Another first for the UFC in this fight, with Eklund becoming the first Swedish fighter to ever enter the Octagon. Stout for his part had been training extensively with the Xtreme Couture camp leading into this one in an attempt to improve his wrestling and ground game to go with his already dangerous kickboxing background. And for those whoíve seen Never Back Down, am I the only one who thinks Stout looks a bit like the Jake Tyler character?
Round One begins and they trade some feeler strikes, with Eklund landing a couple of kicks, one to the leg and another to the midsection. Stout answers with some strikes of his own, and Eklund shoots on a single leg. Good job at defending it by Stout, and Eklund switches to a double and drives him into the fence. Stout manages to avoid the takedown and they end up clinched, where Eklund lands a hard knee to the body to break off. Good body kick from Stout, and Eklund tries a takedown, but again Stout stuffs it. Eklund tries again, and this time he ends up pulling guard. No control over Stoutís body whatsoever though, and the Canadian wisely chooses to stand up. Good combo by Stout and Eklund desperately dives for a leg again, but he canít get Stout down and ends up pulling guard once more. Stoutís having none of the ground game and stands again, and after a couple of exchanges Eklund tries a single again. Stout defends it like earlier, showing some impressive balance, and then hits a nice switch and gets on top. They come back up into the clinch and Stout lands an elbow. Eklund tries a takedown again, but once more Stout sprawls out and works some elbows to the body, before continuing to defend the takedown as the round ends.
2nd round, and Stout looks much fresher than the Swede. Stout easily avoids a takedown and lands a combo, but Eklund comes back with a body kick. Stout defends another single leg, but Eklund transitions and gets a rear waistlock, only for Stout to roll for a kneebar! Did not expect that. Eklund quickly escapes though and pulls Stout down, getting the hooks in, but itís too loose and Stout slips free into Eklundís guard. Stout quickly stands and clips him with a right hand when he gets up. BIG head kick from Eklund grazes the top of Stoutís dome, that couldíve been nasty, but Stout clinches and lands a knee to the body. Another takedown is avoided by Stout, and another one. Eklund shoots again, but eats a kick as he comes in, and this time he looks a little hurt and flops to his back. Stout calls him up though and avoids another takedown, and then stands to avoid some crab-like upkicks too. This is a terribly dull fight Ė Stoutís doing a tremendous job of avoiding the takedowns but heís not doing much offensively. Another sprawl follows and Eklund looks gassed now. Finally he manages to get a takedown, putting Stout on his back in guard, but as he works to take the back Stout rolls and almost gets caught in an armbar, but manages to pull out. Stout avoids another takedown, and as Eklund drops to his back Stout opens up with some heavy shots in the guard. Eklund survives though and they come back to standing, and a big body kick lands for Stout. Round ends with Eklund dropping to his back and taking some kicks to the legs, as the crowd boo.
Third and final round and this is looking like Stoutís fight for sure. And unsurprisingly, Round 3 is a carbon copy of the previous two, no point in doing play-by-play even. Stout outlands him on the feet, and avoids all of Eklundís desperate takedown attempts, getting on top on the odd occasion but usually standing back up and leaving Eklund laying in the butt-scoot position. Stout does land some damage Ė a couple of good kicks Ė but none of it really comes close to finishing Eklund despite him being totally out of gas. Eklund actually manages a takedown in the final minute, but heís too tired to do anything with the position and Stout ends up escaping to his feet.
Unanimous decision for Stout, but for the most part it was very dull. Let it be known that the first UFC fight of 2008 sucked.
Long time KOTC veteran Lee was finally given a crack at the big time after beating Travis Wiuff on short notice in PRIDE around a year earlier. His opponent, Italian boxer Sakara, hadnít been seen in the Octagon since a knockout loss at the hands of Houston Alexander in September 2007. Lee has a nasty scar on his midsection too, looks like he mightíve had his appendix removed or something.
They get underway and after a few moments of circling Lee goes for a takedown right away, grabbing a single leg. Sakara tries to defend but Lee keeps coming, practically crawling for the takedown now, but Sakara does a good job of defending. Lee switches to a double leg and gets Sakara down, but the Italian quickly pops back up. Lee tries to drag him down again, but Sakara backs off this time and Lee takes his time getting to his feet. Lee blocks a head kick and shoots again, getting Sakara down, but Sakara again escapes to his feet and punches the head as Lee clings onto his ankle. Lee suddenly goes foetal and Sakara lands some downward punches and the ref steps in for the TKO.
Weird finish, looked like Lee mightíve hurt himself somehow in fact as the punches didnít appear to land too heavily. Not much of a fight if Iím being perfectly honest but I guess Sakara got the job done, keeping himself afloat in the UFC for a bit longer at least.
