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Length: 154 mins
Right, slightly off-topic axe to grind. Belfast, understandable, being a capital city and all. Manchester and London, self explanatory, as Glasgow would be. But, with apologies to our friends in the North East… seriously, Newcastle before Birmingham? Me no comprende. I’m getting eight events ahead of myself, however. “Victory” emanated from the top bit of the Emerald Isle- the Odyssey Arena, on 16 June 2007. Judging by their commentary work here in comparison to two events prior at the MEN, Messrs Goldberg and Rogan didn’t have such a rough time with the jet lag on this trip.
- Rich Franklin vs. Yushin Okami
- Forrest Griffin vs. Hector Ramirez
- Tyson Griffin vs. Clay Guida
- Jason MacDonald vs. Rory Singer
- Ed Herman vs. Scott Smith
- Eddie Sanchez vs. Colin Robinson
- Dustin Hazelett vs. Stevie Lynch
- Marcus Davis vs. Jason Tan
Zuffa stocked up on the local lads once more for this jaunt across the pond: Ireland’s answer to Mr T- a gentleman named Stevie Lynch- provided preliminary opposition for gangly, and generally offbeat-looking Jorge Gurgel student Dustin Hazelett’s first foray into Welterweight competition following a win and a loss at the level below. The partisan crowd gave a bit of extra “oomph” to a quickfire opener, which Hazelett finished clinically, taking advantage of a slip by the native, landing a sharp punch and working into a d’arce choke on the mat to win by tapout, capping a decent turn from the lanky one.
The prospect of the dour Eddie Sanchez crossing swords with an ageing domestic heavyweight debutant in Colin Robinson had me mulling over the prospect of prozac, but detaching myself from the notion that this is the UFC- hence, supposedly top level competition- a thoroughly serviceable scrap was my viewing reward. A haymaker by Robinson from the clinch sent “The Manic Hispanic” to the mat, before going ballistic with a succession of massive shots from the guard, for which Sanchez had seemingly no answer, at which point many a referee would’ve intervened. The Irishman transitioned into an armbar which he held for a long period, but with his right leg above Sanchez’s forehead, leaving him quite the distance from securing a submission. When Cro-Cop’s final victim (??) wriggled his arm free, he found himself in side control, with free reign to unleash strikes to see out a round he really had no business finishing. Robinson was clearly spent from his unsuccessful, lengthy attempt to finish, leaving him academic prey for a front trip and ground n’ pound right at the start of the second round.
The subdued ascension of Marcus Davis continued, as the Massachusets man made stupidly short work of Englishman Jason Tan, although he wisely elected to leave his regular appellation of “The Irish Hand Grenade” at home, for reasons which should be obvious. Standing calmly off an enthralled Tan, Davis calculatedly threw a single straight right for the KO when Tan closed right the way in. About five seconds after the stoppage, the dazed Scouser comically went after the legs of the TUF 2’er, seemingly oblivious to the call.
