Monday, 21 January 2013

UFC Belfort vs Bisping on ESPN - TV Review

It’s time to step into the Octagon for the first time this year as we take a look at the UFC’s latest show on FX, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.

The broadcast began in the lightweight division as Thiago Tavares faced Khabib Nurmagomedov.

This one began without any exchanges as Tavares sought to cut off the cage and back his man towards the fence. When they did finally connect it was Nurmagomedov who scored first.

It then looked like we were going to get a lengthy feeling out period until the Russian connected with a left uppercut that sent Tavares crashing.

Nurmagomedov followed his man down for a series of elbows before the referee stepped in to stop the action, giving Nurmagomedov the knockout win.

Heavyweight action followed as former title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga took on Ben Rothwell.

The first round saw Gonzaga attempting to take the fight to the ground a number of times. He succeeded more often than not, only for Rothwell to get back to his feet. Gonzaga did, however, have more success in the striking department, rocking his man with a big right.

He had even more success with his right hand in the second, and it wasn’t long before he locked in a standing guillotine. He then pulled guard and took the fight to the ground as Rothwell tapped out just 61 seconds into the round to give Gonzaga the submission win.

The next two fights featured middleweight action, beginning with Daniel Sarafian and C.B. Dollaway.

The only fight of the broadcast to go the distance proved to be a very interesting affair. Sarafian put on a great striking display early which gave Dollaway no end of trouble. It wasn’t all one way traffic though as Dollaway got in his fair share of decent blows as well.

Sarafian’s striking continued into the second round, but just when it looked like the Brazilian’s dominance was going to continue into the third Dollaway scored with a takedown. Sarafian looked almost defenceless as Dollaway went to work, but as the old saying goes he was saved by the bell.

With both fighters looking fatigued round three saw them moving away from the striking as both men put on a good display of ground fighting. Dollaway was the first to have some success there, but it wasn’t long before Sarafian took control as he took Dollaway’s back and looked for a rear naked choke. Dollaway survived this scare though and soon reversed the positions.

But with neither man able to get the finish the judges were called into action for the only time as Dollaway took the split decision.

The second middleweight fight came in the main event as Vitor Belfort faced Michael Bisping.

We had a lengthy feeling out period at the beginning of this one as both fighters tested the waters, but as the round went on Bisping seemed to grow in confidence as he began to work behind his jab.

But a high leg kick from Belfort troubled the count, and the Brit would probably have been in even more trouble had the round not ended.

By the time the second round started Bisping took control again. That control didn’t last too long though when Belfort connected with another kick that sent Bisping crashing to the ground. Belfort followed him down for a spot of ground and pound before the referee stopped the action to give Belfort the TKO win.

The show rounded out with filler material in the form of the lightweight encounter between Edson Barboza and Lucas Martins.

To say that Barboza was quick would be something of an understatement. He began his shift with a series of quick kicks, one of which inadvertently found a target south of the equator.

After a brief rest period Barboza went straight back to work, and his speed frustrated Martins so much that he tried to trade with his man.

This left him wide open for a Barboza left that sent him down. Barboza quickly followed, and his onslaught was such that Martins soon tapped out to give Barboza the deserved win.

In conclusion - while the UFC’s first show of 2013 may not go down as one of the most spectacular shows of the year it certainly had it’s fair share of highlight moments.

The striking displays from the likes of Nurmagomedov and Belfort delivered big time, while the three round affair between Dollaway and Sarafian looked like the decision could go either way, and one couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Brazilian.

So while it was a bit of a mixed night for the home country fighters I think it’s safe to say that this show ticked almost all of the boxes as far as entertainment value is concerned.

As for my fight of the night this time the no-prize goes to Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping, even though my fellow Brit didn’t get the job done. Oh well, there’s always next time.

So with all of that out of the way it’s time to wrap this thing up by giving the UFC’s latest offering the thumbs up.

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