This was Sell’s first foray into the 170lbs division after suffering three losses on the bounce at 185lbs; surprising that the UFC would keep him around after three losses like that actually, but I’m guessing he signed a long-ish deal after the exciting Scott Smith fight or something. Burkman was on a pretty lean streak himself, having lost his last two fights to Mike Swick and Dustin Hazelett, so this was practically do or die for both men.
We get underway to a big crowd pop (see, this is why I love it when UFC moves states, you nearly always get a hot crowd) and they circle tentatively, throwing some feeler strikes, with Burkman landing the first blow, a body kick. Sell shoots, but Burkman stuffs it and forces Sell into the fence, but Sell reverses and then breaks off. Big right hand from Burkman wobbles Sell badly, and then he follows with a high kick and a takedown to half-guard. Heavy elbows from Burkman and Sell looks in trouble early. Sell looks for a sweep, but Burkman’s having none of that and he remains on top, dropping elbows. Sell scrambles and looks for full guard, so Burkman stands, but as Sell explodes to his feet Burkman grabs him again and slams him back down. Burkman tries to go for the mount and then lands some elbows, but Sell works back to full guard. Sell looks to be turning for a kimura, but Burkman decides to bring it back to standing. Sell pushes forward and goes for the takedown, but Burkman stuffs it again and clinches. Random observation time – the referee they have here looks like a miniature version of Herb Dean. Burkman uses a whizzer to take Sell down again, and then stands up and lands a body kick and a combo, before missing a spinning backfist on the buzzer. That round was all Burkman.
Into the 2nd and Burkman looks to be puffing and panting already. Sell looks to strike but takes another right early. They exchange some punches with neither landing heavily. Sell goes for the takedown again but Burkman does a good job of avoiding it. Leg kick from Sell and he slips a big right from Burkman. Sell begins to throw some feints in with his head movement now, as Burkman is swinging wildly as usual. Good uppercut from Sell. Good combo drops Burkman and Sell tries to follow with a takedown, but Burkman stuffs it again and they end up muscling for position in the clinch. They break off and Sell really begins to take over, landing a left hook and a left to the body. Good combo from Sell has Burkman wobbled. Sell is pretty much landing everything he throws now, particularly the body punch and the left hook. Burkman comes back with some winging hooks, but eats a nice right hand from Drago. Left to the body and big left hook have Burkman hurt again. 30 seconds to go and Sell tries a takedown, but Burkman avoids and grabs a waistlock, then takes Sell down himself. Sell’s round and so we’re even going into the third, but Burkman looks exhausted and Sell seems fresh.
Third round and Burkman throws out a left hook and then lands a good knee. Sell begins to take over with combos again though and then Burkman clinches to avoid a takedown. Drago can’t get Burkman down, but he’s landing much more standing. Burkman avoids a telegraphed single leg, but Sell remains the aggressor and pushes forward, landing a heavy leg kick. Superman punch from Drago and he continues to push the pace. Left hook to the body lands once again. Now Burkman goes for a takedown but Sell stuffs it and breaks off with a right. Beautiful left jab snaps Burkman’s head back and Drago follows with a one-two that hurts Burkman bad. Big right hand from Drago and Burkman is just being owned standing. Sell keeps pressing but Burkman comes back with a right hand. Sell answers with a takedown finally and gets into half-guard right away. With just seconds to go though Sell works the body and head and then clamps on a guillotine attempt but the fight ends before he can close it off.
Got to be 29-28 for Sell I think. Judges all agree, giving Sell his first UFC win in over three years. Sell fought well here and showed much improved stand-up from a technical point, but Burkman really threw the fight away after an excellent first round. Again Burkman showed he hadn’t really learned from his past losses, as he was swinging for the fences throughout and no matter how good your cardio is, you just can’t keep that up without gassing out. Solid enough fight with the odd dull moment.
Interesting fight on paper as Franca was originally scheduled to fight Gleison Tibau, but when Tibau injured himself, his American Top Team buddy Aurelio stepped in. Of course the added drama came from the fact that Aurelio was Franca’s former mentor and had even awarded him his BJJ black belt, before a fall-out between Franca and ATT saw Hermes branch off in 2005 (I think) to form the Armory team. So there’s some serious bad blood between the two for sure. And sure enough, confirming that, Franca bumps into Aurelio on purpose during his entrance.
Referee is wearing glasses here, never seen that before! First round gets started and Franca charges out with a flying knee, but Aurelio dodges like a matador. Body kick from Franca but he misses a wild left hook. Overhand right and leg kick from Franca. Aurelio answers with a jab. Aurelio looks to pump out the jab, but Hermes lands a heavy leg kick. Aurelio’s hands are looking much improved actually. Good leg kick from Franca again though. Another leg kick lands, but Franca misses a following high kick. Aurelio goes back to the jab, but continues to eat leg kicks and with a minute remaining Franca scores with a nice right hand too. More leg kicks from Franca and he lands a front kick and a glancing overhand right too. Franca’s leg kicks are looking excellent here and he closes the round with two more. 10-9 Franca for me.
