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UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on November 13, 2010, 5:42 AM

UFC 117: Silva vs. Sonnen

Oakland, California

-Interestingly enough they could’ve subtitled this card ‘USA vs. Brazil’ if they’d wanted as all five of the main card fights had Americans fighting Brazilians, with another USA-Brazil clash originally scheduled for the prelims in Thiago Silva-Tim Boetsch. But I heard Dana White hated the ‘USA vs. Canada’ angle they ran for UFC 58 so that’d explain why they didn’t bother with it, I guess.

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Welterweight Fight: Ben Saunders vs Dennis Hallman

After his stifling loss at the hands of Jon Fitch in March, ‘Killa B’ was looking to get back on the winner’s track here against veteran Hallman, who I honestly can’t believe Joe Silva hasn’t matched with Matt Hughes yet to allow Hughes to avenge those two odd losses early in his career. That’s another story though, and I fully expected Saunders to come out like a house on fire and destroy Hallman early in this one. Interesting side note – Marcos Rosales – as in the judge – is the referee for this one.

Round One and Hallman comes out quickly, walks through a knee strike and gets a clinch, forcing Saunders into the fence. Hallman struggles for the takedown, and Saunders almost shrugs him off, but eventually the veteran manages to drag him to the ground. Half-guard for Saunders but Hallman works to pass into side mount. He looks for a full mount, but Saunders manages to get a leg into half-guard. Couple of short elbows and hammer fists land for Hallman but nothing too damaging as Ben’s doing a good job of defending. Saunders turns towards him to attempt a sweep, but it doesn’t come off. Surprised the ref hasn’t stood them up yet. Hallman looks to pass, and then finally opens up with some solid punches. He tries to sneak his arm under for a D’Arce, but Saunders recognizes it and easily avoids. Looks like Ben is cut up. Round ends with a flurry of hammer fists from Hallman, who comfortably takes the round, 10-9.

Round Two and Hallman pushes forward, but Saunders grabs the plum clinch and lands a knee before following with a body kick. Another body kick lands as Ben attempts to keep his distance. Good straight left follows, but Hallman ducks the follow-up and hits a takedown into the fence. Hallman looks to mount, but Ben defends and keeps guard. He sounds like he’s breathing very heavily, though, as the announcers mention his nose may be broken. Crowd begin to boo as Hallman tries to pass the butterfly guard, avoiding an armbar in the process to move into side mount. Few elbows and punches from Hallman and it looks like he’s trying to step over for a topside triangle, but Ben defends. Saunders uses the fence to sneak a half-guard back in, but it looks like he’s completely stuck underneath Hallman with no way of escape. Less than a minute to go in the round and Hallman’s traditional cardio issues seem to be a thing of the past as he isn’t even slightly tired. Into half-guard for Hallman and he drops a couple of solid elbows to end the round. This has been all Dennis Hallman thus far and Saunders needs a finish.

Round Three and Ben pushes forward and opens up with a straight left and a glancing head kick that put Hallman on his back foot. Nice combination lands for Saunders and forces Hallman to go for a single leg, but this time Ben does a good defensive job and hops around. Hallman kicks the other leg from under him, but only manages to get him down to one knee and Ben fights his way back up into the clinch. Couple of good knees land to the midsection for Saunders. Referee calls a break and Saunders pushes forward with some strikes and avoids a takedown. Big knee lands for Saunders and he follows with a left hand, then grabs the plum to deliver some more knees. Hallman suddenly looks in a bit of trouble and backpedals as Ben stalks forward, but Hallman pulls guard off a Saunders knee and quickly reverses into top position in half-guard. Hallman works to pass and it looks like the fight’s going to end on the ground. Into side mount for Hallman but Saunders sneaks a half-guard back in again. Round ends with both men flurrying on the ground. I’d give that round to Saunders, but he needed to finish and didn’t so the fight is 29-28 Hallman overall.

Judges have it a unanimous decision for Dennis Hallman, 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28. This was a bitterly disappointing fight for Ben Saunders as Hallman was basically able to follow the Fitch gameplan and pretty much just blanketed him. He did some damage, but never came close to finishing and yet Saunders just couldn’t get out from underneath him. After this he ended up being released from his UFC contract in a surprising move, but the word is that they’ll bring him back with a couple of wins and some needed improvement in his wrestling game and he won this weekend so hopefully he’ll be back soon. Kind of a dull opener, but Hallman did what he had to do to win and his cardio was far better than in the past.

Heavyweight Fight: Stefan Struve vs Christian Morecraft

Never heard of Morecraft before but he was bringing in an unbeaten 6-0 record and physically the guy is HUGE, 6’6” tall and blatantly cutting weight to make the 265lbs limit. Struve meanwhile was looking to get back on track following his loss to Roy Nelson, a loss which had snapped a three-fight win streak for the Skyscraper.

First round begins and Morecraft pushes forward and closes the distance, getting a clinch against the fence. Struve tries to get away, but a suplex puts him down and Morecraft gets into side mount. Morecraft looks for the Hughes crucifix, but Struve scrambles to avoid. Struve gets into guard, but eats a big shot and Morecraft follows by posturing up to deliver some VICIOUS punches. Struve goes for a triangle and almost gets it, but Morecraft flips over the top to avoid and gets back into top position. Again Morecraft postures up to deliver some heavy punches and hammer fists. Struve is in trouble here, taking some really big shots. Armbar attempt from Struve but Morecraft postures out and drops some more shots. BIG HAMMER FISTS land and bounce Struve’s head off the mat. Struve looks like he’s bleeding badly from the mouth. More big shots land for Morecraft and given Struve’s shady chin before I’m surprised he’s still with it. Morecraft stands to deliver some more punishment, landing shot after shot, and this time he uses a triangle attempt to pass the guard and get to full mount. Struve desperately tries to buck him off, but Morecraft shows some good base and lands some more shots. Struve hip escapes and rolls for a leglock, but Morecraft defends well and passes before grabbing a guillotine. Struve stands inside the choke and then goes to his back, and Morecraft releases and continues to land shots until the round ends. Totally one-sided round in favour of Christian Morecraft; you’d have to go 10-8 really.

