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Length: 172 mins
Part two of the early trilogy that would set the tone for a recurring theme in the UFC in 2007, Zuffa’s Texas debut on 7.4.07 layed on a closing visual guaranteed to bring a smile to the face, in the wake of an Ultimate Fighter credibility-affirming result that may or may not fall under the heading of “wet dream” for one Mr D White.
- Welterweight Championship:
Georges St. Pierre vs. Matt Serra
- Josh Koscheck vs. Diego Sanchez
- Leonard Garcia vs. Roger Huerta
- Yushin Okami vs. Mike Swick
- Kendall Grove vs. Alan Belcher
- Heath Herring vs. Brad Imes
- Thales Leites vs. Pete Sell
- Marcus Davis vs. Pete Spratt
- Luke Cummo vs. Josh Haynes
In fact, by my count, every fight bar one on this card features TUF alumni of some description. Luke Cummo was a favourite personality of mine on the second season, and displayed superior ability while standing in scoring a second round stoppage of Josh Haynes. ‘Twas surprising to see “The Silent Assassin” resuming his career at 170lbs, as I always had him pegged as a more natural Lightweight. The east coast fighter domineered the initial spell with technically precise striking, mixing low kicks with heavy punches, with Hayes’ standup appearing sloppy and at times erratic by comparison. Indeed, by the time the second round rolled around, Cummo was landing combination blows practically at will, capping events with a sharp right hook, and stunning Haynes to the point where he would attempt to tackle the intervening referee (a new guy whose name escapes me- different athletic commissions equals random appointments these days). Luke staked a decent claim for a spot further up the card here, whilst Haynes pretty much showed a whole lot of nothing.
When reminiscing of somewhat nondescript and unmemorable stars of Spike TV, any kind of comprehensive rundown would no doubt include one Marcus Davis. Surprisingly therefore, the thirtysomething “Irish Hand-Grenade” has quietly gone about amassing a string of victories in the Octagon, making a showcase stage for himself on this night against a periodic drop-in in the spasmodic Pete Spratt. The kilt-sporting welterweight bossed the first round on the mat, coming close to attaining full mount early on, re-adjusting into full guard and passing with relative ease and securing a body triangle as “The Secret Weapon” gave up his back. Spratt began the second period encouragingly, rebounding with a succession of kicks, before a costly slip re-opened the door for former amateur boxer Davis, and a frantic exchange on the mat ending with the TUF 2 man securing an ankle-pick to win by submission. As with Cummo, this fight served as a boost up the ladder for Marcus Davis, as he emerged in thoroughly decisive fashion.
The big show bow for Thales Leites was another convincing turn, in stark contrast to the Rio native’s three round mauling by Martin Kampmann at the TUF 4 finale. Whilst unable to finish within the distance, Leites cruised to a complete shut-out, setting a first round tone with carefully taken shots from the guard, opening up a chance to work an arm triangle which New Yorker Pete Sell was able to ride out. A touch of over-exuberance from the Brazilian allowed Sell to slip in a guillotine at the onset of the second, but with Leites able to manoeuvre quickly into half guard, he was able to squeeze his head free before going to town with a continual barrage of elbows and punches, inflicting significant visible damage for the judges to digest. The third round served as something of a Xerox copy of its predecessor, and the verdict was academic…. the third one-man show in a row. One of my favourite moments of the second TUF came when the coaches made the semi final pairings based on the answers given when they asked each contestant who they wanted to fight: in the heavyweight category, Rashad Evans, Keith Jardine and Seth Petruzelli each expressed the same preference- to fight Brad Imes. The last man called into the office, Imes, when hit with the question, immediately answered “Eli” (who quit during the first episode, after less than a day in the house). Big Brad is a likeable lummox, but his three-round deployment as durable punching bag for Heath Herring in his home state isn’t one for the connoisseurs
With the Middleweight division as shallow as it is, it’s mildly surprising that Kendall Grove has been awarded as calculated a build as he continues to receive. Perceived wisdom beforehand was that his opponent Alan Belcher possessed superior stand-up skills, hence that “Da Spyder” handily picked up a second round stoppage in the Lone Star state, displaying crisp takedown defence across both periods, all the time keeping Belcher at a comfortable range, effectively utilising his long frame and distinct reach advantage. The Punishment soldier utilised a Hughes-like slam to put Belcher into half-guard, and after fending off some resistance in the form of back-kicking, applied a brabo-choke (I confess I had to look that one up!) to send AB into la-la land. Once again, all about one fella….
