History in the Making is a look back at the fights that made us cheer, the fights that stood us on our feet, and the fights that captured our imagination – in short, the greatest fights of all time.
Why are these two guys fighting? What does Fighter A have to gain with a win over Fighter B? What does Fighter B gain? Aside from housing a majority of the world’s best mixed martial artists, the UFC excels in matchmaking that not only benefits each fighter, but the company as well.
On one side, you have Clay Guida. Hairy and belching, his 2-2 UFC record at the time was deceiving. The two losses were to the always dangerous Din Thomas and a split decision loss to perennial top five 155-pounder Tyson Griffin. Before landing in the UFC, the former Strikeforce lightweight champion had run roughshod through the American MMA regional circuit. During that time, only three men could say that went the distance with "The Carpenter," who seemed to have a never-ending gas tank.
On the other side, there is Roger Huerta. Good-looking and charming, his 5-0 UFC record at the time was also deceiving. His five opponents, at the time of this writing, combine for a 3-11 record in the Octagon. Huerta was, without a doubt, an exciting fighter and his Hispanic heritage, combined with his aforementioned good looks and charm, led the UFC to position him as an ambassador to the Mexican-American market who had historically supported boxing, MMA’s combat sports cousin.
This fight was the kind of win/win matchmaking the UFC is known for.
A win for Huerta over a tough opponent like Guida would earn him some credibility. A win for Guida over a popular fighter like Huerta would earn him some spotlight.
In the end, the true winners were the fans who witnessed an incredible fight.
Both were, without a doubt, talented and cut their teeth on the regional MMA scene in the early to mid-2000s; a development luxury hardly afforded top prospects nowadays. Both signed with the UFC in 2006, reaching the pinnacle of the sport. It is there that the similarities end.
Clay Guida, with his wild hair and extensive tattoos, seemed to be the fighter for whom you could buy a shot after watching him in the cage only hours earlier putting in a performance that left the audience cheering. He was the working man's fighter -- mostly because he was a working man. His nickname "The Carpenter" stemmed from his actual profession as a carpenter, a job he kept until around late 2006, a fact which immediately endeared him to fans.
An 18-4 record had earned him a title shot in the upstart Strikeforce promotion, a fight he won against Josh Thomson. He lost his first defense against Gilbert Melendez, the current number two 155-pounder in the world. So Guida had already established his reputation as a world class fighter and an absolute cardio-freak when he dropped a split decision loss to Tyson Griffin at UFC 72, that evening’s "Fight of the Night" which earned them each a cool $40,000. In total, Guida has earned six fight bonuses during his UFC career. His opponent before Griffin was former UFC Lightweight tournament participant Din Thomas and his opponent after Griffin was Marcus Aurelio, who was only a year removed from choking out the number one lightweight in the world at the time, Takanori Gomi.
To say Guida faced stiff competition would be an understatement.
Roger Huerta was just too damn good looking for his own good. When your girlfriend was finally interested in watching the fights with you, it wasn't because she wanted to learn the intricacies of the butterfly guard, it was because she wanted to watch 'the cute guy with the tribal tattoo on his shoulder.' Well-spoken, young and Mexican, Huerta seemed like a pre-packaged star, almost too good to believe. He was originally penciled to fight Hermes Franca in his UFC debut. Huerta suffered an injury, however, and Franca instead took on a late replacement, earning a submission win. Franca, at the top of his game, would rattle off three more wins en route to earning a title shot against Sean Sherk. Instead of facing a focused and hungry Franca, Huerta made his debut at UFC 63 and earned a unanimous decision victory over Jason Dent, a fellow newcomer to the UFC. Dent would lose one more fight before being cut. He returned to the UFC in 2009 but was once again released after going 1-1. Huerta then defeated John Halverson at UFC 67. Halverson wasn't invited back to the Octagon until 2008, a fight he lost. In a fight that won "Fight of the Night" honors, Huerta defeated Leonard Garcia at UFC 69. Garcia earned a lackluster 1-1 UFC record before dropping to featherweight, a weight class more suited to his frame. Huerta's next two opponents, Doug Evans and Alberto Crane, have a combined 0-4 UFC record.
Being bred for fame, Huerta's road to the top was being paved with bloated fighters and middling regional talent.
A win for Guida over Sports Illustrated poster boy Huerta would shoot him up the rankings and into the consciousness of the casual fan. A win for Huerta over the well-regarded and tough as nails Guida would earn begrudging respect from even his most vocal doubters. What took place at The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale would end up blowing either of those options completely out of the water.
The crowd, having only seen a single decision leading up to Huerta vs. Guida and an amazing back and forth battle between Jared Rollins and the then-John Koppenhaver, was more than pumped up for the main event. A night of exciting fights, brutal knockout and slick submissions, keeps the crowd happy and more importantly, cheering.
The fight also held the distinction of being "Big" John McCarthy's last as a referee before he retired and joined The Fight Network as an analyst (he would soon after unretire and resume refereeing duties). Those long-time fans who had been with "Big" John through the years were somewhat nonplussed that he had chosen to retire at The Ultimate Fighter 6 Finale when UFC 79, and two of the biggest fights of the year, were to take place three weeks later.
