Battle of TUF guys to start the night. TUF 6’s Arroyo was coming off another injury layoff following a June loss to Matt Brown, while Brown’s TUF 7 castmate Cramer had injured himself following the tapings and hadn’t fought since them. This was actually Cramer’s pro debut if you discount his TUF fights. Despite Cramer training with American Top Team I was taking Arroyo here based on experience and better BJJ.
We begin and Arroyo lands a leg kick. Cramer quickly stuffs a takedown and they continue to circle. Arroyo shoots and pulls guard, and the moment they hit the mat he reverses and gets full mount. Nice! Cramer manages to overpower him and turn into Arroyo’s guard, but he turns right into an armbar. It looks locked up and Cramer tries to pull out, and sure enough he manages it and comes through to Arroyo’s guard. Arroyo keeps getting his hips up for a submission as Cramer postures up, landing with a couple of shots from the top. Few good punches land for Cramer as Arroyo tries to cover up. Arroyo rolls for another armbar and then transitions for a triangle, but Cramer manages to posture through and lands some more shots before standing over him. Big hammer fist misses for Cramer and the TUF 7 veteran finishes the round just above Arroyo’s guard. Hard round to score because Cramer was on top for the majority, but I’d score it for Arroyo for the close armbar.
Round Two and Arroyo slips to his back off a spinning kick, and Cramer obliges and goes down into the guard. Cramer stands over him and takes a couple of upkicks en route to dropping back into the guard to land some punches. Cramer ends up in half-guard as Arroyo scrambles for a leg, but quickly Arroyo gets a full guard back in. Hammer fists from the bottom from Arroyo before Cramer stands over him and kicks the legs. Cramer drops down into the guard again and continues where he left off with conservative ground-and-pound, landing with a couple of nice elbows. Illegal upkick lands for Arroyo and the ref calls time, but Cramer’s fine and they let Arroyo off with a warning. Nice elbow from Cramer. Round ends with Cramer inside the guard. Well, Arroyo did nothing there; Cramer a little more so it’s his round and it’s anyone’s fight now.
Third and final round and they exchange some strikes before Arroyo shoots. Cramer lands a knee to counter but Arroyo gets him down in the guard, where Cramer goes to rubber guard. Arroyo uses it to pass and takes Cramer’s back, landing some punches before getting both hooks in. It looks like he’s got a choke sunk, but Cramer’s not tapping and Arroyo’s arm slips out. Arroyo’s still got his back though and Cramer is still in trouble. Elbows land for Arroyo and he works hard to stay on Cramer’s back with a body triangle, but then he loses the control and Cramer manages to turn into his guard. Elbows from the top for Cramer but they don’t really land clean. Referee stands them up as the action slows, and Arroyo looks gassed. He pulls guard off the restart, much to the disgust of the crowd. Cramer begins to take over now with punches in the guard, and he manages to avoid a triangle attempt too. Round ends once again with Cramer on top.
Hard fight to score, but I’d go 29-28 for Arroyo I think as he came closest to finishing in the third round. Judges go the other way though, 29-28 Cramer, 29-28 Arroyo and 29-28 Cramer for the split decision. Told you it was close. Neither guy did that much though really and it made for a pretty dull fight. Guess it’s to be expected with such inexperienced fighters.
This was the first fight at 205lbs for both men, and jokingly Wellisch had pointed out in a pre-fight interview that both were there because of Cain Velasquez – O’Brien because Cain had beaten the crap out of him in his last fight, and Wellisch because after training with Cain he’d realized he’d be better off at LHW. The likelihood here was that this was a last chance saloon fight for both fighters.
First round and Wellisch swings a hook before avoiding a takedown. They exchange some punches and Jake decks him with a right hand, and then stuffs a desperate takedown. They come back up and O’Brien swarms on him, landing a flurry before getting a single leg to guard. O’Brien lands with some shots to the body and head but the ref calls them back to their feet. Both men press with strikes and Jake looks far more polished, and Wellisch ends up dropping to his back. Jake gets on top in guard and lands a few punches to the body, but this is mad slow. Referee stands them up again and they exchange punches with Wellisch swinging quite wildly. Takedown from O’Brien and he takes Wellisch’s back for a moment, then stands to avoid a kneebar attempt. Wellisch wades in with wild shots but Jake gets him down again and ends up in a front facelock. Round ends as they come back to their feet.
Round 2 and they exchange strikes early, largely ineffective though. Wellisch is beginning to land some nice leg kicks though. O’Brien tries a takedown but Wellisch avoids it. He is sporting a bloody nose now. Takedown from O’Brien into Wellisch’s guard but little happens and they stand back up. They exchange some more strikes and then Jake gets a double leg to guard again, but Wellisch scrambles to his feet with seconds remaining. They separate and Wellisch lands a decent right hand on the buzzer.
