Man, this one couldíve come right off a 2005-era Cage Rage card. Swede Eklund and Frenchman Schiavo were both looking for their first Octagon wins after coming up short against Sam Stout and Clay Guida respectively.
Fight begins and Schiavo comes out striking aggressively before clinching, and Eklund muscles him into the cage. They break off and Schiavo continues to push the action, swinging wildly and slipping to the mat. Eklund backs away and the Frenchman comes forward again, and this time he lands a big overhand right that decks the Swede. Schiavo grabs a front facelock, but Eklund recovers quick and they stand. Samy tries the overhand right again but this time Eklund grabs a plum clinch and lands some knees. Takedown from Schiavo into Eklundís guard and he postures out of a triangle attempt and lands some punches. Eklund tries the rubber guard, but canít lock it up correctly and so Schiavo stands free and kicks the legs before going back into the guard. Again Eklund tries the rubber guard, but his legs donít look flexible enough to make it effective and Schiavo easily stands free. Eklund springs to his feet after taking a couple of kicks, but Schiavo lands another combo and looks for the takedown again. Eklund stuffs it and they exchange in the clinch to end the round. 10-9 to Schiavo on my scorecard.
2nd round and Schiavo swings the overhand right into the clinch to open. They exchange some knees from close quarters and Schiavo blocks an attempted judo trip. Schiavo breaks off but Eklund lands a body kick. Big one-two stuns the Swede and Schiavo follows with a knee, but Eklund looks recovered quickly. Another right lands, but Eklund grabs the plum clinch and then tries a guillotine, but he ends up on his back with Schiavo in the guard. They stand and Schiavo presses forward, but again Eklund grabs the plum clinch and this time he lands some punishing knees to the head and body. Eklund uses it to drag him down and then spins to take the back, and he pulls Schiavo down and gets both hooks in. Schiavo tries to get his legs on the cage to reverse, while Eklund looks to set up a rear naked choke. Eklund canít seem to lock up the choke, and so he transitions to an armbar and has it fully locked in! Schiavoís arm looks at a SICK angle for a second but somehow the Frenchman rolls and wriggles free! Schiavo stands and drops a big right into the guard. Round finishes with Schiavo working some ground-and-pound from the top. Replays show the armbar escape was pretty amazing. Eklundís round though.
Third and final round, and Eklund ducks a shot and gets a nice takedown to the guard. Eklund works from the top and passes to half-guard, and then works his way to full mount. Nice guard pass there. Schiavo looks in trouble and gives his back, and Eklund flattens him out. Few punches land and then a big elbow looks to have hurt Samy as he stops moving, so Eklund locks up the rear naked choke and draws the tapout.
Decent opener with some back-and-forth action, but in the end it was Eklundís more technical grappling game that overcame Schiavoís explosiveness standing. Solid win for the Swede.
Miller was making his Octagon debut after a good run in the IFL, about a month after his brother had made a successful debut at UFN 15. Opponent Baron was a solid signing who sort of slipped under the radar, but the Frenchman had choked out Hayato Sakurai in his last fight and I had high hopes for him and expected him to take out Miller.
Round 1 begins and they exchange some kicks before Miller catches one and gets a takedown to half-guard. Jim works to pass right away but Baron keeps a lockdown on the leg to retain half-guard. Miller continues to try to work the leg free, but he gets a bit loose and Baron gets butterfly guard in. Miller lands a couple of shots from the top, and then does an excellent job of reversing a sweep attempt to take Baronís back. Baron rolls to full mount but Miller locks up an arm triangle, only to give it up as he takes a higher mount now. Few punches land and then Baron rolls and gives his back again. Baron scrambles and works his way free, but takes some heavy punches and then ends up underneath Miller in side mount. Baron does another good job of scrambling to his feet, but he tries a judo throw and Miller reverses and takes the back again. This time he locks up a body triangle and goes for the rear naked choke, but Baron survives the round. Miller ran a grappling clinic on him there though.
Into the 2nd, and they exchange some strikes with Baron hanging his hands waaay low. Takedown from Miller though and he passes swiftly into side mount. Baron again scrambles to his feet, and he lands a big right hook in an exchange! Miller gets a takedown, but Baron rolls right through and looks for a guillotine, only for Miller to plant him on his back again. Miller goes for a guillotine of his own from the top now, and then settles for top position in half-guard. Good left hand lands for Miller from the top and he tries to mount again, but Baron once more locks up half-guard. Miller finally works to full mount and then gets the back, where he lands an elbow that cuts Baron. Baron keeps scrambling, despite taking another elbow, and then he manages to turn into Miller and works into the IFL veteranís guard. Miller shows an excellent defensive guard, and looks to lock up an arm triangle from the bottom as the round ends. Another round in the books for Miller but Baron is hanging in there.
