Croatian Pokrajac had made an unsuccessful UFC debut in September against Vladimir Matyushenko and, no offense to him, but he feels like Cro Cop’s version of Tiki Ghosn (a few years back, in loads of the UFC shows that Tito Ortiz fought on, Tiki would pop up on the undercard). Te Huna meanwhile I’d first heard of when he was supposed to be on a PRIDE card that never materialised back in 2006. Big pop for him as he’s a Maori guy and boy is he built like a tank. One of the most physically imposing guys I can think of at 205lbs. If he had the Maori facial tattoos he’d be downright terrifying!
Round One begins and Pokrajac comes out swinging, dropping Te Huna early with a short left hook! He tries to hop onto Te Huna’s back for a choke though, and the Maori manages to turn free into the Croatian’s guard. Big mistake from Pokrajac there, similar to what Justin Levens did in his fight with Scott Smith. Action slows as Pokrajac closes the guard up, but Te Huna manages to posture up and land a couple of blows. Good upkick from Pokrajac, but Te Huna works a guard pass and then lands some shots to the body. Igor manages to reclaim guard and hits him with some elbows from the bottom. Ref decides to stand them back up and Pokrajac lands a strong combination, but Te Huna closes the distance and looks for a takedown. Pokrajac counters with a standing guillotine, but Te Huna breaks his head free and forces him into the cage. Pokrajac looks for a hip throw, but Te Huna blocks it and shows some excellent takedown defense. Pokrajac breaks and lands a heavy right hook, and they trade some punches before Te Huna drops for a takedown and gets him up with a slam to guard. Doesn’t look like Te Huna wants anything to do with the stand up. Te Huna works to pass and gets into half-guard for a second, but a hip escape puts Igor back in full guard. Seconds to go now and Te Huna breaks free and lands some heavy shots from the top, hitting the Croatian with some hard elbows and hammer fists that pop the crowd big. Round ends with Te Huna on top. Close round to call but the late flurry probably gave it to Te Huna.
Second round and Te Huna quickly gets a clinch and takes a knee before going for the takedown. He forces Pokrajac into the cage and then gets a high crotch slam to half-guard. Pokrajac immediately gets to full guard, but Te Huna postures up over him and looks to drop some bombs. Good left hand from the top from Te Huna. Te Huna continues to work from the top but the ref decides to restart them standing. Good knee and a right hand from Pokrajac but he gets wild closing in and Te Huna shoots for a takedown. Pokrajac works hard to stuff it, but Te Huna looks too strong and he bulls the Croatian into the cage and gets another slam to guard. Good hammer fists from the top for Te Huna as he really begins to take over with the ground-and-pound. Ref stands them up again with about a minute to go and Pokrajac comes forward swinging. Te Huna looks to fire back, but he’s getting tagged clean with punches and then Pokrajac gets a takedown of his own. Te Huna quickly works his way up, and they exchange some shots in the clinch, but Pokrajac opens up with a combo and drops him HARD with a BIG RIGHT HOOK! Te Huna looks to be in deep trouble as he desperately crawls for a single leg, then takes some more heavy shots, but the buzzer goes before Pokrajac can get him out of there. Round has to go to Pokrajac for the last minute, so 19-19 going into the third.
Third and final round and Te Huna lands with a combo early. Pokrajac comes back with a right hand, but Te Huna closes the distance and they exchange uppercuts before Te Huna gets a slam to half-guard. Big pop for that one. Te Huna works to pass the guard and then looks for a keylock, but he can’t quite lock it up. He does use it to pop free of the guard though, and then he takes the back. Te Huna slips though and Pokrajac manages to explode to his feet, and now he looks for a takedown of his own. Te Huna defends and then works a takedown of his own, landing in side mount before Pokrajac scrambles to guard. Crowd begin to chant “JAMIE!” as he lands some punches from the top, and then manages to stay on top as Pokrajac looks to kick him off. Te Huna works some short elbows and then passes into half-guard, where he traps the arms and begins to land unanswered shots to the face. Pokrajac actually looks okay and tries to give a thumbs up, but he’s not defending himself at all and the ref steps in to stop it there.
Replay confirms the punches weren’t doing that much damage, but the rules state that you must intelligently defend yourself, and giving the thumbs up to the ref doesn’t constitute that so I don’t think Pokrajac can complain. Good win for Te Huna in a decent little fight, but I think he’s going to need to work his stand-up some more if he wants further success as he won’t get takedowns at will on the upper echelon like he was able to here. Still, definitely has potential.