Into the 2nd and Struve’s bottom lip is basically split down the middle in a sick, sick visual. He comes out to fight though and opens with a hard leg kick. Morecraft closes in swinging, and they go into a wild trade before clinching. Struve blocks the takedown this time and another wild trade follows and this time STRUVE DECKS HIM AND FINISHES HIM OFF ON THE GROUND!~!

Man, what a comeback! Crowd go APESHIT and quite rightfully so. That was one of the greatest comebacks in UFC history. Replay shows they just traded off, and Struve landed a right, left, right combo that just switched out Morecraft’s lights. Unbelievable. Disappointing for Morecraft after an excellent first round, but the fight was very exciting so I’m guessing he’ll be brought back. Struve though showed tremendous heart to even survive the first, let alone win in the second, and the fact that he was apparently being violently ill prior to the fight makes it even wilder! I’m becoming a real fan of this guy now.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Tim Boetsch vs Todd Brown

As I mentioned earlier, Boetsch – making his return to UFC action after a short time (and three wins) on the local circuit – was originally supposed to fight Thiago Silva here, but the Brazilian ended up pulling out with a back injury and ‘Bulldog’ Brown – sporting a 15-1 record but with wins over nobody in particular – stepped in. With Brown being an unknown I took the Barbarian to make an impressive return to the Octagon with a win.

Fight begins and Boetsch opens with a hard leg kick. Head kick misses but he avoids Brown’s attempt at a catch and takedown. Left hook lands for Boetsch as Brown looks to jab. Takedown attempt from Boetsch and he drives Brown into the cage. Boetsch lands some knees and punches in close quarters, then trips Brown down nicely. Brown manages to get back to his feet, but Boetsch remains in control and breaks with a big knee. Head kick misses but a short left uppercut has Brown wobbled and Boetsch tries to follow up with some more uppercuts. Brown manages to break free, but Boetsch lands a nice one-two and follows with another knee. Clinch from Brown and he forces Boetsch into the cage, and they muscle for position. Referee breaks them up and Brown throws a nice leg kick, then lands with a glancing spinning backfist, but he eats a right hand on the way that wobbles him. Boetsch comes forward with a knee and trips Brown down for a second before he pops up. Good leg kick from Boetsch and the round ends shortly after. 10-9 Boetsch.

Round Two and Brown clinches and looks for the takedown, but Boetsch defends and they end up clinched. They exchange some shots inside before Boetsch breaks. Good body kick from Brown. He follows with a leg kick, but eats an uppercut on the counter. Nice jab from Brown. Quick clinch is broken by Brown. Little action in this round really. Big body kick misses for Brown. Right hand into the clinch from Boetsch. Good leg kick from Boetsch upon breaking off. Wild overhand right lands glancingly for Brown. Good leg kick follows before Boetsch lands a knee. Couple of punches land for Boetsch and he avoids a weird crescent kick and lands with a knee. Seconds to go and a glancing punch opens a cut over Boetsch’s left eye, but he finishes the round with an uppercut and a knee. Close round to score but I’d lean towards Boetsch again.

Third and final round and Boetsch moves around on the outside as they exchange strikes again. Brown clinches and moves him into the cage, but they break with little action. Single leg from Boetsch and he dumps Brown onto his back in half-guard. Boetsch tries to go for a guillotine, but he can’t finish it and passes into side mount. Brown rolls and Boetsch grabs a front facelock, then forces him into the fence before Brown escapes to his feet. Boetsch breaks off and pushes forward with some strikes, landing a pair of uppercuts. Takedown attempt from Brown but he can’t get Boetsch down and they end up clinched again. Ref calls a break and Boetsch hits a BIG double leg and plants Brown on his back. Seconds to go and Boetsch ends the fight with some good body shots.

Judges score it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 all for Tim Boetsch. Nice to see him pick up a win on his return to the Octagon, but this wasn’t a stellar performance from the Barbarian as he probably could’ve dealt with Brown far easier if he’d used his wrestling to better effect in the earlier rounds. Bit of a dull fight, too. I expect Boetsch to look better next time out.

Welterweight Fight: Johny Hendricks vs Charlie Brenneman

Clash of wrestlers here and in fact they’d faced off in collegiate competition, with Hendricks unsurprisingly getting the win there (for those who don’t know he’s practically one of the best collegiate wrestlers ever as far as I’m aware!), so Brenneman was undoubtedly looking for revenge in the Octagon. Personally though, despite him looking solid in his UFC debut against DREAM veteran Jason High, I fully expected Hendricks to come away with another win as not only was he the better wrestler but he seems to have a more well-rounded game at this stage too.

First round begins and the first notable thing is that Brenneman’s hair is HUGE, almost like an afro. Hendricks pushes forward, but Brenneman clinches quickly. Big uppercut from Hendricks is answered by a knee from Brenneman. Hendricks grabs a front headlock and drags him towards the ground, and it looks like he might be going for an anaconda choke. Brenneman stands back up, but eats a pair of nasty knees that force him to drop a hand to the ground to avoid any more. Hendricks has some sick control from this position. He reaches around and grabs an ankle as well as the front facelock, then breaks with a hard knee to the body. Big flurry from Brenneman puts Hendricks on the retreat, and then they exchange with Brenneman getting the better of it! He decides to shoot though, and gets Hendricks down, but Hendricks remains seated and manages to land some solid elbows to the side of the head as Brenneman drives forward. Crowd begin to get restless as Hendricks seems content to punch the head while Brenneman tries to complete the takedown, before referee Josh Rosenthal calls a stand-up. Hendricks pushes forward and lands with a leg kick. Good right into the clinch from Hendricks but Brenneman answers with a knee. This time Hendricks drops for the takedown, but Brenneman defends and trips him down to end the round. Razor-close round but I think Hendricks very slightly edged it.

