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UFC 87: Seek And Destroy review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on May 26, 2009, 10:04 AM

UFC 87: Seek & Destroy

Minneapolis, Minnesota

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

-Another new city and state for a UFC show then, which is something I love as it’s better for the sport of MMA as a whole for the biggest and best company to break into new states. If I had my way they’d do every state in the US. Well, except for the tiny ones like North Dakota, et al.

Welterweight Fight: Ben Saunders vs Ryan Thomas

Saunders was a guy who I was keeping an eye on as a hot prospect after he came off TUF VI, as he’d looked good on the show despite losing to Tom Speer while he was suffering from the flu, and with his size, reach and training camp (American Top Team) I figured he could be dangerous at Welterweight. Add in his hyperactive personality and you can see why I’d like him. His original opponent here had been fellow TUF alumnus Jared Rollins, but he pulled out with an undisclosed injury and so former Division I wrestler Ryan ‘Tank Engine’ Thomas stepped in.

We get underway and Saunders comes out with some serious aggression, throwing some big left kicks to the body along with punches. Nice knee to the body and Ben grabs the plum clinch, but Thomas quickly breaks and backs off. Saunders keeps going back to the left body kick, landing it a few times, before Thomas closes the distance and looks for the takedown. Very impressive defense from Saunders to avoid a slam, and he stays on his feet. Ben lands some knees to the gut from in the clinch, and then they break off. Left body kick begins to land again, and Thomas tries to answer, but his striking game looks a little stiff and Saunders avoids and grabs the plum clinch. They break off and Thomas throws a combo, but a big left-right and a knee to the head from Saunders stuns him bad and puts him down. Ben tries to drop into side mount, but Thomas gets the donkey guard position and locks up a reverse triangle. Saunders pops his head free into side control, and drops some knees to the body while avoiding the reverse triangle attempt again. Couple of elbows land for Saunders and Thomas is bloody now too. Thomas reverses into full guard, good job with the defensive movement, but Saunders manages to take the back as Thomas tries to roll. Body triangle from Saunders and Thomas looks in trouble, but Ben can’t lock any submissions up and the round ends with Saunders on Thomas’s back.

Round Two, and Saunders lands the body kick again. Thomas goes for the takedown right away this time but he can’t get Saunders down and the ATT fighter reverses and puts Thomas down in guard. Ben decides to stand though and lets Thomas up. Left kick to the body lands again for Saunders, but Rogan quite rightly points out that he’s almost telegraphing it at this point as he’s using it over and over again. Thomas high kick is blocked, but Saunders fires back with a left high kick that lands and appears to have Thomas rocked. Thomas slips on his own high kick attempt and then shoots for a single, but Saunders gets a beautiful reversal, using the single leg to swing over and take Thomas’s back. Those long legs he has are a great tool in that position. He tries an armbar, but Thomas slips free and they come back to their feet. Thomas looks tired now and the body kick lands again, along with a knee. Ben avoids the takedown again and this time Thomas pulls guard, but Saunders is having none of that and stands. Thomas fires off with a combo, but the body kick hurts him badly this time and he staggers back. Saunders chases forward and nails him with a right, and then Thomas desperately drops for a single leg, but again Saunders swings over and takes the back. From there Saunders goes for a kimura, and transitions into a straight armbar for the tapout. Nice!

Really fun opener, probably the best one of the 2008 PPVs actually. Thomas was game for a guy who stepped in on short notice, but looked overmatched both standing and on the ground and although Saunders showed a couple of holes in his game, this was an excellent performance from the ATT fighter as he used his reach advantage and physical tools to full effect. Beautiful submission finish too.

Welterweight Fight: Chris Wilson vs Steve Bruno

Another American Top Team fighter, Bruno was supposed to have debuted well over a year before this, at UFN 10, but injured himself and got laid off until this show. Opponent Wilson meanwhile had put up a good fight against Jon Fitch in his Octagon debut in March and was looking for his first UFC win here.

Round One begins and they circle off before Bruno closes the distance and forces Wilson into the cage. They muscle for position inside the clinch and then break off with little happening. Right hand lands for Bruno, but Wilson looks okay and backs away. Wilson throws out some feints and then lands an inside leg kick and right hand that hurts Bruno. Bruno looks for a single leg, but Wilson blocks and tries to lock up a kimura. They stand, and Wilson exits with a right high kick. Wilson lands a left hook and Bruno tries a takedown, but Wilson reverses with a hip throw down into half-guard. Wilson passes but Bruno uses a single leg to get to his feet in a clinch. Break and Bruno pushes the action, but doesn’t really land anything and Wilson comes back with a big knee from the clinch and a right hand that drops Bruno. Wilson follows him down and takes the back, looking to get both hooks in, which he does. Bruno looks in trouble and tries to stand, but Wilson brings him back down and lands some punches to the side of the head. They end up seated against the cage with Wilson on Bruno’s back, looking for the rear naked choke, but he can’t lock it up properly and the round ends there. Wilson’s round for sure.

