Thursday, 10 March 2016

TV Review: UFC 196 McGregor vs Diaz

The Octagon is our next destination as we take a look at the recent happenings at UFC 196, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

We begin with action from the women’s bantamweight division between Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko.

This proved to be a very enjoyable show opener. It took a while to get going, but once it did we were treated to some nice action from both fighters.

Nunes put on a great showing in the first two rounds. Her ground work looked top notch, especially in the second when her ground and pound opened up a cut under Shevchenko’s eye. Shortly after that it looked as if she was going to get the submission win when she took her opponent’s back and went looking for a rear naked choke.

Shevchenko managed to survive that particular scare, and it was only in the third round that she really got going, beginning when she cracked Nunes in the head with an elbow. From there her striking looked good throughout the round, as did her ground work, although she just couldn’t get that one decisive blow she was looking for.

So with the fight going the distance the judges came into play as Nunes took the unanimous decision.

Then it was on to the light heavyweight division as Corey Anderson went up against Tom Lawlor.

The second entertaining three rounder of the main show looked like it wasn’t going to get out of the first round early on when Lawlor had Anderson in trouble early on with some nice strikes. Anderson managed to survive though, and as he slowly worked his way back both guys got off some nice strikes, although neither man really had the other in any meaningful trouble.

The fight looked pretty even as they entered the final round until Anderson scored with the takedown and tried to work himself into a good position, but despite his rather solid work the referee stood the fighters up with just over a minute to go, giving them time for a few more blows before the final bell.

All of this meant that judges came into play again as Anderson took the unanimous decision, and with two of the judges giving everything to Anderson it made you wonder if those guys had watched the first round.

The light heavyweight action continued with Gian Villante against Ilir Latifi.

The last fight of the show to go the distance was an interesting one. The early exchanges saw Villante connecting with some nice kicks, with Latifi countering one of them with a cracking left to the side of his man’s head. Villante, however, continued with his tactic of choice for the next few moments. Using his natural gifts to good advantage.

Latifi’s most potent weapon was his left hand, although the suplex takedown looked great as well, and although those takedowns looked good Villante managed to stuff the majority of his attempts.

Both fighters were clearly fatigued as the clock ticked down, and with no finish in sight it meant that the judges were called upon for the final time as Latifi took the unanimous decision.

The co-main event saw Miesha Tate challenge Holly Holm for the Women’s Bantamweight title.

This has to be one of the most entertaining title fights I’ve seen in a while. For nearly twenty-five minutes these two women gave us an intriguing back and forth encounter which certainly deserved it’s place on the card.

While the first round could rightfully be called a feeling out kind of round the fight definitely came alive from the second round onwards when Tate scored with the takedown. The challenger went on to dominate the round with some nice transitional work and some great ground and pound. Holm looked almost helpless as Tate took her back and looked for choke that Holm vigorously defended against.

Rounds three and four saw both women getting in their fair share of good shots, and while Tate went looking for several takedowns Holm did an excellent job of defending against these.

So with the fight entering the final round both women had everything to play for, and once again we were treated to some nice striking, and it looked as if this one was going to go the distance. Then Tate dragged Holm to the mat and took her back, finally getting that choke she’d been looking for three rounds earlier. Holm held on for as long as she could until the inevitable happened and Tate took the title-winning submission win.

The main event featured welterweight action as Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor went up against Nate Diaz.

So this is what you get when you put the top featherweight in the world against one of the best lightweights in the world in a welterweight fight, nearly ten minutes of top notch action in front of a crowd that ate up everything they were given.

Both fighters put in a good stint in the first round, with McGregor getting the better of the exchanges when a series of lefts opened up a cut above Diaz’s right eye. The Irishman continued his great work into the second, but when Diaz scored with a big left of his own about two minutes later the fight really came to life.

Although McGregor was still getting in his fair share of good shots Diaz was starting to get the better of him, and when McGregor went for the takedown Diaz sprawled and took control on the ground, taking his man’s back and locking in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

In conclusion – this was another great night of UFC action. All five main show fights delivered, with the two marquee matches delivering big time. Credit must definitely be given to all of those involved, and especially to Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, who put on such a great fight with just two weeks notice.

As for my prestigious fight of the night no-prize, while it’s tempting to go with the McGregor/Diaz battle this writer’s going for the Tate/Holm encounter, which was another fine example of just the women’s divisions in the UFC are just so good right now.

So with all of that being said there’s just one more thing to do, and that’s to give UFC 196 the thumbs up.