UFC 53: What happened when Forest Griffin made his PPV debut?

Forrest Griffin: Won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter
Forrest Griffin: Won the first season of The Ultimate Fighter

The Ultimate Fighter was the UFC's first network television show, which debuted in January 2005. The first season of the show brought the UFC into the mainstream consciousness for the first time and the final of the show which pitted Forrest Griffin versus Stephan Bonnar was a bonafide classic bout which changed the way in which people saw MMA in the United States and around the world.

Griffin won the fight and the first season of the Ultimate Fighter, and he made his much anticipated UFC debut at UFC 53 on June 4, 2005

Griffin submitted Bill Mahood in just over a minute to kick off a hugely successful career in UFC.

The main event of UFC 53 saw interim Heavyweight Champion, Andrei Arlovski clash with Justin Eilers. The choice of Eilers as challenger drew criticism due to the fact he had been KO'd by Paul Buentello at UFC 51.

However, the original choice for challenger, former Heavyweight Champion, Ricco Rodriguez withdrew from the card and Buentello was injured when the card was initially finalised. The lack of depth in the Heavyweight division at the time led to Eilers getting the nod.

Arlovski battered his challenger with a stunning combination of punches in the first round. The Pitbull would see his interim reign upgraded before his next title defence, as UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir still had not recovered from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident.

Interestingly, despite not initially being considered for the show, Buentello recovered in time to compete. He fought Kevin Jordan in the main card opener and won the fight via submission inside the first round. Buentello would earn his shot at the Heavyweight crown at UFC 55, later that year.

Elsewhere on the show, Rich Franklin upset Evan Tanner to win the Middleweight Championship. Franklin had beaten Tanner two years earlier in his debut but Tanner had been on an incredible roll and looked unstoppable at 185 Ibs.

In a gruelling four rounds, Franklin survived a first round knockdown, to pick apart the champion methodically. Franklin, who had battered UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock to earn this bout had the superior stand up game and closed Tanner's angles and blocked his take-down attempts. It was as close to a flawless performance as you can get and with this victory, Franklin kicked off an 18 month long title reign.

Rounding out the card was Karo Parisyan's decision win over Matt Serra in an explosive, hard-hitting war. The bout had Welterweight title implications, although despite his loss, it would be Serra who would earn a future shot at the belt, not Parisyan.

UFC 53 pulled 90,000 buys on pay per view and was considerably less successful than the Liddell/Couture headlined UFC 52, which had attracted three times that figure.

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Edited by Nishant Jayaram
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