2nd round and Wilson comes out looking to strike, but Bruno shoots for a single leg and tries to get him down. Wilson reverses and takes the back with an over/under again, putting one hook in, but he can’t get the second hook and Bruno escapes free. Takedown from Wilson to guard, where Bruno looks to tie him up. Bruno reverses, but Wilson uses a front facelock to control him and then transitions to the back, but Bruno blocks him from putting the hooks in and escapes to standing. Nice knee lands for Wilson as Bruno pushes forward. The ATT fighter shoots for a takedown again but Wilson blocks it using the cage, and the ref steps in to break them up. Beautiful feinting uppercut lands for Wilson and he follows with a flurry into a left knee that drops Bruno again, and now Bruno looks in trouble, clinging to a leg desperately. Tough guy though as he pushes for a single leg and forces Wilson to block it. Wilson tries to work into a reverse triangle, and from there he lands some elbows to the body, before twisting around into a guillotine. Bruno manages to slip free, but almost ends up in the reverse triangle again. Ref surprisingly stands them up from there, and Wilson lands a kick to the body and then sprawls to avoid a slow shot, as Bruno looks very tired now. Round ends there. 10-9 Wilson for me meaning Bruno pretty much needs a stoppage to win.

Third and final round, and Bruno presses forward, but he eats another HUGE uppercut and this time Wilson follows with a big left kick that sends Bruno crashing to the ground! Wilson closes in, but Bruno clings onto a leg again, managing to survive. This time Wilson takes his back with one hook in, but he slips off and Bruno goes for a double leg. Wilson reverses though and takes the back, looking again to secure both hooks. He gets them in and looks to flatten Bruno out, but Bruno again slips free and this time he manages to get Wilson down. Wilson posts up the cage immediately though and defends the takedown, and then lands some punches as Bruno looks to crawl for a takedown now. They come back to their feet and Bruno grabs a single again, but Wilson blocks and this time the crowd boo a little, causing the ref to step in and restart them. Nice body punch from Wilson and he sprawls again to avoid another single, before muscling his way on top. It looks for a moment like he’s prepping a D’Arce, but instead he ends up in the front facelock position, sprawled out again. Wilson stands and lands a nice soccer kick to the body, and then NAILS him with a knee as Bruno shoots in. Wilson easily avoids the takedown, and controls Bruno with some elbows as the fight closes off.

I have this an easy 30-27 for Wilson, total domination for the Team Quest fighter, as really he did everything but finish the guy. Judges score it the same way, unanimous decision for Wilson. Not the most spectacular fight but Wilson was very impressive and it was only Bruno showing some tremendous heart that kept him in there as Wilson hit him with some heavy, heavy shots. Slow in parts but what do you expect when one guy is basically fighting purely to survive?

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Jon Jones vs Andre Gusmao

An IFL veteran, Gusmao is the first guy in ages that I can remember being a Capoeira practitioner in the UFC. He fought on Renzo Gracie’s team in the IFL though and was unbeaten here. His original opponent slips my mind now (maybe Tomasz Drwal?) but I definitely remember skilled Greco-Roman wrestler Jon Jones being brought in on short notice. BIG experience difference here, not so much in the number of fights (Gusmao was 5-0, Jones 6-0), but Gusmao had debuted in MMA in 2006 while Jones had debuted in....April. Yeah, FOUR MONTHS of experience and he’s in the UFC.

Funny exchange from the announcers as we begin, as Goldberg helpfully tells us “white trunks for Gusmao, black trunks for Jones” and Rogan replies, “or, white guy Gusmao, black guy Jones”. Ha! They circle and Gusmao easily avoids an early takedown attempt, and then lands a body kick and gets the clinch. They exchange knees from the clinch before Gusmao breaks with a one-two. Good leg kick lands for Gusmao. Jones throws a sloppy flurry into the clinch, but follows with a nice belly-to-belly takedown to side mount. Jones ends up standing and lands a flurry, but Gusmao answers with a pair of knees. Action slows down a lot now before they clinch, where Jones lands a big knee to the gut and then rocks Gusmao BAD with a combo, but the ref steps in claiming the knee was low, and he calls time. Replay appears to show the knee landing to the belly, but a further replay shows Jones did land a knee to the groin *before* that knee. They restart after Gusmao’s recovered and the Brazilian misses a superman punch. Nice flurry again from Jones as Gusmao looks more defensive now. Jones misses a spinning back elbow (!) and Gusmao lands a knee, but Jones ends the round with a spinning backfist! Nice!

Into the 2nd and Jones pushes forward, but Gusmao is on the retreat now and little happens early on. They clinch up, but Jones apparently catches Gusmao low again and the ref calls time. Jones protests and this time the replay does appear to show the knee hitting the midsection. Crowd aren’t too happy with Gusmao now. They restart and Gusmao tries a takedown, but Jones reverses and gets an overhead belly-to-belly that drops Gusmao on his head! Jones doesn’t twist over though and Gusmao ends up on top, but Jones quickly scrambles back to his feet. Jones pushes forward and catches a kick, landing a right hand, but he can’t get Gusmao down and they end up clinched by the fence. Big right breaks for Gusmao but Jones answers with a jab, only to take another right from the Brazilian. Gusmao comes forward swinging, but Jones avoids and they end up in the clinch again. Ref breaks them for inactivity and Jones pushes forward aggressively and narrowly misses the spinning elbow again. Gusmao is just backing up at this point. Left hook from Jones and they clinch, but they break quickly and Gusmao lands a leg kick. Jones closes the distance again but once more it’s a swift break. Spinning elbow misses again for Jones and then he avoids an overhand right. Jones is really pushing forward now and he lands a nice left hook to the body. Into the clinch, but they break and the round ends shortly after. I’ve got Jones ahead here by a hair, mainly for the aggression.

