UFC 99: The Comeback review
by Scott Newman(MMA)
Posted on November 16, 2009, 8:36 AM
UFC 99: The Comeback
-This was the UFC’s first card in Europe to take place outside of Great Britain, and of course due to the lack of exposure in terms of the mainstream in Germany, it was like 1996 all over again as critics came out and labelled it a barbaric sport and what-not. Eh, the same thing happened in the UK the first time the UFC came over in 2007 and now it’s huge here. The smart people will learn, and the morons will keep being morons. What can you do?
Wrestler Story had been signed by the UFC back in January as a possible replacement for Karo Parisyan should he have flaked on his fight with Dong Hyun Kim, but Karo ended up pulling through and so his debut was held off until here. English prospect Hathaway meanwhile had smashed Irishman Tom Egan in his own debut in January, and looked an interesting prospect for sure as shockingly for an English fighter, he appeared to have some wrestling skills!
We begin and Story comes forward, but Hathaway clinches and quickly forces him into the cage. They muscle for position before Hathaway surprises Story with a slam, and takes full mount! Nice reversal from Story puts him on top in Hathaway’s guard, but Hathaway uses an armbar attempt to sweep Story and then takes mount again. Nice elbow from the Londoner, but again Story bucks him off and comes up on top, landing an elbow of his own for good measure. Hathaway gets his feet on the hips and kicks him away, exploding to his feet, then lands a big knee into a clinch, forcing Story into the cage again. Double leg attempt from Story and now he gets a slam and puts Hathaway on his back. Hathaway looks to use the fence to stand, and as Story tries to take his back Hathaway reverses and gets his own takedown. Story uses a kimura attempt to try to get on top, but Hathaway keeps working and uses a single leg to get on top. They quickly come to their feet though inside the clinch. They muscle for position and exchange some knees before Story breaks off. Good body shot from Hathaway. Back into the clinch now and Story drops for a double leg, getting Hathaway down, but the Brit goes for a kimura and it looks locked up from full guard! The fence prevents him from fully cranking on it though, and the round comes to an end there. Really good opening round and it was close too, but I’d go with Hathaway, 10-9.
Round Two and Hathaway opens with a combo ending with a knee. They exchange some strikes with both men landing some nice stuff, good straight punches, and then Hathaway changes levels and hits a double leg to guard. Story goes for a guillotine but Hathaway works his head free and stays in the guard of Story, looking to posture up to deliver some elbows. Story tries to roll into a leglock but Hathaway’s having none of that and he looks to pass into half-guard. Story gets to his feet for a second but Hathaway quickly gets him back down. He ends up stuck against the fence and goes for a guillotine again, but Hathaway works free once more and lands some punches and elbows from the top. No major damage, but he’s into half-guard now. Good body punches from the Londoner. Referee decides they’re not busy enough and brings them back to their feet, and they exchange some more strikes. It’s another even exchange, but Hathaway looks like the fresher fighter and he goes for another takedown. This time Story manages to stuff it and takes top position, landing with a couple of punches to end the round. I’ve got Hathaway up 20-18 here I think.
Third and final round and Story comes out swinging, but Hathaway ducks and takes him down again. Story goes for a kimura from the half-guard but Hathaway looks fine and he works at the body. Story suddenly manages to twist it up and he uses it to get on top, and now Hathaway looks in trouble, but he slips his arm free and ends up underneath side mount, with Story landing an elbow. Story stands over him but takes an upkick, and then he drops down into Hathaway’s guard again. Hathaway quickly goes for a triangle from the bottom and it’s looking dangerous for Story, but he can’t quite get it locked and Story escapes. Big left from the top lands for Story as Hathaway tries to kick him away. They come back to their feet with two minutes remaining and Story lands some good punches, but he doesn’t look to have Hathaway hurt at all. Takedown from Story into guard and they exchange from there with Hathaway working some elbows from the bottom. Hathaway goes for an arm but Story escapes and they get back to their feet. Hathaway looks tired now and he drops to his back on a takedown attempt, but Story’s looking to avoid the guard now and he brings it back up. They exchange again and this time Hathaway lands a couple of good shots that cut Story’s head open. Takedown from Story but Hathaway gets back to his feet and ends the round with a knee. Well, you’d give that last round to Story I think but overall it’s 29-28 Hathaway on my card.
Judges score it s a unanimous decision for John Hathaway, although they don’t give the scores for some reason. Really good fight as both men showed skills in all areas, but I think the difference was that Hathaway’s surprising wrestling skill shocked Story, as he didn’t expect the Brit to be able to take him down, and when he was able to it really messed up Story’s gameplan and took him right off course. Big win for John Hathaway and of the British prospects I think Hathaway is definitely one of the better ones in the UFC at the minute. Tremendously fun opener.
These two European heavyweights were likely in the last chance saloon after losing their UFC debuts, to rising stars Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez respectively. Despite Struve having a ridiculous reach advantage over the Bosnian, I was taking Stojnic to win based on the iron chin he’d showed against Velasquez.
First round gets underway and Struve tries a high kick as Stojnic wades in with hooks and gets a clinch against the fence. Takedown attempt from Struve but Stojnic breaks off and takes a couple of knees to the midsection. Takedown attempt from Struve again but he ends up on the bottom, and Stojnic stands over him and is clearly in danger with the fact that Struve’s legs are so long. Big hammer fists land for Stojnic from the top though, as he outright stands over the guy and barely reaches him. Stojnic drops down into the guard proper now and almost gets caught in a triangle, but Stojnic’s head pops free and he begins to rain down with hammer fists again. Goldberg compares Stojnic to a “big Matt Serra”, which is both hilarious and true in terms of physical build. Struve goes for a kimura and looks to use it to sweep, but Stojnic’s base is solid and he remains on top. Some more punches and hammer fists land for Stojnic before he postures out of another triangle. Struve goes for the kimura again but he still can’t get it, and Stojnic stands over him and drops some more BIG SHOTS, this time opening a SICKENING CUT on Struve’s forehead. And it’s horror movie time as Struve is BLEEDING LIKE A STUCK PIG, just pouring blood everywhere as Stojnic goes wild with the hammer fists. Ref steps in to call time to get the cut checked, and this is a serious gash. It looks like they’re going to stop the fight, but surprisingly the doctor lets him continue, popping the crowd huge and probably horrifying all those German anti-MMA muppets. They restart in Struve’s guard but there’s only seconds remaining and Struve just covers up to avoid some more abuse from Stojnic as the round ends.
