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UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez review
by Scott Newman (MMA)
Posted on February 25, 2011, 5:43 AM

UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez

Anaheim, California

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Heavyweight Fight: Jon Madsen vs Gilbert Yvel

Bit of an underwhelming opener for the biggest UFC card of the year, but hey. Madsen was on a three-fight win streak coming into this although his three wins had been horrendously dull fights, while Yvel was still looking for his first Octagon win after losses to Junior Dos Santos and Ben Rothwell. Smart pick here was Madsen via dull decision again. Yvel looks in awful shape here, like he hasnít even trained. And your referee is John McCarthy, who doesnít even get announced as ĎBigí because heís on the outs with Zuffa these days.

They get started and circle around, with Yvel clearly looking to counter as Madsen comes in. BIG takedown from Madsen though and Yvel is planted firmly on his back. Madsen postures up in the guard and opens up with some big shots right away, bringing the aggression, and Gilbert ends up stuffed against the cage taking shots until Big John stops it. Whoa.

Did not expect Madsen to blow right through Yvel like that, thatís for sure. I mean I expected him to win, but Madsen had never shown that sort of aggression before and he looked great here. This might just be enough for him to get a bit of a push from the UFC brass methinks. Yvel on the other hand is done I think and it might be best for him to hang it up. Quick and brutal opener.

Middleweight Fight: Chris Camozzi vs Dongi Yang

TUF 11 competitor Camozzi had won his first post-reality show fight against James Hammortree in June, while Koreaís Yang Ė cutting right down from Heavyweight to 185lbs (!) Ė was making his UFC debut here after building a 9-0 record, including a win over PRIDE veteran Pawel Nastula. Unsurprisingly Yang looks HUGE for a Middleweight.

We get underway and both men look a little tentative to begin. Yang looks to close the distance, but a couple of long punches keep him back. Right hook glances for Camozzi but Yang continues to press forward and lands a low kick. Takedown attempt from Yang and he basically just ragdolls Camozzi to the ground in full guard. Yang postures up and lands some heavy hammer fists while looking to pass. He gets into half-guard and continues to pound on the TUF veteran before passing to side mount. Camozzi looks to get to his feet, but gives his back in the process and ends up in a kneeling position with Yang behind him. Reversal from Camozzi though and he finds himself on top in Yangís guard. Yang escapes to his feet, but eats a hard knee on the way out. They exchange some strikes before Yang connects with a left. Good right hook from Camozzi and he forces Yang into the cage and lands a couple of knees to the body. Yang breaks off but heís breathing heavily. Good jab from Camozzi and he follows with a body kick. Yang fires back with a combo, but an uppercut snaps his head back. One minute to go and Yang looks slowed down considerably. Nice leg kick lands for him though. Good left hand from Yang as Camozzi steps in, but the TUF vet manages to clinch. Yang breaks off and they trade kicks to end the round. 10-9 Yang in a close round, but he looks much more tired than Camozzi.

Second round and both men come in swinging before Yang decides to close the distance and gets a takedown. Camozzi reverses to his feet but Yang gets a rear waistlock and suplexes him back down before going for a choke. Escape from Camozzi and he gets to his feet and shoves Yang away. Yang looks gassed. Lunging right hook misses and Camozzi goes to the body with a pair of knees. Jab and leg kick from Camozzi and Yang steps off to take a big breath. He lunges into the clinch and forces Camozzi into the fence, but the TUF vet breaks off. Good combo from Yang and he follows with a knee to the gut, but Camozzi answers with one of his own. This is a very close fight. Both guys look a lot slower now. Combo from Camozzi ends with a knee to the midsection as Rogan and Goldberg debate over whether Yang can understand Camozziís cornermen, because Camozzi sure as hell canít understand Yangís. Thatís a fair point, actually. Camozzi is constantly looking for the plum clinch here and he lands with a knee. He forces Yang back into the cage and it looks like he might be going for a takedown. Yang muscles free but heís almost gasping for breath now. They trade some punches and Camozzi gets the better of it and ends with another knee. Low single attempt from Camozzi but Yang hops around to avoid it and breaks off. Camozzi exits with a combo. Camozzi comes forward but walks right into a flush right hand from the Korean. Round ends shortly thereafter. Very hard round to score, as Iíd say Camozzi was more active but Yang probably landed the better shots. 10-9 Yang but it could go either way. Fight is still hanging in the balance going into the third.

Third and final round and Camozzi opens with a beautiful stiff jab that snaps Yangís head back. Another follows but Yang counters with a right and then clinches. Camozzi breaks free and comes back with a right hook. Good body kick follows. Another good combo from Camozzi. Yang is pushing forward more this round though. HEAVY left hook connects for Camozzi and wobbles Yangís legs badly. Heís in trouble. Yang clinches and goes for a judo throw, but Camozzi blocks it and lands some knees to the body and head. Yang swings back but heís still not all there. Lot of blood coming from the mouth and nose. Head kick glances for Camozzi and he follows with some more knees from the clinch. Yang swings back and then goes for a sloppy takedown, but Camozzi stuffs it and lands a knee and a right hand from the clinch. Yang has a lot of heart, dude. Another knee from Camozzi and I think he ought to be pushing this more. Two minutes to go and a lunging uppercut from Camozzi misses, but Yangís counter only just glances him. Camozzi is definitely getting the better of the exchanges in this round. Good knee to the body from Camozzi and he lunges forward but Yang sidesteps and grabs a rear waistlock. Standing kimura from Camozzi forces him to forget all about a suplex and theyíre back to standing. Both men are still going for this but I think Camozzi let Yang off the hook earlier in the round. Good right hand from Yang. Big combo answers for Camozzi and both men are fucking SWINGING. Seconds to go and they trade off to end. Well, that was a close fight. Iíd have it 29-28 for Yang but who knows with that second round?

