Tuesday, 25 September 2012

UFC 152 Jones vs Belfort on ESPN - TV Review

For the first time in what seems like an age we’re going to step into the Octagon for my latest review with a look back at the five hour broadcast of UFC 152, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.

We start our look with the welcome return of the preliminary fights to British screens, beginning with the featherweight encounter between Jimmy Hettes and Marcus Brimage.

These two put on a very enjoyable opener. After a brief feeling out period Brimage began to go to work, unloading with some heavy leather and putting his man on the back foot, and at one point on his backside. However, when Brimage followed him down for a spot of ground and pound Hettes went for a submission. As soon as this happened Brimage got back to his feet.

While Brimage enjoyed a good first round Hettes came back well in the second with some nice ground work. Although Brimage got back to his feet quickly after the first takedown Hettes kept him grounded second time around, taking his back at one point. It was clear that Hettes was the better grappler.

All of that good work was for nothing by the time the third round started. Although he managed to control the centre of the cage it was Brimage who was scoring with the big blows. Hettes’ striking, by comparison, looked rather timid, as did his takedown attempts.

But with no finish in sight it went down to the judges as Brimage took the unanimous decision.

Then it was up to welterweight as Sean Pierson took on Lance Benoist.

This was a pretty good three rounder, and it looked a lot closer than the opener.

Both guys put on good striking displays throughout, with Pierson looking good in the first two rounds. It was a sound performance which caused Benoist quite a few problems.

It wasn’t all one way traffic though. Benoist had a good chance of ending it in the second on the ground when he tied Pierson up in knots while going for a couple of submissions.

Benoist’s best moment, however, came towards the end of the third when he rocked Pierson and sent him down to the canvas. But just when it looked like we were going to get a stoppage Pierson managed to get back to his feet, his rubbery legs carrying him to the end of the fight.

All of this meant more work for the judges as Pierson took the unanimous decision.

It was down to lightweight for the next fight as T.J. Grant faced Evan Dunham.

If you ever wanted to see a battle between two fighters going all out to get the win then this is the fight for you. For three rounds these two put on an extremely entertaining and sometimes brutal battle.

It was an intriguing back and forth affair where one guy would connect with a great combination and the other guy would come back with a great combination of his own. It looked so close until Grant connected with a knee to Dunham’s head that opened up a nasty cut which turned into a gash when he connected with further knees later on.

This wasn’t all about the striking though. Towards the end of each and every round Dunham scored with takedowns with varying degrees of success.

The only thing missing from this was a finish, which meant more work for the judges as Grant took the unanimous decision.

The final preliminary bout saw Igor Pokrajac taking on Vinny Magalhaes in the light heavyweight division.

The only prelim fight not to go the distance saw Magalhaes put in a dominating performance on the ground.

The action began with a lengthy clinch against the cage, and after Magalhaes scored with the takedown he went on the offensive, going for an armbar at one point before, for some unknown reason, he let Pokrajac out of his guard.

It didn’t matter much though. Pokrajac scored with the takedown early in the second, and once again Magalhaes went on the attack straight away, going for a triangle choke before switching to an armbar. The Croatian tapped as soon as the Brazilian flipped him over, giving him the impressive submission win.

The main shown began with featherweight action as Cub Swanson went up against Charles Oliveira.

This was a great way to open the main show. After the initial feeling out period Oliveira scored with an impressive takedown, but when he couldn’t capitalise on this Swanson managed to escape easily.

The end came shortly afterwards. Swanson began to connect with some crisp strikes. A left hook to the body seemed to shake Oliveira up a little, and a big right moments later saw the Brazilian crashing to the ground like a giant redwood. The referee quickly stepped in to give Swanson the knockout win.

Then it was up to light heavyweight as the returning Matt Hamill faced Roger Hollett.

This was one of those fights that you either admired for it’s explosive moments or it left you pulling your hair out due to the lack of activity.

The fight began with the usual feeling out period as both men pawed at each other as they tried to gauge the distance. It wasn’t long though before Hamill scored with the takedown. He quickly went to work with the ground and pound. His left fist resembled a piston as he rained down a torrent of unanswered blows. In truth the Canadian was lucky to survive before he made his escape.