Into the 2nd, incredibly enough, and Struve’s bleeding even before they get underway. Struve wades in with a big knee, but gets taken down again and Stojnic drops some hammer fists, but Struve goes for a heel hook attempt and pulls Stojnic down. Stojnic quickly escapes, but Struve uses it to reverse and gets on top and mounts! Whoa. Stojnic gives his back and now Struve’s got a body triangle! He goes for the rear naked choke and it looks like he’s got it, but Stojnic survives and Struve’s head is PISSING WITH BLOOD again. Crowd are way into this now like it’s a main event as Struve continues to go for the choke. Punches land for Struve as Stojnic continues to hang in there somehow, showing tremendous defense, and now this is one of the bloodiest fights in UFC history. More punches land for Struve and then he flattens Stojnic out and GETS THE CHOKE, and STOJNIC TAPS!~! Good God.
Replay shows Struve might not have even sunk the choke; it looked to me like Stojnic submitted due to the back crank of the body triangle ala Tony Fryklund against Ivan Salaverry actually. Well, the blood made that fight incredibly exciting as Struve somehow came back from being beaten and bloodied in the first round to get Stojnic in the submission in the second, basically taking the title of the event for himself! Visually it was definitely one of the sickest MMA fights I’ve ever seen and I guess it gave the anti-MMA camp a lot of ammunition, but eh, who cares about that? Nice win for Struve and the more I see of him the more I like him, particularly as he’s only in his early twenties.
This was Kelly’s first foray into the Lightweight division and it was given some added spice due to Delgado turning up at the weigh-in looking like a homeless man and randomly headbutting the Scouser. Never took Roli as that type, but there you go. Needless to say after that, I was expecting a massacre in favour of the Englishman.
First round and Delgado circles on the outside as Kelly pushes forward, and they exchange punches with Kelly landing a right hand. Delgado looks for a takedown and then gets Kelly’s back with one hook standing, but Kelly controls his arm to prevent him dragging him to the ground. Delgado decides to jump to guard and tries to twist onto Kelly’s back, but he looks too high to me. I take that back as Delgado’s now got a body triangle locked up. Kelly tries to roll but he’s in a bit of trouble here. Delgado loses the body triangle and goes for regular hooks, but this allows Kelly to turn into his guard. Delgado uses the rubber guard for a moment but loses it, and now Kelly’s on top in the guard looking to posture up. Rubber guard again from Delgado and he goes into crackhead control, really good use of the guard from Roli. Kelly manages to slip free though and drops an elbow. Kelly stands out of the guard and kicks the legs, and then calls him up. Delgado misses a spinning back kick but then glances with a spinning backfist, and he uses a front kick to keep the distance as the round ends. Surprising round, 10-9 for Delgado.
Round Two and Kelly comes out looking to swing. Delgado lands with a pair of body kicks, but on the second Kelly counters with a right hand that stuns Roli bad. Kelly wades in and Roli looks for a takedown, but Kelly’s got a guillotine and he cranks on it, and Delgado gets the takedown but his head is still stuck. Delgado passes into half-guard though and he looks fine. Mount from Roli and he takes Kelly’s back again, locking up another body triangle. Kelly’s doing a decent job of defending the choke here, but he’s losing this round again. Kelly turtles up and shakes off one of Delgado’s hooks, and then he manages to turn into Roli and pin him into the fence. Kelly lands some punches as Roli tries a few upkicks, and then he postures out of a triangle to drop a couple of good elbows. Kelly stands back up and kicks at the legs, then drops some more punches. Kelly looks to pass but gets caught in a leglock, but Roli can’t lock it in correctly and the Scouser escapes, dropping some more short elbows and punches. BIG left hand lands for Kelly cleanly, and he follows with some more shots en route to taking side mount on the buzzer. Closer round and you could go either way, Kelly for the damage or Delgado for taking the back and the positional dominance early.
Third and final round and I could still see this going either way. Kelly comes forward and an axe kick misses for Roli, before Kelly lands some punches and takes Delgado down. Kelly decides to bring it back up though and lands a good elbow standing. Takedown attempt from Delgado but he botches it and winds up underneath a full mount, and now Kelly opens up with a big flurry! Delgado does well to get back to guard, but Kelly decides to bring him up again. Single leg attempt from Roli and he ends up pulling guard, getting an armbar locked, but Kelly forces his way free and drops some punches and hammer fists. Again Kelly stands and forces him up, and again he stuffs a takedown and gets on top in half-guard. Delgado is looking tired now and he’s taking some good elbows from Kelly. Kelly brings it back up to the feet and he avoids a spinning back kick and lands a left hand. Delgado drops to his back and tries some sort of odd triangle variant, but he lets it go and Kelly ends up in half-guard where he works again with punches. Kelly now goes for a D’Arce choke, but gives it up to punch at the head again. Delgado tries a sweep but Kelly looks too strong and keeps top position, where he continues to punch and elbow at Roli until the fight ends.
Third round was clearly Kelly’s, first was clearly Delgado’s, and who knows about the second, so this could go either way. Judges have it a unanimous decision for Paul Kelly. Well, that was closer than I expected. Delgado acquitted himself really well considering how he was seen in his TUF stint, and you could make an argument for him winning that fight. Still, Kelly did a good defensive job in the first two rounds and then took over in the third with his ground-and-pound. He’s still a work in progress but he definitely has potential. This was a solid, competitive fight if not a spectacular one.
