Tuesday, 3 February 2009

UFC 94: St-Pierre v Penn 2 on Setanta Sports - TV Review

It’s one of the most anticipated re-matches in the history of mixed martial arts, as Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn steps up a division to once again face Welterweight king Georges St-Pierre at UFC 94: St-Pierre v Penn 2, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning here in Britain on Setanta Sports. As always, commentary duties are handled by Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

The show begins in the lightweight division, with Nate Diaz taking on Clay Guida. Round one began with both men trading jabs early, before Diaz tried to tie Guida up. It only worked for a few seconds. The next minute or so saw the fighters trading punches again, and I began to wonder if Guida’s long locks weren’t something of a disadvantage. Guida soon managed to grab hold of Diaz’s right leg, but that went nowhere. Seconds later the fight went to the mat. Diaz shot, but Guida pulled guard. Diaz tried to work his way out, but Guida ended up taking his back, applying a full nelson, before transitioning to side control where he landed a few elbows. He soon returned to Diaz’s back as both fighters got to their feet, but Guida soon took him down with a powerful slam. Guida then moved for a front guillotine, but quickly changed tact by taking Diaz’s back again, and the round ended with the fighters trading blows again.

Round two, and Diaz began quickly, getting in a few shots. He then attempted a hip throw, but Guida landed on his feet. A clinch up against the cage followed, with both fighters looking for leg sweeps. Guida soon grabbed hold of Diaz’s left leg, while Diaz himself tried for a kimura. Both men were soon on the mat momentarily, but soon got hack to their feet, still looking for their various moves. Eventually it was Diaz who took the fight to the ground, only for Guida to reverse again, taking Diaz’s back momentarily, and taking it again seconds later. No matter what Diaz tried, he just couldn’t shake the long-haired one. Diaz soon took Guida down with a leg sweep, but Guida remained in the same position. As the round entered it’s final minute Diaz went for another kimura, an attempt that failed when Guida went north south for a few seconds before taking Diaz’s back again. For the second time in the round Diaz took Guida down with a leg sweep, but again he couldn’t get Guida off his back. Guida eventually took the guard, but by then it was too late in the round.

Round three, and both fighters came out swinging. Both guys got some good shots in before Diaz instigated a clinch against the cage. It wasn’t long though before they started trading again, and this time Diaz looked as if he was getting the upper hand, even showboating for the crowd a couple of times. Diaz was connecting with blows to the head and body until Guida grabbed a hold of Diaz’s legs in an attempt to take him down. As Guida locked his arms around Diaz’s waist he tried to take his back. Diaz came back with a leg sweep, but as with his previous efforts he couldn’t get Guida off him as he lost control of his back. Once again Diaz countered by trying for a kimura, but it wasn’t long before they were on the ground, with Diaz trying for a triangle. As the clock ticked away they soon got back to their feet, with Guida still controlling Diaz’s back, and Diaz looking for a kimura. The last action saw Guida jumping onto Diaz’s back, only for Diaz to lower his head with Diaz slipping off.

So with the fight going the three round distance, it was down to the judges, with Guida getting the split decision, becoming the first man to defeat Diaz in the UFC. A really enjoyable fight here, possibly his best performance to date, although I would advise that he gets a haircut.

Then it was up to the welterweight division, with Karo Parisyan facing Dong Hyun Kim. Round one began with Kim firing off a few shots, before Parisyan connected with a big right that resulted in a clinch up against the cage. Seconds later they were down on the mat, and seconds after that Kim took Parisyan’s back. As Karo got to his feet, Kim hooked his lags around his waits and stayed on his back. They were soon back on the ground, with Kim in the same position, controlling the fight and connecting with a few good blows. But once again Parisyan got back up, and once again Kim was still holding on. This is how things stayed when they went back down, and it wasn’t long before Kim went for an armbar, and then a triangle, both of which Parisyan was able to escape from. Parisyan was soon in Kim’s guard, but the Korean kept on working, and when they got back up to their feet Kim took Parisyan’s back once again, before they engaged in another clinch against the cage, with Kim putting the knees in to Parisyan’s legs. The round ended with the fighters trading jabs.

