Friday, 8 May 2009

Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives on Extreme Sports - TV Review

This past Saturday night, Britain’s Extreme Sports channel once again ventured into MMA territory with a showing of Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Survives. Originally held in November 2007 in San Jose, California, the show has been on a regular rotation through the schedules for a while now, but this is the first time I actually remembered it was on. Like all of their MMA shows it was shown in three one hour blocks.

This event actually held two distinctions - it was the first show to hold a single elimination tournament sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, and the first Strikeforce heavyweight champion was crowned in a fight pitting Paul Buentello against Alistair Overeem.

The tournament itself was a middleweight single elimination tournament, featuring Jorge Santiago, Sean Salmon, Trevor Prangley and Falaniko Vitale.

So on to part one of the show, which began with middleweight action as Jeremiah Metcalf faced Dennis Hallman. A quick fight to start things with saw Hallman try for a guillotine early on. But it wasn’t long before he got the win, locking in a heel hook, which Metcalf partially tapped to first, before tapping out properly.

Then it was down to featherweight, with Chris Drumm taking on Evan Esquerra. A somewhat controversial fight saw some tremendous action from both men throughout the first and the majority of the second, until Esquerra hit Drumm in the back of the head. Esquerra was docked a point, and Drumm was given the mandatory five minute rest period. But after he was checked over by the doctor, it was ruled that he could no longer continue, and because two rounds hadn’t been completed, the fight was ruled as a technical draw.

The first middleweight tournament semi-final followed, with Sean Salmon and Jorge Santiago. This was a blink and you’ll miss it kind of fight. It began with both fighters exchanging blows, until Santiago suddenly came to life with a flying knee to the side of the head. Salmon fell to the ground like the proverbial sack of spuds, and the referee stepped in immediately to stop the fight. The time - just twenty-four seconds.

The second semi-final saw Falaniko Vitale take on Trevor Prangley. Another great fight saw Vitale and Prangley go toe-to-toe, each hurting the other at times, although Prangley kept getting the upper hand in the exchanges. However, another somewhat controversial finish saw Prangley inadvertently poke Vitale in the eye. With the Hawaiian unable to continue, the match was called as a draw, but under tournament rules, the referee had to choose the winner. His choice - Prangley. A good decision.

The tournament final followed straight away (I’m guessing they weren’t showing the fights in the original order here!), with Santiago facing Prangley. Once again Santiago looked impressive, and at least Prangley lasted longer than Salmon. The Brazilian rocked the South African a few times, before a knee to Prangley’s body did the damage, with the referee stopping the fight giving Santiago the TKO win.

Part two began with action from the lightweight division, and Clint Coronel taking on Alex Crispin. Although this fight had it’s moments, it won’t go down as one of the best at lightweight. Both fighters were busy in the first round, but by the time of the second round Crispin looked tired, and it was only in the final stages of the third round that things really came to life as both fighters exchanged hard blows. The fight went the distance, with the judges giving the unanimous decision to Crispin.

Then it was down to the bantamweight division for the next fight, with Peter Sabala facing Anthony Figueroa. This fight was everything that the previous one wasn’t. A back and forth encounter in which both fighters went full tilt. While Figueroa would often rock his opponent with blows, and looked like he would get the win with unanswered ground and pound, Sabala would always find a way of coming back, slamming his opponent down hard to the mat and going for the submission. It really was great to watch, even though the fatigue factor began to kick in at the end of the third round. The split decision went in favour of Figueroa, although it could really have gone either way.

Next up, welterweight action with Bryson Kamaka and Luke Stewart. Another blink and you’ll miss it affair. Kamaka went to work early with the lefts and rights, with Stewart coming back quickly with a knee to the chin from a muay thai clinch. Kamaka fell immediately, with the referee stepping in immediately to end another explosive fight. The time - just nineteen seconds.

Part three kicked off with a light heavyweight bout, Anthony Ruiz taking on Bobby Southworth. While round one was a kind of hit and miss affair, the beginning of round two was different. Ruiz threw a series of wild punches that rocked Southworth and opened up a nasty cut. With the blood pouring down his face, the referee called a halt to the contest on the doctor’s advice, with Ruiz getting the TKO win.

Then it was time to crown the first ever Strikeforce World Heavyweight Champion, with Alistair Overeem and Paul Buentello. To say that Overeem dominated this fight would be an understatement. The first round belonged to the Dutchman completely. No matter what Buentello tried, Overeem matched him and controlled him, and while it wasn’t as intense in the second round, Overeem retained control, and after a couple of knees to the midsection Buentello had had enough and tapped out. A great performance from Overeem, and a deserved win.

Main event time, action from the middleweight division, with Sam Morgan taking on Cung Le. Another impressive performance from the man from Vietnam saw him dominate Morgan. Before the fight Morgan promised to stand toe-to-toe with Le, but when he did most of his wild punches missed their target by the proverbial mile. He didn’t have much more success on the ground either, with Le controlling every aspect of the fight there as well. The end came in the third round. A left kick to the Morgan’s body sent him crumbling to the mat, with the referee stop the fight straight away, clinching another great win for Le.

In conclusion - this is only the second Strikeforce show I’ve seen, and now I think I’m hooked. With only one so-so fight in this broadcast, this was a very good show, topped off by the great displays from Alistair Overeem and Cung Le, and with the promotion seemingly growing bigger by the day, maybe we’ll get to see some more up to date action on British television soon.

Don’t worry if missed this show though. The way that the Extreme Sports Channel rotates their shows, this will probably be on again soon!

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