Into the 2nd and Franca picks up right where he left off, landing a trio of vicious leg kicks. Franca throws a front kick off a faked leg kick and then goes high, but Aurelio deflects it. Franca continues to play the aggressor, and then he stuffs a takedown and wobbles Aurelio with another pair of leg kicks. Aurelio tries to answer with punches, but he’s got no snap on them and Franca continues to walk him down and land the leg kick. Franca begins to throw combos now, landing the leg kick along with punches, and with about a minute to go a big leg kick hurts Marcus badly. Franca is owning the stand-up. Overhand right lands to the back of the head ala Matt Serra vs. GSP, but Aurelio looks alright. Big leg kick again and Aurelio’s leg looks jacked as the round ends.
Third and final round and I think Aurelio has to take Franca down if he wants to win this one. He’s limping though and right away Franca lands another kick to the leg. Another one follows and he follows up with a right too. Leg kick again from Franca and he easily stuffs a takedown. Overhand right from Franca and the leg kick lands again, but this time Aurelio manages to grab hold of him and gets him down to half-guard. Hammer fists from Aurelio and he looks for a guard pass, but Franca’s got a lockdown on the leg and keeps half-guard. Good job from Franca of pushing off the hips and exploding to his feet, but the ref calls time for some reason. Crowd are upset and apparently there was an illegal knee from Aurelio, but the replay confirms it was legal. Only a warning thankfully, but that was a bad call. Franca lands a leg kick off the restart. Aurelio shoots and almost gets him down again, but Franca winds up on top and then reverses to his feet. Aurelio is trying to swing punches but they’ve got little on them and Franca is landing punches now too. Leg kick hurts Aurelio again and he shoots, but Franca sprawls and stuffs it. With less than a minute to go Franca breaks the clinch, and lands a combo before finishing the fight by taunting Aurelio with his hands behind his back.
Post-fight Franca tries a handshake but gets blown off, so he ends up flipping Aurelio off. Why not just squash the bad blood? If Penn and Pulver can do it, after all....
Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 all for Franca, unsurprisingly. Franca basically owned the fight with his leg kicks as Aurelio had little to no answer for them and was badly hurt by them at the end of the fight. Fight was alright for what it was and Franca fought well, but it’s hard not to be disappointed when you’ve got two accomplished BJJ black belts and only get like a minute’s worth of grappling, you know?
This was just like an IFL Title fight really, as the final IFL Middleweight champion Miller had made a successful UFC debut in choking out Rob Kimmons in September, while Horwich, a former IFL champion himself, was making his long-awaited UFC debut. If September to October sounds like a quick turnaround for Miller, well, that’s because it was, as he took the fight on short notice, replacing Renzo Gracie teammate Ricardo Almeida who pulled out citing a hernia. This was expected to be quite the grappling match as both men are well known for their skills on the mat.
Round One and Miller begins with a superman punch and a takedown. He lands some punches from the top as Horwich tries to scramble with his legs, and then Miller works into half-guard. Horwich keeps active from the bottom and then tries to roll for a leg, but Miller stands to avoid that and drops a right hand over the top into the guard. Horwich goes for the rubber guard, and then turns for an oma plata, but Miller turns out to avoid it and keeps himself on top, pushing Horwich into the cage. Guillotine attempt from Horwich but Miller breaks and backs up. Brief punching exchange and Miller gets the best of it, before shooting, but Horwich sprawls and looks to take the back. Horwich ends up landing elbows from the side, but Miller turns the corner into him and manages to put him on his back. Few punches land for Miller as Horwich gets full guard. Horwich uses the fence to work his way back to his feet, but eats an uppercut from Miller on the way out. Nice body kick from Miller as Horwich closes the distance and clinches. Miller breaks off and then CRACKS him with a left hand before tackling Horwich to the ground. Horwich uses rubber guard to go for the oma plata right away though, and forces Miller to roll and end the round on the bottom. Fun round, I’d give it to Miller by a hair.
