Tuesday, 12 August 2008

UFC 87: Seek & Destroy on Setanta Sports - TV Review

It’s make or break time for Brock Lesnar. Can the former WWE Champion score his first UFC victory against the veteran Heath Herring. And can one of the greatest of all, Georges St-Pierre, successfully defend his welterweight title angst Jon Fitch? Well, that’s what I hope to find out as I take a look at UFC 87: Seek & Destroy, shown live on Setanta Sports here in Britain, and, as always, hosted by the ever dependable Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The broadcast begins with action from the middleweight division, and features Jason MacDonald against Demian Maia. The fight began with both fighters quickly going down to the mat, with MacDonald in Maia’s guard position, but working from the bottom, holding onto MacDonald’s right arm. The Brazilian quickly went for submission hold, and it looked like MacDonald was going to tap, before he managed to escape the hold and take Maia’s back, going for a rear naked choke. But Maia soon escaped and worked his way back onto his back. The good work continued as MacDonald transitioned and locked in a guillotine, which Maia was able to escape from. Then, Maia quickly took MacDonald’s back, and went for the rear naked choke himself, complete with body lock. But the Canadian worked his way out just as the round came to an end.

Round two saw Maia come out with a cut above his eye, courtesy of MacDonald’s ground and pound in the previous round. The round began with an exchange of blows, before a clinch up against the cage. After Maia connected with a few muay thai knees in the clinch, a leg trip from the Brazilian took the fight to the ground again, with Maia in the full guard, and went for the ground and pound, which MacDonald was able to defend, although he now had a cut on the bridge of his nose. Maia continued with this tactic, with some brief intermissions so he could rest up a little. Towards the end of the round MacDonald tried to escape from the guard, but Maia managed to grab hold of his arm. But it wasn’t enough as MacDonald managed to escape and take Maia’s guard as the round came to an end.

The final round saw Maia go for the take down. MacDonald tried to defend, but it didn’t last for long. A couple of quick transitions followed until the Canadian got on top. Maia tried to escape, and MacDonald had his back for a few seconds, before Maia transitioned into MacDonald’s guard, taking his back a few seconds later. After connecting with a few punches, Maia locked in the rear naked choke, with MacDonald tapping moments later. An excellent fight, and a great display from both fighters showing that you don’t have to bang and bang to have a good MMA fight.

Down to the lightweight division for the second fight, with Kenny Florian facing Roger Huerta. The first round began with a lengthy feeling out process, before Florian scored with a good takedown, taking Huerta’s guard up against the cage. Huerta tried to escape, but Florian soon took his back. But after a few seconds Huerta managed to escape, and both fighters returned to their feet. It was then Huerta’s turn to be the aggressor, going for the take down, although he only succeeded in getting Florian up against the cage, before they once again went back to the stand up game, both connecting with some good punches and kicks as the round came to an end.

Round two began with more exchanges, with Florian looking a but more determined, having obviously listened to his corner between rounds. A brief clinch up against the fence saw them return to the centre of the cage, with Huerta getting off some shots which Florian simply averted. Another clinch up against the cage saw Huerta attempt a kimura, but a quick scramble saw Florian take Huerta’s back, with the hometown boy escaping just a few seconds later. Back in the middle, Florian scored with a leg sweep and punch that sent Huerta down to the mat. The exchanges continued, with brief moments of rest, before more clinches up against the cage, and the round ending with a good exchange of punches from the two fighters.

The third began with Florian scoring with a takedown, with the fighters returning upright quickly. Florian was very aggressive, connecting with a good left hand and a knee before taking it back down to the ground, with Florian on the top. Both fighters connected with a couple of good shots before they returned to their feet with a clinch up against the cage, which ultimately led to nothing. So it was back to centre cage where they began exchanging blows again, with neither man able to gain any sort of superiority over the other. As the fight went into it’s last ninety seconds, Huerta began to stalk Florian around the ring, with Florian constantly on his back foot. But it the last thirty seconds Florian scored with a take down which didn’t last long, and the fight ended with both fighters getting off a couple of good blows. So with the fight going the three round distance, the judges awarded gave the unanimous decision to Florian, which meant a first UFC defeat for Huerta. Another good fight here, and a very good performance from Florian.

More lightweight action follows, with former Ultimate Fighter contestants Manvel Gamburyan and Rob Emerson, two guys who really impressed me when I reviewed The Ultimate Fighter 5 DVD set recently. This one lasted just twelve seconds. Both fighters came out extremely aggressively, with Gamburyan a little bit too aggressive. Both men swung, but Emerson connected with a straight right that sent Gamburyan down to the mat, and a left that all but knocked him out. The referee stepped in immediately to stop the fight, awarding Emerson the knockout victory. An explosive performance from Emerson, and hopefully we’ll see more from him in the future.

Then it’s on to the big fellas, the heavyweight division, with Cheick Kongo, the man who ended Mirko Cro Cop’s UFC career, taking on Dan Evensen. Both fighters looked aggressive as the first round began, Kongo in particular, working his left jab and a kick, before a clinch up against the fence saw Kongo scored with a take down. Nothing much happened then, until Kongo pulled Evensen away from the cage and the Frenchman connected with a few leg kicks as the Norwegian lay on the mat. The referee soon called Evensen up to his feet, and another clinch up against the cage soon followed, with the referee warning both fighters for their lack of activity, although Evensen was trying to apply a standing guillotine, although Kongo was able to pull his head out a few moments later. The clinch then continued up against the fence, with Kongo scoring with another takedown, taking the half guard position. The referee soon stood the fighters up again, and the last thirty seconds of the round saw Kongo connecting with a right hand that sent Evensen down, with the Frenchman going in for the kill with the ground and pound. With Evensen offering no defence, the referee stepped in and called a halt to the proceedings with just seconds left in the round, with Kongo awarded the TKO win. This guy has really improved since I first saw him in the UFC, and this was a damn good performance from Kongo.

