Tuesday, 8 July 2008

UFC 86: Jackson v Griffin on Setanta Sports - TV Review

So can the ultimate fighter become the ultimate champion? That’s what I’m hoping to find out as I take in the latest show from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, as Quinton “Rampage” Jackson defends the Light-Heavyweight title against Forrest Griffin in UFC 86: Jackson v Griffin, shown live here in Britain on Setanta Sports. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The show starts with action from the lightweight division, between Tyson Griffin and Marcus Aurelio. The first round started pretty slowly, so much so that the crowd soon began to voice their displeasure, until things went to the mat where Griffin, in the guard position, unleashed with the ground and pound, which almost cost him as Aurelio tried to synch in an armbar a couple of times. Back on their feet, Griffin connected with a good shot to the body as the round came to an end.

Round two began like a kickboxing fight, with Griffin connecting with some good combinations before Aurelio got him in the clinch and took the fight to the fence. A short time later Griffin got the take down, but Aurelio quickly managed to work his way back up, and took Griffin’s back, only for Griffin to roll over into the guard position. After a few blows Aurelio almost synched in a triangle, but after Griffin escaped he was able to keep up the good work in the guard.

Round three began in the same vein as round two. Aurelio looked exhausted, and didn’t seem to have any answer to Griffin’s kicks and punches, and when he went for a shoot, Griffin showed good defensive work. As the round went on Aurelio’s punches looked very weak compared to Griffin’s. However, after Griffin got the take down, Aurelio looked a lot better, going for a couple of submissions while Griffin went for the ground and pound, and with the fight going the distance, the judges gave their unanimous decision to Griffin, and rightfully so. His work rate looked far superior to that of his opponent.

Then it’s up one weight to the welterweight division, with Josh Koscheck taking on Chris Lytle. Round one began with a feeling out process between the two fighters, before it went to the ground and Lytle attempted a guillotine choke, releasing it a few seconds later when he realised he couldn’t get it locked in fully. Koscheck then began to work well in the guard, making room for himself so he could deliver some strikes. After a couple of transitions between the two fighters, the round ended with Koscheck in the guard again, and connecting with a hammer fist as the horn sounded.

The second round saw an exchange of blows between the two fighters, before both went for two well defended take downs. When the fight did go to the ground, Lytle once again went for a guillotine, but once again released the hold. Then Koscheck went to work with the ground and pound, opening a nasty looking cut near Lytle’s right eye. Lytle looked helpless as Koscheck unleashed with the elbows and the punches, with the blood even spurting onto an octagon-side camera. Lytle was starting to wear thee crimson mask as he tried in vain to defend himself, but Koscheck was still able to rain down with the bombs as the round ended.

To the surprise of this writer, Lytle was allowed to come out for the third round, and his situation seemed to spur him on, first going for a kimura, and then going for a guillotine, before Koscheck returned to the position where he did his best work. The blood began to flow again as Koscheck aimed at Lytle’s cut with some elbows. But the work rate soon went downhill, and the referee stood the fighters up. As the fight entered it’s last minute, Lytle swung wildly before they got into a clinch up against the fence, which was released due to inactivity, and as the round and fight came to an end, both fighters connected with a couple of blows, and with the second fight of the show going the distance, the judges gave the unanimous decision to Koscheck, a decision that didn’t sit too well with the audience, but was very well deserved. Kudos also to Lytle for fighting on, despite the cuts.

It’s back down to the lightweights next with Joe Stevenson facing Gleison Tibau. This one began quickly. After a nifty exchange, a blow sent Tibau to the ground, where Stevenson almost synched in a guillotine. It was then back and forth action, with each fighter scoring with a take down, with Stevenson scoring a take down, and Tibau locking in an alma-platter shoulder lock. Try as he might Stevenson couldn’t get out of the lock, and decided that patience was the best tactic as the clock ticked down to the end of the final round.

The second round saw the usual exchanges, before a clinch to the fence and a couple of take downs from Tibau, who then showed great skill on the ground as he went for a guillotine. Tibau then went for a take down, and it proved to be his undoing, because as soon as they hit the ground Stevenson locked in a guillotine. Seconds later Tibau was tapping, and Stevenson was declared the winner. A good comeback from Stevenson here, although Tibau did look the better fighter, until then.

