Tuesday, 9 September 2008

UFC 88: Breakthrough on Setanta Sports - TV Review

The legend has returned, but can he take the promising up-and-comer? That’s the question I want answers for as Chuck Liddell faces Rashad Evans in the main event of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s 88th show, Breakthrough, shown live here in Britain on Setanta Sports. As always, our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The broadcast begins with action from the welterweight division, with Dong Hyun Kim facing Matt Brown. The first round begins with the usual feeling out process, before Kim scored with a couple of take downs. He soon managed to take Brown’s back, synching both hooks in, but Brown managed to escape. Kim returned to this tactic straight away, and this time he managed to synch in the rear naked choke, which Brown was again able to escape from. For a third time Kim jumped onto Brown’s back, taking a hold of Brown’s arm, before Kim flipped round and Brown got into the guard position. It wasn’t long before they were back up on their feet though. A couple of kicks from Brown were met by a hard punch from Kim. Later, Brown defended well against Kim’s attempted takedown. A long clinch up against the cage followed, before they went back down to the ground and Brown tried to synch in a choke from a side headlock position. This didn’t work, as Kim once again took his back, working for an arm bar submission as the round came to an end.

Round two began with a few kicks from Brown, some landed, some didn’t, before Kim responded with a couple of shots. This continued until Kim attempted a jumping knee which resulted in him landing on the mat. Brown then scored with a couple of muay thai knees, which the Korean responded well to, before a clinch up against a cage. Brown showed good defence against Kim’s takedown attempts as he kept up his pace of attacks. It wasn’t long before Brown was in Kim’s guard, and despite a couple of good up kicks from Kim, Brown kept on the attack, trying a variety of tactics before deciding that the fight should come back up. Kim seemed a little bewildered, as if he didn’t know what he should be doing, and a combination from Brown staggered him a little. As the round entered it’s final minute Brown took Kim down, and then went looking for an arm triangle before unleashing with the ground and pound as the round came to an end.

Round three, and Kim was now looking exhausted. Brown was so eager to get things going he forgot his mouthpiece, and found out when Kim connected with a blow to his chin. Despite looking the worse for wear, Kim scored with a takedown, but Brown soon scrambled away. The next minute or so saw a clinch up against the fence as the fight began to visibly slow down. After connecting with a left hook, Kim scored a second takedown, taking Brown’s half guard, before Brown closed the guard. The fatigue was now beginning to tell on both fighters, with Brown able to match anything that Kim threw at him, although Kim’s elbow shots opened up a nasty cut under Brown’s left eye.

So with the fight going the distance, it was up to the judges, with Kim getting the split decision, which didn’t sit too well with the fans in attendance. A very good fight, and I have to admit that I think Brown edged it.

Then it’s up to the middleweight division, with Martin Kampmann taking on Nate Marquardt. Round one began quickly, with both guys exchanging blows and kicks. Nate soon connected Kampmann with a big kick which staggered the Dane, before he went for the kill, unloading with a barrage of blows which Kampmann had no answer to, and as Kampmann slumped down to the mat against the cage, the referee stepped in to stop the assault, giving Nate the TKO win. An explosive performance from Marquardt here, handing Kampmann his first ever UFC defeat.

The middleweight division provided the next fight as well, with Dan Henderson taking on Rousimar Palhares. Round one saw a slow start, with nothing happening for the first thirty seconds until Henderson suddenly exploded with a right hand. Palhares went for the takedown twice, but Henderson was more for a match than that. Palhares got caught again with the right hand as he went for a takedown, but this seemed to be the wrong tactic for Palhares, as Henderson seemed more than capable of defending himself. Palhares then went for the punching attack, but Henderson was more than a match, and soon got the upper hand in this exchange. The final minute saw Palhares finally score with a messy looking takedown, gaining side control. But as the clock ticked down Palhares just didn’t seem to do anything.

