Though I’d been following the UFC for about a year through newsletters and the Internet, I hadn’t bought a PPV until UFC 43. I was a big Chuck Liddell fan, mostly because my co-worker Jeremiah Miller was a college buddy of Chuck’s. He gave me a signed poster that I still have today and I’ve been a big Liddell fan since. Jeremiah was even named in Chuck’s biography.
I remember buying this show mostly because my then wife was out of town on business and I had two toddlers to watch all weekend. When they went to sleep, I didn’t really have anything to do and figured that because I was a young dad home alone with his two young boys, I deserved to spend some money on an event. But also, I expected Chuck Liddell to win the interim light heavyweight championship in his match with Randy Couture and I wanted to see it happen. Let’s just say that I wasn’t a happy Chuck fan that night.
Couture wasn’t necessarily a set up for Liddell that night, but the fight was there for Chuck to win. Couture was a former heavyweight champion, but he was 38 years old and people were saying that he was now over the hill. He dieted down to make the 205 lb weight limit and looked to have nearly zero body fat. The reason Randy and Chuck were fighting rather than Chuck and Tito Ortiz (who was the champion at the time) was because Ortiz bailed on the fight. After beating Ken Shamrock (which was actually the first UFC PPV I ever saw), Tito seemed noncommittal about fighting Chuck after pretty much saying that he had to take care of Shamrock first and then he’d be ready. When push came to shove, Tito wasn’t there so Dana White and company decided to put Liddell in there with Couture to determine the interim champ. And then, Ortiz would have to face the winner.
I don’t remember anything about the undercard and after watching this show again, there wasn’t much to remember. There were two specific fights that were memorable, but mostly because of how they were stopped. Pedro Rizzo, former heavyweight champion, beat Tra Telligman due to a cut that opened up and was Telligman was leaking blood. Earlier, Rizzo was bloodied, but not enough for a stoppage. Telligman’s face looked nasty. Frank Mir beat Wes Sims in the first round because Sims didn’t know the rules. Mir had him in an arm bar and Sims got out of it and while Mir was on the ground, Sims stomped on his face. That’s illegal in the UFC. And when Mir couldn’t get up from the foul, Sims was DQ’d.
The UFC was trying to build Vitor Belfort as a light heavyweight contender. After losing to Chuck Liddell in 2002, he took an entire year off. He faced Marvin Eastman on this night and opened up a nasty cut on Eastman’s head and the fight was stopped. In the interview after the bout, Belfort was crying and thanking everyone in sight, saying that he’s back. He would get a shot at the champion in 2004. Matt Linland beat himself after messing up a takedown and knocking himself out. He tried to suplex Falaniko Vitale and banged his own head against the mat and was immediately out. Yves Edwards beat a very game Eddie Ruiz who seemed to be done on a few occasions but lasted, though lost a unanimous decision. Ian Freeman and Vernon White, a substitute for Ken Shamrock who had an injured knee, went to a split draw. One judge had it for Freeman, one for White, and one had it as a draw.
The secondary main event was a farce. Tank Abbott, who is probably the most famous fighter who has more losses than wins, faced Kimo, a gassed up fighter who would go on to fail a few steroid tests in his day. But on this day, he simply took Abbott down, and choked him out with an arm triangle. Abbott did nothing.
Before the main event, play by play man Joe Rogan said that Chuck Liddell had never faced a wrestler as good as Couture and that Liddell may be overlooking him a bit. I doubt that was the case, but Rogan was right on the first one. Liddell is renown for his takedown defense, but Couture was so smart when he took his shots, that he was able to take Liddell down with huge, swooping takedowns three times during the fight. He would fake a strike and then just blast inside Chuck’s defense. Chuck didn’t look like Chuck at all. Couture had him confused and on the defensive for the entire three rounds. In the third, Couture took him down and just went to work on the ground and pound. The referee finally stopped the fight and Randy Couture was the new light heavyweight champion. He became the first UFC fighter to win a title in two different weight classes.
Randy would go on and face Tito Ortiz and literally spank his rear end.