Sunday, 13 December 2009

UFC The Ultimate Finale on ESPN - TV Review

It took us twelve weeks, but we finally made it. Sixteen heavyweight fighters were whittled down to just two as the Ultimate Fighting Championship presented The Ultimate Finale, shown live here in Britain in the early hours of December 6th on ESPN, and only just seen by me because of a case of the dreaded swine flu!

The show began with the heavyweight encounter between Marcus Jones and Matt Mitrione. Now I’m probably not the only one annoyed by Mitrione’s escapes during the series, so I was kind of eager to see him square off against his rival big baby. Old meathead impressed the hell out of me here, as he was able to overcome Jones’ ground game before making the fight his own with a big right early in the second. Jones went down like the proverbial sack of spuds, and that was all she wrote. A good performance from Mitrione here, and although Jones showed some good ground work he clearly needs to work on his stand-up game.

Then it was on to Frankie Edgar against Matt Veach at lightweight in another back and forth affair. Veach looked unstoppable with his massive slams in the first round, and it looked like he’d carry this power advantage into the second, until a big right by Edgar dropped him to the ground. Afterwards Edgar followed up with some nice ground work, before synching in a rear naked choke for the impressive submission win. Nice stuff.

The lightweight action continued with Mark Bocek facing Joe Brammer. Brammer looked good at the start here, but as soon as Bocek took the fight to the ground it was just a matter of time. It wasn’t long before he took Brammer’s back. Bocek then showed some great patience, and kept his position as Brammer managed to get to his feet. With his back up against the cage Bock locked in a rear naked choke, and soon got the submission win, capping off a very good performance.

The fight that we were all waiting for was next, as Kimbo Slice took on Houston Alexander in catch weight action. Everyone thought that this was going to be the blink and you’ll miss it affair of the show. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Alexander’s tactics were apparent for all to see from the outset as he targeted Kimbo’s bad knee. While the first round didn’t make for riveting viewing, things for more exciting in the second when, to the amazement of many, Kimbo unleashed his ground game, and looked good in doing so. Apart from a damaging leg kick from Alexander in the third, Kimbo’s newfound skills were enough to carry him to victory as he earned the unanimous judges decision. And you know what? The old brawler didn’t look that bad!

Then it was down to the light heavyweight division, with Matt Hammill and Jon Jones. This fight will be remembered for one moment of inadvertent madness from Jones. After he got the only take down of the fight Jones went for some vicious ground and pound, including using what the announcers called the 12-to-6 elbow. The referee quickly stepped in to stop the onslaught as the blood poured down Hammill’s face. As we went to a break everyone thought that Jones won the fight due to referee stoppage. Instead the referee disqualified Jones, giving Hammill the win. Jones looked great here, but his one rule infraction will always count against him.

It was back up to heavyweight for the next fight as Darrill Schoonover took on James McSweeney. I couldn’t help but root for McSweeney during the show, and his battle against fellow Team Rashad member Schoonover proved to be an interesting one. It was a little sloppy at times, although both men showed some great skill. But as the fight progressed McSweeney began to assert his authority a lot more. A flying knee began Schoonover’s slide in the third round, and after an explosive combination from McSweeney Schoonover crashed to the ground. The referee stepped in, and McSweeney was given the win. Hopefully we’ll see McSweeney back in the UFC soon, even though this wasn’t exactly his best performance.

The heavyweight action continued into the main event, with Team Rashad members Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson fighting it out to see who was the latest Ultimate Fighter. I have to admit that Nelson kind of bored the hell out of me during the show, and he didn’t exactly impress me during his fights. But this performance was a whole lot better. Schaub showed some good stand-up work early on, but as soon as Nelson got the take down it looked like he was going for his trademark win. But that plan went to pot when Schaub escaped. A big right from Nelson soon sent Schaub crashing to the ground, and that was it, Roy Nelson had become the latest Ultimate Fight in his best fight in the series.

In conclusion - the latest Ultimate Fighter finale proved to be an entertaining if not outstanding affair, with some of the best fighters from the series getting their chance to shine on the bigger stage. Roy Nelson may not have been the most explosive fighter on the show, but he was certainly the most effective, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his first proper UFC fight was a re-match with Kimbo Slice.

As far as the actual Ultimate Fighter series goes, it was certainly far more entertaining that an entire series of The X Factor or Strictly Come Dancing. Rashad Evans proved what a great coach he was, while his opposite number, Rampage Jackson, showed that he was a bully and a sore loser, and it’s sad that Rampage’s last opponent on a UFC show will probably be a flimsy-looking door.

So in all three months of tremendous entertainment, topped off with an entertaining live show. Here’s looking to the next series, and here’s hoping that perhaps, one day, we’ll finally see Rampage and Rashad go one-on-one.

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