Last round and Wellisch comes out aggressively, landing with a body kick. They trade some ineffective punches before Jake gets a takedown to guard. Wellisch rolls for an armbar but can’t get it, but he does manage to get to his feet. They trade with some punches and both men are looking tired now. Good combo from Wellisch. Jake gets another takedown to guard though but Wellisch scrambles right back up. Wellisch continues to stalk forward and swing but he isn’t landing cleanly. This sucks. Nice double leg from O’Brien brings Wellisch down again, but right away Wellisch works to get to his feet. Wellisch tries a big knee but Jake catches it and gets another takedown, and there’s blood pouring from Wellisch’s nose now. With seconds remaining Wellisch rolls to his feet, and he stuffs another takedown attempt as the fight comes to an end.
Judges score it 29-28 for O’Brien, 29-28 for Wellisch and 29-28 to give Jake O’Brien the split decision. Both men looked pretty terrible there though – looked like they had major problems due to the weight cut. Awful fight.
Howard was making his UFC debut here and in all honesty I hadn’t heard that much about him, with nothing on his record aside from a 2007 loss to Dan Miller standing out. Wilson on the other hand had given Jon Fitch a tremendous fight in his Octagon debut and had since beaten Steve Bruno in a one-sided whitewash, so I expected him to roll over the newcomer and move up the ladder for another fight with a contender.
They get underway and Howard opens with a heavy leg kick. Lunging knee attempt from Wilson but Howard catches it and takes him down. Wilson goes for an armbar but Howard stands and they come back to their feet. Trade-off follows and Howard lands a couple of hooks. Another hard leg kick lands for Howard, but Wilson answers with one of his own. Into the clinch and Wilson looks for a takedown, getting a trip, but as they hit the mat Howard rolls and gets back to his feet. Nice combination lands for Wilson and a leg kick puts Howard down, but he comes up and ends up in a front facelock. Wilson gets on top in guard and lands with some nice punches from the top. An attempt at a pass allows Howard up, and Wilson grabs a guillotine, but Howard slips out and gets on top in guard. Hilarious moment on commentary as Joe Rogan calls Howard “Roberts”. I mean, what the hell? There’s nobody called Roberts even in the UFC! Ref stands them back up and Howard gets a slam, avoiding a kneebar to end the round.
Into the 2nd and Howard lands with a BIG LEG KICK that hurts Wilson bad! Wilson is in trouble as Howard swarms on him, landing a big left hook, but Wilson backs up and manages to survive. Wilson comes back with a combo ending with a knee to the gut, but Howard grabs him and takes him down to half-guard. They come back up and Howard breaks with a right hook. Couple of kicks land for Wilson but Howard gets a single leg into a slam and takes him down to half-guard. Howard tries to pass but Wilson gets back to his feet in the clinch, and now Wilson trips Howard down only to get reversed. Howard stands back up and Wilson joins him. They exchange some strikes into the clinch again before breaking after exchanging some knees. Good leg kick by Wilson but Howard answers with a pair of right hooks. Takedown from Wilson to the guard and Rogan calls Howard “Roberts” again, ha. Few short punches land for Wilson but he isn’t doing much damage and Howard manages to reverse and take top position to close the round out.
Round Three and Wilson lands with a knee to the midsection, but Howard grabs a leg and reverses a switch to take Wilson’s back. Howard uses a body triangle for control and lands some punches, and it looks like he’s got a rear naked choke sunk! Wilson is gritting his teeth and Howard ends up letting it go, but he continues to control Wilson and land punches from the back. Finally Wilson manages to scramble free and turns into Howard’s guard, but Howard goes for a leglock and uses it as a sweep to get back on top! Wilson goes for a toehold but lets it go and they come back to their feet, before Howard gets a nice single leg to guard. Fight ends with an exchange in the guard.
I think I’d score this for Howard, but it was a very close fight overall and could easily be Wilson’s. With the way the judges are going it’s likely a split decision. And sure enough, 29-28 Howard, 29-28 Wilson, 29-28 for Howard to take the win in his UFC debut. Fun fight and Howard impressed me in that he beat a tough veteran and didn’t really seem to be fazed by his first trip inside the Octagon.
Both of these Lightweights were coming off disappointing losses – Gamburyan by knockout to Rob Emerson in a major upset, and Tavares losing two on the bounce to Matt Wiman and Kurt Pellegrino. Interesting clash too as neither man had recently looked as good as their earlier fights had suggested. Big size advantage for Tavares who looks almost a weight class larger than the Armenian.
