MMA Review: #379: UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II

-Initially this was set up to be the biggest show of 2012 bar none, with possibly the best-built title fight in UFC history in the Silva/Sonnen rematch backed up by Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber for the Bantamweight title, the rubber match between Tito Ortiz and Forrest Griffin AND Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le, but like most UFC plans in 2012 injuries ruined it all. First Cruz dropped with a knee injury and was replaced by Renan Barao, which wasn’t so bad until UFC 149’s main event fell out and Zuffa were forced to rob Peter to pay Paul by moving Faber/Barao to that show. The same thing happened to Franklin vs. Le as Rich was moved to UFC 147 to face Wanderlei Silva as a replacement for Vitor Belfort. Regardless though, this still felt like a huge show even with only two of four top fights left – thank god nothing happened to Silva or Sonnen!

UFC 148: Silva vs. Sonnen II

Las Vegas, Nevada

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Lightweight Fight: Rafaello Oliveira vs Yoislandy Izquierdo

I was surprised to see Oliveira back after he was brutally dispatched in his previous UFC outing by Yves Edwards, but to be fair I guess he’s a solid enough fighter and there are worse guys on the roster. Izquierdo meanwhile had been beaten in his UFC debut by Reza Madadi and was in a must-win situation here.

First round begins and Izquierdo throws a big left hand off the bat. Another one lands and backs Oliveira up and he follows with a body kick. Takedown attempt from Oliveira but Izquierdo stuffs it and lands a nice knee. Good leg kick and a left hand from Izquierdo. Body kick lands again but this time Oliveira times it and manages to drag him to the ground in full guard. He works from the top and passes into side mount, and it looks like he might be setting up for the mounted crucifix. Couple of knees to the body from Oliveira and he looks to move Izquierdo away from the fence to set up a possible mount. He keeps looking for the mounted crucifix too, but can’t quite get it locked down. Keylock attempt follows but Izquierdo manages to avoid it. Full mount for a moment, but Izquierdo explodes from the bottom and escapes, then pushes him off and gets to his feet. Oliveira immediately looks to get him back down, but Izquierdo avoids and lands a left hand. Head kick misses for Oliveira. Good leg kick from Oliveira but Izquierdo lands a counter left. Takedown attempt from Oliveira but Izquierdo rolls right through and throws him off. Crescent kick misses for the Cuban. Left hand seems to have Oliveira a little wobbled but he recovers fast. Round ends with some more strikes from Izquierdo. I’d actually give that round to Izquierdo I think as Oliveira got the takedown but didn’t do all that much with it and he was outstruck on the feet.

Second round and Oliveira eats a pair of left hands right away. Another one lands, and then another as Oliveira tries a head kick that misses. He goes down but bounces back up, but Izquierdo follows in with a flying knee and throws another one that lands hard for good measure. Oliveira comes back with the takedown to guard. He passes into half-guard but it looks like he’s cut as there’s some blood on Izquierdo’s chest. Side mount now for Oliveira but he needs to do something with this position. Triangle from the bottom from Izquierdo but he quickly gives up on it when it’s obvious that it’s not working. Oliveira grinds away with the elbow, but there’s a lot of blood coming from his forehead now. Keylock attempt again, but he can’t lock it up correctly and Izquierdo keeps squirming from his back. Referee Mario Yamasaki decides to call time there to check out Oliveira’s cut. Doctor decides to let him continue and they restart in the same position. Elbows and short hammer fists from Oliveira now but Izquierdo’s continually squirming from the bottom looking to escape. Less than a minute to go now and Oliveira looks for the mounted crucifix and tries the keylock again, but he still can’t get it and decides to go back to landing short punches. The mat is covered in blood at this stage. Round ends though with Oliveira on top. 10-9 Oliveira to even things up.

Third round and Oliveira connects with a nice high kick. Combo lands for Izquierdo but he’s clearly slowed down somewhat. Nice right hand and a knee land for him, but Oliveira manages to take him down once more, landing in full guard. He works away with some ground-and-pound and it looks like Izquierdo’s just trying to hold on for the stand-up. Nice pass into side mount from Oliveira. Another keylock attempt follows but like before it doesn’t work as he has the arm too far extended out. Izquierdo manages to escape to his feet for a second, but Oliveira immediately gets back on him and takes him down again, this time into full butterfly guard. He passes into side mount quite easily and then takes north/south. Mounted crucifix from Oliveira now and he drops some nice short punches that Izquierdo can’t defend. He goes for the keylock again though and loses position, ending up in the regular side mount. Seconds to go and Izquierdo kicks his legs in an attempt to get out, but he’s stuck under the side mount and the round ends with Oliveira in control. I’ve got this 29-28 for Rafaello Oliveira.

Judges have it 29-28 all round for Rafaello Oliveira. Nothing wrong with this from a technical standpoint, but unfortunately it was just a totally unmemorable fight in every possible way really.

Lightweight Fight: Shane Roller vs John Alessio

Similarly to the previous fight, both of these men were in must-win situations in order to keep their UFC careers alive, as Roller had lost his previous three fights (to Melvin Guillard, TJ Grant and Michael Johnson) while Alessio had hardly set the world alight in his UFC return with a dull loss to Mark Bocek. After seeing Alessio be unable to stop Bocek’s takedowns the smart money here seemed to be on the wrestler Roller.

Round One and they circle with some pretty tentative strikes, neither man really getting a big advantage early on. Good right hand and left hook connect for Roller but Alessio quickly returns fire. Three-punch combo backs Roller up a little. Another good combo lands for Alessio but Roller lands a groin kick and Josh Rosenthal has to call time. They restart and Alessio backs him up with a double jab into a right hand. No takedown attempts from Roller yet. Alessio continues to throw combos that have Roller covering up. Takedown attempt from Roller fails. Roller’s swinging wild hooks over the top but he can’t seem to catch Alessio. Good left hook from Alessio and they clinch. Alessio surprisingly looks for the takedown, but unsurprisingly Roller prevents it. Good body punches from Alessio and they break with about thirty seconds to go. Couple of jabs and a combo land for Alessio. Roller pushes forward, but a nice combination lands for Alessio to counter an uppercut. Good combo drops Roller and he’s in trouble, but he manages to hold on underneath Alessio’s side mount and that’s the round. 10-9 Alessio.