The “Short Fuse” renaissance continued as Ed Herman rear naked choked and submitted Scott Smith in the first main card attraction. The Quest fighter started in boisterous fashion, first taking the hard hitter down into guard, and slamming back downwards from the clinch, only to be caught in a front choke on his descent. After squirming free, Herman let fly with fists and elbows, cutting Smith’s nose with a glancing blow. The Ginner worked to take the back, leaving himself open to be swept, finally countering an ankelock attempt by taking up back mount, with Smith sweeping for a second time to conclude an utterly spellbinding sequence, and with it the round. The second period began in near-Xerox of the first fashion, but when the California native voluntarily gave up his back to fend off Herman’s striking from guard, he fell to the submission hold. In light of recent happenings in the Bisping and Grove camps, Ed Herman could yet prove the most successful of the TUF 3 alumni in the long term. Tyson Griffin. Clay Guida. Two men who never have a weak fight, regardless of opposition. You know this was fight of the night, right? The first two rounds were absolutely ridiculous: Griffin shaded the opening round, staving off a single leg takedown and slapping on a taut guillotine which “The Carpenter” incomprehensibly saw out and wrenched free of. Some lightning exchanges in the clinch highlighted the final minute, with Griffin displaying excellent sprawling ability- as he would at the onset of the second round to avoid a further single leg takedown- before being floored by a compact right, finishing the round with an amazing sweep to meet the buzzer in mount. CG pulled the scores level in the middle five, covering up after being suplexed to avoid being finished, enticing Griffin in and catching him with a kneebar. A phenomenal exchange ensued, as Griffin elected to respond by pounding his fists on Guida’s back, and rolling to secure a stereo heel-hook, to which Guida reacted immediately and manoeuvre out to take Griffin’s back, working across a good minute to secure a full body triangle. With the spoils up for grabs, Griffin tumulted out of his corner for the deciding spell, with a knee/high kick combo, fighting off Guida’s attempts to go to ground with an opportunistic shot. “The Carpenter” worked to finally secure a takedown, fending off an attempted sweep and firing some quick fists to end up atop in half guard. Spending the final minutes working to pass, Guida elected to try and nick the “10” with a flurry in the final seconds. Either way inclined, you could make a compelling case for either man….. the split decision going to a visibly relieved Griffin. Regardless, Guida’s tremendous performance in (debatable) defeat would carry him to further engagements of the marquee variety (as would his subsequent display opposite intended-draw Roger Huerta). A simply breathtaking fight, and easy top three contender for the Fight of 2007 gong.
Irritating Jim Lowenstein lookalike Rory Singer dumbfounded this reviewer by emphatically bossing the opening round of his fight with Middleweight TUF-Killer Jason McDonald, mixing up the crisp strikes before pulling guard, and utilising the impressive kicks from the ground that he used against Yushin Okami. Only the buzzer could rescue the unusually out of sorts McDonald, trapped in a triangle choke as he was, capping of a stirring exhibition of BJJ from Forrest Griffin’s mate. The Canadian rebounded off the back of his good fortune, pushing the pace in the second, and shooting to take affairs downwards, and throwing punches from the top position, which Singer mysteriously had no answer to, causing Mario Yamasaki to step between the fighters. Obviously, nothing was going to follow that last fight, but this was entertaining in it’s own right, while it lasted.
The presence of Forrest Griffin vs Hector Ramirez in the semi final position would rubber-stamp for an illiterate deaf-mute that this event emanated from the UK. Forrest, at a career crossroads coming off an unexpected trouncing at the hands of Keith Jardine, fought his most intelligent, calculated fight to date, constantly circling and working inside and outside leg kicks, landing some trademark straight punches that did some damage, but was over-reluctant to follow up, and let several opportunities to finish slide. The shut-out decision was academic for a radically different Forrest Griffin to the one we’ve come accustomed to- his stick-and-elude tactical route was somewhat reminiscent of Lyoto Machida.
The main event, pitting a mid-rebound Rich Franklin against the top-line affirming Yushin Okami, was an absolute stalemate stall-fest for the first two rounds. With Franklin 20-18 ahead going into the third, Okami was spurred out of his slumber, kickstarting the fight as a spectacle, closing the distance and eating a pair of shots for his trouble, but the Nippon amazon’s (as an aside, how many 185’ers make Rich Franklin look small?) necessary persistence afforded him a front-trip into side control, from where he bossed affairs, using “Ace’s” attempts to scramble upwards to try for a guillotine choke. Okami didn’t have enough left in the tank to finish, and ended the fight on the bottom after Franklin was able to ease out of a flagging kimura attempt. The former Middleweight Champion picked up a worthy decision, despite having inflicted less damage to his foe over the course of the fight.
An uninspiring line-up for UFC 72 should not be dismissed out of hand, as only the two “big name” fights will leave you cold. Indeed, the fact that one of the preliminary fights (I forget who was scheduled) was chalked off in the weeks beforehand made this card- an eight fight entity- a breeze to sit through, being conditioned as I am to longer, more drawn out events from the group. A smattering of decorous finishes on the undercard were peppered up by a fight I expected to hate with every fibre of my being (Sanchez vs Robinson) turning out to be pretty enjoyable, with a bona fide MMA classic in Griffin vs Guida the icing on an appetising- if not moorish- cake.
There are more attractive looking UFC’s than this that turned out a lot worse.
Points: 7 / 10