Third round, and they exchange some punches before Miller lands a nice leg kick. Baron throws one of his own, but Miller catches it and slams him down into side mount. Full mount follows and Baron looks tired now. Baron tries desperately to lock down on half-guard, but ends up giving his back and takes a nasty elbow. He rolls back to full mount, and then rolls and gives his back again, and this time Miller locks up a body triangle. Baron continues to roll and scramble but canít shake Miller off, and finally Miller manages to get a deep rear naked choke sunk in for the tapout.
Miller looked excellent here, as he just ran a grappling clinic on Baron from start to finish before tapping him out. Baron did a good job defensively but couldnít stop the takedown and just didnít look on the same level as Miller on the mat. Impressive debut for the IFL veteran with some really great grappling exchanges throughout.
As a fan of Etimís I was rejoicing that finally theyíd given him an opponent who wasnít going to just take him down and hold him there, as Stoutís a fellow kickboxer and that pretty much guaranteed a stand-up fight. Naturally I was taking Etim, with his underrated striking and ridiculous reach advantage coming into play.
We begin and both men push the action right away and it looks to be a stand-up fight, with both landing leg kicks early. Good high kick and knee from Etim too. Etim begins to work him over with the jab and some vicious leg kicks, but Stout comes back with a bodyshot and a hook to the head. Etim is looking sharp as hell here though, catching Stout with leg kicks as he steps in to counter the reach. Good high kick from Etim as he fakes the low kick. Striking exchange continues and itís to Etimís advantage as Stout canít seem to deal with the reach. Beautiful right hand from Etim snaps Stoutís head back and he follows with more leg kicks and jabs. Good right hand finally lands for Stout, but Etim counters right away with a straight left. Couple of leg kicks for Stout, answered with a body kick from Etim. Pair of high kicks and heavy superman punch put Stout firmly on the defensive, but Stout comes back and cracks him with a heavy right hand, and then closes the round with a takedown. Etim largely picked Stout apart in that round.
2nd begins with Stout pushing the action a little more, but Etim continues to get the better of the exchanges, landing a double jab into a right hand nicely. Good body shot lands from Stout and he follows with a kick to the body. This is about as good a kickboxing match as youíre going to see in the UFC. Etim continues to work the jab, but Stout is doing a much better job in this round and heís landing more shots of his own than he did in the first. Good body-head combo from Stout but Etim comes back with the jab and the leg kick again. Nice counter left from Etim too. Stout pushes the action but doesnít land anything cleanly, and Etim surprisingly goes for a takedown towards the end of the round. Stout stuffs it though, takes a knee from Etim and answers with a right on the buzzer. Closer round to call, couldíve been anyoneís really.
Into the 3rd and Etim begins with a good leg kick-head kick combo. Stout lands a bodyshot and then goes for a superman punch, but Etim counters with a stiff jab. Etim tries a takedown but Stout easily stuffs it. Nice body kick from Etim and a good superman punch follows. Stout is pushing the action more now but Etim is countering well, so itís a hard fight to score. Good right hand for Stout, but Etim is catching him with the straight left as he comes forward. Great bodyshot lands for Stout. The pace has slowed here somewhat but this is still an excellent stand-up fight. 30 seconds to go and Etim muscles off a takedown attempt. Good right from Stout and he swings for the fences to end the round, but Etim avoids most of the barrage.
Really close fight to call and it could go either way, but I think Iíd probably score it for Etim. Judges have it 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27 all for Terry Etim. No groundwork whatsoever but for kickboxing in MMA this was really good. Etim came out and worked Stout over in the first round, using his length and reach advantage to full effect, but once Stout seemed to gauge the reach more in the second it became more even and both men got their licks in. Really fun stand-up battle.
Another one that couldíve come off a Cage Rage card, and like Eklund-Schiavo itís a Swede vs. a Frenchman, although Bielkhedenís been with Brazilian Top Team for ages and Liaudinís based in London mainly. Both men were making their debuts at Lightweight too, after being overpowered a couple of times at 170. Bielkheden apparently had a very tough time making the 155lbs weight limit though.
