Although it wasn't booked in the headline position, everyone knew what the true main event of UFC 61 was; the big re-match, nearly four years in the making between UFC Hall of Famer and former Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tito Ortiz.
At 42 years of age, few were favouring the veteran Shamrock who had won just one fight in his past five to prove victorious versus 31-year-old Ortiz who had won his past three, however, such was the enmity between the two men, owing to years of more trash talking since they last clashed at UFC 40, meant anticipation for this bout was at fever pitch.
Both had been opposing coaches on the third season of The Ultimate Fighter television series, which had led to tensions increasing between the pair in the weeks prior to their second pay per view collision.
Their first fight had lasted a gruelling 15 minutes. The re-match went just over one. Shamrock immediately charged Ortiz as the fight got underway throwing bombs, but none landed sufficiently to do any damage to the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy."
Ortiz landed a knee and a takedown and elbowed Shamrock a few times and then referee Herb Dean stopped the fight. It was a bizarre and premature stoppage. Shamrock jumped straight to his feet and protested it while Ortiz did his familiar, mocking grave digging routine, this time pretending to throw Shamrock in it. To play devil's advocate, Shamrock did not put his hands up to defend himself but he was clearly aware throughout and an instruction from Dean for Shamrock to act should have sufficed to give him chance to do something. As it was, the bout ended in highly unsatisfactory fashion and settled nothing between the two bitter rivals.
So irate were the crowd, UFC President, Dana White jumped into the Octagon and rather impetuously announced that Pride Middleweight Champion, Wanderlei Silva would fight UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Chuck Liddell at UFC 62, the next scheduled pay per view event. Nothing was signed and it didn't happen until UFC 79, well over a year later, when both men were entering decline as top-line fighters.
The Heavyweight Championship was at stake in the headliner which disappointed for the opposite reason Ortiz vs Shamrock did. It lasted an interminable 25 minutes with virtually no action to speak of whatsoever. Arlovski appeared terrified of being caught by Sylvia and knocked out again, as he had been at UFC 59, three months earlier, when he lost the title.
In doing so, he didn't attempt to win; Arlovski has many weapons, leg kicks, punches, takedowns, submissions and wrestling. He barely utilised any of them, instead just circling Sylvia for almost half an hour. Sylvia edged a decision and retained the belt. It was one of the worst pay per view main events in UFC history.
Underneath Joe Stevenson defeated Yves Edwards by massacre, sorry stoppage! Stevenson opened up a huge cut on Edwards when he crashed down a series of hard elbows to the forehead while in the mount causing Edwards to bleed out everywhere. It was an unpleasant sight and the doctor mercifully ended the bout following the second round.
A seriously out of shape, Frank Mir stepped back into the Octagon for his second fight since the serious motorcycle injury which caused him to vacate the Heavyweight Championship two years earlier. Mir, looked moderately better then he had in his comeback loss to Marico Cruz at UFC 57 but quickly gassed and in truth was lucky to earn the decision win versus Dan Christison.
Finally, in the battle of the Josh's, Josh Burkman bested Josh Neer in a yawn induced snoozefest via Decision. He landed more takedowns and that's about it. Really dull fight.
That was UFC 61. Heavily hyped and much anticipated but a royal dud in practice. All fights failed to live up to expectations and the huge audience of 775,000 who paid to watch the pay per view will not have been happy with what they saw.
Thankfully UFC 62, although it did not feature the dream bout of Liddell and Silva as White promised was nevertheless a much-needed return to form.
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