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UFC 105: Couture vs. Vera review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on March 13, 2010, 10:12 AM

UFC 105: Couture vs. Vera

Manchester, England

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

-This was, incidentally, my third live UFC, and after the somewhat disappointing UFC 89 (though to be fair, the live experience was awesome) I was hoping for a stronger show here.

Lightweight Fight: Andre Winner vs Roli Delgado

Weird stuff here. For some reason completely unknown to me, this fight isn’t actually on the DVD. And it’s not like I’m watching a shady pirate copy or anything – this is the official FightDVD release. Don’t know if they just made a botch-up or something or what. It’s not even listed on the back cover despite being aired live on the televised portion of the show! Maybe Roli demanded royalties like a crap Jesse Ventura?

Anyway. Basically from what I remember from being there live, Dre got a big pop being the first Brit to fight and he was waaay too fast for Delgado in the striking department. Like on another level entirely. After managing to recover from a sick right hook that put him down early, Roli eventually got caught with a brutal right that knocked him into next week. Dre pounced with RUTHLESS AGGRESSION. But don’t listen to me. Let this image show you.


Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alexander Gustafsson vs Jared Hamman

Live, neither guy was really known by the crowd and so the arena was pretty quiet for this one. Hamman had come over from the dead Elite XC promotion where he’d managed to win two of his three fights, avenging his lone career loss in the process, while Gustafsson, a young up-and-comer from Sweden, had won his first eight fights. I didn’t even make a pick here as I knew so little about both men.

First round gets started and Hamman comes out aggressively, as they trade some wild strikes early on. Overhand right from Hamman and these guys are REALLY swinging. Ref steps in on an accidental eye poke from Gustafsson and then off the restart the Swede NAILS him with a straight right down the pipe! Hamman is down and he looks done, and sure enough some more shots on the ground stiffen him up.

Replay seems to show Hamman’s mouthpiece go flying, but it’s actually GUSTAFSSON’S mouthpiece as he spat it out because he knew it was over. Maybe it was uncomfortable or something? Who knows. Impressive debut for the Swede and I look forward to seeing what’s next for him.

Lightweight Fight: Paul Kelly vs Dennis Siver

The German kickboxer Siver had seen a surprising resurgence in his UFC career in 2009, beating both Nate Mohr and Dale Hartt in succession. Scouser Kelly meanwhile had dropped to 155lbs and defeated Roli Delgado, and was looking for another solid win here. Naturally, being a German, Siver got a ton of crowd heat (well, as much as you can get for a prelim) while Kelly got a big pop from the Manchester crowd.

Kelly comes out aggressively to begin the first round, but Siver draws first blood by landing a high kick and a left hook to counter. Few good counters land for the German as he looks to use a front kick to keep his distance. Kelly keeps pushing forward though and then clinches and looks for a takedown. He almost gets Siver off his feet and then grabs a front headlock as the crowd yell for knees. Couple of them do land to a big pop but the ref calls a break. Nice body kick from Siver as Kelly comes forward. He’s countering really well here, playing off Kelly’s aggression nicely. Some more counterpunches land and Kelly seems to stumble for a second. Nice superman punch from Kelly and he follows with a takedown, but Siver pops right back up. Superman punch almost lands again for the Scouser. Left hook from Kelly but a leg kick lands for Siver. Kelly keeps pushing forward but Siver is getting the better of these exchanges. Pair of hard left hooks crack Kelly as he steps forward. Siver’s angles are working well. Couple more front kicks from Siver. Good uppercut from Kelly and with seconds remaining he hits a nice charging takedown to half-guard. Siver works a butterfly guard back in and that’s the round. Impressive stuff from Siver, 10-9 for the German.

2nd round and Kelly looks a little more settled now. Superman punch misses though and Siver lands the left hook again. Spinning back kick glances off Kelly’s chest. Striking exchange continues with Siver still countering well. Flying knee from Kelly but Siver looks for a single leg off it and they scramble back to their feet. Both men miss power hooks and then Siver glances a front kick off Kelly’s chin. Superman punch misses for Kelly and Siver lands the left hook again. BIG SPINNING BACK KICK lands directly to the liver, dropping Kelly out of nowhere! Siver pounces and looks to finish, but Kelly manages to get to guard. Siver stands out of it though and Kelly can’t get to his feet. Ref ought to stop this. Instead he allows Siver to kick the legs and then forces Kelly to get up, and from there Siver swarms on him for the finish.

Really bad refereeing job for the ending; Kelly was clearly done after that kick and there was no need to let him try to continue, no matter how tough a guy he is. DVD doesn’t show it but post-fight Kelly got carried out of the cage with a bucket in front of him in case he was sick, and ended up with an abdominal contusion. Extremely impressive performance from Siver and hey, not many guys can say they finished two UFC fights in a row with a spinning back kick, can they? In fact Zuffa should replace the clip of Loiseau’s spinning kick in the Baba O’Riley video with this one, as it was equally as flashy and Siver’s still with the company.

