It was the final show of 2012, with Junior Dos Santos facing Cain Velasquez for the second time in the main event of UFC 155, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
This five hour marathon started with the preliminary fights, beginning with two fights from the lightweight division as Michael Johnson went up against Myles Jury.
This could be one of the most one-sided fights I’ve seen in 2012. For three rounds Jury dominated the action on the ground, overwhelming Johnson with his mixture of strikes, submission attempts and transitions.
It was a great display of grounding fighting from Jury, with Johnson’s only meaningful piece of work coming at the beginning of the third round when he began to swing for the fences after getting a right rollicking from his corner.
But it was a tactic that meant nothing because Jury quickly took the fight back to the ground and reasserted his control.
With no finish in sight the decision was put in the hands of the judges as they gave everything to Jury.
Then it was on to the fight between Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner.
We had quite an extensive feeling out period at the beginning of this one, but while this went on Guillard connected with a series of unchecked kicks to Varner’s lead leg.
The traffic wasn’t all one way though, and Varner managed to get off some good looking combinations, including one that rocked Guillard late in the first before he went for a guillotine.
Both guys had their moments in the second with some crisp striking, but the best action came in the third, particularly on the ground. It became a nice back and forth battle as the fighters exchanged positions, the best moments coming when Guillard connected with a knee to the liver and Varner slammed his man to the mat after Guillard had climbed onto his back.
15 minutes of tough action meant more work for the judges as Varner took the split decision, with one judge giving everything to Guillard. As is often said to me I wonder what fight he was watching.
The final two preliminary fights featured bantamweight action, beginning with Erik Perez against Byron Bloodworth (got to love that name!).
No feeling out period in this one, these two began to swing as soon as the fight began. It wasn’t long before they engaged in a clinch against the cage, and when Perez connected with a right knee to the body Bloodworth fell to the mat.
Bloodworth tried to tie his man up as best he could, but it wasn’t enough as Perez connected with numerous strikes to the head and body, and as the first round neared it’s last minute these were just too much for Bloodworth. It wasn’t long before the referee stepped in to give Perez the TKO win.
The final preliminary fight saw Brad Pickett taking on Eddie Wineland.
This proved to be an intriguing three round affair. With no ground work to speak off these two engaged in a very entertaining striking affair, with both men putting in good performances.
The action was very enjoyable, with Wineland looking the busier of the two for the majority of the fight, especially when he rocked Pickett a number of times in the first round.
Pickett had his fair share of good luck as well, his combinations troubling his opponent at times. Wineland kept coming back though to assert his authority.
But with no finish the judges came into the equation again as Wineland took the split decision.
Three middleweight fights kicked off the main show, beginning with Chris Leben against Derek Brunson.
This was a Jekyll and Hyde kind of fight. The first round featured loads of great action, and when Brunson scored with the early takedown he put on a good display of ground fighting, and although Leben countered with some sound defensive work Brunson did a good job of controlling the action.
But the Brunson that came out for the second round was a completely different animal. He looked a shadow of his first round self, tired, sluggish, unable to get in any good combinations and unable to complete a takedown, and although Leben looked a little better he wasn’t far behind Brunson in that respect.
It was pretty much the same in the third round, although Brunson managed to score with a couple of takedowns and strikes, with Leben looking like he was suffering from a severe case of octagon rust.
Once again the judges were called into action as Brunson took the unanimous decision.
Then it was on to the bout between Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher.
Remember what I said earlier about one-sided fights? Well, this was another of those kind of outings.
Okami put in a dominating performance for the majority of the fight. Whether it was up against the cage or down on the ground he smothered Belcher and controlled the action extremely well.
Belcher had his moments, but there weren’t very many of them. There were a couple of guillotine attempts and a couple of right hands that rocked the Japanese star, but that was about it, mainly because Okami’s tactics were basically wearing Belcher out.
So once again we had a good fight with no finish, which meant more work for the judges as Okami took the unanimous decision.
The final middleweight fight saw Tim Boetsch going up against Costa Philippou.
This proverbial game of two halves proved to be a very interesting encounter, and an example of how a fight can turn after an injury.
Boetsch had a very good first round. He did a good job of shutting Philippou down against the cage, and even though he ate a great right uppercut it looked as if he was going to remain on top.
But then we found out between rounds that he’d suffered an injury, and it was downhill from there. An accidental clash of heads opened up a nasty cut on his forehead, and moments later further cuts and an inadvertent poke to his left eye made matters worse.
Philippou began to dominate the action, and when the third round began Boetsch looked like a beaten man as the crimson mask began to form again. It wasn’t long before Philippou went to work with the ground and pound, with the referee wisely stepping in to stop the fight as Philippou took the TKO win.
The co-main event featured lightweight action as Jim Miller faced Joe Lauzon.
This was one of those fights that had you in the palm of it’s hand from the start. Miller began his night’s work by rolling off some great combinations that put Lauzon on the back foot early. Miller was like a punching machine, and he soon turned his man’s face into a bloody mess, opening up cuts on his right eyebrow and on the top of his head.
Miller continued in the same vein as the second round began, but just when it looked like Lauzon was a beaten man he managed to reverse the positions on the ground so he could go for a couple of leg submissions.
With another bad cut to add to his collection Lauzon came out for the third round, which did surprise me a little. By now fatigue was becoming a major factor for both men, and even though they both looked like they were moving in slow motion they were still intent on getting the finish, with Lauzon going for some more submissions. Both guys finished the fight looking like extras from a George Romero film.
So after three tremendous rounds the decision went to the judges once again, with Miller taking the unanimous decision.
The main event saw Cain Velasquez challenging Junior Dos Santos for the Heavyweight title.
At least this lasted longer than their previous fight, about 24 minutes longer by my reckoning.
Velasquez took control as soon as the fight started, quickly putting JDS on the back foot with some tremendous striking and sound takedowns. TO say that he was making the challenger look ordinary would be an understatement, and when the round ended JDS staggered back to his corner like a professional wrestler staggering out of a nightclub.
Dos Santos looked like a beaten man when the second round began as Velasquez’s domination continued. It just seemed like that there wasn’t anything JDS could do to stop the onslaught, and even though he managed to connect with the occasional blow and occasionally defended against the takedowns he looked like he was running on fumes.
You couldn’t help but feel both admiration and fear for Dos Santos. If this had been a boxing fight the referee would have stepped in a lot earlier. But the champion showed a great deal of heart as he came out for round after round, even though as the fight went on everyone could see that he wasn’t going to win.
As for Velasquez he looked as fresh as a daisy when the final round began, and the only thing missing from his performance was the finish. But with his opponent starting to look like the Elephant Man when the twenty five minutes was up he knew he’d done enough.
The judges saw it that way too as they gave Velasquez their overwhelming title winning unanimous decision.
In conclusion - Zuffa’s band of merry men certainly ended their year on a high.
UFC 155 proved to be another enjoyable show, and while some of the early fights on the card were firmly planted in the “not bad” category things got a lot better as we moved to the co-main event and title fight.
The fight between Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon was a veritable war of attrition and a great advertisement for the sport and the courage of it’s fighters.
And that’s something you could say about the main event as well. I really enjoyed Cain Velasquez’s performance, but you couldn’t help but feel for the deposed champion Junior Dos Santos. Will we see chapter three of this rivalry? Perhaps, but only if JDS can work his way back into contention.
As for my fight of the night while the popular consensus has gone with Miller and Lauzon I’m going to plump for Velasquez and Dos Santos. If it had been a professional wrestling match I’d would probably have described it as a great piece of storytelling.
So with all of that out of the way it’s time to wrap this thing up by giving UFC 155 the thumbs up.