There's no way he could have possibly known, is there?
Either way, to the fight we go.
Huerta throws a high kick to open up the first that Guida easily blocks. Soon after, Guida is grabbing that leg and forcing a takedown. Huerta scrambles out from under Guida and quickly finds his way back to his feet but "The Carpenter" almost immediately slams him back down.
Huerta uses the cage to get out from under Guida and grabs onto a kneebar that doesn't cinch up but allows Huerta to get top position. From there, Huerta lands a blatantly illegal knee to a downed opponent that McCarthy doesn't catch. Seconds later, Guida lands his own equally-illegal knee only to have McCarthy dive in and force a pause to the action.
The fight resumes and the two lightweights begin exchanging combinations with the speed a heavyweight could only dream of. With less than two minutes remaining in the round, Guida shoots in for another takedown. Huerta partially stuffs the attempt but ends up giving his back to Guida. 'The Carpenter' sinks both of his legs across Huertra's torso in hopes of landing a rear naked choke.
Guida overcommits and allows Huerta to get back on top.
Guida, despite having the reach disadvantage, starts off the second landing faster than Huerta in each of their exchanges before scoring another takedown.
If you look closely into Huerta's eyes, beyond the mouse that is beginning to form under his left, you can see frustration begin to mount as Guida pins him up against the chain link fence.
Nonetheless, he scrambles out from underneath Guida and ends up in a Thai clinch albeit with one knee on the ground. Guida, already admonished for having landing an illegal knee to a grounded opponent in the first round, is hesitant to throw anything. Huerta uses this time to his advantage and lands an uppercut that snaps Guida's head back. The crowd OWW!s in approval.
Back on their feet, Huerta throws kick and kick in an attempt to keep distance between himself from an opponent who has been effortlessly taking him down since the opening bell. Huerta's worries are proven correct when Guida once again closes in and attempts another takedown. Huerta is able to spin out and keep a vertical balance but it isn't too much long after when Guida puts "El Matador" on his back once more.
Halfway through the scheduled three round fight, it seems like there's nothing Huerta can do to win.
He scrambles back to his feet only to eat several stiff punches and yet another takedown. He isn't winning the fight on the mat and is beginning to lose the fight on the feet. The tinge of frustration in Huerta’s eyes has now become a full-blown panic.
With less than a minute remaining, Huerta has worked himself back to his feet and, knowing he is behind on the scorecards, begins to swing wildly, hoping to steal this round from wily opponent. He throws a left hook that has no hope of connecting and Guida ducks under for yet another takedown. Huerta has come to expect it though and sprawls out, avoiding getting put on his back once again.
What Huerta doesn’t expect is a right uppercut from Guida that lands flush on his chin. Huerta's head bobbles back and forth as he collapses backwards and Guida dives in to finish the job.
Somehow though, through instinct or will or just plain toughness and grit, Huerta survives to make it to the third but he's a battered and bruised mess.
Going into that final frame, McCarthy asks the two fighters if they're ready, as is the norm for every fight. What isn't normal for every fight is this:
"What business does this kid, who's just gotten the snot beat out of him for a better half of 10 minutes, have smiling at his opponent, who looks like he wants nothing more than to decapitate him and drink his blood?"
That's probably what you thought if this was the first MMA fight you ever saw.
Those well-versed in the sport, a sport I wholly believe is a mold of the oldest form of competition, knew better. Those who had witnessed fights like Pulver vs. Penn or Nogueira vs. Sapp, with their seemingly unbelievable come-from-behind victories, saw that grin creep its way across Huerta’s face and knew, just knew...
"This fight ain't over."
Huerta wastes no time starting the action in the third and final stanza. Thirteen seconds in, Guida's first takedown doesn't end with Huerta landing on his back but rather Huerta slamming his knee into Guida's skull. "The Carpenter" staggers back and "El Matador" dives in with another knee and Guida looks hurt. IN desperation, he shoots in for several weak takedowns, all of which fail, and Huerta punishes him each time they do.
A particularly poor single-leg allows Huerta to spin out and onto Guida's back. Huerta’s grappling abilities combine with Guida’s cardio that's been sapped by 10 minutes of fighting and the damage that comes with it lead to the finish.
Huerta rolls his opponent over, forearm securely locked under his chin, and forces the tap.
The camera cuts to TUF 6 coach Matt Hughes who is all smiles as he hugs his wife. A fight like this brings out the fanboy in even the most jaded of MMA viewers.
When Bruce Buffer announces Huerta as the winner, his hand is raised and he is already crying. He had poured everything into this fight -- physically, mentally, and emotionally.
A little over three years later it isn't Huerta, but Guida, who sits nearly atop the MMA world. Guida, rumored to fight WEC Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, likely earns a UFC title shot with a win. Huerta is on the business end of a 1-4 skid.
During that cold December night in Las Vegas, though, Roger Huerta showed, if only for 11 minutes, that he had what it takes to become a champion and earned that respect that so many refused to give a man who appeared to be just a pretty boy with a padded record.
Sometimes, it's good to be wrong.