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Length: 273 mins
Much like the imminent UFC 98, there was a tangible air of gypsy curse surrounding the UFC’s July 2008 stop-off in London. The originally scheduled main event pit Chuck Liddell against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, before injury forced the Brazillian to withdraw. Rashad Evans was subsequently drafted in as a replacement, but a graphic thigh injury suffered by Liddell sent that proposal the way of Global Hypercolour too. Furthermore, the planned co-headliner of Michael Bisping vs Chris Leben would wind up atop UFC 89 in Birmingham after a brush with the stateside constabulary put paid to “The Crippler’s” short term visa prospects.
The patched-up card was dealt a final curve ball at the pre-game weigh-ins, as one half of the hastily arranged new main event failed to make weight- hot prospect Thiago Alves’ first crack at the Welterweight elite bracket, opposite longterm divisional yardstick Matt Hughes, would thus be contested at a Catchweight of 175lbs.
- Matt Hughes vs. Thiago Alves
- Michael Bisping vs. Jason Day
- Mike Swick vs. Marcus Davis
- Fabricio Werdum vs. Brandon Vera
- Nathan Marquardt vs. Thales Leites
- Martin Kampmann vs. Jorge Rivera
- Matt Wiman vs. Thiago Tavares
- Jason Lambert vs. Luis Cane
- Roan Carneiro vs. Kevin Burns
- Paul Taylor vs. Jess Liaudin
- Antoni Hardonk vs Eddie Sanchez
With that sombre premise, it should come as little surprise that the preliminary offerings at the O2 Arena were a collectively uninspiring bunch. In what may prove the most significant occurrence in the mid to long term future, Brazilian Light Heavyweight dark horse Luis Cane announced his arrival on the scene, flooring Jason Lambert on no less than three occasions in the opening two minutes of their encounter, before an insane flurry prompted Herb Dean to finally step between the two, and in doing so fall victim himself to a single leg takedown attempt from a clearly la-la-landed “Punisher”… quelle hilarity. Lambert was coming off a significant KO of “Babalu” here, so this constituted a significant scalp for Cane and no mistake.
Elsewhere on the dark portion of the card, Brit Paul Taylor and British based Frenchman Jess Liaudin had a hearty pop at each other across three competitive if disjointed rounds, in a rematch of an early meeting in the reposed Cage Rage. The Black Country native took a close split decision. Dangerous Dane Martin Kampmann returned from a lengthy injury layoff, precursing a potentially intriguing drop to Welterweight by submitting the generally underrated Jorge Rivera with a guillotine choke. Antoni Hardonk took a round and a bit to pound out Eddie Sanchez in a predictably laborious meeting of two typically insipid heavyweights, while Kevin Burns sent Roan Carneiro to the land of tap in an unmemorable affair, and TUF Season 5 vet Matt Wiman defeated Thiago Tavares in a fight mainly memorable for “Handsome” Matt’s spanking new Wild Man of Borneo visage. Or, meh, if you prefer.
You know you’re in the UK when Dan Miragliotta shows up to officiate every other fight. Big Dan played a significant hand in the main card opener, pitting the world class but regrettably banal (hence his recent release) Fabricio Werdum against enigmatic, one-time prospect gone wayward Brandon Vera. Firstly, after the Brazilian pulled guard and “The Truth” worked quickly back to a vertical base, the heavyweights engaged in a tentative clinch which was broken, and the fight subsequently restarted, a little too quickly for this reviewer’s liking. Hardly a renowned striker, Chute Boxe recruit Werdum scored a quick takedown, posturing up to quickly drop into half guard, swiftly passing and firing off a short burst of hammerfists, with Miragliotta once again intruding suspectfully soon to stop proceedings. Vera naturally refuted the stoppage in his post fight interview, and the replays do add tremendous weight to that old “intelligent defence” nugget. Werdum’s general blandness and a strong disdain for the finish is a tough combination to overcome here…
Unfortunately, contentious happenings were also to blight what was otherwise a roundly engaging top-end middleweight contest pitting Nate Marquardt against Thales Leites. The opening exchanges were tauten, as the two ground specialists effectively cancelled each other out on the mat across the opening five minutes, with the round likely being decided by a stiff counter right at the midway point by Leites, which dropped the Alberquerque-based man, although Nate “The Great” likely clawed back some grace with a tasty uppercut and knee strike in the final moments. The initial pivotal moment arrived as Marquardt began to impose his will at the onset of round two, firing off a further combo capped off with a takedown, but the ex-King of Pancrase got a touch overzealous, throwing a knee strike to the rising Leites before he had regained full base, resulting in a mass of crimson, a point deduction and a lengthy stoppage, stripping some serious momentum from Marquardt, who dominated the round to the point where one judge, I later did deduce, scored it 10-8 in his favour (before the penalty, obviously). Nate utilised his superior girth to control the pace of the final stretch from top position, without being able to finish affairs mainly due to some exemplary work from Leites to control his posture with rubber guard.