Round One and Liaudin lands a right hand early, before Bielkheden clinches and throws some knees. The Swede randomly drops to his back, but Jess is having none of that and waves him up. Good takedown from Bielkheden to guard and he pushes Jess into the cage. Liaudin wall-walks back up, but Bielkheden pulls him back down and passes to half-guard, pressing Liaudin down. Jess manages to work to his feet again but takes a knee and then the Swede sweeps the leg and puts him down again. Jess works onto one knee to get up, but takes some VICIOUS knees and punches that stun him. Wow, looked illegal to me as Jess appeared to have one knee down. Liaudin manages to back up though. Slam from Bielkheden follows, into Liaudinís guard. Jess goes for an oma plata and Bielkheden tries to slam his way out, and then slips free and pins him into the cage with some punches. Another takedown follows for Bielkheden right as Jess stands. Big punches land as Liaudin works to his feet again, but Jess answers with some uppercuts and Bielkheden drops for another takedown. This time though Jess uses a whizzer to reverse and take top position with half-guard. Bielkheden gets full guard and controls Liaudin from the bottom, but Jess manages to land some punches and elbows from the top and remains there as the round ends. Liaudin finished strong but itís still Bielkhedenís round for me.
Round Two and Bielkheden presses and gets a quick shot, picking Jess up for a slam to guard. Liaudin does a good job defensively and then goes into an oma plata, but Bielkheden breaks free and stays on top, landing some good punches before Liaudin escapes to his feet. Takedown from Bielkheden before Liaudin can do anything though, and this time the Swede lands with a heavy elbow. Liaudin goes for an armbar but gives up half-guard doing so, but little happens and the ref stands them. Takedown attempt from Bielkheden but Jess stuffs it and winds up on top, landing some good shots from half-guard before the Swede scrambles to full guard. Liaudin works with some shots, but does little damage and the round peters out. Better round for Liaudin but youíd probably still give it to Bielkheden.
Round Three and Bielkheden opens with a takedown right away. Jess gets full guard and stays active, looking for submissions, but he takes a couple of elbows. Few really heavy elbows open Jess up and he looks tired now I would say. This fight has seriously slowed up in this round. Liaudin is going for subs from his back, but Bielkheden is just too strong and manages to pass to half-guard. Jess squirms back to guard but heís very bloody now. Ref stands them up with 45 seconds to go but Bielkheden shoots right away and looks for the takedown. Jess tries to block with a kimura and manages to flip into it, but he canít finish it and the buzzer sounds.
Iíve got this 30-27 for Bielkheden despite each round ending with Liaudin in control. Judges have it unanimously for Bielkheden. Pretty dull fight for the most part though as Liaudin couldnít stop the takedown and despite being unable to catch Bielkheden from his back, the Swede was content to just stay in the guard and land short elbows. Looked to me like the weight cut affected both guys pretty badly.
Never heard of Wain before this but he was 4-0 coming in with swift finishes by strikes. Physically heís like the absolute opposite to Carwin though, weighing around the same but standing at 5í10Ē. To be quite honest the guy looks like a random football hooligan they pulled from out of the crowd earlier in the night and to say I was expecting a squash here would be an understatement.
Carwin comes ahead early and bulls Wain into the cage, and they muscle for position before breaking off. Wain actually lands a couple of winging hooks, popping the crowd, but Carwin drops for a takedown and puts Wain on his back. Carwin quickly passes to side mount and lands some punches, then steps over to full mount where he lands some PUNISHING BLOWS and the ref stops it there.
Finish was BRUTAL as Carwin has some seriously heavy hands; looked like he was bashing poor Wain with a sledgehammer or something. As I expected this was a total squash and Carwin keeps on rolling, looking like he could be a definite contender for the HW title in the near future.
Outside of the two main events and Sokoudjouís fight, I was looking forward to this more than anything on the card as Hardy is probably the most accomplished Brit in MMA not named ĎBispingí, with major wins in Japan and Englandís Cage Warriors promotion. Here he was realistically riding an eight-fight win streak if you discount the Yoshiyuki Yoshida debacle that saw Hardy DQd for an accidental low blow. He was matched with an extremely tough opponent for his UFC debut though in Gono, who is a guy I feel is always underrated. Not sure how this didnít make the main card over Davis-Kelly actually.
Got to mention the entrances here, as Hardy came out wearing a bandana over his face playing up to his ĎOutlawí moniker (he usually does this I know, but it still rules damnit) and Gono completely outdid that by having his whole entourage as well as himself dress in 70ís disco gear complete with wigs, and did a choreographed dance routine on the way to the cage. Some fans were even cheering for Gono after that!