Second round and Hendricks pushes forward and walks through a right hand. They exchange and Hendricks catches him with a left and stuns him! Brenneman looks in deep trouble and he tries to fire back, but another left sends him CRASHING DOWN and he dives on a leg out of desperation! Hendricks defends and lands some more shots, and another pair of left hands put Brenneman down again! Again he attempts to crawl away and dive for a leg, but Hendricks is having none of it and he keeps coming, before sending him FLYING with a left for the stoppage!

Wow, that was a hell of a finish. Hendricks packs some serious power in his punches and had Brenneman diving all over the place like he was Cristiano Ronaldo or something, giving the stoppage a bit of a comical feel if we’re honest, although it was awesome too. Really fun, fast-paced fight with a red-hot finish. Hendricks continues to be *the* up and comer to watch at 170lbs and this was probably his most impressive performance to date.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Phil Davis vs Rodney Wallace

Wallace was originally pegged to face wrestler Stanislav Nedkov here, but when the Russian pulled out with injury, Davis – whose trainers had initially claimed he wanted around a year off to work on his striking following an April win over Alexander Gustafsson – stepped in on short notice. Surprising move, but then again, Davis needs ring time more than anything and I guess if his people figured he could beat Wallace without many problems (I certainly did!) then it made sense for him.

Fight begins and Wallace circles around with his hands insanely low, as if he doesn’t respect Davis’s striking at all. Big right high kick lands for Mr Wonderful though. Wallace continues to circle, then goes for a single leg, but he isn’t going to take Davis down and he quickly finds himself reversed. Davis drops for a single himself and he doesn’t have any trouble dumping Wallace onto his back in half-guard. Knees to the body from Davis and it looks like he’s trying to trap an arm for a kimura. Good elbows from Davis and he almost works into full mount. Good series of punches land to the face of Wallace as he tries desperately to keep half-guard. Really hard elbows from Davis and you can see the improvement in this fight from his previous ones already. Full mount now but Wallace manages to escape back to butterfly guard. Quick pass puts Davis back in side mount, and then he lands some knees as Wallace manages to explode to his feet. Davis drops for the single leg again and puts Wallace back down, landing some more knees to the body as Wallace locks down on half-guard. More elbows from Davis and he takes full mount. Wallace is being OWNED here. Davis looks to step to side mount, but Wallace sneaks a leg in and gets half-guard. More elbows and punches land for Mr Wonderful and he ends the round with a couple more knees to the body. 10-8 Phil Davis, total domination.

Round Two and Davis stalks forward as Wallace circles, still holding his hands low. Head kick and a switch kick land for Davis before Wallace clinches. Takedown from Davis follows though and he lands in half-guard again and immediately looks to pass. Beautiful pass to full mount from Davis before he hops into side mount. He looks for a straight armbar, dropping some knees to the body to soften him up, but Wallace manages to explode into half-guard. Davis attempts to pass, but Wallace manages to pop up back to his feet. Davis grabs a front facelock and delivers some big knees to the head and then the body as Wallace drops down. Wallace ends up seated against the cage in half-guard, where he eats a nasty elbow. More elbows to the head and body follow and then he looks for a kimura, moving into side mount in the process, and it looks like the arm is cranked. Wallace manages to avoid it, but eats some big punches and now Davis is in north/south. Full mount from Davis and he lands some more big punches, almost stopping the fight as the round comes to an end. 10-8 Davis. This is an absolute whitewash.

Round Three begins with Davis landing a low kick and following with a big head kick. Man, this guy is going to be absolutely terrifying in a year’s time if he isn’t already. Wallace circles on the outside, but eats a right hand with no answer. Hard body kick lands for Davis. Flying kick attempt follows but Wallace catches it and looks for a takedown. Davis stuffs it easily and then presses Wallace into the fence, where he drops for a single leg and drags him down. Wallace attempts a leglock out of desperation, but Davis easily slips free into side mount. Davis works for the kimura again and uses it to take full mount. Wallace manages to roll though and explodes to his feet. Davis quickly clinches and hits him with a knee to the body, then trips Wallace down into side mount again. Wallace gets half-guard, but eats some punches and hammer fists. Kimura attempt from Davis but Wallace muscles out. Davis takes full mount though and goes for the kimura again, hopping back to side mount, but Wallace frees the arm once again. Seconds remaining on the clock and Davis goes back to full mount and easily avoids a leglock attempt. He stands over Wallace to end the fight. I don’t see how you can even give Wallace a 10-9 in any of the rounds as he literally had zero offense. I have this 30-24 for Phil Davis.

Judges score it 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 for Phil Davis, making me wonder if you have to literally kill your opponent to get a 10-8 these days! This was one of the most one-sided fights I can ever remember seeing in the UFC, as Davis – who was impressive against Stann and Gustafsson – looked hugely improved again here, passing Wallace’s guard with ease, destroying him with ground-and-pound, and really if it weren’t for Wallace’s freaky strength he would’ve pulled off a submission. This guy is going to be a bonafide title contender in a year or maybe even less, no doubt in my mind. If you consider Jon Jones and Ryan Bader genuine contenders now, then Davis is undoubtedly the top prospect in the world at 205lbs.

Welterweight Fight: Rick Story vs Dustin Hazelett

On paper this was a clear-cut contender for Fight of the Night, as both men are among the most aggressive in the 170lbs division – Story with his wild ground-and-pound and Hazelett with his sick submission game. While Hazelett had suffered from injuries and had been KOd badly in his previous fight, I was still taking him to win as I figured Story would likely take him down and then become too aggressive for his own good and get caught in a submission.

