Monday, 17 September 2007

UFC 74: Respect on Bravo - TV Review

So could the old-man do it again? After dominating Tim Sylvia to regain the UFC World Heavyweight title, Hall of Famer Randy Couture now had to contend with the man who sent Cro Cop flying, Gabriel Gonzaga, and it’s this highly anticipated fight we’re looking forward to at Ultimate Fighting Championship 74: Respect. Our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
The broadcast begins with action in the middleweight division between Kendall Grove and Patrick Cote. Standing at 6’6”, Grove enjoyed a tremendous height and reach advantage over his opponent in this one, but this definitely wasn’t an advantage. Twice, Cote had tried to take the bigger man down, but it was a hard right hand that knocked the big guy off his feet. Going in for the kill, Cote jumped on Grove and pounded away before trying a rear naked choke, before once again pounding on Grove, who didn’t answer a single shot, which meant that referee Herb Dean had no choice but to step in and stop the fight, awarding the victory to the Canadian via knockout. A great performance from Cote here, one that really got the crowd going, and got the broadcast off to a great start.

It’s down to the lightweight division next as Joe Stevenson faces Kurt Pellegrino. Although I’m a great fan of single round knockouts and submissions, I’m also a great fan of the more technical matches, and this is what we had here, a technical bout between two evenly matched fighters. Although there were slow moments in the fight, both men put in a great account for themselves, each having their moments in what Rogan and Goldberg rightly termed as a chess match kind of contest. In the end though the superior conditioning of Stevenson was enough for him, with Pellegrino looking exhausted towards the end. The outcome was a little surprising, with only one judge giving a round to Pellegrino as Stevenson won the unanimous decision.

Another lightweight fight followers, this one between Roger Huerta and Alberto Crane. While the previous fight was technical, it did have it’s slow moments. The same couldn’t be said for this one. Roger Huerta put in a great performance, with another example of great physical conditioning. The first two rounds were fought at a frantic pace, with the advantage changing several times, even though Crane’s eye was beginning to swell up nastily. But by the end of the second round Crane looked exhausted, and it showed as the third round began. It was in that third round that Huerta did something that I’ve never seen before. As Crane had his back, Huerta used the arena monitors to see where his opponent was, and used these screens to launch elbows and blows on Crane. But in the end, Crane’s exhaustion proved to be his undoing. In the end, as Huerta was pounding away on him with no reply, the referee stepped in to stop the fight, and at the end, Huerta still looked as fresh as a daisy. A tremendous performance from Huerta here, a definite contender in the lightweight division.

Then it’s up to the welterweight division, as former champion Georges St-Pierre attempts to get back on the winning track against Josh Koscheck. The Canadian star needed to put in a great performance after his shock defeat to Matt Serra last time out, and he got it in this fight. Although the first round was pretty even, the second and third rounds were clearly dominated by St-Pierre. He almost got the submission in the second with a kimura, which Koscheck did well to block, and his superior grappling technique against a master wrestler saw him dominate the third, as he tried to synch in a leglock as the round and the fight came to an end, so it was no surprise when he got the unanimous judge’s decision. St-Pierre announced his intentions with this great performance here, declaring his intentions to the rest of the welterweight division.

Main event time, as UFC World Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture defends his title against Gabriel Gonzaga, the man who shocked the world when he knocked out Mirko Cro Cop to earn this title shot. Many wondered if the sixteen year age difference would work against the champion. It didn’t. From the first bell, Couture dominated Gonzaga, who suffered problems from the moment his nose was broken after a clash of heads during a Couture takedown. Couture then made the fight his own, controlling in the clinch, with Gonzaga complaining that he couldn’t see because of the blood in his eyes in the second round. By the time that the third round started, Gonzaga was blowing heavily, unable to breath through his nose and with blood running into the back of his throat. Couture then went to work, taking his challenger down, unleashing with the ground and pound. Gonzaga had no answer to this attack, and referee Herb Dean did the right thing in stopping the fight. Couture silenced the doubters, retaining his title with a dominating performance, and showing that as far as he’s concerned, age is no barrier. Just how long can this freak of nature go on?

In conclusion - another fine show from the Ultimate Fighting Championship team, and with the signing of Wanderlai Silva, and the light-heavyweight unification fight in London in a couple of weeks, things get better all the time. Need I say more?

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