Touch of gloves to begin and Hardy pushes forward early, landing a leg kick and avoiding Gono grabbing the leg for a takedown. Nice leg kick and right hand from Hardy but Gono looks relaxed. Left jab snaps the Japanese veteranís head back. Another good combo lands for Hardy and then a leg kick, and once more he avoids being caught and taken down. Gono comes back with a nice left hook. Hardy comes forward but Gono lands a hard left hook counter. Nice front kick from Hardy sends Gono back against the fence. They trade kicks and then Hardy comes forward with a nice right, but Gono grabs a clinch and forces him into the fence. Hardy muscles free with a knee and a right hook, but Gono lands a hard left hand as Hardy swings a combo. Big chant for Hardy as he lands a combo. Clinch and they exchange knees briefly before breaking off. Hardy continues to press and land combos. 10 seconds to go and Hardy lands a spinning back kick to the body. Gono comes back with one of his own, but it misses and Hardy lands a pair of right hands to finish the round. Good first round.
2nd round and Gono begins with a left to the body. Hardy presses forward with a right hook but takes a slapping left too. Good body kick from Hardy. Gono leads with a left hook but eats one on the counter. Trip takedown follows from Gono and he gets side mount, but Hardy scrambles from underneath and hits a nice switch that allows him to escape to his feet. Nice stuff. Hardy continues to push the action, landing some good strikes, but taking the odd one on the counter from Gono too. Clinch from Gono and he tries to take Hardy down again, but Dan stuffs it and breaks off. Leg kick, jab, and knee to the gut land well for Hardy and he avoids a clinch. Spinning back kick misses for Gono. Nice left hook from Gono but Hardy takes it and pushes forward. More exchanging follows and then a beautiful left hook cracks Hardy on the side of the head. Action really picks up in the last minute with both men landing shots and now Hardy is cut over the right eye. Round ends with Gono using head movement to avoid a combo. Replays show Gonoís left hook was often thrown with an open hand, like a slap.
Final round and this could realistically be anyoneís fight. Nice pair of kicks to open for Gono. Left hook lands for him again too. Side kick to the gut sends Gono off balance momentarily. Hardy continues to push forward, but eats the same left hook on the counter again. Good body kick from Hardy though. Gono lands the slap again, but Hardy comes back with a superman punch and a body kick. They clinch briefly before breaking off and both men are marked up now. Both men land left hooks on the counter before Hardy lands a leg kick right to the groin. Ref calls time and the Japanese fighter looks hurt. Gono is heaving even. They restart though and Hardy pushes forward with a combo and a knee. Gono gets a takedown though and snakes over onto the back, hopping on as Hardy stands, but Dan shakes him off. Hardy comes forward but Gono trips him down again. Again Hardy scrambles up, but this time Gono lands a pair of illegal knees as Hardy has both knees down by the fence. Ref calls time to let Hardy recover and they restart with Hardy coming ahead with a right hook. Body kick from Hardy and he avoids the takedown as Gono catches the leg. Gono pushes forward now but goes down off a left hand; looked like a slip to me as heís back up instantly. They trade punches and then hilariously Gono tries a flying...something on the buzzer only for the ref to shove him down in mid-air! That looked hilarious.
Very tough fight to score. Iíd give it to Hardy based on aggression mainly as both men landed their fair share of strikes, but it wouldnít be surprising to see Gono take it. Judges have it a split decision, 29-28 Hardy, 29-28 Gono and 29-28 giving the win to Dan ĎThe Outlawí Hardy! BIG pop for that. Fight was excellent, both men showing some great striking skills throughout, and despite neither coming close to a finish the action never slowed up at all. Hardy in his debut did a tremendous job against a very, very tricky opponent, especially when you consider that Gono had beaten Tamdan McCrory previously and was the last guy to beat the vaunted Gegard Mousasi in Japan. Great debut for the Outlaw and hopefully the UK now has another star to go along with Bisping.
Wolfslairís Kelly had made a successful Octagon debut in January, beating Paul Taylor, but he was matched with a man a bit higher up on the food chain in Davis, who had basically made a name for himself beating UK guys before being slowed down by a loss to Mike Swick. Kelly is an explosive guy but heís small for 170lbs and the smart money was on the more experienced Irish Hand Grenade. Donít know why Mike Goldberg keeps calling Davis ďthe UKís adopted sonĒ either as outside of his fight in Ireland heís largely booed in the UK because he keeps beating British fighters!