Round Two and they exchange punches to begin; advantage Alessio as he’s stringing combos together to counter Roller’s single shots. Good leg kick from Roller in one exchange though. Alessio backs him up with some nice punches including a left to the body and then drops for the takedown again, and this time Roller grabs a guillotine and drops to guard himself. He loses the choke, but as they come back to their feet Roller grabs a double leg. Alessio defends initially but Roller picks him up and slams him down. Alessio gets full guard but Roller passes into half-guard and it looks like he might be setting up for an arm triangle. He gives up on that to drop some punches and elbows, and then seems to be setting up for a D’Arce. He manages to take the back instead as Alessio scrambles, and gets one hook in, landing some punches to the side of the head. Both hooks in for Roller with a minute to go and he’s in firm control here. Punches and elbows land for Roller as he attempts to soften Alessio up for the choke, but he runs out of time before he can get it. 10-9 Roller.

Round Three and Alessio opens up with a beautiful combination that has Roller badly hurt. For some reason though he clinches rather than separate to follow up and almost gives up the takedown. He manages to defend it though and breaks off, but Roller sets up a double leg with an overhand right and manages to get him down. Half-guard now for Alessio and Roller looks for the D’Arce. He can’t get it and Alessio manages to explode up to his feet using the cage, but Roller stays on him and suplexes him back down and gets one hook in. Alessio turtles up as Roller lands some punches and looks for the second hook. Crowd sound a bit pissed off now as Alessio starts abusing Roller, telling him to actually fight him, but I mean, he’s doing more damage anyway. One minute to go and Roller continues to control him from back mount and land solid punches while looking to set up the choke. Both hooks are in now too. He looks to transition into an arm triangle, but loses position and Alessio takes top position, bombing away with some punches on the buzzer before swearing loudly. 10-9 Roller.

All three judges have it 29-28 for Shane Roller. Pretty decent fight if nothing spectacular – the most notable thing was Alessio’s shitty attitude really, as it wasn’t like Roller was laying in his guard, he was advancing position, landing ground-and-pound and setting up for submissions. I mean, if he wants to just strike, he ought to do kickboxing, not MMA. Blah.

Middleweight Fight: Constantinos Philippou vs Riki Fukuda

This was definitely an interesting fight as both men had looked good in their previous couple of fights – Fukuda with a definitive win over Steve Cantwell and Philippou in his wins over Court McGee and Jared Hamman. Despite Philippou’s last loss coming to a wrestler who fights similarly to Fukuda (Nick Catone), I was still taking him after seeing his excellent takedown defense against a solid wrestler in McGee.

Round One and they circle pretty tentatively with Philippou landing a couple of jabs as Fukuda uses some leg kicks. Takedown attempt from Fukuda and he drives Philippou into the fence, but only gets him down to a knee and Costa shows some really good defense and strength and works back to his feet. Good knee in the clinch from Costa and he separates. Nice right hook from Philippou. Fukuda keeps pushing forward, but Philippou is popping him with counters now and circling out of the way nicely. Nice short right lands flush on Fukuda’s left eye and he follows with a big left. Head kick follows and he shrugs off a takedown attempt too. Seconds to go and Fukuda’s left eye is badly marked up. Couple of low kicks glance for Fukuda but Costa’s landing more frequently now as the round ends. He started slow but Philippou was rolling by the end of that round. 10-9 Costa.

Round Two and Philippou opens with a right hand into a left hook. He actually goes for a takedown but Fukuda shrugs it off. The straight right is landing over and over for Costa here. Fukuda to his credit keeps pushing forward though. Takedown attempt from Fukuda but Philippou shows some nice defense again and remains on his feet. Fukuda forces him into the fence with the clinch, landing some good punches from a tight angle, but Philippou hits him with a couple of his own and then separates. Good leg kick from Fukuda. Nice combination lands hard for Philippou and forces Fukuda to retreat. Fukuda shoots but Philippou stuffs it easily this time. Good kick to the body from Fukuda. He follows with another but Philippou doesn’t seem hurt. Another good combo lands for Costa and he blocks a head kick. 1:30 remaining now and Philippou lands with a nice straight left. Inside leg kick answers for Fukuda but apparently it caught the groin as the Mazz calls time. Costa recovers and they restart, and Fukuda looks for the takedown but it’s stuffed again. Spinning backfist misses for Philippou and Fukuda comes back with a left and a leg kick. Costa counters though with a nice right. Good body kick from Fukuda but he again eats the counter. Seconds to go and Fukuda pushes forward, but Costa clocks him with another hard combo to end the round while using nice head movement to avoid Fukuda’s counters. Fun round; 10-9 Philippou again.

