MMA Review: #536: UFC Fight Night 84

-The UFC’s first UK show since March 2014, this was not only the biggest show in the brief history of UFC Fight Pass but arguably the biggest fight to hit the UK since Rampage vs. Henderson back in 2007. While both men are probably past their primes at this point it’s a pretty easy argument to make that Anderson Silva is one of if not the greatest fighters of all time, while Michael Bisping is pretty clearly the greatest fighter that the UK has produced thus far. And with a possible push back into title contention on the line, this one felt HUGE.

UFC Fight Night 84

02/27/16
London, England

-Your hosts are Jon Gooden and Dan Hardy.

Bantamweight Fight: Francisco Rivera vs Brad Pickett

One of the UK’s most successful fighters – up there with the likes of Bisping and Hardy – this almost felt like the last chance saloon for Pickett given he’d lost his last three in a row and is now 37. Rivera meanwhile had also lost two in a row so he was on a bit of a sticky wicket himself, although to be fair Zuffa must’ve been pleased with his last effort in that crazy fight with John Lineker. I was pulling for Pickett but thought Rivera would probably edge it.

Round One begins and they circle with Pickett missing on a couple of low kicks. He catches one from Rivera but Francisco lands a hard left hand in the pocket. Brad responds by sticking his tongue out which usually means it hurt. Nice left hook lands for Pickett in a brief exchange. Low kick connects for Rivera but Pickett fires back with one of his own. Striking exchange continues with Pickett just about getting the better of it, but a couple of really good leg kicks do connect for Rivera. Pickett bodyshot is countered by a hard uppercut from Rivera. Lot of head movement from Pickett but Rivera catches him clean with a left hand and drops him. Pickett is back up right away but his takedown attempt is stuffed. Brad looks okay though and they go back to winging punches at one another. Looping left from Pickett is countered by a pair of sharp punches from Rivera. Big exchange sees Pickett hurt by an uppercut, but Pickett fires right back and they swing wildly with both men landing. Left hand counter lands again for Rivera as Pickett pushes forward. Clubbing left from Rivera but Pickett fires back with a right. WILD EXCHANGE sees both men dropped for a split second and they’re absolutely SWINGING FOR THE FENCES now with Rivera landing some really nasty shots! Crowd go absolutely apeshit. Takedown attempt by Pickett is stuffed in the waning seconds. Even-ish round but Rivera seemed to hurt Pickett more with his shots so I’d call it 10-9 for Rivera.

Round Two and they trade again from the off with both landing some heavy blows from the pocket. Chopping leg kicks land for both too. Nice leg kick from Pickett and he avoids a couple of wild hooks. Body shot follows. Nice combo connects for Rivera ending with a right hand shovel punch. Couple of jabs land for Pickett but Rivera’s landing the cleaner shots every time. Beautiful single leg from Pickett puts Rivera on his back in guard though. Pickett passes into half-guard, then looks to work into side mount but Rivera shoves him off and explodes to his feet. Another combo lands for Rivera and he follows with a right hand counter to a low kick. Rivera’s timing seems really good here. Front kick connects for the American. Low kicks land for both men. One minute to go and Pickett lands with a glancing uppercut and a front kick of his own. Late takedown from Rivera, surprisingly, but Pickett reverses up right away. Big counter right lands for Rivera but a clear low blow answers for Pickett and Rivera folds. Referee Neal Hall calls time right away as the replay shows it was a left hook to the groin, ha. Rivera decides he’s okay and they end the round with another wild exchange. Another tight one but probably 10-9 Rivera again.

Round Three and Pickett pushes forward to begin as both men fire off some glancing blows. Takedown attempt from Pickett but Rivera sprawls nicely. Pickett keeps trying though and drives him into the fence where the action slows down a bit. Rivera attempts a guillotine, but Pickett forces him down and then immediately steps into side mount to alleviate the choke attempt. Rivera keeps hold of the head for a while to control him before releasing, but Pickett isn’t really doing much from the top anyway and Rivera regains half-guard. Ref calls a stand-up with half of the round remaining and both men look much slower. Striking exchange continues before Rivera catches a kick and delivers a pair of heavy rights. Takedown attempt from Rivera and he gets it, putting Pickett on his back in guard. Pickett scrambles from the bottom and lands an upkick that allows him to pop back up. Rivera catches him with a hard right hand, but Pickett shoots again and this time he hits a BIG SLAM that gets the crowd going, landing in side mount. Few elbows land for Pickett and the round ends with him on top. 10-9 Pickett, 29-28 Rivera overall I’d say.

Judges have it 29-28 Pickett, 29-28 Rivera and 29-28…..for Brad Pickett. Surprising decision there and maybe you’d have to say some home cooking from the judges? It was a close fight but I’m not sure how you could give either the first or the second to Pickett. I’m sort-of glad it went his way so that he’ll still be in the UFC, but yeah, I don’t think Rivera lost that one. Post-fight Pickett says he was planning to retire if he’d lost and you know, maybe that’d be a good idea for him anyway at 37, but if he wants to carry on I’ll definitely watch as he always puts on a fun fight. As does Rivera actually so hopefully he doesn’t get cut either. Fun opener.