Sobotta, on a four-fight winning streak, was the second German fighter to enter the Octagon following Dennis Siver, who had seen mixed results in his UFC tenure. I couldn’t see success for him in this match though, as he was faced with the English kickboxer Taylor, a guy who is not only one of the most exciting fighters, pound-for-pound, in all of MMA, but who is largely murderous against anyone who isn’t a very strong ground fighter.
We begin and Taylor pushes forward with a very low stance, obviously looking to avoid any takedown attempts. They exchange some low kicks early and one lands low for Sobotta. Taylor’s okay to continue, and he does a good job of stuffing a takedown attempt. Nice leg kick from Taylor to counter a high kick from the German. These guys are exchanging some serious kicks. Taylor lands one in the groin though and Sobotta looks hurt. Ref calls time and the crowd are booing, but it was clearly unintentional. Sobotta recovers and they restart, and now Sobotta lands a low blow! Ha, Christ. They restart and Taylor looks angry, wading in with another low kick, but Sobotta clinches and looks for the takedown. They muscle for position and Taylor lands a nice knee from inside the clinch, before Sobotta drops to the ground and goes for a leg. Taylor looks fine though and he’s in half-guard, and then he chooses to stand back up. Combo from Taylor but Sobotta catches a leg and gets a takedown, only to get reversed as soon as they hit the ground. Nice stuff from Taylor. He looks for the mount and almost gets it, but Sobotta gets his leg free and gets half-guard. Couple of elbows from Taylor end the round.
2nd round and Taylor pushes forward and lands with a combo as Sobotta tries to fire back. Takedown from Sobotta and Taylor’s cut under the right eye. Beautiful reversal from Taylor allows him to get back up to his feet, where he lands an elbow in the clinch. Taylor breaks off and now Sobotta looks gassed. Taylor really begins to push the pace now, coming forward with combos and a nasty-looking head kick that Sobotta just about blocks. Some nice low kicks land for Taylor and he follows with a head kick and a vicious right hand. Takedown attempt from Sobotta is stuffed easily. Taylor is looking excellent here. Low kick drops Sobotta but Taylor steps back and forces him to stand. Taylor has perhaps the best kickboxing in the Welterweight division. Couple of minutes to go and Sobotta is being picked apart by the leg kicks particularly here. Nice combo but Sobotta comes back with a kick that lands, but causes him to fall down. He stands back up and Taylor lands a combo ending with a body kick. Another combo ends the round for Taylor. This is quite clearly Taylor’s fight thus far.
Round Three and Taylor really looks like he’s going to push the pace. Sobotta does land with a brutal body kick though, countered by another leg kick from Taylor. Nice combo from Taylor but he leaves himself a little open and Sobotta gets the takedown. Taylor looks to use a switch and the fence to get to his feet, and Sobotta plants himself headfirst into the mat trying to keep Taylor down. Taylor gets back to his feet using the fence, and they end up clinched before Taylor reverses a takedown attempt and gets side mount. Sobotta works his way back to half-guard, taking a couple of elbows to the body in the process, and then Taylor botches an attempt at passing and ends up in full guard. He postures up though and drops some really nasty punches down before passing into half-guard. Side mount for Taylor and then he decides to stand. One minute to go and Taylor still looks fresh while Sobotta seems tired. Nice head kick from Taylor. Seconds to go and Taylor rocks him badly with a combination, but the buzzer sounds before he can follow up.
Judges score it a unanimous decision for ‘Relentless’ Paul Taylor, no surprise there. This was probably Taylor’s best Octagon showing since his debut win over Crocota, as not only did he show his usual sick cardio and awesome kickboxing, but his takedown defense and grappling game in general seemed hugely improved too. Fight was a little one-sided, but Taylor is always fun to watch and this fight was no exception.
Siver had washed out of the UFC in mid 2008 with a loss to Melvin Guillard, but was brought back for a fight against Nate Mohr in January 2009, with the idea being that with a win he could gain a spot on the first UFC to take place in his native Germany. Of course, he was successful in that fight. Hartt meanwhile hadn’t seen UFC action since the unfortunate bout with Corey Hill that saw TUF 5’s lanky lunatic snap his tibia on a botched leg kick.
First round and they open with some feeler strikes, with Siver landing a nice right hand to the jaw early on. Siver looks to be the more polished striker here I think. Good combo by Siver ends with a left that stuns Hartt, but he manages to quickly recover. Takedown from Hartt puts Siver on his back in full guard, but Siver gets an armbar from the bottom. Good job from Hartt to free himself and he uses it to pass into side mount. They stand and Hartt looks to drop to his back for a guillotine, but Siver pops his head free right away and passes to half-guard. He lands with a couple of elbows and then passes to mount, before Hartt gives his back. Hartt looks in trouble instantly and Siver locks up a rear naked choke ala Matt Hughes against Frank Trigg, pulling the arm across rather than squeezing, and Hartt taps out there.
Bit of a nothing fight if we’re being honest but it’s still nice to see a guy like Siver win in his home country.
This fight was originally set for February’s UFC 95, but Buchholz pulled out with injury and Etim killed Brian Cobb dead instead. This was an interesting test for Terry on paper as Buchholz is a solid wrestling-based guy, but he’s also 6’0” to Etim’s 6’1”, meaning the Scouser wouldn’t have such a sick reach advantage this time. Still, it was a test I expected Etim to pass, as for me he’s looked hugely improved since his losses to Tibau and Clementi and he’s a guy who I think could contend for the title in the future.