Judges have it a split decision, 29-28 Yang, 29-28 Camozzi and 29-28 for Chris Camozzi to take the win. Crowd donít seem happy with that but like I said, it was close. Decision notwithstanding, hats off to both guys because while the technique wasnít perfect these two came out and fucking FOUGHT. And who could ever complain about that?

Lightweight Fight: Sam Stout vs Paul Taylor

On paper this was a bonafide contender for Fight of the Night, as both guys have taken that bonus on numerous occasions in the past and I canít remember a dull fight from either guy off the top of my head. Elephant in the room was how Taylor would deal with the drop to 155lbs given his fight with John Gunderson at UFC 112 had to be scrapped from the card due to his medical issues with the weight cut, so I was sort of leaning towards Stout even though I think Taylorís a better fighter if you get my drift.

1st round and they trade a couple of leg kicks to begin. Body kick from Taylor but Stout fires right back with a combo. Stoutís backing Taylor up a little here. Leg kick from Taylor but again Stout backs him up with some punches. Nice one-two from Stout and he lands a pair of overhand rights that force Taylor to cover up. These guys are not messing around at all. Good body kick from Taylor. Nice leg kick from Stout. Heavy combo from the Brit backs Stout up but he comes firing right back. Overhand right from Stout but Taylor fires back with about a five-shot combination ending with a body kick. Head kick glances for Taylor. Looks like heís sporting a bloody nose though. Right hand lands again for Stout. Kick from Stout but Taylor lands a right hand counter flush. The blood from Taylorís nose is looking like a Hitler moustache now. Jabs from Stout push him back. Beautiful leg kick from Taylor. Combination follows to the body and the leg. Stoutís landed the harder shots here but Taylorís definitely hit him more I think. Another big counter almost catches Stout off balance. Taylorís striking is awesome from a technique standpoint. Seconds to go and they continue to swing before Stout tackles the Brit to the ground on the buzzer. Rogan is saying Stout probably stole the round with that but fuck that, he didnít actually do anything with the takedown and it was clearly a move to sway the judges, which is sort of smart but really annoying too as itís clear the guy isnít going to get a sub or even any ground-and-pound with like two seconds left. 10-9 Taylor.

Into the 2nd and weíre into the striking exchange again with Taylor playing the counterstriker and landing some clipping blows in the opening seconds. Good leg kicks land for both men. Beautiful right hand-leg kick combo from the Brit. Stout fires back with a solid right hand. Left hand into another leg kick from Taylor. Nice combination snaps Stoutís head back. Dude has a solid chin. Taylor is just firing sick combos now. Stout keeps firing back but heís landing like one shot to every three of Taylorís at this point. He does catch a body kick though and puts Taylor down off balance with a right hand. Taylor bounces right back up and Stout lands a knee to the body and forces him into the cage in a clinch. Knee breaks off for Taylor and he lands another crisp counter combo. They really trade off for a second with both men landing. Head kick misses for Taylor. He slips but bounces right back up again. One minute to go. Taylor still countering nicely. Low single attempt from Taylor (!) but itís pretty bad and Stout sprints away. Another attempt is just as unsuccessful. Head kick glances for Stout. Combo from Taylor backs him up. Another counter lands for the Brit. Good jab from Stout. Big right misses for Stout and Taylor makes him pay with a counter one-two. Round ends there. 10-9 Taylor again, and this is an amazing showing of counterstriking.

3rd round and they pick up right where they left off, trading shots. Iíd call it a slugfest but that would insinuate that itís a sloppy brawl which it isnít at all. Nice inside leg kick from Stout and he follows with a combo to the body as Taylor looks to fire back. Good combination from Taylor ending with a kick to the body. Counter left hook catches Stout coming forward. Stout is doing a bit better in this round. Big right lands for Taylor, however. Good combos from both men. Wild trade with both men landing. Two minutes to go and this has been the most even round yet. Hard leg kick from Taylor. Left hook to the body follows, and Bas would be proud. Big swing from Stout but he doesnít land cleanly. Leg kick causes Taylor to slip face-first but he pops back up. Overhand right from Stout but Taylor counters with a body kick. Right hand lands for Taylor and he follows with a combo. Taylor is beginning to outland the Canadian again now. Takedown attempt from Stout is stuffed. Good combination from Stout but he takes a body kick on the way out. Both men really push the action now but Taylor lands the hardest with another body kick. They trade wildly to end the round before Taylor dives for an odd takedown. Iíve got this 30-27 for Paul Taylor.

Scorecards have it as another split decision, 29-28 Taylor, 29-28 Stout and 30-27 for Sam Stout. Wow. Crowd donít sound happy with that at all and for good reason. I donít see at all how you could get 30-27 Stout. I mean sure, for the first two rounds he maybe pushed the action a little more, but I thought a blind man couldíve seen that Taylor was landing more blows and landing the cleaner ones too even if Stout threw some more power shots. I donít know. Real bad judging in my book. Still, the fight lived up to the hype completely, action from start to finish, and even though it was his third loss in a row Taylorís kept his job with the UFC, probably because every time he fights itís a great fight.

Welterweight Fight: Daniel Roberts vs Mike Guymon

Battle of two grapplers in this one. Roberts was looking to follow up his win over Forrest Petz in July, while Guymon was coming off a win of his own over Yoshiyuki Yoshida in May.