First round and they circle before Thiago gets a takedown to guard. Hammer fists from Tavares but Manny looks for a kimura from half-guard. Thiago looks in trouble as Manny twists the arm right up, but Tavares manages to power through and ends up in Gamburyan’s guard. Elbows and hammer fists from the top for Tavares, but Manny comes back with elbows from his back. Manny tries to push off but gives his back standing, and Manny tries some sort of throw that causes both men to roll through into the same position. They come up in the clinch and muscle for position before Thiago picks him up and slams him down to guard. More hammer fists from the top land for Tavares but with seconds remaining Manny scrambles to his feet and cracks the Brazilian with a right in the clinch as the buzzer sounds.
Round 2 and they circle with Manny landing a couple of kicks from the outside. Double leg from Thiago and he looks to get Manny on his back, but Gamburyan twists up his arm in a kimura and uses it to sweep to get on top in the Brazilian’s guard. Very little happens from the position aside from Manny landing with a couple of short punches and the referee restarts them standing. Combo from Tavares and he lands with a right hand before getting a double leg. Gamburyan explodes back to his feet in the clinch, and the round ends with Thiago looking for another takedown.
Third and final round and Gamburyan swings some punches and stuffs a single leg. Good low kick from Manny and he shoots, but Thiago stuffs the takedown. Thiago stalks forward and shoots again, but once more Manny blocks it and avoids an overhand right on the way out. Good combo from the Brazilian. Manny comes back with a combination of his own, but the announcers quite rightly point out that he drops his hands when he throws punches. Overhand right drops Manny to his knees but he pops back up and taunts Thiago by dropping his hands and sticking his head out. Both men are swinging pretty heavily now. Big overhand right lands for Manny and he continues to swing. Striking exchange continues and both men are landing a few decent shots. Takedown attempt from Manny and they go down momentarily, but pop up and as they do, Thiago lands with a knee. More punches are exchanged and then Manny shoots on a double leg, but Thiago blocks it nicely and comes back to his feet. Gamburyan is the aggressor now, pushing forward and swinging, but he can’t catch Thiago and the fight comes to an end. Fourth in a row to go the distance!
Another pretty close one to call but I think it has to be Tavares’s decision. Judges indeed have it a unanimous 29-28 for the Brazilian. Decent fight actually as the first and third rounds were good even if the second basically stunk. The difference here was the size and power really as Tavares appeared to be much larger than Manny and the Armenian couldn’t really do that much with him. In the end it was the catalyst for a change for Manny, as he’s since dropped to 145lbs and moved to the WEC where I think he could be a contender.
Hardcore fans complained that this fight had been shunted to the undercard below Jones-Bonnar and Parisyan-Kim, but really when you think about it, it was a somewhat smart move from the UFC brass as Fitch had just been smashed by GSP and wasn’t getting another title shot for a while, while Gono had been beaten by Dan Hardy and was also way out of the title picture. Couple that with the fact that Gono is notoriously hard to finish and the fight wasn’t likely to be that exciting, and voila. As a hardcore fan I was of course anticipating it, but as I say, you can see the logic behind it being on a prelim and expected Fitch to grind out another workmanlike win.
We begin and Fitch immediately closes the distance and looks to get Gono down. Gono defends initially but it’s hard to stop a guy like Fitch and he takes the Japanese fighter’s back for a second. Gono manages to turn into him in the clinch, and they exchange some knees before Fitch breaks with a knee. They exchange some low kicks before Fitch comes back into the clinch, but they break again after some more knees. Double leg from Fitch gets Gono down, but he manages to use the fence to get back to his feet. Fitch stays on him and goes for the takedown again, and this time he takes the back and trips Gono to the ground. He can’t get both hooks in though as Gono scrambles, and only manages to control him with one. Fitch begins to pound him from the back and gets the other hook in, but Gono is doing a good job of turtling up to survive. Second hook slips out and Gono tries to roll into Fitch’s guard, but Fitch stays on his back and then avoids a kneebar on the buzzer.
Round Two and they exchange some kicks into the clinch, where they exchange some short hooks. Sick change of levels from Fitch into a takedown attempt, but Gono blocks it and they end up forced into the fence. Takedown from Fitch into Gono’s guard. Fitch grinds away from the top but doesn’t do any major damage, and then he moves into half-guard to deliver some more elbows. Gono scrambles but gives his back in the process, and Fitch slaps on a body triangle and begins to work the head with punches. With seconds remaining Fitch turns for an armbar, but can’t get it locked in and the round ends there.
