Tuesday, 20 November 2012

UFC 154 St-Pierre vs Condit on ESPN - TV Review

It’s time to take a trip to the Octagon once again as we take a look at the massive five hour’s worth of MMA action at UFC 154, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.

We start with the two hour prelims show, beginning with action from the featherweight division between Antonio Carvalho and Rodrigo Damm.

While this fight may not have been to everyone’s liking it certainly proved to be an interesting battle.

Despite the fact that these two were known for their ground skills they decided to put on a three round striking battle, with each man having varying degrees of success.

Carvalho did a good job in targeting Damm’s lead leg with a series of hard kicks, and by the time the first round ended the injured limb began to swell considerably. Damm never tried to check the kicks, taking the full force of the blow each and every time.

While he may have suffered some more damage to his legs Damm’s striking caused some damage of it’s own, bloodying Carvalho’s nose in the second round. His combinations looked clean and crisp, although the injury to his lead leg clearly hampered him somewhat.

There wasn’t much ground work to speak of in this one, and with no finish in sight the judges were called into action as Carvalho took the split decision.

Then it was up to the lightweight division as Sam Stout went up against John Makdessi.

These two guys were certainly a lot busier than the last two guys, especially Makdessi, who put on a great striking display over the three rounds. His left jab was a thing of beauty and caught Stout off guard every time it connected. His leg kicks weren’t too bad either.

Stout did okay, but he wasn’t a patch on his fellow Canadian, and when he went for a few takedowns Makdessi defended against these with relative ease. It really was great to watch, especially when Makdessi upped his game even further towards the end of the third.

Once again the decision was left in the hands of the judges, with Makdessi taking the unanimous decision.

The light heavyweights were up next as Cyrille Diabate took on Chad Griggs.

Griggs began this one swinging for the fences as he tried to turn the fight into a brawl, but a quick left from Diabate soon sent him down to the canvas.

What followed looked absolutely frantic at times. Diabate took side control and connected with a series of elbows that bloodied Griggs’ nose, and from there the action went back and forth until Diabate took Griggs’ back and locked in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

And is it me or does Diabate look like a young Richie Havens?

Filler material followed as Ivan Menjivar took on Azamat Gashimov in the bantamweight division.

This was good. After a brief feeling out period Gashimov took the fight to the ground, but when Menjivar went for an armbar the debuting Russian managed to survive.

After taking a couple of up-kicks Gashimov went back to work in the guard, looking pretty good. It wasn’t long before Menjivar went on the attack though, and from out of nowhere he went for a second armbar. Gashimov tried to slam his way out but it wasn’t long before Menjivar cranked in the hold, the Russian having no choice but to tap to give Menjivar the submission win.

A technical problem meant that we did get that fight’s official announcement. We also had to put up with several segments from the British version of Pardon the Interruption. I swear that Steve Bunce always looks like he’s on the verge of a heart attack.

Thankfully normal service resumed in time for the final preliminary fight between Patrick Cote and Alessio Sakara in the middleweight division.

We certainly had an eventful fight with this one. After a brief feeling out period Cote went to work, and with his hometown fans cheering him on he rocked Sakara with a series of great blows.

But the transplanted Italian quickly made his comeback, rocking Cote with a series of elbows against the cage. As Cote slumped to the ground Sakara connected with a few hammer fists as the referee stepped in to stop the action.

Then it became apparent to everyone that most of those blows connected to the back of Cote’s head, which meant that the referee had no choice but to disqualify Sakara, an example of how a few moments of madness can ruin what could have been a great win.

The main show began in the featherweight division as Mark Hominick faced Pablo Garza.

To say that this was a great way to open the main show would be an understatement. These two went at it right from the beginning of the first round, and this brought on some frantic back and forth exchanges, the best coming towards the end of the round when a left to the body from Hominick rocked Garza. But Garza quickly came back with a big right that opened up a cut underneath the Canadian’s eye.

Garza went on to dominate the fight from the second round onwards. His ground and pound in the second round looked brutal as he turned his man’s face into a bloody mess. Hominick had a few good moments on the ground, mainly when he went for some submissions, but Garza’s work was just too much for him.

