Length: 174 mins
13 July 2002 to 21 April 2007, old Blighty waited the best part of five years to get a second gander at the UFC Octagon up close, and nowadays it seems they can't keep away. Ladies and Gentlemen, pleased to make your acquaintance are Messrs Taylor, Etim, Liaudin and Sakara aka the Continental Crew. Judging by the line-ups of the subsequent events on these islands, these boys are our designated regulars.
- Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
- Andrei Arlovski vs. Fabricio Werdum
- Michael Bisping vs. Elvis Sinosic
- Lyoto Machida vs. David Heath
- Cheick Kongo vs. Assuerio Silva
- Terry Etim vs. Matt Grice
- Junior Assuncao vs. David Lee
- Alessio Sakara vs. Victor Valimaki
- Jess Liaudin vs. Dennis Siver
- Paul Taylor vs. Edilberto de Oliveira
- Behind the scenes: Bisping vs Sinosic
The extortionate pricing structure at the Manchester Evening News Arena meant we gave this one a miss, especially given how I'd previously parted with a mere $85.00 to see Couture, Liddell et al at the MGM (have I ever mentioned that?). Mike Goldberg raised an instant chuckle on the live broadcast, proclaiming Nations Collide as emanating from "beautiful" Manchester, England. On the subject of Goldberg- it may have been the jet lag, but his commentary was all over the place throughout this show. Most notably, Goldy's mental abacus deduced that there was an age difference of "six years" between 28 year old Michael Bisping and 36 year old Elvis Sinosic; later during the same fight, Goldberg made reference to the fight between Sinosic and Tito Ortiz at the Royal Albert Hall in 2002 (neither man was even on the card that night). Pedantic? Maybe. But they're paid to get stuff like this right. Meanwhile Joe Rogan was in obdurate mood, unyieldingly burying everyone in sight by proclaiming Sinosic as "tough in all the wrong ways" and spending practically the full fifteen minutes of Cheick Kongo's fight ragging on the Frenchman's non-existent ground game. Oh..... there were fights backdropped by the headscratch-inducing commentary too.....
Waaaallllsallllllll!!!! Sorry. Debutant "Relentless" Paul Taylor hails from the Motherland, the Jewel in the Crown of the Black Country.... okay, I'm allowed to get jingoistic for this one. Fellow first-timer Edilberto Crocota didn't show very much en route to a third round TKO'ing, and a postliminary pasting by Luke Cummo seemingly spells adieu to any future UFC prospects for he. Taylor displayed sweet striking skills in a dominant ten minute stretch, constantly outmanoeuvring the Brazilian, enough to whet the appetite for a stiffer test against Marcus Davis. The end-spelling right high kick from our man provided a snappy visual- solid performance against, on this evidence, a B-level foe.
Is Dennis Siver German or Russian? Seriously, it varies depending on who you ask. Anyhow, Cage Rage regular Jess Liaudin didn't extend us much time to ponder issues of citizenship, exploding onto the redhead with legkicks and a big knee strike, causing Siver to stifle and take him down. The Frenchman immediately pulled guard, and quickly rolled to extend an arm for the quick tapout win. Encouraging for "The Joker", a perfunctory display from a surely disappointed Siver. Confusion reigned as Alessio Sakara and his nine-UFC-lives overcame the 2:1 going in Victor Valimaki. Sakara unleashed a right hook knocking the Canadian's mouthpiece out; Mario Yamasaki stepped between the two, with all and sundry believing this to be the finish, the live director included, as the replays were immediately cued up. However, gumshield went back in, fight restarted, and the cameras panned back to the live action just in time to catch Yamasaki stepping in for real... abstruse stuff.
On the back of his decisive debut defeat to Tyson Griffin, and his trouncing here at the hands of Junior Assuncao, it's easy to summarise that Cockney David Lee simply isn't a UFC level fighter. In fact, he actually looks a weight class too far up at 155lbs, so surely his future lies elsewhere. The South American easily out muscled Lee throughout the first round, which the Brit somehow managed to see out, dominating in the clinch and coming agonisingly close to finishing on the ground when Lee gave up his back. Assuncao went one step further at the onset of the second round, securing the choke, and with it the tap. Of the debuting Brits, Scouser Terry Etim put in the most arresting turn, choking the previously undefeated Matt Grice into unconsciousness, guillotine style, in what had been an even, fast-paced fight for the opening three or so minutes. I'm going to go out on a limb here and proclaim Etim Britain's best prospect in the big leagues.
Assuerio Silva whimpered out of the UFC in the main card opener, looking helpless to do owt but lay and pray across fifteen monotonous minutes with Cheick Kongo. The visually imposing Kickboxer peppered each round with prudent strike-combos en route to a split decision. How anyone saw fit to give the largely inactive Silva the nod is beyond my feeble comprehension. This one will take some of the starch out of you....