2nd round gets underway and Horwich bulls forward, but eats a combo, and then Miller gets the takedown again. Miller lands some shots from the top before Horwich scrambles to his feet. Miller drops for a takedown attempt, but Horwich looks to lock up a kimura and drops to his back. He can’t get it though and winds up in butterfly guard instead. Miller lands a couple of elbows as Horwich uses the fence to get full guard and goes for a triangle. Miller avoids that, but ends up caught in rubber guard again where Horwich goes for an oma plata. Miller is forced to roll and ends up on his back, and Horwich ends up on top as Miller looks to roll for a kneebar now. Miller gets full guard and controls from the bottom, but Horwich works to side mount. Miller tries to reverse but Horwich steps over and takes the back, and locks up a rear naked choke with a body triangle! Miller looks in deep trouble and begins to turn a nasty shade of purple, but somehow he pulls an arm free and escapes! Horwich is still on his back though and after a brief change to full mount he gets the back again. With ten seconds to go Horwich sinks the choke again, but the time runs out and Miller is saved by the bell! This is an awesome grappling match and going into the third it’s dead even.
Round 3, and Horwich aggressively comes forward, but Miller trips him down to guard. Horwich immediately looks for rubber guard again, and goes into the oma plata, but this time Miller fights it off and stays on top. Same sequence happens again with Miller avoiding the oma plata. Rogan is LOVING this on commentary as he’s a big fan of the rubber guard. Miller is still on top here though and Horwich takes a couple of punches. Miller looks wise to the rubber guard now and he avoids the attempts at isolating the arm, and he bloodies Horwich up with shots from the top. Fight ends with Miller continuing to drop punches from the top position.
Close fight to call but I’d say you’d have to give it to Miller. First was easily Miller’s round, second was easily Horwich’s, but the third I would give to Miller for avoiding the rubber guard for the most part and doing damage from the top. Judges score it a unanimous 29-28 for Dan Miller. Fight slowed down a little in the third round but the first and second were gravy, with some tremendous grappling exchanges from both men. Good fight and another good win for Miller, especially as he took the fight on short notice after only fighting like four weeks before.
Another injury-hit fight, this was supposed to have seen Fisher finally face Melvin Guillard in a fight the internet had talked about since 2006, but Melvin pulled out with a torn ACL and so Gugerty stepped in after winning his UFC debut in July with a triangle over Dale Hartt. General consensus was that this was a striker (Fisher) vs. grappler (Gugerty) fight and with his experience in bigger fights, Fisher was the clear favourite.
We begin and word, Fisher is sporting the Muay Thai skirt-ish thing ala Melvin Manhoef or Alan Belcher. Fisher takes the center of the cage and looks to strike, but Gugerty closes the distance and grabs double underhooks, before getting a takedown to guard. Fisher shows a good defensive guard, and Gugerty is pretty much unable to do anything from the top, as Spencer manoeuvres himself away from being pinned into the fence. Fisher looks to scramble out, and kicks Gugerty away before popping to his feet. Gugerty forces him into the cage with a clinch, but Fisher lands a knee and an elbow inside. Gugerty tries to drag Fisher down but this time Spencer stuffs it, and they remain clinched. Nice elbow over the top breaks the clinch for Fisher, but Gugerty shoots right away and clinches again, forcing him back to the cage. Again Fisher breaks, and in the striking exchange he clips Gugerty with a combo that wobbles him. Gugerty goes for a single leg and ends up clinched again, but Fisher lands with inside elbows and breaks off again. Fisher stalks forward and counters a low kick with a BIG RIGHT that drops Gugerty, and then calls him back to his feet before busting out the RIC FLAIR STRUT!~! WHOO!~! Gugerty goes for a takedown, but Fisher stuffs it and ends the round with a right hand and an ax kick. Round One goes to Spencer Fisher. Gugerty is badly cut over his left eye, too.
Good leg kick from Fisher to open the 2nd. They exchange body kicks and then Gugerty slips on a high kick and they end up in the clinch. Fisher throws some back heel kicks to the thighs from inside the clinch and then uses the elbow again. Beautiful clinch work from Fisher. They separate and Gugerty pushes forward back to the clinch, but Fisher breaks with another elbow. Fisher pushes forward and they exchange some kicks into another clinch, before Fisher breaks again. Combo connects for Fisher but Gugerty stays in the pocket and fires back. Takedown from Fisher now but Gugerty locks up a guillotine. He doesn’t have full guard though, only butterfly hooks, and Fisher looks alright. Fisher works back to his feet in the guillotine, before Gugerty lets it go and unleashes with a combo ending with a pair of high kicks! Fisher smiles at him and comes back with a body kick and a knee, before Gugerty pulls guard. Butterfly guard from Gugerty before he goes back to a closed guard, and the round finishes there. Closer round to score there as Gugerty scored some points and you could probably make an argument for him taking the round.
