Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) DVD Reviews

UFC 63: Hughes vs Penn DVD Review

The basic Sky package has been unceremoniously snatched from us Virgin digital
subscribers, yet channel 138 remains intact, and UFC action is as free in Blighty as the lurve that foreran the Thursday morning pushchair-armed race of the pre-twenty-somethings to transform their ill-gotten gains from the Post Office into credit for a mobile phone…

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Cert: 15

Length: 171 mins

The basic Sky package has been unceremoniously snatched from us Virgin digital subscribers, yet channel 138 remains intact, and UFC action is as free in Blighty as the lurve that foreran the Thursday morning pushchair-armed race of the pre-twenty-somethings to transform their ill-gotten gains from the Post Office into credit for a mobile phone.

One would think that this would negate the essentialness of the UFC pay-per-view official DVD release, but such a line of thought clearly pays no heed to the fact that, with the mighty Saddlers- true to form- seeking to make the League Two run-in a touch more…um…interesting, Zuffa’s lighweight division currently sits atop the pile of pulp & matter adorned “Greatest Thing In The World”. No less than five 155lb fights comprised the card when the Ultimate Fighting Championship hit The Anaheim Pond for the first time on 23.09.2006, giving this dose of shiny-disc a leg-up in the cut-for-broadcast preliminary fight allure department. As an extra added bonus, Bravo’s truly abysmal editing team are naturally a non-factor…. it’s amazing by comparison how slow-paced these events feel on British television. These factors combine to lessen the blow of the California audience, who must be the most downright pig-ignorant collective to ever gather at an MMA showcase. I’m not kidding: anything that hits the mat for more than a couple of seconds is caught in a boo-gust and swept all the way to Arizona, regardless of anyone- y’know- working to improve their position and whatnot….

The first of the four pre-show prelims saw debutant Tyson Griffin showcase his skills en route to a resolute first round win over Brit David Lee, taking affairs to the floor, locking in a full body triangle & pummelling from the back to apply a rear naked choke for the tapout.

Ultimate Fighter alumni battled it out as Team Franklin standout Jorge Gurgel took an ultimately baffling split decision victory over Season Three’s Danny Abbadi, despite clearly bossing each individual round. What should come as no surprise is that the consistently clueless Cecil Peoples was the buffoon that scored the fight for Abbadi. I wonder if he knows Paul Merson. The first round was racy fare, with Abbadi catching a high kick & flooring his Brazilian-born foe with a right punch, forcing Gurgel to employ guard. The highlight arrived following a spell of stand-up & exchange of uppercuts where, with the fighters locked in the clinch, Gurgel boldly attempted a flying armbar. Gurgel imposed his will on the following two periods, doing all the pressing & setting Abbadi on the retreat with continual punches, ending both rounds in the ascendancy, landing punches from the guard. A provocative fifteen minutes… I be lovin’ the lightweights!

Respite in the frantic early stages arrived as Cro Cop’s sacrificial lamb Eddie Sanchez made his Octagon bow, subbing for a crocked Gabriel Gonzaga, against heavyweight Mario Neto, coming out of the blocks throwing leather, with the exchanges ending up on the mat with Neto pulling guard, and against the fence, as both men were quickly gassed from the opening burst. A right-handed bomb at the onset of the second round from Sanchez meant a theatrical KO, but this was the sole highlight of a thorn amidst rosier settings.

The final pre-PPV offering- Roger Huerta vs Jason Dent- is a certified belter. First timer Huerta was well up for this one, parading an intense aggression throughout, and appears from here to have carved himself a future as one of the group’s marquee players at 155. Dent demonstrated good sprawling ability in the beginning, with subsequent exchanges result in a clinch, from where Huerta threw a succession of knees & quick-fire punch combos, causing Dent to back up, and retort with a spinning back kick. A choice cut for the TV-ad arrived soon thereafter as Huerta shot into guard, picking Dent above his head from there, and slamming him into the fence. Huerta got the better of a feral swapping of punches exchange to begin the second, a round concluding with a blocked headkick from Dent, & a run of big hooks from Huerta resulting the fight hitting the mat & “El Matador” finishing up with punches from within the guard- also a feature of the final five minutes, with Dent repeatedly attempting to lock a triangle choke as time elapsed in an attempt to rescue the fight, with Huerta holding on & struggling free to wrap up a unanimous decision victory…. I be lovin’ the lightweights! A sleeper Fight Of The Year contender.

