Sunday, 8 June 2008

UFC 85: Bedlam on Setanta Sports - TV Review

They’re back, and this time they’ve brought a little controversy with them - a fighter failing to make weight, another who connects with illegal blows, and a questionable referee decision is were the main talking points as the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to the O2 Arena in London for UFC 85: Bedlam, broadcast live here in Britain on Setanta Sports. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The first fight of the broadcast sees action from the heavyweight division, as Brandon Vera faces Fabricio Werdum. This turned out to be a very interesting fight. With both fighters having their moments in the early part of the round, Vera connected with a couple of blows that clearly rocked Werdum, who recovered well by getting into a clinch. Then it was Werdum’s chance, taking Vera down and moving from position to position, before getting the mount and unleashing with the ground and pound. Vera covered up and defended well and didn’t look as if he was in any trouble. But then came the first controversial moment of the night as the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. Vera immediately told the referee that he was okay, and he was completely fine as soon as the fight was stopped. Werdum was declared the winner by TKO in what was a good performance, but the question will remain about whether Vera could have continued.

Then it’s down to the middleweight division, with Nate Marquardt taking on Thales Leites. This is another that will be remembered for a couple of controversial moments. After the initial feeling out process in the first round, Leites connected with a punch that knocked Marquardt down. The Brazilian went to work on the mat, trying to get the mount, but Marquardt soon escaped back to his feet, and towards the end of the round rocked Leites with a good combination what staggered him for a few seconds.

The second round saw the first controversial moment of the fight. After taking Leites down, Marquardt connected with a knee to the head while Leites was down on the mat, an illegal move under UFC rules. Leites was clearly stunned by the move, and the referee called the doctor in to check if he was okay. So after the doctor cleared him to continue, he allowed him a rest period, and then took one point away from Marquardt for the illegal blow. When the fight restarted, Marquardt upped the aggression, unleashing with the ground and pound, with one right hand looking like it broke Leites’ nose. As the round went on Marquardt continued to hammer away as the blood flowed down his face. But the round ended with Leites on top, having executed a very good take-down. After the round finished, the referee called the doctors in again, concerned at Leites’ breathing after he was apparently choking on his blood during the round, and again the doctors cleared him to continue.

The third round began with Marquardt taking Leites down again, but the Brazilian defended himself quite well before going for a couple of submissions. Then came the second controversial moment, as Marquardt connected with an elbow that the referee thought was to the back of Leites’ head. In fact, replays showed that it connected to the side of the head, and not the back, and once again Marquardt was deducted another point. Back in the fight Marquardt took Leites down again, and opened up a cut above his right eye with the ground and pound before moving around for position. But as the clock ticked down both fighters were clearly exhausted, and with just a few seconds left, Marquardt picked Leites up and delivered a piledriver, planting Leites down on his head. It was the last significant moment of the fight, as it went to the judges decision, and the points deductions proved to be highly significant, as Leites was given the split decision. A very good fight here, but like the previous one it will probably be remembered for those two points deductions.

A fight from earlier in the evening next, with Jason Lambert facing Luiz Cane in the light heavyweight division. This one didn’t last that long. After engaging in a clinch for the first couple of minutes, Cane began to unload with the heavy artillery, knocking Lambert off his feet three times before the referee stepped in and called a halt to the action, awarding the TKO victory to Cane. A good display of punching power from the Brazilian here.

Back to live action next, with a man who’s getting something of a cult following in these parts of the world, Marcus Davis, taking on Mike Swick in the welterweight division. The first round began with the usual feeling out process, but it wasn’t long before Davis took Swick down to the mat. However, the quick one was soon able to get control for the remainder of the round, unleashing with a series of blows and elbows, one of which opened up the scar tissue on Davis’ face.

The second round began with a good exchange of blows, before it went back down to the mat with Swick in the full mount and again going to work. But as Swick transitioned from full mount to half guard, Davis made an unsuccessful attempt at a kimura, which Swick was able to escape from before returning to his feet. After a couple of moments with both fighters in the clinch, Davis took Swick down, with Swick almost synching in a triangle, before taking Davis down again with a sweep as the round came to an end.