Round Three and Costa opens with a quick combo and a glancing left hook. Nice right hand lands for Fukuda in a brief exchange. Takedown attempt follows but Philippou stuffs it. Fukuda gets the clinch and lands a solid body punch, looking to force Philippou down, but Costa breaks free and lands with a right hand. Good left hook from Costa. Body kick lands for Fukuda and he avoids the overhand right counter. Nice left hand from Philippou and he follows with a quick combo. Right hook connects over the top. Single leg attempt from Fukuda and he drives Costa into the fence, but again Philippou muscles him off. Three-punch combo lands for Philippou. He’s noticeably pawing at his eyes after every exchange though, which suggests Fukuda’s reaching with an open hand. Sure enough Fukuda lands with a body kick, but Costa goes down in AGONY from an eye poke, screaming OH MY GOD and all sorts. Jesus. Reply shows it was indeed a really deep eye poke. Seriously right, I’d start taking points even for clearly accidental eye pokes at this point as – and I’m not saying Fukuda is one of the fighters that does it – there’s so many fighters out there who reach with the open hand to gauge distance and it’s always going to cause eye pokes like that. Thankfully the doctor decides to give Costa a little time to recover and he decides to carry on. Looks like he’s pissed off, too. He starts to walk Fukuda down….but gets caught instantly with a kick to the groin. Good lord. Philippou shrugs that off though with an ANGRY ROAR and he comes in swinging, landing some heavy shots that really bust up Fukuda’s face. Uppercut connects and hurts Fukuda, forcing him to drop for the takedown, but Philippou stuffs it and almost gets a guillotine before just muscling him into the fence. He breaks off and they trade some punches with Fukuda landing a couple, evidently taking advantage of the dodgy vision of Costa at this stage. Seconds to go though and Philippou cracks him with a left hook into a right hand. Round ends with a nice combination from Philippou. I have this 30-27 for Costa Philippou.

Judges score it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Constantinos Philippou. Really outstanding performance from Costa here I thought as he seemed to have closed up the holes in his game that he showed in 2011 in his last loss to Nick Catone – Fukuda is an excellent wrestler with a quick shot and he never really came close to getting Philippou down outside of the one attempt in the first. Along with the takedown defense Costa’s sharp boxing looked great too, as he landed some nice combinations throughout the fight and outside of the eye poke didn’t take too much damage himself due to his footwork and head movement. I’m definitely buying him as a legit contender now – lower end of the top ten in my eyes – and I can see him vaulting into title contention in 2013.

Lightweight Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Gleison Tibau

One of the most interesting things of 2012 to me is that UFC have started picking up young Russian talent again – possibly in a view to preventing them all ending up in Bellator is my guess. Nurmagomedov was the first one to enter the Octagon and he’d looked AWESOME in his debut, running through Kamal Shalorus to extend his unbeaten record to 17-0. Tibau seemed to be a major step up in competition for him though as he’d looked excellent in his last few fights and only ever loses to the very elite 155lbers, and so I was taking him to stop the run of the young Russian in this clash.

First round and Nurmagomedov misses a couple of early shots and eats a straight left from Tibau. Both men miss wild looping punches before Tibau blocks a body kick. Not much action in the first two minutes to be honest. Good counter left lands for Tibau. Takedown attempt by the Russian and he grabs onto a single leg and forces Tibau into the cage, but Tibau defends it nicely. Nurmagomedov keeps trying for it, but it doesn’t look like he can muscle Tibau off his feet. Tibau breaks free but Nurmagomedov quickly swings wild punches and uses them to set up another takedown attempt. Good knee to the body from Tibau and he blocks the takedown. Knee inside from Nurmagomedov but he’s blowing a lot of energy trying (and failing) on this takedown attempt. Referee Mario Yamasaki decides to call a weird break, and some wild strikes miss for Nurmagomedov. Jumping kick from Khabib sets up a flurry that misses and Tibau makes him pay with a one-two. Good counter right from Tibau as Nurmagomedov comes forward. The Russian looks for the single leg again and almost gets it, but Tibau still manages to stay on his feet. Good knee to the body from Nurmagomedov though. Round ends there. 10-9 Tibau in my eyes despite the aggression of the young Russian.

Second round and pretty much nothing happens for the first minute or so as both men press. Decent counterpunch lands for Tibau before Nurmagomedov lands a glancing right and goes for the takedown again. Tibau defends once more with some incredible balance and he lands a sharp knee to break. Good low kick from the Russian as both men’s punches come up slightly short. Looks like Tibau’s got a slight cut over the right eye, probably caused by the stitches in the glove from a glancing blow. Takedown from Tibau and he almost takes the back, but Nurmagomedov goes a good job of getting to his feet. Good left from Tibau to break but Nurmagomedov quickly shoots for the takedown again. Once again he can’t get Tibau off his feet but he does land a couple of good punches from the clinch. Mario Yamasaki decides to call the clean break again with a minute to go, and Tibau slips a wild punch and lands a right hand. Another takedown attempt from the Russian doesn’t work but he does land a glancing left. Good left hand from Tibau as he avoids a combo from the Russian. Round ends though with a nice jumping knee from Nurmagomedov into a right hand. Close round so I’ll call it 10-10 as Tibau did well countering but didn’t do quite enough to take the round in my eyes.

Third and final round and Tibau clips him early with a counter right hook. Good one-two from the Brazilian that forces Nurmagomedov onto his back foot. Glancing right hand from the Russian. Wild swings from Nurmagomedov set up another takedown attempt, but Tibau is just blocking every single one with ease. Dude is ridiculously strong for a 155lber. Good knee inside from Tibau too but Nurmagomedov breaks with a solid right. Takedown from Tibau and he takes the back, but Nurmagomedov stands and escapes a rear waistlock. Nurmagomedov backs him up and walks through a pair of counters to set up the clinch again, but he’s still having zero success at getting the Brazilian down. Yamasaki warns Nurmagomedov for holding the fence, but it’s doing him no good anyway. Good knee lands inside from the Russian before they break off. Good counters again from Tibau as Nurmagomedov wades in. Wild overhand right glances for Khabib. Just over a minute to go now and Tibau lands a lead left. Decent right lands for Khabib but Tibau in general is doing a good job of slipping most of the punches. Tibau’s got this single line of blood running from his eye like a movie. Good counters connect for Tibau in an exchange. Nurmagomedov keeps trying to clinch and swings wildly but the buzzer sounds before he can connect. 10-9 Tibau making it a 30-28 win for him I’d say.