Controversy again reared it’s ugly head as Marquardt landed punches from mount after escaping an arm triangle attempt, as Herb Dean deducted a further point for an alleged strike to the back of the head, which replays again showed to be a legal strike. As an aside, Joe Rogan does a sterling job here in putting across John McCarthy’s “headphones” definition for what constitutes an illegal punch to the head, which anyone with more than a passing interest in MMA owes to themselves to check out (as a further aside, Rogan and Mike Goldberg once again seemed a step off their normal game in calling an event on these shores- on repeated evidence, surely they suffer with the old jet lag). Even the two-point deduction wasn’t enough to secure a unanimous nod for Leites, but he did get the majority in a full house of 29-28’s. A victory in name only for the Brazilian, as this was Marquardt’s fight otherwise.
A rare blip in Marcus Davis’ hand-raising tour of our shores in the evening’s swing bout, as freshly slinkier Mike Swick enjoyed a successful Welterweight debut in Cockney Land. The AKA fighter bossed the first, drawing blood from Boston native Davis with shots against the mesh and lefts from half guard. The second round of the fight was the most accomplished of the night overall, as the bludgeoned Davis worked diligently to get back into contention, working elbow strikes from his back and attempting a Kimura, and deftly avoided a Triangle Choke in the latter stages, only to fall prey to an instant takedown into side control, which likely cost him the “10” on the scorecards. A slower pace blemished an otherwise gritty final stretch, with yet another point penalty cropping up as Mario Yamasaki calling Swick on fence grabbing. Regardless, this proved a justified shutout verdict in favour of Swick, although it later transpired that Davis was injured coming into the fight. “Quick” Swick may yet do some damage down at 170lbs.
Although cries of “who?” were doing the rounds beforehand, Canadian Jason Day was actually coming off a stoppage win over the thoroughly prudent Alan Belcher in subbing for the aforementioned Chris Leben, so was far removed from a pushover as Michael Bisping’s second middleweight opponent in rapid succession. Nonetheless, the tenacious Lancashire man is Charlie Big Potato over here- this fight was intended as a showcase for he, and the evening’s script was rigidly followed as “The Count” made rapid work of the chucklesomely monikered “Dooms” Day, finishing with strikes inside four minutes. The usual fare…
Stock music sucks….. and I sing “A Country Boy Can Survive” over whatever generic crap Silver Vision dub in as Matt Hughes’ entrance theme here. Thiago Alves, of course, is now top contender for Georges St Pierre’s Welterweight strap, a position he took a major stride toward attaining in the main event at the o2, although the “Pitbull” did require a dominant display opposite Josh Koscheck before his ascension was rubber-stamped, likely due to the weight-making shenanigans a day prior to this fight. Alas, the first round of what was an interesting affair on paper was only a notch above what could be described as a non-event, by virtue of a short burst of late strikes following a significant takedown by Alves. This appeared to knock Hughes- now in the late evening of his active career- out of his stride, and Alves capitalised a mere minute into the second with an enormous flying knee, sending the legend down and out (and over on his ankle at a horrific angle, to boot). Hughes hasn’t, to date, fought since. The near-tedium of the first round coupled with the Catchweight scenario served to take a smattering of shine off what was an otherwise monumental victory for Thiago Alves….
…. and that, in all honesty, is a handy euphemism for “Bedlam” on the whole- what good stuff there is to be found here (and there is a decent amount, in fairness) is tainted to varying degrees. Whereas the patched-up nature of the card makes this a hard offering to criticise on its own merits, you ultimately pays your money and takes your choice, hence UFC 85 wouldn’t exactly be near the top of my personal list of viewing priorities.
Points: 5 / 10