Tuesday, 8 February 2011

UFC 126 Silva vs Belfort on ESPN - TV Review

It was a battle of Brazilian greats as Vitor Belfort challenged Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title in the main event of UFC 126, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.

The broadcast began with the preliminaries, starting with Chad Mendes against Michihiro Omigawa in the featherweight division.

This division is really starting to come into it’s own in such a short space of time, and this was a perfect example of that.

We had two good performances here. Mendes’ striking was crisp, especially when he connected with a big right in the stand-up and on the ground with a right elbow that opened up a nasty cut just above Omigawa’s left eye.

Omigawa, for his part, looked good on the ground at times as he was able to get in a couple of submission attempts.

With the fight going the distance the judges came into play as Mendes earned the unanimous decision.

It was up to light heavyweight for the next fight as Kyle Kingsbury faced Ricardo Romero.

The blink and you’ll miss it affair. Kingsbury began with a couple of knees to the bread basket in the clinch, as well as a couple of right hands. As the fighters broke Kingsbury connected with a left that sent Romero falling, with the referee stepping in to give Kingsbury the impressive TKO win.

Then it was down to the lightweight division as Donald Cerrone went up against Paul Kelly.

There was a little bit of controversy at the beginning of this one. As Cerrone went to touch gloves Kelly went for a big right before they quickly moved to the ground.

From there we saw Kelly putting Cerrone off his stride with some nice striking before the fight went to the ground again as Cerrone opened up a cut above Kelly’s left eye.

The ending came in the second round. After Kelly continued with his striking tactics he pulled guard and took the fight to the ground. That proved to be the beginning of the end as Cerrone took Kelly’s back and synched in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

The main show began in the bantamweight division as Miguel Angel Torres took on Antonio Banuelos.

This certainly wasn’t the best UFC fight I’ve ever seen. From the beginning Torres used his 13 inch reach advantage to good effect, keeping Banuelos at bay with a succession of left jabs mixed in with the occasional kick.

Banuelos for his part just couldn’t close the distance, and that’s how the fight played out for all three rounds. It wasn’t flashy but it was effective as all three judges scored in Torres’ favour.

Welterweight action followed as Jake Ellenberger faced Carlos Eduardo Rocha.

Now this was more like it. After a quick start Rocha controlled the first round with some excellent ground work as he transitioned at will, going for a number of submission attempts.

Ellenberger seemed to come back a little from the second round onwards as they engaged in a striking battle, although Rocha was able to get off some good strikes himself as well as going for an arm bar at the end of the second.

Once again the judges were called into action as  Ellenberger earned the split decision, although I thought that Rocha just edged it.

It was back to the light heavyweight division for the next fight as Jon Jones took on Ryan Bader.

 The first marquee fight of the show saw Jones putting on a dominating performance. His ground work in the first round was excellent, especially when he went for a north/south guillotine.

Jones continued the performance into the second as he kept Bader at bay in the stand up before the fight went to the ground where Jones secured the submission win with a guillotine. A great performance from Bones here as he earned his shot at the light heavyweight title.

The light heavyweight action continued with the battle of two people you can’t help but like as Rich Franklin faced Forrest Griffin.

Although this fight didn’t feature any big knockdowns or flashy submission moves it did feature two very solid performances from two of the best in the world.

Griffin put in some great work on the ground in the first round, although Franklin’s defensive work was just as sound.

Griffin also showed some excellent striking skills, putting together some good combinations, rocking Franklin with a big left at one point.

Franklin’s best moments came towards the end of the fight as he finally got the take down. But by then it was too little too late as all three judges scored in favour of Griffin, a great performance after over a year out of action.

The main event saw Vitor Belfort challenging Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title.

When these two spent the first few minutes circling each other and hardly doing anything I thought that we were going to get a re-run of the Maia fight.

But then it suddenly sprang into life when Belfort went for a couple of big shots. Seconds later Silva connected with a front kick to the Belfort’s jaw. The challenger was out of it before he hit the ground as the referee quickly stepped in to give Silva the knockout win. Who would have thought it? An Anderson Silva fight ending in the first round!

Then it was on to the filler material, beginning with Paul Taylor against Gabe Ruediger in the lightweight division.

Taylor put on a very good display of striking here. Throughout the fight he caught Ruediger with a number of combinations which left him exposed and vulnerable, and when Ruediger tried to counter with a take down Taylor’s defensive work was top notch.

The end came in the second when Ruediger was again on the receiving end of a torrent of blows from Taylor. A left head kick later and it was all over as Taylor secured the deserved knockout win.

The show rounded out with another showing of the Cerrone/Kelly fight.

In conclusion - if you forget about the uninspiring Torres/Banuelos fight then UFC 126 will go down as a pretty good show.

Once again the one hour prelim show served as a great appetiser for what was to come, and after great performances from the likes of Jon Jones and Forrest Griffin it only seemed right that the main event should end with Anderson Silva knocking Vitor out, although I still can’t quite believe it.

So in all UFC 126 gets the big thumbs up from this particular writer as I now look forward to my next slice of good old British MMA action this coming Wednesday night.