First round begins and Story comes out SWINGING, backing Hazelett up with punches. Dustin decides to jump to guard but ends up in the koala position as Story hammers at his body with hooks. Finally Story slams his way out, and then drops some VICIOUS PUNCHES as Hazelett tries to move. Armbar attempt from Hazelett but Story slams his way out of that. Dustin looks to transition into an oma plata, but Story looks pretty calm despite the dodgy position and he hammers away at the exposed head of McLovin. Story slips free and then brings the fight back to the feet, where he avoids a jumping knee. Big left hook from Story backs Hazelett up, and then he just DESTROYS HIM with a flurry including some HUGE SHOTS to the body! Holy shit. Takedown follows and Story goes for the Hughes crucifix, but Hazelett manages to roll halfway over to prevent it. Story still has side mount though and he drops an elbow before standing and calling Dustin up. Hazelett tries to grab the plum clinch as Story wades in, but some more heavy body shots cause him to wince and drop to his back in half-guard. Story again chooses to stand, forcing Dustin up, and another big combination hurts him. Big slam follows and Hazelett ends up on his back eating more elbows. This is turning into an absolute beating. Story ends up in half-guard and surprisingly looks for a kimura, before giving up on it to punish the body some more. Short elbows land too and then Story decides to stand back up. Takedown attempt from Hazelett is stuffed, and Story sprawls out and lands more body shots before forcing Dustin to his back. Story stands back up again, and ends the round with another nasty combination before Dustin drops for a kimura on the buzzer. Wow, that was an amazing round for Story. Got to go 10-8 though the judges likely wouldn’t based on the Davis fight!

Second round and Story walks right forward and decks Hazelett with a heavy combination. Hazelett tries to kick him away, but takes some more shots including some brutal ones to the body. Story settles down on top in half-guard and lands a couple more before waving him up. Hazelett can barely get up at this point, and he eats some more power combos before dropping and finally referee Josh Rosenthal decides enough is enough and stops it there.

Massive victory for Rick Story and a hugely impressive performance overall. Aside from Koscheck and Daley who scored flash knockouts, nobody had really beaten Hazelett down like that and yet Story absolutely smashed through him with no problems whatsoever. Unbelievable punching power, solid takedowns and he didn’t run out of gas in the slightest either. Will he be able to handle the very top guys at 170lbs? Personally I doubt it as I don’t think his wild style matches up as well with certain fighters in the division – namely the bigger, better wrestlers – but only time will tell as he’s improved hugely since his UFC debut and is definitely an exciting guy to watch. This was one of the most brutal beatings of 2010.

Heavyweight Fight: Junior Dos Santos vs Roy Nelson

This was pushed as a #1 Contender’s fight, as both men had been on impressive runs – Dos Santos’s more impressive of course as he’d knocked out Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga in succession (!) – and with both Frank Mir and Shane Carwin out of the title picture for the time being they seemed the most qualified for the role. Although Nelson is a tough opponent for anyone, I expected Dos Santos to be able to deal with him handily using his brutal striking game and strong takedown defense, and win by TKO in the early rounds, adding to his amazing list of knockout victims.

We get underway and Nelson pushes forward as Dos Santos swings some heavy punches right away. Big uppercut just misses for the Brazilian. Clipping right hand from Nelson and he dives on a single before forcing JDS into the fence. Nelson has a serious mullet here, too. Dos Santos pummels under to avoid allowing Nelson a bodylock, and he manages to stay on his feet as Nelson muscles him right across the cage into the opposite fence. Big knee breaks for Dos Santos before they exchange jabs. Dos Santos clocks him with a BIG UPPERCUT and wobbles the legs, sending Nelson on the retreat, and he quickly closes in looking to finish! Takedown is stuffed as Dos Santos opens up with a HUGE FLURRY, but somehow Nelson remains standing! Another takedown is stuffed and Junior is landing practically at will now. Man does Nelson have a good chin. Another big uppercut stiffens him, but he’s still on his feet. Unbelievable. Dos Santos slows up and begins to pick at Nelson from the outside, but then another MASSIVE UPPERCUT lands flush and Nelson goes wobbling back before collapsing to the ground. Jesus. He dives for the legs desperately, but Dos Santos avoids and continues to land before opening up with some knees. Nelson’s covering up well to be fair though and he fires back with an overhand right. Crowd are absolutely loving this. Rare leg kick lands for Junior and he’s taking jabs at the belly now. Well, it is a big target. Jabs from Dos Santos and he follows with a couple of uppercuts and a knee to the gut, but Nelson fires back with a right hand. Nelson is actually coming forward now which is insane. They exchange some jabs and Nelson lands a right, but JDS begins to open up again at the end of the round with another big flurry. How Roy Nelson is still in this fight I do not know.

Round Two and Nelson pushes forward, but almost walks into a big knee. Big right hand lands for Nelson and he uses it to back Dos Santos up for a takedown attempt, but the Brazilian shrugs it off and then opens up with the uppercut again. Practically every shot Dos Santos throws is a kill shot. Big uppercut lands to the body of Big Country. Wild right hand misses for Nelson. Dos Santos has definitely slowed down at this point, probably due to blowing out so much gas in the first. Left hook lands for Nelson. Nelson is really pushing forward now although he hasn’t landed anything that’s hurt JDS. Big takedown attempt almost sees the cage move as Dos Santos defends, but Roy still can’t get the Brazilian down. Good right hand from Nelson as JDS pushes him off, and he tries the single again, but still can’t get him down. They break and now Dos Santos shoots, but Nelson sprawls to avoid. Surprising that he’d even try that. Big uppercut connects for him and puts Nelson on the back foot and he follows with a body shot. Action slows down for a second before Dos Santos lands another power flurry that Nelson just eats right up. Seconds to go and Nelson tries another takedown, but Dos Santos stuffs it and that’s the round. JDS is winning these rounds comfortably, but he doesn’t seem able to put Nelson away.