We begin and they both come out aggressively, trading some kicks. Good body kick lands for Buchholz and he manages to avoid a head kick answer from Etim. Etim comes back with a big knee from the plum clinch that looks to have hurt Buchholz, and he follows up with a right hand as Buchholz gets on the retreat. Good leg kick from Etim. Flurry from Buchholz backs Terry up into the fence, and they clinch up and exchange some short punches inside. Referee breaks them up for inactivity and Etim lands with another leg kick. They exchange kicks and Terry lands to the body, but Buchholz counters with a BIG RIGHT HAND and follows with a flurry that rocks the Brit badly! Etim looks in deep trouble as Buchholz pounces and drops some BOMBS, busting up Etim’s nose, but suddenly the Scouser locks up an armbar! Buchholz does a good job of slamming his way out and then goes back to the ground-and-pound, raining down with some heavy strikes to the face of Etim. Etim manages to get to half-guard, but he ends up mounted and he’s taking some serious shots. Buchholz looks to take the back as Etim rolls, but Etim manages to turn into him in the guard, bleeding all over the Alaskan’s chest. Now Etim manages to take Buchholz’s back as he stands, but he doesn’t have hooks in and he looks pretty high on the back too. Sure enough he slips off, but ends up rolling right into a kneebar attempt! It looks pretty deep but Buchholz looks unbelievably relaxed and just sits up, working to free his leg, and eventually he does so, scrambling for a guillotine as Etim gets to his feet. Buchholz lets go of the choke and they exchange shots from close range, before breaking off, and Etim misses a high kick. Back to the clinch and Etim defends a takedown to close out the round. Tremendous action in the first round.
Round Two, and again Buchholz looks aggressive, but Etim lands early with some hard leg kicks. Really nasty leg kick looks to have Buchholz hurt; it looks weird actually because it was the supporting leg that buckled rather than the one that got hit. He tries to shake it out, but he’s definitely favouring it and Etim lands with another leg kick. Good kick from Etim but Buchholz counters and almost lands the same right that dropped the Brit in the first round. This time Terry avoids though and fires back with a pair of knees that put Buchholz on the retreat. CRUSHING leg kick lands for Etim and he follows with a vicious head kick that wobbles Buchholz! Buchholz is hurt now and Etim grabs him in the plum clinch and SMASHES him with knees to the face! Somehow Buchholz survives this and manages to slow things down, even firing back, before dropping for a takedown. Etim grabs a D’Arce choke on the way down though, and then drops to his side and turns into it for the tapout! Unbelievable come from behind win for Terry Etim.
Well, first off credit to both men – that was a tremendous fight with great action from start to finish, and I’d say it’s a low-end FOTYC in fact. Buchholz definitely had Etim hurt badly in the first round and was on the verge of finishing the fight, but the Scouser is clearly a tough, tough guy and to survive that beating to come back and win is very impressive. I still worry about Terry’s wrestling game, but having said that, he appears to be developing into an Anderson Silva-esque fighter where he’s very dangerous both with his striking game and with his submissions too, and hey, Anderson hasn’t really needed world-class wrestling to become one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, has he? At only 23 the future is hugely, hugely bright for Terry Etim I think. He’s certainly becoming one of my favourite guys to watch at 155lbs.
This was perhaps the biggest grudge match in the UFC since, well, at least Hughes-Serra, as what was originally just another fight got horribly personal when Hardy decided to taunt Davis by calling him a “plastic paddy”, making fun of his Irish heritage, and encouraging his fans to make abusive photoshop pictures of the Irish Hand Grenade. Personally I found the whole thing hilarious, but Marcus was HUGELY offended to the point where even mentioning Hardy would get his blood boiling. As far as a pick went, despite this being Hardy’s toughest fight by far in his career, I thought he’d be able to pick up the win by using his kickboxing game to stifle Marcus’s more traditional boxing-based approach and pick the more experienced fighter apart.
We’re underway and they circle before Hardy lands a low kick. Body kick from Davis and he closes the distance and looks for the takedown. Hardy looks to defend with his back to the cage, and they muscle inside the clinch exchanging some short punches. Davis finally manages to drag Hardy down and works out of the half-guard into full mount. He lands some short blows, but nothing too damaging and Hardy quickly gets a hip escape to half-guard. Hardy manages to get back to full guard, very good job there, and he does a good job of defending from the bottom too. Hardy throws his legs up for an armbar but Davis uses it to flip him over and take the back, but he doesn’t have any hooks in and Dan works his way back to his feet as Davis lands a couple of hammer fists to the head. Good knee to the body from Hardy and then he breaks the clinch with a HUGE ELBOW! Davis looks wobbled, stumbling to the ground as Hardy follows up with a combo, but he manages to clinch and Dan forces him back into the cage. Trip from Davis but Hardy reverses and gets back to his feet right away. Close round as Davis did get a takedown and held Hardy there, but he did no damage with the position while Hardy left it late, but really hurt Davis with the elbow and combination to follow. 10-9 for Dan Hardy in my book.
Into the 2nd and they exchange some kicks early on. Good left hand lands for Davis but Hardy looks fine. Body kick from Marcus but he eats a short left counter coming in. Pair of lefts land for Davis but Hardy fires back with a low kick. They trade off shots momentarily, with both men landing good punches. Davis fires the left hand again, but this time Hardy grabs a plum clinch and DECKS HIM WITH A KNEE! Davis looks badly hurt as Hardy pounces with hammer fists, but Marcus recovers well and manages to close up his guard to defend. His face looks a bit marked up now though as Hardy lands a couple of short elbows. Armbar attempt from Davis and it looks pretty deep, but Hardy stays really calm and works his arm free. He goes for it again as Hardy opens up with punches and hammer fists, but this time Hardy avoids it altogether. Elbow lands for Hardy. Referee decides to restart them for inactivity and Davis walks into a left en route to getting a clinch. He looks for the takedown but Hardy defends and lands a knee to the gut to break. Good counter by Hardy to avoid a kick, but Davis lands a big left hook and follows by clinching and getting a takedown to guard. He looks to work Dan over with punches, but Hardy defends well until Davis passes into side mount. Good hip movement from Hardy to get back to guard, and then the buzzer sounds. Another close round but it has to go to Hardy for the knockdown, so it’s 20-18 for Dan Hardy for me.
