Thursday, 29 January 2009

Affliction: Day of Reckoning on Bravo - TV Review

It’s debut time again here in The Two Sheds Review, as we take a look back at Affliction’s latest pay-per-view offering, Day of Reckoning, headline by Andrei Arlovski challenging Fedor Emelianenko for the WAMMA Heavyweight title, in a broadcast that was shown on a twenty-four hour delay on Bravo here in Britain. Our hosts for the evening are Sean Wheelock, Jimmy Smith and Tito Ortiz.

The broadcast begins with action from the heavyweight division, with Paul Buentello facing Fedor prot�g� Kiril Sidellnikov. Round one began with the fighters exchanging jabs, before Sidellnikov began to throw some bombs, only for Buentello to return in kind. A clinch in the corner followed, where both men were able to unload with knees and punches. Sidellnikov’s left eye was beginning to swell by this stage. It wasn’t long before both fighters began trading again, before a second clinch in the corner which saw the fighters connecting with the knees again. However, Sidellnikov was able to reverse the position, but it wasn’t long before Buentello fought his way free. Back in the middle of the ring the fighters began to trade blows again, with Buentello scoring with a right uppercut. Another clinch followed, before they quickly returned to the stand-up game, with Buentello getting the better of the exchanges as the round entered it’s final minute. The fighters found themselves in another clinch in the corner, each getting their licks in, before moving out as the round came to an end.

Round two began with Buentello connecting with a jab. A few seconds later Sidellnikov stumbled a little after attempting a kick. However, it wasn’t long before Buentello began to use the left jab again as he looked to get control of the fight. Sidellnikov landed a few good punches of his own, but Buentello always seemed to be one step ahead of the Russian. But then a few moments later Sidellnikov suddenly came alive, staggering the American a little before getting him in a body lock in the corner in an attempt to take him down. This ultimately failed, so they returned to swinging and banging, where once again Buentello got the upper hand. Sidellnikov then shot for Buentello’s legs, which the American easily defended, before staggering the Russian again. It seemed as if the American was finding the mark with every punch he threw, seemingly targeting Sidellnikov’s swelled eye as the round ended.

Round three, and once again Buentello sought to control the fight with his boxing, and once again he seemed to get the upper hand early on, using his left jab to one again target Sidellnikov’s damaged eye. Moments a later, a big uppercut rocked the Russian. By this time Sidellnikov was looking tired, and Buentello looked like he was using his younger opponent for target practice. A brief trip to the mat followed, but they didn’t stay down there long before they got back to their feet. Seconds later, Buentello staggered Sidellnikov with a jab, and knocked him to the mat shortly afterwards. A brief pause followed when Sidellnikov lost his gum shield, but the rest didn’t do him any good, as Buentello continued with the jab when the fight re-started. Sidellnikov then spat the mouthpiece again, and after the referee asked for the ringside doctor to look at the Russian, the fight was called immediately, giving the well deserved TKO victory to Buentello in what proved to be a good opening contest.

Then it was down to the light heavyweight division, with Renato Sobral facing Thierry Sokoudjou. Round one began with the usual feeling out process, exchanging jabs and kicks. Sobral went for a quick take down, but quickly decided against that course of action. However, a second attempt soon followed, with Sobral tying up Sokoudjou against the ropes and trying a belly to belly that failed. A second clinch followed, which the referee broke up because the African had hooked the ropes. When the fight restarted Sobral soon took Sokoudjou’s back, who seemed to try to get out of the ring to break the hold. Once again the referee separated them, and it wasn’t long before the fight went to the ground, with Sokoudjou in top position, going to the ground and pound. He soon took Sobral’s back, but not for long as both men got to their feet, with Sobral hooking Sokoudjou’s leg in an attempt to take him down. This soon turned into a clinch, but that went nowhere, so they were separated again, the last thing of note to happen in the round.

Round two began with the fighters exchanging blows, both of them getting in some good shots before Sobral took his opponent down. Once then he went to work with the ground and pound. The Brazilian then passed guard to side control, before going back to half guard and going for the ground and pound once again. But when the action got to close to the ropes, the referee moved them back to the centre of the ring, where Sobral continued with his control, and continued with the ground and pound. Sokoudjou then tried to escape, giving Sobral the chance to apply the anaconda choke. Seconds later, Sokoudjou was tapping, the submission victory going to the Brazilian in what was a very good and patient performance against an opponent who really needs to work on his ground game.