They get underway and both men are looking to strike, but nothing major lands for the first couple of minutes. Davis is landing counters as Kelly comes forward, but theyíre nothing that really hurt the Liverpudlian or even slow him up really. Couple of nice body kicks land for Davis. With 90 seconds to go Davis gets a takedown, and Kelly looks for a guillotine but the Irish Hand Grenade quickly slips free. Into half-guard for Davis and he looks to pass that into side mount, taking the position nicely. Punches and elbows land for Davis but he botches a mount attempt and Kelly explodes to his feet. They exchange a few more strikes to close the round. Dull opening stanza that goes to Davis.
Between rounds they show a close-up of Davisís face, showing his surgically reconstructed eyebrows where he had doctors remove scar tissue to stop him cutting so easily after Swick made a mess of his face last time out. The Michael Jackson of MMA then?
Second round and itís more of the same as Kelly pushes forward but canít seem to catch Marcus, who lands some counters again, working more leg kicks in this round. Big charging takedown from Kelly, but Davis moves to get to his feet and in the movement Kelly leaves his neck out, and from there Davis secures a guillotine and pulls guard, forcing Kelly to tap out.
Good win for Davis but it wasnít the most exciting fight. Kelly looked a bit overawed, which is understandable given it was his first televised fight against a far more experienced opponent, and while he certainly didnít disgrace himself or anything, he was never really able to get any offense going on Davis. Still, heís a young guy and itís all a learning curve for him, and heís dropped to 155lbs since this which is an excellent move for him I think.
Announcers are immediately expecting a stand-up war from this pair and so was everyone else, as Lytleís one of the better boxers in the Welterweight division while Taylor has arguably the sharpest pure kickboxing game at 170lbs. I was actually going with the upset and picking Taylor as I felt he was more rounded standing and Lytle would probably not look to take him down regardless. Taylor got a big crowd pop coming out to The Jam, too.
Touch of gloves to begin and they just THROW DOWN right away, trading with no fear, with Taylor landing crisper shots but Lytle winging some seriously powerful punches. Nice kick from Taylor but Lytle lands a pair of heavy rights. They clinch up against the fence and exchange shots in tight, landing knees and punches to the body, and then Lytle breaks off with a right hook. They exchange into the clinch again and Lytle gets a shoulder throw, but Taylor pops right back up into the clinch again. They break off after exchanging shots in the clinch, and then Taylor lands a combo before Lytle wings punches into the clinch again. Lytle works the body inside and presses Taylor into the cage, but Taylor reverses and breaks free with an elbow. Nice combo coming forward for Taylor but Lytle hits a bodyshot into the clinch and forces him to the fence again. More exchanging follows in the clinch, with the best shot being a right from Taylor, and the round ends with them pressed against the fence.
Into the 2nd and Taylor takes the center of the Octagon and opens up with a combo, and they exchange quick, sharp strikes with both men landing. Lytle is SWINGING for the bleachers here. Into the clinch again and Lytle drops for a takedown, putting Taylor down in half-guard. Taylor reverses him and looks to escape, but Lytle keeps him down and then goes for a guillotine as Taylor tries to stand. He lets it go though and they end up back on their feet. Hard leg kick lands for Taylor but Lytle grabs the head for some dirty boxing. Takedown from Taylor, surprisingly, but Lytle immediately uses a whizzer to get to his feet. They trade punches like a hockey fight inside the clinch and then muscle around for position, with Lytle forcing him into the cage again. They break and Lytle continues to swing, but he looks a bit tired now. Well, you do get tired if you swing like he is. Leg kick from Taylor goes astray and hits the groin, and the ref calls time. They restart with a touch of gloves and exchange into the clinch again, and once this time Taylor reverses Lytle and pushes him into the cage. Lytle quickly reverses position though and they continue to exchange knees in close. Lytle drops for a takedown but Taylor avoids and tries a trip of his own. Lytle blocks that and the round ends as they break off. This is a very close fight actually.