Third and final round and Davis catches a kick and lands a left that drops Hardy to the ground. He doesn’t look hurt though and quickly gets full guard. Davis looks to posture up as Hardy tries to defend, and the Irish Hand Grenade lands a good elbow and passes to half-guard. Action slows down a little before Davis grabs a foot and goes for a heel hook, but Hardy defends it well and escapes. Davis spins to take the back, but Hardy quickly pops back up to his feet in the clinch. Now Hardy drops for a takedown and gets it, getting into Marcus’s guard. Hammer fists from Hardy and then he cracks him with a BIG ELBOW that opens a nasty cut somewhere on Davis’s face. Few more elbows and punches land for Hardy and then the ref steps in to have Davis’s cut checked, but he’s wobbly as hell when he gets up and his face is a MESS, a big cut over the bridge of the nose and his left eye’s almost swollen shut. They restart in Davis’s guard and Hardy goes back to work with punches and short hammer fists. A minute to go and the ref stands them up, and Hardy lands a left hook as Davis comes forward. Davis keeps pressing but almost eats a head kick and then does take a left hook. Davis pushes into the clinch, but the round ends there. Good fight. I’ve got the third 10-9 for Hardy, giving him the win 30-27, but the fight was definitely close.
Judges have it a split decision, 29-28 for Hardy, 29-28 for Davis and 29-28 for the winner, Dan ‘The Outlaw’ Hardy. Well, it was close but really Davis never had Hardy in any danger while Hardy had him on the verge of being finished twice, so I would say the right man clearly won. Post-fight Hardy admits a lot of the verbal abuse pre-fight was to piss Davis off and throw him off his gameplan, and that definitely worked. Smart guy. This was a HUGE win for Hardy as he’d never fought a guy on the level of Davis before and he stepped up in style, as despite being taken down and controlled for portions of the fight he had a very tough guy hurt badly a few times, and showed a wildly improved game overall. Clearly a top ten guy at Welterweight at this point I think and I’d argue he’s the UK’s best fighter pound-for-pound. Really fun fight.
Hardcore fans dream, this one, with Uno making a surprising return to UFC action following six years of competing back in his native Japan. His signing was more surprising to me than the signing of Yoshihiro Akiyama actually, as while Akiyama’s profile was a bit tainted in Japan following the greasing scandal, Uno is widely loved there and he’s a big star too with his Nike sponsorship deal and what-not. Close fight on paper but I was leaning towards Fisher as he’s usually dynamite against anyone who can’t take him down and keep him there, and I didn’t see Uno as being able to pull off the Frankie Edgar gameplan.
First round begins and they press the action at pace, but neither man looks willing to really open up right away and the first minute or so is pretty uneventful. Uno shoots for a takedown but Fisher stuffs it, sprawling back, and he lands a couple of knees to the shoulders for good measure. Uno looks to spin to the back and then they come up to their feet in a clinch, with Fisher muscling Caol into the cage. Good knees to the body from Fisher in tight. Crowd begin to get restless as the clinch is pretty even, and the ref ends up separating them. Nice low kick from Fisher as both men throw out some feints, and then they exchange with Fisher landing a short right hook. Uno looks for another takedown but Fisher defends it well and lands a knee as they come back to their feet in a clinch. Little happens from there and the crowd get really restless before Uno breaks off and lands a combo en route to another clinch on the buzzer. Close, but largely uneventful round and I’d go with Fisher, 10-9.
Round Two begins and Fisher opens with a leg kick and a right hand. Uno drops for a single though and this time he manages to get Spencer off his feet. Fisher immediately wall-walks to his feet though and avoids a guillotine. Uno tries a trip but Fisher breaks free. Takedown attempt from Uno again but Fisher avoids it and now Uno drops to his back. Spencer’s having none of that and calls him back to his feet, but Uno cracks him with a strong pair of leg kicks. Takedown attempt again from the Japanese fighter but Fisher sprawls and looks to take the back. Uno spins into him though, winding up in Spencer’s guard. Little happens from there until Fisher pushes off with his feet on the hips, and uses an ankle pick to get to his feet. Back to the clinch now and Fisher’s landing with knees, but this is really a fight where both men are negating the other and so it’s not great to watch. They break and then clinch again, where Fisher botches a judo toss and ends up on the bottom in half-guard. Fisher gets back to his feet and avoids an attempt by Uno at taking the back, and we’re back in the clinch position. They muscle for position in the clinch, exchanging knees, and then Uno pulls guard. Uno works to his feet on the buzzer. Dull round that you could score for either man really.
Round Three and Uno charges out into the clinch instantly. He looks for a trip but Fisher avoids and lands an uppercut. Big left hand by Fisher and he follows with a knee, but Uno pushes forward looking for a single leg. He gets Spencer off his feet, but the cage prevents a full takedown and Fisher works to get back up. Fisher gets up into the clinch as the crowd are booing now. Uno drops for the takedown again, but he still can’t get Spencer down properly and they wind up clinched again. Referee steps in and calls a break as Rogan rips on the “casual drunken meatheads” who aren’t enjoying the fight. Well, I’m not a casual drunken meathead and it’s boring me. Uno whiffs on another takedown and goes to his back, but Fisher’s having none of it and calls him back up. Uppercut from Fisher and now he gets a takedown, but Uno reverses and they come back to their feet and clinch. Nice combination from Fisher breaking the clinch, but Uno goes for the takedown again and gets it, taking almost full mount and landing hammer fists. Elbows from Uno now, good work, but Fisher works to half-guard. Mount again from Uno now and he continues to land shots until the fight ends.