.... oh, lordy. Who formatted this show? Following the previous snoozefest, I'd wager the last guy you want to see trotting to the Octagon would be Lyoto Machida. In an age where everyone is beating everyone else at 205lbs, ever wondered why the likes of Forrest Griffin (Machida's originally scheduled opponent here) and Keith Jardine are being touted as top contenders, and "Ryoto" isn't? Simply put, for similar reasons why Zuffa saw fit to get shot of Matt Lindland the first chance they got: technically proficient though he is, his distance keeping, meticulously-picking-apart fighting style is never going to make for compulsive viewing. The second outing of the show-proper constituted fifteen straight minutes of Machida calculatedly unravelling to-this-point unbeaten in the Octagon opponent David Heath, constantly circling and picking off the occasional kick to the thigh or torso, with the Oklahoma native helpless to counter thanks to the Brazilian's superior movement. The only frenetic action came in the final minute or so, as Machida put the exclamation mark on a stroll to a judge's decision with a succession of tasty knees to the head, followed up with punches on the mat. Machida can be likened in one respect to Tim Sylvia, or even Lennox Lewis: a greater willingness to engage would likely see him finish opponents within the distance, yet he continually chooses to take the tactically safe route to victory, which certainly won't win him many friends in the short nor long term.
Boy, oh boy, did this show ever need domestic reality show demi-god Michael Bisping at this point. "The Count's" hectic caution-to-the-wind fighting style has emerged as a bone of contention vis a vis his immediate top-line prospects, but in this environment it proved the perfect antidote to the tedium that foreran it. The Clitheroe boy bossed the opening round, out muscling Aussie Elvis Sinosic and forcing him to his back, landing an array of strikes from the guard and mashing up "The King of Rock 'n Rumble" something harsh. Sinosic teased a gate-crash right out of the second round blocks, knocking Bisping down with a glancing knee to the temple, and following up with a rabid scramble to secure a Kimura, which Bisping could only escape by giving up his back. Elvis was clearly gassed from this exchange however, and Bisping was able to effortlessly sweep into the Antipodean's full guard having weathered the brief storm, and let fly with a succession of punches to draw the stoppage. By no means a technical doozy, but fight of the night by an absolute country mile.
Of all Dana White's 2007 acquisitions from PRIDE, Fabricio Werdum was by far the most puzzling, given Zuffa's penchant for fighters who aren't, by definition, boring. Want evidence? Check out any of Werdum's outings in the East. No, seriously- any of them. Haunting memories of Werdum's stall-fest with Scandinavian striker Jon Olav Einamo shot to mind when fearsome striker Andrei Arlovski was announced as his UFC 70 opposition. A vague Xerox copy of said encounter did indeed result in Lancashire, as although "The Pitbull" did look to push the pace in the opening round, the final two thirds bumbled along with striker Arlovski and BJJ-whizz Werdum equally reluctant to engage in the other man's domain. AA's more prominent aggression swung the judges' decision here, but the trying nature of his victory has seen him drop completely out of the championship picture.
The upset trilogy of main events landed with "Nations Collide"- each and every betting man out there should take their tip-offs from one R.Couture, who predicted beforehand that Gabriel Gonzaga would topple Mirko Cro Cop. When Cro Cop signed with Zuffa in December 2006, many, many people (myself included) would've stuck the bank balance on his wearing Heavyweight gold within twelve months. This event was broadcast free on American cable, and with the 205lb+ division having been in some degree of limbo for what seemed like an eternity before the acquisition of one Mr Filopivic, 'twas clear to see that this was intended simply as a showcase fight for Mirko before he took the title, in order to further translate the name into Pay Per View buys from those who think PRIDE to be a street march in London. Gonzaga started out intently with a straight right, stopping the Croatian dead in his tracks, and solidly grabbed hold of the first real kick MCC aimed in his direction, taking the fight to the mat and working some intermittent ground and pound, before Herb Dean mysteriously called inactivity. Upright, and memories of Pete Williams and Mark Coleman were suddenly invoked- in both visual impact and shock value terms, as "Napao" unleashed an exocet of a right roundhouse kick that threatened to decapitate the golden boy, and left him on the mat for several minutes even after the decision was announced (multiple replays also showed the Croatian's right ankle concaving to 180 degrees under his collapsing body weight). Cue stunned silence in the crowd, as a sizeable mission had reportedly made the trip from Eastern Europe. Monumental upset, and a killer blow that beats out the aforementioned Williams strike, and Yves Edwards on Josh Thomson, as the greatest fight-ending kick thrown in UFC history.... and possibly one that, given subsequent events, irreparably crushed the fighting spirit of Mirko Cro Cop.
Honestly, truthfully.... second time around, and detached from the build-up and anticipation of the UFC hitting these shores, as well as the hysteria around Cro Cop getting decisively knocked the f*** out, this was actually a well below par offering from Zuffa. With little happening of any genuine significance outside of the main event and Bisping-Sinosic- both of which will no doubt appear on a future "Ultimate Knockouts" compilation, you'll have far more pressing priorities as far as MMA-viewing goes.
Points: 4 / 10