The main broadcast began with the most stunning upset in the UFC for quite some time- original lightweight governer Jens Pulver’s return to the organisation where he rose to prominence didn’t go to plan, as intended-can Joe Lauzon left-hooked & KO’d “Little Evil” inside two minutes. Yves Edwards syndrome, anyone?

TUF 2 champion Rashad Evans vanquished a hellion loitering since his reality-TV days against “The Punisher” Jason Lambert, 3-0 in the Octagon at the onset: the man with the apparent intangible inability to lose put forth a previously unforseen killer instinct, finishing the fight within the distance, following up a takedown into side control in round two, exclaiming his position with a barrage of unanswered blows to the head for the stoppage. Prior to this, he who has since been clumsily submonikered “Sugar” had been clearly the more expeditious of the two, outworking Lambert from beginning to end- this was the genesis of Rashad as a lightheavyweight force.

Melvin Guillard & Gabe Ruediger carved up a blistering first five minutes. The brash Spike TV vet reversed a budding takedown attempt and scored with some harsh elbows from the guard, before returning to a vertical base, fending off a return shot & tumbling Ruediger with a hard punch. The fight found its way to the fence, with both exchanging shots, and the round concluded from there in stunning fashion, with Ruediger responding to a combo by getting a double-leg takedown into side control, landing a succession of blows causing Guillard to give up his back, opening a window for a RNC. Melvin was surely perilously close to being stopped as the time limit expired, yet the unavailing Ruediger appeared bleary by his attempt to submit “The Young Assassin”, hence was subtle pickings for a second round highlight reel KO, with a stiff body blow winding him to the point of being prey to a follow-up headkick for the stoppage….. once again, I be lovin’ the lightweights!

The highly anticipated, fifteen minute clash between Mike Swick & David Loiseau looks somewhat lacklustre next to the rest of the card, with “The Crow” struggling to get going until the final round, with knees & elbows in the middle of the Octagon pressing the action against the fence, from where he continued the onslaught, denying the “Quick” one a shut-out, but failing to prevent the decision going the other way. Meh.

The title attraction boasted the real-life pull of Shawn Michaels-Razor Ramon, as linear (as far as title fights go, at least) welterweight champion BJ Penn stepped in at short notice to replace top contender Georges St Pierre in a bid to wrest the strap from the man he initially defeated for it- Matt Hughes (undefeated in championship fights, save for the aforementioned occasion). Fittingly, the end result was a contest worthy of both the occasion, and the cracking undercard it was handed the task of following. The Hawaiian demonstrated textbook takedown defence against the bullish top hand, whose persistent attempts to take matters to his domain was eventually ended by a pair of uppercuts. Penn hit a shot to the face, prompting Hughes to go- and fail- for a further takedown, with BJ manifesting stunning flexibility, sprawling with his legs 180 degrees akimbo to remain upright. A swapping of knee strikes from the clinch & another unsuccessful shoot from the champ closed out the initial spell- a solid one for the challenger. Round two commenced with BJ displaying more stubborn resistance to Hughes’ takedowns, finally buckling after a struggle. Penn worked from the bottom, but was cut off by elbows from Hughes in mount, from where… inexplicably… Penn took Hughes’ back! Rewind, rewatch… how??! A lengthy struggle ensued as Penn attempted various submissions, finally sinking a deep triangle & grabbing/extending the arm, with the clock proving his nemesis, a la Gabe Ruediger earlier in the night. At the ten minute mark, Penn (whose conditioning has always been questionable) was SPENT- from thereon in, it was one way traffic, as cardio-abnormality Hughes easily encroached into Penn’s half-guard, covered the mouth with his hand to impede BJ’s breathing, pinning the loose arm into a crufix, thus rendering it a non-factor, and wailed away with punches, punches, punches… until John McCarthy stepped in, signifying that the champion had retained in a stouthearted battle.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship staged more events in 2006 than they did in any other year prior. This was the pick of the bunch.

Points: 9 / 10

Stew Boyd

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