I think Uno stole the fight with the final mount and flurry, giving him the win 29-28 taking the final two rounds. Judges go the other way though, I guess for Fisher’s better striking and takedown defense, giving Spencer the win although they don’t announce the scores. Decent technical fight I guess but despite Rogan’s protests, it was quite boring as both men totally cancelled the other out and it made for a slower match overall. Neither guy came out looking bad or anything, although Uno’s struggles to get Fisher – a guy who was taken down easily by the likes of Edgar, Stevenson and Lauzon – off his feet shows the gap between wrestling in the US and in Japan I think.
This to me was perhaps the most exciting fight on this card. After his destruction of Brandon Wolff in December, many fans jumped right onto the bandwagon of Ben Saunders. Not me – I’d actually been there since his stint on TUF 6 where I thought he showed a ton of both fighting potential and star charisma. This was by far his toughest fight to date – none of his other opponents come close to Swick – but despite the Quick One looking amazing against Jonathan Goulet in his previous fight, I was still questioning him a little at 170lbs, especially when faced with a giant Welterweight like Saunders. With the winner here firmly vaulting themselves into title contention, I was going with the upset and picking Saunders to overwhelm Swick with knees in the first round.
Round One begins and Saunders looks to have the size advantage. Swick pushes forward but Ben closes the distance and surprisingly pulls guard. He holds on tightly with a butterfly guard as Swick’s stuck punching the body with short shots. Very little happens as Swick works the body, and then we get a classic exchange from the fighters as Swick asks “are you gonna fucking hold me all night?” to which Saunders replies “Wait until we stand back up, bitch!”. HA. Finally Swick works free of the guard and looks for a guillotine, but Saunders pops his head out and it’s back to the butterfly guard for him. Swick stands out and takes an upkick, then drops a couple of punches back down into the guard. Referee finally stands them back up and Saunders lands with a hard left kick to the body. Swick tries a flurry and both men land punches, before they clinch up against the cage. Good knee to the body from Saunders and he looks to take Swick down, but Swick stays on his feet and they exchange some short knee strikes. Round peters out inside the clinch. Well, that wasn’t as explosive as I’d hoped.
Second round and Saunders comes out looking to land the left body kick again. Swick wades into the clinch with some knees and they exchange knees inside again, before Swick trips him down on a knee attempt and gets mount. Good hip escape from Saunders to get back to guard, and he controls Swick’s posture again like in the first round. Saunders’ defensive guard looks good but he’s not threatening at all with submissions. Ref decides to restart them standing and Swick pushes forward as they exchange some knees and punches. They continue to circle and Saunders lands with an inside leg kick as Swick is looking to counter. Saunders tries a kick but gets hurt with a right hand counter, and he’s on the retreat as Swick closes him down, and drops him with a flurry! Saunders looks done and Swick pounds away for the stoppage. Damnit!
Good win for Swick but the fight wasn’t nearly as entertaining as I’d hoped. I think really, Swick was a little too high up the totem pole for Saunders at this stage in his career as while he does have a ton of potential and I’m still on the bandwagon, he probably needs to fight more mid-level contenders before he steps up to the top ten guys like this. I don’t think it hurts him too badly though as it’s not like he’s in danger of being cut by the UFC and he still has a bright future ahead of him. Still, nice highlight-reel fashion for Swick to follow up the KO of Goulet after a couple of slower performances.
Well, to say this came out of the left field would be an understatement. Originally Al-Turk had been set to face American Top Team prospect Todd Duffee, but then like, two weeks prior to the show an odd rumor came out of the woodwork that Cro Cop would be returning to the UFC on this show and fighting Mostapha instead. After much scoffing, the rumor turned out to be true, and despite not really seeming to recapture any sort of form following his brutal KO loss to Gabriel Gonzaga in 2007, sure enough Mirko was coming back to the Octagon. Stranger still, Zuffa set a precedent by signing him to a one-fight deal only, I guess because nobody knew how much the guy still had in the tank. My best assessment was that if Cro Cop could recapture the old magic, he’d easily take out Al-Turk, but if he couldn’t, then anything was possible. No point in denying it either, I was hugely pumped to see him return.
We’re underway and Al-Turk circles out and lands a right hand over the top. He really pushes forward swinging and looks for a takedown, but Mirko shrugs him off. Good leg kick from Al-Turk and he continues to swing the right hand over the top, before clinching and forcing him into the fence. Mirko breaks off though and Al-Turk continues to play the aggressor, swinging the right as well as landing leg kicks. Suddenly a one-two from Cro Cop rocks Mostapha, and he’s forced to cover up as Mirko throws his dangerous straight left. Al-Turk looks in trouble as Cro Cop chases him down and drops him with the left! Cro Cop looks to finish, and then lets Al-Turk back up to a big pop. Wild swing from Al-Turk misses and Mirko counters with a left that doubles him over, and follows with punches as Al-Turk turns his back. Finally Mostapha falls down and the ref calls it there.
Post-fight we get a bit of controversy as the replay shows Mirko’s counter actually poked Al-Turk horribly in the eye, and he turned away to cover up rather than actually being hurt, with the referee just missing it. Eh, I can’t blame the ref there as it didn’t look obvious on a first look, but it definitely taints the win a little. Sure, Cro Cop caught Al-Turk eventually but I don’t see this as an impressive win for him really in the way he did it, and so the question marks still hang over him. I’m not touching on the whole issue with him claiming to have signed with DREAM after this, as he’s now returned firmly to the UFC fold.
Co-main event was changed due to injury on pretty short notice (about three weeks), as Cain was originally set to face Heath Herring, but after Heath pulled out with injury, Kongo – who had ran through his last three opponents in vicious fashion – stepped in with the promise of a title shot should he beat AKA’s top Heavyweight prospect. It’s rare that a late replacement makes for a better fight than the original, but that was definitely the case here as while Herring is a tough veteran, he’s proven easy pickings for wrestlers far lesser than Cain before, and while that fight would’ve been perfect for Cain based on his short ring experience (only five fights, with four of them ending in the first round), Kongo had a larger profile and would prove to be a bigger scalp to take in the long run. Despite Kongo’s hot run coming into this, I thought the big advantage lay with Velasquez, as if he found he couldn’t outstrike Kongo, I couldn’t see how the Frenchman could prevent a great wrestler like Cain from taking him down and pounding him out on the ground. My pick then was Velasquez by TKO in the second round, signalling his arrival as a top-level HW.