Round two, and once again Henderson was able to defend against Palhares’ takedown attempts, until the Brazilian finally caught him and slammed him to the mat with authority. It wasn’t long before Palhares managed to go for a heel hook, although Henderson managed to escape, albeit with a limp as a result of the submission attempt. Back on the ground Henderson tried for a front choke, but as nothing came of it he let the hold go. It wasn’t long before they were back on the mat, with Anderson in Palhares’ full guard, but without anything going on for a while, the referee stood the fighters up. The last meaningful action of the round saw Henderson attempt a high kick.

Round three began with both fighters sizing each other up again, before Henderson sprawled to Palhares’ takedown attempt, and with Palhares attempting a few more unorthodox kicks, while Henderson preferred the jab. Palhares again went for the takedown attempt, and once again Henderson was able to defend. The fighters then went on to exchange various blows at intermittent intervals, before things began to really slow down, with only a few salvos and Henderson’s continued take down defence livening things up. In the last minute Palhares managed to grab hold of Henderson’s leg, but nothing came of it, and the round ended with Henderson beginning to unload the ground.

The judges decision - Henderson by unanimous decision, and rightfully so. Henderson was his usual best, but Palhares just didn’t do it for me.

Light-heavyweight action follows, with Tim Boetsch taking on Michael Patt. The fight began with both men looking sprightly, with Boetsch connecting with a good shot. The exchanges continued until both fighters got into a clinch, until they returned to their original tactics, exchanging blows and kicks, before a Boetsch right knocked Patt down to the canvas. Boetsch then went for the kill with the ground and pound, before the referee called a halt to proceedings. Good stuff from Boetsch here.

Main event time #1, light-heavyweight action with former middleweight champ Rich Franklin stepping up to face Matt Hamill. Round one, and Franklin began by testing the waters with a few kicks. Hamill began to respond in kind as both fighters began to size each other up. The exchanges continued, with Franklin suffering a cut under his right eye brow. This was how things went until the final minute of the round, when Hamill scored with a takedown, and Franklin went for an arm bar before they got back to their feet, and this exchange saw Hamill sustain a cut near his right eye as well.

Round two, and things continued as they had in the first round, with Franklin getting the upper hand with his combinations. The referee then called a time-out so the doctor could check Franklin’s cut. The fight re-started after the doctor let Franklin continue. Ace didn’t let the problems with the cut bother him as he continued his assault, although an inside let cut caught Hamill a little low, although he was able to quickly shake it off. The action soon continued, with Franklin’s dominance growing all the time. Hamill began to walk around the octagon with his hands low, as well as starting to look tired as the round came to an end.

Round three, and Franklin continued with the tactics that had worked so well in the two previous rounds. A Franklin kick to Hamill’s mid-section sent him down, and the referee stepped in before Franklin could cause more damage. An excellent performance from the former champion.

Main event time #2, more light-heavyweight action with the Iceman himself, Chuck Liddell, taking on the former Ultimate Fighter Rashad Evans. This was the fight that was meant to take place a few months ago in London, but Liddell’s hamstring injury put paid to that. Round one began with the feeling out process, before Liddell got off a couple of good shots. This continued for a number of moments, with Liddell circling Evans. The Iceman soon caught Evans with a good right hand, but as Liddell continued to circle Evans, Sugar was able to avoid most of Liddell’s punch attempts. Evans tried to confuse the former champion by continually changing his stance, and a quick shot from Evans opened up a cut under Liddell’s right eye.

Round two, and Liddell continued with the tactic he’d used in the first, always looking for the big right hand. A quick exchange soon began, it wasn’t long before Evans began to connect with left hooks and right hands, until it was now Evans circling Liddell. But then, as Liddell went for a right uppercut, Evans connected with a right of his own. Liddell was out cold, falling to the mat like the proverbial sack of spuds. The only thing I can say about this is wow!

In conclusion - despite the technical problems encountered by Setanta during the live broadcast, which meant that I had to catch the repeat showing, UFC 88 was a good show, delivering what it set out to do. I’m fast becoming a fan of Rich Franklin, and I was pleased that he won, but I’m left to wonder just what’s left for Chuck Liddell now? Could this be the last we’ve seen of the Iceman? I hope not.

So in all a very good and enjoyable effort from Dana White and his crew. No bad fights on this one fellas.