Third round now and Gugerty begins with a front kick and grabs the clinch again. Gugerty gets double underhooks and really struggles for the takedown, but he can’t get Spencer to the ground and they break off. High kick from Gugerty is blocked. Good body shot from Fisher but Gugerty answers with a body kick. They clinch again and Gugerty eats another elbow, but he manages to muscle Fisher to his back. Fisher throws up a triangle out of nowhere from his back, and it looks locked up, as Gugerty desperately tries to posture free. Fisher has it locked in though and he tries to turn it into a mounted triangle. Gugerty looks in deep trouble and rolls through, but he’s still caught deep in the triangle and now it’s at a really odd angle with Fisher almost off to the side. Gugerty gives the thumbs up to his corner, but this is looking horrible for him. It looks like he’s being given some space by Fisher being off to the side though. This is the longest I can ever remember seeing someone in a fully locked in triangle. Finally Spencer manages to roll to his back and pulls on the head, and sure enough Gugerty taps out there.
Really nice triangle for the finish; surprising to see a grappler like Gugerty get caught by that but then Fisher’s submission game is always a little underrated I think so maybe it’s not such a shock. Amazing to see Gugerty hang in there in the triangle for so long though! Closer fight than I’d expected – I guess Gugerty deserved more credit – and it was a lot of fun in parts, but all the excessive clinching got frustrating after a while.
Leites would’ve seen main card action here but (you guessed it!) his original opponent – this time Croatian Goran Reljic – pulled out with an injured back and so McFedries stepped in on late notice, bumping the fight to the prelims. Hey, I would rather have seen Leites-McFedries on the PPV than Clementi-Maynard as it goes, but whatever. McFedries had looked to have a pretty porous submission defense in his last fight against Mike Massenzio, so I was definitely picking Leites here, provided he didn’t get clocked early. Though Thales has a chin of iron so it didn’t especially matter either way.
First round begins and sure enough McFedries clocks him with a right uppercut that wobbles Thales’s legs! Leites drops for an ankle pick though and manages to close the distance before getting a big slam to guard. Leites immediately scrambles to pass the guard and takes the back as McFedries tries to roll. Rogan channels his inner Frank Mir and tells us “he’s done” before Leites even finishes putting his hooks in. But he’s right as Leites plays the spider from the back and isolates an arm with one of his legs, before locking in a tight rear naked choke for the tapout.
Fight lasted about a minute but it was very explosive and after some longer prelims this was a welcome change! Leites got hit early but once he got it to the ground he was all over Drew and never gave him the slightest chance of escaping. Sure, McFedries isn’t a ground expert but Leites looked fantastic in this win.
I was as excited for this fight as any other on the card, if not moreso, as not only was it Sherk’s first fight against one of the newer up-and-coming Lightweights, but it was also Griffin’s chance to prove himself worthy of an elite – read top five - ranking at 155lbs after he’d beaten the likes of Guida, Tavares, Tibau and Aurelio. Most saw these two as mirror images of one another and went for Sherk on the experience factor, but I was picking Tyson based on what I thought was a slightly better stand-up game.
Sherk takes the center of the Octagon as both men look tentative for a few seconds, before they exchange some punches and Sherk closes the distance. Sherk gets him down quickly up against the cage and then takes his back as Griffin tries to stand, and like in his fights with Guida and Tavares, Tyson stands with his opponent on his back. This time Griffin walks over to his corner for advice and then manages to shake the former champ off. Tyson looks to strike now, landing with a heavy leg kick, but Sherk answers right back with a swift one-two, showing quick hands. Sherk goes for the takedown again and forces Tyson into the cage, and despite Griffin looking to defend Sherk gets him down for a second time. Sherk’s nose is bloody though and the announcers think it’s from punches that Griffin landed as Sherk went for the takedown. Tyson uses the fence to work his way back to his feet, and then manages to defend the single leg attempt nicely. Knee to the body from Sherk, but Tyson comes back with a nice right hand to break the clinch. They exchange strikes, both men landing punches and leg kicks and Sherk clips him with a beautiful uppercut. Sherk’s combos are looking much improved. High kick attempt by Griffin misses, but he follows with a right that lands. Takedown attempt by Tyson, but Sherk stuffs it with a sprawl and looks to spin to take the back. He gets one hook and then gets the second and we end up with Tyson standing with Sherk on his back again, but this time Sherk drops his own way off. Good uppercut from Griffin in the exchange. Nice body kick from Tyson and they exchange combos with both men landing. Round ends with another exchange. Well, that was quite the opening round.
Second round and Sherk eats a body kick again. Takedown attempt from Sherk and he drives Tyson into the cage, and then gets Griffin down again. Tyson pops right back p though and wades forward throwing combos. Nice knee to counter from Sherk though and he follows up with a left hook. Couple of jabs from Griffin and both men continue to wing combos at one another. Nice right hook from Sherk and he follows it up with a hard one-two that puts Tyson on the retreat. Griffin lands some jabs, but Sherk answers with another combo that Griffin shrugs off, literally. Left hook lands flush for Sherk. Tyson comes back with a pair of left hooks to the liver. Couple of nice leg kicks land for Griffin and he’s feeling it now, waving Sherk on and throwing some shots with serious power. Beautiful combo lands for Tyson but then he slows up a little and Sherk comes back with a one-two. Left hook, uppercut and takedown attempt from Sherk, and when Tyson stuffs it Sherk lands another hard combination. Left hook from Sherk but Tyson fires right back with a heavy combo and they’re just outright trading shots now. Takedown attempt from Griffin but Sherk blocks and lands a knee. Tyson looks a little tired now and Sherk lands the left hook a couple more times as the round ends. This is a serious pace for these guys to be fighting at.