Third round of what has become a hell of a fight. Good combination to open from Dos Santos ending with a rare body kick. Combo from Nelson lands though and backs up JDS, but only for a moment as he wades in with a flurry and they trade some heavy leather. Front kick glances off Nelson’s chin. Massive uppercut snaps Nelson’s head back but he comes forward again. Body shot lands for JDS. Single leg from JDS and he gets Nelson down for a second, but then lets him back up and lands some more punches. Dos Santos continues to land big shots but Nelson continues to fire right back. Roy is one of the toughest guys to step into the cage, that’s for sure. Big uppercut lands again and Nelson is looking very tired at this stage. Leg kick lands for Roy. More combinations from JDS and he continues to use the uppercut, but it just isn’t having the effect that it did on the likes of Werdum. One minute to go and Dos Santos flurries again, then tries to grab the plum clinch, but Nelson punches his way free. Dos Santos lands some big shots to the body though and Nelson’s struggling to keep his hands up now. Big flurry wobbles Nelson late but he manages to survive. That was a great fight.

Judges have it unanimously for Junior Dos Santos, 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27. First off, great, entertaining fight and while I wasn’t a fan of him coming in, Roy Nelson definitely earned my respect here as not only did he manage to survive the onslaught that Dos Santos brought, but he never stopped coming forward and swinging right back, even at the very end when he was exhausted. This was a good win for Dos Santos, but in a lot of ways it showed some flaws in his game as he clearly slowed up after the first round and more worryingly, I thought he was telegraphing some of his combinations and began to look predictable, even if Nelson couldn’t do anything about it, and if he does the same against Cain Velasquez – who can mix it up in all areas and is a more varied striker – then I can’t see him winning the title. Still, right now he’s clearly the top contender in the division and it’s a fight I’m looking forward to hugely.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Hughes vs Ricardo Almeida

After he dispatched of Renzo Gracie with the first standing knockout of his UFC career – something he’s been looking for since about 2004 – and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, I fully expected Hughes to be rematched with Dennis Hallman en route to retirement. Instead, he was put in with a very dangerous opponent in Almeida, who had dropped to 170lbs for the first time in March and easily dealt with a tough gatekeeper in Matt Brown. With the fight being a little personal for Almeida too (he’s a Renzo protégé and a friend of Matt Serra’s) I saw this as a possible coming out party for him, and thought he’d be able to take Hughes down and use his BJJ game to get a submission win over the legend.

Round One begins and they circle and throw some feeler punches to begin, not really landing anything of note. Little meaningful action in the first minute or so. Good leg kick from Hughes is countered by an Almeida right hand. Plum clinch from Almeida and he lands a short right hook from there before breaking off. Inside leg kick from Almeida. Lunging left hook misses for Hughes and Almeida avoids a clinch attempt. Combo from Almeida but Hughes catches him from nowhere with a left hook and drops him! Hughes charges in looking to finish as Almeida goes for a takedown, but Hughes grabs a front facelock and really squeezes on it, turning it into a front choke and ALMEIDA PASSES OUT!

Wow, guess there’s life in the old dog yet! This was probably the most impressive performance from Hughes since, well, his 2006 win over BJ Penn, as crazy as that sounds, as he was faced with a fighter on the rise here as opposed to a gatekeeper or someone on the way out like Renzo, and he not only managed to drop Almeida standing, but got a really nasty, unorthodox choke for the finish too. For me this puts Hughes back into the hunt at 170lbs and while I doubt very much that he ever regains the title or even gets another shot, I think he proved that he’s still a very relevant fighter in 2010.

Lightweight Fight: Clay Guida vs Rafael Dos Anjos

After a very impressive win over Terry Etim in April, Dos Anjos was looking to take another step up the ladder against the ever-dangerous Guida, who had bounced back from two losses in a row with a submission win over Shannon Gugerty. Despite Guida’s relentless cardio I actually took Dos Anjos to win in an upset here, as his Muay Thai looks really good these days and his submission game is one of the sickest in the division, so I figured he’d be able to catch Guida with something the moment he got over-aggressive.

Round One and Dos Anjos offers to touch gloves but Guida shakes his head no. Weak. Guida circles on the outside as Dos Anjos circles around, and it’s a quick combo that lands for the Brazilian. Big head kick lands for Guida but doesn’t seem to affect Dos Anjos. Good inside leg kick lands for the Brazilian. Wild exchange of punches follows and Guida backs him up a little. Another leg kick from Dos Anjos. Takedown attempt from Rafael and he drives Guida into the fence, but Guida stuffs it and turns it around, and the fans begin a big GUIDA chant as Dos Anjos looks to prep a guillotine. Single leg attempt from Guida but Dos Anjos defends. I actually would’ve figured he’d want to go to the ground. Good knee from Dos Anjos to break and he follows with a nice hopping knee. Big left hook lands for the Brazilian to follow a low kick, snapping Guida’s head back. Takedown attempt is stuffed by Guida. Guida keeps swinging punches, but he’s being outstruck here. Beautiful uppercut from Dos Anjos and he follows up with a takedown. Guida uses the fence to attempt a switch, but on his way to his feet he eats a right hand and a knee. Round ends there. 10-9 Dos Anjos.

Interesting moment between rounds as Dos Anjos tells his corner that he can’t bite down on his mouthpiece, which might indicate a jaw injury.

