It was the re-match we’d been waiting nearly two years for as Chael Sonnen challenged Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title in the main event of UFC 148, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began in the bantamweight division as Ivan Menjivar faced Mike Easton.
While this may not go down as one of the most memorable fights in UFC history it certainly was entertaining.
Easton put in a very solid performance. His striking was crisp and he often met his target, his main success coming with a left high kick in the first and a flying knee in the second.
Menjivar just didn’t seem able to get into this fight at all. It was as if he couldn’t get out of first gear. He managed to get off a few good strikes but these were nothing compared to Easton’s work.
The only ground work came in the third when Easton countered Menjivar’s spin kick attempt with a takedown. There was a little work there until Menjivar kicked his man off and got back to his feet.
With neither man able to get the finish the judges were called into action, with all three giving the fight to Easton.
It was up to featherweight for the next fight as Chad Mendes took on Cody McKenzie.
The first blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening saw Mendes coming forward early. McKenzie went for a couple of high kicks, but when Mendes caught another kick and connected with a blow to the body McKenzie fell to the mat.
Mendes followed him down for a brief moment of ground and pound until the referee stepped in to stop the fight, giving Mendes the TKO win after just 31 seconds.
Welterweight action followed as Dong Hyun Kim took on Demian Maia.
The second blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening saw Maia going for the takedown right off the bat. There was a bit of a struggle on the feet as Maia quickly took Kim’s back.
Maia scored with the takedown seconds later, but when he went for the mount Kim gave the “X” sign with his arms. The referee stepped in straight away as Maia took the TKO win after just 47 seconds.
It was on to the middleweight division for the next fight as Cung Le went up against Patrick Cote.
Le began his night’s work by throwing Cote down to the ground, and for the next few minutes these two engaged in a very entertaining striking battle.
Once again Le’s kicks looked top notch, and his unusual stance seemed to confuse Cote a little. It took the Canadian quite a while to figure him out.
Cote’s best moments came in the second round when he rolled off a couple of good combinations. Le re-established control in the third round though when he scored with a couple of takedowns.
Once again the judges were called into action as they gave Le the unanimous decision.
The co-main event featured the light heavyweight rubber match between Forrest Griffin and new Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz.
This was a great way to end their trilogy. Griffin began with a series of kicks. Ortiz scored with the takedown a few seconds later and briefly went for some ground and pound until Griffin managed to get to his feet.
From there Griffin took control. Ortiz seemed helpless at times as Griffin began to pick him apart, until a big right hand in the second round put Griffin on his backside.
Griffin managed to recover though and once again re-established control, and although Ortiz had his moments both in the striking department and on the ground the former Ultimate Fighter came back time and time again.
After all of that they still couldn’t put each other away, so once again the judges came into the equation. No split decisions this time as they gave everything to Griffin.
The main event saw Chael Sonnen challenging Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title.
This one certainly lived up to the hype. Sonnen scored with the big takedown just six seconds into the fight, and from there he went on to dominate the first round, although Silva did a very good job in the defensive department as he held his challenger in the half guard.
Sonnen eventually managed to take the mount, but once again Silva did a good job of defending.
Sonnen tried for the takedown again in the second round, but this time Silva was having none of it as his defensive work got even better.
A few moments later Sonnen went for a spinning back fist and slipped. It was then that Silva pounced, connecting with a knee to the chest before delivering some ground and pound.
Sonnen managed to get back to his feet though until another right hand sent him back down. Silva went in for the kill with some more ground and pound until the referee stepped in to give the Spider the title retaining TKO win.
Afterwards Silva showed that he held no grudges by inviting Sonnen to a barbecue!
The show rounded out with an hour’s worth of filler material, beginning with the lightweight encounter between Gleison Tibau and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
This was one of those fights that fitted firmly into the very interesting category.
Nurmagomedov was relentless in his takedown attempts throughout the fight. The only problem was that Tibau’s defensive work was even better, and even though Khabib never scored with the takedown he went for it time and time again.
Tibau was more successful with his takedowns though, although there was very little ground work to speak off afterwards.
The striking exchanges were certainly entertaining, with Nurmagomedov’s best work coming as the fight came to an end.
With no finish the judges were called into action as Nurmagomedov took the unanimous decision. Am I the only one who thought that this decision was a little bit strange?
The lightweight action continued as Melvin Guillard faced Fabricio Camoes.
This one was a little better action-wise. Camoes looked good with his takedowns, especially in the first round.
But when he went for further takedowns Guillard managed to escape more often than not, often getting in his own brand of ground and pound.
In between this ground work Guillard put on a good striking display. Camoes wasn’t far behind him in that respect, although neither man managed to get in that one big blow that would have made a difference.
Camoes went back to the ground game towards the end of the fight when he went for a leg lock, but Guillard managed to hold on as the time limit expired.
More work for the judges at the end of this one, and this time they got it right as Guillard took the unanimous decision.
The final fight of the broadcast featured middleweight action as Costa Philippou faced Riki Fukuda.
This one featured the story of the striker stuffing the takedowns. After a bit of a feeling out period at the beginning Philippou began to find his range with some nice strikes. Fukuda tried to counter with a takedown, but Philippou easily managed to escape.
This was more or less how the rest of the fight played out, Philippou putting on a good display in the striking department and Fukuda failing with the takedowns.
That was until an unfortunate incident where Fukuda accidentally poked Philippou in the eyes before connecting with a body kick. Philippou cried out in pain as he went to the ground, clutching his face, and for a while it looked as if he wouldn’t be able to continue.
Thankfully he was given the all clear by the doctor, and a fired up Philippou returned to action like a house on fire, throwing some more great strikes and once again defending against Fukuda’s takedown.
No surprise with the decision in this one as all three judges gave the fight to Philippou.
In conclusion - this was touted as the biggest UFC event ever, and it certainly delivered it’s fair share of excitement.
There were some great fights throughout this marathon show, and while there are many that would have earned my fight of the night award if they’d been on other shows it’s kind of easy for me to give that particular honour to the Silva/Sonnen encounter.
It remains to be seen though if our Chael will accept that barbecue invitation offer. Who knows, maybe he’ll take a bottle of good ol’ JR’s good stuff with him!
So with all of that out of the way there’s only one thing left to do. Yep, you guessed it. UFC 148 gets the big thumbs up from me.