Opening round and Roberts comes out aggressively, really pushing forward and backing Guymon up. No strikes thrown yet though. A slip from Guymon allows Roberts to come forward swinging though, landing a flurry that backs the Joker into the fence. Guymon looks for the takedown, but leaves his neck free and Roberts quickly grabs a guillotine and then transitions into an anaconda choke. Roberts drops for the choke and then flips Guymon over, tightening it up in the process, and Joker has to tap out there.

Absolutely beautiful technique from Daniel Roberts, reminiscent of Yoshiyuki Yoshidaís submission of War Machine in 2008. The word on Roberts was always that he was a serious grappler and this was the first time he really showed that in the UFC. Unlucky break for Guymon as the whole thing began with him slipping, but such is MMA. Awesome submission.

Middleweight Fight: Tom Lawlor vs Patrick Cote

This was an interesting fight on paper as in essence itís your classic striker vs. grappler match, but Lawlor had shown much improved striking in his last couple of fights while Coteís grappling has been steadily improving since his UFC debut in 2004. My pick here was Cote, namely because Lawlorís cardio had let him down in the past.

Round One and they quickly exchange punches as Lawlor looks to grab the clinch. Lawlor drives him back into the fence and drops for the single leg, but Cote defends it. Good knees to the leg from Lawlor and he keeps trying for the takedown and gets it, putting the Canadian on his back in guard. Couple of hammer fists land for Lawlor as Cote tries to tie up the arms. Little action and the crowd boo, but Lawlorís controlling this fight. He presses Cote into the fence and lands some shots before standing to pass the guard into side mount. Cote scrambles, but Lawlor keeps control in half-guard now. Lawlor looks to be setting up for an arm triangle, and he begins to land some solid ground-and-pound now too. Arm triangle gets locked on and he passes out to the side, but Cote does a good job of rolling free, giving his back in the process. Lawlor lands some punches and then goes for a rear naked choke, but he doesnít have his hooks in and ends up slipping off to the side, allowing Cote to get on top to end the round. 10-9 Tom Lawlor.

Between rounds the replay reveals Cote actually used the fence in an illegal manner to help him roll out of the arm triangle. Boo!

Round Two and Lawlor pushes forward, and they exchange some feeler strikes with neither man landing anything really major. Good left from Lawlor and he goes for the takedown, forcing Cote into the fence. Guillotine attempt from Cote but Lawlor frees his head and keeps Cote against the cage before dropping for a double. Cote tries to hit a switch, but he ends up on his back again with Lawlor on top in guard. Short elbows from Lawlor as Cote remains stuffed into the cage. Cote manages to scramble to his feet, but Lawlor stays on him and forces him back into the cage. They exchange some shots inside but Lawlor drops for the takedown and gets it again. Half-guard from Cote, and he tries for a kimura, but Lawlor easily avoids and lands some shots from the top. Less than a minute to go and the crowd boo until Big John McCarthy stands them up. Superman punch misses for Cote and he throws some kicks too, but he canít land big and thatís another round in the books for Lawlor.

Round Three and Joe Rogan is PISSING HIMSELF with laughter coming in because one of Lawlorís cornermen told him to ďtake this prick down!Ē And sure enough they trade some punches for a moment before Lawlor drops for a double leg and puts Cote down again. Arm triangle attempt from half-guard and he passes into side mount, but lets go of the choke in the process. Good job from Cote to get back to half-guard, but a sweep attempt is unsuccessful and Lawlor lands some punches to the head. Neck crank from Lawlor leads into the full mount, but Cote does well with a hip escape and gets back to half-guard. Lawlor goes for a kimura on the far arm, but Cote scrambles and almost stands. Lawlor keeps him down though, and ends up on top in full guard now. Short elbows from Lawlor and he isnít showing any signs of slowing down this time. Ref calls a stand-up and Cote comes in with a body kick, but Lawlor closes the distance and forces him back into the fence. He drops for a double again and gets it, landing on top in half-guard. Lawlor lands some sharp elbows to the body and remains in control despite Cote looking to scramble. Seconds to go now and this has to be Lawlorís fight. Cote gets back to guard but he eats more ground-and-pound and thatís the fight. Got to be 30-27 for Tom Lawlor.

Unanimous decision for Tom Lawlor, 30-27 all around. Well, there couldnít be another result, could there? This was a fantastic showing from Lawlor as he got back to his grappling roots and just owned Cote from beginning to end. Wasnít as exciting as his previous two fights but his back was against the wall and he did what he had to do to win. Cote was released following this which surprised me given thereís far worse fighters on the UFC roster at 185lbs but I guess he has lost three in a row and probably needs some fights against lesser opposition to bounce back.

Middleweight Fight: Court McGee vs Ryan Jensen

Well, I still have no idea how Jensen is still employed by Zuffa but I guess he was at least coming off a win prior to this one, an exciting short fight against Jesse Forbes in May. This was, perhaps, the most underwhelming fight for a TUF winner ever, although no offense to Court, I donít think heís quite in the same league as a Rashad Evans or even a Roy Nelson, so itís understandable. I was picking McGee to win though simply because Iíll never pick Jensen to win a UFC fight I donít think!

