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Length: 2hrs 29mins
Surveys conducted amongst audience members at the UFC’s previous three events in the UK established that the highest volume of long distance travellers to their events came from the North East…. justification or reward, as it were, for the Octagon touching down at the Metro Radio Arena on January 19th. Furthermore, the funny-accented crew with wildly unrealistic expectations of their city’s football club were treated, with the inaugural UFC of 2008, to one of the unsung gems of the annum.
- Lightweight Championship Match
B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson
- Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Fabricio Werdum
- Marcus Davis vs. Jess Liaudin
- Wilson Gouveia vs. Jason Lambert
- Kendall Grove vs. Jorge Rivera
- Per Eklund vs. Sam Stout
- Alessio Sakara vs. James Lee
- Colin Robinson vs. Antoni Hardonk
- Paul Taylor vs. Paul Kelly
- UFC 80: Behind the scenes
A lively batch of preliminary fights was undoubtedly highlighted by the evening’s only all-English affair (and the UFC’s only to date, unless I’m very much mistaken), as Liverpool’s Paul Kelly and Walsall’s Paul Taylor rocketed out of the starting blocks to engage in a lite-recreation of the opening minute of Don Frye vs Yoshihiro Takayama. The “Relentless” Midlander called halt to the madness by clamping on a standing guillotine and fervently dragging the fight to the mat, but with Kelly able to squeeze out fairly comfortably, found himself in guard eating strikes, responding with the occasional (although clean) elbow from the bottom. The second and third round follow the same rough blueprint as the second half of the first, with Kelly utilising his superior girth to stay in mount, and the smaller Taylor keeping the onslaught at bay and attempting to turn the tide with a variation of guillotine and kimura attempts. A mammoth cut courtesy of a sharp elbow from mount scored big points for the Scouser in the second round, and indeed ’twas the Octagon debutant who was awarded the unanimous shutout verdict, following a standing ovation from Dana White, no less. Elsewhere on the undercard, big Irishman Colin Robinson was sparked out in a lightning flash by Antoni Hardonk, Alessio Sakara employed the sixth (seventh? eighth?) of his apparent nine UFC lives to swiftly and unexpectedly see off latter day refugee from PRIDE James Lee, and Sam Stout earn a unanimous decision over Per Eklund in the evening’s least noteworthy offering, which was in fact a respectable outing in it’s own right.
The Patrick Cote-loosened wheels completely came off the post-TUF3 Kendall Grove bandwagon in the main show opener, as the lanky Hawaiian was roundly schooled and dispatched in rapid fashion by journeyman middleweight Jorge Rivera. A significant upset and a further nail in the coffin of the mythology around season three of The Ultimate Fighter, the veterans of which have subsequently flattered to deceive, with the notable exception of one M. Bisping Esq.
To follow up that eye catching start, perennial cusp-of-a-breakthrough 205ers Jason Lambert and Wilson Gouveia served up a round plus seconds of tantalising combat. The muscular “Punisher” took the spoils in the first- coming as he was off a career-highpoint stoppage of Babalu- keeping the active guard of the Brazilian at bay from mount and scoring significantly with ground and pound. With his tail up at the onset of the second, Lambert immediately looked to push the pace and engage the clinch against the fence, from where Gouveia- in his first spot of offence since a first round triangle attempt whilst mounted- unleashed an exocet of a left hook for the spectacular one punch knockout, totally against the run of play, so to speak. One for the highlight reel.
Welterweight dark horse and regular visitor to these shores Marcus Davis made startlingly quick work of Jess Liaudin, keeping Rapid Fire’s exemplary finish-rate alive (and ensuring no lawsuits for a misnomer) with a straight left and series of punches on the canvas. But then, one look at the fight card, and you already knew this….
You’d be forgiven for engaging food/toilet break sojourn mode whenever Fabricio Werdum’s ever-yawn inducing moniker hits the on-screen graphic, yet the BJJ-bore’s clash with fellow Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga in Geordie Land beats out anything my mind hasn’t forcibly banished to the title of Werdum’s most entertaining fight (somewhat akin to being voted Best Dressed amongst a colony of nudists, I concede, but honestly, it’s pretty good!) Predictably, “Napao” brought the sum total of the first round aggression, working the torso and lower body with a variation of kicks until the cerebral Werdum was able to catch a prone limb and work his way into half guard from where he uncharacteristically scored with a succession of elbow strikes. His confidence boosted, FW began the second round at a (relatively speaking, considering the subject matter) frenetic pace, seeking the engage in the clinch, with Gonzaga repeatedly stuffing any attempts and backing off every time Werdum hit the mat, forcing the fight upright. Yet following one such exchange, Werdum immediately went (again, relatively) ballistic with a series of knee strikes having swiftly closed distance, and with Gonzaga on full defensive, worked upright to take his back, tripping from behind and throwing a succession of unanswered strikes prompting a thoroughly unexpected stoppage. Following this win, and his subsequent vanquishing of the once oh-so-promising Brandon Vera, Werdum would surely have been placed in the Number One Contender slot, if he wasn’t so thoroughly and resoundingly unmarketable.
A night of fireworks in Blighty was to be capped as BJ Penn climbed to the summit of the UFC Lightweight Division, albeit the best part of seven years later than was originally expected that he would. “The Prodigy” made absolute mincemeat out Joe Stevenson’s face, constantly manoeuvring from the top to improve his position, and intermittently unloading with heavy punches and elbow strikes, to the point where “Joe Daddy” (who, interestingly, was audibly kiyaing his punches during the early standing exchanges- first time I’ve ever noticed such a tactic in an MMA fight) looked visibly shot at the conclusion of the first round, such was the extent of his blood loss. With the underdog clearly on borrowed time and looking to accelerate the pace, Penn kept composure and worked crisp and clinical single shots to start the second round, biding time until landing a pair of stiff blows to drop Stevenson and take his back, secure hooks and apply a deep Rear Naked Choke to secure a victory- and Championship- that had long since become academic. BJ’s post match interview was snappy as always (“Sean Sherk- you’re dead!”)- Stevenson was quite simply overmatched in this one.
I was looking very much forward to sitting down with this DVD, as I recalled very much enjoying the live broadcast of UFC 80, and happily “Rapid Fire” stands up to second viewing very favourably. With a smorgasbord of big finishes on tap and only two fights going the distance (one having the good grace to be something of a cracker), it certainly is nowhere near as laborious as some UFC events can be. While it may be a little short on lustre for the star power brigade, and boasts no truly outstanding/must-see offering, it has to be said that UFC 80 at no point fails to entertain.
Points: 8 / 10