Third and final round and Fitch comes out throwing combos into the clinch. Takedown from Fitch down into half-guard and works him over with hammer fists and punches until Gono pushes off with his feet and escapes to his feet. Nice body kick from Fitch. Gono tries a jumping knee, but Fitch closes the distance and gets a bodylock, looking for another takedown. He forces Gono into the fence and gets him down, avoiding a kneebar attempt in the process. Fitch gets his back again, but only has one hook in. Gono turns and Fitch gets a knee-on-belly before taking the back again, and now Gono spins out and gets top position in Fitch’s guard. Fitch controls him from the bottom and little happens until Gono lunges for a leglock and allows Fitch to escape to his feet. Wheel kick misses for Gono and Fitch clinches and forces him into the cage with knees. Guillotine attempt from Fitch transitioned into taking Gono’s back, and the fight finishes there.
Easy decision for Fitch and the judges all have it 30-27 for the American. Fight basically went exactly how I expected – not a bad fight or anything but hardly exciting and it was your typical workmanlike performance from Fitch to grind out a win over another tough opponent.
Ahh, now we’re talking. This was almost a guaranteed barnburner based on how both men usually fight, although admittedly Guida’s previous fight against Mac Danzig hadn’t been quite up to his usual standards. Diaz though was on a major tear, winning eight in a row if you take into account his TUF wins, and he was hoping that a win over Guida would shunt him right into the Lightweight Title picture. Personally despite Guida’s sick wrestling and cardio, I thought Nate had the advantage standing and particularly with submissions, and expected him to catch Guida late in the fight.
We’re underway and they quickly exchange some punches into a brief clinch. They break off and continue to exchange and both men are seriously pushing the pace here. Guida stumbles off a right hand and Diaz looks to be landing the better shots from the outside. Guida drops for a single leg and Diaz defends initially, and manages to back up. Good leg kick by Guida and Diaz continues to push forward with punches before shooting for a takedown and pulling guard. They scramble and Guida winds up in half-guard, but Diaz quickly gets to full guard as the crowd chant for Guida. Guida takes the back off a scramble and hops onto it with both hooks in, and they end up down on the mat with Guida trying a full nelson! He uses it to work into side mount and lands some elbows, but Diaz rolls and gives his back again. They stand back up and it looks like Diaz is going for the Parisyan kimura trip, but Guida lifts him up and delivers a HUGE SLAM TO GUARD! Nate scrambles and ends up in a front facelock, then Guida spins to take the back again. They stand with Guida holding a rear waistlock and Guida lands a knee, only to take a flurry from Diaz to end the round. Well, that was pretty great.
Round Two and Diaz presses forward into the clinch, but Guida blocks a hip throw and they break off. Diaz lands a combo back into the clinch and forces Guida into the fence, where they land some knees and Diaz works with foot stomps. Guida looks for a takedown but Diaz defends it, and he turns his back as it looks like he’s going for the kimura again. Takedown from Guida and he avoids a switch, but Diaz works to get back to his feet. Guida gets him down but this time Diaz hits the switch and gets on top, only for Guida to reverse that and take the back! They come back to their feet though where Guida works for a takedown and gets Nate down again. Back to their feet and Guida’s got the rear waistlock again, and he’s dragging Nate all over the place now. Beautiful hip throw from Diaz puts Guida down, but he sticks on Nate like glue and takes the back. He can’t get his hooks in though and they scramble on the ground with Diaz looking for a kimura. Back to their feet again with Guida still holding the rear waistlock, but again Diaz trips him down. Guida winds up on top though and manages to posture up out of a triangle as the round finishes.
Into the third round and they wildly exchange punches with neither landing clean. Nice jabs and hooks land for Diaz from the outside, as he uses his reach advantage nicely. Into the clinch again but they break and Diaz continues to tag him a few times with combinations. Diaz taunts him a bit and now he’s really picking Guida apart with punches to the head and body, but Guida gets on him again and drives him into the fence. Guida drops for a single leg but Diaz defends it, and then gets the trip but Guida sticks to him and takes the back again. Guida is absolutely relentless. Massive GUIDA chant from the crowd. Guida gets him down on his back and Nate immediately looks for a triangle, but Guida avoids and they scramble to their feet with Guida looking for another takedown. He gets Nate down as Diaz looks to hit a switch, but they come back to their feet and Guida’s got his back in a rear waistlock. Again Guida drags him all over the place and then tries to hop onto the back as the buzzer sounds to end the fight.