Fight begins and McGee immediately pushes forward, but walks into a straight right from Jensen who shows some decent footwork. Single leg attempt is stuffed by Jensen and he lands a jab that drops Court for a second, but the TUF winner bounces right back to his feet. McGee looks desperately to tie up, but a knee breaks off for Jensen. Clipping right from Jensen and Court clinches again, where they exchange knees. Trip takedown from Jensen and he lands on top in guard. Rogan mentions that Jensen is a huge step up in competition for McGee, but I donít think heís anywhere near as good as Nick Ring who McGee fought on TUF. Jensen gets into half-guard and then starts to land some big shots as Court looks to use the fence to get to his feet. They come back up and Court separates, but Jensen continues to move well, landing with a jab and a glancing high kick. Good combination from Jensen. McGee looks too stiff on his feet. Nice right hand lands for Jensen. Jensen is owning Court in the stand-up here. Big head kick misses for him though. Another combination lands for Jensen. Court comes back with a right of his own. Good leg kick from both men. Beautiful shot to the body from Jensen. McGee tries to swing back but Jensen gets outta dodge. Round ends with some more solid shots from Jensen. Pretty dominant round for Ryan Jensen but not too dominant, so 10-9.

Round Two and coming in John Hackleman tells McGee heís going to take Jensen with conditioning. Interesting. Both men come out throwing strikes and indeed, Jensen looks much slower than he did in the first round while McGee still looks fresh. Good right hand and a leg kick from Court with a minute gone. Couple of jabs land for the TUF winner too. Big left hand from McGee lands and Jensen looks stunned for a second before throwing a head kick that misses. Takedown attempt from Jensen is easily stuffed. Good combo from McGee. Jensenís footwork is pretty much gone now. Into the clinch and Jensen tries a hip throw, but McGee spins free and lands some more shots, bloodying Jensen up. Big right hand lands for Jensen though as Court overextends a little. He follows with a leg kick and a shot to the body. McGee comes back with a bodyshot of his own and a right hand. Crowd randomly begin to boo despite the fight being full of action, and Joe Rogan tells us the boos are for Josh Koscheck, who just walked in! Holy fuck. Both men continue to land shots but itís McGee who presses forward. MONSTROUS ďGSPĒ chant starts up to taunt Koscheck now, which is wild. Good combo from McGee. Round ends with a nice takedown from McGee, landing in side mount. Total turnaround from the opening round. 10-9 McGee.

Round Three and McGee comes out aggressively with a left hand and a kick to the body. Big left lands for McGee and he follows with a couple of heavy hooks and a takedown to guard. Crowd are way into this now. Court stacks up and begins to SMASH Jensen with elbows, then works right into full mount! Jensen is in big trouble now and he eats some more BRUTAL ELBOWS before trying to buck out. McGee shows some good base and lands some more shots...then locks up an arm triangle for the tapout!

Hell of a fight and a tremendous comeback from Court McGee after he was dominated in the first round. Jensen did well in the first, but totally blew himself out in doing so and by about halfway through the second it was pretty clear there was only going to be one winner. How far up the UFC ladder McGee can go I honestly donít know, but hey, a midcard UFC spot is better than being a junkie! Good for him. And Jensen STILL has his roster spot, while a guy like Patrick Cote is released. Go figure.

Heavyweight Fight: Brendan Schaub vs Gabriel Gonzaga

Really cool PPV opener and a big step up in competition for Schaub, but then again he had blown through his last two opponents (Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer) so quickly that a step up was clearly needed. Gonzaga was coming off his loss to Junior Dos Santos and being a guy who, at this stage, tends to kill mid-level guys but canít beat the very top fighters, he was the perfect test for an up-and-comer like Schaub, even if there was a possibility of him being too much, too soon.

Round One and they circle before Gonzaga lands a leg kick. Schaub throws out a couple of punches that miss, and both guys look content to stand and strike here. Kick is caught by Schaub and he tags the Brazilian with a right hand that backs him up a bit. Napao comes forward but eats a hard right hook that backs him up. Schaub opens up with a combination and heís really got Gonzaga on his back foot here. Another overhand right finds the mark. And another, set up by a pair of jabs. Gonzaga needs to change things up here quickly. Another combination lands for Schaub. Head kick is blocked by Schaub. He fires back with some more punches. Good leg kick lands for Gonzaga. Jabs from Schaub and Gonzaga ducks under and looks for a takedown, but Schaub stuffs it. Right hand from Schaub connects. Action slows up a little with under a minute to go before Napao has another high kick blocked. Trade follows and Schaub lands a right to the temple that wobbles Gonzagaís legs badly. Seconds to go and Schaub really pours it on, rushing in with a flurry and finally dropping the Brazilian on the buzzer! Big round for Brendan Schaub.

Second round and Schaub opens up with jabs that keep Gonzaga on his back foot again. Right hand lands again for Schaub but he eats a leg kick. Combo from Schaub has Gonzaga backing up but he doesnít land cleanly. Another leg kick lands for Napao. Another one follows and Schaub looks slightly hurt. Double jab from Schaub and Gonzaga goes for a half-shot but gets stuffed. Leg kick causes Gonzaga to slip onto his back and as he bounces up Schaub closes in with a flurry and they trade. Schaub gets the better of that and backs the Brazilian up again, but takes another leg kick. Series of nice jabs land for Schaub and really put Gonzaga on the retreat. Leg kick lands for him again but Schaub is still pushing the action and forcing him to backpedal. Another exchange has Gonzaga covering up as Schaub flurries. Schaub looks much faster than Gonzaga which seems to be the difference. Combo lands for the TUF vet. Canít believe Gonzaga hasnít gone for more takedowns. High kick misses for the Brazilian by a mile. Seconds left in the round. Schaub with a big right hand and thatís that. 10-9 Schaub and Gonzaga needs a stoppage in the third to win.