Welterweight Fight: Nick Osipczak vs Matthew Riddle

I was looking forward to this one just as much as any fight on the card really, as I’d become a big fan of ‘Slick Nick’ during his TUF 9 stint (I still argue in terms of sheer talent he was the best 170lber on that series) and Riddle just exudes charisma. Plus, both guys tend to put on exciting fights. There had been a war of words coming into this one too, with Riddle slamming Osipczak’s wrestling and Nick claiming he’d “piddle on Riddle”. Riddle also made probably the best entrance of the night too, coming out to Hulk Hogan’s Real American a few months before Tom Lawlor did it, but of course it got him titanic heat given that the show was in the UK.

We begin and Nick pushes forward with some strikes, including a pair of nice leg kicks. Big right hook misses for Riddle and then Osipczak easily avoids a telegraphed takedown from the outside. Good inside leg kick from Riddle. Action slows down a bit before a Riddle flurry forces Osipczak to cover up and allows the American to go for a double leg. Nick works to defend it and does a good job, taking some knees to the thighs as he does so, but Riddle transitions to a single and gets him down in full guard. Riddle keeps his head way low on Osipczak’s chest, and Nick begins to work him over from the bottom with some really nice elbow strikes. Riddle answers with a hard elbow of his own, snapping Nick’s head back. Osipczak continues to do a great job from the bottom with the elbows, and then we get an odd moment as Riddle decides to headbutt the chest as Nick ties his arms up. You’d have thought he would know the rules by now. Ref warns him and restarts them standing, and now Osipczak goes for a takedown of his own and then lands a left hook. Good takedown from Riddle though but again Osipczak does more work from underneath with the elbows. Armbar attempt from Nick and it looks locked in, and from there he uses it to take the back and then full mount! Riddle clings on though and the round ends there. Relatively close round but Osipczak did a little more work and came very close with that armbar, so 10-9 to him.

Round Two and Osipczak opens with a combo and catches Riddle clean with a head kick! Riddle looks stunned for a second and then goes for a clinch but Nick muscles him off. Right hand from Riddle and he follows with a leg kick, but Osipczak answers with a kick of his own and sidesteps a takedown attempt. Nice knee from Nick and Riddle responds by going for another takedown. Osipczak works to defend, but Riddle manages to get him down. Again though Riddle keeps his head low on Nick’s chest and eats elbows from underneath. Ref calls a stand-up pretty fast, and Osipczak lands a nice inside leg kick and a kick to the body. Pair of left hands send Riddle wobbling into the fence and he shoots again. Sprawl from Nick and he transitions into top position, working into half-guard. Side mount for Osipczak and he begins to land some punches as Riddle looks to be wilting. Mount attempt from Nick fails, but he lands some heavy punches in the process as Riddle gets to full guard. Nick continues to work him over with punches from the top, and then passes to half-guard. More punches land for the Brit as the round ends. Great round for Nick Osipczak and I have him up 20-18 now.

Third round and Osipczak pushes forward and lands some punches, but Riddle fires back with some knees from the clinch and an elbow. Good leg kick and body punch from Nick. Nick continues to walk him down, but Riddle shoots on a single leg and manages to drive him to the ground. Osipczak gets full guard though and the ref calls a stand-up as Riddle doesn’t do too much. Riddle looks exhausted now and takes a combo from Nick coming forward. Big right hand snaps his head back and he shoots desperately for a leg, and as Osipczak sprawls Riddle manages to spin over and get top position in half-guard. Full guard from Nick and then he hits a BEAUTIFUL sweep into top position, and slips over to full mount! Riddle looks in deep trouble as Osipczak begins to land punches and elbows, looking to finish. For a second Nick looks exhausted as well, but then he hits a second wind and opens up again, even landing a HELICOPTER PUNCH, and the ref calls it there!

Great fight and an absolutely tremendous performance from Nick Osipczak. I mean, I was rooting for him of course, but I thought Riddle would be a very difficult fight for him as he’s such a strong wrestler, but in the end all he had was his takedowns as Slick Nick outclassed him in all the other areas, including on the ground from the bottom position as he continually shifted his hips to prevent Riddle from posturing up and kept on landing the elbows from underneath. By the third round Riddle was basically gassed out and Nick finished him accordingly. This guy has all the potential in the world, and this was a great example I think too of how far British MMA has come along even since the first UFC show in the UK in 2007.

Lightweight Fight: Terry Etim vs Shannon Gugerty

In my opinion Terry Etim is probably pound-for-pound the third best fighter the UK has produced yet (behind Bisping and Hardy) and I think in a year or two he’ll probably top that list. This was his third fight in 2009, following wins over Brian Cobb and Justin Buchholz, and although I’d put Gugerty a step above both those guys (he was coming off an impressive win of his own over Matt Grice) I figured Terry would get past him too and move onto the upper echelon at 155lbs.

