Tuesday, 26 May 2009

UFC 98: Evans vs Machida on Setanta Sports - TV Review

So who is the best light heavyweight in the UFC at the moment? That’s what I’m attempting to find out as I take a look at UFC 98: Evans vs. Machida, shown live on Setanta Sports here in Britain in the early hours of this past Sunday morning. As always, Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg are handling commentary duties.

The broadcast begins with action from the lightweight division, with Sean Sherk taking on Frank Edgar. An impressive performance from Edgar saw him befuddle the Muscle Shark with his kickboxing technique. Sherk looked like a one trick pony, using the same tactic over and over again. When Sherk tried to take the fight downstairs, Edgar quickly got back to his feet, and although he preferred the stand-up game throughout, Edgar almost got the submission win in the dying seconds with a guillotine. With the fight going the three round distance it came as no surprise when Edgar got the majority decision, and rightfully so.

Then it was up to the middleweight division, as Chael Sonnen faced Dan Miller. If you ever wanted to see a dominating performance in an MMA fight, then just look at Sonnen’s performance here. Only twice, at the beginning of the first and second rounds, did Miller put in any significant offence, when he attempted two guillotines, which Sonnen easily escaped from. From there, Sonnen controlled everything on the ground, beating down Miller at will. Miller just seemed completely helpless, and although many in the crowd didn’t like some of the action, this writer certainly did. So with another fight going the distance, Sonnen got the unanimous decision, and again, rightfully so.

The middleweight action continued with Drew McFedries and Xavier Foupa-Pokam. After two fights that went the distance, we got the blink and you’ll miss it affair. Things began quite slowly, until McFedries sprang into action, rocking Xavier with a left, and knocking him down with a right. McFedries went for the ground and pound, and Xavier got to his feet, still unsteady. A second later he was back on the ground, and as McFedries went in for the kill the referee pulled him away and stopped the fight, giving McFedries the win in just thirty-seven seconds. Impressive stuff from McFedries here.

Filler material followed, with Krzysztof Soszynski facing Andre Gusmao in the light heavyweight division. Both fighters got off some good combinations in this one, and both men began to look impressive when a combination from Soszynski sent Gusmao down to the ground, with the referee stepping in immediately to stop the fight, giving Soszynski the win in a good performance.

Then it was time for the big grudge match, the battle of the former champions with Matt Hughes taking on Matt Serra in the welterweight division. This was a tremendous fight, but it almost finished early. An accidental clash of heads rocked Hughes, and Serra tried to end the fight there and then with a barrage of blows. Hughes was nearly out of it, but managed to come back well, taking the fight to the ground and controlling Serra for the remainder of the first and all of the second. Both fighters had their moments in the third, and towards the end Serra finally scored his first take down, but by then it was too little too late, because with the fight going the three round distance the judges gave the unanimous decision to Hughes. Great to see the former champion get back to winning ways.

Main event time, with Lyoto Machida challenging Rashad Evans for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. This one took a while to get going, but when it did, the action was certainly explosive. The first round contained a lot of feeling out, until Machida scored with a combination that sent Evans down. It was the same in the second, until Machida turned on the gas and went after Evans like a house afire, unloading with a barrage of blows on the champion that rocked him and sent him stumbling all over the cage. Finally, a left hand sent Evans down, knocking him out, with the referee stopping the fight immediately, giving Evans the Light-Heavyweight title. A very good performance from the Brazilian here, a deserving winner.

More filler material followed, with Brock Larson facing Mike Pyle in the welterweight division. A fast-paced fight saw both men going at it, with Larson soon gaining the upper hand, locking in an arm triangle for the submission victory.

The final fight of the show saw more filler material, with Pat Barry taking on Tim Hague in the heavyweight division. The proverbial back and forth encounter saw Barry rock Hague with a kick to the head. Barry went in for the kill, but Hague was able to counter by taking the fight to the ground. Barry tried to escape, but Hague soon locked in a guillotine. Barry tried to fight it, but it wasn’t long before Barry was tapping, giving Hague the submission victory with his great comeback performance.

In conclusion - another outstanding show from the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Both Hughes/Serra and Evans/Machida delivered with two great fights, well supported by a tremendous undercard, the highlight being Frank Edgar’s performance against Sean Sherk. This show definitely gets the two thumbs up treatment, and one I’ll watch again in the future.