First round and Velasquez comes out aggressively, closing the distance, but he walks into a HUGE RIGHT HAND that buckles his legs, and Kongo follows with another that snaps his head back! Cain almost goes down, but then manages to grab Kongo’s legs and gets the takedown! Amazingly quick recovery. Kongo holds on but Cain quickly works free of the guard and takes the back. Kongo works to his feet and drags Cain down, but a quick reversal puts Velasquez back on top. Kongo turtles up and takes some hammer fists as he tries to get back up, but Cain drags him back down and gets side mount. Full mount for Cain and he pounds away until Kongo gives his back. Velasquez looks to sink the choke, but doesn’t have the hooks in and Kongo works to roll back to mount. He gives his back again and takes more shots, but Cain doesn’t control him with hooks and the Frenchman escapes to his feet. BIG SLAM puts him right back down though and Cain lands in side mount. Jackhammer punches land for Cain before he takes the mount again and then takes the back. Cain is just owning Kongo on the ground here and he’s landing a ridiculous amount of blows. Kongo turtles up and tries to stand, but he takes some more punches and ends up mounted again. Kongo tries to turn once more and almost gets to his feet, but Velasquez drags him back down. Kongo stands but this time a HUGE SLAM grounds him and Cain gets right into side mount. Full mount follows and Kongo is looking tired now. Big left lands but Kongo gives his back and again manages to crawl free. Cain gets back on him though and rides him, landing more hammer fists before pinning him into the fence. Good elbow by Velasquez and he easily avoids Kongo’s takedown attempt and stays firmly on top, although Kongo scrambles to his feet to end the round. Amazing first round as Kongo did drop Cain early, but he bounced right back up and then just DOMINATED the rest of the round. You have to go 10-8 Velasquez I think.
Second round and Cain comes charging out early and lands a right hand. He keeps pushing forward, but again walks into a straight right, this time dropping face-first! Like before though he recovers INSTANTLY and clinches, with Kongo now trying the takedown. Cain easily stuffs it though and uses a whizzer to transition into a single leg, putting Kongo down again. Kongo turtles and takes more hammer fists and now he’s clearly slowing down. Big knee to the body lands for Cain as he controls the Frenchman before rolling him over and mounting him. Big elbows land for Cain and Kongo gives his back and gets flattened out. Again Kongo turtles up, but Cain pins him into the fence and continues to land blows. Kongo does well to stand, but again he’s taken down and Cain easily passes to side mount. Kongo keeps moving and turns onto his side, but he takes more shots to the head and another knee to the body. All Kongo seems capable of now is turtling up, and Cain even drags him across the mat before landing with knees to the body and more shots to the head. Kongo is a tough guy but how much more of this he can take I don’t know. He rolls again but winds up under side mount and then full mount, where Cain lands more punches to end the round. Got to be 10-8 for Cain Velasquez again.
Between rounds Kongo’s corner (Michael Bisping, Zach Light) tell him Cain is getting tired, which seems to be wishful thinking as Cain’s actually pacing up and down in his corner, not even sitting on his stool or breathing heavily, his cardio is so good. This guy is incredible.
Third round and Cain stalks forward, taking some punches from the Frenchman with little effect before going for the takedown. Kongo looks for a takedown of his own and almost gets it, but Cain pops right back up and takes the back. More hammer fists land as Kongo turtles up, and you could make an argument for stopping this now as Kongo isn’t really defending, but he’s not overly hurt so really I guess he’s fine to continue. Velasquez is scarily relentless with his ground-and-pound here. Kongo tries to get up but gets dragged right back down, and ends up turtled as more punches land. Kongo finally manages to work to his feet and this time he does avoid a takedown and manages to land some knees to the gut of Velasquez. Cain loks hurt for a second but then quickly recovers as Kongo tries a combination, and drops and takes him down again. Cain gets to side mount and gets a crucifix to rain some more punches down, but Kongo escapes that and ends up stuck in regular side mount. Full mount from Cain now and he lands more punches and elbows and Kongo shows incredible heart by trying to punch from the bottom. Fight ends with Cain in firm control, landing shot after shot, and I’d score that 30-24 for Cain Velasquez if I’m judging.
No scores but it’s a unanimous decision for Cain Velasquez. Fight basically went as I expected as although Cain wasn’t able to finish Kongo, the Frenchman had no answer to Cain’s takedown and ground skill and just couldn’t get out from under him or escape the relentless ground-and-pound. Still, Kongo showed tremendous heart, and by rocking Velasquez about three times and staying in the fight for as long as he did, it made for a very exciting bout that was probably the best heavyweight fight in the UFC since Nogueira-Sylvia over a year beforehand.
Some fans online questioned Velasquez after this, but I honestly think they were on hard drugs, as they called into question his chin – I mean lord, the guy took clean blows from CHEICK KONGO, who is probably the best striker in the whole division, and he recovered instantly and walked right through them. Not only that, but he was able to totally dominate Kongo for the full fifteen minutes despite only having five professional fights coming into this, the longest being like seven minutes. For such an inexperienced guy to be able to just whitewash a top contender like Kongo speaks volumes for his ability I think, and for me Velasquez is quite clearly the top prospect in the world at Heavyweight and I don’t see anyone preventing him from taking the title in 2010 – the pace he sets is just too torrid for the larger HWs to keep up with I think and while he doesn’t quite have the concussive power of a Carwin or Lesnar in his punches, pretty soon he’ll hone his submission game or start really using his elbows, and when that happens I think the guy is going to be near unstoppable.
