Tuesday, 16 December 2008

UFC Ultimate Fighter 8 Finale on Setanta Sports - TV Review

It’s the second visit to the world of the Ultimate Fighting Championship in recent days, and this time it’s to look at the live final of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, shown live here in Britain on Setanta Sports in the early days of last Sunday morning. However, as with Cage Rage’s similar show, I actually haven’t watched any of the shows, but as I’ve discovered in the past, this won’t detract from my enjoyment of the action.

The show begins with Junie Browning taking on David Kaplan in the lightweight division. Round one began, as most of these fights seem to do, with a brief feeling out process, but Brownie’s first kick of the fight caught Kaplan in a certain unwanted spot. Kaplan rested for a few seconds before returning to the fight. Combinations and kicks were exchanged, with Browning in particular getting some good shots in. It wasn’t long before Browning was all over Kaplan, connecting with a knee, but after slipping, Kaplan pounced and almost got in an ankle lock. After Browning escaped, he soon took the guard before taking Kaplan’s back, but failed to synch in the rear naked choke. A brief clinch followed before the fighters started banging again, and once again Browning’s stand up looked better. After connecting with a good shot of his own, Kaplan tripped browning, but his attempt at a leg lock failed. Moments later Kaplan was able to drag Browning to the ground, but Browning was the better worker, soon taking Kaplan’s back again and going for another choke. When the first attempt failed, Browning caught up with a couple of good shots as he sat behind him. It was then that Kaplan escaped, and got off a couple of good knees while in a muay thai clinch, with the round finishing with both fighters in a clinch, jockeying for position.

Round two saw Kaplan begin with some wild punches, until Browning shot for the double leg take down, succeeding in doing so. Browning then attempted to transition, with Kaplan making the job difficult for him, until Browning was able to pass into side control so he could synch in an arm bar. Seconds later at it was over as Kaplan tapped out to give the submission victory to Browning. A very impressive performance from Browning here, very enjoyable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more of him in the UFC in the future.

Then it was up to the light-heavyweight division, with Eliot Marshall facing Jules Bruchez. Marshall came out swinging, catching Bruchez and staggering him with his very first punch. The onslaught only continued for a few seconds until he was able to take Bruchez down and establish side control. After an attempt at a kimura failed, Marshall quickly took full mount before quickly taking Bruchez’s back, synching in the rear naked choke. Bruchez tried to resist, but soon tapped out. A dominating performance from Marshall, and another fighter I wouldn’t mind seeing more of.

Middleweight action followed, with Jason MacDonald taking on Wilson Gouveia. This one began with Gouveia testing the waters with a kick, before MacDonald took hold of the Brazilian’s legs, looking for a take down, and it wasn’t long before that happened. They didn’t stay on the ground long though as Gouveia kicked MacDonald off and got back up to his feet. A clinch against the cage followed, but this went nowhere, with the fighters going back to the stand up game. MacDonald got in a few good shots, but a right from Gouveia rocked the Canadian and he fell to the mat. Gouveia went in for the kill, connecting with punches and elbows, opening up a cut on MacDonald’s forehead. MacDonald head no defence against the torrent of blows, and realising that he couldn’t win, MacDonald tapped. Some good moments from both fighters, although I thought MacDonald was going to get the plaudits here given his good work early on.

Down to the welterweight division for the next fight, with Kevin Burns facing Anthony Johnson. Round one began with both fighters exchanging kicks, before exchanging a few good combinations. Burns seemed to be scoring better with his left jab, keeping Johnson on the back foot until Johnson scored with the take down. Both guys tried to work, until Johnson stood up momentarily and went back down to take side control, but while Johnson tried to get into position, Burns went for a triangle choke, which failed to end the fight, with Johnson taking full guard. The struggle between the two fighters continued, with Johnson looking for ground and pound, and Burns looking for submissions, until the referee stood them up due to inactivity. Back in the middle of the cage Burns connected with a right, but then Johnson blocked a kick and pushed him down to the mat, kicking Burns’ legs instead of taking up Burns’ invitation to go to the ground, which resulted in the referee standing him back up. The round ended with both fighters getting off a couple of good shots.

Round two, and Johnson was the first to connect with a couple of kicks. Johnson was the first to try for a take down, with Burns sprawling to defend. But has Johnson had held of a leg, they went down to the mat a second later. Burns then immediately went for a kimura, but Johnson was able to free himself, quickly going to half guard before going to the full guard. Johnson then went for the ground and pound, connecting with a couple of good elbows, which Burns responded to with a few elbows of his own. Both fighters tried to stamp their own authority on the match, with Burns only able to defend himself against Johnson’s blows to the head and body. This continued for the next few moments, until Burns rolled over and tried for an arm bar. Johnson’s response was to connect with a hammer fist, the last notable moment of the second round.

Round three, and both men came out swinging and kicking. After a couple of exchanges, it happened. Johnson connected with a high left kick to the side of Burns’ head, and Burns fell to the ground like the proverbial sack of spuds, out of it before he even fell. A great fight here, with some good grappling action topped off with a great knockout from Johnson.

