THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
It’s time for the great and the good of the Ultimate Fighting Championship to cross the pond again, and this time they’re setting up sticks at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham for UFC 89, headlined by local hero Michael Bisping taking on Chris Leben, and shown live here in Britain on Setanta Sports. As usual our hosts for the evening are Mike Goldberg and the beard-wearing Joe Rogan.
The broadcast begins in the welterweight division, with Britain’s own Paul Kelly taking on the Irish Hand Grenade himself, Marcus Davis. This one promised much as the first round began, and after the somewhat lengthy feeling out process, which lasted well into the third minute, both fighters began to open up a little, connecting with good shots and kicks before Davis scored the first take down. Kelly went for a guillotine immediately, but the attempt didn’t last that long. Lots of transitioning followed, with Davis in the dominant position until both fighters scrambled to their feet. This was the last thing of note to happen in the round as the fighters spent the last thirty seconds circling each other, looking for an opening.
Round two, and the feeling out began again, with each fighter looking to get in the one good shot that they needed. Each man got off a few combinations, but nothing that caused much damage. Then Kelly scored with a big take down that sent both fighters up against the fence, but it didn’t do him much good as Davis synched in a guillotine joke, gaining full control of Kelly’s body and forcing him to tap seconds later. A good fight to start the show off with, and an impressive performance from Davis, starting his new winning streak after losing his last fight. Good stuff.
More welterweights, and more Brits, in the next fight with our own Paul Taylor facing Chris Lytle. Round one saw them start quickly, engaging early, with both fighters getting in some good blows and kicks. It went on for a minute or so until a clinch up against the cage, before they moved back to the centre of the cage. The action was certainly fast-paced, and Lytle was the first to get a take down, although Taylor was quick to get back to his feet. The exchanges continued in between clinches, and it made for great viewing, with Taylor buckling Lytle with a big right hand towards the end of the round.
Round two saw the fighters carry on where they’d left off at the end of round one. It was great to see as both men got off shots that rocked the other, as they continued to trade up against the cage while going for the clinch. Just a few seconds later they went down to the mat, first with Lytle on top, and then with Taylor trying to reverse things, before Lytle regained control, and almost synched in a guillotine. They were soon back on their feet, and it wasn’t long before they were both banging again. Taylor tripped Lytle for a take down, but it didn’t last long as Lytle got back up straight away. More clinches followed, followed by more combinations from both men, with Lytle getting caught by an accidental low blow, an inside leg kick from Taylor. After a brief rest period the fight returned to type, clinching and banging, with both trying to get a take down.
Round three, and I think you can guess how they began, only this time Lytle was able to get the upper hand, with his body shots looking like they caused the most damage. But as they returned to the centre of the cage after a clinch, Lytle began to look tired, while Taylor looked as fresh as he did at the beginning of the fight. Lytle’s answer to Taylor’s combinations was to go for another clinch up against the cage, although the referee soon brought them back to the centre due to inactivity, where once again Lytle was able to get the upper hand in the stand-up war, before pushing Taylor back up against the cage and taking him down to the ground. As the fight entered it’s final minute Taylor managed to get back to his feet, and the exchanges began again, and this time it was Taylor who looked the better fighter, but with the fight going the three round distance, the decision went to the judges, and they all gave it to Lytle, which, for obvious reasons, didn’t please the fans in attendance. A very good fight, and impressive efforts from both men.
Then it’s up to the light-heavyweight division, and an Africa/South America battle, with Cameroon’s Sokoudjou taking on Brazil’s Luiz Cane. Round one saw both fighters eyeing each other up as they circled each other, before both men scored with good shots, with Sokoudjou the aggressor, although Cane was able to give as good as he got. It was a joy to watch as the African stalked the Brazilian and unloaded with some heavy artillery, although Cane was able to withstand the assault. As the round went into it’s final minute Sokoudjou began to noticeably slow down, while Cane upped his game a little.
Round two, and Cane caught Sokoudjou with an early low blow. The fight re-started after a rest period, and Cane seemed the more intent fighter, although Sokoudjou scored with a great jumping kick. The exchanges were now a lot slower, and Sokoudjou was now becoming visibly tired and breathing more heavily, and no matter what he threw, Cane just soaked it up, and began to move forward a lot more, and in the final minute of the round a knee followed by a stinging left sent Sokoudjou down like the proverbial sack of spuds. Cane went in for the kill, and with Sokoudjou failing to defend himself, the referee stepped in to call a halt to the action, with Cane getting the TKO win. A great performance from Cane, who absorbed everything that Sokoudjou threw at him for almost ten minutes, before coming back with the knockout blow.
