UFC 41: What happened when Tank Abbott returned to the Octagon after a five-year absence?
Hot on the heels of the success of UFC 40, UFC tried to repeat the feat with UFC 41. A returning legend who had left to compete in pro-wrestling, but returned to the company.
That was Ken Shamrock and the same was true of Tank Abbott. Tank had competed in WCW in 2000-01 wherein he had largely become a comic character. In a cruel twist of fate, the same could be said of his UFC return.
It was a different organisation that Tank was re-joining in 2003; gone were the one-dimensional brawlers and in their place were highly skilled martial artists in multiple disciplines. His opponent was young gun, Frank Mir, who was quicker and more technically savvy than the veteran. Despite the size difference, it was a mismatch. Mir forced Tank to submit in just 45 seconds.
The Heavyweight Championship was on the line when new champion, Ricco Rodriguez made his first defence versus Tim Sylvia.
The bout was much shorter than his title-winning effort versus Randy Couture at UFC 39. His opponent, Tim Sylvia took just three minutes to overwhelm the champion. Rodriguez attempted to lock in submissions but the more powerful Sylvia lifted him up and slammed him straight on his head. He then nailed the champion with a huge right hand for the TKO win and the Heavyweight title.
The Lightweight title was also on the line when Caol Uno and BJ Penn challenged for the belt vacated by Jens Pulver when he left UFC. These two clashed before at UFC 34, when Penn won in a matter of seconds. However, the rematch could not have been more different.
This time they fought for a full five rounds, in a close back and forth grappling and striking encounter. For some reason, however, the judges decided to call this a draw. For a vacant title! Penn seemingly had done enough to win but it wasn't to be on this night for the Hawaiian superstar.
Matt Lindland silenced the cocky Phil Baroni in a wild brawl. The pair swung for the fences throughout their three-round encounter before Lindland secured the Decision victory.
Vladimir Matyushenko put the final nail in the coffin of Pedro Rizzo's UFC career with a Decision victory. Rizzo would compete twice more in UFC during the UFC 43 and 45 pre-shows but he would never again be a top-level competitor in the promotion.
A counter puncher can never be a top MMA star; if anyone wants to learn anything from Rizzo's career, that is the lesson.
UFC 41 was not as successful as the incredible UFC 40, but it was a very good show and it did pull a decent buyrate of 60,000 orders. It almost goes without saying that Tank was not quite the draw UFC were expecting him to be in his return.