This was Croatian Reljic’s return to action following an insane 21-month layoff after back surgery and how he made 185lbs given he looked shredded at 205lbs in his debut I don’t know. Maybe he lost muscle after the surgery? Anyway despite the possibility of ring rust being a factor I was taking him to beat the Doberman as I figured while Dollaway could take him down, Reljic had the advantage standing and likely on the ground as well as prior to KOing Wilson Gouveia he was more known as a grappler while CB’s submission defense had been lacking sometimes.
Fight begins and they circle with little action early outside of Dollaway throwing a surprising high kick. Good leg kick from Reljic, landing to the calf in fact. High kick misses for the Croatian. Dollaway fires back with a good body kick, but appears to hurt his leg in doing so and ends up covering up to avoid a flurry, before missing a takedown and winding up on his back in a butterfly guard. Dollaway quickly gets to his feet, and covers up again to avoid another flurry. Hard body kick is blocked by CB, but he lands with another leg kick. Suddenly Dollaway comes back with a one-two and a HARD body kick that hurts Reljic, and Dollaway grabs a guillotine and lands a big knee to break. CB chases him down, but it looks like the Croatian took an eye poke somewhere and the ref calls time. They restart and Reljic continues to throw kicks as CB looks to close in for the takedown. They end up clinched, where CB lands some knees to the body, but the ref breaks them. Good body kick and a short left hand from Reljic, but CB answers with another body kick. Takedown from Reljic but he lands in a guillotine. He frees his head quickly but Dollaway reverses position and winds up on top in the guard. Reljic pushes him off and lands a knee, but CB goes for another takedown after they exchange kicks. Good takedown from Dollaway and he looks to mount, but Reljic quickly gets guard and begins to set up for an oma plata. He gets it, but CB looks calm and works free into the guard. Good left hand and then a combo from Dollaway as Reljic escapes to his feet. Another body kick lands for CB. His striking looks much improved here and he’s actually outlanding Reljic. Round ends on the feet and goes to CB Dollaway, 10-9.
Into the 2nd and CB opens with a high kick that Reljic blocks. More kicks from Dollaway coming forward, as Reljic counters with the kick to the calf again. Takedown from Dollaway and he lands some solid elbows and punches as Reljic scrambles to get a closed guard. Reljic looks to trap an arm and turns for an oma plata, but CB escapes, allowing Reljic to his feet in the process. Head kick misses for CB. Good body kick from Reljic. Dollaway comes back with a right hand into a brief clinch that they break quickly. Both men land hard kicks to the body. Dollaway closes in, but eats a hard right hand and then decides to shoot, getting a takedown to guard. Some good punches land for the Doberman as Reljic gets pinned against the cage, and he passes into half-guard. Reljic tries to isolate the right arm again, but this time CB slips free easily and drops a heavy hammer fist. Armbar attempt from Reljic now and it looks deep, but Dollaway pops free and remains on top. Reljic works to his feet, but eats a hard knee to the body and has to get on the retreat. Round ends with a trade on the feet. This is the best I’ve ever seen Dollaway look I think and I have him up 20-18 going into the third.
Round Three and Dollaway begins to stalk forward, landing the body kick again before getting a single leg to guard. Reljic tries for a guillotine but CB quickly pops his head free. Reljic is staying active with his hips from the bottom, but Dollaway manages to posture up to land some punches. Reljic tries to escape to his feet, but CB grabs a leg and lands a couple of punches before going for the takedown again. Reljic tries to get a kimura and drops for it, but CB avoids and lands on top in half-guard. Good punches from the top from the Doberman before Reljic ties him up again. They come back to their feet and exchange some knees, then break off and Reljic throws a combo before Dollaway drops for the takedown. Reljic gets a guillotine on the way down and uses it to get on top, passing into side mount. Reljic goes for the Hughes crucifix but can’t tie up the far arm, and even though he lands some elbows it looks like Reljic is running out of time. Beautiful reversal from CB puts him back on top in the guard, and Reljic works the rubber guard to no avail as the fight comes to an end. I’ve got this 30-27 for CB Dollaway.
Judges have it 29-28 all round for CB Dollaway. This was an excellent fight overall with both men having some success, but the difference seemed to be that while CB could hang with Reljic on the feet and even outstruck him at points, Reljic was unable to deal with Dollaway’s takedowns and couldn’t really do much to him on the ground when the fight went there. Whether Reljic was affected by ring rust or something I’m not sure. Dollaway though finally looked like the future contender I’d suspected he would turn into during his TUF stint in this one, and hopefully his improvement continues in his next fight.
