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Length: 171 mins
Unenlightened Californian crowds are a blemish on UFC events in the Sunshine State. Once more, this time at Sacramento’s Arco Arena, anything taking residence anywhere near ground level for more than two shakes of a lamb’s tail was to be jeered unmercifully. I recently lent a couple of events to a work colleague interested to know what “this cage fighting is all about,” only to receive them back the next day, a mere two fights observed (“It’s alright while they’re punching & stuff, but once they get each other down & start lying on top of each other, there’s no skill there, is there?”). Proof incarnate that there’s a definitive limit to MMA’s ongoing encroachment onto the sporting consciousness.
- UFC Welterweight Championship
Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre
- UFC Heavyweight Championship
Tim Sylvia vs. Jeff Monson
- Alessio Sakara vs. Drew McFedries
- Frank Mir vs. Brandon Vera
- Joe Stevenson vs. Dokonjonosuke Mishima
- Nick Diaz vs. Gleison Tibau
- Antoni Hardonk vs. Sherman Pandergarst
- James Irvin vs. Hector Ramirez
- Jake O’Brien vs. Josh Schockman
When “Irish” Jake O’Brien was bandied about as Brandon Vera’s potential final UFC opposition, prior to “The Truth’s” EliteXC contract speculation going the way of Global Hypercolour, this writer seriously had to rack his brains about who the bloody hell they were talking about; fast forward to many months later, and it only took the opening prelim of UFC 65, pitting O’Brien against Josh Shockman, to justify why this was the case. Zzzzzzzzzzz. The latter had absolutely no idea or ambition from the guard, whilst O’Brien appeared content to lay & pray for the best part of fifteen minutes, and take the unanimous decision. There really is no human reason to subject oneself to watching this fight.
I recall a time, not that long ago, when you could reel off the name of all the contenders in every UFC division, foretell their prospects, and so on and so forth. One problem with their fleshy new schedule is that the enlarged turnover in fighters and extended talent pool results in some guys falling completely off your radar: to this end, I had completely forgotten that James Irvin exists. Imprudent swinging and scuffling was the order of the day as Irvin secured a second round stoppage of Hector Ramirez, even though Mario Yamasaki took a bit of prompting- Irvin had to cut his victory celebrations short when he realised that the referee hadn’t actually stopped the bout following a huge right hook (regardless of Ramirez being clearly out), and coming back to land a kick followed by a bunch of elbows before the penny dropped; quite a dishevelled seven or so minutes- almost akin to watching a “Toughman” contest at times- but some entertainment value to be derived.
Looking back at this very recent timeframe, it’s amazing to see how vastly superior the UFC heavyweight ranks have become in such a short period: the third pre-game scrap saw Dutch debutant Antoni Hardonk tussle with late sub Sherman Pendergast. The former doesn’t endear, suckering his MFS foe into engaging as they go to touch gloves at the onset. Hand the outcrying moral majority some ammunition wrapped in a bow, why don’t you? The European overwhelmed the possibly-underprepared Pendergast en route to a first round stoppage, capping affairs with a right-straight & hard kick to the left leg. This left something of a bad taste.
The final pre-show battle was far and away the pick of the bunch, as Nick Diaz bid Zuffa adieu for a very short lived association with PRIDE- upsetting Lightweight poster boy Takanori Gomi along the way- taking out an accomplished looking Gleison Tibau by second round stoppage in a bracing offering, utilising his height and reach advantage to attain top position, and finishing with a dose of ground and pound.
LIGHTWEIGHTS! You know by now that 155lbs is where it’s AT! TUF2 victor Joe “Daddy” Stevenson somewhat surprising overwhelmed longtime PRIDE mainstay Dokonjonsuke Mishima by persistently sticking with a guillotine choke from half-guard, until the Nippon had nowhere to go. Top contendership surely beckons for the likeable Stevenson once the Sherk-Franca-Penn trimutive have finished their business.
In similar squash-tastic style, the aforementioned Brandon Vera hammered a further nail into the MMA-career coffin of Frank Mir, who to his credit looked infinitely more prepared here than he did for the three-round ordeal that was his previous fight with Dan Christison. Once Vera landed his first clean shot, the result was never in any doubt, and Steve Mazagatti’s first round stoppage was a merciful one.
Alessio Sakara appears to have Curt Hennig-esque grace when it comes to career salvaging opportunities, as at the time of writing he prepares to make his second Octagon foray since a convincing defeat on this evening, courtesy of another late Miletich stand-in in the form of Drew McFedries. This 205lb clash was a stand-up slugfest to placate the masses all the way, and boasted a stunning first round finish: McFedries inexplicably launched a succession of uppercuts from nothing, with the Italian descending to the mat in slow motion; the late call followed up with a barrage on the mat, forcing the tapout due to strikes. This is one to start the novice viewer out with….
Think of enticing prospects in Mixed Martial Arts…. I can’t imagine many folks would feel compelled to sit through five rounds of Tim Sylvia vs Jeff Monson. One crumb of amusement is firmly on hand, as Sylvia garnered nuclear heat from the Sacramento crowd throughout, with “The Snowman” a babyface of Rock-in-his-prime proportions merely be default. Add to this visual/audible the subsequent knowledge that the beloved Randy Couture pulled a Rocky Balboa and relieved Big Tim of the Heavyweight strap, and is there really any doubt that said happening was the greatest thing ever? Whilst not a complete shut-out, the voluminous difference in stature was undoubtedly key to mammoth Sylvia’s unanimous decision victory, particularly coupled with Monson’s primary status as a wrestler- he was always going to struggle to close the distance and take the fight into his territory, even though Sylvia didn’t display anything resembling a killer instinct for the long periods when the fight was upright. In short, you’ll know from the marquee alone whether you want to watch this fight or not.
It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that Matt Hughes’ Welterweight championship defence against Georges St Pierre was the most eagerly anticipated of all 2006 (at the very least, amongst the devotees). The undisputed masters did the only decent thing, and delivered fireworks. The Montreal native OWNED the first round, yet towed a risqué line, with a couple of high inside-leg kicks drifting into low-blow territory (complimented by a wonderful bit of production, as John McCarthy’s audible admonishing of GSP serves almost as an additional piece of insightful commentary). With Hughes having finished their initial meeting at UFC 50 with one second of the opening period to elapse, irony almost reared it’s head as a heavy combo from “Rush” put Hughes down, with the champ saved by the buzzer as GSP looked prime to capitalise. The images projected from the two corners during the only interlude couldn’t have been more contrasting. A minute into the second, and with Hughes off-kilter as a result of a further knockdown & barrage of jabs, St Pierre honed in, landing a left kick to the head to secure the championship and cap what may well prove (in years to come) his career-defining display. Hughes was simply subjugated over a significant period of time; the only instance in his career even remotely comparable was his UFC 46 loss to BJ Penn, which wasn’t quite as impactful as this thorough domination.
The main event of UFC 65 was serious stuff. Whilst, Diaz vs Tibau aside, the pre-game stuff had nothing worth going out of your way to see, and the Heavyweight title fight is a harshly subjective morsel, Stevenson, Vera and McFedries lent the undercard some solid weight. There are better UFC’s out there for sure; but there are far, far worse.
Points: 7 / 10