Decent main event in terms of a stylistic match and two exciting fighters, but man, I do not like Catchweights. With Silva claiming he was coming down to 185lbs later in the year, and Franklin fighting primarily at 205lbs these days, I guess 195lbs made sense, but I just don’t like the idea of that sort of thing as it’ll end up encouraging more weight classes which I think would be bad for the sport as a whole.
Ignoring that issue, while this wasn’t one of the talked-about PRIDE/UFC clashes from back in the glory days of 2003-2005, mainly because the fighters were in different weight classes, it was still interesting. On paper I was giving most of the advantages to Franklin – technical striking, ground game, and with the questions surrounding Silva possibly being shot as a top-level fighter then the fight appeared to favour the former Middleweight champ. But with Silva still possessing vicious power in his strikes, reckless aggression, and the best killer instinct in MMA, then it was easy to envision a victory for either man.
We get started and both men look tentative to begin, throwing a lot of feints out as neither appear to want to make the first move. Glancing left hand lands for Franklin. Good left-right combo from Franklin and he follows with a body kick. Wanderlei throws a high kick that misses. His aggression levels look way down from his usual standards here. Good body kick from Franklin but Wanderlei trips him down to guard. Little happens from the guard as Franklin does a good job of controlling Silva’s posture, but a couple of good shots do get through for the Brazilian. Silva stands up to look to drop punches, but Rich slips out and gets to his feet, then gets his own takedown and passes to half-guard, where he lands some punches. Mount from Franklin and then he takes the back and lands some good punches as Silva gets to his feet. They break off and Wanderlei wades in and eats a body kick as the round ends. He’s cut over his right eye too. 10-9 for Rich Franklin.
Into the 2nd and Wanderlei looks a little more aggressive and lands a body kick. Franklin looks fresher though, and he’s moving around better than Silva. Nice right hand and a glancing head kick land for Rich and he manages to avoid a wild trade. Striking exchange continues and Franklin is really landing the better blows here, hitting Wandy with a left hand and another kick to the body. Wanderlei steps in, but a short right hand to the chin drops him. He pops back up right away though and doesn’t look badly rocked or anything. Another body kick lands for Rich and he catches Wanderlei with a counter-combo too as Silva swings a bit wildly. Franklin is beginning to pick Silva apart with the body kick and the combos now. With a minute to go though Wandy catches him with a big right hook to the top of the head, and Rich looks a bit wobbled! Silva starts to stalk forward, swinging wildly, and he lands with another right hand that buckles Franklin! Franklin looks hurt as Wanderlei swarms on him, and drops for a takedown, but Silva defends it. Rich manages to push him away though and looks to recover. Both men look exhausted at this point too. Head kick from Franklin stuns Wanderlei but Franklin drops to the ground too. They come back up and both men swing punches, looking very tired. Round probably goes to Silva as despite Rich doing better in the early part, he was definitely in trouble late on.
Third and final round and both men are swinging a little wilder now, probably due to exhaustion. Good leg kick from Wanderlei. Pair of left hands and a body kick stun Silva but he stays in the pocket and fires right back. This is turning into quite the fight. Good left hand lands for Franklin as it looks like he’s beginning to pick Silva off again. Kick lands low but Silva recovers quickly and decides to continue. WILD TRADE follows with both men landing and Franklin looks a bit wobbled again. They clinch and Silva lands a knee, then waves for the crowd to pop as they break. Silva really pushes the action now, trying to draw Rich into a shootout, but Franklin is moving around well and countering. This is a close fight actually. One minute to go and Silva waves Franklin on and then comes forward swinging WILDLY, and we’ve got a shootout!! Rich looks alright though and gets a takedown, but Silva quickly pops back up. Fight ends with Franklin holding a waistlock and punching, while Silva fires backward elbows towards Rich. Insane finish to a very good fight.
I’d score it 29-28 Franklin, giving him the first and the third round, but the third could go to Wanderlei so it’s very close. Judges score it for Franklin, again not announcing the scores. Don’t know what’s up with that.
Post-fight Franklin says he was trying to avoid going to a decision, and puts Wanderlei over as a warrior before admitting he saw black a few times in the second round. Silva then tells Rogan that the most important thing is putting on exciting fights for his fans, and puts over the German crowd before dodging a question about the weight cut to put over Zuffa. Ha, gotta love Wanderlei the Company Man.
Well, that started off a bit slowly but turned into a hell of a fight by the end, and despite losing, this time Silva didn’t look like a shot fighter as while Franklin did pick him apart a bit, he remained dangerous throughout and you could make an argument for him winning that fight, too. Not much more to say really as at this stage in their careers I don’t think either man is going to really push for a UFC title, so to see them putting on exciting ‘superfights’ like this is all you can ask for really. Bravo to both guys.
-And we end with a highlight reel, definitely a good show for the German crowd.
In my opinion UFC 99 is one of the best shows of 2009 thus far. Only Fisher-Uno stands out as being a bit of a dull fight, and everything else ranges from decent to really, really good, particularly Etim-Buchholz, Velasquez-Kongo, Hardy-Davis and Franklin-Silva. Even the lesser prelims like Hathaway-Story and Struve-Stojnic were excellent fights. Nothing here stands out as an outright classic, and the lack of a title fight or anything historically important (the biggest deal was the ascension of Velasquez really) means it’s not a classic show like say, UFC 40, 52 or 84, but I’d certainly put it in the tier just below those sort of shows. Two thumbs up for this one.
Best Fight: Etim-Buchholz
Worst Fight: Fisher-Uno
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 100-105, Fight Night 19, TUF IX Finale
Affliction: Banned and Day Of Reckoning
Strike Force: Diaz vs. Shamrock, Shields vs. Lawler, Carano vs. Cyborg and Fedor vs. Rogers
King of the Cage: Various shows