Official scorecards read 30-27 all around….for Khabib Nurmagomedov. What. The. Fuck. Crowd can’t believe it and Tibau just looks incredulous and quite rightfully so. Sure, Nurmagomedov was more aggressive and I mean, Tibau probably could’ve done a slightly better job in terms of coming forward and landing meaningful offense, but there’s just NO WAY Nurmagomedov was winning those rounds, and I mean, to give him all three is absolute madness. How did he win the rounds? By swinging punches that for the most part blatantly missed, and by failing on tons of takedown attempts? Fuck knows what the judges were thinking. One of the worst decisions of 2012 and in recent memory period. Fight was decent but I mean, that decision leaves a REALLY bad taste in your mouth.

Lightweight Fight: Melvin Guillard vs Fabricio Camoes

After a couple of disappointing submission losses had knocked him out of title contention, Guillard was looking to bounce back here against a far better stylistic clash in the Brazilian Camoes – a good submission fighter with not-so-good takedowns. On paper this seemed like a good fight for Melvin, but with his questionable sub defence it was impossible to truly count Camoes out. Side note but Camoes’ nickname is another one of those Brazilian classics – ‘Morango’ sounds unbelievably cool, but actually means ‘Strawberry’ of all things!

Fight begins and Melvin lands with a low kick while dodging Camoes’ punches with his hands down. Big overhand right glances for Guillard. Camoes leans in for a possible takedown but eats a heavy left hand that wobbles his legs a bit. Camoes looks worryingly stiff on his feet here. Wild swings miss for Camoes and Guillard then misses an equally wild left hand. Big right hook glances for Melvin. Takedown attempt from Camoes and he eats a right on the way in but gets it. Guillard bounces back up immediately but Camoes stays on the leg. Melvin uses a possible kimura to defend and lands with a one-two on the break. Another takedown attempt is easily blocked by Melvin. Good body kick from Camoes but Melvin catches it and lands a hard counter knee to set up a heavy combo that has the Brazilian covering up. Deep double leg from Camoes but Melvin blocks and so he pulls guard, but Melvin’s having none of that and he quickly gets out. Camoes comes in swinging and Guillard surprisingly takes him down to guard. Couple of good shots from the top for Melvin and he passes into half-guard, but Camoes hits a sweep from there to take top position. Beautiful stuff. Kawajiri mount follows for Camoes and Melvin might be in trouble. He tries to escape but gives his back, and then Camoes takes full mount and lands some solid elbows. Melvin covers up and Camoes looks like he’s setting up for an armbar, but instead he takes the back as Guillard scrambles. Camoes looks for the choke right away but somehow Melvin wriggles free and explodes to his feet. Crowd are going apeshit for this. Ridiculous spin kick attempt from Camoes allows Melvin to land a big counter that puts him down, and Guillard ends the round with some vicious elbows and hammer fists. Looks like Camoes might’ve been saved by the buzzer even. Close round but Camoes threw it away at the end I’d say. 10-9 Guillard.

Between rounds Royler Gracie tells Camoes that Melvin’s tired, but it doesn’t look that way to me. Into the second round and Melvin throws out a couple of lead lefts early on. Big right hand just about misses for Guillard. Camoes to me looks more gassed here. Wide left hook misses for the Brazilian. Good straight left from Melvin backs Camoes up. Right hand connects for Camoes in an exchange. Spinning kick glances for Camoes this time but has no effect. Low single leg follows but Melvin defends it well by pretty much cartwheeling through the takedown. They wind up clinched on the fence with Camoes forcing Guillard into the cage. Takedown from Camoes but Melvin pops right back up. Two minutes to go and Melvin glances with a left hook. Crowd suddenly boo for no good reason – maybe Koscheck or Bisping just walked in? Camoes then fires the Brazilian contingent up by waving his hands. Big combo lands for Camoes to set up a takedown, and he manages to drag Guillard down. Melvin seems fine with his back up against the fence though, but Camoes gets the Kawajiri mount to control him. Nice job from Melvin to spring back to his feet though, and Camoes misses with a ludicrous spinning elbow that allows Melvin to take him down and take his back, landing some solid hooks from behind. Good knee to the body from Guillard as Camoes tries to roll under, but he takes some really heavy blows and the second ends in the same way the first did – with Guillard on top and Camoes in trouble. Well, to me Camoes literally threw two rounds away there with his silly spinning attacks. 10-9 Guillard.

Third and final round and this is still close – I’ve got Guillard up 20-18 but you could argue for Camoes taking both of those rounds too. Rushing body kick is blocked by Camoes, but he misses in his own spin kick attempt. Big left hand misses for Melvin but he avoids a single leg. Front kick glances for Camoes. Good right hand lands for Melvin. Lunging left hook backs Camoes up but doesn’t land cleanly. Good leg kick from the Brazilian. Guillard looks more comfortable now though, dancing around and landing punches even if they’re not really damaging blows. Good left to the body from Guillard. Camoes keeps pushing forward but he’s not really landing. Right hand to the body from Melvin. Solid leg kick from Camoes but he gets backed up by a combination. Hard right hand lands for Camoes to counter a low kick. Really low single – pretty much an ankle pick – from Camoes but Guillard blocks and lands a couple of hammer fists before escaping. Camoes has a really bloody nose now, potentially broken. One minute to go and Camoes misses a wild left hook and takes a really deep breath. Trip puts Melvin down for a split-second but he bounces back up and jabs to the body. Single leg attempt from Camoes but Melvin defends it. Camoes manages to drag him down and looks for a possible heel hook, but Melvin manages to avoid it and the round ends there. Close round again but I’d go with Melvin.

Judges have it 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 for Melvin Guillard. Right decision I thought but the fight was closer than it sounds from those scores, as Camoes pretty much chucked the first two rounds away by trying his spinning stuff and getting hurt when it didn’t come off. Melvin for his part was in really passive/counter mode and while it was a good win for him to pick up following two straight losses, it wasn’t as impressive as say the Evan Dunham or Shane Roller wins. Still, good fight overall with some nice moments of back-and-forth action.

