Welcome to another episode of “Throwback Thursday.” Like we do every week, we’re going to hop into the time machine today and go back to a retro event.
Continuing out watch of 2002, we head today to UFC 37, which was titled “High Impact.” This event took place on May 10th from the CenturyTel Center in Bossier City, Louisiana, USA. That’s quite the unique location.
This card is headlined by a middleweight title bout between Murilo Bustamante and Matt Lindland. As we’ll discuss later, this fight wasn’t without its fair share of controversy.
This show wasn’t a huge deal in the 2002 UFC calendar year, although there are interesting things to point out up and down the show. Let’s pop the tape in and give it a view.
Three Prelims, Including The Debut of ‘Ruthless’
Before we get to the main card, let’s quickly run through some prelims.
As fans were filing into the building, a legend was making his UFC debut. Robbie Lawler picked up a win in the first bout of the evening, using his quick and powerful striking to beat Aaron Riley on scorecards.
This fight was easily the best bout on this card. Ironically, it went under most people’s radars due to where it was placed in the lineup.
The next fight was a quick one. In just 27 seconds, Benji Radach dropped Steve Berger in the opening seconds with an overhand right. He later finished the fight with ground and pound punches. This victory would stand for about a month, until the Louisana Athletic Commission suddenly overturned the result. This was done due to Radach grabbing the cage while throwing the final ground and pound punches.
The final prelim saw Ivan Salaverry score a third-round finish victory over Andrey Semenov. This was a surprisingly close fight that saw both middleweights get hurt at times. Overall, the prelims certainly delivered on this show.
Uno Returns With A Grappling-Heavy Win
The main card really wasted no time this week. Just minutes into the program, we were into the first fight. I could get used to this.
The first fight was Yves Edwards against Caol Uno. Both fighters were coming back after a loss in their previous UFC fight. Edwards had lost a decision to Matt Serra, and Uno suffered an 11-second knockout to BJ Penn.
This was a grappling-heavy fight that saw Uno shoot for a ton of takedowns. This made the start to the main card somewhat deflating as the crowd sat on its hands throughout.
With that aside, this was a good win for Uno after a bad loss last time around.
Bang! Baroni Returns
Phil Baroni made his return with an explosive win over Amar Suloev in the second bout of the main card.
Baroni had an entrance that was more like a pro wrestlers than an MMA fighter. He walked out wearing sunglasses and a red, flashy Ric Flair-esque robe that had the New York Yankees logo on the back.
Suloev was quite close to finishing the fight in the second minute. He had dropped Baroni to his knees during an exchange, throwing punches that floored him. However, the fight was paused after Suloev landed a knee to the head of Baroni while he was grounded. That move is illegal then, and illegal now. Since it landed quite cleanly, it hurt Baroni visibly. After a pause, the fight resumed.
Baroni was able to close the fight out just a minute later, as a brutal flurry of punches while in top control forced the fight to end.
This fight was Baroni’s first finish win in the UFC. He had previously won and lost a bout via decision.
After the fight, Baroni said the illegal knee didn’t hurt him: “I took no big shots. He took the big shots tonight!”
That was Suloev’s last UFC fight. He had a tough fight in his promotional debut earlier in the year, losing to Chuck Liddell. We’ll see him again on our watches but on Pride FC cards, just not UFC.
Penn Bounces Back From First Blemish
Before the next fight, UFC announced that Carlos Newton will rematch Matt Hughes on July 13th in London, England. This was a good match to make considering Newton’s previous loss to Hughes came via a rare slam knockout.
In the next fight, BJ Penn returned against Paul Creighton.
By the looks of it when doing research, Creighton entered this bout as somewhat of a nobody. Databases like Sherdog and Tapology reflect that he had only fought three times on the regional scene before this fight.
Crieghton was able to survive for one and a half rounds. Penn later put an end to the fight by advancing into full mount, where he unloaded with punches until the fight stopped.
Penn bounced back from his sole pro loss with this fight and started a run that will later bring him to a title fight.
Creighton retired after this fight.
Rodriguez Gets One Step Closer To A Title Fight
Ricco Rodriguez continued his strong heavyweight run in the co-main event, defeating Tsuyoshi Kosaka. Rodriguez had a brutal finishing sequence to the fight, landing a long series of punches from full mount before the fight finished. Kosaka was bruised and bloodied from these blows by the time the fight came to a close.
This fight was the fourth consecutive win for Rodriguez. He got a title fight in his next bout, as we will see him fight Randy Couture later this year. Since the UFC had quite thin divisions at this time, it was surprising that it took four wins for him to get a championship bout.
“Come on, everyone knows. It’s me and Couture,” said Rodriguez afterward. Nobody on the broadcast disagreed with this idea, including fellow heavyweight Frank Mir.
Kosaka was making his first appearance in UFC since 1999. This ended up being his last appearance in the promotion, although he will fight again in the future on Pride FC and RIZIN cards.
Bustamante Taps Lindland… Twice?
It’s main event time. This card closed out with a middleweight title bout, as Murilo Bustamante fought Matt Lindland. As you will soon read, this fight had a controversial moment to it. While the moment was an odd, puzzling slip-up, it didn’t ruin the result of the fight.
Anyway, here’s some background.
Bustamante was looking to defend his belt for the first time. He earned the belt off Dave Menne earlier in the year, stopping him in the second round of a bout.
Lindland was given this title fight after putting together an undefeated record of seven wins. This included four victories he earned in the UFC from 2000 to 2002. The commentary was running some storyline about how Lindland had come second place in other competitions in his life, and that this fight gave him a chance to break that cycle.
Bustamante extended an armbar attempt in the third minute. This was looking bad. Lindland gave three visible taps to the submission, causing referee John McCarthy to step in and stop the fight. Lindland immediately protested this stoppage, claiming he didn’t tap.
In what looked to be a moment of panic, McCarthy stood the fighters up, put them in their corners and then resumed the fight on the feet. This was bizarre, to say the least. Even if there was a reason to pause and resume the fight, it should have kept going on the ground. Bustamante was seemingly disappointed by this, but he didn’t complain either. In my opinion, he certainly had the right to complain at least.
While this misstep was quite bad, luckily Bustamante still walked away with the win. It would have been a real robbery if the outcome ended up being different.
Bustamante scored a hard knockdown to start the third round. He dropped Lindland with a right cross, providing maybe the largest crowd pop of the night. Bustamante went to the ground with Lindland and applied a guillotine choke. They returned to the feet, but Bustamante pulled guard with the choke intact. On the ground, Lindland tapped. And this time, the tap counted.
This was a real solid performance from Bustamante throughout. Lindland would succeed for moments, but most of the fight worked his way.
Bustamante said in his post-fight interview that he would be back. Maybe he didn’t mean the UFC cage, as he never stepped foot in one ever again. He signed with Pride FC later on, kicking off a stint that would make up most of the second half of his career. It will be announced later this year that Bustamante was stripped of his UFC belt.
Regarding Lindland, we’ll see him in the UFC again.
This UFC card was quick compared to other recent viewings. And while it had a sleepy main card opener and a main event that had a controversial moment, it was certainly not a bad card from a viewer standpoint. UFC’s next show will be a low-profile event from Las Vegas that had an odd numbered title: “37.5.” We’ll get to that next week when we jump into the time machine once again.
NEXT WEEK: UFC 37.5: As Real As It Gets