Friday, 22 February 2008

UFC 80: Rapid Fire on Setanta Sports - TV Review

During the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s last visit to Britain, yours truly didn’t see the show when it was broadcast live, mainly because I don’t subscribe to Setanta Sports. Then, the guy who was taping it for me came down with flu, which meant that I had to wait a few more weeks before I got my copy. But as the old saying goes, better late than never with the review of UFC 80: Rapid Fire, held at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, and shown live in Britain on Setanta Sports. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The broadcast begins with action in the middleweight division, between Kendall Grove and Jorge Rivera. A quick one to begin the show, with Rivera taking Grove down early, and unloading with the heavy stuff, which Grove simply had no answer to. As Rivera continued to batter away, a hard left sent Grove crashing down, and that was when the ref stepped in. A very impressive performance from Rivera, lasting just eighty seconds.
Then it’s up to the light heavyweight division, with Jason Lambert taking on Wilson Gouveia. After a first round where Lambert was in clear control of the fight, the second fight began in the second way. But then came the surprise, with Gouveia connecting with a left hook flush on the chin, knocking him out and going against the run of play. This is one of the things that make combat sports great, where someone who is seemingly losing coming out with that one big move that changes everything.
Down to the welterweights next, with Marcus Davis and Jess Liaudin, the Frenchman fighting out of London. Another quick one here. Liaudin connected with a few kicks, but it was just one left hand to the side of the head from the former pro boxer that sent Liaudin down, with the ref stepping in quickly to halt the bout, giving Davis the KO victory. The fight didn’t even last a minute.
Staying with the welterweights, and it’s an all British affair between Paul Taylor and Paul Kelly. From the moment this began you knew that both men had come to fight. The opening exchanges between the two fighters were so fast it was almost a blur. It was an impressive start from both men, but when it went to the ground, Kelly was clearly the superior fighter, although Taylor did try for a couple of submissions. However, a Kelly elbow towards the end of the second opened up a nasty gash on Taylor’s head. His corner men managed to stop the bleeding between the rounds, but Kelly soon opened the cut with some more elbows. In the end it was Kelly’s ability to control Taylor on the ground that saw him through as he won the unanimous decision. This was a great fight, with good performances from both fighters, fought with good sportsmanship as well. A great advertisement for British MMA fighters.
Following this great fight, it’s time for the heavyweights to show their stuff with Gabriel Gonzaga, against Fabricio Werdum in a battle of Brazilian ju-jitsu black belts. An interesting fight saw Gonzaga connecting with a few good leg kicks in the first round, so powerful that they knock Werdum off his feet a couple of times. But as the fight wore on, Werdum took control, connecting with a series of knees while in the clinch, before taking Gonzaga’s back in the second, unloading with a series of rights to the head. Gonzaga responded with a couple of elbows, but it wasn’t enough to stop the referee stepping in to stop the fight, awarding Werdum the victory by TKO. While this was a good performance from Werdum, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed by Gonzaga’s performance.
Main event time, with B.J. Penn taking on Joe Stevenson, with the Lightweight Championship on the line. The first round saw Penn in control for the most part, although Stevenson was able to escape from his clutches a couple of times. But seconds before the end of the round, an elbow opened up a cut on Stevenson’s forehead which just seemed to gush the crimson stuff. Stevenson came out like a man possessed at the beginning of the second, and with the blood pouring once more, he was only allowed to continue because the blood wasn’t going into his eyes. But the cut was clearly worrying Stevenson, and Penn soon took control of Stevenson’s back and locked in a rear naked choke. Stevenson had no choice but to tap out, with Penn winning the Lightweight title, becoming only the second man in UFC history to win titles at two different weights. This was a very solid performance from Penn here, controlling the majority of the fight and putting on a good exhibition in the process.
With some time to kill due to the early finish of some of the fights, there’s a look at some preliminary action in the heavyweight division, with Ireland’s Colin Robinson facing Holland’s Antoni Hardonk. This one lasted a matter of seconds. A couple of jabs followed by couple of kicks from Hardonk to Robinson’s knee sent him down, and as the Irishman tried to get up, his leg gave away under him. The referee quickly stepped in to stop the fight, much to the chagrin of Robinson, who claimed he could fight on, with Hardonk getting the win via TKO. Really hard to gauge how good either fighter was, given that this one lasted only seventeen seconds.
Down to the light heavyweight division next, with Alessio Sakara and James Lee. Another quickie here. Lee went for a couple of take downs, but Sakara managed to escape both times. The end came when, with Lee holding onto his left leg, Sakara unloaded with a few hammer fists, and with Lee not defending himself, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, Sakara getting the TKO victory. Sakara looked good in this one, while Lee looked somewhat disappointing.
In conclusion - I was glad I waited to see this one, because it was a very good show. Some explosive performances saw some quick finishes, which always gets the fans cheering, capped off by a great performance from B.J. Penn as he took Joe Stevenson apart to win the Lightweight Championship. The UFC continue to put on strong shows for their British fans, mixing their top stars with some good local talent, and let’s hope they keep up this good work.
Finally, please check out my following web sites; - My home on the web. Along with recent wrestling reviews, you can also find book, film and boxing reviews as well. - My online blog, where things that don’t fit into my regular columns are found. - My online store, where you can purchase the various books I’ve released. A new publication will be added soon. Watch this space! - My YouTube page, including an example of how certain professional wrestlers should stay away from music business.

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