By the time the second round started it was obvious that Hamill was starting to tire. With that knowledge Hollett should have gone in for the kill, but instead he just seemed to stand in front of Hamill, trying to score with the flashy kicks before falling prey to Hamill’s takedowns.

Sadly, because he was gassed Hamill couldn’t go in for the kill as he had in the first round, and it was the same throughout the rest of the fight. Hollett would fail establish any kind of control as Hamill scored with numerous takedowns.

With no finish in sight it was down to the judges as all three scored in favour of Hamill.

Middleweight action followed as Michael Bisping went up against Brian Stann.

This was more like it, a great fight between two guys at the top of their game trying to get into the title picture.

Both guys looked great in the first round with their striking, with Bisping constantly moving away from the bight right hand that has proven to be his Achilles heel in previous fights. Things looked pretty even until the final seconds of the first round when Stann connected with a big right that rocked the Brit.

Bisping recovered enough to take control from the second round onwards. He soon began to out-strike Stann, allying this with a series of takedowns. Although Stann managed to reverse the positions after the first of these he was almost powerless against them afterwards.

This was basically how the rest of the fight played out, and with no finish it came as no surprise when all three judges scored in favour of Bisping.

The co-main event saw Joseph Benavidez taking on Demetrious Johnson in the final of the Flyweight Championship tournament.

Now this was good. Really good. For five rounds the two best fighters in the division put on an excellent encounter, the perfect advertisement for the company’s newest division.

Johnson looked tremendous throughout. His speed was awesome and just too much for Benavidez to handle at times. At one point Johnson simply moved to one side when Benavidez went for a big right.

When matched with some great striking of his own Johnson looked almost unstoppable in the first three rounds, although Benavidez did manage to get in a few meaningful blows.

The fourth round changed on that. Benavidez scored with a big right that sent Johnson crashing. He went in for the kill, going for his favourite guillotine submission. Johnson showed some sound defensive skills though, and did enough to survive this attempt before reversing the positions and scoring with a few takedowns of his own.

After five rounds of great action the judges came into play once again as Johnson took the split decision. Will these two go against each other again? I certainly wouldn’t complain if they did.

The main event saw Vitor Belfort challenging Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight title.

If you forget the events surrounding this fight then what you’ve got here is an MMA legend against a future MMA legend.

Jones put in another excellent performance, although it could all have been different in the first few moments.

The action quickly went to the ground in the first round, and within moments Belfort went for an armbar. For a few seconds it looked as if the Phenom was going to take the unlikely win, but Jones survived, going on to open a cut above Belfort’s right eye with a series of elbows.

Jones’ great work wasn’t just on the ground though. Throughout the stand-up portion of the fight Jones targeted Belfort’s leg with a series of kicks. His striking wasn’t that bad either, and he used his skills to make Belfort look all of his 35 years.

The end came in the first minute of the fourth round. After Belfort pulled guard Jones went to work and quickly locked in a kimura for the submission win.

The show rounded out with filler material in the form of the welterweight encounter between Kyle Noke and Charlie Brenneman.

This was quick. After a couple of opening combinations Noke began to up his game with a hard left jab. Seconds later a big right dropped Brenneman, and a series of lefts and rights was enough for the referee to call time and give Noke the TKO win.

In conclusion - so after all the controversy of the past few weeks the one question left to answer is this: was UFC 152 a good show?

I would have to answer in the affirmative. Thanks to ESPN finally getting the rights to show the prelims again British fans were treated to a massive five hour marathon of great MMA fights which, for the most part, delivered big time.

There really were some tremendous performances here from the guys on the undercard right through to the three main fights, and although finishes were in short supply here that didn’t detract from the event at all.

As for my fight of the night I had three choices. After I saw the Bisping/Stann fight I was convinced that one couldn’t be beaten. Then the Flyweights came along, and although Jones and Belfort came into consideration the no-prize goes to Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez this time around.

So with my five hour (over two nights) MMA marathon finally complete I can wrap this thing up by giving UFC 152 the big thumbs up.

And who knows, maybe we can stop the jaw-jacking about what Jon Jones did now. Until Dan Henderson gets back to full fitness that is.

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