Two British fighters facing off here, with Walsallís Taylor Ė he of the laser-sharp striking and insane cardio Ė taking on the younger and relatively unknown Kelly, coming out of Michael Bispingís Wolfslair camp. Kelly looks physically larger than the slender Taylor, well, thicker at least, and I have no idea where his nickname of ĎTellysí comes from or what it means. One hell of a Scouse accent though.
Touch of gloves to open and then they just TRADE OFF with crazy combos, both landing some serious punches like itís a bar fight or something. Unbelievable start. Taylor lands the better shots though and so Kelly closes the distance and gets a clinch. They muscle for position and Kelly lands an uppercut, but Taylor breaks off with a combo. More crazy exchanges follow and then Taylor grabs a guillotine and pulls guard, but Kelly swiftly escapes. Taylor tries to avoid being pinned into the fence, and rolls his hips to try to sweep, but Kelly avoids and lands some really heavy elbows from the top. Taylorís nose looks bloody now but he remains active from his back, pushing away from the fence with his feet. He goes for an armbar, but Kelly avoids it and lands some more punches from the top. Big shots land from Kelly now as he really punishes Taylor with ground-and-pound. Kelly remains on top working him over until the round ends. Really good first round, frenetic pace.
Round two gets underway and Taylor lands another crisp combo, before ending up taking Kelly down to guard. Some good shots land from the top for Taylor, and Kelly gives his back, but as Taylor tries to take the back he slips off and Kelly gets on top in Taylorís guard. Kelly works him over from the top again and then passes to half-guard. Kelly lands some more shots, but then Taylor goes for a kimura, but canít quite lock it up as he only has Kelly in a loose half-guard. He manages to get full guard, but by that point Kellyís managed to work himself free. Big punches from the top land for Kelly as Taylor tries to grab the wrist again. Some good elbows land too as Taylor is beginning to take a beating now. Big cut opens on the forehead of Taylor and the blood begins to pour out, looks like an elbow caused it. Round ends shortly after.
Between rounds we get a look at the cut, seriously nasty, like two inches long.
They actually embrace to begin the round to a huge pop from the crowd...and then right away go into another wild trade! This fight rules. This time Kelly stuns Taylor and gets a trip takedown from the clinch, avoiding a sweep as they hit the deck. Kelly gets on top in half-guard and opens the cut up again, before passing to side mount. Taylor gets his legs on the cage to try a reversal, but itís to no avail as Kelly lands some BIG ELBOWS, just smashing Taylorís head up now. Taylor manages to get back to guard, doing well, but Kelly keeps working him over with shots from the top. Ref brings them back up as things slow down, and right away they trade some heavy shots from close distance, but Kelly gets a trip takedown again. More elbows land as Taylorís face is just a mess now. To his credit he stays active from the bottom, going for the kimura a couple of times, but itís to no avail and the fight ends with Kelly continuing the ground-and-pound assault.
Hell of a fight but you have to give it to Kelly I think. And unsurprisingly itís 30-27ís all around for the Wolfslair fighter. Taylor came to fight and certainly made it exciting with the crazy exchanges early on, but he was unable to stop the takedown of the larger man and once he was on top, Kelly did some serious damage with his ground-and-pound and just outworked Taylor. Very exciting fight though thanks to the trades, as well as Kelly staying very active with brutal shots from the top.
Final prelim came in the form of this HW clash, with Irish brawler Robinson taking on Dutch kickboxing expert Hardonk. Despite Hardonkís lack of ground acumen, based on his UFC debut it was pretty clear Robinson wasnít going to be the guy to capitalize on that, and the obvious pick here was Hardonk by early KO.
Round 1 begins and Robinson quickly clinches, but eats a pair of knees and then a heavy leg kick as Hardonk breaks off. Another big leg kick lands and then Robinson tumbles to the ground on another, and as Hardonk closes in referee Mario Yamasaki stops things, as Robinson canít get to his feet at all, stumbling around. Rogan gives credit to the leg kicks for stopping things, but the replay actually shows it was a straight left that dropped Robinson for the stoppage.
Quick and to the point, pretty much exactly what I was expecting as it goes. The brawling Robinson just didnít have the technical skill to deal with the superior striker in Hardonk.
After a surprising 2007 loss to Patrick Cote by knockout, TUF III winner Grove took some time to rebuild himself and was then faced with another Team SitYodTong fighter here in Jorge Rivera, who hadnít fought for around a year himself after suffering a broken jaw at the hands of Terry Martin. Rivera does look in amazing shape here and Rogan tells us that the story out of his camp is that heís never trained harder.