Third and final round and this could still go either way I think. BIG RIGHT HAND opens for Griffin and looks to have Sherk wobbled! Tyson swings to follow up but Sherk recovers quickly and lands a left hook. Head kick by Griffin misses and the crowd are going crazy now. Both men fire off some jabs and then Griffin lands a right hand to counter a knee attempt. Exchange continues as neither man seems to be thinking about the ground game. Sherk looks to be landing the better combinations now too. Sherk begins to work some leg kicks as Tyson comes back with his combos now, firing more punches in the pocket. Nice combination from Sherk and this is an insanely close fight in my book. We’re in the last minute of the fight and neither guy is slowing down at all, still winging fast combos at one another and defending nicely too. Beautiful right-left-uppercut combo lands for Sherk. 30 seconds to go and they’re just swinging now but it’s not reckless punching, it’s clean, snapping stuff. Tyson ends the fight with a combo and then jogs around the cage. Awesome fight.
I’m terrible at judging fights where it’s 90% even stand-up so I have no idea how I’d call this. Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 for Sean Sherk. Crowd don’t seem too happy with that for some reason, maybe Sherk’s still a heel in their eyes after the steroid debacle? I can’t see how you could say Griffin was robbed or anything so I don’t know why they’re booing like that.
Fight was great; fought at an insane pace throughout with both men landing some excellent combinations. Sherk looked better standing than I’d ever seen him before – though not having a huge reach disadvantage must’ve helped – and to knock a rising guy like Griffin down the ladder a bit is an excellent win for him. I don’t think Tyson lost much in the effort though as hey, he lost a close decision to a great fighter, maybe #2 or #3 in the world at 155lbs and looked good in doing so too. I would’ve liked to have seen more ground scrambles from such good wrestlers, but the sheer pace and amount of action means it’s a low end FOTYC in my book. Griffin gets back to his 2007 form after a couple of slower outings, and drags Sherk to probably the most exciting fight of his career, too. Don’t knock it!
A lot of fans, particularly in the online crowd, thought Werdum had been shafted out of a title shot when Brock Lesnar stepped in to fight Randy Couture, but let’s be fair – MMA is about selling tickets too and who would’ve paid to see Randy defend against Werdum? This, then, appeared on paper to be Zuffa’s way of throwing Werdum a bone while he waited for a title opportunity, as Dos Santos was a total unknown with a largely unimpressive record of 6-1. Impressive physique though and the word was that his boxing looked very crisp during pad sessions before the fight. Werdum here looks in terrible shape, like either he’s taken the fight very, very lightly, or he’s gone too far with his bulking up. He’s 256lbs for Christ’s sake! And a lot of that weight is not muscle.
They circle with some feeler strikes early and the announcers mention how much more natural Werdum looks with his stand-up now since he’s moved to Chute Boxe. Nice leg kick lands for Dos Santos though. Werdum ducks a right and gets a clinch, but Dos Santos quickly breaks off. Leg kick lands for Werdum and then he backs up, and suddenly Junior NAILS him with a HUGE UPPERCUT! Werdum folds up and Dos Santos closes things off with some punches on the ground. Unbelievable!
WOW. Replays show Werdum basically leaned down right into the uppercut, which hit him directly on the button and put him out probably before he even hit the deck. Huge, huge upset, as Werdum had been on a roll, beating Gonzaga and Vera, and Dos Santos was a complete unknown coming in. Just goes to show though, as Kevin Burns over Roan Carneiro did a few months prior, you cannot take *any* fight in the UFC lightly no matter how unknown the opponent is, as Joe Silva doesn’t bring in any dummies and there are no gimme fights. Still, arguably the biggest upset of the year off the top of my head and worse for Werdum it washed him right out of the UFC.
As I mentioned earlier this had been bumped up to the main card with the loss of Goran Reljic. Maynard had suddenly gone from prospect to contender with his dominating win over Frankie Edgar in April, which surprised some people (myself included) and despite Clementi coming in on a hot streak (six wins with four of them in the UFC) I was thinking that Maynard’s suffocating wrestling game and ever-improving stand-up would be too much for the veteran to handle.