On paper this was a surefire contender for Fight of the Night – well, that’s almost always the case when Chris Lytle’s involved, but Matt Hughes student Foster had put on two hugely exciting fights himself in his UFC tenure, losing to Rick Story before smashing Brock Larson in a very impressive performance. With that fight in mind I took Foster to use his explosive takedowns to win a decision over the veteran.
First round gets underway and Lytle misses a wild haymaker right off the bat. Foster closes in and gets a BIG TAKEDOWN, but Lytle quickly kicks him away and escapes to his feet. Low kick from Foster and he misses with a spinning wheel kick (!). Good combo from Foster as Lytle steps forward. Lytle as always is swinging for the fences and he lands with a right hand. Another combination answers for Foster but doesn’t land cleanly. They trade some punches and this time Lytle snaps his head back with a left hook. Right hand from Foster and he manages to grab a rear waistlock, but Lytle rolls and flips right into a TIGHT KNEEBAR!~! Foster tries to pull out but this looks DEEP and Foster ends up tapping in a ton of pain.
Awesome finish; the kneebar is one of my favourite submission holds and this was the best one anyone’s got in the UFC in some time, especially how Lytle rolled into it. Looked like it might’ve hurt Foster quite badly too and I guess he’ll be rehabbing that for some time. Lytle continues to be the consummate gatekeeper at 170lbs and he picked up ANOTHER bonus for this one, Submission of the Night this time.
This seemed to be a pretty pivotal fight for both men as at this stage they’d pretty much cemented themselves in the mid-level of 205lbs after losses to the upper echelon and the stronger up-and-comers in the division. Pretty even fight but to me Bonnar probably had the advantage in all areas except raw power, so I took him to get his first UFC victory since beating Eric Schafer back in October 2007 (!).
Fight gets started and Soszynski comes out swinging wildly, charging into a clinch with punches. Bonnar breaks off, but pokes the Polish Experiment in the eye on the way out. Ref refuses to call time, but Bonnar walks right into a hard left hand and has to retreat. Another shot lands for Soszynski and they clinch up before Bonnar drops for a takedown. Soszynski stuffs it and eats a combo from Bonnar inside the clinch before breaking. Looks like Bonnar’s cut. Leg kick lands for Soszynski on the way out. They continue to exchange strikes and it looks like Soszynski’s getting the better of it. Hard right hook lands for him and puts Bonnar firmly on the back foot. Low kick from Krzysztof, but Bonnar catches it and gets a takedown. Soszynski quickly reverses to his feet, but Bonnar trips him back down and lands in side mount. Scramble from Soszynski allows him back to his feet, and they exchange punches to break. Combo from Bonnar into the clinch but they break quickly. Good leg kick from Krzysztof. Into the clinch and Soszynski forces him into the fence. Bonnar breaks and unloads with a flurry that has Soszynski covering up. Nice right hand counter from Bonnar as Soszynski throws a low kick. Round ends there. Soszynski got the better of the majority of the exchanges there so the round goes to him.
2nd round and they go right back to the striking exchange. Bonnar looks to work a jab now but Soszynski continues to come forward. Good combo from Bonnar to counter though. These guys are really brawling. Bonnar’s doing much better in the exchanges this round. They clinch up and muscle along the cage but neither man seems able to take the other down and they exchange punches again before Soszynski drops to attempt another takedown. Stuffed by Bonnar and now he goes for a takedown that Krzysztof stuffs. Good uppercut inside from Soszynski. Bonnar opens up with some elbow strikes to break. Both men are badly marked up now as Bonnar continues to throw the jab out. Good left hand from Soszynski backs him up though. Front kick from Bonnar. Bonnar pushing the action now but the exchanges are still pretty even. Good one-two from Soszynski. Big right hand snaps Bonnar’s head back and forces him to clinch. They muscle along the cage again before a strong combo breaks for Soszynski. Bonnar comes right back though and the exchange continues. Spinning back kick misses for Bonnar. Good body kick from Soszynski. Left hand from Bonnar and the round ends with Soszynski going down off a low kick. 10-9 Bonnar in another close round.
Third round and this could easily go either way I think. Early exchange and Bonnar goes down off what looks like a clash of heads or possibly a left hand. Bonnar’s cut badly as he comes back to his feet. Both men swing as Bonnar closes the distance and looks for a single leg, but Soszynski keeps it on his feet and there’s blood POURING from Stephan’s head now. Good combination from Bonnar and now Soszynski looks for the takedown as Bonnar works to stuff it. Combo breaks for Soszynski and this is looking like a horror movie. Ref calls time and the replay confirms it was a clash of heads that opened the cut. Doctor stops the fight, much to the horror of both Bonnar and the crowd. Looks like it’s going to be a No Contest, but the officials ask the ref what caused the cut and he claims it was a punch. Uh, dude, WATCH THE REPLAY. Fight gets awarded to Krzysztof Soszynski via TKO. Ugh. Terrible, terrible call from the referee, although it wasn’t Krzysztof’s fault at all.