They get started and Rivera comes out aggressively, throwing a right hand before getting a takedown. Grove gets half-guard and looks for a sweep, but Rivera drops some bombs from the top that land flush on Kendallís head. He passes to side mount as Grove gets his legs up to try to reverse. Grove tries to roll, but eats some more big punches and gives his back as he stands, with Rivera behind him still landing shots. Kendallís legs begin to buckle from the shots, and he turns and eats a HUGE LEFT HAND that crumples him to the ground! Kendall looks DEAD as he hits the deck, brutal knockout.
Team SitYodTong 2, Kendall Grove 0. Heh. Very nasty finish for Rivera as he came out with the perfect gameplan to take out the TUF III winner, just pressed the action aggressively from the start and kept throwing bombs to take advantage of Groveís paperweight chin. Grove looked surprised by the aggression and just wasnít allowed to get out of the gate before it was all over really. Strong win for Rivera but for Grove, you have to wonder how far he can get because despite his obvious talent, the weakness of his chin is always going to hold him back.
This fight had originally been scheduled for UFC 76 back in September, but a back injury to Gouveia caused it to fall apart. Lambert was riding the wave of his knockout win over Renato Babalu almost a year prior and my own thought was that heíd be too powerful for Gouveia and would probably take the fight with ground-and-pound.
Lambert comes out looking aggressive and stalks Gouveia around the Octagon, before landing a leg kick and shooting for a takedown. Gouveia tries to lock up a guillotine, but Lambert quickly pops free. Lambert looks to create some distance to land strikes from the top, but Gouveia does a good job with his defensive guard and doesnít take any damage really. Lambert manages to land some short, heavy left hands, but Gouveia continues to tie him up and then gets a reversal to his feet. Lambert stays on him though with a knee to the body and a takedown, avoiding another guillotine. Lambert gets into half-guard and drops some elbows, but Gouveia throws his legs up for a triangle. Lambert quickly slams him before he can lock it up, but Gouveia turns it into an oma plata. Lambert is too high to get caught in it though, and he pulls the arm out and goes back into the Brazilianís guard. Good stuff thus far. Lambert works him over with short punches and hammer fists from the top, but Gouveia does defend well still, not really taking anything too nasty, but the round ends with Lambert in top position. Good start for Lambert.
Delay between rounds as somehow Gouveiaís cornermen lose his mouthpiece. How the hell do you manage that? We finally get going though and again Lambert comes out as the aggressor, landing a body kick. Gouveia lands a right as Lambert bulls into a clinch, and lands some punches inside. Gouveia pushes him away and Lambert closes in swinging, but EATS A HUGE LEFT HOOK THAT KILLS HIM DEAD!~!
WOW. Lambert got reckless for literally one moment and bam, Gouveia caught him with the left and Lambert literally dropped like heíd been shot. Just goes to show that it only takes one punch to turn a fight around, as before that Gouveia had been ragdolled by Lambert for the most part. One of the best knockouts of the year, easily, and hey, that was a pretty good fight too.
Both of these men had looked impressive in recent Octagon wins, but Davisí opponents had been of a higher calibre and it certainly wouldíve been an upset to see Liaudin take this one. Pre-fight interviews are comedic as Liaudin accuses Davis of being a ďplastic paddyĒ for the want of a better term while Marcus promises to punch a hole in Jessís head. Both in the nicest way possible of course.
Round 1 begins and Liaudin looks to throw some kicks, landing a leg kick and an odd hopping kick to the body. Good inside leg kick from Jess and he narrowly avoids Davisís counter. Another leg kick from Liaudin, and he misses a high kick. Goldberg mentions Davisís corner telling him to counter with the left when Liaudin throws his kicks, and sure enough, Jess throws a kick and BAM, Davis NAILS him with a straight left to drop him and quickly finishes him off on the ground. Liaudin is STIFF, another sick knockout.
Serious power demonstrated by Davis there as the punch didnít look like it even landed cleanly, more clipping Liaudin in the ear or something. Not much of a fight as it was over before it started, but Davis showed KO power and a killer instinct and in that way it was an impressive victory for him. Disappointing showing for Liaudin after two solid victories in the UFC, but then you win some, you lose some. Three fights, three brutal KOs for this show, too!