3rd round and Jones’ corner are telling him to push the pace. Sure enough Jones stalks forward, but Gusmao is on the retreat again. He closes in and gets an easy takedown, but Gusmao pops up quickly. They exchange punches and Jones gets the best of it, into a clinch. Knees from Gusmao separate them and Gusmao comes forward, but then he gets on the defensive again as Jones comes forward with a spinning back kick now. They clinch again before breaking, and Jones lands a right hand and then a nice knee from the clinch. Knees from Jones and Gusmao shoves him into the cage, but he can’t get Jones down and the ref breaks them. Jones pushes forward swinging again, and then he avoids a takedown and they end up clinched, where Jones takes Gusmao down and gets a side mount. Jones goes for the mount but ends up in half-guard, so he stands up momentarily before going back into the guard. Gusmao tries the rubber guard and then tries an oma plata, but Jones easily avoids and the fight ends in Gusmao’s guard. Post-fight Gusmao celebrates and the crowd boo pretty roundly, don’t know what fight Gusmao thought he was in but there’s no way he won this one.

Judges all score it 30-27 for Jones. Not the best fight as Gusmao looked too concerned about Jones’ takedowns and explosiveness, and ended up on the retreat for the majority of the fight, and Jones didn’t really have enough experience to know exactly how to finish it. Still, he showed flashes of tremendous potential and I can see him making a lot of noise in the future when he’s had more fights.

Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs Dan Evensen

Kongo was looking to rebound from a disappointing loss to Heath Herring, and was back in the prelims for the first time since his debut fight actually. Dan Evensen meanwhile just looks like one of the classic sloppy HWs, as the announcers talk him up as a bit of a brawler and he’s sporting a gut. I guess he had a decent enough record at 10-2, though, even if I couldn’t see him getting past Kongo.

We begin and Evensen presses the action early, but Kongo uses his reach to keep his distance before they clinch. Kongo shoves Evensen to the cage and then drops levels and gets a slam to guard. He chooses to stand though and kicks away at Evensen’s legs before the ref stands the Viking back up. Evensen presses into the clinch again and they muscle along the fence, with Kongo ducking his head and Evensen considering going for a guillotine. Evensen locks it up and begins to squeeze, but Kongo slips free pretty easily. Small “KONGO!” chant from the crowd as the Frenchman gets a takedown to half-guard and looks to grind away with some elbows. Kongo stands again and once more the ref calls Evensen up to join him. Evensen pushes forward again, but walks into a body kick and a BIG RIGHT HAND that sends him crashing to the mat. Kongo swarms on him and the ref stops it with five seconds remaining in the round.

Beautiful shot by Kongo, literally right on the button. Evensen was completely overmatched and this was pretty much a squash. Post-fight Kongo gives a hilarious interview stating plainly that he wants a title fight, before walking off as Rogan asks him to talk through the replay. Bizarre.

Welterweight Fight: Tamdan McCrory vs Luke Cummo

Hilariously Joe Rogan is calling this one the ‘Battle of the Nerds’ and sure enough at the weigh-ins both guys came in wearing glasses and to be fair, they do look nerd-ish. Not that I’d mess with them, but I digress. Word was that Cummo was on a fast leading into this fight and indeed, he looks really gaunt and small compared to McCrory who looks huge, like a whole weight class bigger than Cummo.

Round One begins and McCrory closes the distance immediately and forces Cummo into the fence. Big exchange inside the clinch with McCrory landing right hands, but Cummo fires back with some knees. They break off and McCrory comes forward aggressively with punches, and then trips Cummo down to side mount. Tamdan takes full mount and then takes the back, sinking in a rear naked choke, and Cummo looks in DEEP trouble, but somehow he manages to shake a hook off and gets free. McCrory gets the hook back in though and almost locks the choke up for a second time, but Cummo shows tremendous heart to block it. Tamdan goes back to the mount and then ends up taking the back again as Cummo turns, but this time as he looks for mount Cummo slips free to full guard. Cummo tries to use the rubber guard to control the Barn Cat, but he postures out and passes into side mount. Cummo scrambles back to a butterfly guard and then closes full guard again, but takes a couple of elbows from the top. Tamdan stands and drops a right hand over the top, and then passes to side mount and goes for an armbar, but Luke manages to slip free at the last second and winds up on top in McCrory’s guard to close the round. McCrory’s round though easily.

Second round, and Cummo comes out swinging, but Tamdan ducks a right and tackles him to the ground again, into half-guard. McCrory tries to pass, but Luke does a good job of keeping him in the half-guard and the action slows up a bit. Luke rolls and tries to escape, but Tamdan uses a front facelock to transition and take the back again with both hooks in. He looks for the choke, but again Cummo tucks his chin and does a good job of defending. McCrory goes for an armbar instead, and it looks deep, but Cummo steps over and manages to wriggle free again into Tamdan’s guard! McCrory ties him up though and then rolls for an armbar from the bottom, using it to reverse Cummo and take the mount. From there he takes the back again and once more he looks for the choke. Luke turns towards it and stays relaxed, but as he turns he ends up mounted again and takes some nasty punches from the top. Tamdan drops a big shot as Cummo works to full guard again, and the round ends with Cummo going to rubber guard. 10-9 for McCrory again, he’s totally dominating this fight really.