The judges were called into action for the first time on the main show, and it came as no surprise when Garza took the unanimous decision.

Then it was back to lightweight as Mark Bocek took on Rafael Dos Anjos.

This was pretty much a one-sided affair. For three rounds Dos Anjos dominated the action in every department.

Bocek’s tactics were obvious from the beginning, but whenever he went for a takedown Dos Anjos managed to defend these with ease, and with the Canadian looking fatigued at the start of the second round Dos Anjos upped his game even further to take control.

Bocek’s only meaningful form of offence came with an inadvertent low kick early in the second, but as soon as he’d recovered Dos Anjos put on a show. His striking turned Bocek’s face into a bloody mess, and his ground work looked impeccable.

In fact the only thing missing from his performance was a finish, which meant more work for the judges as they gave Dos Anjos everything in their unanimous decision.

More middleweight action followed as Francis Carmont went up against Tom Lawlor.

Out of all of the three rounders on the main show this one was the most even.

Both fights had success in every department. Lawlor’s tactic was to try and take Carmont down. He failed to do this after several clinches against the cage, with Carmont looking for a standing kimura a couple of times.

Carmont’s striking looked good. His kicks looked great, and he used his height and reach advantage to good effect while trying to gauge the distance.

Lawlor’s best moments came at the end of the first and second rounds when he went for a couple of guillotines. But something about the way he tried to apply those chokes didn’t quite look right, and Carmont was able to escape on both occasions.

So with both fighters basically cancelling each other out it went down to the judges again as Carmont took the split decision.

The co-main event featured welterweight action as Martin Kampmann faced Johny Hendricks.

This was one of those encounters where the introductions lasted longer than the actual fight. Kampmann began with a couple of kicks, but it wasn’t long before Hendricks went looking for the big power shot, a big left sending Kampmann crashing to the ground. The referee quickly stepped in to give Hendricks the knockout win after just 46 seconds.

The main event saw Georges St-Pierre taking on Carlos Condit for the undisputed Welterweight title.

This was a war, and for the first time in ages we had a main event that actually had that big fight atmosphere.

For five rounds these two put on a tremendous spectacle. GSP looked like he hadn’t been injured at all. There were no signs of Octagon rust as he sought to cement his legacy.

Everything he did in the offensive department just looked good, from his striking to his takedowns to his ground work, and it was a sign of how he was going when he opened up a cut above Condit’s eye with a hard elbow in the first round.

Condit looked good, but his problem was that he met a GSP who was on fire. The former WEC Champion did have one chance to extinguish that fire though when a head kick sent GSP crashing to the canvas in the third round.

Condit followed him down, and for a few brief moments it looked as if he was going to achieve the impossible with some well placed ground and pound shots. But GSP managed to recover enough to continue his great work, even though he was not showing the scares, or rather the bumps, of battle himself.

So what we had was an outstanding contest worth the price of admission alone. There was just one thing missing, and that was a finish, which meant that the judges were called into action for the final time as GSP took the unanimous decision to unify the titles.

In conclusion - let’s break this down into two segments.

Beginning with the prelims, once again I’m more than pleased that ESPN put their hands into their pockets and paid out a little more so we Brits who don’t want to sit in front of our computers can see the action. The two hour segment gave us the chance to see some great and at times controversial action, with Cyrille Diabate’s submission win over Chad Griggs the highlight for me.

The main show surpassed all of that though. Johny Hendrick’s one punch demolition of Martin Kampmann was definitely a highlight reel moment, but all of the great performances here were surpassed by the tremendous main event.

Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit put on a fight for the ages as GSP cemented his place as the top welterweight in the history of the UFC. I truly believe that it’s either going to take some genetically engineered Superman or a really special talent to knock him off his perch. Part of me wonders if that man will be Anderson Silva, but I get the feeling that if those two ever met it will be in a catchweight encounter with no titles on the line.

As for my fight of the night, do I really need to tell you what that is?

So with the five hour marathon (spread over two nights) over there’s just one more thing to do and that’s to give UFC 154 the big thumbs up.

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