Bantamweight Fight: Mike Easton vs Ivan Menjivar

The word coming in was that the winner of this one would put themselves into title contention, which was understandable given both men were unbeaten in their latest UFC runs – Easton with impressive wins over Byron Bloodworth and Jared Papazian, while Menjivar had beaten Charlie Valencia, Nick Pace and John Albert. The difference in experience and quality of opposition clearly favoured Menjivar, but I really like Easton’s intense style and so I was leaning towards him.

Round One and Easton comes bouncing out of his corner, stalking forward as Menjivar circles on the outside. Big swing misses for Menjivar as Easton throws some low kicks. Head kick is ducked by Easton and he looks to clinch but Menjivar backs out. Good combo from Easton to counter a Menjivar right hand. Spinning backfist glances for Menjivar. Low kick catches Menjivar’s groin but they don’t need to call time as he continues. Winging right hand from Menjivar but Easton counters with a wild left hook that glances. Neither man’s really done much significant thus far. Leg kick lands for Easton. Double jab from Easton backs Menjivar up but doesn’t really land. Head kick is blocked by Easton. Head kick to answer connects for the Hulk and Menjivar has to retreat. Two minutes to go and Menjivar throws another head kick but doesn’t quite land. Odd spinning back kick to the leg from Menjivar, and he repeats the same move. Easton looks for a spinning wheel kick in reply but doesn’t land it. Good right hand into a left hook from Easton. Nice body kick from Easton. Menjivar fakes a spin and throws the head kick again but it doesn’t land cleanly. Good leg kick coming forward for Easton. Nice push kick to the body from Menjivar. They trade for a second and Easton lands a decent right. Round ends with a takedown attempt from Easton that Menjivar blocks. Bit of a dull round actually. 10-9 Easton as I thought he landed the slightly better shots and kept forcing Menjivar back for the most part.

Round Two and Menjivar opens with a front kick and a one-two to counter a body kick from Easton. Spin kick misses for Menjivar. Easton is continuing to push forward here. They clinch but Easton breaks off quickly. Jab and a head kick glance for Easton. Good leg kick from Menjivar. Nice combo from Easton. Crowd begin to boo a little now as Easton backs Menjivar up and lands a left hook. Spinning kick to the leg again from Menjivar. Couple of nice shots land for both men. Low kick is caught by Menjivar and he counters with one of his own. Winging right hand glances for Menjivar. Straight right lands for Easton. Head kick lands for Menjivar but doesn’t seem to have much effect somehow. One minute to go in the round and Easton continues to push forward and back Menjivar up, even if the striking exchanges are basically even. Good body punch from Easton. He follows with a left hook into a big right bodyshot. Flying knee glances for Easton and he finishes the round with a sharp leg kick. Again not the best round but I mean, Easton is definitely the aggressor so you’d have to give it to him. 10-9 Easton.

Round Three and Easton begins with a heavy left hook in an exchange and then pushes forward more, landing a leg kick and another left hook. Menjivar tries to fire back but Easton continues to push and he’s putting combos together now too. Stiff jab connects for the Hulk and he follows with the leg kick. Menjivar is fighting way too passively here. Solid counter combo lands for him but Easton continues to stalk forward. Left to the body from Easton. Couple of kicks force Easton back but he fires back with a glancing head kick of his own. Takedown from Easton off a telegraphed spin kick from Menjivar, and he lands in the full guard. Looks like Menjivar might be rolling for an armbar, but he gives up on it and Easton lands a short flurry of ground-and-pound. Menjivar manages to kick him away as he postures up and gets to his feet, shoving Easton off as he attempts a knee. Easton pushes forward again and lands with an uppercut in a brief exchange. Big right hand backs Menjivar up. Couple of head kicks miss for Easton. Spinning backfist misses for Menjivar. Decent right hook connects for Menjivar. Easton continues to walk him down with seconds to go, but he misses on a jumping kick and falls to his back. Menjivar can’t capitalize and Easton pops up and misses a wheel kick. Takedown attempt from Menjivar is blocked on the buzzer. 10-9 Easton and 30-27 overall.

Judges agree with me and have it 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27 for Mike The Hulk Easton. Basically it was a super-close fight but the difference was that while Easton didn’t really get much damaging offense off, he was pushing the action throughout while Menjivar just fought a totally passive fight and didn’t really string any meaningful offense together at all. Dull fight for the most part as both men looked a bit wary of pulling the trigger for some reason which is odd given how entertaining they usually are.

Featherweight Fight: Chad Mendes vs Cody McKenzie

Well, no offense to Cody but I’m really not sure what Joe Silva was thinking when he put this one together. Sure, I guess they wanted to rebuild Mendes a bit after his loss to Jose Aldo, but while McKenzie’s improved since his TUF days it was quite clear that he’d be no match for the Team Alpha Male monster, particularly as Mendes is an expert at Cody’s killer move, the guillotine. This was the clear lock of the night if we’re quite frank.

Fight begins and McKenzie comes rushing out with a right hand. They clinch briefly and Mendes lands on a knee to the body before separating. Good inside leg kick from Mendes. Pair of head kicks from McKenzie are blocked. Leg kick is caught by Mendes and he counters with a BIG RIGHT HAND TO THE BODY and down goes Cody! Few punches on the ground seal the deal.

Well, that was a total squash as I sort-of expected it would be, but it must be said – and he’s finished another overmatched opponent brutally since – this is the sort of thing that Mendes needs to do if he wants another shot at the title. He’s quite clearly, in my eyes at least, the #2 145lber in the world, but if he were going out and beating guys with dull decisions then there’s no way he’d ever see another crack at Aldo. If he absolutely crushes his opposition then it’s much more likely he’ll get another go-around – which is the difference between what he’s done post-title shot and what Jon Fitch did after his from like 2009 to 2011. Nothing against Fitch, just saying.

