It’s been five years since the Ultimate Fighting Championship held a show in Great Britain, and quite a lot has changed since then, including the British public’s perception of the sport of mixed martial arts, which meant quite a bit was expected from UFC 70: Nations Collide, held at the Manchester Evening News Arena and broadcast live on pay-per-view in Britain on Setanta.
The broadcast starts with action from the heavyweight division, as Cheick Kongo faces Assuerio Silva, two fighters looking to make an impact after recent UFC losses. What was obvious from this one was that Kongo is extremely limited as far as his grappling skills are concerned. Kongo looked impressive on his feet, connecting with some good shots from both his hands and his feet, but as soon as Silva got him on the mat he looked almost clueless, and it was on the mat that Silva just failed to capitalize. Although it was obvious that he could have put Kongo away at any time while they were on the mat, he just didn’t do anything. With the fight going the distance, the judges awarded the victory to Kongo, thanks to his superior striking. Kongo could be a force in the heavyweight division, but only if he adds wrestling to his arsenal.
The next fight goes down to the light-heavyweight division, as David Heath, takes on Lyoto Machida. The first two rounds of this one didn’t exactly set the world on fire, as both men preferred the stand-up game and unloaded with the occasional punch or kick. It wasn’t until the third that things started to really get going, with Machida connecting with a series of knees before controlling Heath on the mat, trying to synch in a rear naked choke as the fight came to an end. Machida won the unanimous judge’s decision in a deserving if somewhat unspectacular fight.
Time for the hometown hero next, as Michael Bisping goes up against Elvis Sinosic in the light-heavyweight division. An impressive showing from Bisping here, controlling the entire first round from the guard position, turning Elvis’ face into a bloody mess. The Australian came back well for a few moment in the second after connecting with a knee, but Bisping soon recovered and got the TKO after his relentless ground and pound. A great performance from Bisping.
Next up, former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski on the comeback trail against UFC newcomer Fabricio Werdum. While Arlovski looked great in the first round, connecting with some stiff kicks to Werdum’s legs and a good looking uppercut, the second and third rounds were kind of non-events, with very little happening from either fighter, and Arlovski winning the unanimous decision, but not looking like the champion of old.
Main event time, for the number one contender’s spot in the heavyweight division as Mirko Cro Cop faces Gabriel Gonzaga. Everyone was expecting a first round knockout in this one, but not in the manner we saw it. Cro Cop got in a couple of good kicks, but Gonzaga controlled him on the mat, connecting with some good elbows that opened him up. When the action stalled, referee Herb Dean stood both fighters back up, and this proved to be the Croatian’s downfall, with Gonzaga connecting with a right kick to the side of the head, sending Cro Cop crashing to the mat with his leg and ankle twisted underneath him at an awkward angle. Indeed, if Cro Cop hadn’t been unconscious before he hit the mat then he probably would have suffered severe knee and ankle injuries. To say that this was an upset would be an understatement, but Gonzaga deserved the win.
With time to spare on the broadcast, one of the preliminary bouts is shown, as Jess Liaudin faces Dennis Siver in the welterweight division. A quick one here as Liaudin, who actually sent in an application to compete in the UFC in 1994, synched in the armbar to get the fast submission victory.
In conclusion - on sheer star power alone, UFC 70 was the superior show to it’s Cage Rage counterpart in London. No matter who they got, Cage Rage just couldn’t compete with Mirko Cro Cop in the main event. As for the show itself, it had it’s good and bad points, but it delivered on it’s entertainment value. It was worth the five year wait to get the UFC back over here, and now they’ve come back, it will be good to see them here more often.