The third round was fought at a much slower pace. A few punches and kicks were exchanged by both fighters before they once again got into a clinch against the fence. Then Swick, having been warned about it throughout the fight, had a point deducted for continually holding the fence. Afterwards, things sped up a little when Swick took Davis down again, and the fight ended with Swick delivering the ground and pound, and with Davis’ face a bloody mess. So with the fight going the full distance, the judges gave the unanimous decision to Swick, which was wholly justified for a great performance.

Up one division to the middleweights next, and the man that all the fans came to see, Britain’s own Michael Bisping, taking on Jason Day. After the feeling out process, Bisping took Day down and immediately went to work, unleashing with the ground and pound, and looking good while doing so. Day was able to get back to his feet after a minute or so, but Bisping took him right back down, going from full mount to side control, and when Day tried to get to his feet, Bisping simply dragged him back down to the mat and continued with the ground and pound. Day simply had no answer to Bisping’s onslaught, and it wasn’t a surprise when the referee stepped in to stop the punishment, giving the Count the TKO victory. For me this is Bisping’s best victory in the UFC. If he keeps going on like this then he’ll definitely be a serious contender to the middleweight title.

Main event time, with Matt Hughes taking on Thiago Alves. Now this fight had some controversy before it even began. The fight was originally scheduled as a welterweight bout, but Alves failed to make the weight because of an ankle injury, coming in four pounds over, and rather than see the fight scrapped, Hughes agreed to make this a catch weight fight, so when both fighters came to the Octagon, Alves looked visibly bigger than Hughes. But down to the fight itself. Early on as they got into a clinch against the fence, Hughes pulled Alves down into the guard, which proved to be a little costly as Alves connected with a few good shots, one of which opened up a cut on Hughes’ nose. They soon returned to their feet, before Hughes took Alves down again, moving from side control to half guard, but the lack of work from both fighters drew several warnings from the ref, until Alves got to his feet. The round ended with Alves returning the favour and taking Hughes down, connecting with a few good punches.

The second round began with Hughes taking a knee to the face, which saw the cut on his nose bleed again, before they went back down to the mat, with Alves moving from position to position before they went back to their feet. Then came the decisive moment, as Alves connected with a high knee to the head, with Hughes landing awkwardly on his left knee as he went down. The referee stepped in immediately to stop the fight, Alves getting the TKO victory. Part of me really wanted Hughes to win this one, but Alves thoroughly deserved his victory for his great performance.

With some time to kill, more preliminary fights were shown, beginning with Matt Wiman against Thiago Tavares in the lightweight division. This one was certainly action packed. The first round began with an early take down, Tavares went for a guillotine choke, before going for what looked like an armbar. Wiman was able to escape these attempts before trying for a couple of submissions of his own, most notably a heel hook, and the fast-paced action continued throughout the remainder of the round, with both fighters looking exceptional.

The second round saw Wiman coming out swinging and connecting a couple of times, with Tavares responding in kind. This continued until Wiman pushed Tavares down to the mat, where the great action continued, before they returned to their feet. That was then a big right hand stunned Tavares, as did the knee. The referee then stepped in to call a stop to things as Tavares slumped to the mat, with Wiman getting the TKO win. A very good fight here, with both fighters giving it their all. A shame all MMA fights can’t be like this!

Then it’s the middleweight encounter between Jorge Rivera and Martin Kampmann. The first round saw Rivera connect with a couple of good kicks, before they went down to the mat with Kampmann in the guard position. Once there Kampmann unloaded with a few shots, and Rivera went for an armbar, before Kampmann was able to take Rivera’s back before going to the mount, almost getting in the arm triangle choke. Rivera managed to survive, but didn’t survive the guillotine that Kampmann applied seconds later, tapping out within seconds. A very good performance from Kampmann against the veteran here.

In conclusion - when you consider all the problems with this show, with Chuck Lidell’s injury, other fighters pulling out at short notice, and the problems at the weigh-in with Thiago Alves, then this is a very good show. It may not have been filled with the biggest stars, but it produced some great fights and performances, particularly from Michael Bisping among others. UFC 85 comes highly recommended. A good job all around, and once again Dana White and his crew have left many British mixed martial arts fans very happy.

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