This was a rematch of a 2003 fight in Brazil that had seen Gonzaga dominate before gassing out and succumbing to strikes in the later rounds. Most fans, myself included, figured Gonzaga had improved his game by leaps and bounds since then, particularly in the striking realm, and Werdum would give him few difficulties in this rematch. Werdum though had been working with the Chute Boxe academy to improve his striking and was promising a more aggressive fight than his previous one in the UFC against Andrei Arlovski. Crowd seem really hot for Gonzaga too, probably because his last appearance on UK shores had seen him practically kill Mirko Cro Cop with the now-legendary kick to the head. Very intense staredown, didnít expect that from these two at all.
We begin and Gonzaga pushes forward, before avoiding some punches and getting a takedown to guard. Napao passes to half-guard but itís pretty clear that both guys are really high-level grapplers and theyíre going to neutralise each other on the mat. Gonzaga lands a couple of short elbows, but itís largely a stalemate and Napao decides to stand when Werdum gets back to full guard. Pair of really hard leg kicks land for Gonzaga. Werdum answers with a front kick and then avoids a high kick attempt. BIG leg kick from Gonzaga actually drops Werdum, but he stands off and the ref brings Werdum back to his feet. Werdum rushes in with a flurry but Gonzaga easily blocks it, and then lands another vicious leg kick. Another one buckles Werdum again and drops him to his knees, but he pops right up. Gonzaga lands another leg kick as Werdum looks to be limping quite bad now, but he messes up on a high kick attempt and Werdum tackles him to the ground and takes the back with no hooks in, looked like Gonzagaís head hit the mat there too. Gonzaga rolls to half-guard and ties him up, as Werdum looks to land some shots from the top. Few good elbows land for Werdum, as Gonzaga tries to go for a sweep, and then rolls to attempt a kneebar. Werdum clinches his hands to block, and they stay in the position until the round ends. Gotta give that round to Gonzaga for the leg kicks I think.
2nd round, and Gonzaga immediately looks for the leg kick again, but Werdum steps off and this time comes in with a combo, landing some good punches as they trade off briefly. Werdum shoots for a takedown but Gonzaga sprawls, and then refuses to join him on the ground so Dan Miragliotta calls him back up. Gonzaga lands a leg kick, but Werdum counters with a combo and then chases him down, landing a knee. Head kick by Werdum misses by a mile, and he eats another pair of leg kicks. Werdum tries a leg kick of his own, but Napao catches it and counters with a body kick. Leg kick by Gonzaga lands, and Werdum tries one of his own but Napao catches it and trips him down. Ref stands him back up and Gonzaga tosses him right back down off a failed takedown attempt. Nasty leg kick again by Napao. Good jab from Gonzaga, but Werdum answers by stepping in to deliver a big knee to the head. Combination lands for Werdum and he follows with another hard knee from a plum clinch. Gonzaga tries to answer as Werdum keeps flurrying, and Werdum gets the clinch again to deliver another pair of knees. Gonzaga throws the high kick but Werdum easily avoids and begins to take over now, landing another knee and a combo. Uppercuts, punches, and more knees land from inside the clinch and then Werdum gets a front facelock, causing Gonzaga to drop to a crouched position. Couple more knees land and then Napao drops to the ground and ends up mounted by the cage. Werdum starts to pound away as Gonzaga tries to defend himself by throwing elbows back, but soon stops defending and Werdum pounds him for the TKO stoppage.
Good high-level Heavyweight fight; Gonzaga looked to be cruising to a win in the first round as he was just crushing Werdum with his leg kicks, but the second round was an entirely different story as Napao looked tired and once Werdum began to connect with the knees the end was swift and shocking. Really disappointing ending for Gonzaga as he just didnít seem able to cope when the pressure was on him, but a good win for Werdum to erase some of the memory of the awful Arlovski fight.
This one had originally been scheduled to be for the Interim Lightweight Title, but then the California State Athletic Commission refused to clear Sean Sherk of his steroid charges and so Zuffa stripped him of the belt and made this fight for the belt proper. Stevenson had admittedly been on a roll coming in, taking wins over Yves Edwards, Dokonjonosuke Mishima, Melvin Guillard and Kurt Pellegrino, and to boot he was undefeated at the weight over some years, but really if weíre being honest, if he comes in properly prepared and in good shape mentally and physically, thereís nobody in the world at 155lbs that can beat BJ Penn. Penn had blown through Jens Pulver last time out, and looked to be in probably the best shape of his career. And man Penn looks focused again coming to the cage and heís sporting abs too. Stevenson is in trouble methinks. Classic Penn arrogance in the pre-fight video package Ė ďI only want to be known as the best fighter ever, is that too much to ask?Ē
Sean Sherk joins us on guest commentary for this as heís fighting the winner once his suspension is up, and to say heís a little unpopular with the Geordie fans would be an understatement. Itís like heís Alex Ferguson or something! Well, Alex Ferguson on steroids that is. And Penn is clearly the most popular fighter in the building, with a ďBJ!Ē chant erupting before heís even made his entrance.