With Jason McDonald carving himself quite the niche as the 180lb wildcard up until the previous show, enter Yushin Okami to fill the void. Hometown boy Mike “Quick” Swick had amassed quite the impressive streak heading in, yet was frustrated at every turn across the opening ten minutes opposite the Nippon, and barely escaped past the first round, seeming hog-tied to escape a Kimura as time elapsed. Okami opened the second spell in equal forward-thinking fashion, securing hooks in the clinch to score with a front sweep into guard. The AKA-affiliated American rebounded halfway through the round, finally sensing some urgency and swinging for the fences, but was taken down once more once the exchanges found their way back into a clinch. The onset of the final round saw Swick prey to more of the same- in truth, he was fortunate not to be stopped by the mid-way point, as Okami rained down unanswered shots from full-guard. A couple of two-rounds-to-one verdicts were registered, but for my money the judge who scored it 30-27 for Okami had it spot on. Sleeper contender Okami’s superior girth from the clinch was the compelling factor, as he appeared to expend very little energy in taking Swick to ground time after time. Lightweeeeeiiiiiiggggghhhhttttsssssssss!!!!!! Sorry.
No, seriously, how long can the smallest of the UFC postulants keep up the high-calibre of fights they keep churning out? Rising star Roger Huerta and the debuting Leonard Garcia didn’t go for grace or finesse across three vicious rounds….. with more ferocious action than one can muster up the energy to describe, the 155lbers set the tone in the final minute of the opener, scrambling out of a canvas-exchange to simultaneously explode on each other with an array of punches, and breaking away wearing respective expressions that scream “Woah, that was FUN!” “El Matador” continued to throw bombs across the remainder of the fight, with a particularly intense near-stoppage climaxing with Garcia kicking him out of his guard after absorbing a fleeting and heavy barrage. Garcia accumulated some points in the final stretch, wriggling from guard to take Huerta’s back and work a Rear Naked Choke, somehow ending once again on the bottom and taking punches. Huerta just received the unanimous nod to cap an unrelenting outing which, whilst periodically untidy, is up there as one of the year’s most exhilarating.
It’s my intention to petition the webmaster of this site for a free pass to skip Josh Koscheck fights. Everything the guy touches just turns to tedious, tedious s***. I know it’s primarily his job to win, with entertainment being secondary, but….. uuurgh. Just urrrgh. Diego Sanchez fought with a staph infection, suffering his first career loss by unanimous decision, with the normally quick-to-jeer UFC crowd justifiably barracking the TUF 1’ers out of the building. I’m not wasting your time or my own analysing this fight. Horrible.
Personally, I decided that the Ultimate Fighter concept was beginning to run it’s course when they wheeled out season four, “The Comeback”, featuring two teams of fallen UFC vets angling for title opportunities at Middle and Welterweight. Expectancy going into Matt Serra’s 170lb championship shot at new top dog Georges St Pierre was that he’d take a valiant but handy pasting before dropping back to Lightweight, where he’d looked handy in the past. The two main eventers routinely came out with water-testing strikes, with St Pierre slowly searching to find his range, when Serra abruptly let fly with a right hook, stunning him to the point where “The Terror” could quickly close the distance and throw hands to knock the Canadian off his feet. GSP scurried upright…. straight into another furious right punch which panicked him into shooting. Serra, suddenly “feeling it”, side-stepped and let fly once more, capitalising on the prone GSP by taking mount and continuing to flail without reply, at which point the stoppage was called.
The cracking visual of which I spoke arrived as Dana White strapped the belt around the waist of the long-time also-ran, with Serra’s own elated mug bearing more than a hint of “How surreal is THIS??!” Couture’s title win was the epic fairytale…. Serra’s was the textbook monumental upset. Two down, one to go…… Should anyone endeavour to knock-up a Best of the Lightweights in 2007 comp of some description (and someone really should), then Huerta-Garcia is a shoe-in for that baby. The main event drips with sporting foothold greatness (if that makes sense), whereas the remainder of the card boasts only strong individual performances, and no real standout fights or gripping moments. You’ll watch Herring-Imes once. Take my advice, and don’t subject yourself to Sanchez-Koscheck, EVER. You’ll never know it, but you owe me a pint for imparting that particular slice of wisdom.
Points: 6 / 10