Between rounds Matt Serra and Ray Longo are FUMING with Cummo’s performance; wouldn’t want to be that guy right now!

Into the third round and Cummo throws out some front kicks, trying to keep the fight standing, and he lands a lunging body hook, and then an overhand right that has McCrory off balance quite badly. Tamdan goes for the takedown but Cummo ends up on top in guard, but Tamdan gets a switch and then looks for a takedown of his own as soon as he stands. McCrory goes for a judo throw but Luke blocks it, only to be taken down right away with a double leg. McCrory passes to half-guard and looks for full mount, and then he stands and avoids an upkick before taking side mount. McCrory drops some elbows, but the fight slows down a lot before Tamdan steps over and looks for the armbar again. Cummo slips free and Tamdan looks like he’s going for an oma plata, but Cummo gets to his feet and then calls McCrory up too. They exchange into a clinch and McCrory takes him down again. Cummo goes for a triangle and actually locks it up nicely, but McCrory’s got a hand in there and it keeps him safe, allowing him to pop free eventually. Luke tries it again, but can’t lock it back up and the fight comes to a conclusion in Cummo’s guard, with McCrory landing elbows.

Total washout for McCrory for the most part, judges all score it 30-27 for the Barn Cat. Fight was pretty good actually, if a little one-sided, with some really smooth BJJ shown by McCrory throughout, and he was unlucky not to catch Cummo in a submission. Cummo just looked drained from his fast and was unable to deal with the larger man at all, making it the second disappointing fight in a row for him.

Middleweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Jason MacDonald

After rolling through Ryan Jensen and Ed Herman, BJJ whiz Maia was presented with a bit of a different challenge here in a more submission-oriented guy in MacDonald, who was coming off an impressive win over Joe Doerksen. Personally though I couldn’t see any way that MacDonald could beat Demian, as well, his striking’s not the best and how the hell do you outgrapple Demian Maia?

We get underway and MacDonald looks like he wants to strike, firing some punches before surprisingly going to the clinch. And unsurprisingly Maia pulls guard. Maia ties him up right away and quickly sets up for a triangle, wrapping it up, but MacDonald does a TREMENDOUS job of hanging in there even as Maia pulls on the head. Maia begins to land elbows, but MacDonald steps over him and somehow wriggles himself free...and then takes Maia’s back! HUGE crowd pop for that. MacDonald ends up very high on Maia’s back, but goes for the choke anyway, and then ends up taking full mount before Maia scrambles to half-guard. The Brazilian works back to full guard quickly and we’re back at square one. MacDonald decides to stand, but can’t pass the guard, so he stands again and drops some punches down onto Demian. Maia sits up and so MacDonald grabs a guillotine, and rolls with it, locking it in very deep. Maia’s cut now too and blood is all over MacDonald’s arm. Maia manages to slip free though and then twists and turns himself, hopping onto MacDonald’s back! The grappling here is incredible. Maia locks up a body triangle and appears to have the rear naked choke sunk, but MacDonald keeps pulling the arm off to block it, and somehow the Canadian survives the round! Phenomenal opening round and the crowd are going mental too, great to see them appreciating the ground game.

We begin the 2nd with a touch of gloves, and then they exchange punches, with Maia landing a nice left hook. MacDonald closes the distance and looks to take Maia down, but Maia lands some knees from the clinch and then trips MacDonald down into half-guard. Maia pretty much immediately gets full mount, making the guard pass look easy, and now MacDonald looks in some trouble as Maia opens up with punches and elbows from the top, bloodying the Canadian’s nose. MacDonald tries to buck free but Maia’s base is sick and he remains firmly in the mount. More elbows land but MacDonald still looks okay, not stunned. MacDonald does well to get half-guard back, but it’s only momentary as Maia goes right back to full mount. MacDonald tries to pop free, but leaves his arm out and Maia locks up an armbar, but they’re too slippery at this point and MacDonald slides out and ends up on top! MacDonald actually passes to half-guard as the round ends. That round was dominated by Maia after a close first round, and I’ve got him two rounds up now, I’d be tempted to give him that one 10-8 in fact.

Huge crowd pop for the beginning of the final round. Maia immediately shoots for the takedown and this time MacDonald tries desperately to defend, but the Brazilian brings him down. Maia quickly escapes a guillotine and gets to side mount, but MacDonald reverses and ends up on top in Maia’s guard. MacDonald tries to pass, but Maia keeps full guard and then gives his back as he tries to wriggle free. MacDonald tries to get the hooks in, and then ends up on top, but Maia reverses that and plants MacDonald on his back. Good stuff. Full mount for Maia again and he lands some elbows before MacDonald gives his back. This time Jason looks in deeper trouble, and Maia softens him up with punches before locking up the rear naked choke for the tapout.

Well, finish was as I expected but the fight was far better as MacDonald brought the fight to Maia and showed some tremendous heart, as well as a lot more ground skill than I’d given him credit for as he was able to hang with Maia throughout the first round and survived a horrible second round underneath probably the best BJJ guy in the sport. Maia was just a step ahead throughout though, and in the end he did well to finally catch MacDonald. Insane grappling exchanges in that one, probably the best grappling-based fight of the year in the Octagon in fact off the top of my head.