Welterweight Fight: Demian Maia vs Dong Hyun Kim

Maia’s drop to 170lbs had been a long time coming in my eyes – I’m surprised he didn’t make the move after the Anderson Silva loss to be honest – and it was definitely the right move for him in my view given he wasn’t imposing at all at 185lbs and his grappling skill was being largely negated by the lack of strength in his takedowns at that weight. At 170lbs though, he would be a different prospect entirely. He was hardly given an easy fight to welcome him to the division though – Kim is one of the most underrated Welterweights in the world in my eyes and only Carlos Condit’s really been able to handle him – so this was a near-impossible one to pick.

Round One and Maia immediately closes the distance and looks for a takedown. Kim looks to defend by landing some elbows and hammer fists, but as he muscles to his feet Maia turns the corner and takes his back with a rear waistlock. They move across the cage with Maia still clinging to Kim’s back, and finally they go down with Maia tripping the Korean. As they hit the ground though it’s clear something’s wrong with Kim, and Maia lands a couple of punches from mount before stopping before the ref even comes in, as apparently Kim tapped verbally.

Post-fight Kim’s clutching his ribcage as it looks like he probably dislocated a rib or two on the way down, although you can’t tell exactly what happened from the replay. Bit of an anticlimax really and you can’t really consider it a win for Maia or a loss for Kim even though that’s what it’ll go down as, as it was a fluke injury. On the plus side though Maia did look very good and it was impressive that he was able to take Kim’s back and drag him to the ground too. I think he’s definitely at the right weight class now and he’ll have a lot of success there.

Middleweight Fight: Cung Le vs Patrick Cote

As I mentioned earlier, this would initially have seen Cung Le fighting Rich Franklin in a battle of real veterans, but when Rich was moved to UFC 147 Cote stepped back in, after again proving to be unbeatable outside of the UFC – he’d won three fights in a row after his latest UFC release, with the last one coming over Gustavo Machado. Despite Le’s striking skill I was taking Cote here – I’ve never really been enamoured with Le and I thought he looked tiny for 185lbs and waaay past his prime in his UFC debut. Plus Cote is a difficult out for a pure striker too as he’s got such a great chin and heavy power in his own punches.

First round and Le catches a low kick and immediately leg sweeps Cote to the ground. He lets him back up though and dances out of the way of Cote’s strikes before landing a couple of glancing kicks. Good body kick from Le. Cote pushes forward with a solid right hand to the body, but his follow-up flurry doesn’t land and Le catches him with a couple of strikes from the outside. Nice short right hook from Le. He’s doing a really good job here of countering Cote’s aggressiveness. Body kicks land for both men. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed by Le. Nice body kick connects for him too. Cote pushes forward with a combo but Le counters with a beautiful right hand to the temple and then gets out of range. Side kick glances for Le. Nice counter left hook follows as Cote tries to push forward. Side kick from Le creates some distance again. Body kick from Le. Big chant for Cung Le as he lands a side kick to the thigh. Cote just can’t seem to get a handle on him. Round ends on not much action as Le dances out of the way. 10-9 Cung Le.

Second round and they exchange some kicks to open. Cote continues to push forward, but Le backs out of the way and then breaks a clinch with a right hand. Wheel kick misses for Le but a hopping side kick and a kick to the body land. Head kick follows and he manages to avoid Cote’s counter right too. Right to the body from Cote and he follows with a sharp combo. Uppercut misses though and he takes a counter right hook. Body kick from Cote. Brief clinch is broken quickly by Le. Side kick forces Cote back after a brief flurry. Cote pushes in swinging but takes a big right hook to the jaw. His chin is still solid though as it doesn’t affect him. Both men seem to be cut now. Spin kick is blocked by Cote. Good shots land for both men in a brief trade. Cote closes him down but takes a counter right hook again. Beautiful spinning back kick connects for Le. Body kick into a right hand land too. Another body kick connects for Le. Both men are covered in blood. Wild flurry from Cote with a leg kick into a combo. Good right hand to the body follows. Le’s movement hasn’t looked quite as good in this round. Good body kick lands again for him though. One minute to go and Le lands with a knee to the body and a right to the temple that wobble Cote for a second. Cote fires back though with a right hand and a hard knee in the clinch. Le forces him back into the fence and they exchange inside with Cote doing a good job with some short uppercuts and hooks. Seconds to go and Le breaks off and avoids a jumping kick. Closer round somewhat but Le still got the better of it.

Third round and Le opens with a side kick to the body. Head kick is blocked by Cote. Side kick lands again but Cote counters with a low blow. Ref Josh Rosenthal calls time but Le recovers fast. Body kick connects for Le but Cote lands a counter right hand. They clinch and both men look for a trip, before Cote muscles Le into the fence. Nice knee to the body from Cung. Another one breaks but Cote surprises him with a spinning backfist. Left to the body from Cung. Cote keeps switching stances randomly. Wheel kick glances for Le. Clinch from Cote and he backs Le into the fence again. Trip from Le puts him down for a second but the Canadian pops right back up. Single leg attempt now from Cote but Le does a good job of fighting it off. Good right hook lands for Le as Cote pushes forward. Uppercut from Cote but Cung connects and lands a hard right. Side kick from Le. One minute to go now and Le lands with a body kick. Cote flurries back but takes a right hook. Into the clinch again and Le hits a nice outside trip into half-guard. Cote manages to get to full guard and lands some elbows from the bottom, but he’s stuck on the bottom until the fight ends. 10-9 Le and 30-27 Le in my book.

All three judges have it 30-27 for Cung Le. Great win for him considering he’s basically semi-retired and 40 years old, but I didn’t think it was a great fight as Cote just couldn’t get a handle on him and never truly opened up, and while Le did pick him apart for the most part he didn’t ever come close to finishing him off. Not a shoddy fight by any means but it was just sort-of there.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Forrest Griffin vs Tito Ortiz

Well, I admit that after his win over Ryan Bader I really believed Tito could climb back up the ladder at 205lbs, but that just wasn’t to be and it was clear that after his losses to Rashad Evans and Rogerio Nogueira that his time probably was up. Admirably, Tito himself realized this too and announced that he’d be retiring after his next fight and he’d like to go out with a rubber match against Forrest Griffin. Zuffa decided to oblige him and so the third fight between the two was set up here, with Tito also being inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame on the same weekend. Totally deserving I might add and I think a lot of people overlook just how good Tito was during his title reign. As for this fight? It was a close one to call in my eyes because to be fair, Forrest had looked just as past his prime as Tito in his last outing. I was going with my heart then and taking Tito to win by TKO.

DVD unfortunately cuts the entrances and so we miss Tito entering in a fucking SPARTAN HELMET. Seriously now. Awesome to hear Bruce Buffer announce Tito as the UFC HALL OF FAME OCTAGON WARRIOR too, even if ‘The People’s Champ’ doesn’t sound as right as ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ does.

Round One and Forrest comes out circling as Tito takes the center of the cage. Pair of leg kicks from Griffin but Tito answers with a right hook. Couple more kicks from Forrest and he ducks under a right hand. Clinch from Ortiz and he gets a takedown into the guard. He looks to pass initially and then settles into the guard and drops some elbows as Griffin tries to stop himself from being caught up against the fence. Big shots from Tito land as Forrest works up onto his knees and then gets dragged back down into half-guard. Nice butterfly sweep from Forrest and he’s up on his feet. They exchange punches and Tito lands a short left hand, but Forrest’s throwing with more frequency and landing more. Nice knee to the body from Forrest to counter a left hand. Tito goes for the takedown again but Forrest shrugs it off and lands a glancing head kick. Tito fires back with one of his own that’s blocked. Good leg kick and a combo from Griffin. Big takedown attempt from Tito but Forrest sprawls and avoids, then goes back to landing some combinations. Tito’s noticeably moving slower now. Clinch is shrugged off by Forrest and he lands with a combo again. Big right hand from Griffin. Tito fires back with a solid three-punch combo. Both men land with a couple of jabs. Seconds left in the round and Forrest lands a superman punch into a knee to the body. Front kick from Forrest. Another combo lands and then Tito manages just about to get a takedown on the buzzer. 10-9 Griffin as he was lighting Tito up on the feet despite the takedown and shots that Tito landed on the ground.

Round Two and Tito lands with a solid right hand early on. They trade strikes and Forrest lands with a combo, but Ortiz counters and DROPS HIM WITH A RIGHT! Griffin bounces right back up, but he looks wobbled and Tito closes in looking to follow up. Crowd are going crazy now. Tito continues to swing punches and grabs a clinch to land uppercuts, but Forrest seems recovered now and fires back with a knee inside before pinning Ortiz into the fence. Crowd are chanting loudly for Tito. Takedown attempt is blocked by Forrest and they break off. Nice leg kick from Forrest and it’s looking like the first round again as Griffin’s landing combos. Big punches from Tito fire right back this time though and he’s landing some good shots too. Big right hand from Forrest lands right through Tito’s forearm guard. Crowd begin to chant for Forrest now. Another nice leg kick lands for Griffin. High kick into a hard right hand connect for Forrest. Great combo from Forrest ending in a front kick to the face. Tito keeps firing back with the left hook but he’s slowing down again. His face is all marked up from the punches. Left hook lands for Tito. Heavy combos land for both men in an exchange. Exchange continues and again it’s in Forrest’s favour as he pops Tito with a right hand. Good left from Tito in an exchange though. Takedown from Tito with seconds to go but Forrest reverses and ends up on top with Tito holding his leg. Hammer fists to the head end the round for Forrest. 10-9 Griffin – outside of the early knockdown, he landed far more significant shots than Tito in that round although he took more punches than he did in the first.

Round Three and a leg kick opens things for Forrest. Couple of combos land for Forrest but he looks like he’s not throwing as hard now. Good uppercut jacks Tito’s jaw though. More combos from Forrest but Tito LANDS WITH A BIG LEFT HOOK AND SENDS HIM FLYING! Forrest rolls right over like Heath Herring in the Lesnar fight and Tito can’t quite get to him quickly enough to keep him down. Clinch from Forrest but Tito gets the takedown into guard. Big ‘Tito’ chant as he lands some elbows and passes into half-guard for a second before Forrest regains full guard. Forrest tries to scramble back to his feet, but this time Ortiz manages to hold him down and feed him some hard elbows. Ortiz almost passes guard but Tito gets his back to the cage and works to his feet. Forrest forces Tito into the cage in the clinch now and both men look pretty gassed out. Good knee inside from Forrest and he separates. Couple of high kicks glance and Tito is definitely spent. Forrest pops him with some more combinations but Tito fires back with a solid right hook. Pair of push kicks to the lower body from Griffin and he lands some more punches too. Seconds left and Forrest continues to land, and they trade off as the buzzer goes. 10-9 Ortiz for the knockdown, takedown and ground-and-pound, but I’d say 29-28 Griffin overall.

Post-fight in an odd scene Griffin walks out of the cage and heads to the back before the decision’s even been announced. Joe Rogan says Dana White’s literally running after him. Eventually Dana and cornerman Mike Pyle bring him back in to a chorus of boos. Judges score it a unanimous 29-28 for Forrest Griffin. Definite mixed reaction to that announcement even if I agree with it. And then things get stranger as Forrest steals the mic from Joe Rogan and does his OWN interview with Tito, basically fucking stealing the spotlight and ruining Tito’s last moment in the Octagon. Well, fuck him big time for that. There was no reason for it whatsoever, and why he couldn’t let Tito have his moment and then just do his own interview I don’t know. I’ll be honest and say I’ve been soured on Forrest for a while now and this really capped it off. I hope he gets knocked out next time he fights.