Fight was a fun, energetic brawl which I guess was what Joe Silva was looking for when he matched these two up, but the ending was hugely anticlimactic and was made even worse by the bad call. I mean, why couldn’t the ref just watch the replay? This really shouldn’t be a loss on Bonnar’s record, particularly at a time when he can hardly afford another one! Thankfully they’ve been rematched pretty quickly and so hopefully the next fight will be as much fun as this one.
Weird circumstances around this one and for once, they don’t involve Cro Cop! See, he was supposed to fight Ben Rothwell here while Perosh wasn’t involved on the card at all. And on the undercard, mainly for the Australian fans and I guess as a bit of a gift to Elvis who’s a really nice guy and a great ambassador for the sport, Elvis Sinosic was supposed to fight fellow Aussie Chris Haseman. Of course, Elvis ended up separating his shoulder and got pulled from the card, and Joe Silva contacted Elvis’s longtime friend and UFC vet Perosh to replace him. Perosh starts cutting weight to make 205lbs...when Rothwell pulls out with a stomach virus I think it was. So with no other replacements available (you can’t really fly someone to Australia and expect them to fight on like two or three days notice) they decided to bounce Haseman from the card (as without Sinosic to rematch he was hardly a big deal) and moved Perosh into the Cro Cop fight. Which, as Perosh’s striking isn’t great and his takedowns aren’t much good either, seemed to be a free ticket for Mirko to probably land *that* head kick knockout that we’d been waiting for since he arrived in the UFC in 2007.
First round begins and boy are the crowd hot for this. Mirko immediately begins to stalk the Aussie around the cage as Perosh looks to close the distance for a takedown. Perosh manages to get inside and shoots, but he can’t get Cro Cop down and he eats some hammer fists for his troubles. Mirko breaks off and continues to stalk, but he actually takes a decent kick from Perosh. Takedown attempt follows from the Aussie, but Cro Cop stuffs it and lands a pair of left hands that drop Perosh onto his back. Mirko decides to let him back up and Perosh goes for the takedown again, but he just can’t get Cro Cop off his feet and Mirko breaks again. Perosh is sporting a bloody nose now as Mirko comes forward with another left hand. This time the Aussie tries to pull guard but Mirko backs right out. Left hand from Cro Cop lands again and he sprawls to avoid another takedown. Back to the feet and we get more of the same really as Cro Cop continues to stalk his prey, albeit without really hurting him too badly. Body kick from Mirko lands as Perosh continues to back up. Left hand from Cro Cop and then he sprawls to avoid the takedown again. Perosh takes some shots and then rolls to his back, and the round ends there. Dull round.
2nd round and it’s the same story as the first, with Cro Cop stalking forward and Perosh backing up around the cage. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed again and Mirko lands some more hammer fists to the head from the front facelock. They come back up and a pair of left uppercuts land nicely for the PRIDE legend. Hard body kick connects for Mirko. Couple of leg kicks answer for Perosh and he shoots again, but like before Cro Cop sprawls to avoid and lands punches from the position. Perosh rolls to his back for a second and takes some more abuse before crawling for the single. Mirko remains in the front facelock position before Perosh rolls to his back, but Cro Cop simply stands back up. Perosh swings a flurry into another takedown attempt, but it’s easily stuffed again. Same again as Perosh shoots and we’re back to the front facelock position with about a minute to go. This time Perosh rolls to his back and Cro Cop decides to enter the guard. Good elbow from Mirko opens up a nasty, nasty cut and right away Herb Dean stops it and calls the doctor in. Looks like his nose got busted up. In fact it’s a gash from the forehead down to the nose, good lord. Perosh tells the doctor he wants to fight though, popping the crowd hugely, and they decide to restart! Big right hook from Cro Cop as he pushes forward, and then Mirko sprawls to avoid another takedown and gets on top, landing some more shots that bloody Perosh further. Perosh continues to crawl for a single, but the round ends there. Wow. Cut looks horrible at this point though and the doctor decides to throw the fight out between rounds.