1st round begins as I marvel how much Gugerty looks like former opponent Spencer Fisher now he’s grown a rough beard. Both men look pretty tentative as they exchange some kicks and jabs from distance, and then Etim surprisingly looks to clinch for a takedown. Good elbow inside from Etim, but little happens and the referee breaks them up. We’re back to the striking exchange, and Etim lands a decent leg kick as both men still look like they’re trying to work out the range. Couple of solid leg kicks land for Gugerty. These guys are both looking to strike but neither man’s really landed anything significant yet. Beautiful combo lands for Etim though, left hand into a right leg kick. Gugerty continues to press forward though and he’s having some success with his own leg kicks. With seconds to go Gugerty shoots for a takedown and manages to get Etim down in full guard, but Terry uses the guard nicely and ties Shannon up, and that’s the round. Largely uneventful round actually. Probably 10-10 to be honest as neither man really asserted themselves.

2nd round and Etim looks to push the pace, coming out quickly and throwing combinations. Couple of jabs land and then a vicious leg kick clearly hurts Gugerty. Another one lands and then Etim comes up with a weird head kick variant, almost starting like a front kick before twisting into the head kick. Crowd begin to chant for Terry as he lands with another high kick and then almost takes Gugerty off his feet with another leg kick. Jesus that looked vicious. Gugerty shoots in out of desperation but Etim grabs an arm-in guillotine and REALLY cranks on it, doing it the correct way by squeezing on the neck rather than leaning back. Etim’s got a body triangle in too for more leverage and after about twenty seconds, Gugerty begins to go out, kicking his legs in a sick way before tapping out.

Sick, sick submission from Terry Etim. I always love when a guy convulses like that in a choke and you could actually see the life being squeezed out of Gugerty with the involuntary kicks and everything. Awesome stuff. First round wasn’t much but for Etim to just blow away a solid guy like Gugerty in the second round is very, very impressive and I could easily see this guy cracking the top ten this year if he continues to improve at this rate. His brand of nasty Muay Thai and an ever-improving, dangerous ground game makes him a breath of fresh air in a division full of ‘Wrestleboxers’ like Griffin, Maynard, Sherk and Edgar too.

Welterweight Fight: John Hathaway vs Paul Taylor

Always interesting to see a match between two Brits on one of these cards, but this one really seemed a pretty foregone conclusion as Taylor, despite being one of the best strikers out there in the Welterweight division, has always struggled with larger, stronger ground-based guys, and Hathaway is a surprisingly great wrestler for a UKer – even outwrestling a good collegiate guy in Rick Story in the fight before this one. So on paper – no pun intended – this was a tailor-made match for Hathaway and I expected him to grind out the victory.

We begin and Taylor dances around and throws a couple of combos, but Hathaway quickly drops for a takedown and gets it, putting Taylor down in guard. Some solid elbow strikes to the body and head land for Hathaway and he stays right on Taylor as he manages to use the fence to escape to his feet. Hathaway hits a single leg though and spins him around back down into guard. Taylor uses a high guard, but Hathaway easily pulls out of it and continues his ground-and-pound. Ref calls a stand-up and this time Taylor stuffs a takedown and lands a right hand. Hathaway keeps coming forward though, forcing Taylor into the fence, and from there he gets a slam to guard. Taylor uses the fence to escape to his feet again, but Hathaway quickly brings him back down and lands some punches over the top. Strong elbows from Hathaway and he keeps Taylor firmly down as the round ends. 10-9 Hathaway as this fight is going exactly the way I suspected it would.

Round Two and they exchange low kicks, but Taylor tries a body kick and gets taken down. Hathaway goes to work right away with the elbows again, cutting Taylor open now. Hathaway even busts out the classic GSP trick of slamming Taylor’s head into the mat. Hathaway throws in some nasty elbows to the body too, which is always an underused tactic. Big elbows continue to land for Hathaway as he channels his inner Tito Ortiz circa 2001. Taylor is taking a serious beating here. Taylor tries to kick him off and then rolls for a leglock, but it’s to no avail as Hathaway slips out and continues to pound on him. VICIOUS ELBOWS from Hathaway and you could probably make a case for stopping this now as Taylor is barely even defending. Seconds to go and it looks like Taylor’s eyes are beginning to close up as Hathaway is just smashing him. Somehow Taylor manages to survive the round but you have to wonder if there’s much point at this stage. 10-8 for John Hathaway.