Third and final round, and Taylor opens with some good kicks as Lytle swings punches at him. Good bodyshots from Lytle and a heavy combo looks to have Taylor hurt, but he answers with some punches of his own and they end up clinched again. Serious action there. Lytle is really chopping at the body, landing some heavy duty shots. Nice short uppercut inside from Taylor as Lytle looks slowed down a lot. They break off and Taylor is still firing quick combos and now Lytleís taking big breaths through his mouth. Beautiful leg kick from Taylor lands and another one nearly downs Lytle. Lytle comes back swinging though and pushes Taylor against the fence again. Ref breaks them up this time which bodes well for Taylor. Lytle still has some gas left though and he swings wildly into the clinch and drops for the takedown, putting Taylor down in half-guard. Lytle tries to mount but Taylor reverses and explodes to his feet in the clinch. They break off and now Taylor really opens up with some HEAVY combos with just seconds remaining, rocking Lytle all over the place! Lytle looks hurt, but manages to close the distance and the buzzer sounds to a huge pop.
Strangely enough that was better watching on the DVD than it was live. Live in the upper tiers where I was sitting you just donít see how cleanly some of those shots are landing, but man when you have slow-mo replays and stuff, these guys took some SHOTS. Judges score it 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Lytle, disappointing Taylor greatly. Crowd arenít too happy too and I remember thinking live that Taylor had won. Looking at it now though I would say Lytle probably deserved the win, as although Taylor did land some beautiful combinations and finished stronger, Lytle was able to take him down a few times, landed some brutally heavy shots, and got the better of the fight in the clinch. Outside of a few slow portions in the clinch this was a really good fight actually.
Seeing Sokoudjou live was one of the selling points of this show to me, as heís been a favourite of mine since he exploded onto the scene in 2007. He was coming off a KO win over Kazuhiro Nakamura, while fellow striker Cane had knocked out Jason Lambert in June. With Sokoudjouís explosive power though I was expecting the African Assassin to turn Banhaís lights out early.
Round One gets started and both men press forward tentatively. Sokoudjou lands a pair of hard leg kicks early. Head kick misses for the African but a charging body kick lands heavily. Cane pushes forward, but Sokoudjou attacks him with combinations. The Brazilian doesnít back down though and keeps coming. Body kicks land for both men well. Sokoudjou buckles him with a hard leg kick, forcing Cane onto the retreat. These guys are throwing some heavy power into everything. Superman punch from Sokoudjou and he throws a flurry, but Cane deflects most of them. Nice jab from Sokoudjou into a body shot, and he follows with a heavy body kick. Cane is being forced backwards every time Sokoudjou attacks. With about a minute remaining Sokoudjou looks noticeably slower, and Cane begins to come forward more, landing more strikes than in the early part of the round including a body kick and a knee. Round ends with them circling on the feet. 10-9 for Sokoudjou but he may be gassed here.
2nd round and sure enough the African is sucking in wind. Cane stalks forward to begin things but the first kick lands low and the ref calls time. Damn, thatís like the third accidental low blow so far on this show. Sokoudjou recovers and they restart, and Cane continues to press but takes a MASSIVE jumping body kick from the African Assassin! Big pop for that. Sokoudjou slows down right after it though and takes a straight right from Cane. Fight slows down tremendously now as Sokoudjou isnít attacking much at all. Cane begins to paw with the right jab as Sokoudjou shows little head movement now. Body kick from Sokoudjou but Cane eats it right up and keeps coming forward. Left hand and a big knee stun Sokoudjou and he backs into the fence. Sokoudjou lands an uppercut but Cane continues to walk him down. Pair of big knees land for Cane with a minute to go and he follows with a BIG LEFT CROSS that drops Sokoudjou! Cane pounces and pounds away, and after way too many shots on the ground the ref stops things.
Bitterly disappointing loss for Sokoudjou after he looked in total control in the first round. By the time the second came around though he looked very tired and became a walking target for the Brazilian. As a fan of Sokoudjouís itís sad to say it, but he looks like a guy who can blow you away early, but he becomes very, very beatable if you can weather that early storm. This ended up being his last fight in the UFC, too. Good win for Banha but the fight got really slow in the second round.
Co-main event was put together after the loss of Thiago Silva vs. Lyoto Machida IIRC, with the Dean of Mean looking to bounce back after his crushing defeat at the hands of Wanderlei Silva, and Vera looking for his first win over an elite fighter at 205lbs after a bit of a dodgy start against Reese Andy (albeit a winning one) in July. Vera physically looked in far better shape than he had for the Andy fight at the weigh-in, and with the blueprint to beat Jardine seemingly laid out by Silva and Houston Alexander (swarm and overwhelm him early) I was picking The Truth to properly arrive at LHW with a big win. Physically at least Vera looks much better than he did against Andy, like heís cut the weight properly this time as opposed to just dehydrating himself.