Second round begins and Guida looks to move around more now as they exchange some early strikes. Crowd still chanting for Guida. Good low kick from Dos Anjos, countered with a right hand from Guida. Dos Anjos looks for the takedown and drives Guida into the fence in the clinch, but Guida shrugs him off. Exchange continues and Dos Anjos continues to get the better of it really. Takedown finally lands for Guida but Dos Anjos instantly goes for the rubber guard. Clay pulls out and winds up in full guard, but Dos Anjos keeps squirming from his back, making any offense from Guida difficult. Guida passes to half-guard though and lands a few shots to the body. Guida continues to attempt to pass but Dos Anjos gets full guard back in. Round ends with a pair of solid elbows from Guida. Neither man did a lot to win the round but I guess Guida was on top and had control so I’d give it to him.

If the last break was interesting, well, this one is SICK as Guida burps horrendously for some reason. No idea why he’d want to do that, it was disgusting. Worse than when Tim Sylvia did it even.

Third round and Guida comes out as the aggressor, pushing forward into a couple of exchanges. Dos Anjos looks much more tentative now. Takedown attempt from Guida and he forces Rafael into the fence. Nice slam follows and Clay lands in half-guard. He moves the Brazilian into the fence and lands a couple of nice knees to the body, then lands some shots to the body and head and looks to pass, before Dos Anjos strangely taps out. Looks like it was the jaw problem as he’s holding his jaw when he gets up. Replay shows Guida didn’t have any sort of submission, and Dos Anjos ended up tapping due to Guida’s shoulder being pressed into his jaw.

Unlucky break for Dos Anjos but I guess a jaw injury is a nasty thing and hey, Guida must’ve hit him to have caused the break so it’s a fair win for the Carpenter. Fun fight as is the norm with Clay Guida and Rafael Dos Anjos, but the ending was certainly anticlimactic, that’s for sure. Post-fight promo is pretty funny as Guida channels 2005 and thanks a TON of sponsors and different people and keeps going on and on until Joe Rogan outright has to cut him off. After that I’m convinced this guy has ADHD.

Welterweight Fight: Jon Fitch vs Thiago Alves

This rematch was initially scheduled for UFC 107 and then again at UFC 111, where Alves was forced to withdraw when a brain scan showed an anomaly which forced emergency surgery. Fully recovered, the Pitbull was looking to avenge his 2006 loss to Fitch here. Despite Fitch winning that initial match handily, I was firmly behind Alves in this one, as since the Fitch fight he’d bulked up and become a much more powerful fighter, and in terms of improvement, he’d come on in leaps and bounds since then, shooting up the top ten all the way to a title shot, while Fitch’s game appeared to have stagnated following his loss to GSP in 2008. My pick? Alves via knockout in the second.

The main interesting thing coming in was that Dana White announced the winner would get a title shot, which was surprising given everyone figured Jake Shields would be in line for the next shot if he could win his UFC debut. I certainly didn’t get it as well, GSP dismantled Fitch and Alves so what’s the point in a rematch that quickly? The other interesting thing? Alves missed weight by a half a pound and ended up forfeiting some of his purse to Fitch, which is always worrying. I didn’t change pick though as the last time Thiago came in overweight he destroyed Matt Hughes!

Fight begins and Alves comes out unsurprisingly looking to strike, landing a short inside leg kick and a jab. Head kick misses for Fitch. Leg kick is caught by Fitch and he transitions to a rear waistlock and throws Thiago to the ground. Over/under from Fitch but he has no hooks in. He works to try to get them in, and sinks one of them. Alves manages to muscle his way to his feet, but Fitch still has a waistlock and he lands some knees to the thighs before dragging him down again. Alves tries to use the cage to stand, and does so, but Fitch stays on him like glue. Slam from Fitch puts the Brazilian down again and this time he has side mount. Fitch grinds with his elbow as Thiago tries a reversal and pulls it off, getting on top with a couple of punches. Into half-guard for Alves but Fitch ties him up. Fitch works back into full guard and Alves stands back up. Fitch joins him and Alves stalks forward, but eats a pair of knees from Fitch. Good right hand from Alves and he continues to push forward, but Fitch fires back with a left hook to the body. Takedown attempt by Fitch is stuffed. Into the clinch and from there Fitch gets a trip takedown and works to take the back in the final seconds. Close round as neither did too much damage but you’d have to go with Jon Fitch.

Into the 2nd and Fitch opens with a leg kick and a counter right hand. Alves pushes forward, but Fitch grabs hold of him and hits a takedown to guard. Guillotine attempt from Thiago but he has to let it go and now Fitch begins to land short shots to the head and body. Thiago backs up into the fence and looks to wall-walk to his feet, but Fitch keeps hold of his legs to hold him down and lands punches. Good job from Alves to kick him away for a moment, but Fitch gets right back on him and keeps him down in half-guard. Alves gets back to full guard and kicks him away again, but he gives his back and then almost gets mounted as Fitch forces him back down. Into half-guard again for Fitch and he continues to control the Brazilian. Alves looks to kick off and escape to his feet, but Fitch grabs a standing guillotine and then releases to drop for a single and put Alves down again. Alves gets to his feet, but Fitch grabs a bodylock and drags him down again, this time taking the back. Crowd are booing now as this isn’t the most entertaining fight of all time, as per usual with Fitch. Reversal from Alves and he gets a front facelock and if this were PRIDE he probably knees Fitch into unconsciousness, but instead he chooses to bring the fight back to standing. Good combo from Thiago as he pushes the action, but the round comes to an end in the clinch. 10-9 Fitch, easy round to score.

Third and final round and Alves needs a stoppage desperately. He comes out pushing the action, but Fitch lands the first leg kick. Alves throws some combos to keep Fitch on his back foot, landing some good punches. Big left head kick lands glancingly before Fitch looks for the takedown. This time Alves sprawls and avoids it, and manages to get free of the clinch. Lunging uppercut misses and leaves him open though, and Fitch quickly grabs a bodylock and looks to drag him down. Crowd begin to boo before he even completes the takedown. Fitch gets him down and gets one hook in, then gets the second in as Thiago looks to turn away. He ends up with a body triangle and lands some punches, then gets the back fully. Thiago defends the choke but he looks exhausted now. Arm triangle setup from Fitch but he gives it up to go back for the rear naked choke. Nice reversal from Alves puts him on top, but Fitch still has the bodylock in and it prevents Thiago from doing much. Seconds remaining in the fight and Alves stands up and drops some punches as Fitch gets to his feet. Fight ends there. I’ve got this a 30-27 shutout for Jon Fitch.

