “Diesel” Riggs vs. Joe Doerksen. It was a spirited bout that saw Riggs finally pour it on in Round 2, winning the bout via submission due to strikes. Riggs was not happy about how he performed, but a finish is a finish.
Then, in the second-to-last bout of the night, Liddell faced Vernon “Tiger” White in a bout that had been building for some time. Many in the camp of White had felt that Liddell had been ducking him, while Liddell dismissed this utterly. None of that mattered anymore as both men brought their animosity into the ring and let it all hang out.
This was a very exciting fight, even if Liddell controlled most of the action. He rocked White many times, knocking him down over and over. Still, White landed more than a few hard shots, making the bout more two-sided than it appeared at first glance. If nothing else, White came to fight and did so far better than Ortiz, who seemed to simply assume the role of punching bag.
Once Liddell finally caught White stepping in, dropping him with a hard punch, the bout was over and Liddell had his second win of the year, by stoppage. White had gone out on his shield, earning the respect of all, including Liddell.
Finally, the main event: Light heavyweight champion Belfort was facing Couture for the third time, although their second bout at UFC 46 ended far too quickly to be considered a true fight.
This time around, there was no freak cut to the eyelid, and the bout went on for three rounds before the doctors finally called a halt to the bloodshed and Couture recaptured the title.
Couture was on point the entire fight, dominating Belfort in nearly every area. But there was one interesting wrinkle. In watching an early exchange, where the cut of most importance occurred, it appeared that it was due to a head-butt from Couture as he rushed inside to close the distance.
Regardless, Couture was once again king at 205, and a rematch with Liddell loomed in the future. In addition, after his victory, Couture invited Wanderlei Silva into the ring and challenged him to a bout to unify the UFC and Pride titles. Silva accepted and both men faced off in the Octagon, holding their belts.
While we would never get to see that fight, we got positive affirmation that the tension and rivalry between the UFC and Pride was still very real and ongoing.
UFC 49 was truly an excellent card, full of action and the kinds of finishes you want from MMA bouts.