Lightweight Fight: Kenny Florian vs Roger Huerta

One of the big three fights on this card, this had been brewing for a long time as Florian had initially called out Huerta back in like February or something. Huerta had actually been on the shelf since December after taking an insane five fights in 2007, and while he’d been training with GSP and the rest of Greg Jackson’s camp for this fight, the concern was that he might be believing into his hype a little too much, as he’d stalled on contract negotiations and had talked about how the fighters were underpaid and how he deserved a PPV bonus and so forth. People also claimed he was overlooking Florian as he was quoted as calling the fight a “cake walk”, but if you actually watch the interview where Roger says that, it’s totally taken out of context, as what he meant was that compared to his childhood, any fight is a cake walk. Florian meanwhile had simply been rolling through everyone put in front of him following his loss to Sean Sherk, and was riding a four-fight win streak. Still, I was picking Huerta to win this one simply because his heart and sheer determination had always pulled him through any adversity thus far and I didn’t think Florian had anything in his arsenal to beat that. Winner is talked about as likely getting the next Lightweight title shot, too. Huerta is the clear crowd favourite being based in Minnesota with Dave Menne’s camp for a long time.

Round One gets started and they circle around to begin, slower start than I expected for Huerta actually as they exchange some low kicks. Huerta keeps lunging forward like he’s going to throw a superman punch, but then as he tries a kick Kenny catches it and gets a nice takedown. Huerta bridges up from the bottom, but Kenny hops right over his legs into full mount! Florian tries to open up for some ground-and-pound, and then takes the back as Huerta rolls, flattening him out, but Roger is as slippery as ever and he works free, escaping to his feet. Massive chant for Huerta begins as he tries to strike from the outside, but can’t catch Florian who remains on the defensive. Kenny tries a flying knee, but misses and Huerta lands with a flurry from short distance, but Kenny drops levels and goes for the takedown. Huerta blocks and then ducks for a takedown of his own, but Florian uses a whizzer to block and they end up clinched by the fence. Few inside elbows land for Florian and then he breaks off. They clinch again and muscle for position for a moment before Florian lands a nice knee and breaks, but Huerta keeps pushing forward. Again Huerta swings, but he doesn’t catch Florian cleanly and the round ends on the feet. Close round but I’d give it to Florian as Huerta didn’t do any real damage while Kenny had the dominant position early on.

Into the 2nd and Florian lands a big kick to the body to open. Huerta presses forward again but Florian throws some more strikes now, narrowly missing a high kick. Roger comes forward wildly with a faked superman punch and drops for a takedown, but Florian does an excellent job of avoiding it. Huerta continues to chase forward but again Kenny avoids, and then he ducks down and looks for the takedown. Huerta tries to lock up a kimura as he blocks, but Kenny manages to get him down and then takes his back from side control. He gets both hooks in and works with some big punches to the side of the head, but Huerta again shows his skill as an escape artist and pops out the back door to stand. Couple of inside leg kicks land for Kenny and then he hits an outside leg sweep that puts Huerta down for a moment, before he pops up and takes a right hand for his troubles. Roger comes forward again but as before, Florian avoids his shots and catches him with a knee as he closes in. Leg kick from Huerta and he throws a superman punch and then clinches, but Florian gets the plum clinch and lands an elbow. Huerta breaks off and continues to push forward, almost landing a haymaker, but with twenty seconds to go Florian turns up the aggression, coming forward with punches as they exchange openly before the buzzer sounds. Another good round and I’d score that for Florian too, 10-9 again, as his gameplan of being more defensive and counterstriking is really working.

Final round and like the Guida fight this is do or die for Huerta. Nice front kick lands for Florian early though and then he gets a takedown. Huerta turns and almost gets caught with a guillotine before he stands, only to eat a knee on the way out. Roger keeps coming forward though but takes a flying knee from Florian now. Kenny comes forward and Huerta throws a kick, but Florian catches it and NAILS him with a left hook....but Huerta TAKES IT AND SPITS ON THE GROUND and then throws a hard kick at Kenny’s body! WORD. Florian immediately tackles him to the ground though and it looks like he’s going for a kneebar, but instead Huerta rolls and Kenny stays on top in the guard. Kenny stacks up and looks to pass, but Huerta pops right back to his feet and forces Florian into the fence with double underhooks. They break and Huerta fires a flurry, but Kenny counters with a left hook. Roger continues to bring it, but takes another knee as Kenny’s counters are getting cleaner now. Brief wild exchange follows but Kenny refuses to brawl and backs off. Another nice left front kick lands firmly on Huerta’s jaw, and he backs off right away to avoid Huerta’s barrage of anger. Huerta continues to stalk forward like the terminator, but at this point Kenny is just avoiding the swings and picking him off from the outside. Credit to him though, Huerta is not looking back at all. Kenny lands a pair of solid rights though hand then gets Huerta down again, and drops a right hand over the top of the guard before standing and landing some knees from a front facelock. Huerta breaks free and eats a jab as the fight ends. Post-fight Huerta visibly curses while Florian celebrates; pretty much the story of the fight.

