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Length: Not Rated
Cert: 4hrs 35mins
Guilty. I’ve skipped ahead… but I’ll catch up, honest injun (or whatever). Chastise ye not, the slacker thing is but my gimmick, and this show was just too enticing to watch again. Is it just me, or has the UFC been gravitating more and more back to Vegas recently? May 24th 2008 was the date, and the clusterfudge that was the UFC Lightweight title picture since….. I would say Sean Sherk stepped down a weightclass, but in truth since Jens Pulver first buggered off to PRIDE…. was finally afforded a sense of order at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
- Lightweight Championship bout
B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk
- Tito Ortiz vs. Lyoto Machida
- Wanderlei Silva vs. Keith Jardine
- Thiago Silva vs. Antonio Mendes
- Wilson Gouveia vs. Goran Reljic
- Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Kazuhiro Nakamura
- Jon Koppenhaver vs Yoshiyuki Yoshida
- Rich Clementi vs Terry Etim
- Rousimar Palhares vs Ivan Salaverry
- Jason Tan vs Dong Hyun Kim
- Christian Wellisch vs Shane CarwinSpecial Features
- UFC 84 behind the scenes
- Pre Fight Press Conference
- Post Fight Press Conference
- Weigh In Show
On cards such as these, with a six-prelim haul (which I tell you now, from firsthand experience last October, is a mentally exhausting one), there’s usually a rack of previously unseen stuff to give the DVD release the proverbial leg-up…. not so in this instance, as from recall, all but two of the pre-show clashes made it to the main broadcast. The weakest pairing of the sextet were omitted: the prolific Rich Clementi battled a decent decision out of Liverpool’s Terry Etim, and idiosyncratic 170lb Korean prospect Don Hyun Kim tantalised polishing off Jason Tan for two rounds, prior to obliterating him with elbow strikes right at the start of the third. The sole highlight for Cameroon native Sokoudjou in his UFC stint came at the conclusion of a bust five minutes opposite fellow PRIDE refugee Kazuhiro Nakamura, as the dreadlocked powerhouse floored the Japanese with a heavy straight right, with Nak’s knees twisting and buckling upon impact, and following up with hammerfists halted only by the buzzer- upon inspection of the knee, a medical stoppage put paid to the prospect of any further action.
Big wins aplenty elsewhere on the dark portion of “Ill Will”: Yoshiyuki Yoshida needed less than a minute to work an anaconda choke and submit TUF6 veteran and nemesis of TNA’s Rhino, Jon Koppenhaver. With the early 2009 outlook being that one Brock Lesnar will sit atop the Heavyweight pyramid for the foreseeable, one prospect that should set pulses a-racing is a meeting between he and Greg Jackson product Shane Carwin- Carwin is as physically big as Lesnar, as heavyhanded, has Jui-Jitsu to boot, and pounded out AKA’s Christian Wellisch in brutal fashion here, in his Octagon debut. The true highlight of this portion, however, comes from one of the most visually stunning transition-submissions you’re ever likely to see: Brazilian Top Team’s Rousimar Palhares took down longtime Middleweight contender Ivan Salaverry (in his final contest before retirement), working immediately to pass, pummelling to sink a Rear Naked Choke after forcing the Canadian to roll then, in an awe-inspiring moment of hip-control, gliding his legs across the shoulders and fully extending an armbar to secure the tap out. Seriously, go and find the clip right now!
The Thiago Silva momentum-express kept chugging away with the opening fight on the main card, with deceptively frail-looking fellow Brazilian Antonio Mendes providing the opposition in his UFC bow. Indeed, Mendes shocks Thiago right off the bat with a serious high kick, and momentarily found himself in guard, with the Chute Boxe prodigy working upright and engaging a clinch against the mesh. Mendes attempted a Harai Goshi but lacked sufficient momentum, collapsing to his back under the weight of Silva. The younger man swiftly transitioned to full mount, working rapidly between there and side control, coercing Mendes into turtling, from where Thiago had free reign to land punches until Herb Dean called it a fight. Change from three minutes…. frantic stuff. No secret was made of the fact, before the night or on the broadcast itself, that Tito Ortiz’s contract was up and, given his strained relationship with Dana White, he wasn’t coming back. Clearly, Lyoto Machida was thrust into the mix to make a name off the Huntington Beach Bad Boy, but given the Brazilian’s (suddenly rocking the moniker “The Dragon”) cerebral, overtly technical fighting style, there had to be doubts going in over whether he could do so in detonative enough fashion to make it a memorable exercise. Make no mistake, Machida’s 30-27 victory at Ill Will was an emphatic shut out, yet the frenetic booing at the conclusion of the bout should indicate the frat-boy fringes of the UFC audience are going to take a lot more educating vis a vis “The Dragon’s” graceful movement, effective utilisation of a traditional Karate stance… basically, his whole game, which is why he hasn’t been thrust into the upper echelons of the Light Heavyweight division in light of this utterly convincing victory. Instead a detailed synopsis (that’s the gimmick kicking in again, folks), I’ll simply say watch and appreciate. Oh, and this is the fight where Yves Lavigne tumbles backwards onto his arse to rapturous laughter. Always a pleasure, Yves.
