Finally it happened. After ages of back and forth jibes Nick Diaz finally challenged Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title in the main event of UFC 158, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The five hour marathon began with the preliminary fights and the lightweight encounter between John Makdessi and Daron Cruickshank.
This proved to be a very entertaining three rounder. We had quite a lengthy feeling out period at the beginning which didn’t exactly sit too well with the Canadian fans, but once it got going we were treated to a great striking display.
Cruickshank was successful early on with a series of well-placed kicks that welted up Makdessi’s leg, and his striking enabled him to take control it wasn’t long before Makdessi took that control away from him.
With his home fans roaring him on Makdessi put on a tremendous display. His striking was crisp and accurate, he did a good job of controlling the centre of the cage, and he was able to defend against all of Cruickshank’s takedown attempts. In fact the only thing missing from his game was a finish.
Which meant that the judges were called into action for the first time. No disagreements here as Makdessi took the unanimous decision.
It was up to welterweight for the next fight as Dan Miller faced Jordan Mein.
The great striking that began in the first fight continued with this bruising encounter.
Mein looked a little nervous during the introductions, and as the fight began Miller took the upper hand with a couple of solid combinations.
Miller continued to look the more solid of the two until Mein connected with a left that put him on his backside. But instead of following him down Mein let him get back to his feet.
It wasn’t long before Mein took complete control, a big right sending Miller crashing to the ground once more. This time around Mein followed him down and unleashed with the ground and pound, and with Miller offering nothing in reply the referee stepped in to give Mein the TKO win.
Then it was down to featherweight as Antonio Carvalho took on Darren Elkins.
Although this one featured some more sound striking that’s not what it will be remembered for.
Carvalho had some success early on with three left hooks to the jaw. Elkins just shook these off as he went for a takedown against the cage, an attempt that Carvalho easily defended against.
As the Canadian began to take control Elkins connected with a big right that staggered Carvalho. He followed this up with some nice combinations that sent Carvalho down, but even though Carvalho got straight back up the referee stopped the fight, giving Elkins the TKO win, even though Carvalho looked like he had recovered.
After two first round finishes it was on to filler material and the bantamweight encounter between T.J. Dillashaw and Issei Tamura.
This one began with both guys testing the waters a little with a few kicks before Dillashaw scored with the takedown. The action didn’t stay on the ground for long as they got back to their feet and engaged in a clinch against the cage before the referee separated them.
When they went back to the striking Dillashaw looked on top form, and this certainly proved to be the case early in the second when he connected with a knee to Tamura’s head that sent him crashing to the mat. He then followed him down for a spot of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Dillashaw the knockout win.
The final preliminary fight saw Patrick Cote taking on Bobby Voelker in the welterweight division.
The welterweight debut of the former middleweight contender proved to be a rip roaring affair with both fighters putting in top notch performances. Early on it looked like we were going to get another all striking battle as both fighters connected with some good shots.
But then Voelker scored with the first takedown of the fight, and even though Cote put in some good ground work off his back with his armbar attempts Voelker always looked for the ground and pound.
As the second round began Cote began to have more success with his striking, although Voelker opened up a cut above his man’s right eye with a couple of knees.
When the fight entered the third round it looked like Cote was going to continue with his great striking until Voelker took the fight to the ground again. This time around Voelker was all over his man like a cheap suit. Cote tried for the armbar once again but Voelker saw these attempts coming, and he certainly looked the strong of the two when the fight ended.
With no finish in sight the judges were called into action once again as they gave Cote the unanimous decision.
The main show began with Mike Ricci taking on Colin Fletcher in the lightweight division.
This was an interesting one. The first round had the feel of a sparring session about it, and the only meaningful action came when Fletcher connected with a kick south of the border.
Things got a little better in the second round, especially when Ricci countered Fletcher’s kick with a takedown. From there he scored with some hard shots, opening Fletcher up under his right eye.
When they went back to the striking it was a little better second time around, but as with the opening exchanges they looked pretty even.
Ricci scored with the second takedown of the fight in the final minute of the third, quickly working into position where he could go for a rear naked choke and then an armbar. Fletcher survived these attempts and soon came out on top for a brief moment of ground and pound. Time was against him though as the fight came to an end.
Which meant that the judges were brought into the equation. Once again they were in complete agreement as Ricci took the unanimous decision.
Middleweight action followed as Nick Ring faced Chris Camozzi.
This certainly was better than the previous fight, and once again we saw a very enjoyable striking affair.
Ring put in a good performance in the first two rounds. With his hands down and his chin in the air he used his speed advantage to frustrate Camozzi, especially when he connected with a series of jabs to the body.
But as the fight entered the third round Ring looked spent as Camozzi upped his game. Ring was quickly becoming a static target for Camozzi’s punches and clinches.
With another fight going the distance the judges were put to work again, and this time they couldn’t agree as Camozzi took the split decision.
It was back to welterweight for the next fight as Jake Ellenberger took on Nate Marquardt.
No judges required for this one. Early on it seemed as if all Marquardt wanted to do was kick his man, and although he had some success in that respect it was a right from Ellenberger that caused the first damage when he opened up a cut underneath Marquardt’s left eye.
Then, as the fight neared the three minute mark, Ellenberger unloaded with a left/right combination. Marquardt slumped to the canvas, and after Ellenberger connected with a couple of more shots the referee stepped in to give Ellenberger the knockout win.
The welterweight action continued with Carlos Condit taking on Johny Hendricks.
Now this was good, one of the best three round affairs I’ve seen in a long time. Both guys went at it full pelt as soon as the fight began. Hendricks’ striking looked top notch throughout, and he had Condit in trouble no end of times.
Even though his striking was good his takedowns were even better. Condit just didn’t seem to have any defence as Hendricks took him down time and time again.
As for Condit’s performance it was just as good. His striking may not have been as effective and his takedown defence may have been non-existent but he still had his fair share of good moments. Hendricks may have be able to take him down at will but he couldn’t keep him down for long. He also left himself open as Condit went looking for a kimura on more than once occasion.
With neither man able to get the finish the judges came into play again as Hendricks took the unanimous decision.
The main event saw Nick Diaz challenging Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title.
Well, this was the one we’d all been waiting for, and for the first two rounds GSP was in dominant form once again. Like Hendricks in the previous fight he was able to take his man down at will, and once he got there he controlled the action brilliantly.
Diaz didn’t really come into the fight until the third round. It was only then that he began to defend against GSP’s takedowns. He also got in some good blows, but he almost ruined it all after the horn sounded when he took a swing at GSP when the referee separated them on the ground.
Diaz’s other main flaw was his tendency to mock GSP, and there was one point where he basically walked around the cage when he would have been better served to try a few combinations instead.
By the time the fifth round began it was pretty obvious who was going to win. GSP’s dominance and Diaz’s inability to take the chances when on offer meant that when the fight ended we all knew how it was going to turn out.
The judges were then called upon for the final time. No surprises here as they gave GSP everything with their unanimous decision.
In conclusion - so did this live up to all the hype? I think the answer to that question is yes, yes it did.
UFC 158 was another quality show from the Zuffa crew. From the preliminaries right through to the main event we were treated to some tremendous action, and even though there was one slightly strange referee’s decision and one fight that was somewhat lacking early on overall the show was very good.
As for my fight of the night no-prize those in the know gave the official reward to the Hendricks/Condit encounter, and I see no reason to disagree with that particular decision.
So with all of that being said there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s to give UFC 158 the thumbs up.