Monday, 21 July 2008

UFC: Silva v Irvin on Setanta Sports - TV Review

He’s regarded as the best pound-for-pound mixed martial arts fighter in the world, but what will happen when Anderson Silva piles on the pounds for his first outing in the light-heavyweight division? Well, that’s what I’m hoping to find out with this review, as I take a look at UFC: Silva v Irvin, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on Setanta Sports. As usual, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The show kicks off with action from the middleweight division, and two contestants on the recent Ultimate Fighter series, Jesse Taylor and CB Dollaway. I don’t think you need me to tell you how Taylor lost his place on the show and in the final, but I am very surprised that he’s back in the UFC so soon, given what Dana White said about him. But anyway, that’s enough of my rant, time to get to the fight. Round one began with Taylor the most aggressive fighter, working the clinch up against the cage, before Dollaway came out on top, before connecting with a knee to the head that earned him a warning from the referee. When the fight restarted, Dollaway was dominant, with good defence against Taylor’s takedown attempt, before going down to the mat and transitioning well. Taylor was able to come back a little, and unloaded with some good shots from the guard before returning to his feet. Seconds later they were back on the mat, and Dollaway was quickly able to lock in the Peruvian neck tie to get the submission win. A good fight to begin the show with, and two good performances in what could only be termed as a nice even fight.

Then it’s down a division for some welterweight action, with Anthony Johnson facing Kevin Burns. The first round began at a fast pace, with both fighters clinching, swinging and kicking as they tried to get the breakthrough. A stray low kick from Johnson saw a brief halt to the proceedings, before Johnson scored with a good looking take down. But once he got in the guard, Johnson’s pressure was negated by Burns’ work, before the referee stood both fighters up because of inactivity, with the round ending in a clinch up against the fence, and Burns with a cut above his right eye.

Round two began with a Johnson shot and a follow-up knee that staggered Burns, and a left from Johnson coming out of a clinch seemed to have the same effect as well. Burns tried to keep up with Johnson, who always seemed to be one step ahead of him, even though he complained of three eye pokes, and looked be tiring as the round went on. Johnson then scored with a take down, Burns went for an arm submission which ultimately went nowhere. Once again there was a lack of action on the mat, and they were returned to their feet by the referee, before Johnson scored with another take down as the round came to an end.

Burns was the aggressor as the third round began, connecting with a few good shots and kicks before Johnson scored with another take down. But once again he failed to capitalise on his advantage, and again it wasn’t long before the referee stood the fighters up again. Johnson quickly scored with another take down, and again the referee stood them up. When they returned to their feet, controversy. Burns threw a right hand, Johnson fell to the mat, screaming that he had been poked in the eye, which was something that the replays confirmed. The fight was stopped there and then, and to the surprise of many Burns was declared the winner via TKO. I’m left scratching my head about this one, because Burns broke the rules, but still won. What gives?

Time for the big boys next, with Cain Velasquez facing Jake O’Brien in heavyweight action. This one didn’t last long. From the early grappling which soon saw them go down to the mat. Velasquez controlled the fight, trapping both of his arms from the side control and connecting with a ton of unanswered blows, and with O’Brien unable to defend himself, the referee quickly stepped in and awarded Velasquez the TKO win. A truly dominating performance from the winner here. Good stuff.

After an interview with Georges St-Pierre, it’s on to lightweight action with Hermes Franca and Frankie Edgar. A good start to the fight saw Edgar get the take down straight away, and working well in the guard, before Franca quickly sprang to life and almost synched in an armbar, with Edgar escaping quite easily. After a brief return to their feet Edgar scored with another take down and again worked Franca well, with elbows to the head resulting in bumps appearing on the head of the green-haired one.

It wasn’t long before Edgar took the fight to the ground again in the second round, and as Edgar tried for the ground and pound, it became apparent that Franca was just waiting for a good opportunity. The opportunity just didn’t seem to come as Edgar maintained control, even managing to take Franca’s back for a few seconds before he rolled back into the guard. A quick scramble back to the feet saw Edgar score with yet another take down, and by the end of the round Franca’s face was starting to look like a swollen mess.

Franca scored with an uppercut to begin the final round, as he seemed to realise that he had to do something to win the fight. But it wasn’t long before Edgar was back in his guard position, before scoring with the take down again after Franca scrambled away. No matter what Franca tried, Edgar seemed to have a counter for it. It was a truly dominating performance from Edgar, and even when Franca connected with a few good blows that opened up a cut, Edgar came back with a take down. So with the fight going the distance, the unanimous decision went toe Edgar, and rightfully so.

Then it’s on to the first light-heavyweight fight of the night, with Brandon Vera moving down a division to face Reese Andy. Vera began round one with a couple of high kicks, before Andy took him down, with Vera getting back up straight away. As the round went on it became clear that Vera was the better striker. Seconds later Vera scored with a take down, but didn’t seem able to take advantage of the situation, with the round ending with Vera defending an Andy shot.

A clinch greeted the beginning of the second round, with Vera following up with a take down and taking Andy’s back, but again having no luck while he was in that position. Then both men seemed to spend a great deal of time just looking at each other, which only seemed to end when the crowd began to voice their disapproval, which they did again during a clinch up against the cage, and apart from a couple of kicks, it was pretty much the same for the rest of the round.

Round three began in the way that round two ended. A clinch against the cage saw the referee break them up when nothing happened. More clinches followed, with little else happening, until Vera scored with a couple of good knees. The length of this paragraph should show you just how active the fighters were for the remainder of the round, and with the fight going the distance, the judges awarded the fight to Vera, in what can only be term as an uninspiring and quite boring debut at light-heavyweight.

Main event time, with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva moving up to light-heavyweight to face James Irvin. After the previous fight this was just what the doctor ordered. Following the quick feeling out process, Irvin went for a right kick. Anderson stopped it, held it with his left arm, and connected with a hard right that sent Irvin crashing to the mat. As the spider went in for the kill the referee stepped in to stop the fight, giving Silva the knockout win. A quick and dominant performance from the world’s best fighter here.

With some time to fill, a preliminary fight is shown, Rory Markham against Brodie Farber in the welterweight division. These two went at it straight from the beginning, both getting off good shots, before Farber dropped his guard and Markham connected with a right kick to the head. Farber fell to the floor like the proverbial sack of spuds. Markham immediately walked away, knowing he had the knockout victory.

In conclusion - you’re probably waiting for me to say that as it’s a UFC show, it’s great. Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint you there. Although this did feature some good fights, and another great performance by the best fighter on the planet, the show was let down by the strange decision in the Johnson/Burns fight, and the non-event that was Vera/Andy. Otherwise, the fighters did well, and I can’t really condemn the entire show just because of two poor fights. So in the end, a reasonable show from UFC here, which leaves me looking forward to the pay-per-view in a couple of weeks.

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