As for the fight, well, they fucking went for it, not much else you can say really. Tito’s gas tank was quite clearly spent early on, but then he’s 37 years old and has come through a litany of injuries so you can’t really knock him as he was STILL able to get two knockdowns and do some decent damage with ground-and-pound when he got the takedown. Forrest strung together some great combinations and it was the frequency that he was landing that allowed him to take the win, but to be fair he’s a lot slower now too and I don’t think he’s going to last many more fights before his inevitable final appearance and induction into the Hall of Fame to join Tito. Fight was about as good as it could’ve been given the circumstances so hey, no complaints from me. The situation post-fight definitely leaves a bad taste, however.

UFC World Middleweight Title: Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen

What can you say about this fight really? Biggest grudge match in UFC history? I think you could definitely argue that although I’d still be inclined to put Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock (the first one) up there as well as Rashad Evans vs. Rampage Jackson. But shit, after all the trash Sonnen had talked, it’s hard to look past this one. For those who might’ve had their heads under a rock since 2010, Chael had of course promised to bring the fight to Silva like no other before their first encounter and he did just that, beating Anderson for four and a half straight rounds before falling prey to a last-gasp triangle choke in the best fight of 2010 and probably the best come-from-behind victory in MMA history. After that he’d tested positive for elevated testosterone levels and been suspended, but while Silva had continued his title reign with stoppages of Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, it was the ghost of Sonnen that really hung over him. When Chael returned from his suspension and beat Brian Stann and Michael Bisping, the rematch was inevitable. This time thought it was Silva who was talking most coming into it – finally losing his temper and promising that this would be the last time we’d see Chael fight, that he’d knock his teeth out, all sorts. When the weigh-in went off and Silva shoulder-checked Sonnen’s jaw, it was clear that this was an angrier Spider than we’d seen before – which to me meant doom for Sonnen.

And HERE WE GO!~! Chael comes charging out and sure enough he gets the takedown right away into Anderson’s guard. Silva looks to tie him up from the bottom but Chael manages to get through with a couple of decent shots. Silva keeps disrupting Sonnen’s base by using butterfly hooks to push his legs away, but Sonnen manages to work into half-guard. Silva continues to hold on as Chael boxes his ears with some short right hands. Sonnen also uses some knees to the body although they don’t seem to be landing with much force due to the angle. Big shot from Chael and he looks to pass, but Silva keeps him locked in half-guard. One minute to go and Chael really starts to get through with the elbows, and then he passes to mount! He uses a really flat mount to land some short shots rather than posturing up, and while he doesn’t do much damage the round ends with him in firm control. 10-9 Chael Sonnen.

Into the 2nd and Chael quickly closes the distance and clinches. He lands a couple of knees, but Silva grabs Chael’s leg to stop the takedown attempt. Good knee to the body from an odd angle from Silva. Chael comes back with a couple of his own. Sonnen drops for the takedown, but Silva manages to defend it well this time and he lands a couple of right hands before they separate. Sonnen keeps pushing forward and they trade some shots before Sonnen shoots again, but once more Silva stuffs it and separates. Chael comes forward, but makes the error of throwing a spinning backfist that Silva ducks and Sonnen trips down by the fence. He sits up…but Anderson meets him with a HUGE KNEE that looks like it could be illegal, and then follows by pounding the challenger as he covers up! BIG SHOTS land for Silva before Sonnen works his way back to his feet, but a kick to the body and a big right hand drop him again and Silva pounces with some shots on the ground and IT’S ALL OVER!~! Crowd are DEAFENING as the replays show that the knee was actually a direct hit to the chest, making it a completely legal blow, thank god.

Post-fight the grudge appears to be settled as Silva jokes about inviting Sonnen to his house for a barbeque (Sonnen had said in the pre-fight trash talk that he’d “pat Silva’s wife on the ass and get her to cook him a medium-rare steak”) before Chael admits that the better man always wins the fight and tonight Silva was the better man. Feud over, face wins, money made, BOOM. So what did we learn from this rematch? Well, firstly that Anderson Silva point blank is the best 185lbs fighter in MMA history and arguably the best fighter in MMA history period, although I still maintain you could make a very fair argument for GSP. Secondly that it’s probably not a good idea to piss the guy off. Thirdly that – and I’ve been saying this since he first won the belt in 2006 and people claimed Matt Lindland of all people would be the guy to beat him – you CANNOT take Silva down and expect to win a ground-and-pound based decision. He’s too dangerous standing for that, particularly in a fight involving five separate rounds and referee stand-ups if the action slows down. To beat him you’d need to take him down and submit him, which is why I think it’ll be a sub specialist with great takedowns or a wrestler with a really great BJJ game who will finally dethrone the guy. My pick is Chris Weidman, but that’s another story. At any rate this was a tremendous main event that lived up to all the hype, complete with a climactic ending to the best rivalry that MMA had given us in YEARS. Can’t ask for more than that!

-Highlight reel runs and that’s a wrap, folks.

Final Thoughts….

Up to the final two fights I was ready to label this a real disappointment, but Tito/Forrest turned into a real gutter-war and surpassed my expectations, and Silva/Sonnen was one of the most memorable fights of 2012 and lived up to all the hype, so the show was saved for the most part. Nothing else was really noteworthy – Maia/Kim ended with a fluke and Mendes/McKenzie was a squash, but Guillard/Camoes, Philippou/Fukuda and Tibau/Nurmagomedov were all decent enough fights and nothing totally sucked, even if the prelims ran horribly long and all the decisions got dull after a while. Thumbs up, but not to the extent that Dana and the boys would’ve been hoping for coming in.

Best Fight: Silva vs. Sonnen
Worst Fight: Easton vs. Menjivar

Overall Rating: ***3/4

Until next time…