Really, really close fight. I’d probably go with Guida, giving him the first two rounds as he largely controlled Nate by sticking to him like glue, although Diaz’s stand-up was far better in the third and Guida wasn’t able to control him as much in that round. Judges have it another split decision, one going 29-28 for Diaz but the other two giving it to Guida 29-28. Fight was just excellent throughout, sick pace as you’d expect with Guida, with some amazing scrambles as the fight went up and down, up and down. Not quite a FOTYC but it’s just below that sort of level. Really good stuff and a massive win for Guida to stop Diaz’s hot streak.
This was a clash of probably the most accomplished judo players in the UFC, with Korea’s Dong facing his toughest challenge yet in perennial contender Parisyan. With that said though, this was Karo’s first fight for well over a year after suffering with various problems (back injuries, panic attacks, painkiller problems) and the potential for him suffering ring rust was definitely there. Kim was the underdog due to the experience difference, but I was calling the upset.
Round One and Karo throws some wild right hands into the clinch, but Kim muscles him to the ground quickly. Karo gets full guard and rolls, but he gives his back and Kim gets one hook in. Both hooks now for the Korean and he hops onto Karo’s back as the Armenian stands. Karo is doing a good job of avoiding anything from the position and he drops to the ground, but Kim remains on his back and he begins to land some punches now too. Kim pumps his fist to pop the crowd and continues to land punches, before Karo stands with the Korean clamped to his back still. Back to the ground they go and Kim looks to transition into an armbar, but Karo slips free into his guard, only to get caught in a triangle! Karo manages to slip free of that and stays on top in the guard, but they come back to their feet and Kim takes his back again with a reversal. Kim’s got both hooks in again but Parisyan escapes to his feet in the clinch. Knees to the legs from Kim and then they break and exchange some punches to close the round. Clear round for Dong Hyun Kim.
2nd round and they exchange some punches before Parisyan clinches and drives Kim into the fence. Karo tries to drag him down but Kim takes the back again, and stays there as Karo trips him down. Karo uses a kimura attempt to get on top, and they scramble back up into the clinch. Karo drops for a takedown but Kim stuffs it and they remain clinched, and as they move along the fence Karo hits a TREMENDOUS judo throw to side mount! Kim works back to his feet though and forces Karo into the fence again, before they break off. Ref calls time to replace Parisyan’s mouthpiece, and he warns Karo for spitting it out too. They exchange strikes from the outside and it looks like Karo’s getting the better of it, before they clinch again to finish the round off. Better round for Parisyan there.
Third and final round of a fight that could still go either way. They clinch and end up going into the fence, and Kim muscles Karo to the ground in guard. Karo tries a triangle and then pushes him off, but the ref calls it an illegal upkick and calls time, giving Karo a warning. They restart and now Karo looks for the takedown, but they scramble and Kim takes the back again. Karo turns into him and they’re clinched again, where they muscle for position. Karo looks to take Kim down and almost manages it, but the Korean pops back up to his feet and they remain clinched. They break off but then Parisyan gets back on him and Kim defends another takedown into the clinch. Takedown from Karo but Kim gets back up instantly. This fight is really petering out in this round. They continue to muscle for position in the clinch with neither man really gaining an advantage, and they exchange some punches right before the fight ends.
First round was clearly Kim’s, second was clearly Karo’s, third round sucked and neither got a big advantage so who knows. Judges have it another split decision, 29-28 Parisyan, 29-28 Kim and 29-28 Parisyan. Later though Karo tested positive for some banned painkillers and the NSAC decided to change the result to a no-contest, meaning Kim’s still technically undefeated. First two rounds of this were pretty good but you could really tell something was up with Karo there as he just wasn’t as explosive as he used to be at all. I really worry for the guy’s health at this point to be honest. Kim looked pretty good but really Karo fought at like 50% of his ability if I’m honest and I’m still not quite sold on the Korean as a top level contender just yet.
Odd choice for a main card fight, I have to say, but rather than thinking UFC were looking to showcase TUF favourite Bonnar, I figured this would be a push for Jones, who seemed to be a blue-chip prospect with his awesome wrestling and bizarre-yet-explosive striking game. With Bonnar’s problems with good wrestlers in the past this seemed to be a tailor made fight for ‘Bones’.