Round 3 and Taylor throws some combos, but Hathaway quickly closes the distance, grabs hold of him and drags him to the ground again. Taylor works from side mount to full guard, but Hathaway looks content to work with the elbows from there anyway. And from there it’s the second round all over again as Hathaway mauls him with elbows and punches. To Taylor’s credit he continues to try to sweep, or wall-walk to his feet but Hathaway looks too strong for him and keeps him firmly planted on his back. This is one of the worst ground-and-pound beatings I can recall in a long time. Brutal elbows to the body from Hathaway and that just opens up Taylor’s head for more abuse. This guy is like a British Tito Ortiz, no interest in passing, he’s just content to bash Taylor from inside the guard. Buzzer sounds and this fight is mercifully over. I have this 30-25 for Hathaway with the last two rounds being 10-8.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27, 30-26 for John Hathaway. Undoubtedly one of the most one-sided beatings I can ever recall seeing over three rounds in the Octagon. Taylor just had no answer for the takedowns, strength, and ground-and-pound of Hathaway and the Hitman responded in kind by feeding him non-stop elbows for fifteen minutes, showing great positioning and awesome cardio throughout. Next up for him is apparently Diego Sanchez in a fight that I think is probably a bit too much of a step up for him, but if he can beat Diego then who knows how far this guy can go? He’s almost certainly the best fighter the UK has ever produced from a wrestling standpoint and Diego’s takedown defense hasn’t looked stellar lately. That’s one fight I can’t wait for. As for this one, it was entertaining for the most part but became a bit difficult to watch later on as Taylor took such a nasty beating.

Lightweight Fight: Ross Pearson vs Aaron Riley

First fight of the televised card and on paper this was a tremendously tough fight for TUF 9’s Lightweight winner Pearson, as rather than baby him against a weak opponent he was faced with longtime veteran Aaron Riley, a guy who’d been in there with the likes of Yves Edwards, Robbie Lawler and Jorge Gurgel. Based on his TUF showing Ross had a ton of heart and some potential, but in my opinion this was potentially too much, too soon for him. I took Ross by decision based on his great cardio, but the threat of a Riley win spoiling the night for the crowd was certainly there. Oh, and these guys made two of the better entrances of the night – Riley to Ready Steady Go from the Collateral soundtrack, and Pearson channelling his inner UBEREEM with I Gotta Feeling.

First round gets underway and they circle, throwing some feints, with Pearson landing a short right hand. Another right lands for Ross, followed by a leg kick. Nice combo from Pearson, ending with a left high kick. They clinch and Ross uses a plum to control Riley, landing some knees before hitting him with an uppercut and a hard right from close range. Crowd begin to chant for Ross as he lands some heavy knees inside followed by a crisp combination. Nice elbow and some more knees break and then he lands a left hand. Pearson is looking awesome so far. Big knee, elbow, and left hook have Riley on the retreat. Nice body kick follows for the TUF winner. Riley pushes forward but walks into a superman punch, countered by a body kick. Beautiful combo from Pearson puts Riley firmly on his back foot and this is one of the first times I can recall seeing Riley totally dominated on his feet. Big head kick narrowly blocked by Riley. Pearson grabs the clinch again and works him over with some more knees, before breaking and landing another combination to end the round. Incredible round for Ross Pearson, 10-9.

2nd round and Ross opens up with a straight right before grabbing the clinch and forcing Riley to the fence. Knees follow before Riley tries a takedown, but Ross blocks it and almost eats a high kick. They clinch again and Riley lands a solid elbow, but Pearson opens up with some knees and a right hand. They break off and Pearson stalks forward, landing a left hook and a pair of hard rights. Another left hook lands for Ross in an exchange. Big knee from the plum clinch lands and Riley tries to tie him up. Another knee from Pearson breaks. Another combo from the TUF winner. Riley swings into a clinch but Ross quickly breaks and lands a pair of high kicks. Man, Pearson is just tearing Riley up with his striking. Into another clinch for Riley and he lands a knee, but Ross breaks with some swift uppercuts. Another combo puts Riley on the retreat. One minute to go and Pearson continues to chase Riley around, landing strikes. Plum clinch again and he lands a knee and then a BIG FLYING KNEE that busts Riley’s nose open. Uppercuts follow to break and the ref calls time, as blood is POURING from the nose. This looks like a bad gash. Replay confirms the flying knee did the damage, and the doctor checks Riley over and stops the fight. Referee Marc Goddard’s reaction is hilarious, too – “Oh, shit, that’s gotta go”.

Tremendous showing from Ross Pearson as he lived up to his nickname of ‘The Real Deal’. Riley had stood with the likes of Robbie Lawler and Spencer Fisher before, holding his own, and he beat Jorge Gurgel in an exciting stand-up fight, but Ross just came in and tore right through him, landing combinations at will, particularly from inside the clinch where he did most of the damage with knees and short uppercuts. I’ll be honest and say I never thought Pearson had that kind of talent, but then iron sharpens iron and training with strikers like Paul Daley and Dan Hardy at the Rough House gym will make you improve fast. This was a one-sided beatdown for the most part but man was it entertaining as Ross’s striking was so sharp and on point. Can’t wait to see him fight again, that’s for sure.