Talk about an anticlimactic ending. I mean, even though Cro Cop won this was hardly a convincing performance, and in fact if it weren’t for the cut I think Perosh would’ve gone the distance, which is unbelievable given how late he took the fight, the size difference, and well, nothing against Perosh, but the difference in reputation and talent too. To me, Cro Cop has a few problems in the UFC – the main one is that he can’t get to grips with the cage, and his ‘stalking’ style just doesn’t work in there as his opponents can backpedal and get out of the way far more easily than they could in a ring. Secondly, he looks larger in terms of muscle mass than he ever did and with his age too, he just doesn’t seem to have the explosive speed that he did in his heyday. Still, credit to him for trying – he could easily have stayed in Japan and fed on tomato cans for the rest of his career, and yet he’s in the UFC looking to fight the best guys in the world. Gotta respect that. This was a pretty bad fight, though.
I was really excited for this fight as I’m a huge fan of Bader’s and this was his first time stepping up to the upper echelon in the form of perennial top ten contender Jardine. Granted, the Dean of Mean was on a two-fight losing streak, but even so, he has wins over Forrest Griffin, Brandon Vera and Chuck Liddell which you can’t take away from the guy. To me on paper this match favoured Bader as Jardine had never faced a wrestler the calibre of Ryan and that’s always a very hard thing to train for, plus Bader’s hands are ridiculously heavy while Jardine’s chin had looked very shaky indeed in a lot of his fights even if technically Keith was the better striker. I expected Bader to step up to the elite level in style by stopping the Dean of Mean with strikes in the second or third round.
We get underway and Jardine looks to stay on the outside, but he nearly takes a left hook early. Bader works to close the distance and forces Jardine into the fence, and they muscle for position inside the clinch before Bader breaks off. One-two misses for Jardine. Good overhand right from Bader and he looks to swing for the fences, but Jardine gets out of the way. Both men throwing combos but neither’s landed significantly thus far. Overhand right clips Jardine and then Bader follows up with a beautiful takedown to half-guard. Jardine has a small cut on his head, but he manages to work to a butterfly guard. Bader postures up and works to half-guard again, landing a couple of short strikes. Back to butterfly guard, but Bader instantly gets back to half-guard. Crowd begin to go nuts for no real reason, and then the ref decides to stand them back up with just under a minute to go. Left hook from Bader but a right hand misses. Right lands for Jardine and then they exchange some punches to end the round. 10-9 for Bader.
Round Two begins and Bader pushes forward with an early leg kick. Good leg kick lands for Jardine to reply. Takedown attempt from Bader and he drives Jardine into the fence, but Keith does a good job of defending it and they exchange from close quarters. Good knee to break for Jardine. Left hook lands for Jardine coming forward. Takedown attempt from Bader but again Jardine defends it and ends up pressed against the fence. Bader lands some knees to the thighs as Jardine drops to one knee to avoid the takedown, but then they break off. Good one-two from Bader. Combo from Jardine backs Bader up. Good right hand from the Dean of Mean too. Bader shoots again, but Jardine sprawls well and avoids. Good combo from Jardine again. Overhand right narrowly misses for Bader. Leg kick from Jardine and he avoids the takedown again. Good body kick from Bader and both men slip down for a second before going into the clinch. Jardine muscles him off, but the round ends with a good takedown from Bader. Close round to call but I think Jardine slightly edged it, so it’s even going into the third.
Third and final round and they circle before Bader just misses a right hand. Takedown attempt from Bader but again Jardine manages to avoid and winds up pressed into the cage before breaking off. Combo from Jardine but Bader checks the leg kick this time. They exchange strikes before Bader looks for the takedown, and this time he gets on a deep double and dumps Keith to the ground. Jardine quickly reverses up though and they separate. Good combo from Jardine. Right hand from Bader drops Jardine to a knee and has him wobbly, and Bader follows up with a flying knee to the chest. Right hook misses but a BIG LEFT HAND lands on the button and KNOCKS JARDINE SILLY, folding him up like a house of cards!
Well, Bader passed the test that Jardine offered nicely, and even ended it with another highlight reel knockout, but it wasn’t a flawless performance from him – again he slowed down a lot after a strong first round, and he showed that he still needs to tighten up his striking a little – mainly avoiding putting everything into every punch which is probably the cause of said slowing down. Still, he’s still unbeaten and just beat a guy who’s been in or around the top ten since 2006, so who am I to criticise that? I still see him as the top prospect in the world at 205lbs (though Jon Jones might have something to say there...) and I still think he’ll be a future champion. As for Jardine, I think his chin is well and truly cracked now and he might need to change his style up a bit if he wants another run at the top of the division. Overall this was a pretty solid fight with a hot finish.