Opening round begins and they circle and miss some early strikes. Mad spinning kick from Jones misses but he follows with a side kick that lands to the body. Low kick lands and they clinch before Jones trips Bonnar down. Stephan pops back up in the clinch where he eats a knee to the body. Bonnar answers with one of his own, but Jones tosses him to the ground. They come back to their feet still clinched, but Jones hip throws him down again. Bonnar works back up and takes a knee, then breaks off. They circle and a leg kick lands for Stephan. Back to the clinch and Bonnar muscles him into the fence, where he knees the legs. Beautiful throw from Jones allows him to take the back, where he gets a German suplex! Bonnar works back to his feet though, but Jones grabs a leg and then twists into a SPINNING BACK ELBOW that sends Bonnar down! Holy Christ. Jones pounces and pounds away in Bonnar’s guard before he rolls and gives his back. Bonnar rolls back to guard and then into a front facelock, where he comes back to his feet in the clinch. They break and Jones nails him with a knee, and then gets a takedown to finish the round. Wow, Jones absolutely clowned Bonnar in that round.
Round Two and Bonnar is swinging a little more wildly now, but Jones still manages to catch him with a hopping side kick. Leg trip and Jones gets Bonnar’s back standing, and then he drags him down. Bonnar rolls free and takes a pair of heavy knees, but he recovers quickly and backs up. Low kick from Bonnar but Jones is too quick and he counters with a right and quickly tackles the veteran to the ground. Stephan gets half-guard and he manages to work back to his feet, then lands a kick to the body. Good body kick and right hand from Jones as Bonnar presses forward. Into the clinch and Jones breaks with a snapping one-two. Bonnar comes back into the clinch with some nice uppercuts and now Jones does look to be slowing up a little. They exchange inside the clinch and then break, and Bonnar tries a takedown but gets thrown on his head again. Bonnar gets up quickly though and manages to avoid a scissor trip, ending the round in top position. Jones’s explosiveness is something to behold.
Third and final round and they circle with a couple of kicks before Bonnar clinches. Nice combinations from Bonnar inside the clinch and Jones is clearly tired now, really slowing up. They break and exchange some wild punches before Jones lands a knee from the clinch that snaps Stephan’s head back. Fight is slowing down too now but Bonnar seems to be landing the better shots. He makes the mistake of clinching and looking for a trip though, and Jones shrugs it off and puts Stephan on his back instead. Bonnar gets butterfly guard and looks to create some distance, but he eats a big elbow before attempting a triangle. Jones postures out and Bonnar tries to roll free, but ends up on all fours stuck against the cage, and Jones lands some knees to the body. Bonnar manages to stand and they break off, but Stephan swings back into the clinch and he’s looking gassed now too. All that clinching will do that I guess. Break and Bonnar is really pushing forward now, but he can’t land anything significant and certainly doesn’t look like stopping Jones. Round ends shortly after.
Judges all score it for Jon Jones, 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28, which is remarkable really when you consider Jones hasn’t even been fighting for a year yet. While there were clearly issues for him to look at here – he didn’t really come close to finishing Bonnar and he gassed – the sky is the limit for this guy, particularly when you consider he’s only 21! He basically beat Bonnar with superior athleticism and explosiveness here, as well as his awesome Greco-Roman game. Fight was entertaining for the most part until they both tired in the third, although it would’ve been nice to see a finish as opposed to another decision on this card. If Jones had closed the deal after that spinning back elbow though, that’s finish of the year probably.
This match of unbeaten LHWs was originally scheduled for October’s UFC 89, but Silva had injured himself in training and Zuffa decided to pull Machida from that card and wait for Silva to heal. Rumour was that the winner of this one would probably be in line for a title shot later in the year. Although both men were unbeaten, Machida had fought much tougher competition (Sokoudjou, Ortiz, Nakamura to Silva’s Alexander, Mendes and Irvin) and stylistically, the elusive Lyoto seemed to be a horrible match for the brawling Silva. Still, nobody had really tested Machida’s chin yet and if Silva could hit him, this was anyone’s fight.
We begin and Lyoto like always stays dancing on the outside looking to counter the aggression of Thiago. Silva stalks forward but eats a low kick and a lunging knee to the gut early. Nice body kick from Machida but Silva continues to come forward. They clinch but Silva takes an inadvertent low blow and referee Yves Lavigne calls time for him to recover. They restart and Silva walks into a foot sweep takedown from Lyoto that puts him in guard. Silva scrambles from his back though using a butterfly guard and Lyoto decides to back out and dances away. Silva continues to stalk forward, basically playing into Machida’s hands, and sure enough he walks into a knee to the body and a BIG LEFT HAND that floors him! Lyoto pounces but Silva manages to tie him up somewhat in half-guard, then he gets to full guard and Lyoto decides to stand over him and kick the legs. Machida drops back into the guard and then stands free to let him up. Silva continues to push forward and both men miss high kicks, and then Machida lands with a beautiful counter-combo, putting Thiago down again with a right hand! Machida pounces again and this time he manages to pass into side mount and then full mount, but Silva bucks free and so Lyoto stands before dropping down and taking the back with a rear waistlock. He looks to drag Silva down as he stands, but Thiago manages to turn into him in the clinch. They muscle for position and with seconds to go Lyoto trips him down and follows with a BIG RIGHT HAND! Another follows on the buzzer, ending the round...but after a moment it becomes clear that Silva is OUT and the referee waves off the fight. And we’ve got the first finish of the night and the roof blows off for Lyoto Machida of all people!
