While Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins were slugging it out in Las Vegas, the great and the good of the Ultimate Fighting Championship were in Montreal for the first time, as home town hero Georges St-Pierre sought to avenge the defeat he suffered at the hands of Matt Serra last year. It’s UFC 83: Serra v St-Pierre 2, shown on a twenty-four delay on Bravo here in Britain. Our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Kenny Florian.
The broadcast begins with action in the lightweight division, as Mac Danzig takes on Mark Bocek. A great round one saw both fighters put in good performances, each having their moments, and neither giving the other any quarter. Early in the second round Danzig connected with a knee to the jaw that sent Bocek crashing to the floor, but he was soon able to recover, but he didn’t recover enough as Danzig was able to move through transitions with great ease, and he clearly won the second with ease. In the third it looked like Bocek was just trying to survive, especially when a Danzig knee from a muay thai clinch connected just above the left eye, an eye which was already swelling up, and even though the doctor checked it, Bocek was allowed to continued. Naturally Danzig centred his attack on the cut, before taking Bocek down, quickly taking his back, and synching in a rear naked choke for the submission victory. Good performances from both men here, but kudos to Danzig for his overall performance.
Then it’s up to the middleweight division, as my fellow Brit Michael Bisping drops down a division to go up against Charles McCarthy. I think you can see who I was routing for here. From the onset, Bisping showed the increased speed he had at the lighter weight, and didn’t even let McCarthy’s facial taunts phase him in anyway. McCarthy came back strongly by taking him down, but the Count was able to work himself out of McCarthy’s submission attempts. Once they were back on their feet, Basting’s speed showed again as he connected with a series of blows and knees which sent McCarthy to the mat. Bisping went in for the kill as the round ended, but with McCarthy still lying on the mat and with an arm injury, the referee called an immediate stop to the fight, awarding the TKO victory to Bisping. This was an incredible performance from Bisping, and hopefully he can do a lot in the middleweight division.
More middleweight action follows with Kali Starnes and Nate Quarry. The first round left me scratching my head a little as far as Starnes’ tactics were concerned, because apart from a couple of clinches, he seemed to spend most of the time backing away from Quarry, almost running at times. Quarry looked great, managing to get off a few good combinations and kicks, despite Starnes’ negative tactics. It was the same in the second round, and despite a couple of attempted takedown attempts, Starnes again spend most of the round on the back foot, and it didn’t come as a surprise when the Canadian fans began the boring chants, although it was a surprise that it was directed at their own countryman. The third round saw Starnes….well, do I really need to tell you what he did? Quarry continued to look good, although there was only so much he could do, and it got to a point where he began to mock Starnes, evening running after him at one point. So with the fight going the three round distance, it was obvious who was going to get the judge’s decision - Quarry. But the fact that one judge scored the fight 30-24 in Quarry’s favour just goes to show how inept Starnes’ performance was. This certainly won’t got down as one of the best fights in UFC history, and you can’t blame Quarry for that.
Yet more middleweight action follows, this time with former champ Rich Franklin taking on Travis Lutter. The first round was a joy to watch, as Lutter went on the attack early on, with some great work on the ground which saw him attempt an armbar. But Franklin showed some great work himself as he managed to escape the attempt and end the round on top. The second saw Franklin connect with a high kick that wobbled Lutter, and as the round went on Lutter looked utterly exhausted, and it wasn’t long before Franklin took control, and as Lutter slumped to the floor and Franklin went in for the kill, the referee did the right thing by stepping in and stopping the fight, Franklin getting the TKO victory. A great performance from Franklin, who is fast becoming one of my favourite fighters.
Main event time, with Georges St-Pierre challenging Matt Serra for the UFC Welterweight title. This is probably one of the few title fights in any sport where the champion is actually the underdog in the eyes of many. The first round began with St-Pierre taking Serra down immediately, and no matter what St-Pierre did, Serra just didn’t seem to have any answer for it. As with Franklin in the previous fight, it was a joy to watch a master at work. The story was the same in the second round, with St-Pierre controlling from the start, and showing excellent work on the mat, and again, it seemed as if Serra didn’t know how to counter St-Pierre’s relentless onslaught, and with about a minute left to go, Serra had no defence as St-Pierre unleashed with a series of knees to Serra’s side. With the champion unable to defend himself, the referee stepped in to stop the fight, with St-Pierre getting the TKO and his second welterweight title. GSP’s performance here was almost perfect, and one of the best I’ve seen in a UFC ring in ages.
In conclusion - the UFC’s debut in Canada can only be termed a great success. Starnes/Quarry aside (although that did provide some light comic relief to the end), there were four tremendous fights here, with the main event once again proving what a great fighter Georges St-Pierre is. Mention must also be made for Kenny Florian’s performance at the commentator’s desk. As good as Joe Rogan is, you didn’t notice that he wasn’t there, Florian’s performance was that good.
So in all, UFC 83 gets the thumbs up from me. Good stuff all round.