Judges score it 30-27 all around for Kenny Florian, which as a huge fan of Huerta is mega disappointing. Still, to give credit where it’s due, Florian came in and stuck to a tremendous gameplan, as he stayed on the defensive and never truly opened up, choosing instead to stay on the outside and counter, which meant Huerta’s brawling, wildly aggressive style was neutered. In his previous fights Huerta had always been able to use sheer heart and aggression to pull himself through any sticky patches, but here Florian never opened himself up to that like say, Clay Guida did, and outside of the one moment in the third round Huerta’s crazy side never came through. Didn’t quite live up to the hype as a possible Fight of the Year candidate as Florian’s gameplan didn’t really play up to that sort of thing, but it was still a really good fight. Horribly disappointing for Huerta though, as I said.

Lightweight Fight: Rob Emerson vs Manny Gamburyan

Battle of TUF 5 alumni here, with Team Pulver’s Gamburyan taking on Team Penn’s Emerson. Not that they mention it (it was more than a year later after all) but this could’ve had a personal slant as it was Emerson’s graffiti that caused Manny to snap during the tapings, causing one of the most hilarious moments in TUF history. My pick here was Manny as I couldn’t see Emerson stopping his takedown and on the ground it’s not even close really.

Round One starts off and Manny comes forward aggressively swinging, but walks into a right hook that drops him! They scramble on the ground and suddenly Emerson CRACKS him with a left hook that turns Manny’s lights out. WOW. 12 seconds!

Incredibly fast knockout and I didn’t expect that finish in a million years. I guess Manny left himself wide open for it though by coming in so wildly, and hey, Emerson did a great job of countering to finish the fight quickly, especially with the left hook on the ground as you don’t normally see that sort of shot to finish people. Wasn’t much of a fight of course – how could it be in twelve seconds? – but as a swift highlight for Emerson this was awesome. Personally though I’m a fan of Manny’s so I was gutted!

Heavyweight Fight: Brock Lesnar vs Heath Herring

After his loss to Frank Mir in February Lesnar was skating on thin ice, as with his massive salary, if he couldn’t compete with the top dogs in the UFC it was likely that his stay would be a short one. Worse still for him, original opponent Mark Coleman – who was much smaller and very much past his prime – dropped out with injury and the experienced Heath Herring stepped in. However Heath had never been that dangerous off his back and had proven to be vulnerable to wrestlers before (see Jake O’Brien), and so the general consensus was that if Brock could use his wrestling to ground the Texas Crazy Horse and avoid getting clipped on the feet, he could win the fight. Crowd are way behind Lesnar obviously as this is his adopted hometown.

Weird moment during the staredown as referee Dan Miragliotta (who looks as big if not bigger than both fighters, damn) appears to accidentally poke Herring in the eye as he calls them over. And doesn’t even apologise! Well, he does have a mic in his face I guess.

First round begins and Lesnar comes right out of the gate with a flying knee that misses, whoa. They circle off and suddenly BROCK DROPS HIM WITH A BIG RIGHT! Crowd EXPLODE as Lesnar charges at Herring who rolls through and ends up in a front facelock standing! Lesnar holds the position as Herring tries to break free by punching at the body, and then they break off. Heath ducks a punch, but Lesnar shoots in and puts him down by the fence. Brock stands up over him and then throws the legs to the side and passes, as we see that Herring’s eye is pretty bloody already. Lesnar ends up in a cross-side position with Heath in the turtle position, and he lands some big punches but doesn’t really bother to take the back as such, instead just controlling from the side. Herring tries to roll over to guard but Lesnar’s having none of that and he forces him right back into the turtle. Lesnar works him over with some more punches and then channels Herring himself from his PRIDE days and drops some big knees to the body. Again Herring tries to roll to guard, but Lesnar keeps him firmly on his knees. Big chant for Brock with about twenty seconds remaining, and right at the end of the round he opens up big time with the knees to the body. Wow. Total domination for Lesnar, 10-8 I’d go.

Alright, so who would *ever* have expected Brock Lesnar to drop Heath Herring with the first punch of the fight?

2nd round then and Herring presses looking to strike, and actually avoids the first takedown attempt as Brock literally just charges at him like a rhino. Leg kick from Brock and they circle tentatively, before Brock closes the distance and just muscles Heath down, ending up in the same position as in the first round, with Herring in the turtle position and Lesnar riding from the side. Heath rolls and Brock ends up in side control now, chopping with some punches. Heath tries to roll and escape to his feet, but ends up turtled as Brock simply forces him down. Lesnar forces him onto his back again and mounts momentarily, but Heath is an expert at escaping that and rolls back to the turtle. Lesnar continues his control, landing knees to the body and punches to the head at will, but Heath hangs in there and doesn’t take any serious damage. Great job done by Herring to get onto his knees and then he manages to stand, but Lesnar keeps double underhooks on him to control the clinch. Lesnar lands a couple of brutal knees to the gut that look to have hurt the Texas Crazy Horse, and with seconds remaining in the round Lesnar drags him down again. Another round for Lesnar, albeit not as damaging as the first round. 10-9 Brock.