Round two, and both fighters began to trade jabs, before Parisyan went for a take down, which Kim defended with a clinch, and it wasn’t long before Kim took Parisyan’s back again, soon going to the ground. Karo began to work immediately, going to a kimura which the Korean was able to escape from as they engaged in another clinch against the cage. Then, as Parisyan went for a leg, Kim was able to counter with a clinch, before Karo countered this with a judo throw to the ground, taking side control as they went down, and taking Kim’s back with double under hooks as they got to their feet. But as this went nowhere, another clinch against the cage followed. Moments later, after Karo lost his mouthpiece for the second time in the fight, they began exchanging blows again, with Parisyan pushing forward. As the end of the round neared Parisyan pushed Kim up against the cage, finishing things off with an elbow.

Round three began with both men swinging, with Parisyan pushing Kim up against the cage. Seconds later Kim scored with a take down, taking the full guard. But then Parisyan earned himself a warning from the referee when his up kick hit Kim in the face, although it looked more like a push. When the fight restarted it wasn’t long before they were back up against the cage in a clinch, with Kim taking Karo’s back briefly. As the clinch resumed both men connected with knees to the legs and body. Karo soon connected with a jumping knee, before taking Kim down seconds later. But Kim was able to get back to his feet, going back to the clinch. By this time the crowd were starting to get a little restless, as the action slowed down quite a bit as both men looked for position in the clinch for the remainder of the round.

So with the second fight going the distance, it was down to the judges again, with Parisyan getting the split decision. A bit of a surprise here, especially as the Korean looked in control early on. But a good fight nonetheless.

Light-heavyweight action followed, with former Ultimate Fighter Stephan Bonnar against Jon Jones. Round one began with the usual feeling out process, with Jones connecting with a couple of spinning back kicks. It wasn’t long before they engaged in a clinch, with Jones connecting with a knee to the body, and soon take it down to the mat with a nice judo throw. Moments later Bonnar got back up to his feet, only to get thrown back down straight away. However, the next time Bonnar got up, he stayed up. It was a while before both fighters got into another clinch, this one instigated by Bonnar. Jones managed to escape seconds later, taking Bonnar’s back and taking him down with a suplex. Once again Bonnar got back to his feet, only to go back down courtesy of a spinning elbow. Jones then went in for the kill, going for the ground and pound before taking Bonnar’s back again, eventually letting him back to his feet. Bonnar looked to regain his senses a little with a clinch, but looked staggered again as Jones connected with a knee, ending the round by taking Bonnar down again.

Round two, and Bonnar came out with a cut on his head, courtesy of the spinning elbow. Both fighters began to swing for the trees, exchanging a few good kicks as well. Thirty seconds in a leg trip saw Bonnar go down, and Jones pounced immediately, taking Bonnar’s back. Moments later they were squaring off again, with Jones connecting with another knee. The relative newcomer was looking good as he took Bonnar down again, soon taking the half guard position. Bonnar tried to move out, but Jones was in complete control, although Bonnar was soon able to escape and get back to his feet. After a few good exchanges, Bonnar began another clinch against the cage. When that went nowhere, they began trading again before they resumed the clinch. As the round entered it’s final minute they began exchanging again, before Jones scored with an explosive wrestling throw. The round ended with Jones attempting a scissor trip.

Round three began with an exchange of jabs, before Bonnar initiated a clinch briefly. Both men then went for the muay thai clinch for a few seconds, before going back to the more traditional kind of clinch. Soon, Jones pushed Bonnar back to the middle of the cage, with Bonnar connecting with a Superman punch. Both fighters were now starting to show signs of fatigue as they seemed to be using the clinch to get a breather. The fight soon went back downstairs though after another Jones take down, and after a few seconds Bonnar went for a triangle. A pop of the head later and Jones had escaped though. As they got back to their feet a brief clinch followed, which was soon followed by another clinch as the clock ticked down to the final minute of the fight. As the fight entered it’s final thirty seconds Bonnar began to stalk Jones, with the fight ending with both men looking to exchange again.

Once again it was down to the judges to decide, with Jones getting the unanimous decision. A tremendous and impressive performance from Jones here. He is definitely one to watch in the future.

