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Length: 3hrs 2mins
Discs: 2 (Includes bonus 2nd disc – Britain’s Ultimate Fighter featuring Michael Bisping)
Our old mucker Tony may be gone, but one monument to his reign as Premier remains in the form of that perennial red herring, the Millennium Dome. However, resplendent with it’s new corporate tag of “The O2 Arena”, the Dome at least gave those loveable scoundrels from Zuffa somewhere to hang their hat on 8th September 2007 in the European city they seem most intent on conquering. Once again, the ridiculous pricing structure meant I stayed back in the Black Country with trusty old Setanta Sports, around the time my mate Andy Spencer was getting himself acquainted with Randy Couture and Jacob Duran. Bastard.
Anyroadup, UFC 75 was to be something of a landmark event for the MMA-aficionado, as following a certain sizeable purchase, a couple of 205lb championships were to unified in the main event. Meanwhile, the hoards of recent converts to the UFC cried aloud “Dan Who?”, as they could be forgiven by now for beginning to think these PRIDE guys were a bit overrated.
- Light Heavyweight Unification
UFC Champion v PRIDE Champion
Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson
- Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill
- Cheick Kongo vs. Mirko Filipovic
- Marcus Davis vs. Paul Taylor
- Houston Alexander vs. Alessio Sakara
- Gleison Tibau vs. Terry Etim
- Thiago Silva vs. Tomasz Drwal
- Dennis Siver vs. Naoyuki Kotani
- Jess Liaudin vs. Anthony Torres
- UFC 75: Behind the Scenes
The preliminary fights on this evening were mainly a pedestrian bunch, with the only bona fide fireworks coming with Jess Liaudin’s first round TKO of Anthony Torres. It was a case of too much, too soon for Liverpudlian Terry Etim (a lad whose prospects I was quite optimistic about), who flattered to deceive in a unanimous decision loss to Gleison Tibau. Elsewhere, Dennis Siver dispatched Naoyuki Kotani in a fight that has hardly lived in the memory, whilst future Light Heavyweight topliner and Chute Boxe shining light Thiago Silva made routine work of Pole Tomasz Drwal.
Ah, Alessio Sakara. You’ve got to hand it to the Roman, he keeps hanging on in there, doesn’t he? On this night, Sakara played the sacrificial lamb to the suddenly popular Houston Alexander…. to the surprise of absolutely no-one, the Nebraskan finished affairs in little over a minute, dropping the Italian with a heavy knee from the clinch, and following up with punches from mount. If nothing else, an impactful start to the main show, with the result the bigwigs would’ve wanted…
“The Irish Hand Grenade” once again, now that we’re out of Belfast, it’s quite astounding looking at Marcus Davis’ recent run of victories when you think about how little fanfare his ongoing streak had gotten. The Welterweight dark horse added a further notch to his belt in “Laaahndan” by virtue of a slick armbar, finishing off a frenetic four minutes opposite “Relentless” Paul Taylor, native of the really rather splendid town of Walsall. Both men started by swinging for the fences, with the Brit landing the first significant shot by way of a high right kick, from which he was able to drop and work his way into side mount. The Boston native scrambled upright and grabbed a leg to reverse his fortunes and end up in side control after resisting a guillotine, after some Rory Singer-esque upward kicks from Taylor failed to keep the Yank at bay. Davis opened the door to extend the arm by continually working punches and elbows from the top, to cap a cracking little outing. Taylor would go on to cement his status as highlight-reel-in-defeat at UFC 80.
The intended rebound party for one Mr M Filopovic turned out, as you should all be fully aware by now, to be an even bigger catastrophe for the one they call Cro Cop than the previous occasion on which he hit these shores. The one thing that hit me at the onset of the evening’s sole heavyweight clash was how emphatically Mirko was dwarfed (sizewise) by his opponent Cheick Kongo- never realised Kongo was that big, I have to admit. “The Croatian Sensation” edged the first, taking control as he did when the fight hit the mat, although it must be noted that the French striker did display a dramatically improved guard and general ground defence since his fight in Manchester, and of course the horror show against Carmello Marrero. The two tentatively stood throughout much of the second, yet Kongo actually managed to score with a takedown (a first??), and land a sharp elbow from half guard. The big man capped off a 10-9 round with a pair of thunderous knee shots, sending a mysteriously out of sorts looking Cro Cop back to his corner. The final round continued where the plodding middle one had left off, with Kongo working leg kicks, jabs and short striking from the clinch: if I didn’t know better, I’d say Cro Cop was completely disinterested by this point. The spirit-crushing decision for Kongo came and went as expected, capping a thoroughly unremarkable fight and a totally baffling three fight run in the Octagon for the former K1 killer Cro Cop. In all honesty, he didn’t even look comfortable in his debut opposite Eddie Sanchez. Wrong man, wrong place, wrong time maybe? I don’t understand it, that’s for sure.
