Tuesday, 27 May 2008

UFC 84: Ill Will on Bravo - TV Review

It's the end of an era in more ways than one. On the show that Sean Sherk attempts to prove he is the true lightweight king against B.J. Penn, Tito Ortiz takes his final bow in the Octagon, and for the final time, Bravo here in Britain bring us a UFC show in the form of UFC 84: Ill Will, shown on a twenty four hour delay. Our hosts for the show are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
The show begins with action from the light-heavyweight division, an all Brazilian affair which sees Thiago Silva taking on Antonio Mendes. A quick one to begin proceedings saw Mendes connect with a high left kick that knocked Silva down to his feet. Silva got knocked down a second time, but he managed to fight back, taking Mendes down after a botched judo throw attempt. Silva was then in total control, able to transition at will, before the referee stepped in to stop the action when Mendes had no answer to Silva’s ground and pound. A terrific performance from Silva, especially as it looked like he might lose the fight in the first few seconds.
The light-heavyweight action continues with Lyoto Machida taking on Tito Ortiz in his final UFC contest. The first round was very much the feeling out round. Both guys connected with a few kicks, although Machida’s looked far more crisp. As the round came to an end, Machida took Ortiz down to the ground and took side control, and only the bell saved Ortiz from punishment.
The second round began the same way the first one did, but it was obvious that Machida’s tactic of throwing fake punches and kicks in between real shots was frustrating Ortiz. Towards the end Machida managed to get the take down, having successfully sprawled at Ortiz’s attempt, but the bad boy soon got back to his feet, and having urged his opponent to fight, Ortiz and Machida exchanged a few blows as the round came to an end.
Machida’s hit and run tactics continued to frustrate Ortiz at the beginning of the third, and whenever Ortiz got into a clinch or tried to take his man down, Machida always managed to find a way to escape. With the fight going into it’s final seconds, Machida connected with a knee that knocked Ortiz down, before moving into the guard position. With just thirty seconds remaining, Ortiz locked in a triangle choke and armbar, but once again Machida was able to escape. It was the last thing of note to happen in the round, and the best thing to happen in the fight. So with the fight going the distance, it went to the judges decision, with all three awarding the fights to Machida. This was certainly an interesting performance by Machida, and something of a sad way for Ortiz to end his UFC career, although he did say that things are still up in the air at the moment. So who knows, maybe this isn’t the last time we’ll see the Huntington Beach Bad Boy in the Octagon.
Still more light-heavyweights next, with Wilson Gouveia against the debuting Croatian, Goran Reljic. The first round, for the most part, was all about the striking game. Like his mentor Mirko Cro Cop, Reljic threw a series of high left kicks that left a deep red mark on Gouveia’s right shoulder. However, whenever Reljic unleashed the punches, Gouveia was able to counter, and when he upped his game and connected with a flurry of blows, Reljic took him down and into his guard, trying for a submission as the round came to an end.
Reljic continued with the kicks into the second round, but Gouveia was having more success with the punches, a tactic which saw both men go to the mat and the Brazilian attempt the ground and pound. But the Croatian was able to escape and get back to his feet, and he quickly connected with a hard left that sent Gouveia down. Reljic was then all over Gouveia like a bad rash, going for the ground and pound, and with there being no answer to these shots, the referee stepped in to stop the onslaught. A great winning debut from Reljic here. A star on the rise perhaps?
With some time to spare, it’s a look at one of the preliminary fights, a heavyweight bout featuring Christian Wellisch against Shane Carwin. This one didn’t last a minute. Carwin connected with a right that sent Wellisch crashing, and as Carwin went for the kill the referee stepped in to stop the fight. It’s kind of hard to gauge how good these two were in such s short fight, although Carwin’s right hand looked great.
Then it’s on to the fight I was really looking forward to, the light heavyweight confrontation between Keith Jardine and Wanderlei Silva. It didn’t even last a minute. Silva caught Jardine early on, knocking him down before going for the kill with the ground and pound, at one point holding him by his throat with his left while unloading with his right. The referee quickly stepped in to end things, and the Axe Murderer had ended his losing streak. An explosive and impressive performance from Silva.
With that fight having ended early, another preliminary fight is shown, with Ivan Salaverry facing Rousimar Palhares in the middleweight division. Another quick fight saw Salaverry throw a quick kick, before Palhares took Salaverry down, quickly got into the mount, before transitioning and taking Salaverry’s back. For the next couple of minutes Palhares tried for the rear naked choke, with Salaverry showing good defensive skills, before Palhares quickly moved so he could apply an armbar, with Salaverry tapping out immediately. A very impressive showing from Palhares, and hopefully we’ll see more of him on the main card in the future.
Main event time, with B.J. Penn defending the Lightweight title against former champion Sean Sherk. I’m not going to go into whether Sherk should even be fighting on a UFC card after his failed drugs test, because it would take too long. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on the fight itself. The first round saw Sherk go for the take down straight away, grabbing Penn’s leg, but the champion was able to escape this attempt. From then on the rest of the round resembled a boxing match, with Penn connecting with some good jabs, opening up a cut underneath Sherk’s right eye, with Sherk responding with some good kicks.
Round two saw both fighters employ the same tactics, although it was obvious that Penn had the upper hand. He was able to connect with far more shots than Sherk, as most of his punches were coming up short. All Sherk seemed able to do was connect with the kicks, and as the round ended, Sherk’s face was starting to look like a bloody mess, with cuts above and below both eyes, while Penn’s face was unmarked.
The boxing continued as they went into the third round, and once again it was the same. While Penn’s punches connected, Sherk always seemed to come up short, and he began to favour his right hand, shaking it whenever he did manage to connect. As the clock ticked towards the end of the round, Penn connected with a left knee to the side of Sherk’s head. Sherk crumpled against the cage, and Penn unloaded with a few more blows as the round came to an end. There was then a little confusion as Penn began to celebrate the win, and it took a few seconds as the referee confirmed that Sherk had quit, meaning that Penn had retained his title in what was a great effort.
In conclusion - after the slightly disappointing UFC 83, Ill Will saw a return to form with great action from top to bottom, with several outstanding performances, most notably from Wanderlei Silva, Goran Reljic and B.J. Penn. Dana White and his crew continue to put on great shows, and it’s one of the reasons I subscribed to Setanta Sports last month (well, that and the boxing) so I can continued to enjoy top notch mixed martial arts action, which will continue in less than two weeks with the UFC’s return to London.