The light-heavyweight action continued with Lyoto Machida taking on Thiago Silva. This one began with the usual feeling out, with Machida making the first movement with a kick, following up with a few combinations. Seconds later he connected with a good body kick, following this up with an inadvertent knee to the groin. After the required rest period, Silva came back strongly with a kick of his own, only for Machida to take it down to the mat with a foot sweep. It wasn’t long before they were back on their feet though, attempting to connect with blows and kicks. Machida then connected with a knee to the mid section, followed up by a left that sent Silva down. Machida followed Silva to the ground, and was soon in the full guard position. Eventually Machida got back up to his feet, but Silva wasn’t to eager to follow him up, choosing to attack with up kicks. So with Silva staying down, Machida decided to join him on the mat again. Again, they returned to their feet, teeing off against each other, and once again was sent back down following a Machida combination. Machida followed him down again, first taking side control and then the guard, before choosing to stand back up. Once again Silva chose to stay on the mat, so Machida went for the ground and pound, soon taking Silva’s back as they got back up, soon turning it into a clinch against the cage. Seconds later Machida pushed Silva down to the mat, and followed him down with a single punch as the round ended. But Silva was out cold, and the referee called a halt to the fight immediately. A very good performance from Machida. Silva had his moments here, but Machida was more than able to keep on top.

Main event time, with Lightweight Champion B.J. Penn stepping up a division to challenge Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title. Round one, and with the crowd going wild, the re-match we’ve been waiting ages for began. It wasn’t long before they engaged in a clinch, connecting with knees as they tried to get into position. A short time later GSP went looking for a take down, which Penn was able to defend against. This saw the fighters engage in another clinch before St-Pierre grabbed another leg in another attempted take down. When all of these attempts failed, they began to stand-up game. Both fighters managed to get in some good shots before they went back to the clinch, with St-Pierre pushing Penn up against the cage, looking for the take down again. Penn was still able to defend against these attempts, so they went back to trading blows. As the round entered it’s final minute, St-Pierre went for the clinch again momentarily, with the round ending with the fighters squaring off against each other.

Round two, and the crowd was still going wild. GSP’s corner had told him to stick to kickboxing, and in the early stages he did as he was told, mainly because Penn was connecting with his jab. But it wasn’t long before St-Pierre instigated a clinch, going back to his first round tactics, only this time he was successful as he took Penn down to the mat, taking the full guard, with Penn trying the rubber guard at times. GSP went for the ground and pound, passing to half guard before going to side control and getting off several unanswered shots to the head. Once he had fully established side control he continued with the blows, throwing in a knee to the mid section for good measure. Moments later he transitioned to the guard, postured up, and went for the ground and pound. All Penn seemed able to do was hang on as he tried for the rubber guard again while St-Pierre kept connecting. The champion then went back to side guard for a few seconds, before going back to full guard, where he continued his assault until the end of the round.

Round three, and with the crowd still going wild, St-Pierre rattled off a couple of rights, deciding to mix it up a little with the challenger. After Penn got off a quick jab, St-Pierre soon got another take down, getting half guard, once again delivering blows and the occasional knee to the mid section. GSP continued as he transitioned to full guard. Penn tried to work his way out, and eventually he did, pushing St-Pierre up against the cage, looking for a take down of his own. St-Pierre soon reversed things, soon getting a take down of his own. He began to work from the guard, connecting with several blows, including a big elbow. Penn tried to kick him off, but St-Pierre went straight back down into the guard as the round came to an end.

Round four, and the crowd were still going wild. St-Pierre came out quickly to stalk his challenger, unleashing a jab, following up with a kick, getting a quick take down seconds later, passing to side control almost as quickly, and going for the ground and pound. All Penn seemed able to do was hold on as the champion controlled the fight, trying to get the full mount but getting half guard, and once again gaining side control. As St-Pierre continued with the blows and knees, the referee warned Penn that he had to fight back. St-Pierre was able to transition at will. He was truly dominating one of the top fighters in the world, making him look like an amateur. As the final thirty seconds of the round approached, and as St-Pierre continued his attack, the referee warned Penn again about defending himself. He didn’t seem to be able to do anything to stop the champion.

Round five never happened. Penn was pulled out of the fight after advice from the doctor, giving St-Pierre the title retaining TKO victory. This was a truly dominating performance from St-Pierre, the best I’ve ever seen from him. He dominated one of the UFC’s top fighters from beginning to end, and to say that GSP was awesome here would be an understatement.

In conclusion - while we, as MMA fans, always enjoy a good knockout, we also enjoy action packed fights that go the distance, or at least a good few rounds, where the fighters can show off the full range of their skills. Machida and Silva aside, this is what we got with UFC 94. A good undercard, and an excellent main event which I can’t really speak too highly of, it was that good, with Georges St-Pierre once again showing why he is considered the best pound for pound fighter in MMA at the moment. I’m a B.J. Penn fan, but the way that GSP dominated him in the ground was a thing of beauty, and fights like these are the reason that the sport of mixed martial arts is quickly becoming one of the most popular sports in the world.

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