Tuesday, 27 October 2009

UFC 104: Machida v Shogun on ESPN - TV Review

It’s time to step into the world of mixed martial arts again, with two Brazilian greats in the former of Lyoto “Dragon” Machida and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua battling out for the UFC Light Heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 104: Machida v Shogun, shown live here in Britain on ESPN, and featuring Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan on commentary.

As is the custom, ESPN joined Spike in America for the free preliminary bouts, beginning with a heavyweight battle between Antoni Hardonk and Pat Barry. This proved to be a good way of beginning the evening’s proceedings. Barry got accidentally poked in the eye in the first round, which somewhat worried him a little as the round went on, although these worries seemed to have been put aside as the fight progressed. By the end of the first he was on top, and in the second he looked great, knocking Hardonk down with a right. The referee stepped in when Barry went for the ground and pound, giving him the TKO win. Nice work by Barry, although Hardonk must take some credit for his bright start. But then again, perhaps Barry’s inadvertent eye injury worried him a little as well.

ESPN, in their infinite wisdom, came back from the first commercial break late, missing the beginning of the Stefan Struve/Chase Gormley fight, so the next full fight they showed was Ryan Bader versus Red Schafer at light heavyweight. This developed into a nice back and forth battle, with both fighters putting in a good performance, and the second eye poke of the evening when Bader took one in the face. This didn’t inhibit Bader in any way though, although Shafer also had his share of punishment, sustaining a cut over his eye after an accidental clash of heads while on the ground. This didn’t stop them from putting on a good fight, with Bader winning the unanimous decision, and rightfully so, although the judges’ decision making abilities would be questioned later in the evening.

On to the main show, with Anthony Johnson taking on Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the welterweight division. Well, it was meant to be at welterweight, but Johnson had problems making the weight. He still put in a hell of a performance, showing fast hand speed, putting Yoshida on the back foot, and knocking him down with a big right. Thankfully the referee quickly stepped in to save Yoshida from further punishment. This was a good outing from Johnson, and when our esteemed commentators said that Johnson’s walking around weight was normally around 220, I began to think that middleweight would be a better division for him.

Joe “Daddy” Stevenson against Spencer “King” Fisher at lightweight was up next. Both fighters started well here, although it wasn’t long before Fisher sustained a cut over his right eye. Both men looked good in all aspects, until that critical moment in the second round when Stevenson took side control on the ground and trapped both of Fisher’s arms. From there he was able to deliver a sustained ground and pound attack, and with Fisher unable to defend himself, he soon tapped out. A very good performance from Stevenson here. If he keeps this up he’ll soon get a shot at the lightweight title.

Then it was up to the middleweight division, with Yushin Okami facing Chael Sonnen. The second fight of the evening to go the three round distance found Sonnen in dominating form, outfighting the Japanese star in almost every aspect. Sonnen looked tremendous here, although Okami did manage a kimura attempt in the third, although he soon released that particular hold when Sonnen let loose with a series of punches to the body. It really came as no surprise when Sonnen got the unanimous decision, concluding a nice evening’s work for the middleweight contender.

There were more weight problems in the next fight between Josh Neer and Gleison Tibau. This one should have been contested at lightweight, but with both fighters failing to make the weight, they decided to go ahead with it anyway. This fight followed a particular pattern - Tibau would score with a big take down, and, more often than not, Neer would get straight back up. It certainly looked spectacular to begin with, but after a while it began to look a bit repetitive. But in the end these take downs earned Tibau the unanimous judges decision. The fight may have been over a little sooner though had Tibau done a bit more work on the ground.

The co-main event saw heavyweight prospect Cain Velasquez taking on fancied contender Ben Rothwell. Well, he was a fancied contender going into this fight. Cain put in a devastating and dominating performance, and no matter what Rothwell did, he just didn’t seem to have any answer for the new rising star of the heavyweight division, so it came as no surprise that Cain got the win here, although the manner in which he got it was a little controversial. As Cain unloaded with a barrage of blows against the fence, Rothwell began to get to his feet. It was then that the referee stepped in, putting a stop to the fight and giving Cain the TKO win. Rothwell was none too happy, and although he had a point about the timing of the stoppage, it was pretty obvious that Cain had the beating of him.

Then it was on to the main event, with Mauricio “Shogun” Rua challenging Lyoto Machida for the UFC Light Heavyweight title. To say that this fight was a tad controversial would be a slight understatement. Shogun put in a tremendous performance here, working over Machida time and time again with a series of leg kicks, bruising up his ribs and both of his legs, and although Machida himself got in some good kicks, it looked like Shogun had the beating of him. It was a hard fought, five round battle, and by the end Machida had the look of a beaten champion. However, the judges saw it differently, as they gave Machida the unanimous decision. Needless to say that I wasn’t the only one who wondered just what fight the judges had been watching. Shogun looked unbeatable in this fight, and Machida looked the shadow of his usual self.

The show finished with the aforementioned heavyweight battle between Stefan Struve and Chase Gormley. This proved to be a nice little battle that looked like it could go either way, until Struve applied an arm triangle for the submission win. At least we fans here in Britain got to see this one in full!

In conclusion - while UFC 104 will go down as another excellent show, it will always be remembered for the controversial decision in the main event. Shogun proved that he was back to his best after his recent injury problems, and he clearly should have won the fight and the UFC Light Heavyweight title. Kudos to Dana White though, for ordering an immediate re-match. Let’s just hope that they get some judges who actually watch the fight next time!

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