Round One begins with both men coming out aggressively, but itís Penn who strikes first, dropping Joe Daddy right away with a short uppercut! Stevenson tries to secure guard as Penn pounds away, and ends up in half-guard. Big elbows from BJ as Stevenson does a good job of defending, trying to reclaim full guard, but Penn keeps himself in half-guard, moving Joe towards the fence. Stevenson tries to answer with some elbows from the bottom, but Penn continues to control him from the top, although Joe manages to get a butterfly guard back. Joe tries to stand, but gives his back and as he rolls Penn gets full mount. Stevenson does a good job of getting back to guard though, but takes a heavy right. Joe ends up seated against the fence and slugs at the body, but Penn stands and lands a nasty combo that stuns him. BJ uses the opportunity to take full mount again, and then hops to side mount. He goes for full mount again, but Stevenson gets butterfly guard back and then flurries from the bottom at Pennís head. Elbow from BJ splits Joeís head open like a melon, though, and the blood just begins to POUR OUT LIKE A FAUCET. Holy crap thatís a bad cut. The blood is everywhere right away as Penn lands some more shots to close the round.
They close the cut best they can between rounds, but the blood is already pouring down Joeís head as he prepares for the 2nd. Joe Daddy is a WARRIOR though and looks even more intense as he comes out. Joe comes out trying to land punches, yelling out with every strike he throws, and he catches Penn early with a hard standing elbow. BJ shows his skill standing though, avoiding Stevensonís blows for the most part and landing a hard left hook to counter. Joe keeps coming forward, but eats cleaner punches from BJ on the counter and after a big right lands Herb Dean calls time to check Stevensonís cut. They decide he can carry on, and restart, but Joe eats a big uppercut that stuns him again. He backs off, covering up, and Penn closes in with some heavy shots that drop him to the ground. Penn takes the back and then full mount as Joe rolls, but Joe is in deep trouble here. Both men are covered in Stevensonís blood now as Joe desperately tries to hang on, but Pennís mount is unbelievably strong and he lands more shots. Big left causes Joe to roll probably out of instinct and he gives his back, and Penn locks up the left arm with his leg, and quickly locks up the rear naked choke. A bloody Stevenson grits his teeth, but taps out and Penn celebrates by licking Joeís blood off his gloves. Eeew.
Really one-sided fight as Stevenson was beaten in all areas, standing and on the ground, but he put up enough of a fight to keep it entertaining, showing tremendous heart particularly after suffering a terrible cut, and he clearly did the best that he could. Penn was just on another level though and every time he hit Stevenson in the standing portion he appeared to hurt him badly. This was just about as good as youíll ever see BJ Penn fight, and even a guy like me whoís not a fan has to sit back and admire it.
Post-fight Stevenson is in tears, sobbing uncontrollably, and even after taking a beating like that, you have to admire the heart and courage the guy showed. Penn celebrates as the second fighter in UFC history to win titles in two different weight classes. He gives credit to Stevenson as an opponent, puts over his fans, and then tells us heís in the best shape of his life, showing off his abs. But heís not done there as he gives us a classic soundbite, ďSean Sherk, youíre dead, you wanna know anything else, go to BJPenn.com.Ē Sherk then enters the Octagon to a chorus of boos and plays up to the boos, saying he doesnít care what the fans think, he doesnít respect BJ and the belt is STILL HIS DAMNIT. And so *the* MMA feud of 2008 begins!
-And we roll the highlight reel.
Outside of the top two fights, this was largely a B-level show on paper, but sometimes those types of show deliver the most exciting fights, and while we got no bonafide classics here or anything, the show ran like a compilation of Ultimate Knockouts for a while, with Hardonk, Rivera, Gouveia and Davis all scoring highlight reel wins. Taylor-Kelly was also an excellent brawl, and Gonzaga-Werdum was one of the better fights youíll see in the Heavyweight division. Main event was one-sided, but BJ Penn on a killing spree is fun to watch even if youíre not a big fan of the guy. Overall the show suffers for largely having no fights of true consequence when it comes to title pictures, etc, outside of the main event, but that was always going to be the case coming in, and what we got was probably the best show possible given the weak-ish card. Overall, itís fun for what it is Ė a decent B-level UFC show.
Best Fight: Taylor-Kelly
Worst Fight: Stout-Eklund
Overall Rating: ***1/4
UFC: 81-94, Fight Nights 12-16, and TUF VII and VIII Finales.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, 32, and 33.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.