Judges all agree and it’s 30-27 all round. Unsurprisingly though, the title shot promised to Fitch seems to have gone up in smoke as Jake Shields has since won his UFC debut and now looks set for the next shot. It’s understandable in a lot of ways as Shields is a fresh fight for GSP, but in a way Fitch has to be disappointed. With that said though, Fitch got smashed by GSP the first time around and since then he hasn’t clearly improved or anything – he hasn’t finished a single fight since he lost to GSP in fact – and without those highlight reel finishes to show that you’ve improved how do Zuffa market a rematch, especially when Fitch’s fights have been boring? It’s the old sport vs. entertainment argument and for once I’d actually be on the side of entertainment – Fitch can have a title shot either if GSP loses the belt or if he starts finishing guys off. As for Alves, he looked really flat here, and I think the weight cut affected him badly. It’s something he needs to sort out quickly before his next fight with John Howard or he could be in danger of falling down the rankings fast. Fight was dull as Fitch had a lot of control but did little damage.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen

Where to start? Well, first off, Sonnen had earned a title opportunity by beating Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt using his relentless wrestling game and heavy ground-and-pound, while Silva was of course looking to make his seventh successive title defense after his god-awful fight with Demian Maia in April. On paper it doesn’t sound like a fight that would sell, right? But coming in Sonnen had suddenly emerged as *THE* best trash-talker in the game, as he cut relentless promos on Silva that became more and more outlandish by the day, edging horribly close to both homophobia and racism to boot. The most bizarre moment? When Chael randomly claimed Lance Armstrong GAVE HIMSELF CANCER by using steroids, and followed it by denying ever saying that, even when he was played a clip of HIS OWN VOICE making the statement. Silva meanwhile remained stoic as ever, clearly looking to shut Sonnen up in the cage. Well, if Sonnen was looking to drum up interest in the fight then it definitely worked, as what was originally a routine title defense for the Spider turned into a must-see fight and one of the biggest grudge matches of 2010. Despite Sonnen’s impressive run and the fact that he’d never been knocked out, to me the smart money was still on Silva as even if his wrestling game is somewhat lacking, his submissions from his back are good and that area’s always been Chael’s Achilles heel. Still, Sonnen promised to make it a fight and that in itself meant this would be better than the Maia fight.

Hilariously Silva actually has STEVEN SEAGAL of all people in his entourage. Seriously! I’ve heard of random guys carrying in belts and stuff before in boxing, but Seagal? That’s fucking brilliant. Crowd seem pretty split between the two but they’re LOUD. One of those moments when you realize how big the UFC has become and can’t help but smile.

Fight begins and both men push forward right away. Low kick from Sonnen is caught but he spins away before suffering the same fate as James Irvin. Half-shot is easily stuffed by Silva as the crowd begin to chant his name. Leg kick from Sonnen is caught and this time he uses a front roll to get away. Snapping body kick lands for Silva. Left hook from Chael and it lands cleanly and wobbles the champion! Holy shit. Chael closes in swinging and lands some more punches, but Silva seems fine and looks for the plum clinch before backing up. Weird moment follows as Silva drops to his back as Chael comes in, and then manages to put Sonnen on his back. Guillotine attempt allows Sonnen to stand free though. They exchange punches and now Silva drops his hands and allows Sonnen to land combinations flush, and despite Rogan and Goldberg yelling that he has the champ hurt, Silva seems fine to me. Double leg follows and Sonnen has Silva on his back in guard. Into half-guard and Sonnen lands punches while trying to trap the right arm. Silva gets back to full guard and ends up seated against the cage, but Chael stays on top and lands some more solid blows, right to the head. Silva turns his back and Sonnen gets an over/under without the hooks and continues to throw punches. Silva rolls to half-guard but Sonnen lands another big elbow. Sonnen postures up to deliver some big shots, and then goes back to half-guard. Silva manages to move back to full guard, but continues to take punches. Monstrous left lands for the challenger and puts him into side mount, but Silva quickly gets back to full guard. Seconds to go in the round and Sonnen ends it with a flurry. Dominant round for Chael Sonnen, you could argue a 10-8 even I think. Unbelievable.

Round Two and Silva comes out fast and lands a low kick, but Sonnen grabs a second one and takes him down again. Full guard for Anderson and he lands some elbows from the bottom before Chael passes into half-guard. Crowd are now chanting USA. Silva ties him up from the bottom so Chael busts out the DOUBLE SLAPS TO THE EARS. Good lord. He follows with the GSP tactic of bouncing the head off the mat, and finally he breaks Silva’s grip but ends up back in full guard. More big punches land for Sonnen and then he paintbrushes the champion, hitting him back and forth with the left hand. Good elbows from the bottom to answer from Silva. Strong elbow from Sonnen lands flush in another flurry of ground-and-pound. Silva throws his legs up for an armbar attempt, but Chael defends it and continues to grind away. Less than a minute to go and Anderson looks to use the fence to stand, then gives his back and attempts a kimura before going for Chael’s leg, but the challenger gets out and drops some more punches to end the round. 10-9 Sonnen, marking the first time in his UFC career that Silva’s lost two straight rounds if I recall correctly.