Then it was time for the first final, the light heavyweight fight between Ryan Bader and Vinicius Magalhaes. Both fighters began tentatively with blows and kicks, with Magalhaes connecting with a good body kick, before Bader came back with a jumping knee. More exchanges followed, until Bader went down to the mat after a missed kick, which Magalhaes was unable to capitalize on. After more combinations were exchanged, Bader connected with a big right that sent Magalhaes crashing to the mat. A few Bader hammer fists followed before the referee stepped in to stop the onslaught, giving Bader the victory and a UFC contract. A very good fight from both men, and if this is the standard of the fighters coming through then we’ve got a lot to look forward to.

The light heavyweight action continued with Krzysztof Soszynski and Shane Primm. Round one, and Soszynski came out swinging, until Primm took him swiftly down. Things didn’t last long down there, with Primm getting to his feet, and after a brief clinch against the cage, Soszynski got a couple of good shots, then sprawled against Primm’s take down attempt. Soszynski then got into Primm’s guard, and with Primm attempting an arm bar, Soszynski lifted him up and slammed him back down again. It wasn’t long though before both me got back up to their feet with another clinch up against the fence, which went nowhere. Primm then went for another shoot, and once again Soszynski sprawled, attempted to take the back, before getting into the guard and then transitioning into side control. Soszynski then got back to his feet before going back down to take side control, looking for a kimura. Primm defended, but Soszynski just couldn’t get it in the right position, so gave up the hold. The round ended with Soszynski once again in Primm’s guard.

Round two, and Primm took his corner’s advice, faking a take down and connecting with a punch. Soszynski replied with a couple of combinations. It wasn’t long before Primm went for another shot, which Soszynski again sprawled against, before getting back to his feet. Both fighters began to connect with some good combinations, but a lazy looking shot from Primm saw Soszynski take control on the ground, quickly taking half guard before being pushed off by Primm. But it wasn’t long before they were back on the mat, with Soszynski back in half guard, transitioning into side control, looking for another kimura. This time he got it, and Primm tapped immediately. Another good fight between two evenly matched opponents.

Then it was on to Phillipe Nover facing Efrain Escudero in the lightweight final. Round one began with both fighters testing the waters with kicks, before Nover connected with a big right. Escudero responded with the first take down of the fight. A few moments later Nover attempted an arm, which Escudero easily escaped, and when Nover stood up, Escudero sent him back down with a right hand, taking Nover’s back immediately. When his attempt at a choke failed, Escudero transitioned into the guard and went for the ground and pound, before standing up momentarily. When he went back down into Nover’s guard, Nover went for a triangle, before going for a standing kimura, failing with both. Both fighters then returned to their feet, before Escudero took the fight straight down again. Nover then went for another triangle, with Escudero easily escaping. It wasn’t long before they were both on their feet again, before going straight back down to the mat. Escudero then connected with a big right that sent Nover’s head crashing to the ground. A short time later both fighters were back on their feet, engaging in a clinch against the cage as the first round came to an end.

Round two, and it wasn’t long before Escudero took the fight to the ground again, taking side control. When he couldn’t get anything down below, he stood back up and connected with a few kicks to Nover’s thighs as he lay on the mat, with Nover having little success with his up kicks. Seconds later Nover stood up, but soon found himself in another clinch. This lasted for a few moments before they returned to the centre of the cage, looking for an opening. Escudero got the better of this, ducking under Nover’s attempted blows into another clinch. But Nover attempted a standing guillotine, which went nowhere, with Escudero taking the fight back down to the mat, taking Nover’s guard. Escudero was clearly getting the better of Nover, controlling the fight with his wrestling skills. As the round came to an end both fighters stood up, and Nover connected with a big kick to the body. Escudero’s response - another big take down.

Round three, and while Nover was looking for strikes, it was obvious that Escudero was looking for the take down, which he soon got. They didn’t stay on the ground for long though, and by now it was obvious that Escudero had Nover’s number. Once again, when Nover went for a punch, Escudero ducked and took him down. This time, though, Nover went looking for a kimura, an attempt which quickly failed. As Escudero tried to move position, Nover went looking for an alma plata, but Nover’s problem was that Escudero was controlling his right leg. As Nover rained down blows to the body and head, Escudero kept a hold of the leg, until Nover popped up and stopped the attempt. This time the roles were reversed, with Escudero on his back and Nover going for the leg kicks as the fight came to an end.

So with the fight going the three round distance, it was up to the judges to decide, and all three gave the fight to Escudero, and rightfully so, because his was an outstanding and dominating performance.

In conclusion - following on from a very good Ultimate Fight Night 16, the Ultimate Fighter Finale proved to be just as good. Again, there wasn’t a bad fight here, and it was good to see some of the fighters who could become the future of the sport such as Browning, Escudero and Bader. The future of mixed martial arts, and in particular the UFC, looks very bright indeed.