Monday, 12 April 2010

UFC 112: Invincible on ESPN - TV Review

It was an historic night for the Ultimate Fighting Championship as they travelled to Abu Dhabi for their first ever outdoor show, headlined by two massive title fights at UFC 112: Invincible, shown live on ESPN this past Saturday night here in Britain, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.

The broadcast began with middleweight action as Kendall Grove faced Mark Munoz. This was the proverbial game of two halves. The first round clearly belonged to Grove, able to defend Munoz’s take down attempts, and almost getting the submission with a couple of power guillotines. Munoz made his comeback in the second as soon as he got into Grove’s guard, unleashing a ground and pound that Grove had no answer to, with the referee stepping in to stop the fight, giving Munoz the TKO win in a truly enthralling contest.

Then it was down to the lightweight division as Terry Etim went up against Rafael Dos Anjos. The second great fight in a row had a somewhat controversial moment in the first round when Dos Anjos was warned for kneeing Etim in the spine, although the Brazilian claimed he was kneeing him in the side. Dos Anjos really upped his game in the second, putting on an excellent display of ground work before locking in an arm bar for the submission win.

The only filler material of the evening came in the form of a light heavyweight encounter between Alexander Gustafsson and Phil Davis. We actually missed the first few seconds of this fight because ESPN came back late from a commercial (again). Thankfully we didn’t miss much of this entertaining battle, with the Swede showing some great defensive skills until Davis was finally able to take him down and get the submission win with an anaconda choke in the dying seconds of the first round. Nice stuff.

The fight I was really looking forward to was next, as Matt Hughes took on Renzo Gracie in the welterweight division. An interesting fight, with Hughes working over Gracie’s left leg with a series of kicks over the first two rounds. But the fight didn’t really get going until the middle of the third when Gracie’s leg began to turn to jelly. Hughes knocked him down a few times, but never followed him to the ground, instead finishing him with twenty seconds to go with a barrage of blows that earned him the TKO win. Well, it really didn’t get going until the last couple of minutes, but it was okay.

Main event time #1, Frankie Edgar challenging B.J. Penn for the Lightweight title. This one was pretty even. Both fighters put good performances in this mainly stand up battle, which saw Edgar achieve the impossible twice when he took Penn down, although the Prodigy quickly got back up to his feet. Edgar got the unanimous decision, and given his performances here you couldn’t really call this an upset.

Main event time #2, Demian Maia challenged Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title. This fight was so one-sided at times it was scary, and that’s not because Maia is a bad fighter. For the first three rounds Silva treated his opponent with contempt, out striking and out moving Maia at every turn, even taunting him in the style of a professional wrestling at times. But by the end of the third round Silva changed his game. It was as if he was a spoiled rich kid who grew tired of his new plaything. It got to the point where Maia caught him with a few good shots in the fifth. But by then it was too late, and with his left eye closed and nose broken, Maia had no chance of getting the win, even though Silva’s lethargic performance earned him a stern warning from the referee. It was no surprise that Silva got the unanimous decision, but you can come to two obvious conclusions after this performance - that Anderson Silva is still the best fighter in the world, but he needs the challenge of a top class fighter to keep him at the top of his game.

In conclusion - despite certain happenings, UFC’s venture into the Middle East can be termed a success. I really loved the atmosphere of their first outdoor show, but then again I’ve always had a soft spot for outdoor shows of this kind, be they professional wrestling, boxing, or MMA. However, as good as the show was, the main event both intrigued and infuriated at the same time. Anderson Silva really is the best fighter on the planet, but he needs a challenger who isn’t scared of him, someone that could take him to the limit and beyond, and while Chael Sonnen or Vitor Belfort may not be that man, Georges St-Pierre very well could be, and whether it’s at welterweight or middleweight, it’s a fight that we all want and that we all need.

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