Final round and Schaub continues to beat Gonzaga to the punch. Takedown attempt from Schaub (!) but Gonzaga sprawls to avoid. Surprising that Schaub would even go for that. Striking exchange continues to Schaubís advantage as he lands jabs and crosses while avoiding Gonzagaís shots. Beautiful one-two lands for Schaub as he slips a right hand. Good body kick from Gonzaga. Head kick is blocked though. Flurry from Schaub has the Brazilian covering up again. Hard leg kick from Gonzaga. Action has slowed up a lot in this round. Schaub continues to land jabs but he takes a leg kick and I canít believe Gonzaga isnít throwing more of them. Thirty seconds to go and this is looking like Schaubís fight comfortably. Big combo from Schaub and he shoots with seconds to go, but Gonzaga sprawls, spins onto the back, and looks to sink the choke as the buzzer sounds! Well, why didnít he try that earlier?

Weíre going to the judges and itís a unanimous decision for Brendan Schaub, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27. Schaub pretty much owned this fight, taking it to Gonzaga on the feet and beating him to the punch constantly due to his speed advantage. Big win for him. Gonzaga on the other hand fought a terrible fight, only going for two takedowns on a guy who clearly had a disadvantage on the ground, and honestly as weird as this sounds, the knockout of Cro Cop mightíve ruined his career as since then heís been fighting like a kickboxer as opposed to a BJJ guy with solid striking which is what he really is. After this one he was released by the UFC which sort of surprised me given heís always over with crowds thanks to his highlight reel, but the word is that he wants out of MMA now anyway so maybe itís not such a shock. So-so fight with some really exciting moments but some slow ones too.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Matt Hamill vs Tito Ortiz

This was billed as Ďteacher vs. studentí even though in reality Hamill hadnít actually trained with Tito since the summer of 2006, so there you go. Interestingly enough I actually thought this match favoured Tito if he was healthy despite his year-long layoff, as Hamill had shown a lot of problems when heíd been put on his back by Jon Jones, and I figured if Titoís back was healthy then he might be able to put Hamill in a bad position and punish him from there. Probably too much faith in Tito because I still love the guy and heís the one who basically got me into UFC, but blah, whatever.

Fight begins and Tito comes out swinging, landing a head kick and a knee from the clinch that puts Hamill on the back foot. Left hand slows him down slightly but a one-two lands for the former champion. Big ďTITO!Ē chant from the crowd as he lands with a body kick, but Hamill catches the leg and takes him down. Hamill gets to half-guard, but Tito slips free and pulls out of a front facelock to stand. Titoís got a small cut on the right side of his head. They exchange some punches and Tito throws a couple more body kicks. Leg kick lands for Ortiz. Left hook into a body kick from Tito and he follows it up with a jab. Hamill fires back with a few jabs of his own and somehow Titoís eye is marked up pretty badly. Combos from Tito put Hamill on the retreat slightly and the former champ follows with a leg kick. Spinning backfist (!) from Tito but Hamill blocks it. Good uppercut from Hamill. Flurry from Tito forces Hamill back, but he fires back with a jab. Seconds to go and a nice right lands for Tito before Hamill lands with a straight left on the buzzer. Close round to call as Tito took more facial damage, but I think he landed the better shots, so 10-9 Ortiz.

Into the 2nd and Tito connects with a leg kick as both men throw out jabs. Tito is still moving around well. Good high kick from Hamill. Hamillís timing seems to be better in this round and heís landing a couple more counters. Takedown attempt from Ortiz is easily stuffed. This is a really even striking contest. Nice combo from Hamill ending with a body punch, answered by Tito with pretty much the same combo. Flurry from Tito ending with a glancing knee to the body. Left hook into a leg kick from Ortiz. Big takedown from Hamill and he lands on top in the guard. Couple of elbows and hammer fists from Hamill and it looks like heís trying to gouge the eyes like he did to Seth Petruzelli again. Not a fan of that at all. Good flurry of shots from Hamill though as Tito shifts his hips. Hamill postures up and Tito looks to roll for a leglock, but Hamill scrambles out and gets to side mount where he drops some more elbows. Havenít seen Tito controlled on the ground like this since the Couture fight in 2003. Hamill looks for the Hughes crucifix and land some more elbows, but Tito avoids that by turning to his side. His face is badly busted up now though. Half-guard from Ortiz and thatís the round. Round was close until it hit the ground and then it was all Hamill, 10-9.

Third and final round and this could go either way on my scorecard. They exchange some punches to begin and Hamill connects with a left hook. Big right counter from Tito pushes him back a little. Jab lands for Ortiz. Hamill comes back with a pair of jabs of his own. Good combo from Hamill. Body kick answers for Ortiz. Lunging left uppercut connects for Hamill. Theyíre basically going shot-for-shot on the feet. Pair of jabs land for Hamill. Glancing combos from both men. Takedown attempt from Tito but Hamill blocks it nicely. Two minutes to go now. Big combination backs Tito into the fence. Tito begins to push forward more but Hamill tackles him and lands in half-guard. Elbows from Hamill and it doesnít look like Titoís getting out of this. Big series of punches from Hamill as Tito desperately tries to answer from the bottom by flailing back. Tito is getting a taste of his own medicine. His face is a mess at this stage. Seconds to go and he tries a reversal but itís to no avail. Got to be 29-28 Matt Hamill.

Post-fight Tito looks very upset with himself as the decision goes to Hamill, 29-28, 29-28, 30-27. Wasnít as one-sided as I remembered it being on first viewing, as they were pretty evenly matched standing and you could probably even give a very slight advantage to Tito, but once Hamill got him down he really beat on him and thatís where he won the fight. Massive win for Hamill and while I donít think heíll ever reach the very top level I think heís cemented himself in or around the top ten at this point. For me the juryís still out on how much Tito has left at this point Ė if weíre honest he wasnít healthy for the Griffin fight, and even though he lost to Hamill and Machida in 2008 he was never truly out of either fight. I think a better stylistic match may show heís still got something left, but who knows really? Fun fight overall if only because every Tito Ortiz fight feels like a big deal even if itís in the midcard.