Third and final round and Herring’s left eye is a MESS now, almost closed shut. Lesnar opens the round with a body kick, countered by a right hand from Herring. Heath charges into the clinch with some punches, and they exchange some shots to the body before Brock drags him to the ground in the same position as the first, controlling him from the turtle position. Brutal knees to the body from Lesnar and he stops Herring from rolling again. Heath tries to go for a kimura, but Lesnar mounts him. Heath manages to scramble back to the turtle, but it’s no good for him anyway and Brock continues to hold him down and land knees to the side of the body. Heath turns into a seated position and Lesnar makes the mistake of going for a choke with no body control, and this allows Herring to scramble to his feet. Herring tries desperately to land some strikes, but Brock ducks under and takes him down again. And from there it’s more of the same as Lesnar controls him from the top, landing ground-and-pound pretty much at will. Fight ends with Lesnar riding Heath’s back with no hooks in, and Lesnar decides to showboat for the crowd and pretends he’s riding a bucking bronco! Big crowd pop for that.

I’ve got this 30-26 for Lesnar I think, giving him the first round 10-8 and the second and third 10-9. Totally one-sided fight. Judges give it unanimously to Brock, 30-26.

Wasn’t the most amazing fight to watch in terms of action, but that was a very impressive showing for Lesnar in just his third MMA fight. We didn’t see much of him standing outside of the one big right hand, but on the ground Lesnar easily stifled Herring and kept him down for pretty much the full fifteen minutes, working him over with some nasty ground-and-pound. He never truly opened up outside of one of two flurries, probably because he needed a win more than anything and didn’t want to take any major risks, but to keep Herring down the way he did was very impressive anyway – compare this to the Jake O’Brien fight for instance, when Jake was able to take Herring down at will, but struggled to keep Heath still on the ground, and you’ll see what I mean. This was basically like watching a larger version of early Josh Koscheck fight, and when you consider what Koscheck has developed into it’s pretty clear that with a few more fights under his belt Lesnar is going to be scary good, if he’s not already.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Georges St-Pierre vs Jon Fitch

Huge main event, as not only was Fitch looking to win the Welterweight Title, but he was also riding an eight-fight win streak in the UFC and one more win would break Royce Gracie’s run of consecutive wins in the Octagon. Personally I’d actually say Royce has eleven straight wins as opposed to eight as I wouldn’t count the Harold Howard debacle as a “loss”, but that’s another story. Anyway, despite Fitch’s amazing run – wins over Diego Sanchez, Thiago Alves, and Roan Carneiro amongst others – there was no way I was picking him here. GSP, as pretty much always, had looked incredible in his past three fights and worse for Fitch he had the style to pretty much negate everything Fitch could do. Fitch had been in trouble in two of his UFC bouts – one with Roan Carneiro thanks to the Brazilian’s takedowns and top game, and the other with Chris Wilson thanks to his long, lanky striking style. Of course GSP is pretty much the best in the division in both of those areas. My prediction was GSP by TKO or submission in the third or fourth round, after beating Fitch up standing, stuffing his takedowns, and finally putting the wrestler on his back.

GSP gets pretty much twice the crowd reaction of Fitch upon entrance; no surprise really as outside of the Sanchez fight, Fitch hadn’t really been treated as a “name” star up to this point. GSP’s reaction is huge, although not quite as big as Lesnar’s as Brock was the hometown hero.

We get underway and right away GSP hits a double leg and puts Fitch on his back in guard. This guy is a SICK wrestler. Goldberg points out that nobody in UFC action has ever passed Fitch’s guard, as the crowd begin a GSP chant. Fitch does a good job from his back of controlling St-Pierre, but he takes a couple of elbows en route to GSP passing to half-guard. Fitch gets a butterfly guard back in quickly and then scrambles as GSP postures up, and GSP grabs a front facelock. Fitch gets to his feet but GSP brings him down again. Fitch scrambles to his knees again but GSP grabs the front facelock, lands some knees to the shoulders, and then backs up with a left hand. Fitch throws a kick but GSP counters with a HUGE RIGHT HAND that plants the challenger on the mat, and GSP smells blood and closes in, pounding away with some vicious elbows and punches. Fitch looks in deep trouble but survives, ending up in the guard pinned into the fence. Fitch tries to scramble to his feet but takes more abuse, and as he stands he looks VERY wobbly. GSP nails him with another combo and now Fitch is all over the place, looking out on his feet, and he shoots desperately for a leg but St-Pierre’s having none of that and he sprawls before taking top position. Fitch does a good job of getting to guard, but eats some elbows and then the champ passes to half-guard, and then side mount, making him the first man to ever pass Fitch’s guard. GSP controls him and takes full mount, but Fitch manages to scramble to half-guard to end the round. Man, Fitch did well to even survive that round without being stopped. Unbelievable from GSP, 10-8 for sure.

Second round and somehow Fitch looks recovered now, as they exchange punches early. Nice lunging body shot from Fitch, but he eats a clipping superman punch into a leg kick. GSP begins to keep Fitch at bay with a left jab, and narrowly misses a high kick, but Fitch looks more in the fight now and continues to press forward. Big GSP chant from the crowd now as Fitch lands another body shot and breaks a brief clinch. Fitch continues to go after the body while GSP keeps on with the jab and leg kicks, and then easily avoids a takedown. Spinning back kick glances off Fitch’s chest. Nice jab into a body kick combo from GSP, but Fitch answers with a right. This is much more even than the first round, although I’d still have GSP ahead. Fitch avoids a takedown attempt now, as the exchange continues with both men landing some good strikes. Fitch puts a couple of combos together late in the round, but GSP finishes the round with a stiff left hook and a spinning back kick. Close round but I’d go GSP, 10-9.