Third round and Silva comes out swinging, but like the terminator Sonnen keeps coming forward. Nice spinning back kick connects with Sonnen’s body, but Chael returns fire with a double leg and gets him down again. Anderson turns his back to attempt the kimura again, but Sonnen rides him and lands knees to the body. He follows with a series of clean punches to the head and you have to admire Silva’s chin for taking all of this. Finally he rolls to guard and looks to tie the challenger up, but Sonnen remains relentless and continues to work him over. Anderson sinks the body triangle from the guard to try to slow the onslaught down, but Chael just continues to land short rabbit punches from the top. Big shots to the body follow. Silva attempts a sweep but Chael avoids it and remains on top. This is maybe the most relentless ground-and-pound I’ve ever seen in terms of sheer volume. Thirty seconds to go in the round and Chael isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Round ends in Anderson’s guard. 10-9 Chael Sonnen going into the championship rounds.

Round Four and Silva comes out with a jumping kick and an elbow strike that knocks Sonnen down to a knee. Silva tries to follow up, but Chael gets hold of him and looks to drag him down. This time the champion escapes and they trade strikes, with Silva landing a big kick to the body. Wild exchange and it ends with both men missing haymakers before Silva sprawls to avoid a takedown and gets on top for the first time! He gets to half-guard but Sonnen shows some tremendous strength and technique and gets a reversal to top position. Short hammer fists land for Chael over and over from inside Silva’s guard. Silva has one of those BJ Penn-style faces where he just doesn’t show the effects of the beating he’s taken, no swelling or cuts or anything. More ground-and-pound from Sonnen. Elevator attempt from Silva but Sonnen shows some ridiculous base and remains on top. Big flurry lands for Sonnen but Silva answers back with a nasty series of elbows from the bottom, and they have Chael badly cut, blood pouring all over the champion’s chest. Sonnen’s conditioning must be fantastic as he doesn’t even appear tired. Good elbows from Silva though. Round ends with Chael on top again and Silva needs a finish in the fifth to pull this off now as I’ve got it 40-35 for Sonnen.

Fifth and final round and Silva looks AMPED. Sonnen comes out swinging though and shoots, but this time Anderson sprawls and manages to avoid. Chael pushes forward and a left hook catches Silva off balance and sends him down although to me it didn’t look like it was a real knockdown as Anderson quickly gets full guard. This time Chael passes to side mount and looks for an arm triangle for a second, but Silva quickly escapes to full guard. Chael looks to pass and gets into side mount as Joe Rogan confirms that the “knockdown” was indeed Silva slipping off balance and falling. Anderson works back to full guard but he continues to take shot after shot. Even with the blood loss Chael just isn’t slowing up, landing some huge punches. 2:30 remaining and he continues to land. Elbows from Silva and suddenly he LOCKS UP A TRIANGLE OUT OF NOWHERE!~! HOLY SHIT. He pulls on the head and it looks sunk as Sonnen desperately tries to posture out, but there’s NOWHERE TO GO and he falls to his back and TAPS OUT!~! UNBELIEVABLE!~!

Post-fight sees a bit of controversy as Silva doesn’t release the hold as there’s some uncertainty over whether Chael tapped out, but a replay confirms the tap and puts that one to bed quickly. Amazing stuff and probably the greatest come-from-behind victory in UFC history when you consider the length of the fight, the one-sided nature of it and what was on the line. Aftermath sees Silva hug Sonnen despite all the trash-talk, and then he tells Joe Rogan through his translator that Chael put on a hell of a fight and he knew he’d lost the first four rounds and had to finish in the fifth, then explains that he had a bad rib injury coming in and was advised to pull out, but decided to fight anyway. Sonnen then admits Silva was a tough guy and he came out second-best, nothing more to say.

First off then, this was a true classic, one of the greatest title fights I’ve ever seen. Sonnen promised to bring the fight to Anderson and he did that like nobody ever had before, absolutely dominating the champion for four-and-a-half rounds before getting caught in the triangle. Not only was there huge drama over whether Silva could keep his incredible streak intact (he’s never lost in the UFC, remember, and hasn’t lost properly in MMA since 2004) but it wasn’t like the fight ever got dull as Chael literally didn’t slow down with his ground-and-pound for a second. In the end though, he did what he’s somehow been able to do throughout his career – snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as he found himself caught again in a triangle – the same move that, remember, Forrest Griffin, Jeremy Horn, and Demian Maia have all caught him in before. You would’ve thought that by this point he’d have tightened up his submission defense, but then again, if he did that he probably wouldn’t be Chael Sonnen. And to be fair that’d also take away from the amazing skills of Anderson Silva, as you have to ask yourself this – who else could take a beating for twenty-two minutes and still be able to pull out a submission like that? The virtuoso performances in the past might’ve built Silva’s reputation but a true champion pulls victories out of adversity and Anderson did just that here. As for Sonnen’s post-fight drug test being positive for PEDs, I’ll just say it’s horrendously disappointing, but what does it say when you abuse performance enhancing drugs and yet you still can’t defend a triangle choke? Regardless – amazing fight.

-Highlight reel ends our night there with the announcers still in awe. And rightfully so.

Final Thoughts....

A lot of fans claimed UFC 116 and 117 were the greatest back-to-back shows the modern-era UFC’s ever done, and I think I’d probably agree with that opinion (putting 31-32, 51-52 and 91-92 into the shade), but I think 117 is the better of the two. We got a trio of so-so fights here in Brown-Boetsch, Saunders-Hallman and Fitch-Alves, but everything else is fantastic – Silva-Sonnen is one of the best title fights in MMA history, Dos Santos-Nelson was tremendous as was Struve-Morecraft, and the finishes in Hughes-Almeida, Hendricks-Brenneman and Story-Hazelett were as good as any in 2010. I can’t give the full monty in good conscience due to the three slower fights (and it’s not as good as UFC 84...) but this was one of the most entertaining UFC shows I can ever remember watching and I can’t think of many that I enjoyed more. Thumbs way up.

Best Fight: Silva-Sonnen
Worst Fight: Boetsch-Brown

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 118-121, Fight Night 22
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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