Welterweight Fight: Diego Sanchez vs Paulo Thiago

After a horrendous loss at the hands of John Hathaway I expected Diego to drop back to 155lbs, but instead he decided to stay at 170lbs and go back to the place heíd been when he had his original success Ė Greg Jacksonís team. Really interesting move given Iíd heard he left there under a bit of a black cloud, but to be fair his best performances (vs. Diaz, Parisyan, Riggs, etc) came under Jackson so it seemed to be a smart move for him. Thiago, despite his recent loss to Martin Kampmann, was still a very tough opponent, and my expectation was that weíd find out whether Diego was still relevant or not based on this fight.

Fight begins and Diego throws out a couple of combos that miss. Thiago pushes forward but a right hand lands for Diego. Body kick from Thiago. Combo from Diego but he eats a nice counter. Takedown attempt follows but Thiago stuffs it and looks for a DíArce, but Diego avoids and takes a knee en route up to the clinch. Good knee from Thiago as both men look for a takedown. Thiago gets a deep single leg but Diego avoids it and they trade shots from close quarters before breaking off. Combo from Diego but Thiago grabs a bodylock and drags him to the ground before passing to half-guard. Looks like heís setting up for an arm triangle, then he lands with some elbows to the body. Diego looks to turn and gets caught in a DíArce, but he manages to slip free. Scramble puts Diego on his feet and he pulls out of another DíArce attempt before slipping. Knee breaks for Thiago. Good right hand to the body from Diego. Heís pushing Thiago back with these combos. Clinch from Diego and he forces the Brazilian into the cage. Takedown attempt from Diego but heís leaving his neck out a little. Thiago stuffs it and ends the round with a big flurry. Close round but Iíd go 10-9 Paulo Thiago.

Round Two and Diego pushes forward and lands a nice leg kick. Flurry pushes Diego back but he fires right back with punches of his own. Wild swings from Diego set up a takedown, but Thiago looks to lock up the DíArce again. Diego avoids that and keeps going for the single, and they tumble down with Thiago rolling for a possible leglock. Diego ends up on top dropping some hammer fists and punches in a reverse mount-ish position, before Paulo scrambles and ends up on his back in guard. Diego works into half-guard but Thiago looks for a kimura. Diego tries to wrench his arm free, but Thiago keeps looking for it, taking some punches to the body in the process. Diego manages to escape and looks to pass to mount, but Thiago does a good job of preventing that. Ref calls time for a second because Thiago elbowed Diego in the back of the head, but they quickly restart. Kimura attempt from Thiago again and this time he throws a leg over to isolate the arm, but Diego manages to pull free and stands over him before dropping some punches into the guard. Good elbows but Thiago hits an elevator sweep and flips him off. He looks to capitalize, but Diego hits a MAD scramble and lifts him up before SCREAMING AND HITTING A RUNNING POWERSLAM!~! Crowd EXPLODE as Diego flurries from half-guard with elbows and punches, then avoids some upkicks to remain on top. This is the real Diego Sanchez, fuckers! Massive chant for Diego as Thiago scrambles and looks for a reversal. Diegoís having none of that and he stays on top and looks to grab a choke, but he doesnít have body control and decides to go to punches instead. Big shots from Diego and he looks to take the back, but he gets too high up and falls off, allowing Thiago to come in with a flurry before Diego fires back to end the round! WOW. Awesome round. 10-9 Diego Sanchez.

Third round and Thiago is looking exhausted while Diego is mean-mugging him. Word! Takedown attempt right away from Thiago but Diego overpowers him and forces him into his back in half-guard. Thiago looks to tie up an arm for a kimura again, but Diegoís too slippy and he slides free and remains in half-guard. He looks to take the back, and gets one hook in, then gets his second one sunk. Diego looks for the choke, locking up a body triangle for good measure, but Thiago manages to avoid. Punches land for Diego from the back mount and Thiagoís face is a bloody mess. Thiago turns, but winds up mounted for a second before rolling to his side, where Diego lands some punches to his back. Full mount for Diego and he continues to land shots before taking the back again. Thiago finally manages to shake him off, but he slips and falls to his back and Diego storms forward, right into an upkick! It has little effect though and Diego remains on top in half-guard. Looks like Diegoís pace has just killed the Brazilian. Scramble from Thiago and he tries for a leglock, but Diegoís having none of that and he pulls out and lands some big punches from the back. He tries to jump into back mount, and despite slipping he gets the position. Thiago manages to shake him off, though, and tries to lock up a DíArce, but Diego forces his way free and keeps on punching from the guard. BIG right hand lands from the top and Diego follows with more brutal elbows. The pace here is relentless. Thiago tries to roll, but Diego rides him and then takes full mount, going WILD with punches and elbows until the buzzer sounds. Roof sounds like itís about to blow off the Honda Center and rightfully so. Insane fight.

Post-fight Diego goes crazy with his cornermen while Thiago can barely get to his feet. Judges have it 30-26 (?), 29-28 and 29-28 for Diego Sanchez. Well, after a couple of dodgy performances Diego Sanchez is BACK, and that only means trouble for anyone not named Georges St-Pierre in the 170lbs division. This was the wild scrambling Diego with the relentless pace from pre-2007, and after a slow start he completely broke Thiagoís will with his constant pressure. Bold prediction Ė if Diego keeps fighting like this, which is totally possible now heís back at Jacksonís, if GSP decides to vacate the belt at 170lbs then Diego might just be the guy to end up with the title finally. Fight was a total FOTYC.

