Saturday, 13 July 2002

UFC 38 Brawl at the Royal Albert Hall - TV Review

Having watched Sky Sports' weekly coverage of the UFC in recent weeks, it was with great interest that I tuned into this pay-per-view event, hoping to see Britain's own UFC fighters going up against some of the mixed martial artists thought to be the best in the world.

Light-Heavyweight contest:
JAMES ZIRKIC (Great Britain) v PHILIP MILLER (USA)
A bout pitting the freestyle British fighter against the combat grappler, Zirkic entered the historical arena to a good pop from the crowd, but in all, it was a disappointing encounter for him.

Miller showed his superior wrestling skills from the beginning, taking him down from almost the beginning of the fight. Zirkic showed some good defence, and fought back well on a few brief occasions in the first round, but Miller continued to dominate with his grappling skills.

It was much the same story in the second round, Miller once again dominating. Zirkic just couldn't match the American when the fight was a grapple-fest on the mat. The Brit only seemed to do well when he was going toe to toe, punch to punch with Miller. Zirkic did manage to slap on a choke hold, but Miller fought back well.

The third round again showed Miller's domination of Zirkic, who once again tried to synch in a choke hold. Again, Miller's wrestling skill showed through, although Zirkic showed some of his boxing skill for a small amount of time.

It was no surprise, although a disappointment to the British crowd, when Miller was awarded the unanimous points decision. The crowd really disliked the decision, although it was obvious that on the night, Miller was the superior fighter.

Lightweight bout:
GENKI SUDO (Japan) v LEIGH REMEDIOS (Great Britain)
There had been a great deal of hype surrounding Remedios in Britain, mainly on Alex Shane's Talksport radio show. Much was expected of this judo fighter as he went up against Sudo's bushido style, but like his compatriot before him, he was outclassed by the superior fighter.

Sudo got the crowd going a little with his entrance, wearing his dragon-like mask, and coming to the octagon in the style of a pro wrestler. I hadn't seen such showmanship since watching the old UWFI shows, when Yoji Anjoh proved that he was a great fighter and showman.

At the beginning of the first round, Sudo continued to put on an exhibition of showmanship, displaying several impressive looking kicks, although none of them actually connected. These kicks were obviously meant to unsettle Remedios mentally more than anything else.

Sudo demonstrated his superior grappling skills, at times tossing Remedios around as if he were a small child. Remedios fought back for a little while, and the crowd loved it when Sudo, lying on his back, began to taunt Remedios.

Sudo's showmanship shone through again at the beginning of the second round, followed by another good take down. Sudo again demonstrated his excellent skill, and it wasn't long before he had the win, locking in a sleeper/choke hold to get the win by submission. An impressive outing from the Japanese fighter. I look forward to seeing him compete again.

Middleweight bout:
EUGENE JACKSON (USA) v MARK WEIR (Great Britain)
One word can be used to describe this contest - quick. Having seen two of their own fail, while not putting up an impressive showing, the British fans were craving some home-grown glory, and they got it in the form of the kickboxing skills of Mark Weir.

Weir made UFC history against the freestyle fighter. Jackson didn't even get the opportunity to start really. Weir threw a high kick, which didn't connect, and followed up with a clubbing right, which sent Jackson sprawling to the mat unconscious. The fight lasted just ten seconds, a UFC record.

It's difficult to say that Weir was impressive, because the contest was so short, but the British fans got what they wanted with this contest.

Heavyweight bout:
FRANK MIR (USA) v IAN FREEMAN (Great Britain)
With an age, height and reach advantage in his favour, many experts had predicted that the Brazilian jujitsu style of Mir would be too much for the judo expert Freeman to handle.

The bout started with a toe to toe exchange of blows, before Freeman took Mir down. Mir tried to fight back, but Freeman continuously pounded away on him.

Mir fought back with an attempted ankle lock submission, but Freeman fought back with several more clubbing blows, showing that, despite having a height and reach disadvantage, he was clearly the more powerful of the two.

Mir soon became a bloody mess after Freeman delivered caught him with several elbows while on the mat. The referee became concerned, and ordered a time-out as Mir staggered to his feet, and continued to stagger around the octagon. Realising that he was fighting a losing battle, Mir gave up.

An impressive showing here from Freeman, who, despite his advancing years, showed that there was still much he could do in the UFC.

UFC Welterweight Championship:
CARLOS NEWTON (Canada) v MATT HUGHES (USA, champion)
The last time these two fought, in November, there had been some controversy surrounding Hughes' win and capture of the Welterweight championship. Newton, the first Canadian to ever hold a UFC title, was thirsting for revenge, having stated that Newton was merely borrowing his championship belt.

From the beginning of the first, Hughes showed his domination. Newton tried to fight back briefly with an armbar, but Hughes quickly spun out of the hold, dominating the round with his grappling skills, as well as connecting with many clubbing blows to the head.

In the second round, Hughes again tried to wrestle Newton, but the challenger soon powered out. Hughes grabbed him again and soon took him down again. Try as he might, Newton just couldn't out wrestle the champion. Hughes was constantly tying him in knots, while also connecting with fists and elbows, which soon busted Newton open.

The fight continued, and Newton tried to batter Hughes, but the champion's superior wrestling skills again showed as he took Newton down again. He then connected with several elbow strikes to Newton's ribs. Hughes was simply dominating Newton with his skill and power, even going for an armbar submission, something, so I'm told, he doesn't normally do.

There was a feeling out process at the beginning of the fourth round, before Hughes took Newton down once again, before pounding on him a few more times. It wasn't long before Newton decided he'd had enough, tapping out a short time later.

In conclusion - it's been a while since I took a great deal of interest in a contact sport other than wrestling or boxing, the last time being when Bravo broadcast the old UWFI shows from Japan, that featured the likes of Takada, Anjoh, Albright and Severn. There's been a great deal of publicity surrounding the UFC and their first appearance here in Britain in the past few weeks, all of which was justified. If you are looking for an alternative to other mixed martial arts disciplines, then the UFC would be a good choice for you. If you haven't seen anything like it before, then prepare yourself, because you're in for a good time.