The battle of the big guns continues, with more heavyweight action, as Brock Lesnar takes on Heath Herring. Round one began quickly. A big right hand from Lesnar early on sent Herring flying, before he went for a standing guillotine against the cage. Herring was able to escape, before Lesnar scored with a quick takedown. It wasn’t long before Lesnar took Herring’s back, and connected with a few punches. Herring tried to roll over to his guard, but Lesnar just rolled him back, and continued to connected with some good rights and some good knees. No matter what Herring tried Lesnar had an answer to it, and what was worse was Herring was that the left side of his face was turning into a bloody mess, a cut the result of Lesnar’s right hand.

Round two began with Herring’s eye swelling badly, and it wasn’t long before the fight was back on the floor, with Lesnar once again controlling Herring’s back, before taking side control. Lesnar was literally manhandling and battering Herring, able to transition at will against the more experienced fighter. There just seemed to be very little Herring could do, such was Lesnar’s control, and the round ended with Lesnar once again controlling Herring’s back.

Herring looked a beaten man as the final round began, with his left eye almost swollen shut. The Crazy Horse went for a couple of shots before he clinched Lesnar up against the cage. Seconds later Lesnar returned the fight to the ground, and again took Herring’s back. Herring tried in vain for a kimura, but Lesnar soon got into the guard, before going back to the back. Lesnar’s hard knees to the body were having an effect on Herring, who was able to get back to his feet, only for Lesnar to take him down seconds later. As the fight entered it’s final stages, Herring looked exhausted, unable to do anything against the big man as the fight came to an end. The judges decision - a unanimous vote for Lesnar, and it wasn’t surprising. This was a truly dominant performance from Lesnar, in only his third MMA fight. An excellent display.

Main event time, with Georges St-Pierre defending the Welterweight Championship against Jon Fitch. GSP began quickly in the first round, taking Fitch down immediately. After some good work from both men, GSP soon went to half guard, before going back to full guard, and then going for a guillotine. Fitch soon got back to his feet, but was taken back down straight away by the Canadian. Back on their feet, GSP knocked Fitch down with a right, wand then went for the ground and pound. A barrage of fists and elbows followed, and Fitch returned to his feet briefly, but looked very wobbly in doing so. Back on the mat after, with GSP in full guard, more ground and pound followed, with Fitch’s face starting to look like a bloody mess. GSP was dominating, able to transition at will as the round came to an end.

Fitch looked to have recovered somewhat as the second round began, and connected with a couple of body shots. Things seemed a lot more even as the round progressed, although GSP’s jab was working well. Each man got off some good shots against the other, with Fitch opening up a cut on GSP’s forehead. As the round entered it’s final minute, GSP went for a takedown, which Fitch defended, and as the round came to an end, GSP connected with a good right hand which seemed to rock Fitch a little.

Round three began in the same vein as round two, although GSP scored with a right that sent Fitch down. The champion soon took Fitch’s back, and after synching in both hooks he went for the rear naked choke. But Fitch was able to escape, getting into GSP’s guard. Both fighters began to work, but it wasn’t long before GSP himself escaped and got into Fitch’s guard. The challenger tried to scramble, but GSP maintained control before both fighters got back up to their feet. GSP looked to be the better fighter as they exchanged blows, and a couple of head kicks sent Fitch down again. With the challenger looking wobbly again, GSP went to work, scoring with a couple of good shots before scoring with a very good takedown as the round came to an end.

Round four, and both fighters looked for an opening, with GSP now suffering from a cut left eye. Fitch attempted a takedown, but once again GSP showed some good defence. Things seemed pretty even as the round went on, although GSP seemed to have some success working behind the left jab. Shortly afterwards Fitch went for another takedown, and again St-Pierre defended well, getting a takedown of his own soon afterwards. The champion went for a leg lock just as the round came to an end.

Before the fifth and final round began, the referee got the doctor to check over Fitch, who allowed him to continue. GSP soon got the upper hand in the exchange of blows, before taking Fitch down to the ground. Both fighters tried to work for position, but it wasn’t long before GSP took the advantage, connecting with two good rights and a big elbow. Fitch began to look fatigued as time went on, and with the fight going into the final two minutes, a quick return to their feet saw St-Pierre take Fitch down again. In the final minute Fitch tried to scramble out, but just had no answer to GSP’s skills, and the champion was in full control as the fight came to an end. The judges decision was unanimous, with St-Pierre getting the title retaining win in an outstanding contest, one of the best I’ve seen.

In conclusion - having been slightly disappointed with the last Ultimate Fight Night, UFC 87 made up for that disappointment. I’ve been very critical of Brock Lesnar’s career choices in the past, but I can do so no longer following his dominating performance here. Heath Herring is a hell of a fighter, and Lesnar made him look like a rookie. Kudos also to Georges St-Pierre for another outstanding performance, and hopefully the fight with Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn can be put together, because that’s something I’m really looking forward to.

So in the end, good stuff all round from Dana White and his crew. Not a bad fight here fellas.