3rd round and Fitch comes out swinging, but GSP counters a left with a BRUTAL right hook that sends Fitch crashing to the ground. GSP gets on top and ends up taking the back as Fitch scrambles, putting both hooks in, and Fitch is bloodied up bad now. GSP flattens him and goes for the choke, but loses his hooks and now Fitch ends up on top in GSP’s guard! Very rare to see St-Pierre on his back. Fitch tries to chop away with some ground-and-pound, not really doing much damage, and as he tries to posture up GSP scrambles out and sweeps, putting Fitch on his back again up against the fence. Fitch’s eye is a MESS. The challenger tries to scramble to his feet but ends up in the front facelock eating knees to the body, and then GSP lets him back up. Nice left jab from GSP and then he lands a leg kick too. GSP mixes it up with some kicks and then clinches, moving Fitch into the fence, before breaking off with a one-two. Another nasty right wobbles Fitch badly, and GSP closes in and lands a VICIOUS KNEE that puts the challenger out on his feet again. Pair of brutal head kicks drop Fitch to his stomach and he desperately tries to hold on, before backing up. GSP closes the distance and lands another knee, then a left hand, before teeing off with a combo and ending it with a slam. Christ. Fitch manages to recover somewhat on the ground though and the round ends shortly after. That’s another 10-8 methinks. Whole round was practically a highlight for GSP outside of the short period on his back.

We’re into championship territory now, fourth round. Fitch is still game and he continues to push forward, but he looks a little tired now, probably from the beating he’s taken, and GSP continues to get the better of the stand-up. Fitch shoots in, but GSP stuffs the takedown easily and then lands a kick that catches him low. Touch of gloves and Fitch doesn’t take a time out, and St-Pierre goes back to snapping the jab. Leg kick almost takes Fitch off his feet but he stays standing. More jabs land and then Fitch tries desperately for the takedown, but can’t get the champ off his feet, sick balance from GSP. St-Pierre stuffs it and drags Fitch down, and from there he tackles Fitch onto his back with ease. The champ works from the guard with elbows and punches, and then drops back for a leglock attempt on the buzzer. Another round in the books for GSP and Fitch is being whitewashed, even if he’s hanging in there. I’ve got it 40-34 at this stage.

Fifth and final round now, and they begin with a high five, mad respect between these two now. Good left hook from GSP rocks him right off the bat. Fitch keeps coming though and throws a head kick that misses. GSP misses a superman punch but lands a leg kick. St-Pierre works the jab again and then catches Fitch with a spinning backfist, and follows that with a flurry that stuns the challenger. Takedown to guard from GSP. The dude does not even look in the slightest bit tired and he’s been fighting now for over twenty minutes, insane. The champ grinds away from Fitch’s guard, landing punches and elbows, and Fitch’s face is a total mess now, with blood pouring out of his right eye and his left eye swollen shut. Fitch does a good job of scrambling to his feet, but eats a stiff jab right away. Another takedown from GSP follows and Fitch ends up in guard again. St-Pierre works to pass into half-guard, and grabs a headlock to control Fitch as the challenger scrambles. Fitch ends up on all fours, and eats a knee to the body before standing, but GSP just drags him right back down. Fight finally ends with GSP pinning Fitch into the fence. 10-9 GSP again and overall it’s 50-43 on my scorecard.

Judges have it 50-43, 50-44 and 50-44 for St-Pierre to retain the title in his first defense. Well, yeah, like there was any question about that. Post-fight GSP says he felt Fitch was his toughest test to date, and he’ll fight anyone who the UFC thinks deserves a shot, including BJ Penn. Which of course brings a chubby looking Penn into the Octagon yelling “Let’s do this!” in a high-pitched voice. Massive pop for that and you have to admit Penn can sell a fight.

Well, that was another unbelievable performance from St-Pierre. Fitch was supposed to be his toughest challenge and the fight was expected by many to be close, and yet it was basically a one-sided beatdown as Fitch was taken apart standing, couldn’t put GSP on his back, and got taken down at will and beaten on the ground too. St-Pierre is basically a force of nature at this stage, the modern day Frank Shamrock – not just a jack of all trades, but a master of all trades, and he’s become so good in each area that he can basically fight to his opponent’s weaknesses each and every time. I know Fedor and Anderson Silva have their supporters but for me GSP is the best fighter in the world, pound-for-pound, and it’s fights like this that support that feeling.

-And we’re out of time there and they go to the highlights.

Final Thoughts....

For some reason I didn’t remember this as a good show, but I couldn’t be further from wrong really, as for me UFC 87 is one of the best UFC shows of 2008. Sure, it runs a little long (six out of the ten fights going the distance) but Fitch-GSP is a total war if one-sided, and the other longer fights outside of Jones-Gusmao – which was a little dull – are really good, particularly Florian-Huerta, which didn’t quite live up to the hype but was still an excellent fight. Lesnar-Herring isn’t great but with the intrigue surrounding Lesnar, it’s pretty interesting to watch anyway. Throw in a couple of highlight reel KOs in Kongo-Evensen and Emerson-Gamburyan, as well as one of the best grappling-based fights of the year in Maia-MacDonald, and you’ve got a very good show indeed.

Best Fight: St-Pierre-Fitch
Worst Fight: Jones-Gusmao

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 88-97, Fight Nights 15-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 10-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
WEC: 34-40.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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