Saturday, 11 April 2009

Ultimate Combat 4: Eyes of the Beast - DVD Review

And so the marathon continues. Having reviewed the first three shows of the Ultimate Combat Legacy Volume 1 box set, I’ve now made it to the fourth show, and this one has an added attraction for me, because it features one of my all-time favourite MMA fighters and professional wrestlers, Dan “The Beast” Severn, in Ultimate Combat 4: Eyes of the Beast.

The show begins with the first semi-final in the British Welterweight Title tournament, as David Webb faced Brian Blewitt. In a largely uninspiring contest, Webb was lucky in the first round when he kneed Blewitt in the head while he was on the mat. The referee didn’t even give him a warning. This was the only real thing of note that happened, and after the fight went the two round distance, the judges gave the decision in favour of Webb. You have to wonder if he’d won the fight if the referee had seen that knee to the head.

Then it’s up to the light-heavyweight division, with Matt Sperring taking on Alex Cook. Now this was more like it, a back and forth encounter between two fighters who gave their all both on their feet and on the ground. Both fighters tried their hand at submissions, but it was in the stand-up war that the fight ended when Cook knocked Sperring down in the second. With blood pouring from Sperring’s nose, courtesy of a first round injury, the referee stepped in, giving Cook the TKO win. It may not have been technically sound, but it was fun to watch.

The light-heavyweight action continued with international action as England’s Adam Woolmer faced Denmark’s Pauli Nielsen. This was little more than a slugfest. Both men began to swing from the trees from the outset, and both had some success, but when Woolmer rocked Nielson just forty seconds into the fight, the referee called a halt to the action, although the Dane complained bitterly. I could see his point, because two seconds after he took that shot, he was in full control of his senses. This fight had potential, but was stopped by an over anxious referee.

Down to the lightweight division next, with Jon Waite going up against Lee Shone. A very interesting fight saw both fighters go all out in the first round, each trying to get the submission win. But by the time they got to the second and final round both men were getting visibly tired. Shone tried to get an armbar for what seemed like an eternity, even when Waite picked him up and slammed him down twice. But as the fight came to an end, Waite scored with a couple of good shots, but as both men went down to the mat the time limit expired, with the judges giving the fight to Waite. Nice little fight this.

There was more lightweight action next, with Paul Sutherland facing Gavin Bradley. This one was fought at quite a frantic pace at times, especially during the stand-up exchanges. On the mat Bradley looked like he was going to get the submission win with an armbar, and showed some other good techniques while down there. In the second Sutherland looked good on his feet and on the mat, and staggered Bradley a little with a couple of knees from a muay thai clinch. There were a couple of stoppages to deal with the blood coming from Bradley’s nose, but this didn’t detract from the action in the slightest, with the fight going the distance. The judges decision - unanimous in favour of Sutherland. A very good fight, but a shame that Bradley, despite the effort he put in, couldn’t get the win on his professional debut.

Then it was time for the second semi-final in the British Welterweight title tournament, with Paul Jenkins going up against Paul Williamson. This one took a while to get going. Both men spent the majority of the first round dancing around each other, occasionally deciding to go on the attack, and it wasn’t until near the end of the first that there was some real action, when a heavy blow from Jenkins rocked Williamson. The second round wasn’t much better. Williamson looked almost terrified whenever Jenkins came forward, holding his closed fists either right under his chin or palm out in front of him. However, he did manage to try a couple of guillotine attempts, but they had little to no effect on Jenkins because he failed to take them to the ground. This just wasn’t an easy fight to watch, and the judges gave the decision to Jenkins.

Back up to the light heavyweights next, international action with England’s Andy Foreman facing America’s Pierre Guillet. This was certainly better than the last fight. After both men swung for the proverbial trees, Foreman quickly took the fight to the mat. However, Guillet was soon able to stamp his authority onto the fight, almost synching in a rear naked choke, before changing tactic and applying a key lock to get the submission win. A very good performance from the American here, who has really impressed me in the matches I’ve seen in this collection.

