Monday, 22 October 2007

UFC 77: Hostile Territory on Bravo - TV Review

It’s been about a year since Rich Franklin lost his UFC Middleweight title to one of the best MMA fighters on the planet, the Brazilian Anderson Silva. Could Franklin overcome the odds and reclaim his title? And with the Heavyweight title now vacant after Randy Couture’s retirement, could former champion Tim Sylvia stake a claim for a shot at the vacant belt? All will be revealed here with the review of UFC 77: Hostile Territory, broadcast on a twenty-four hour delay here in Britain on Bravo. Our hosts for this evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
The show begins with action from the middleweight division, as Kalib Starnes faces Alan Belcher. The outcome of this fight was decided in the first few seconds, as Belcher opened up a deep gash above Starnes’ right eye. This didn’t hinder him though, as he was able to put up a good stand-up display, despite Belcher’s onslaught. The doctor was called in to look at Starnes’ cut at the end of the first round, and, to the surprise of this writer, he allowed the fight to go on. After both men continued to mix it up for the first couple of minutes of the second round, the doctor was called in to look at Starnes’ cut, and with the cut now so deep that the doctor could see his skull, he had no choice but to stop, with Belcher getting the TKO win. Not the best opening fight I’ve seen on a UFC show, so maybe these two will get a chance to go at it again in the future.

Then it’s up to the light-heavyweight division, with former training partners Stephan Bonnar and Eric Shafer going against each other. The first round saw a good exhibition of grappling between the two men, and at one point it looked like Shafer would synch in a rear naked choke. But Bonnar’s submission defence was excellent, allowing him to escape the hold and end the round in a strong position. Bonnar upped things for the second round, negating Shafer’s submission attempts to unleash with the ground and pound. All Shafer could do against this was cover up, and as he was making no other attempts to save himself, referee John McCarthy stepped in to stop proceedings, with Bonnar getting a very impressive TKO victory.

Down to the lightweight division next, with Jorge Gurgel facing Alvin Robinson. The first round saw Gurgel in total control on the ground, able to change from a mount to side control to a north-south position with relative ease as Robinson seemed powerless to stop him. With round one belonging to Gurgel, round two belonged to Robinson. Beginning the round by showing his BJJ skills, Gurgel quickly got back on top, only for Robinson to reclaim the guard position, and when he got in the full mount, Robinson unleashed with the ground and pound, turning his face into a bloody mess, and if the bell hadn’t sounded to end the round, the fight would surely have ended. Robinson again dominated the third round as Gurgel looked totally spent. Robinson controlled throughout from every position, in particular from the guard, with the Brazilian unable to do anything against him. So it was no surprise that Robinson won the fight with a unanimous decision. Robinson looked tremendous in this one, despite a shaky first round.

Up to the heavyweight division next, as former champion Tim Sylvia takes on Brandon Vera, and with the heavyweight title picture suffering from a state of confusion at the moment, both men were looking to put themselves into the picture. The first round was a battle of the clinches between the two fighters, although it was somewhat difficult to see just who won, although Sylvia managed to get off a few good shots when they weren’t in the clinch. It was pretty much the same thing at the beginning of the second round, until Vera managed to take the bigger man down. But then, as Sylvia escaped, Vera scored with an illegal knee to the head as Sylvia was still on one knee. He wasn’t deducted a point though, just given a warning. After Sylvia was allowed a brief rest period, things stepped up, and the round ended with Sylvia knocking Vera down to the mat. The third round began quickly with an exchange of punches between the two, before it reverted to type with a clinch near the fence. Apart from a couple of times, including an exchange where Sylvia opened up a cut on the top of Vera’s head, it was like this for the majority of the round, until the referee finally ordered them apart towards the end. In truth this wasn’t a pretty fight, a slightly disappointing encounter which saw Sylvia get the unanimous decision.

Main event time, with Anderson Silva defending the Middleweight title against former champion Rich Franklin. With the crowd clearly behind the former champion, Franklin acquitted himself well in the early stages of the first round, showing good submission defence and a willingness to exchange punches, but as the seconds ticked away Silva sent Franklin sprawling to the mat with a hard right hand, which would have spelt the end for him had the bell not sounded ending the round. It looked like Franklin had recovered well enough at the beginning of the second, but Silva soon showed his true class, connecting with a knee that knocked Franklin off his game plan, following up with body shots and leg kicks, before two knees sent him crashing to the mat, with the referee stepping in to stop the fight, Silva getting the win by TKO.

In conclusion - you’re probably expecting me to say what a perfect show this is, right? Sorry to disappoint you, but it wasn’t. While Bonnar/Shafer, Gurgel/Robinson and Silva/Franklin delivered, Starnes/Belcher was sadly cut short by the horrendous gash on Starnes’ forehead, and the poor Sylvia/Vera failed to set this fighter‘s pulse racing. But the announcement that Brock Lesnar has been signed will certainly add a little excitement to the somewhat scrambled heavyweight division, and should help move that particular division in the right direction. So my final thought on this one? Well, I suppose three out of five ain’t bad.