Touch of gloves gets us started. Clementi comes out with a low stance and they circle around early, neither guy really throwing much for the first minute. Good right hand lands for Maynard. Clementi comes forward with a couple of kicks, but little else happens and the crowd are audibly frustrated now. Maynard shoots in, but Clementi avoids it pretty easily and Gray doesn’t really drive forward for a takedown, instead backing up. This is like a Japanese crowd almost now as they’ve stopped booing and you can hear a pin drop. Maynard is throwing punches but not landing. Clementi tries a body kick but Gray catches it and slams him to the ground. He’s into half-guard pretty much right away, but Clementi looks unbelievably relaxed and just holds on as Gray lands some small shots to the body. Clementi swings back to full guard, and Gray ends the round with some elbows. Maynard’s round I guess but that round stunk in general.
They show Matt Hughes in the crowd and surprisingly he gets booed, insane as he’s an Illinois native! Goldberg tries to play it off as the crowd shouting “Huuuuughes”, which is hilarious, almost like the whole “Boo-urns” thing on The Simpsons!
2nd round and Clementi looks to strike more aggressively now, but eats a right hand as he comes forward. Leg kick from Rich but Maynard bulls him into the fence, only for Clementi to break off. They exchange some punches but nothing really lands, and then Gray shoots and really drives for a takedown, eventually finishing a double leg with a slam. Maynard gets a guillotine from the top, but Clementi reverses to his feet and Maynard lets it go. Gray drops for a single leg and gets him down, quickly posturing out of a triangle as they hit the mat. Clementi traps Gray’s left arm and it looks like he’s going for an oma plata, but Gray pops free and keeps Clementi down. Rich gets half-guard and stays active, but takes some punches from Maynard. Clementi is squirming but he can’t seem to get out from underneath Maynard here. Gray gets a guillotine from the top, and tries to get full mount, but Clementi keeps the lockdown on a half-guard. Clementi tries for a sweep to no avail, and Gray keeps him down, showing good control. Round ends with Maynard in side control.
Time for the final round, hopefully it’ll be a bit more exciting than the last two. Clementi comes out more urgently, clearly knowing he’s behind on the cards, but Maynard gets another quick slam and lands in half-guard. Gray holds a front headlock on the mat, but very little happens outside of Maynard controlling him from the top. Clementi tries to get to his feet, but it’s to no avail as Gray holds him down and avoids any submission attempts that Rich tries. Maynard passes into side mount after a failed kimura attempt, and then he tries full mount, but Rich sneaks out of the back door and looks like he’s going for a takedown of his own. Gray spins over and takes the back though, and Clementi stands for a moment before being brought back down into guard. Clementi backs up the fence and then gets a reversal, taking Gray’s back momentarily, but Maynard scrambles out and then brings Clementi down again. Crowd are DEAD now. Rich tries some sort of sweep, but Maynard controls him until the buzzer sounds.
Judges all have it 30-27 for Maynard, but man, that was a horribly dull fight. Maynard basically took Clementi down at will and controlled him, but the damage factor and attempts to finish the fight were nowhere to be seen as Rich had too much experience and was active enough from his back to prevent any real offense from taking place. Gray is a hell of an athlete and has a bright future, and his wrestling will win him a lot of fights on its own, but it’s hardly the most entertaining stuff.
Alright, so looking at it now I’m thinking this was one of the most injury-hit cards UFC have ever put on. This would’ve seen Alves taking on Diego Sanchez, but Diego hurt his back in training and so Koscheck, one of the more active guys on the roster, stepped in on late notice (he’d been training for a December fight with Yoshiyuki Yoshida) to take the fight. It’s weird because part of me was glad that Alves-Sanchez was off as I had no idea who to root for (I love both equally!) but part of me was gutted to miss out on that fight. As for a pick, well, I was pretty disgusted that Alves was forced to take another fight while BJ Penn waltzed into a title shot, but such is life, and so I figured Thiago would leg kick his way to another victory over another top ten fighter, cementing himself as #2 at 170lbs behind GSP.
Alves looks huge again here, though not quite as monstrous as he did against Matt Hughes in June. Touch of gloves gets us started. Thiago circles around and throws out some feeler strikes early, not really landing, before Koscheck tries an odd hopping side kick and slips to the ground before popping right back up. About a minute in and neither guy’s landed a thing, until Alves clips him with a left hook that drops Koscheck! Kos shoots on an ankle pick desperately but Thiago sprawls and pounds the head, and Koscheck looks in trouble. Combo and a big head kick land for Alves and he follows with a superman punch, but Koscheck goes for a double leg. Great takedown defense from Alves to avoid, and when they break off Koscheck looks recovered, pretty solid chin. Alves with a superman punch into a leg kick, but Kos fires back with a wild flurry. Kos throws out some one-twos and jabs, but Alves continues to stalk him and lands a glancing high kick. Nice double jab into a right hand for Koscheck, probably his best shot thus far. Alves lands a leg kick and follows with another superman punch, but Kos answers with a Liddell-style overhand right. Good body shot by Koscheck too, but Alves lands a couple of leg kicks coming off jabs. Really heavy leg kick buckles Kos’s knee in. Koscheck lands a combo and then goes for a takedown, but Alves lands a knee to the midsection and works to stuff the takedown, showing some beautiful takedown defense again. You won’t see many avoid a Koscheck takedown like that. Alves high kick misses, but he ends the round with a series of nasty leg kicks. Guy has the best leg kicks in the game I think. Kos hung in there but the round goes to Thiago for the early flurry which nearly put Koscheck out.