The swing bout saw Wilson Gouveia’s largely unheralded run at 205lbs derailed all the way down to Middleweight, courtesy of debuting Croatian Goran Reljic who, due to subsequent injury, we haven’t seen since. Gouveia shaded the intense striking exchange that was round one, rocking the Eastern European with a pair of uppercuts late in the round, building on some earlier success with some neat combinations. Reljic, too, looked handy standing up, finding some joy by consistently mixing stiff looking kicks to the head and body- the majority of which were comfortably blocked by the Brazilian- and closing the round by pulling guard and almost securing an oma plata. Gouveia continued to push the upright pace in the opening minutes of Round Two, and momentarily found his way through the otherwise staunch guard of Reljic to land a slew of elbow strikes, as the Croat worked to close off, eventually scrambling upright, but still under pressure. Suddenly from there, Reljic cajolted into life, scoring with a gargantuan straight left then going ballistic with punches on the ground which Gouveia was initially able to stave off, but the attack was so relentless that the resistance quickly faded and Herb Dean had little option but to step between the fighters. A tasty induction for Reljic, with Gouveia looking decent in defeat- all in all, a really good, unheralded scrap.
Wanderlei Silva honestly is the most scary looking dude on the planet. Despite his un-storied history with the UFC, “The Axe Murder” received an earth shattering reaction from the Vegas crowd, en route to the Octagon to decimate Keith Jardine in less time than it’s taken me to write this sentence. Classic Wandy, and heartwarming to see one last time (as the likelihood now appears) before he rides off into the sunset.
Conversely, Sean Sherk received a rough ride from the gathering in the Garden Arena- probably attestable to his one dimensional fighting style and the whole drug test saga as well as BJ Penn’s intangible likeability- as he quest to regain the 155lb Championship he never lost in the cage. “The Prodigy”, by far the more reputed striker of the two, jabbed and circled for the first ten minutes, enticing powerhouse wrestler Sherk into almost a pure kickboxing match, to the point where the frustrated “Muscle Shark” was throwing some pretty indigenous combinations in the hope that something would land. Approaching the conclusion of the second round, and still displaying a much more calculated array of striking, Penn closed the distance to register significantly on the scorecards with a hard knee, yet utilised his unparalleled flexibility to sprawl when world class takedown artist Sherk caught the strike and attempted to utilise it for his own end. The initial exchanges in the contest show Penn open a small cut under Sherk’s right eye, which had developed into a significant mouse by the time the second period concluded. Presumably fearing that a stoppage was a possibility going into the third, Sherk switched tactics and initially found his first real success of the fight, waiting for BJ to encroach into the pocket with the jab, and answering with a series of solid inside leg kicks. The fight concluded right on the third horn, as BJ’s biding paid off in that he landed a slick uppercut and lightning capitalising knee-strike to put Sherk down for the first time, and although the clock interrupted the subsequent flurry, Penn immediately turned away to make “it’s over” motions. Upon inspection, Mario Yamasaki concurred, and the pronoun of “undisputed” was instantly stuck at the front of the title bestowed upon the diminutive Hawaiian. Alas, the awesome bad blood build up was put to bed in the post-fight interviews, as the two men who claimed to be top dog buried the hatchet on their war of words.
Ah well, can’t win ’em all…… No sickly stinkers to be found on the event dubbed “Ill Will”…. indeed, Shane Carwin and Rousimar Palhares had brought the house down before the curtain even came up. Highlight reel KO’s for the two Silvas and Goran Reljic, a technical masterclass from the maligned Machida, and a good old fashioned grudge match in the main event. Off the top of my head, I can’t recall a superior MMA event in 2008.
Points: 9 / 10