Then, another semi-final, this time in the British Lightweight title tournament, with Mark Chen and Dave McLaughlin. A mixed bag of a fight here. Chen began the fight quickly, pulling guard and taking the fight to the ground, but a lack of activity saw the referee stand the fighters up. More good work from Chen followed, and just when it looked like the fight was going to go into the second round, a hard right from Chen sent McLaughlin crashing to the mat, with the referee stepping in immediately to stop the fight, awarding the KO victory to Chen. A good performance by Chen here.

The lightweight action continued with a European super fight, with France’s Joe “Speedy” Gonzales tackling England’s Patt Carr. The first round was somewhat hectic at times. When the fighters stayed on their feet, they swung wildly. It wasn’t technically that good or pretty to watch, but it was certainly better than when they went to the ground, where virtually nothing happened. The ground work in round two was a lot better, especially from Carr, who controlled things as soon as the fight went down, and after controlling from the mount, he managed to take Gonzales’ back, applying a rear naked choke to get the submission victory. The proverbial game of two halves here as they would say in football terms.

The European super fights continued with a fight in the middleweight division, with England’s Sol Gilbert and Denmark’s Lars Besand. Gilbert, who scored a twenty-four second knockout victory in his debut, was made to work much harder in this bout. Besand proved to be a much more difficult proposition, especially on the ground, although Gilbert was able to redden the Dane’s left thigh with a couple of stinging right kicks, one of which staggered Besand a little. Gilbert proved to be a good spoiler, but just didn’t seem to have the skills to overcome Besand. However, Gilbert looked more confident on his feet, but by that time the fight was in it’s last thirty seconds, and a stray kick landed south of the border. With the judge’s scores being so close, a two minute overtime round was called for. Both fighters looked exhausted, and once again Gilbert caught Besand with a low kick, this one sending him crumpling to the mat. Besand was able to continue, but Gilbert was given a strong warning from the referee. This was the only real thing of note that happened in the extra round, which saw both men exchanging a few kicks and nothing more. So with the fight going the distance and into overtime, it was down to the judges decision again, and they could separate them, each of them scoring it even, so the fight was declared a draw. A very good fight here, even though it was spoiled somewhat by Gilbert’s low blows.

Main event time, international heavyweight action featuring Mike “Buster” Ward taking on UFC legend Dan “The Beast” Severn. Fought over three rounds rather than the Ultimate Combat norm of two, this was a technically sound if somewhat unspectacular contest which followed the same pattern throughout the rounds. Ward would throw a few shots, Severn would counter with a take down in which Ward tried for a guillotine, before Severn got out of the move and simply smothered him, mainly from side control and sometimes from half guard, delivering knees and punches to the ribs, and occasionally looking for a submission. Essentially, Ward was being outwrestled, but that didn’t stop the judges scoring the fight even and calling for the overtime round, which again followed the same pattern, until Ward tapped out in the final seconds of the fight after Severn with what looked to be a forearm choke, although it was difficult to tell from the camera angle. Not overly spectacular, but interesting to watch nonetheless.

In conclusion - for the most part, Ultimate Combat 4 was a very enjoyable show to watch. Sure, there were a couple of duff fights in there, but the good fights more than made up for these disappointments. It was also nice to see that none of the fighters were wearing kick pads, as many of them had done in the previous shows. It always seemed to me to give the fighter wearing them a bit of an advantage against a fighter who wasn’t wearing them.

So, show - good. Production values - good. New ring girl - hot! Still no commentary though, but I suppose that doesn’t matter since the camera work got a lot better. So in closing, this show comes recommended as a good example of British mixed martial arts.

Ultimate Combat 4: Eyes of the Beast, is part of the six event Ultimate Combat Legacy Volume 1 box set, and is available to buy online at

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