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Length: 3hrs 4 mins
Anyone still scratching their noggin over Brock Lesnar being granted a UFC Heavyweight Championship shot with an MMA record of 2-1 would do well to take a gander at Zuffa’s final event of 2007 (December 29th, to be precise) from the Mandalay Bay.
- Interim Welterweight Championship Match: Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. Pierre
- Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva
- Eddie Sanchez vs. Soa Palalei
- Lyoto Machida vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
- Rich Clementi vs. Melvin Guillard
- Nate Mohr vs. Manvel Gamburyan
- Doug Evans vs. Mark Bocek
- Dean Lister vs. Jordan Radev
- Tony DeSouza vs. Roan Carneiro
- James Irvin vs. Luis Cane
- Bonus behind the scenes featurette
- DVD motion menus with fight card section
Unthinkable as it may have been across the endless months when the fight was touted, but thanks to four touches of sheen-scraping courtesy of Messrs Jackson, Jardine, Filopovic and Henderson, and the first time meeting of Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva wasn’t deemed a headline attraction.
Similarly, in the main event of “Nemesis”, the rubber match between longtime Welterweight cornerstones Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre was brought forward for the interim 170lb strap due to an injury to recognised top gun Matt Serra (originally slated to tussle with Hughes on this card). The result of this fight, aided in no small part by the chronological order of this three way championship dance and it’s anticipated panning out (of sorts), has pretty much directly resulted in the complete and total depletion of the significance of the Hughes vs Serra grudge match- when it eventually comes to pass- in addition to it’s viability as a standalone topline draw. In conclusion, you’ve got to strike while the iron is hot, people…..
Anyhow… whilst the pre-show preliminary outings are usually good for the odd tasty morsel, there was to be scant offerings on this evening, the dark match highlights (at a stretch) coming courtesy of a competitive three round affair in which Mark Bocek toppled the clearly too small for Lightweight Doug Evans, and a neatly worked achilles hold which garnered a first period victory for TUF antagonist Manny Gamburyan, opposite Nate Mohr. Elsewhere, the James Irvin express of false starts and screwy finishes pulled into a further disqualification-propelled station opposite subsequent 205lb dark horse Luis Cane. Roan Carneiro’s second round TKO of Tony DeSouza was generally unremarkable, whilst interminable is about the only adjective for the fifteen minutes it took Team Punishment’s Dean Lister to slither past Jordan Radev.
For the most part, the main card was able to compensate for such a motley gathering, beginning as it did in giddy fashion as the long overlooked Rich Clementi rear naked choked and submitted his bitter Louisianna rival Melvin Guillard in 4:40 of a lively outing. “The Young Assassin” was wild and unrestrained in the standing exchanges, yet when finally scoring with a swift right, Guillard’s rush to capitalise saw him caught in an Oma Plata, which “No Love” Clementi utilised to sweep into mount, scoring with punches to transition to the back, securing a body triangle to make the TUF 2’ers position untenable. I fondly recall the post-match shenanigans from the live broadcast, and hereby lament their exclusion on this release.
If only the tactically majestic Lyoto Machida could pull a few more performances as visually bombastic as this out of his locker, and the undefeated Brazilian would surely be granted the number one contendership status his flawless record and list of scalps merits. As it stands, Machida sits way down the pecking order based on sheer marketability (or, if you prefer, his inherent lack thereof), yet on this night, the traditional-Karate based fighter led Team Quest prodigy Thierry Raimi Sokoudjou a merry dance. The initial five minutes were contested at meticulous pace, as Machida stayed elusive in order to nullify the Cameroon native’s explosive power advantage. The former “Ryoto” (suddenly monikered “The Dragon”) began to press the advantage in the second period, tactfully working inside leg kicks to opportunistically drop Sokoudjou with a straight left, from where he worked into half-guard, transitioning to full mount and landing a clean elbow strike to open the window to fully apply an arm triangle and secure the submission.
The UFC’s Heavyweight division has the tendency, on occasion, to feel akin to the most barren of wastelands . A prime example came in the third contest of the main card, as Soa Palelei completely froze on his Octagon debut, a clinch and sloppy-strike fest opposite mediocre slugger Eddie Sanchez. As usual, I lack the gusto to lay out the painstaking, laborious detail, so lets just say that Mario Yamasaki’s third round stoppage- prompted by strikes from Sanchez- was a thoroughly merciful one, and recommend that if your “Skip Chapter” function is out of action, you take this opportunity to stock up on beverages.
The ever-in-the-pipeline dream clash of the 205lb kingpins of the UFC and PRIDE started out in intense fashion- Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva cautiously stalked each other around the Octagon in the opening spell, with each man periodically throwing calculated “home run” punches in respective acknowledgement that the first mistake would in all likelihood spell curtains, not just for the night but for their foreseeable championship prospects. The opening round was highlighted by one frenetic exchange, although I recall posting on the TWO forums at the time that I felt Wandy in particular showed Chuck’s counterpunching game a touch too much respect, and as a result never found himself in a position to close distance and work the clinch. “The Axe Murdere” did settle into his groove and bring the aggression at the onset of the second, controlling the centre of the ring and picking off kicks to the torso, likely securing the round on the scorecards by dropping “The Iceman”, only for Liddell to immediately rebound and unleash a flurry of strikes, compelling Silva into retort, and exchange that Liddell bookended with an uncharacteristic takedown to finish a thrilling round. The man who holds the record number of UFC victories exploded with intent at the onset of the decisive round- his inherent need to re-ignite his flagging topline career literally transcending the television screen- with an immediate takedown compounded by a spinning backfist. Consciously trailing, Wandy looked to push the pace, yet Chuck put on a sterling display of slip and jab to keep any potential onslaught at bay, and take the plaudits by unanimous decision. Whilst not quite on the level of Jackson-Henderson in the fight of the year running, this was UFC hyperbole delivering in tasty fashion. Liddell’s last stand?
With scare time left to catch one’s breath, all that was left for 2007 was for Georges “Rush” St Pierre to lay a few ghosts to rest by virtue of an outright domination of the man synonymous with the Welterweight division. Matt Hughes’ trademark takedowns were stuffed almost effortlessly by the French Canadian in the early going, setting the tone for the remainder of the fight. The prototype complete Mixed Martial Artist swept Hughes from the subsequent clinch, proceeding to control the remainder of Round One from the top position. GSP secured a further takedown from the clinch to ignite the second round, constantly switching position to utilise ground and pound. Hughes surrendered his back to avoid full mount, yet despite “Rush” securing hooks, Hughes had enough leeway to spin out and into north/south position. With the wrestler once more struggling in vain to secure a double-leg takedown, St Pierre again sprawled, displaying breathtaking strength and flexibility to slam Hughes into side control, clamping on a keylock and leaving the veteran nowhere to go…. a genuine statement of intent and evolution. Anderson Silva. Fedor Emilianenko. Georges St Pierre. Pound for pound?
A pair of real red herrings in Lister-Radev and Sanchez-Palalei drag the overall score down, but the two marquee offerings alone make UFC 79 a proper must-see. Coupled with a dose of masterful Machida (Clementi-Guillard is fun, too), and it’s an easy recommendation for “Nemesis”.
Points: 8 / 10