Welterweight Fight: Jake Shields vs Martin Kampmann

Shields was easily the biggest signing for the UFC in 2010, a massive coup in fact when you consider Strike Force spent thousands on stealing Dan Henderson away only to see him get dominated by Shields in their fight before Shields jumped ship to UFC, leaving the Strike Force Middleweight Title behind to boot. Despite fighting at 185lbs for his last three fights Jake immediately dropped back to his more natural 170lbs to enter the UFC, looking to cement himself as the top contender to GSPís title. His first opponent would be perennial contender Kampmann, looking to spoil Shieldsí entrance party and get the title shot himself. On paper I figured the fight favoured Shields as somehow he always finds a way to win, but word of him having a bad weight cut was going around which added a little more intrigue.

1st round and Shields pushes forward and throws a body kick before closing the distance and forcing Kampmann into the fence. Kampmann works to block it, but Shields gets him down and quickly passes to half-guard. Kampmann tries to hold his head, but Shields works through into side mount before Kampmann hip escapes to half-guard. Shields works to pass that and looks to get his leg free to take full mount. Good job from Kampmann at blocking though. Shields passes to side mount and then right into full mount. Sick grappling. Good job from Kampmann though at getting butterfly guard and reversing to his feet. Shields forces him into the cage though, but Kampmann reverses position. Shields switches and looks for the takedown again, then takes him down as Kampmann goes for a guillotine. Kampmann tries to reverse out but Shields still has his legs. Kampmann blocks and they jockey for position in the clinch. Kampmann breaks off and Shields definitely looks stiff on his feet. Both men fire off with jabs but it looks like Kampmannís worried about the takedown. Low single is avoided by Kampmann and he manages to slip away from a clinch attempt too. Seconds to go and Shields looks for the takedown and keeps driving forward to get it, but Kampmann sprawls out on the buzzer. Well, neither man did much damage but Shields took dominant positions, so 10-9 Shields.

2nd round and Kampmann looks to draw him into exchanging as Shields clearly looks to close the distance. Heís successful and he forces the Dane into the fence, looking to trip him down. Kampmann blocks and forces Shields into the fence, then lands a BIG KNEE that drops Shields to all fours! Kampmann grabs the head and looks for a front choke, but that allows Shields to recover and he pushes forward and manages to get Kampmann down. I think Kampmann let him off the hook big time there. Kampmann holds a guillotine attempt, but heís on his back and Shields spins into side mount and pops his head free. Kampmann needs to quit trying to grapple with Shields and just work on standing up. Good reversal from Kampmann and he does get up and lands some knees, and as they separate Shields looks GASSED, his arms hanging by his sides. Kampmann pushes forward but inexplicably clinches before landing another knee. Shields drops for the takedown and looks for it desperately, being warned for grabbing the shorts in the process. Takedown is successful though and Shields gets on top in half-guard. Side mount from Shields and he steps beautifully into full mount, but Kampmann hip escapes to half-guard. Shields lands a couple of elbows and passes to mount again, but Kampmann bucks out and reverses to his feet in the clinch. Knees from Kampmann again but Big John McCarthy calls a separation. Seconds to go but Kampmann canít land on an exhausted Shields before the buzzer. Close round as Kampmann did better and did land the big knee, but Shields still took a lot of dominant positions. 10-9 Shields.

3rd round and Shields looks like heís running on fumes. Kampmann still looks a bit tentative though and Shields goes for a single leg. Kampmann stuffs it, and lands a glancing high kick coming forward. Good knee from Kampmann too. Shields lumbers forward but eats a couple of jabs. Takedown attempt is stuffed and Kampmann gets to his feet and shoves Shields off before landing a kick as his back is turned. Clinch from Shields but he eats some knees to the body. Kampmann separates and Shields shoots, but the Dane stuffs it and transitions to top position and tries to grab a choke. Shields reverses free though and drives him into the fence, looking for the takedown. Sprawl from Kampmann to avoid and he looks for a DíArce, but Shields quickly grabs half-guard. Kampmann pulls out of that and holds the position, but he isnít going to catch Shields and probably should be concentrating on striking more. He does wind up on top in half-guard though where he lands a couple of elbows. Sick reversal from Shields though and he avoids a guillotine and winds up on top in half-guard himself. Side mount from Shields and he looks content just to control him from there. Kampmann rolls and gives his back, and as he stands Shields drags him down and gets both hooks in. Thirty seconds to go and Shields controls from back mount to end the fight. Probably Kampmannís round but I think itís Shieldsí fight overall.

To the judges and itís a split decision, 29-28 Shields, 29-28 Kampmann, 29-28 Shields, giving the former Strike Force champ a successful UFC debut. Well, the gist of things was that Kampmann fought a really bad fight, as he decided for some reason to fight Shields at his own game rather than look to use his stand-up, and even when Shields was totally gassed he still had the grappling acumen to handle Kampmann in that area. I read a few days later that Shields was carrying a back injury into this fight which would explain both the tough weight cut and his crappy cardio, so that excuses his weak performance somewhat. Not that there was anything wrong with the fight technically, but I think if it were anyone else thereís no way theyíd be given a title shot after a showing like that. Shields though is the only fresh challenger they have left for GSP so Iím glad Dana followed through and gave him the shot. Heíll get killed, sure, but itís more proof that GSP is the best fighter on the planet right now so who am I to complain?