Down to the middleweight division next, with the Phenom himself, Vitor Belfort, tacking Matt Lindland. A quick one here. Belfort make the first move with a low kick. Then Belfort caught Lindland with a left hook that sent him down. Belfort followed him down for the ground and pound, with the referee quickly calling a halt to the fight. Lindland was unconscious for some time, such was the ferocity of Belfort’s blow, and received medical attention for quite some time. Thankfully he was able to leave the ring under his own steam though. A good performance from Belfort here, something I haven’t seen from him in a while.

Then it was time for more heavyweight action, with Josh Barnett and Gilbert Yvel. Round one began with both fighters looking for an opening, unleashing the occasional punch or kick. Yvel tried for a kick, but Barnett blocked it and took the fight down to the ground, taking Yvel’s half guard, looking for the ground and pound. Yvel tried to move up and out of the way, but Barnett just took him down again and went back to work. He then went looking for a kimura, which Yvel easily escaped from. Barnett then went for an Americana, but soon gave up so he could go back to the ground and pound, soon taking side mount before going back to half guard, once again looking for a kimura. Barnett then went into full mount, and again rained down with a flurry of blows. Yvel tried to work his way out, only for Barnett to take his back and deliver more punishment. The last ten seconds saw Yvel finally get up off the mat.

Round two saw Yvel come out fighting, before Barnett took him down again, taking side control. The work was a little slower this time, but he soon began to work for the kimura again, another attempt which ended in failure. Back in the half guard, and then the mount, Barnett went to work with the blows again. Yvel tried to come back with some blows of his own, but they had literally no effect on the American. But Barnett looked in complete control with everything he did. Yvel again managed to land with a few punches, but this seemed more like an effort to appease the referee more than anything else. As the round came to an end Yvel reversed the positions, but he just didn’t have enough time to do any kind of damage.

Round three, and Yvel managed to connect with a few good blows, only to be met with a big Barnett take down, with the American quickly taking the mount, connecting with punches and elbows. Try as he might, Yvel just couldn’t escape, and once again Barnett looked in full control as he went for the ground and pound. Yvel tried to defend himself, but in the end it was too much for the Dutchman. As Barnett came down with another torrent of blows, Yvel tapped. This was an outstanding and dominating performance from Barnett here. I have to admit I haven’t seen many of his fights, but this was, by far, the best I’ve seen from him.

Main event time, with former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski challenging Fedor Emelianenko for the WAMMA Heavyweight title. This was another one that didn’t last too long. Arlovski came out looking strong, and was the first to make contact with a leg kick, following up with a big right hand. Arlovski continued to throw blows, with Fedor looking a little sloppy when he tried to return in kind. A clinch against the ropes followed, and as Fedor went for a leg trip, Arlovski was able to defend. But with the clinch coming to nothing, the referee separated them. Arlovski then continued to have success with his hand speed, and as he backed Fedor into the corner with a front kick, Arlovski made the fatal error. As he leapt up to deliver a big knee, Fedor connected with a right to the jaw. Arlovski was out before he hit the ground as the referee called an immediate halt to the contest. This was a great example of how quickly things can turn in an MMA fight. Arlovski was clearly winning from the early exchanges, and just one punch from the man heralded as the best fighter on the planet, and it was over. Is Fedor the best fighter in the world? Well, having only seen a few of his Pride fights, I would have to say no. He’s close, though.

In conclusion - my first experience of an Affliction MMA show is a very good one. Everything impressed me, from the layout of the arena to the production values, as well as, of course, the fights themselves. There wasn’t one bad one here folks, with Josh Barnett’s dominating performance against Gilbert Yvel clearly the fight of the night. It was also good to see Big John McCarthy back where he belongs, as he’s definitely the best referee in the world at the moment.

There was one thing that I wasn’t too impressed with though - while Tito Ortiz did well at the commentary table, as an in-ring interviewer, he kind of sucked, fluffing his lines countless times.

So can Affliction become a viable alternative to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Yes, they can. Their use of a ring instead of a cage is a step in the right direction, but while the UFC blueprint is a good one to copy, Affliction has to forge it’s own identity, otherwise they’ll come off looking like a poor man’s version of the UFC. It’s something I’ve seen in the professional wrestling business countless times. So instead of looking like a poor man’s UFC, I would advise the powers-that-be to become a rich man’s Affliction.

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