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UFC 39: What happened when Randy Couture tried to regain the Heavyweight Championship?

Ricco Rodriguez and Randy Couture: Clashed for the vacant Heavyweight Championship
Ricco Rodriguez and Randy Couture: Clashed for the vacant Heavyweight Championship
Paul Benson
Modified 22 Nov 2018, 23:49 IST

“The Warriors Return” was the tagline for UFC 39 which was the final event before the return of Ken Shamrock to UFC which brought the promotion back into mainstream consciousness.

The show was headlined by a Heavyweight Championship bout between former two-time champion, Randy Couture and Ricco Rodriguez. The former champion Josh Barnett had been stripped of the belt after testing positive for steroids following his title win over Couture at UFC 36 in March.

Couture was facing insurmountable odds against an opponent who was almost as massive as Barnett but started the brighter, getting close to Rodriguez and unleashing dirty boxing, knees and a big takedown to end the first round.

Couture began the second with another takedown, sending the crowd into a frenzy. He nearly finished Rodriguez with another takedown, followed by blows to the head but the buzzer saved his opponent.

"The Natural" continued his dominance into the third round, now choosing to unleash big time combinations and did the same into the fourth and then the fifth and final round. Couture had to be ahead on all of the judge's scorecards but with less than two minutes remaining Rodriquez took Couture down, landed sick elbows and unleashed a massive right hand that caught Couture square on the orbital bone. Couture had to give up after that.

The new UFC Heavyweight Champion: Ricco Rodriguez.

Ricco Rodriguez celebrates with stablemate Tito Ortiz
Ricco Rodriguez celebrates with stablemate Tito Ortiz

Also of note on the card was the Lightweight title eliminator, which featured Caol Uno, Din Thomas, Matt Serra and BJ Penn.

Both eliminator bouts ended via decision.

First, Uno defeated Din Thomas in an entertaining bout which saw Uno in the mount rain down punches but got caught in a choke. Uno managed to survive and dominated the final two rounds with effective combinations and mount positions from takedowns.


Penn overcame Serra in a controversial decision which really should have gone the other way. Serra was the more aggressive throughout and pushed the action in a pretty lacklustre fight. Quite how Penn was ahead on all three judge's scorecards is anyone's guess.

The show also saw the debut of former Heavyweight Champion, Tim Sylvia who fought opposite “Cabbage” Correira.

Tim Sylvia smashed
Tim Sylvia smashed "Cabbage" Correira in a featured bout

Sylvia began with some jabs before Cabbage landed some nice combinations that Silva impressively no sold, even though they must have hurt.

Sylvia then landed a massive knee and a big punch that dazed Cabbage but the big man came right back and landed some strikes of his own.

The bout turned in a major slugfest as Sylvia landed with some big right hands and more knees but the Terminator-like Cabbage still showed no ill effects from the onslaught.


The second round followed a similar pattern with more knees and uppercuts from Sylvia with the occasional combination in return. A big combination of five punches, knees and finally a head-rattling uppercut did for Cabbage and his corner threw in the towel to end a sickening slugfest. An incredible fight between two seriously tough guys.

Gan McGee beat Pedro Rizzo in a shocking upset, which ruled Rizzo out of title contention. He was unfortunate in this bout, however. McGee jabbed away without any real precision but managed to catch Rizzo bang on the nose. Rizzo managed to last out the round, despite being clearly staggered but his corner threw in the towel, ruling that the Brazilian could not continue as his nose was broken.

This set up McGee up for a Heavyweight title shot that he would eventually receive at UFC 44.

In the card opener, Phil Baroni destroyed former Middleweight Champion, Dave Menne in just 18 seconds in a brutal display of striking prowess. which set the main card off to a blinding start.

UFC 39 was an entertaining show with good to great action throughout and an incredibly exciting main event match.

Published 22 Nov 2018, 23:49 IST
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