Welterweight Fight: James Wilks vs Matt Brown

Like Pearson, Wilks had won the TUF 9 tournament in his division and like Pearson he was presented with a very tough opponent for his first post-TUF fight in TUF 7’s Matt Brown, who had won three of his own post-TUF fights and came just a hair away from beating a really strong contender in Dong Hyun Kim. Still, Wilks had looked impressive on TUF and hadn’t really been tested even by the tough veteran Damarques Johnson, and so I ended up flipping a coin for my pick, which told me to take Wilks. On a side note, it was interesting that Wilks didn’t get a crowd pop anywhere near the level of Pearson, or even Winner or Osipczak on the undercard, which would suggest that despite being a Brit, because he’s a US-based guy as opposed to a Rough House or Wolfslair brethren he isn’t all that popular.

Round One and both men come out aggressively, looking to push the action. Clinch from Brown and he forces Wilks into the cage, but Wilks grabs a bodylock and looks for a takedown. Good uppercuts inside from Wilks but Brown counters with an elbow. Wilks drops for a takedown and Brown blocks it nicely, but Wilks transitions to a rear waistlock and hops onto his back. Nice. Brown uses wrist control to shake him off and turns into him, grabbing a guillotine attempt as Wilks looks to get him down. Referee breaks them as they stall a bit and Brown lunges in with a superman punch and a high kick that misses. Takedown attempt from Wilks but Brown works to stuff it, leaning up against the cage. Referee breaks them again and Wilks lands with a high kick and an uppercut to back Brown up. Wilks closes in and gets the clinch again, but he still can’t get Brown off his feet. Brown grabs another guillotine to defend the takedown and looks to transition to the power guillotine ala Donald Cerrone, but Wilks manages to trip him down and pops his head free. Brown tries for a kimura, and uses it to work back to his feet, and the round ends with Brown breaking the clinch and taking a leg kick. Very close round to score, but I think I’d probably go with Wilks because he seemed to be the aggressor. 10-9 for James Wilks.

Into the 2nd and Brown opens with a beautiful leg kick, but takes some jabs from Wilks. High kick from Brown is just about blocked, but he follows with a BIG FLYING KNEE that decks Wilks! Brown pounces and looks to finish, but Wilks manages to tie him up in his guard and then rolls for a leglock! Brown defends, and lands some hammer fists, but Wilks keeps working for the leg and falls back for a heel hook. Brown manages to slip free, but Wilks gets on him and forces him into the cage. Brown looks like he’s outmuscling Wilks now which may be due to Wilks not being recovered from that knee. They separate before Brown grabs a clinch to land a pair of knees and an elbow. Wilks’s eye looks badly marked up as Brown lands another knee from close range. Wilks goes for the takedown again, but Brown tries to hook up the kimura ala Karo Parisyan. Wilks avoids and they come up into a regular clinch with Brown looking to muscle Wilks down now. Referee calls a clean break and they exchange strikes, but Brown gets the better of it and lands a HARD combo that rocks Wilks badly. Wilks stumbles and desperately goes for a leg, but Brown stuffs it and lands some punches to the head. Brown looks to drop for a D’Arce, and then sprawls out as Wilks drives for the takedown again. Brown looks to spin to the back, but Wilks hits a beautiful sweep and winds up on top in side mount! Wilks traps the arm for the Hughes crucifix, but Brown slips his arm free and now the action slows down a little. Good job from Brown to regain full guard, and the round ends with Wilks trying to land punches, before he drops RIGHT into a tight triangle on the buzzer! Damn that was bad luck for Brown. Great round but it clearly goes to Matt Brown, so I have this even going into the third, with the advantage in damage to Brown.

Round Three and they exchange some kicks before Brown stuffs a single leg. Combo from Brown lands cleanly again. Brown pushes forward into the clinch and he lands some knees inside, but Wilks manages to work to a rear waistlock again. Kimura attempt from Wilks now and he twists it right up and drops to guard, and Brown looks in trouble now. Brown defends it well, putting his arm between his own legs to defend, but Wilks works and manages to free it, and it looks locked, but Brown manages to slip out from the guard and escapes to his feet. Wilks looks for a takedown, but Brown grabs another guillotine and uses it to sweep to mount, and from there Wilks turns his back and Brown lands a flurry of punches for the stoppage.

Hell of a fight but once Brown landed that flying knee I don’t think Wilks was ever able to get fully back into the fight and it seemed like only a matter of time before Brown finished him. Another impressive win for Matt Brown, who seems to have improved tenfold since his stint on TUF, which just goes to show that just having the opportunity to train with top guys on the reality show can help turn around a fighter’s career, as Brown was little more than a journeyman prior to TUF and now he’s looking more dangerous with each and every fight.