Awesome performance from Machida, and up to this point it was by far his best one in the Octagon. Sure, the uber-aggressive Silva played right into his hands by continually stalking probably the best counter-fighter since Chuck Liddell in his prime, but man, Lyoto was ON here, dropping Thiago twice with vicious counterpunches before landing with an absolute BOMB for the finish. This one literally could not have gone any better for Machida as he totally got himself over with the crowds as a star too and hasn’t looked back since. I’d even say this was a career-making performance for him. Bad break for Thiago, but such is MMA.
Where to start with this? Firstly I have to admit; when they first announced it I wasn’t too pleased. GSP had a ready-made contender in Thiago Alves, and to claim Penn had “cleared out” 155lbs after beating Pulver, Stevenson and Sherk was ludicrous. With that said though, Penn had given GSP his toughest fight when they faced off in 2006, and when UFC ran a three-part ‘Prime Time’ series chronicling the training camps of both fighters, you couldn’t help but get pumped up for it. This was, Lesnar-Mir II notwithstanding, the biggest fight UFC could’ve put together at the time, and Dana White was expecting it to draw huge numbers on PPV. It was the first champion vs. champion match UFC had ever promoted, and not only that, the winner (in my mind at least) would probably be considered pound-for-pound the best fighter on the planet.
The Prime Time series had been interesting mainly because not only were we given a tremendous glimpse at the training, but also because Penn had suddenly built the fight into a huge grudge match through his trash talk, labelling GSP a quitter and telling his trainer to go fuck himself. Smart move from Penn to play the heel in order to sell the fight, as hey, nobody is going to out-babyface Georges at this point as he’s probably the most popular MMA fighter in the world. As far as a pick? GSP of course. I’ve been riding St-Pierre’s bandwagon since I saw him fight Karo Parisyan at UFC 46 back in 2004, and I’ve never picked against the guy yet. I figured both guys were pretty equally skilled in all areas, but when skills are equal size comes into play, and hey, there’s a reason Penn is a better fighter when he’s at 155lbs.
And here we go! They clinch right away and muscle for position, exchanging some short knees inside. Crowd appear to be chanting for GSP but who can really tell? GSP moves him to the fence and drops for a single, but Penn shows his trademark sick takedown defense and stays standing. They break off and both men throw out some jabs before St-Pierre clinches and forces him into the cage again. St-Pierre looks for the takedown again, but Penn’s balance is unbelievable and he remains on his feet. They exchange some short punches inside and then break, and they go back to exchanging jabs with GSP landing the better shots. Back to the clinch with under a minute remaining but GSP breaks and lands a couple of leg kicks. Penn tries a couple of lunging punches and then the round’s over. Actually a relatively uneventful opening round. 10-9 for GSP basically just because he landed a couple more jabs.
Into the 2nd and Penn begins things with a stiff jab. GSP comes back with a jab to the body, but BJ answers with a left hand that lands. Clinch again from St-Pierre and they exchange some knees inside again. GSP drops for a single leg and this time he gets him down. BJ goes right into rubber guard to control the Canadian but GSP slips free of it. Nice elbow from GSP. St-Pierre postures up and lands a pair of left hands, passing into half-guard and then side mount! Crowd are deafening at this stage. GSP opens up with some heavy punches, looking to trap the arm ala Matt Hughes. Big knee to the body lands for GSP. Nice escape from Penn to get back to guard but St-Pierre postures up and lands some more punches. Flurry from St-Pierre and he passes into side mount again. Penn gets another nice escape back to guard pretty quickly, but he is being controlled fully here and with seconds remaining GSP opens up a cut under BJ’s left eye. Round ends with St-Pierre on top and in command. 10-9 St-Pierre and this isn’t looking good for the Hawaiian.