Naturally with this being the first card in Australia, Sotiropoulos, as the UFC’s best Australian fighter, was bound to make the main card. I expected them to throw him a stylistically good opponent – say, Spencer Fisher, a striker with weak-ish takedown defense – but instead he was matched with Joe Daddy who on paper, I figured had George trumped in all areas. I just couldn’t see a way for George to beat Joe and figured this one would deflate the Aussie crowd badly.
Crowd, interestingly, are as hot for George as the British crowd are for Bisping or the Sacramento crowd are for Faber, which is a bit surprising given Sotiropoulos hardly gets the promotional push nor the television exposure that either of those guys get. Good for him though. Another interesting note is that George is wearing long knee sleeves *and* ankle wraps, meaning the majority of his legs are covered up. If he were wearing the tight vale tudo-style trunks it’d be the closest thing you could get to Aoki’s spandex pants in US-regulated MMA.
Fight gets started and both men come out throwing punches, before George lands a nice right hook. Takedown attempt from George and Joe tries to avoid, doing a good job of defending the single. They wind up against the cage and muscle for position, before Joe ends up going down to his back. George passes to half-guard quickly but Joe Daddy slips back into full guard. George lifts him up and then passes to half-guard, where he works to get his leg free. You can just tell by watching this struggle that these guys are real top-notch grapplers. Crowd are going wild. Joe clings onto his body, but eventually George breaks free and avoids a sweep, landing some short hammer fists to the head in the process. George stands to attempt a pass, landing some solid hammer fists to the body from above, but he eats a hard upkick as he drops back down. No problem for Sotiropoulos though and he looks to pass. Joe Daddy grabs an arm triangle from the bottom, but doesn’t have any control over the body, and so George slips free and gets side mount. Full mount now for George and he lands some shots before spinning to take the back as Joe scrambles. Over/under from George and then he spins into north/south, looking for a kimura and then turning it into an armbar, but Stevenson defends extremely well and survives the round underneath George’s mount. Really eye-opening round there, 10-9 George Sotiropoulos.
Crowd are DEAFENING with a “GEORGIE” chant going into the second. Stevenson steps in but eats a left hook right off the bat. This might be the best crowd the UFC have ever had, chanting like a soccer game and everything. Good leg kick from Joe Daddy. Left hook drops him to a knee for a moment though but he pops back up right away. Exchange continues and George is getting the better of it right now. His boxing is hugely improved. Big right hand snaps Joe’s head back. Left hand lands too as George continues to counter-strike nicely. Takedown attempt from Stevenson and he gets it, but George goes right into the rubber guard to control him. He turns it into an oma plata and now Joe Daddy looks in trouble again. George tries to move away from the fence using his legs, and then uses the hold to sweep into top position, in side mount. Scramble from Joe and he goes for a single leg, working up to his feet. Joe gets him down in the guard, but again George looks for an arm. He’s pressed against the fence pretty badly though. George tries to grab his legs to bring him down, but Joe remains on top and then he drops back for an ankle lock, but George stays calm, escaping into a front facelock. He turns that into an anaconda choke and rolls...but the buzzer sounds. This is one of the best grappling-based fights I’ve ever seen in the UFC. 10-9 Sotiropoulos again but a closer round that time.
Third round and the crowd are still red hot. Good combination from George but Stevenson smiles. George is still lighting him up in these exchanges though. Single leg from Sotiropoulos but he ends up in a guillotine. He manages to slip his head free though and then tries to take an over/under, but Joe gets to his feet and looks for a single. Joe trips him down, but Sotiropoulos reverses as they go down and gets on top. Joe wall-walks back up and then breaks the clinch. Back to the striking exchange and George lands with a right hand again. Takedown attempt from Joe but George sprawls and then looks to lock up a choke. Joe Daddy avoids and continues to look for the takedown, but George jumps to guard and almost gets a sweep. Joe Daddy avoids that though and winds up in half-guard, looking for a possible top-side guillotine. George works to full guard though and then goes for the rubber guard again. Joe avoids and stands, but takes an upkick and then they come back to their feet. Good takedown from Joe and he lands in the guard, where the fight comes to an end. I’ve got this 30-27 for George Sotiropoulos.
Judges have it 30-27, 30-27 and 30-27 for George Sotiropoulos, and the crowd almost blow the roof off when the winner is announced. Holy shit. Well, I was totally wrong about how that fight would go and I’m glad in a way as it was insanely cool to see Sotiropoulos win like that in front of such a hot home crowd. Basically George was just plain better than Joe Daddy in every facet of the game, and I guess I completely underestimated him as he’s obviously far better than I’d imagined. Can’t wait to see whether he can follow this up, but hell, even if he loses every other fight in his career, he’ll always have this as a career highlight – a massive win over a top ten level fighter in front of his home country. And it was a *great* fight too with some of the best grappling exchanges in recent memory.