2nd round and Alves works the inside leg kick-jab combo. Koscheck throws some good one-twos though, really swinging with the right hand. Nice leg kick from Alves again and those have to be adding up now. Koscheck rushes in with a right hand and a left high kick, nice stuff. They exchange some jabs, and then Kos counters a leg kick with a hard right hand down the pipe. Spinning back kick misses for Kos, but then he lands a knee to the gut and grabs the clinch, looking to muscle Thiago down. Thiago turns him around though and breaks free. Vicious, thudding leg kick lands for Alves. They exchange jabs and then body kicks, before Thiago stalks forward with an inside leg kick and a double jab. Another brutal leg kick lands and the Brazilian follows with a left kick to the body and a heavy one-two. Koscheck hangs in there though, and shoots for a takedown, but Alves again works to stuff it. Kos forces him back into the cage, but Thiago grabs the wrist to stop the takedown before Koscheck spins to a waistlock. He still can’t get Koscheck down though and Alves works back to a clinch as the round ends. Closer round as Koscheck landed some good shots, but I’d still give the round to Thiago.
Third and final round and Koscheck needs a finish to take the win I think. Alves presses right forward with the jab-inside leg kick combo though and then NAILS Koscheck with a sickening inside leg kick that buckles him badly. HUGE KNEE to the head folds Kos up and Thiago looks to finish, but Koscheck desperately dives for a leg. Thiago avoids easily and then nails him with a flurry as he stands, but somehow Kos manages to back away, though he’s wobbly now. Heavy one-two lands for Alves and he forces Koscheck into the fence, before breaking off. Alves presses with another hard leg kick and Koscheck clinches, pushing Thiago into the cage, before he drops for a takedown. He still can’t get Alves down though and the Brazilian breaks off with a combination in the clinch. Ref steps in and calls time for an accidental eye poke on Kos, but he’s okay and they restart quickly. Good right from Koscheck on the restart but he takes a couple more leg kicks too. Alves is landing the leg kick pretty much at will now and Koscheck is really slowing up. To his credit though Kos keeps pushing forward. Kos returns the favour now, landing a nasty eye poke on Alves and they stop the fight momentarily. I hate those, though I bet the fighters hate them more! Touch of gloves restarts the fight and Alves pumps out his jab before landing a CRUSHING LEG KICK that almost spins Koscheck around! Kos can’t mask the pain and starts almost hopping around, and Alves follows with a left high kick and a one-two. Koscheck is mad tough though and keeps on pushing forward. Another leg kick hurts him though and he’s totally flat footed now. They exchange but Alves lands an uppercut and a left hook and then turns him around with another leg kick. This is getting nasty. Another combo lands for Alves but Kos keeps on attacking. Side kick misses and Alves NAILS him with a superman punch, then takes Koscheck down with a trip just after the buzzer goes.
They show replays of some of the shots Alves landed and good lord were the leg kicks nasty. I’ve got Alves taking this 30-27 in a lopsided decision. Judges have it 30-27, 29-28, 30-27, all for the Pitbull.
Koscheck showed tremendous heart in gutting out what turned out to be a hell of a beating, taking a lot of shots that would’ve stopped most fighters, but the story of the fight was another absolutely incredible showing from Alves. I mean even on late notice Koscheck is a tough match for anyone and yet Alves just slaughtered him here, landing some brutal combinations and absolutely sickening leg kicks, and Koscheck never came close to taking the guy down. Even GSP didn’t beat Koscheck in this way. Very impressive performance from Thiago, reaffirming that he is indeed the most dangerous challenger out there to GSP’s crown at 170lbs.
After a brief foray up to 205lbs in July, Silva was returning to make his fourth (should’ve been fifth, damn you Travis Lutter!) title defense against a guy who, on paper, really had no advantages over the Brazilian. Original plan would’ve seen Silva rematch Yushin Okami in an attempt to avenge his most recent (controversial) loss, but Okami was still rehabbing a broken hand that he suffered in March and so Cote – who, to give him fair credit, was on a four-fight streak inside the Octagon – was positioned as #1 Contender instead. Problem was though that Cote is, as the event poster put it, an “iron chinned power puncher”, and since when has that sort of fighter (Lee Murray, Chris Leben) ever been able to give Anderson Silva problems? The smart money was on Silva blitzing the Canadian pretty early as he’d done to the rest of his UFC opponents.