Middleweight action follows, with Patrick Cote and Ricardo Almeida going at it. This one began with an interesting move, with Almeida jumping the guard and trying to lock in a guillotine, before they went to the ground. That didn’t last long as they soon returned to their feet, soon going into a clinch against the fence. Cote showed some great defence as he tried to avoid the take down, but that couldn’t last forever as Almeida eventually took him down. Cote tried to push Almeida away, but no matter what he tried he couldn’t keep his opponent off him as Almeida punched right through the guard. All Cote could do was try to cover up as Almeida went with the ground and pound as the round came to an end.

Round two took some time to actually start, as there was a problem with Almeida’s right glove that had to be fixed. When it eventually began Cote looked like he wanted to keep the fight upright, but Almeida pulled the guard and tried to go to work. This didn’t work that well, and the fight soon went back upright. Almeida didn’t look too happy in this position, always backing away from Cote, and even dropping his hands on a couple of occasions. In truth it didn’t make for very good viewing, especially when Almeida got the body locks up against the fence. A brief guillotine attempt provided a few seconds of excitement, before a Cote right sent Almeida to the ground as the round came to an end.

Almeida again looked nervous at the beginning of the third round, seemingly unwilling to engage in an exchange of blows with Cote, always backing away from his opponent. Again, this didn’t make for exciting viewing, especially when you have one fighter want to fight, and another backing away most of the time. It was only when the fight entered it’s last thirty seconds that Almeida really went to work, scoring with a take down and going for the ground and pound, but Cote managed to get the into Almeida’s guard as the fight came to an end. The judges were split with their decision, with Cote getting the win. Not the most exciting UFC fight I’ve ever seen, but an interesting one nonetheless.

Main event time, with Forrest Griffin challenging Quinton “Rampage” Jackson for the UFC Light-Heavyweight title, the battle of the coaches in the last series of The Ultimate Fighter. With an absolutely electric crowd cheering them on, round one saw both fighters trade blows early on, with both me getting some good shots in, and Griffin looking the better fighter, until Jackson scored with a good short that sent Griffin down, with Jackson following him into the guard. But it wasn’t long before they both got back to their feet, ending the round with another exchange of blows.

Round two began with Griffin scoring with a couple of kicks that clearly hurt Jackson, before Griffin got a front face lock, connected with a couple of blows, and took the fight to the ground. Jackson seemed unable to do anything with Griffin as he transitioned to side control and went for an Americana, before getting the full mount. Again, Jackson seemed powerless against Griffin’s attack, giving no answer to the punches or the elbows, such was Griffin’s domination.

Jackson’s left leg was clearly bothering him as the third round began, and seemed unable to do anything until he scored with an uppercut combination. Both fighters got off some good combinations, with Griffin continuing to go after Jackson’s left leg. As the round went on Jackson’s leg seemed to recover as both fighters continued with the stand up game, with a slugfest developing as the round ended.

The fourth round began with some good combinations from Jackson, opening up a cut near Griffin’s left eye, before they went to the ground with Jackson in Griffin’s guard. Griffin soon locked in a triangle, which Jackson broke out of by standing up and slamming him down. Seconds later Griffin went for an alma platter before they returned to their feet. Jackson connected with some good shots, and seemed to be working more than Griffin towards the end of the round.

Both fighters began to look exhausted by the time the fifth and final round started. Both fighters got off some good combinations, with Griffin once again getting off some good kicks on Jackson’s injured leg. Both men were giving their all, and with the crowd screaming their hearts out, it was really something to watch, with the action continuing right up to the final seconds. So, after twenty five minutes of great action, it went down to the judges decision, with Griffin getting the unanimous decision, and becoming the new UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion. All I can say about this one is wow!

With some time to kill, there’s a bout from earlier in the show, with Melvin Guillard facing Dennis Siver in the lightweight division. Guillard caught Siver early, sending him down to the mat, before sending him down a second time, and then going for the kill with the ground and pound. Siver offered no defence, so the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Guillard the TKO win.

In conclusion - I’m going to say it once again - wow! Griffin v Jackson was an excellent fight, and definitely a candidate for any MMA fight of the year. Putting on a great display, they had the crowd in the palms of their hands from the beginning to the end. We haven’t had a main event with that sort of emotion since Randy Couture beat Tim Sylvia.

As for the undercard, while Cote v Almeida didn’t exactly make for engrossing viewing at times, the rest of the fights delivered with the great action, especially Koscheck and Lytle. UFC 86 may go down as one of the best shows of the year, thanks to messrs Jackson and Griffin, and given what happened here, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a re-match within the next twelve months. After all, Dana White likes to give the UFC fans what they want, doesn’t he?

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