Alright, so after seeing him bulk up to be bigger than Cro Cop of all people in PRIDE, who would EVER have expected to see Wanderlei Silva at 185lbs in the UFC? For me this fight came down to two things – one, whether Silva could make the weight without killing himself, as if he were drained by the cut then I expected Bisping to pick him apart, and two, whether Bisping could counter-strike ala his fight with Chris Leben without being caught by a Wanderlei counter and then murdered by the follow-up barrage. Personally I didn’t understand Silva dropping to 185lbs in the first place – he’d lost to a stylistic nightmare for him in Liddell and the punch Rampage KOd him with would’ve knocked out a horse – and at 205lbs there’s plenty of guys (Luiz Cane, Thiago Silva, Forrest Griffin, Matt Hamill) who I think he’d do really well against. With that in mind I expected a drained Silva to be picked apart standing by Bisping, giving the Brit his biggest career win to date.
Pretty major staredown between these two as you’d expect. And on a side note, Wanderlei looks completely different facially after the surgery he had to repair his nose and get rid of the scar tissue around his eyes. The Michael Jackson of MMA maybe!
First round begins and both men look pretty tentative, circling around and looking to wait for the other to make the first move. Low kick lands for Bisping early. Couple of kicks glance for Wanderlei. Takedown from Bisping and he drives Silva into the fence, but Wanderlei scrambles up. Bisping quickly gets him back down, but Silva pops up again. Knee lands for Bisping to break off. Good body kick from Bisping and Silva just misses a right hand counter. Couple of jabs land for Bisping and he gets another takedown, but again Silva pushes off and gets back to his feet, breaking with a right. Leg kick lands for Wandy. Good right from Bisping. Big swing misses for Silva. And again. Leg kick connects though. Another nice leg kick from Silva. Flurry from Silva puts Bisping on the retreat, but he fires back with a solid right hand. Takedown attempt from Bisping is avoided twice by the Brazilian but he can’t counter. Flurry ends the round for Wanderlei. Close round to call actually. I’d lean towards Bisping because he landed the slightly better shots I think though, and got a couple of takedowns even if he didn’t really do much with them.
Second round and Bisping is on his bike as Silva misses with a combo. He’s landing some decent leg kicks though. Body kick from Bisping but Silva catches it and trips the other leg from under him, landing on top in half-guard. Flurry from Silva from the top, but Bisping does a good job of scrambling back to full guard. Armbar attempt from Bisping but Silva pulls out of it well and remains in the guard. Silva stands over him to try to deliver some shots, but Bisping pushes off and gets to his feet, eating a body kick on the way up. Bisping moves away and fires back with a body kick of his own. Bisping begins to push forward now but doesn’t land anything significant. Body kick from Bisping and he avoids the wild right counter from Wanderlei. Nice takedown follows from Bisping and he ends up in side mount. Good scramble from Silva though and he’s up on his feet. They exchange some punches with neither man really landing cleanly, then exchange some leg kicks. Bisping avoids a flurry and then shoots for a takedown, getting Silva down, but the Brazilian locks up a guillotine on the way down. It looks pretty tight and Silva really strains on it looking to finish...but the buzzer sounds to save Bisping. Probably Silva’s round based on the guillotine and the time he spent on top as the striking was largely even there, so 19-19 going into the third.
Third round begins and Bisping is pushing forward more now. They exchange leg kicks before Bisping lands a solid left hook. Good leg kick from Wanderlei. He follows with a nice straight right that snaps Bisping’s head back. Right hook lands glancingly for Bisping and he follows with a kick that lands south. Ref calls time and gives Silva time to recover, and they restart. Nice body kick from Bisping. Striking continues and neither lands cleanly, and then Bisping shoots on a single leg. Stuffed by Wanderlei nicely but he takes a couple of jabs. Crowd are chanting loudly for Silva now. Right hook lands for Silva. Body kick from Bisping but another takedown attempt is stuffed. Body kick answers for Wanderlei. Shot from Bisping goes errant and pokes Silva in the eye and we get time called again. They restart and Silva’s really swinging now. About a minute to go. Bisping manages to avoid the first flurry, but a straight right from Silva lands and backs him up. The Brit tries to fire back though, landing a jab. Good kick by Bisping but Silva trips him down. He pops back up and retreats. Thirty seconds to go and they trade leg kicks. One-two from Bisping but Silva is closing him down now. Big flurry lands and an overhand right drops the Brit, but before Wanderlei can finish the buzzer sounds! I think Silva won the fight with that last flurry.
