Monday, 29 March 2010

UFC 111: St-Pierre v Hardy on ESPN - TV Review

There’s been quite a few Brits who have plied their trade in the octagon, guys like Ian Freeman, Mark Weir, Paul Daley, Ross Pearson and, of course, Michael Bisping. Dan Hardy has eclipsed them all, the first Brit to earn a shot at a UFC title, taking on Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 111, shown live here in Britain on ESPN in the early hours of this past Sunday morning, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.

The show began with the prelims, as Ricardo Almeida faced Matt Brown in the welterweight division. This proved to be a very good fight. Both guys put on some good work against the cage in the first, Almeida on the offensive, Brown on the defensive. Almeida really upped his game in the second, showing some great jiu-jitsu as he worked into position to apply the rear naked choke for the submission win. A very good performance by Almeida in his welterweight debut.

It was up to the middleweight division for the next fight, as Rory Markham took on Nate Diaz. This was actually meant to be a welterweight fight, but was moved up to middleweight when Markham couldn’t make 170. Markham, at 177, looked a whole weight division more than Diaz, but the extra weight didn’t do much for him as Diaz dominated the fight, eventually getting the fight to the ground so he could lock in a body triangle for some ground and pound. Markham had no answer to the attack, with the referee stepping in to call time, giving Diaz the first round TKO win with a tremendous performance.

Filler material followed, and more middleweight action as Rousimar Palhares faced Tomasz Drwal. The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening. Drwal slipped, and Palhares pounced immediately, locking in a heel hook for the quick tap out. A little controversy followed though as Palhares kept the hold on after Drwal tapped. The time - just forty five second. Nice work by Palhares, but a slightly tainted win in my opinion.

On to the main show, which began with lightweight action as Jim Miller went up against Mark Bocek. This was the kind of fight that makes you proud to be an MMA fan, a great back and forth encounter with some excellent ground work by both men. Bocek controlled things early in the first, until Miller reversed and almost got the submission win with a kimura. Bocek controlled the second, using a body triangle to completely control Miller until Miller managed to escape. The third round looked far more even, and in a fight that could have gone either way Miller took the unanimous decision. Two really impressive performances here, an outstanding fight.

Then it was up to the welterweight division as Jon Fitch took on Ben Saunders. To say that Fitch dominated this fight would be an understatement. Fitch controlled every aspect of this three rounder, and even though those in attendance didn’t appreciate the effort or style it clearly worked for Fitch. Saunders only moment of note came with a kimura attempt which Fitch easily escaped from. In the end it really wasn’t a surprise when Fitch got the unanimous decision.

More lightweight action followed, with Kurt Pellegrino and Fabricio Camoes. This one was fought at a frantic pace. Camoes looked like he was going to get the win in the first with a standing rear naked choke, until Pellegrino escaped by slamming him down on his head. Pellegrino controlled the action from there, before he took Camoes’ back and got the submission win with a rear naked choke of his own. A really good fight here, and a great win for Pellegrino.

Then it was on to the big boys as Frank Mir faced Shane Carwin for the Interim Heavyweight title. The longest fight of Carwin’s career was also his best. After negating Mir in a clinch against the cage, a succession of lefts saw Mir drop to his knees. Carwin was all over him with the ground and pound, and it wasn’t long before the referee stopped the fight, giving Carwin the title and the knockout win. An awesome performance from Carwin here, and I guess that Mir’s Brock Lesnar obsession will have to go on a bit longer.

After a second showing of the Palhares/Drwal fight it was on to the main event, as my fellow Brit Dan Hardy challenged Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title. Sadly, the Outlaw couldn’t get the job done. GSP dominated from start to finish, outclassing Hardy in every aspect, able to take his man down at will, and dominating him on the ground, almost getting the submission win with an arm bar in the first and a kimura in the fourth. GSP was world class here, and no surprises here as every judge gave him every round. I have to wonder though just what’s left for him in this division.

So following that great fight it was on to light heavyweight action as Rodney Wallace took on Jared Hamman. This certainly proved to be an interesting encounter. Wallace came out all guns blazing at the start of the fight, and rocked Hamman with some good shots, but he looked absolutely exhausted by the end of the first. As the fight progressed Wallace kept trying, but he just didn’t seem to have the energy as Hamman began to assert control. Hamman emerged as the winner, with all three judges giving him the decision. While Wallace may look like a million dollars he clearly has a conditioning problem.

In conclusion - an exceptional show from Dana White and his crew here. Each fight delivered, with Georges St-Pierre’s performance the highlight of the night for me. So with two good shows in the space of a few days we’re now looking forward to Wednesday’s potential classic between Kenny Florian and Takanomi Gori.

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