With a little time to kill, it’s on to one of the earlier preliminary fights, with Shane Carwin taking on Britain’s Neil Wain in the heavyweight division. This one didn’t last long, as the two big guys began extremely quickly, before Carwin scored with the easy take down and unleashed with the ground and pound. With no defence from the Brit, the referee stopped the fight after just ninety seconds. This was explosive stuff from Carwin, although it’s hard to gauge just how good he is on such a short fight.
Main event time #1, with Keith Jardine taking on Brandon Vera, now happily at home in the light-heavyweight division, another one of those fights that you couldn’t help but look forward to. The first round began quickly with a Jardine take down, who was busted open early with a cut on the top of his head. Vera tried to work a kimura for a few moments, until Jardine unleashed with the ground and pound. Things stayed like this for the next minute or so until the referee stood the fighters up because of inactivity. The remainder of the round saw the fighters circling each other, connecting with blows and kicks, with each fighter scoring a knockdown, and the round ending with Jardine pounding away with blows while Vera was down on one knee.
Round two began with both men teeing off against each other again, with Jardine failing with a take down attempt, and Vera scoring with one of his own after catching one of Jardine’s kicks. It didn’t stay on the mat for long though, and when they got back to their feet, Jardine looked like he was moving a little awkwardly, having injured his knee, following a direct kick from Vera. The rest of the round looked pretty even, with both fighters connecting well.
Round three saw Jardine coming out quickly, putting Vera on the back foot immediately. But it wasn’t long before Vera reversed things, stalking Jardine around the cage. At times Vera began to target Jardine’s injured knee, but the Dean of Mean wasn’t letting the injury bother him. After nearly three minutes of the round Jardine went for the take down, but Vera’s defence prevented this. However, Jardine was able to take Vera’s back, and unloaded with a few good shots to the face before releasing the hold. The final minute saw both fighters connecting again, with a few good shots from Jardine to end things with. The judges had a tough job deciding this one, and they gave the split decision to Jardine in what was a good if somewhat unspectacular fight.
Main event time #2, with Britain’s own Michael Bisping taking on Chris Leben in the middleweight division, a fight which, for obvious reasons, I was really looking forward to. Round one saw both fighters testing the waters with kicks, following up with good punches. Bisping looked completely at home in front of his home crowd, as did Leben, although the crowd was obviously a bit more hostile towards him. As the round progressed Bisping was the first man to draw blood, with Leben bleeding from his nose, and although Leben was the one moving forward most of the time, it was Bisping scoring with the most shots, and scoring with a take down as the first round came to an end.
Round two began with Leben once again on the front foot, although Bisping continued to look the better fighter. Leben continued to have trouble with his bleeding nose, and his troubles were added to by a cut below his right eye. No matter what Leben did, Bisping seemed to have the upper hand, until an inadvertent kick caught Bisping a little low. With the rest period over, Leben continued with his game plan, and although he continued to connect with punches and kicks, his plan was starting to look a bit predictable, which made it look easy for Bisping to counter, and by the end of the round it looked like Bisping’s plan was working, given the fact that Leben’s face was starting to look a mess.
Round three began in the same vein, with a brief timeout when Bisping complained that there was something in his eye. Then things went back to normal, with Bisping playing the countering game again. Leben managed to unload with some heavy shots, but once again Bisping was able to withstand whatever the American was throwing at him. Then, with just a couple of minutes left, Leben scored with the first take down of the fight, but this really had no effect on Bisping, who soon got back to his feet, and connected with a big right hand. Leben then continued with his game plan, and as the fight came to an end the Crippler began to showboat a little. So with another fight going the distance, the judges were called upon to decide the outcome again, and it wasn’t really a surprise that all three judges gave to the fight to Bisping, who fought the perfect, if unspectacular fight, from bell to bell.
In conclusion – a very enjoyable outing from the UFC crew here. Although the co-main events were solid but unspectacular, the undercard proved to be worth my subscription fee alone, even though two of the three Brits on the main card came up a little short. But then again, one can’t help buy like a guy like Marcus Davis, and I’m probably not the only MMA fan who hopes that he gets a fight when the UFC make their debut in Dublin in a few months.
THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne