Saturday, 23 February 2013

UFC Barao vs McDonald on ESPN - TV Review

It’s catch-up time kiddies! A bout of man flu (get well soon messages to the usual address) means that I’m a few days behind as far as last weekend’s big events are concerned.

So let’s try to rectify this situation by going back to this past Saturday night and the battle of the Interim Bantamweight Championship, shown live on ESPN here in Britain.

The show began in the welterweight division as my fellow Englishman Che Mills took on Matthew Riddle.

I really enjoyed this one. Riddle put on a great display of ground fighting throughout, and although Mills managed to recover after the first couple of takedowns it wasn’t long before Riddle established his dominance on the ground.

Mills had a couple of good moments in the striking department, and his best work on the ground came when he managed to reverse the positions near the end of the fight.

But by then it was too little too late as Riddle took split decision.

It was up to light heavyweight for the next fight as James Te-Huna faced Ryan Jimmo.

I thought we were going to get an early finish with this one, especially when Jimmo connected with a left kick to Te-Huna’s head.

Te-Huna fell to the canvas like a sack of spuds, and although Jimmo followed him down for a torrent of blows the Aussie managed to survive the onslaught.

He’d recovered well by the time the second round began, so much so that he began to take control of the fight himself when he scored with the takedown. This time around it was Jimmo who had to survive the ground and pound assault, with the Canadian managed to make it to the third round.

Te-Huna continued his resurgence into that round with some more great all round work, and it was enough for the judges as they gave him their unanimous decision.

It was back to welterweight for the next fight as Gunnar Nelson faced Jorge Santiago.

This was another fine example of why I’m becoming a big fan of the Icelander. It was another great performance. His striking, although a little unorthodox at times, was top notch throughout, and his ground game was as solid as ever.

It wasn’t a completely one-sided battle though. Santiago connected with a few good shots early in the first, as well as with a big blow as the fight ended, but he was completely overwhelmed by Nelson’s ground game, and it made one wonder how different things could have been if this had been a striking battle.

With no finish in sight the judges were called upon again as Nelson took the unanimous decision.

More light heavyweight action followed as Jimi Manuwa went up against Cyrille Diabate.

The only fight of the broadcast that didn’t make it past the first round saw Manuwa put in another convincing performance.

He began by testing the waters a little before a clinch against the fence, and when Diabate tried to connect with a knee Manuwa caught it and scored with the takedown.

They didn’t stay on the ground for long though, and as the round progressed the Londoner continued to frustrate Diabate with his striking and his takedowns.

But when the round ended Diabate began to limp badly, and it wasn’t long before his corner pulled out him of the fight because of injury, giving Manuwa the TKO win.

The penultimate fight featured featherweight action as Cub Swanson went up against Dustin Poirier.

This was another one I really enjoyed. It was a very intriguing three rounder, with both men putting in good performances.

The striking exchanges were crisp early on as they targeted each other’s lead leg, and as the action progressed Poirier scored with a couple of impressive takedowns, once coming after Swanson missed with a spinning back fist.

The third round was the best for me, mainly because of Swanson’s ground game, the best moment being when he took Poirier’s back and the Diamond tried to shake him off, only for Swanson to take the top position after the scramble finished.

Sadly, the worst thing about this fight was that neither man could get the finish, which meant more work for the judges as they gave Swanson the unanimous decision.

The main event saw Michael McDonald challenging Renan Barao for the Interim Bantamweight title.

ESPN had a few technical problems during this fight, but thankfully they didn’t last that long as we got to see a pretty enjoyable encounter.

Both guys looked in top form early on, with McDonald in particular rolling off some good combinations, one of which rocked the champion in the first round.

But while McDonald was looking good Barao was really looking like a champion. He seemed to be getting stronger as the fight went on, and everything he did just looked so good.

The judges weren’t required for this one. As they entered the fourth round, deep water territory for McDonald, Barao upped his game even further with his striking and then with his takedowns as he took McDonald’s back before quickly moving into position for an arm triangle.

At first McDonald gave the all clear with a thumbs up, but it wasn’t long before he tapped out to give Barao the submission win.

In conclusion - I have to admit that I considered not doing this review, mainly because I’m still not feeling 100 per cent. But at the end of the day I needed something to watch, and I’m glad that I watched this.

This was another quality trip to merry old England for the UFC crew. All the fights delivered, the only disappointment being Cyrille Diabate’s calf injury against Jimi Manuwa. Hopefully young Jimi will get the chance to shine in the Octagon again soon, possibly against Diabate.

As for my fight of the night no-prize sadly I didn’t get t see the official award winner, which is annoying considering I’m a big fan of Tom Watson, so I’m going to give the prize to Cub Swanson & Dustin Poirier for their very enjoyable featherweight encounter.

So with all of that out of the way it’s time to end this thing by giving this the big thumbs up.

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