Middleweight Fight: Michael Bisping vs Denis Kang

Speaking of tough comeback fights, after his devastating loss to Dan Henderson at UFC 100 – the first time Bisping had ever been stopped in a fight – he wasted no time in jumping right back on the horse and apparently demanded a difficult opponent from matchmaker Joe Silva. When Wanderlei Silva was unavailable, he ended up being presented with Denis Kang – an equally tough guy with less upside for Bisping as he’s pretty much unknown to the casual fans. While Kang hadn’t looked great in his UFC run to this point, he’s a guy who, to me, has all the potential and skills to be top five, if not top three in the world at 185lbs, and I saw this as his chance for a coming-out party. Despite being behind Bisping firmly during the show, I was fully expecting Kang to blitz him early on to take the win and deflate the crowd. And speaking of crowd, live, the reaction for Bisping was DEAFENING, even blowing away the pop he got at UFC 70 last time he fought in Manchester. It’s amazing how big of a star he’s become over the last few years.

Fight gets underway and they circle and throw some strikes from distance, looking to find their range. Leg kick by Kang but Bisping catches it and throws a right that Kang just avoids. Bisping pushes forward, but a short right hook clips him and puts him on the deck! Bisping manages to recover instantly to get half-guard, but Kang works to pass and he slips into side mount. Great hip escape from Bisping to regain half-guard but Kang continues to work to pass and he almost works to mount, but Bisping sticks a knee in and keeps half-guard. Full mount for Kang but another hip escape puts him back in half-guard. Bisping’s defensive moves from the bottom are looking good here. Kang works to full mount again though, but once more Bisping scrambles from the bottom and gets half-guard. Full guard for Bisping now and he looks for an armbar, but Kang manages to avoid it. Another armbar attempt looks deeper, but Kang uses it to pass to side mount. Bisping again right away escapes to full guard though. Kang moves to half-guard, and the round ends there. Well, Bisping showed good defensive skill there but the round still goes to Denis Kang, 10-9.

Bisping looks pretty annoyed between rounds, apologising to the camera on his way into the corner.

Round Two and Bisping pushes the action, missing with a couple of high kicks. Couple of good jabs land for Kang and then he lands a right hook. Kang looks to be finding his rhythm now. Bisping goes for a takedown and gets it, putting Kang on his back in guard. Bisping stands over him to drop some hard punches, and suddenly the tide looks to be turning as Kang is cut up from the ground-and-pound. Kang manages to roll to his feet, but he looks hurt and Bisping pushes forward and hits a double leg! Bisping works with the punches and elbows again, landing some heavy shots, and Kang rolls over into the turtle position and takes some more punishment. He gets to his feet, but he’s clearly hurt now and his face is a MESS. Kang tries to land the right hand again, but Bisping stalks forward and shoots again, getting another takedown, and from there he lands some heavy ground-and-pound! Kang looks to be in deep trouble as he spins and ends up turtled against the fence, and from there Bisping BRINGS THE PAIN with more shots! Kang wobbles to his feet, but gets put back down with a knee and Bisping rains down more punishment and IT’S ALL OVER!

Wow. After a dodgy first round Bisping just came roaring back in the second there and put on what was probably the best performance of his career, taking over and smashing a guy who you’d have to consider the second-toughest opponent he’s ever faced behind Dan Henderson. I mean, Denis Kang is no joke regardless of some of his mental lapses, and to see Bisping overwhelm him like that just goes to show the level that the Count has reached at this point. The key here was that he used what I feel has always been the best part of his arsenal – his ground-and-pound – rather than trying to just strike with Kang, as once he started getting takedowns the fight was effectively over. If you rewatch Bisping’s earlier fights, he was always much more dangerous punching from top position (see him against Eric Schafer and Elvis Sinosic, or even earlier, against Jacob Lovstad for instance) and he seems to pack much more power there than he does when he’s standing. You didn’t see this on the television feed but live, Kang was down for AGES in the cage and was clearly quite badly hurt by the punishment he took. So yeah, tremendously fun fight to watch, especially live with the hot crowd, and definitely the most impressive showing of Bisping’s career.

Welterweight Fight: Dan Hardy vs Mike Swick

Originally Hardy had been set to fight Dong Hyun Kim in what would’ve been a pretty intriguing fight, but then the stakes unexpectedly became a lot higher when Kim dropped out with injury, as when Swick came in to replace him, Zuffa decided to make it a #1 Contender’s fight with the winner getting a shot at Georges St-Pierre’s Welterweight Title. Most fans scoffed as Swick’s list of victims at 170lbs read Josh Burkman, Marcus Davis, Jonathan Goulet and Ben Saunders, while Hardy’s were Akihiro Gono, Rory Markham and Davis as well. But to me, with GSP having beaten all the other contenders, both of these men would provide a fresh match even if they’d be going in as a huge underdog. In terms of who was going to win, I figured it would be an even fight as both men bring similar skills to the table, but due to the partisan crowd (Hardy got almost as big a pop as Bisping) and the added pressure, I went with the Outlaw via strikes after a shootout early on.