In a similar vein, the intended crowd pleaser- the real Ultimate Fighter 3 final between Michael Bisping and Matt Hamill- turned out to be anything but. One time strict wrestler Hamill was in stunning form in the opening five, openly bossing the standing exchanges by working the jabs, attempting a flying knee and catching an attempted strike by “The Count” to take him down. Bisping worked his way back into his world, but “The Hammer” continued to dumbfound by controlling with dirty boxing from the clinch, and actively stalked Bisping around the cage as the clock ran out. Hamill carried his successful strategy into the second, but having had the break to recollect his thoughts, Bisping’s movement was much improved, and he was able to pick off several deliberate counter shots. Still, all the aggression was coming from Hamill, who surely garnered significant points with a further late takedown. Sensing the urgency, Bisping came out of the blocks in the final round with a tidy combo, as Hamill appeared to be running out of energy. After falling victim to the inevitable takedown, the Clitheroe lad continually worked to finish, working over the loose right arm and trying to extend it, and he finished the round expertly sprawling to avoid a counter-shoot after he had first landed a stiff kick to the head of the American. The split decision went Bisping’s way- the vociferous booing and Bisping’s post fight comments are cut from this release. Under PRIDE scoring (ie. across the duration), Hamill would’ve strolled to a decision. Under ten point must, one could make a strong case for Bisping in terms of how he avoided damage and picked off shots in the second, conserving his energy to control the third. However, considering his round domination of the first and effort to finish in the second, you could easily make an equally strong, if not stronger, case for Hamill under those rules as well. Hamill publicly called for an overhaul in the judging system in the aftermath of the controversy in London.
The 205lb title unification fight was an intriguing prospect stylistically, for a number of reasons, and with both Quinton Jackson and Dan Henderson carting round proper momentum after their previous respective wins over Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva respectively, a competitive contest was assured. The PRIDE kingpin took the early advantage, keeping an aggressive “Rampage” at arms length, and working over the legs with sporadic knee shots from a clinch against the fence, eventually sweeping in signature Team Quest style to attain side mount, and inflicting damage with a series of short range elbow shots. Round two was the hardest to score, with “Hollywood” Dan again working the elbows from side control, yet conceding top position from a second try at a takedown, from where Jackson battered the head and torso with punches and elbows. The UFC Champion began to exert authority in the third, avoiding the clinch and utilising strikes while waiting to secure his first takedown of the night, working into half guard and wriggling free of a Kimura, before getting clinically swept with Hendo ending up in side control. Into championship territory, and Jackson began to establish daylight, dropping Henderson at the onset of the fourth with a right hook, and fending off a pair of armbar attempts with a succession of hammer fists. With Henderson the more visibly gassed, “Rampage” worked to push the pace and secure the 10-9, with a further barrage of clean shots. As with Bisping in the previous fight, Henderson realised he was behind going into the fifth and final round, and immediately worked to muscle Jackson into the cage, matching the more revered striker in the upright exchanges. With little over a minute left, Hendo shot in for a desperation final takedown, and frantically looked to create an opening with some toll-taken ground and pound. With the Oregon resident surely sucking air, “Rampage” was able to depose him from top and work upwards, sprawling to avoid a repeat attempt and ultimately taking the fight to the mat himself and firing punches from half guard. The decision justly went the way of the UFC man: while not frenetic action from start to finish in the way something like Griffin vs Guida was, the main event of UFC 75 was a fastidious and cerebral battle of wills which, for me, was criminally neglected in the end of year polls. For this reason, I was somewhat aghast when Andy told me that people were leaving in droves throughout, and indeed much booing is audible during the portions on the ground. I guess MMA events still attract a sizeable Neanderthal element that goes to see blood, guts and wild swinging. And people wonder why I don’t much like venturing out in public…
The second disc of this release is a real “bonus” in every sense of the word: a documentary entitled “Britain’s Ultimate Fighter”, you may have already caught it on Bravo. It’s a triumph of sorts, as it maintains a balance between being informative for the novice without being condescending to the more hardcore fan. It’s light viewing, for sure, and comes bow-wrapped with some “Wrestling With Shadows” like good fortune, as a camera crew follows Michael Bisping from the weeks before his Ultimate Fighter turn to his UFC 70 clash with Elvis Sinosic. The piece is highlighted by the pre-event preparation footage prior to Bisping’s pay per view debut, with Dana White’s Fight/Knockout/Submission of the Night peptalk an especially convivial touch. Nothing offensive on the fight card, with two bones of contention (Cro Cop-Kongo and Bisping-Hamill) interspersing the David-Taylor and Jackson-Henderson bouts, both of which are worth going out of your way to see. The remainder of the event itself isn’t spectacular, but the bonus documentary, which manages to be satisfying without being essential, gives this release enough extra “oomph” to secure a more than respectable score.
Points: 7 / 10