Round Three and GSP comes right out and lands a pair of nice jabs and a leg kick. BEAUTIFUL superman punch snaps Penn’s head back. Couple more jabs from St-Pierre and Penn tries to answer, but GSP gets to the clinch and takes him down again, passing right into half-guard. This is unbelievable. Crowd are firmly behind GSP now. St-Pierre peppers him with shots, but BJ manages to work a full butterfly guard back in. Penn keeps getting his legs up but can’t lock a thing in, and GSP continues to land punches and elbows from the top. Hammer fists from St-Pierre but Penn explodes to his feet and goes for a takedown of his own. GSP stuffs it and reverses him, forcing him into the cage before getting a double leg to the guard. Nice elbows from the guard land for St-Pierre and then he stands to deliver some heavy punches. Penn’s face is bloody and swollen at this point and he looks like a beaten man. GSP remains on top landing shots until the round ends. 10-9 St-Pierre.
We’re into the championship rounds now and BJ’s corner are trying desperately to convince him that he’s still in this fight. Fourth begins and St-Pierre nails him with a jab and a heavy leg kick. GSP is basically working him over standing too. Takedown from St-Pierre right into half-guard and this time he passes easily into side mount. GSP lands elbows to the head and then traps the arm to deliver some punches, inadvertently hitting the back of the head and gaining a warning from referee Herb Dean. This is an absolute slaughter. GSP goes for full mount now and almost gets it, but Penn manages to lock his feet around St-Pierre’s left leg and brings it back to half-guard. Easy pass from GSP puts him into side mount again and who would’ve ever seen that happening? Knee to the body and more punches from St-Pierre and Herb Dean is outright telling Penn to fight back now or he’ll stop it. BJ gets back to half-guard but GSP hops right out into side control. Unbelievable. More punches land and then he goes for mount again but BJ again catches him in half-guard. Quick pass puts the Canadian back into side mount and he continues to pound Penn’s head into mush. Thirty seconds remaining and GSP really flurries on him, looking for the finish. Penn is taking a vicious beating but he’s moving enough to avoid being stopped. Penn makes it back to butterfly guard when the round mercifully ends. 10-8 GSP, totally one-sided round.
Between rounds the doctor asks BJ if he knows where he is, and although it looks like they’re going to let it go, Penn’s brother Regan grabs the doctor and tells him that they want it stopped. It’s ALL OVER!~! Smart move from BJ’s corner as there was no point in letting him take more punishment for another five minutes, but man, what poetic justice as BJ had called St-Pierre a “quitter” in the build-up and now GSP just forced him to quit. I love it.
Post-fight GSP tells Joe Rogan that his gameplan was to clinch and wrestle with Penn early to wear him down and force lactic acid into his shoulder muscles, thus negating his boxing skill and his dangerous jab. I’m just shaking my head in awe at that sort of thing. Thiago Alves then joins us to challenge GSP for his next title defense and gets firmly booed by the crowd.
What can you say about this fight? Call me a fanboy, I don’t care, but I firmly believe that at this stage in MMA, Georges St-Pierre is the greatest fighter to ever compete in the sport. Sure, you can argue for Fedor or Couture or Anderson or whoever but I don’t see it. This guy has never fought what you’d call a bad fighter in his career and he makes truly world-class fighters look like amateurs. GSP just steamrolls everyone with his incredible blend of every facet of the game, and not only does he have all the physical tools but he comes in with some of the best gameplans too. I mean, sure, BJ Penn was a blown up 155lber as opposed to a true Welterweight, but he’d still proven himself to be one of the most dangerous fighters in the world at any weight and St-Pierre just blew through him like he was nothing. Nobody had ever passed Penn’s guard like that before and nobody had put a beating on him like that, not even Matt Hughes or Lyoto Machida. This was a one-sided slaughter and you just don’t see that in fights involving BJ Penn normally, unless he’s the one doing the slaughtering. Unbelievable performance from GSP – arguably the greatest fight in his career thus far – and he’s only getting better.
-And we roll the highlight reel there.
Well, the two main events are tremendous and Guida-Diaz is an excellent fight too, but outside of that this was one of the slowest UFC cards in recent memory. It’s not that the fights are bad as such – only O’Brien-Wellisch was really bad – but so many decisions just gets tedious and fights that started off pretty well (Tavares-Gamburyan, Parisyan-Kim, Jones-Bonnar) end up petering out badly in the later rounds. It’s certainly not the worst UFC card ever and with all the hype around it thankfully it wasn’t another UFC 33, but in the end it’s a three-fight show. Definitely take a look if you’re a big fan of Machida or GSP – in fact for fellow St-Pierre fanboys it’s must-see - but outside of that it’s thumbs in the middle, leaning down.
Best Fight: St-Pierre-Penn
Worst Fight: O’Brien-Wellisch
Overall Rating: ***1/4
UFC: 95-101, Fight Nights 17-18.
King of the Cage: Various shows