Round One begins and Swick pushes forward, but walks right into a HARD right hook from Hardy that lands flush and forces the American to grab a clinch. Swick looks to take Hardy down, but Dan stuffs it and reverses position, forcing Swick into the fence. Knee to the gut from Hardy and they muscle for position along the fence. Both men exchange some shots inside the clinch before the ref calls a break. Looks like Swick caught Hardy with an inadvertent knee to the groin. They restart and Swick quickly looks for the takedown, forcing Hardy into the clinch again, but he can’t get Dan off his feet and we’re back to square one, exchanging knees and short punches inside the clinch. They continue to muscle inside the clinch with neither man really getting the advantage, and finally with seconds to go they break and both land right hands pretty flush. Close round to call as it was such even clinch work, but I’m going for Dan Hardy based on the first shot he landed pretty much, 10-9.

Second round and Swick comes out fast, but walks into a left hook and right hand from Hardy that puts him on wobbly legs! Swick wobbles back and Hardy closes in swinging, but Swick manages to grab a clinch again. Hardy surprisingly looks for the takedown, but Swick defends and they exchange in the clinch again. Good left and right in a momentary break from Hardy, but then we’re back to the clinch. Hardy works the body with some hard left hooks, answered by some shots from Swick. They continue to exchange knees and short punches inside, with Hardy landing a solid uppercut. Good knee from Swick and he stuffs a takedown. Referee calls the break with two minutes to go and they exchange low kicks before Swick lands a glancing combination. Good counter left hook from Swick as he slips a right hand. Striking exchange continues before Hardy forces Swick into the clinch again, and then right on the buzzer Hardy wobbles him again with a right hand. 10-9 Hardy again basically due to the early punches that had Swick hurt.

Third and final round and they circle to open before Hardy lands with a leg kick and a right hook. Left hook connects twice for Swick in an exchange but doesn’t seem to have any effect. They trade shots and both men get tagged. Left hook from Hardy lands cleanly though and Swick looks out on his feet again! Spinning kick misses for Hardy but a high kick lands and Hardy wades in looking to finish, but again Swick manages to clinch and Hardy looks for the takedown again. Swick jumps to guard for a guillotine, but Hardy pops out and winds up on top in guard, working with elbows to cut Swick open. Big “HARDY” chant from the crowd as he continues to work short elbow strikes. Referee calls a stand-up as things slow down, and Swick comes in swinging but eats a left hook again. Action slows down a little as Hardy avoids a combo, and with less than a minute to go this is looking like Hardy’s fight. Swick just can’t land anything and the fight ends with another clinch, both exchanging knees. I have this 30-27 for Dan Hardy.

We’re going to the judges, and it’s a unanimous decision for Dan Hardy, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. Close fight in general thanks to the amount of clinch work, but the main difference was that when Hardy landed cleanly (and he landed more clean blows, too) he was able to hurt Swick badly and had him on dream street on three occasions, while Swick just couldn’t seem to hurt the Outlaw. Wasn’t the greatest fight of all time and it did have its dull moments, but in general this was fun as hell to watch, well, especially if you’re a partisan Brit like me. Another big win for Hardy in another fight where some (not me!) figured he was in over his head.

And man, when I first watched Hardy live at UFC 89 making his debut in a close win over Akihiro Gono, I thought he’d become a big star for the UFC in the UK ala Michael Bisping, but never did I expect him to become the #1 Contender to the Welterweight Title a little over a year later. Some fans are still scoffing that he got a title shot after beating Gono, Markham, Davis and Swick, but hey, the two guys above Dan (Fitch and Alves) already lost their title shots and out of the rest of the pack, Hardy’s picked up the most important wins. Do I think he can beat GSP? Well, no, but stranger things have happened – GSP was knocked out by Matt Serra and Dan certainly has the power in his strikes to put people away. And even if he doesn’t, well, he’s earned his spot amongst the top Welterweights in the world and he’s become the first Brit to capture a UFC title shot. Who could complain about that?

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Randy Couture vs Brandon Vera

After two losses – to Lesnar and Nogueira – at Heavyweight, this was Couture’s first fight back at 205lbs since his 2006 loss to Chuck Liddell prior to his initial “retirement”. On paper it was win-win for Zuffa as either Randy would win and rebuild himself for a title run at 205lbs, or Vera would win and cement himself as the star he always seemed en route to becoming in his early UFC days. Most people were picking Couture as Vera hadn’t looked all that great since dropping to 205lbs outside of his victory over an overmatched Mike Patt, but personally I was going for the Truth for a few reasons. Firstly that his Thai boxing and striking in general is superior to Randy’s, secondly that his Greco-Roman game is underrated and I figured he could neutralize Randy’s clinch, and thirdly that I’m not a big fan of Randy since the whole debacle surrounding him walking away from the UFC and I’ve always loved Vera. So I took Vera via strikes in the second round. And live, I seemed to be pretty much the only person shouting for him while the rest of the crowd chanted for Randy. Bastards.