Jardine comes forward early and surprises Vera with a takedown to guard. Vera immediately turns for a kimura and keeps a tight full guard, and somehow Jardine is cut already, no clue how though. Thereís a ton of blood here. Vera ends up giving up on the kimura and takes some elbows from Jardine, but Vera lands an elbow to the cut on Jardineís head from his back. Ref brings them back to their feet and Vera pushes forward into a brief clinch that breaks swiftly. Body kick lands for Vera as they circle. Jardine has his hands very low here, but he lands a right anyway. They exchange punches in the last minute and a short right uppercut puts Jardine down, but he pops back up and then drops Vera with a right of his own! They end up clinched and Jardine goes for a takedown, seating Vera against the cage where he lands some big winging punches to close the round! Slow round but the end was FIREWORKS.
2nd round, and they exchange strikes tentatively before a weird front kick to the leg of Jardine buckles his knee at a nasty angle, causing him to limp. Couple of leg kicks land for Jardine and then they exchange punches with Vera landing a straight left hand. Jardine goes for a takedown but Vera stuffs it easily and follows with a leg kick. Vera catches a kick and muscles Jardine to the ground, and the Dean of Mean gets half-guard. Jardine eats a pair of knees on the way up, and then they break off. They circle around but neither guy is landing anything major here and the crowd are getting restless. Even I was getting a bit annoyed at this point! Hard kick from Vera is blocked. Jardine tries a flurry but Vera avoids, and Vera ends the round with a body kick.
Third and final round, and Vera opens with a body kick and a nice left hook as Jardine comes forward. Pair of decent leg kicks follow. Vera is stalking Jardine but not really landing anything here, and in general this isnít an exciting fight. Good right hand for Jardine though. Straight left from Vera but most of both menís shots are missing. Jardine looks for a takedown and gets a rear waistlock as Vera blocks it, landing some punches inside, but Vera wrestles his way free. Crowd are openly booing now as they circle and exchange strikes. Exchange continues and Jardine throws some bombs to close the fight out. Announcers are calling it a ďbattleĒ but I wasnít impressed at all really.
Close fight to call, honestly Iím still not sure after a few viewings now but I think Iíd go with Vera. Judges have it a split decision for Jardine though, 29-28, 29-28 and the third judge giving it 29-28 to Vera. Not the best fight from either man though as both looked strangely tentative after a good first round, and it made for a dull fight overall. Probably the worst fight Jardineís put on in his UFC tenure actually and for Vera this was the second dull performance in a row.
Main event had originally been scheduled for UFC 85 in June but Leben ran into legal difficulties so Bisping ended up crushing Jason Day instead. Not the biggest main event in terms of title ramifications or anything but itís a big one in terms of getting the crowd hyped up, as Leben talked tons of trash coming in and made himself a huge heel in the eyes of the British fans. Heís also sporting a new cornrow haircut here and looks in the best shape of his life. My personal feeling was that despite Lebenís KO power and iron chin, Bisping would be able to use his superior footwork and overall striking skill to stick and move and either outpoint Leben for a decision, or stop him via a cut.
Annoyingly the DVD overdubs Lebenís awesome, heat-seeking entrance to ĎGod Save The Queení by the Sex Pistols. That really is a pet hate of mine. I mean come on, UFC is a multi-million dollar company and they canít afford to pay Johnny fucking Rotten some royalties? Ugh. To say Bisping gets the pop of the night would be a massive understatement. Roof literally nearly comes off the arena upon his arrival. UFC have really done an amazing job in building this guy as a star, though it obviously helps that heís got a lot of charisma too.
And weíre underway, no touch of gloves here. Leben stalks forward right away as the two exchange kicks early. Few good leg kicks land for Leben. Nice right from Bisping and Leben bulls into a clinch but they break off. Leben comes forward but walks into a straight right and a beautiful left over the top. Leben swings a combo but Bisping ducks and goes for a takedown, and they end up clinched before breaking off. Bisping avoids a superman punch and lands a nice one-two, and now even though Leben is the aggressor Bisping is beginning to catch him with cleaner counters. Left high kick lands for Bisping. Leben comes forward again but takes some more shots and heís bleeding from his nose now. Sweet combo from Bisping and he follows with a body kick, superman punch and left hook! Leben bulls forward swinging and gets to the clinch, but they break off quickly. Lebenís face is marked up bad. Leben swings some big lefts, landing but Bisping manages to retreat. Leben keeps coming in swinging, but he eats a big right hook from Bisping that snaps his head back. With seconds remaining they break a brief clinch and Bisping ducks a shot and lands with a takedown on the buzzer. Bispingís round, 10-9, as Leben is coming forward aggressively but taking far cleaner counters. Bispingís footwork is winning this fight for him.
