Wednesday, 25 September 2013

UFC 165 Jones vs Gustafsson on BT Sport - TV Review

It's time to step into the Octagon once again as we take a look at one of the most anticipated title fights this year in the main event of UFC 165, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

We begin with the preliminary card and the bantamweight encounter between Mitch Gagnon and Dustin Kimura.

This was a great way to start the show. They began by testing the waters with a few kicks, and although Kimura was getting in some good shots Gagnon's shots were even better, so much so that it wasn't long before Kimura was suffering from a bloodied nose.

But a few seconds later Gagnon was in trouble when Kimura connected with a shot to the body. He quickly sucked it up though and scored with a takedown, and even though he soon found himself in a heel hook he managed to escape from that particular predicament so he could engage in a spot of ground and pound.

Gagnon continued with his great striking when they got back to their feet. Kimura was clearly in trouble, and when he went for a takedown the Canadian locked in a guillotine choke immediately. Kimura held on for a few seconds, but when he passed out the referee stopped the action to give Gagnon the submission win.

Then it was up to welterweight as Chris Clements faced Stephen Thompson.

These two began with a nice exchange of kicks, with Thompson's sometimes unique angle of attack proving to be successful on more than one occasion, and although he was getting the better of these exchanges Clements came back with a nice spinning leg sweep that sent Thompson to the ground.

As the first round went on it was certainly proving to be an interesting encounter. There were brief trips to the ground as Thompson showed that his grapping has improved a little, and it was obvious he was getting the better of the exchanges.

Shortly after the second round began Thompson caught his man with a combination that sent him crashing. He followed him down for a spot of ground work but it wasn't long before they got back to their feet. A few minutes later Clements was on rubber legs again after a big right from Thompson. A few more shots later and Clements slumped up against the cage, with the referee stepping in to give Thompson the knockout win.

Filler material followed in the form of the lightweight encounter between John Makdessi and Renee Forte.

This one featured more water testing with kicks, with Forte opening up his account with a head kick, but as the fight progressed Makdessi began to come into his own, particularly when he connected with a spinning back kick.

A few moments later when Forte came forward Makdessi connected with a right that sent Forte to the ground. Makdessi followed him down for a spot of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Makdessi the knockout win.

Normal service resumed with more bantamweight action as Ivan Menjivar took on Wilson Reis.

The first three rounder of the broadcast was one of those fights that fitted firmly into the interesting box. It was an okay encounter, but it didn't have any real stand-out moments.

Both fighters put on good striking performances. Once again there was a variety of kicks on display, with Menjivar using the front kick to good effect. Reis proved to be more than capable of keeping up with him, and when our esteemed commentators began to wonder why the Brazilian hadn't taken the fight to the ground he promptly did so towards the end of the first round.

The tactical striking game continued into the second round, but it wasn't long before Reis took the fight to the ground again. The only problem was that Menjivar's defense was quite sound as he closed his guard, and more often than not he was able to escape quite easily, with Reis' only real success coming with a couple of kicks to Menjivar's legs as he lay on the mat.

Reis had more success with his takedowns in the third, taking the mount at one point, but once again Menjivar's defensive work proved to be good, although Reis managed to get in a few good blows this time around.

But with the fight going the distance the judges were called upon for the first time during the broadcast Reis took the unanimous decision.

The final preliminary fight saw Mike Ricci taking on Myles Jury in the lightweight division.

I think the best way to describe this fight is that it felt like it had a fifteen minute feeling out period. Both fighters adopted an extremely cautious approach, and ultimately it led to them cancelling each other out.

The only real shot of note came in the first round when Jury connected with a big right. But apart from that not much else of not happened in the striking department. The third round featured a bit of ground work, but with the lack of aggression it felt more like a training session than a professional fight.

As for the judges they differed in their opinions as Jury took the split decision.

The main show began with more lightweight action between Pat Healy and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Now this was more like it. These two put on a highly entertaining three rounder, and it proved to be a greater advertisement for the lightweight division than the previous fight.

Healy got off some good strikes early on. His tactic was quite simple, head down and swing for the trees, and although he had some success in that respect it wasn't long before Nurmagomedov was out-striking him. At one point the Russian was scoring with double the amount of blows than Healy was, and this was quite evident when Healy sustained a cut to his left cheek and forehead.

Although Healy came back slightly in the second round Nurmagomedov was still on top, and it was an advantage he cemented in the third round when he scored with a takedown. Healy managed to get back to his feet, but he was back on his back a few seconds later when Nurmagomedov picked him up, walked across the cage and slammed him to the mat. By this time it looked as if Healy was all out of ideas, and even though his corner were screaming orders at him his body wouldn't allow him to follow these instructions.