We get underway and Vera comes out aggressively with a left high kick and a big right hand! Vera grabs a plum clinch and looks for some knees, but Randy muscles him into the fence and leans on him. Randy drops for the takedown, but Vera shows some tremendous base to stuff it, and little happens aside from some knees being exchanged. Referee Marc Goddard calls the break, but Randy immediately grabs the clinch again ands we’re back to the same position. Takedown from Couture but Vera immediately posts up and gets back to his feet. Randy hasn’t landed anything significant yet. He keeps looking for the takedown, but I guess he underestimated Vera’s wrestling as he can’t get him down for love or money. Probably money knowing Couture. Goddard calls the break again but Randy grabs him instantly, and the round ends in another clinch where zero happens. Shitty round to score as Couture did nothing but clinch and hold, but I guess it has to go to him for cage control alone, so 10-9 Couture.

Round Two and Vera opens with a left kick to the body, but paws at Couture’s eye and the ref calls time to let him recover. They restart and a good knee to the body lands for Vera as he steps in. Good job from Vera of avoiding a clinch and he lands with another kick to the body, but Randy manages to grab hold of him and forces him into the fence again. At this point I remember becoming frustrated with this fight and mainly with Randy’s shitty tactics. They muscle for position in the clinch like in the first round, but again Couture’s not landing anything inside and he can’t get Vera down either. Referee finally separates them and Vera lands a left high kick and then a big left kick to the body. Couture looks hurt and a knee to the body and another kick drops him, and Vera pounces looking for the finish! Randy manages to get to guard to survive, and the action slows down a little from there. Ref stands them up very quickly and Vera looks for the kick, but Couture manages to grab the clinch and forces him into the cage. This time Randy manages to land a couple of solid punches inside the clinch, but nothing too damaging, and the round ends in the clinch. Easy 10-9 for Vera based on the striking and the knockdown.

Round Three and this could go either way still. Nice inside leg kick from Vera to open. Randy comes in with some decent punches and opens up on him with a combo against the fence, but then he grabs the clinch again and looks for a takedown. Vera stuffs it once more and despite landing a couple of nice uppercuts, Couture just can’t get a takedown here. We’ve got very little happening again here outside of the odd uppercut from Couture. Ref finally breaks them up and Vera hurts him again with a kick to the body. Head kick glances off Randy but the kick to the body lands again and this is doing damage. Couture tries to clinch and lands a knee, but Vera breaks, lands a couple of punches, and forces Randy into the fence. Takedown attempt now from Vera but Randy works to defend it. Vera manages to get him down though, and moves into full mount! This has to cement the fight for Vera. He can’t do much in the way of damage though as Randy holds on and gives up his back, then manages to roll to his feet. With ten seconds to go they exchange some knees and punches, and then break and trade to finish the fight. That has to be Vera’s round, giving him the win 29-28.

We’re going to the judges, and everyone pretty much thinks Vera’s won, right up until they announce it as 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, unanimous decision for COUTURE. Crowd are not happy and bear in mind, and I was there live, everyone outside of a handful of people was heavily for Couture when the fight began, which just shows what a shitty decision this was. Vera even storms out of the cage in disgust, sitting on the steps outside the Octagon wondering what the hell the judges were smoking. Me too Brandon, me too. It’s been four months since this show now and I still don’t get how Randy won this fight. I mean, to me this was a worse robbery than Machida-Shogun because at least there, if you’re arguing that Machida won, at least he actually did some damage in the rounds that he supposedly took. Here, not only did Vera deck Randy in the second round, but in the third round he landed the better strikes, got the only takedown and dominant position, and even in the first round, sure Randy got to the clinch but he did nothing with the position. So effectively Randy got the decision for being able to hold on in a clinch without doing much there, which to me is worse than a lay-and-pray victory as at least the lay-and-pray guy gets takedowns. Absolutely pathetic decision and the judges ought to hang their heads in shame, as not only did they give us a bogus decision but they robbed Brandon Vera of the biggest victory of his career. Fight was the worst of the night, too, thanks to Couture’s crap grab-and-hug tactics.

-And we roll the credits from there.

Final Thoughts....

On first watch at the arena I thought this was one of the better shows of 2009, and I still stand by that. Outside of the main event (which really, wasn’t horrible, but just felt worse due to the bogus decision) there wasn’t a bad fight on this card, and we got some real barnburners in the form of Osipczak-Riddle, Wilks-Brown, Bisping-Kang and Pearson-Riley. Throw in highlight reel finishes for Gustafsson, Siver, Etim and Winner (even though that one somehow isn’t on the DVD) and you’ve got an excellent show overall. The only thing keeping it from classic status is the lack of one truly great fight I guess, as the two big ones didn’t really live up to their promise on paper, but still, I enjoyed UFC 105 greatly, particularly as it felt like a coming out party for British MMA thanks to the huge victories from the majority of the UKers. Two thumbs up for this one.

Best Fight: Osipczak-Riddle
Worst Fight: Couture-Vera

Overall Rating: ****

Coming Soon....

UFC: 106-110, Fight Night 20, TUF X Finale
WEC: 47
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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