Sunday, 16 September 2007

UFC 61: Bitter Rivals on Bravo - TV Review

It’s not often that we see a true rivalry in “real” fight sports these days. We wrestling fans are more than used to the scripted rivalries that we’ve seen/ But when you put Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz together, you know that you’re going to get a shoot in more ways than one. Couple that with a World Heavyweight title fight, and you’ve got UFC 61: Bitter Rivals, broadcast on British TV station Bravo on a two day delay, with our hosts, Mike Goldberg and the legendary Randy Coutoure.

We begin the night in the lightweight division, with Yves Edwards taking on Joe Stevenson. The first round was excellent, action packed and back and forth with neither fighter able to get the upper hand. Stevenson dominated the second, taking Edwards down and opening up a gash on his head that concerned the referee and the doctors, so much so that the doctors stopped the fight shortly after the round ended, Stevenson getting the win by TKO in a very impressive showing.

On to the heavyweight division, as former champion Frank Mir continued his comeback against Dan Christison. A pretty even first round saw Mir on top to begin with before Christison escaped from a guard position with a few good moves of his own. Mir was visibly tiring as the second round went on, as the big man started to dominate things a little. Mir was refuelled somewhat at the beginning of the third, but things slowed down again as the round progressed, with all three judges awarding the decision to Mir in a fight that was slightly uninspiring.

Grudge time next, with Ken Shamrock facing Tito Ortiz for the second time. There was literally tons of security in the octagon to keep these two apart before the fight, such is the hatred between them. This one was quick. Lasting just seventy-five seconds, Ortiz slammed Shamrock down to the mat, and seconds later a series of Ortiz elbows rained down on Shamrock, who was unable to defend himself. This forced the referee to stop the fight, much to the annoyance of the crowd, and Shamrock himself. With the fight shrouded in controversy, it looks like we’ll see these two go at it again.

Then came the big announcement, that Pride superstar Wanderlai Silva will face Chuck Lidell in November, if Lidell defeats Renato Sobral next month. If you don’t know how big this possible fight is, it’s more or less the MMA equivalent of Steve Austin facing Bill Goldberg, it’s that big.

Main event time, as Tim Sylvia defends the World Heavyweight title against former champion Andrei Arlovski in the third part of their trilogy. The first round saw both fighters preferring the stand-up game, both of them getting in some pretty good shots. The second round followed type, although Sylvia opened up a cut on Arlovski’s head, and Arlovski connected with a couple of kicks to bruise Sylvia’s left knee, although the former champion failed to capitalise on this. The third saw a few brief flurries, but nothing really to write home about. The crowd began to voice their disapproval at the lacklustre fourth round, with the only notable thing being Sylvia opening another cut on Arlovski with a stinging jab. By the latter stages of the fifth and final round, I, and the majority of the crowd in attendance, was starting to lose interest, and not even the urgings of referee John McCarthy could spur the fighters on, so the fight went to the judge’s decision, with all three of them giving the fight to Sylvia.

In conclusion - despite a main event that lacked intensity, UFC 61 gave us one good fight and another shrouded in controversy, and the event was a little lacklustre,. UFC 61 won’t go down in history as one of their best shows.