UFC World Heavyweight Title: Brock Lesnar vs Cain Velasquez

For me this was the biggest fight of 2010 (even though some heathens said the same for Lesnar-Carwin) as it pitted the reigning champion and all-round badass Lesnar against the guy who I figured was the top challenger, the unbeaten phenom Velasquez. The MMA fanbase seemed split down the middle in terms of picking a winner, as half thought Lesnarís massive size and strength advantage would allow him to bully the smaller Cain, while the other half thought Cainís cardio advantage, more well-rounded game, and almost-equal wrestling base would win him the fight. I was firmly with the Cain camp as Iíve seen him as the heir to Fedorís title of best Heavyweight on the planet since he debuted in 2006 and couldnít see the cruder Lesnar being able to deal with him at all. My prediction was Lesnar to come out and manage a couple of takedowns, but be unable to keep Cain down and eventually wilt to a later TKO.

Oh, and just to touch on the other situation surrounding this fight Ė I didnít have any problem with the way Zuffa were marketing Cain as potentially the ďfirst ever Mexican HW championĒ. First off, Cainís obviously proud of his Latino heritage and has no problem with it; secondly, if it allows him to get over big with the Latino population and turns that crowd into MMA fans then whatís the big deal? Itíll end up making more money for Cain and more money for the UFC which is, surely, what promotion is all about?

Entrances really show how well the marketing played off, as Cain gets an absolutely MONSTROUS babyface pop, one of the biggest Iíve heard for a UFC fighter in fact, while Lesnar gets firmly booed. Lesnarís Viking beard is FUCKING EPIC, it must be said. And he even shoves a security guard out of the way on his way to the cage! This is awesome. Staredown is epic too as Cain is so stoic, as if beating the hell out of other dudes in a cage is just what heís been put here to do, simple as that.

And HERE WE GO!~! Lesnar comes CHARGING OUT LIKE A RHINO and closes the distance and they trade off right away inside the clinch! Knee from Lesnar and Cain separates, but Brock comes in with a wild flying knee and looks to grab him again! Cain backs out and they exchange a few punches before Brock tackles him to the ground, almost crashing right into Herb Dean who has to leap out of the way. Crowd are deafening already. Cain gets to guard...and calmly reverses to his feet. Brock is relentless and forces him back into the cage, looking to take him down again. He drops for a double leg as Cain works to defend, but Lesnar keeps working and eventually slams the challenger down. Velasquez is down for only a couple of seconds before springing back up to his feet in a cat-like way, almost doing the full splits in the process. Lesnar with a rear waistlock, but Cain takes a step forward and spins free. They exchange some punches and Cain lands a couple, then misses a high kick. Looks like Lesnarís cut around the right eye somehow. Single leg attempt from Cain and he dumps Brock down! Lesnar winds up on all fours and Cain controls him and lands some big shots to the side of the head! Brock reverses to his feet and avoids another single leg, but he takes a couple more punches in the process. Backfist attempt from Brock as he looks to create some distance and back Velasquez up, but as he steps in Cain meets him with a right and a short left that has the challenger stumbling and spinning across the cage! Holy shit. Cain follows and UNLOADS with a combo, and as Lesnar tries to answer, Cain lands with a BIG KNEE and a follow-up right that drops the champion! Cain gets a knee on the belly and starts to pound away, and Lesnar is in deep trouble. Big shots land for Cain as Lesnar desperately tries to defend, but his face is a bloody mess and he looks like heís exhausted too. Finally he manages to reverse and grabs a leg to stand, but Cain simply cracks him with another big combo that drops him again! Lesnar begins to cover up as Cain SMASHES HIM and finally some clubbing hammer fists force Herb Dean to step in! NEW CHAMPION!~! Crowd give one of the biggest pops Iíve ever heard in any sport period as Cain celebrates. I mean shit, that was DEAFENING. Lesnarís face looks like heís been in a serious car accident. Good God. The cut under his eye looks like someoneís hit him with a fucking machete.

Post-fight Cain admits he was expecting a five-rounder, then says he was expecting an early storm from Lesnar but heíd prepared for everything, before putting over his training camp and talking some Spanish to pop the crowd big again. Lesnar then admits he knew Cain was a great fighter, and just got beaten by the better man. Joe Rogan asks him if heíll come back stronger to which Brock says thatís what a champion does. Good humble attitude from him.

Well, it happened a little quicker than Iíd expected but the fight went down just how Iíd thought, as Brock couldnít keep Cain down and once Cain started unloading, he was in real trouble. Some people are now claiming Brockís done as a fighter because he canít take a punch, but letís be honest Ė who else in the world could get back up from under his takedowns like Cain did, and who else could hit a single leg on him like Cain did? I still think heís a force in the division Ė heís just not in the same league as Cain Velasquez, who I see as pretty much unstoppable right now. I mean, amazing wrestling skill, ever-improving in all areas, big striking power and a sick learning curve Ė basically heís the next evolution in Heavyweight MMA and I canít wait to see how long he keeps hold of the belt. Great main event made even better by the unbelievable atmosphere around it that seems to come with every Brock Lesnar fight, love him or hate him.

-Show ends with a highlight reel. Long live King Cain!

Final Thoughts....

Well, from top-to-bottom this was an amazing show from the UFC and if it wasnít for UFC 117 itís probably the best card of the year. Epic main event, a Diego Sanchez classic, a very good Tito Ortiz fight, and a handful of quality prelims make this one an easy thumbs up. Shields-Kampmann wouldnít be to everyoneís tastes which is why Iíd put it below 117 on the overall scale, and it couldíve done with some more explosive finishes on the main card, but this was essentially UFCís equivalent of a Wrestlemania Ė a supercard that managed to live up to all the hype. Highest recommendation.

Best Fight: Sanchez-Thiago
Worst Fight: Lawlor-Cote

Overall Rating: ****3/4

Coming Soon....

UFC: 122-126, Fight Night 23
King of the Cage: Various shows

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

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