Well, all of the hype around Silva seems to have worked as he gets a bigger reaction than I can ever recall hearing for him from the Chicago crowd. Pretty much twice or three times the pop that Cote gets in fact.
Round One begins and Cote immediately throws a leg kick. Silva is just dancing on the outside and literally nothing happens for the first two minutes until the Brazilian lands a leg kick. Silva continues to dance around and Cote looks confused here, clearly unsure of whether to attack himself or wait for Silva to do something. Couple of kicks land glancingly for Cote, and he tries to follow with a right haymaker but misses. Big left knee lands for the champion now but Cote eats it right up. Jumping knee and a pair of rights land flush for Silva, but Cote’s chin holds out for now. Silva goes back to dancing on the outside, and he’s got his hands by his waist now, just completely laid back. Nice leg kick lands for Silva but he doesn’t follow it up, and circles off until the round ends. Silva bows to Cote at the buzzer. Well, that was an odd round. Replays show Silva’s shots landed HARD though and Cote has one hell of a chin.
Second round and Silva begins by pirouetting to avoid a leg kick. Good combo from Silva puts Cote on his back foot and the champ follows with a leg kick and a leaping kick that narrowly misses. Cote clips him with a spinning backfist and they clinch, but Cote breaks with a right hand that almost lands, but Silva just leans back out of the way. Huge leg kick from Silva and he dances away from a Cote flurry. Left high kick glances off Cote’s forearm. Cote charges in, but Silva just spins around and gets a takedown off it, landing in Cote’s full guard. Cote controls him from the guard and lands a couple of elbows from the bottom, but then Anderson stands free and kicks the legs, before offering Cote a hand to get to his feet! Big crowd pop for that one as the ref orders Cote to stand. Cote tries a big right, but it looks like he twists his knee in doing so and he shakes the leg out. Silva dances off again, avoiding everything Cote throws, and he’s moving his hands around like he’s Bruce Lee now too. Crowd are getting a bit fed up with all the showboating now and Cote tries to catch a leg kick for a takedown, but Silva scrambles free. Anderson stuffs another single leg and then lands an elbow from inside the clinch, before really nailing Cote with knees to the body to end the round.
We’re into the third round now and this is the longest Anderson Silva fight in his UFC career thus far, incredibly. So Patrick Cote’s lasted longer than Henderson, Franklin and Marquardt. Overhand right and leg kick land for Cote as Silva dances around again. With 30 seconds gone though Cote’s knee randomly gives out and he collapses to the ground, and referee Herb Dean has to stop the fight there. Man. Talk about an anticlimactic finish. To say the crowd are disappointed would be an understatement.
Post-fight Cote reveals he had a knee injury prior to the fight, but decided to take the fight anyway, and the replay appears to reveal his ACL popping out to the side. Nasty stuff. Announcers talk about a possible rematch, saying how Cote had put on a great fight, but personally I don’t see it as it wasn’t like he was winning before the injury or anything.
Very, very odd main event in the end. It looked like Silva just wanted to put on a show for a couple of rounds before going for the highlight reel kill, but Cote’s injury put paid to that and we ended up with two rounds of dancing with the odd vicious strike thrown in, ending with a freak injury. To be fair to Anderson, Cote’s chin definitely came into play as the shots he landed in the first round would’ve knocked a lot of fighters out, but let’s be honest – this wasn’t the Anderson Silva that anyone wants to see, as he was passive, looked like he was fooling around for the most part, and whether it was all a game building up to a finish I don’t know, but for the guy Zuffa were (and still are) pushing as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the game this sort of performance just doesn’t cut it.
-Highlight reel finishes the night for us, with the clear star of the show turning out to be Thiago Alves.
I’m really torn on how to rate this show overall. On one hand, Sherk-Griffin was awesome, Miller-Horwich was quite the grappling display, Dos Santos had a highlight reel KO, Alves-Koscheck was very good if one-sided, and Leites-McFedries was fun for what it was. On the flip side though, Maynard-Clementi was awful, the early prelims (Sell-Burkman, Franca-Aurelio, Fisher-Gugerty) drag a little and aren’t great, and the main event was just odd, even if it wasn’t the worst fight of all time or anything. In the end there’s some stuff worth seeing here and there were at least some meaningful fights, which puts it over shows like UFC 80 and 89, but by no means is this one of the best shows of 2008. Thumbs firmly in the middle.
Best Fight: Sherk-Griffin
Worst Fight: Maynard-Clementi
Overall Rating: ***1/2
UFC: 91-97, 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.