We’re going to the judges, and it’s a win for Wanderlei Silva, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28. Bisping looks gutted but even though it was close, I think Silva pulled it out late in both the second and third rounds. The story of the fight to me was that Silva was able to escape from all of Bisping’s takedowns, and while Bisping landed some good shots standing, he wasn’t ever able to really connect enough to hurt the Brazilian while Wanderlei definitely had Bisping on the verge of a stoppage at the end of the third. Overall I don’t think Bisping lost much steam with this loss as Wandy’s a legend, but if anything, Silva gained a lot as he got rid of his usual crude brawling style and fought a more cerebral fight, using leg kicks and better ground defense, etc. If he can continue to reinvent himself then everyone who cried about him being finished as a top-level fighter might be proven wrong yet. Not as explosive a fight as you’d have hoped but it was still pretty good.
This fight was originally set to main event UFC 108 until Nogueira pulled out with a staph infection. Thankfully he looked healthy coming into this one, in amazing shape as he’d been for the Randy Couture fight, and honestly, this was a fantastic fight overall. Amazing really that Velasquez could be considered ready to fight Nogueira given he only debuted in the UFC in April 2008 and has only been fighting since 2006, but that’s how good Cain is. The key for me was who could get the better of the stand-up, as if Cain could, then Nog was likely doomed as he wasn’t going to be able to take a wrestler like Cain down, while if Nogueira was able to light Velasquez up on the feet, then Cain would double-leg him and we’d see the Brazilian’s legendary ground game in action. As someone who doesn’t buy that Nog is washed up or anything (look, if you can’t see that he wasn’t healthy against Mir then you’re blind) this was almost impossible to pick, but gut feeling told me to go with Velasquez via decision.
We get underway and right away both men are throwing combos. Leg kick lands for Cain. Another leg kick lands and he follows with a left hand. Body kick from Cain is just blocked by Nogueira. Hard leg kick from Cain. Good combo lands as Nogueira tries to throw one of his own. Velasquez is beating him to the punch thus far. Another beautiful leg kick lands for Velasquez. Head kick misses. Couple of jabs from Nog but Cain slips them and lands another leg kick. Nogueira tries to step inside, but eats a knee and a left hook on the way out. Cain’s striking is looking awesome. Nogueira steps in but another attempted combo is slipped by Cain and he gets out and lands another leg kick. Left hand from Nogueira but Cain counters with a SICK COMBO that drops him and a couple of punches finish things on the ground. WOW.
Replay shows as Nog landed the left hand, Cain fired back with a left to the face, right to the jaw and a left to the temple to put him down. Beautiful combination right on the button. Amazing performance from Cain Velasquez who just never let Nogueira get into the fight for a second. And this wasn’t the fat, plodding Nogueira who Mir was able to knock out by using the same telegraphed combination over and over – Nog looked in shape and was moving well, it was just that he couldn’t beat a faster, crisper striker to the punch. Whether the Nogueira of 2002 would’ve been able to come back from the combo that dropped him I don’t know, but on the feet I doubt any version of Nog could’ve handled what Cain was bringing here. I mean, Cain’s always looked good standing (see some of the combos he threw against Denis Stojnic for instance) but comparing him against Kongo to this version is like night and day and such an improvement in less than a year is frightening. To me, and people will scoff, but fuck them, Lesnar vs. Carwin is a massive fight but I think the winner is only holding the belt until they fight Cain, the best heavyweight walking the planet right now (and yeah, I’d pick him over Fedor too, but that’s another story...). Incredible way to end the night.
-Highlight reel rolls to end the night.
Overall this was a pretty great show to debut in Australia with. None of the prelims were bad at all with Lytle’s kneebar and the brawl between Soszynski and Bonnar especially being fun. On the main card, Perosh-Cro Cop was pretty dull, but outside of that Bader made his fight memorable with another highlight reel knockout, Sotiropoulos-Stevenson was a great grappling-based fight, Bisping-Silva was solid enough and the main event, while short, was both shocking and awe-inspiring to watch. Probably the best ‘numbered’ UFC of 2010 thus far, easy thumbs up.
Best Fight: Sotiropoulos-Stevenson
Worst Fight: Cro Cop-Perosh
Overall Rating: ****1/4
UFC: 111-114, Fight Night 21, Versus 1
King of the Cage: Various shows