Tuesday, 4 March 2008

UFC 82: Pride of a Champion on Bravo - TV Review

It’s unification time again in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and once again Dan Henderson is involved, as he attempts to unify the Pride 185 pound championship with that of his UFC counterpart, Anderson Silva. It’s UFC 82: Pride of a Champion, shown on a one day delay here in Britain on Bravo. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
The show gets underway with welterweight action, as Jon Fitch goes up against Chris Wilson. A fight with some solid, if unspectacular action, saw Wilson connect with a few good shots in the first round, with Fitch gaining some semblance of control in the guard position in the second and third rounds, until Wilson went for a triangle choke towards the end of the fight. Apart from that nothing much else happened, with Fitch getting the win via unanimous decision. Not the best fight I’ve ever seen, but solid and hard-working performances from both fighters.
Up to the middleweight division next, with Evan Tanner against Yushin Okami. Tanner, the former Middleweight Champion, was on the comeback trail, and hoping to get back into the mix with a win over the Japanese star. Sadly, that didn’t happen. While Okami looked good in the first round, Tanner, if truth be known, looked slow and plodding at times, and got caught with a few good looking left hands. Okami’s superiority was obvious when, with Tanner locked up in a muay-thai clinch, Okami caught him with a hard knee that sent him falling to the mat, with the ref putting a stop to the fight seconds later, awarding Okami the knockout victory. This one was in danger of going the same way as the opener, but thankfully Okami saved the day with the knockout.
The middleweight action continues with Chris Leben taking on Alessio Sakara. Now this was more like it. Both Leben and Sakara had clearly come to fight, and it showed from the beginning. Both men tried to unload with the big shots, Leben sent Sakara down with a hard left, before going down into the guard. Leben connected with another couple of blows before the referee, much to the chagrin of Sakara, stepped in and stopped the fight, with Leben getting the TKO victory in the first round. An explosive performance from Leben, and from Sakara for that matter, and given that the Italian wasn’t that happy about the manner of his defeat, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a re-match somewhere down the line.
Then it’s up to the heavyweight division, as Cheick Kongo, the man who more-or-less ended Mirko Cro Cop’s UFC career, against the Texas Crazy Horse himself, Heath Herring. This was a tremendous fight. While Herring, being Herring, always looks good in a fight, Kongo showed just how much he’s improved, adding some ground skills to his awesome strikes. Each man had their moments, both connecting with some good shots, both with some good moments while on the ground, especially Herring, as he connected with a series of powerful knees while in the side mount in the second round. But as the fight progressed, Herring’s superior skills saw him gain control, and with the fight going the three round distance, with the Texan getting the split decision victory. A good performance from Herring here.
Main event time, and time to unify the 185 pound division, with UFC Champion Anderson Silva taking on his Pride counterpart Dan Henderson. This fight was a story of two different rounds. The first round clearly belonged to Henderson, who controlled with the mount and the side control, and Silva looked like he was going to have some trouble with Henderson. But the Brazilian re-grouped between rounds, and by the time the second round started he began to take control, eventually taking Henderson down with a few strikes, before grappling for position and applying a rear naked choke, with Henderson fighting all he could before tapping out. Once again Silva proves he’s the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world at the moment, and it leaves me wondering if there’s anyone in the middleweight division who can actually beat this guy at the moment.
In conclusion - you’re probably expecting me to tell you all that this was a great show. Well, sadly, this wasn’t the case. A great show is where all the fights broadcast were good, and with UFC 82, the first two did leave a little to be desired, the second one only being saved by Okami’s knockout blow. Thankfully, things got a lot better afterwards, with the Kongo/Herring and Silva/Henderson fights really saving the day. So I suppose what I’m trying to say here is that three out of five ain’t that bad.