Into the second round and Leben stalks forward, but walks onto a left hook early. Leben slips off a kick attempt and Bisping rushes in, but eats a left hook as Leben pops back up to his feet. Massive Bisping chant breaks out as they clinch up against the cage. Bisping breaks off and heís landing counters again now as Leben comes charging forward. Looks like Lebenís cut under his right eye now too. Leg kick from Leben lands to Bispingís groin and we get a time out. This is like the show of the accidental low blow or something. Body kick from Bisping but Leben lands a pair of left hands. Left jab and body kick land for Bisping. Leben is pushing forward like the terminator here as Bisping uses his footwork to stay on the move and land counters. Lebenís face is a mess now and Bisping lands two of the best shots of the round with 30 seconds to go, a left jab and a right cross. Leben catches him with a left with about ten seconds remaining and then drops his hands and yells Bisping on as the round ends. 10-9 for Bisping again as Leben is being picked apart.
Weíre going into the third round now and this is looking like Bispingís fight to lose. Leben comes out stalking forward again and lands a left, and then we get a brief time out as Bisping uses referee Dan Miragliottaís shirt to get something out of his eye. Leg kick by Leben, answered by a body kick from Bisping, and Leben is still walking onto combos from the Count. Credit to him Leben just keeps on coming, using that iron chin to full effect, and with about a minute and half remaining Leben takes Bisping down. Bisping immediately uses his arms to keep himself pressed against the cage, and explodes to his feet as Leben tries to land some shots. Big right lands for Bisping pretty much as soon as they stand. Less than a minute to go now and the more Leben tries for the knockout, the more he opens himself up to Bispingís counters. Big combo lands for Bisping as Leben comes forward, and in the dying seconds Leben almost looks zombie-like with his bloody face, pale skin and tattoos as he lumbers forward with his hands down trying to draw Bisping into a trade. Fight ends there.
Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 all for Bisping. Crowd go apeshit for that, naturally. Post-fight Bisping reveals his plan was to take the blueprint laid down by Anderson Silva and use Lebenís aggression against him, using his footwork and counters to stick and move and beat Leben up for the decision. Unusual for a fighter to admit that his plan was to take a decision, but against a guy with the chin of Leben itís understandable. Leben then turns himself face in the eyes of the crowd by saying this was one of his favourite fights in his career, Bisping was the better man tonight, and he loved fighting in front of the UK fans.
Fight went down exactly how I was expecting and Bisping looked very impressive in the win I thought. His footwork and movement was fantastic and his counterpunching style basically picked Leben apart, as the more aggressive he got, the more he left himself open to be nailed by Bisping. The fighterís faces told the story as Bisping was largely unmarked while Lebenís face resembled Evan Tanner after the second Rich Franklin fight (especially with the cornrows!). Good win for Bisping and he continues to look great at 185lbs. As for Leben it wasnít a horrible showing for him or anything, but he was beaten by the better striker and worse still he tested positive for steroids in the drug tests and was subsequently suspended. Not a war like some were expecting as Bisping fought a smarter fight than that, but it was still a decent fight to watch and the crowd heat made it even better, particularly live.
-And we roll the highlights to end things.
Although Iíve got fond memories of the live experience, UFC 89 is probably the worst Ďnumberedí show of 2008 for the UFC, as there was a distinct lack of explosive finishes outside of the Cane-Sokoudjou fight, and a large number of slower fights that went the distance or thereabouts (Vera-Jardine, Kelly-Davis, Liaudin-Bielkheden, Eklund-Schiavo) mean itís a hell of a long show to sit through. Hardy-Gono, Bisping-Leben, Taylor-Lytle and Etim-Stout are all good fights, but theyíre less memorable due to the lack of finishes and while Carwin squashing Wain was fun, it is what it is Ė a squash match. So overall itís thumbs leaning down for UFC 89, a slow-ish show with some fun matches but some bad ones too.
Best Fight: Hardy-Gono
Worst Fight: Vera-Jardine
Overall Rating: **1/2
UFC: 90-97, Fight Nights 16-18, and TUF VIII Finale.
Pride: Shockwave 2005, Shockwave 2006, 31, Bushido 10-13 and the Openweight Grand Prix.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.