But with no finish on the horizon the judges were called upon again as Nurmagomedov took the unanimous decision.

Middleweight action followed as Costa Philippou faced Francis Carmont.

As the fight began a lot of people were probably expecting these two to engage in a striking battle, but when Carmont scored with a takedown thirty seconds in it signaled the start of three rounds of domination on his part.

Carmont was all over him like the proverbial cheap suit for the majority of the three rounds as he basically beat the guy up, and apart from a few submission attempts early on Philippou was simply overwhelmed by his opponent. In fact his ground game was so poor that he made no attempt to get back to his feet, and only did so when the referee stood the fighters up or when the rounds ended.

The only thing missing from Carmont's performance was a finish, which meant more work for the judges as Carmont took the overwhelming unanimous decision.

The big boys of the heavyweight division were up next as Brendan Schaub faced Matt Mitrione.

This one looked like two bulls butting heads at first. One of them would get in a couple of good blows, then the other would respond in kind, and as the fight went on it looked like it was going to developing into a nice striking battle.

But after Schaub came forward with a barrage of blows he scored with the takedown a few moments later. He then worked his way into position so he could apply a d'arce choke, and when Mitrione passed out the referee stopped the fight to give Schaub the submission win.

The co-main event saw Eddie Wineland challenging Renan Barao for the Interim Bantamweight title.

This proved to be a very intriguing striking battle. After the initial feeling out period both guys got in some good blows, Barao with his kicks, Wineland with his fists, and as the round progressed in this manner it felt like it was going to go the distance.

But then, just over twenty seconds into the second round, Barao connected with a spinning back kick that sent Wineland crashing. He then followed him down for a spot of ground and pound before the referee stepped in to give Barao the TKO win.

The main event saw Alexander Gustafsson challenging Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight title.

Over the past few days I've heard so much about this fight, mainly about how great it was, and I must say that all of it is justified.

This may well be the fight of the year. For five rounds these two engaged in a veritable war of attrition, and for the majority of the fight Gustafsson managed to do something that nobody else had done before, he made Jones look human.

The Swede's striking was top notch throughout, and this, allied with his tremendous takedown defense, meant that he was more than able to match Jones. He also achieved what was impossible before when he scored with a takedown of his own.

For the first three rounds Jones looked almost normal. He sustained a cut above his right eye early on, and as the fight progressed he was showing the scars of battle, more so than his challenger, and it wasn't until he'd taken quite a beating that he suddenly seemed to wake up to the fact that Gustafsson was actually capable of beating him.

Jones' best chance of victory came in the fourth round when he finally managed to rock the Swede. But try as he might he just couldn't put him away, and as they entered the final round both men looked absolutely shattered, and although Gustafsson was looking like a spent force Jones finally upped his game.

But after all of that neither man could get the finish, which meant yet more work for the judges as Jones took the unanimous decision, although with one judge scoring it 49-46 I'm left to wonder if he was actually paying attention.

With some time to spare it was on to filler material, beginning with the bantamweight fight between Roland Delorme and Alex Caceres.

This certainly proved to be an interesting encounter. Caceres began his stint with some nice striking, and he was clearly the faster of the two until Delorme sent him to the canvas with a big left.

From there we saw some wild exchanges as they scrambled for position on the ground. Delorme clearly got the better of his man here as he went for a number of submissions, although Caceres' defense was more than up to the task.

As the fight went on Caceres' continued with his great striking, and although Delorme got in his own fair share of good blows you just had to look at the Canadian's face to see who was winning this particular battle, and while Delorme was starting to look fatigue Caceres looked as fresh as a daisy, his only down point coming towards the end of the fight when a high/low kick combination saw him slip and end up on his back with Delorme in his guard.

As for the judges they couldn't agree as Caceres took the split decision.

The broadcast then rounded out with repeat showings of the Mitch Gagnon/Dustin Kimura and Stephen Thompson/Chris Clements fights.

In conclusion - so what can I say that hasn't already been said about this show? Not much probably, but I'm going to say it anyway.

UFC 165 proved to be a very good show. Although all the fights delivered in spades this one was definitely made by the tremendous main event. Champion and challenger both put in great performances in that one, although it was somewhat annoying that commentator Joe Rogan tried to use Jon Jones' old foot injury as an excuse for his performance. Maybe he just couldn't accept that Alexander Gustafsson was just that good.

As for my fight of the night no-prize there was only ever going to be one candidate for this prestigious award, and that's the aforementioned Jones/Gustafsson battle.

So with all of that out of the way lets wrap this thing up by giving UFC 165 the big thumbs up.

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