Welterweight Fight: Tom Breese vs Keita Nakamura

Nakamura had made a surprising return to the UFC in 2015 with a win over Li Jingliang, his first UFC fight since 2008 and his first win too. Unfortunately for him though he was faced with a really nasty match-up in the form of Birmingham’s Tom Breese, a HUGE 170lber training out of the Tri-Star gym and coming off two brutal knockouts over Luiz Dutra Jr. and Cathal Pendred – and the word was that he was actually a better grappler than striker! The clear pick seemed to be Breese via something nasty.

First round begins and it’s a tentative start before Nakamura lands with a decent body kick. Clinch from the Japanese fighter and he forces Breese into the fence and gets a bodylock, looking to muscle the Brit down. Trip from Nakamura puts Breese onto his back in half-guard. He follows by slipping into full mount. Crowd are quiet and they’re clearly worried. Leglock attempt from Breese allows him to escape the position though and then he works to his feet. Nice stuff from Breese. Ref calls a break from the clinch and Breese stalks forward before tagging K-Taro with a combo. Nakamura clinches in response and they exchange some short strikes from there before breaking off. Body kick lands for Breese. Action slows down a bit as Breese lands some glancing strikes from the outside before Nakamura tags him in an exchange with a left-right. Takedown attempt from Nakamura but Breese stuffs it easily before breaking off with an elbow. Left hand lands cleanly for Breese and he follows with a kick up the middle before the round ends. Close round, call it 10-10 in fact.

Second round and Breese opens with a hard left hand before clinching and forcing Nakamura into the fence. Trip from Nakamura puts Breese on his back again, landing in half-guard before passing into mount again. Breese looks to reverse for a leglock again and goes into a heel hook, and from there he uses it to take top position when Nakamura avoids. Breese now passes into half-guard and he elbows the body before looking to mount. Nakamura does a good job of blocking the mount but he eats a couple of elbows in the process. Good punches from the Brit and he defends a sweep attempt and looks to spin to take the back. Instead he settles back into the half-guard with some more ground-and-pound. Breese is doing a great job in this round. Nakamura works back to full guard, but he continues to eat shots and he’s beginning to take a lot of damage. Oma plata attempt from the Japanese fighter, but Breese defends it well despite ending up with his arm twisted at an odd angle. Nakamura uses it to get into top position in side mount, but the round ends before he can do anything with it. 10-9 Breese.

Third round and Breese pushes forward and opens with a right jab. Exchange sees Breese connect on a short left hook but Nakamura seems okay. More jabs from Breese and he glances on a front kick too. Takedown attempt from Nakamura and he really drives forward for a single leg, but Breese defends well and lands some elbows to the head in the process. Nakamura switches to a double leg but he still can’t get Breese down and they wind up clinched. Nakamura finally gets Breese down off a bodylock again but the Brit rolls right into a leglock attempt for a third time, forcing Nakamura to defend. Breese manages to get into top position for a second before Nakamura sweeps over into half-guard. Two minutes to go and Breese looks to reverse for a sweep of his own, and he hits an insane scramble by elevating Nakamura with his legs and then taking the back. He goes into what looks like an inverted triangle attempt, but it doesn’t look tight although it allows Breese to control the positioning. Elbows to the body land for Breese and then he looks to grab the foot again, but the round ends there. 10-9 Breese for a 30-28 win I’d call it.

Official scores are 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for Tom Breese. Not the most exciting fight if I’m honest although it wasn’t horrible or anything, and hey, it was definitely the toughest test of Breese’s career even though he passed it. I think it showed some holes in his game – namely takedown defense from the clinch – but he looked solid on the ground against an excellent grappler and did well on his feet too. Working with Firas Zahabi the sky is the limit for him but I don’t think the UFC should rush him yet at all. Top prospect, however. As for Nakamura I’d say he’s definitely earned another fight in the Octagon, looks like he could settle into a decent gatekeeper slot.

Middleweight Fight: Gegard Mousasi vs Thales Leites

Initially pegged as Bisping’s opponent before the Silva fight materialised, Mousasi was in pretty dire need of a win here following his September loss to Uriah Hall, which seemed to have derailed his hype train once and for all. Obviously he’s still a great fighter to an extent but I don’t think he was ever the possible champion that the Japan-o-philes had him down as. Once the Bisping fight was out of the picture Leites was pushed in as his opponent and I was actually taking the upset and going for the Brazilian, as I couldn’t see Mousasi outgrappling him and while outstriking him was definitely a possibility, Mousasi’s got such a laid-back style that I could see Leites catching him on the feet too.

Round One and Leites goes for the takedown right away, forcing Mousasi back into the fence with a clinch. Mousasi does a good job of defending though and remains on his feet although he can’t seem to shake Leites off. Bit of a botch from Leites sees Mousasi land on top in almost a full mount, but Leites quickly reverses back to his feet and tries to get Mousasi down again. Knee to the body from Gegard and they break off. Good counter left hand lands for Mousasi as Leites tries a flurry. Few jabs and a nice inside leg kick follow. Hard leg kick from Leites but he gets another takedown attempt stuffed and eats a right hand for his troubles. He’s taking a lot of jabs here. Another takedown attempt is nicely defended by Mousasi. Leites decides to pull guard or maybe try a belly-to-belly throw, but Mousasi avoids that again and gets back to his feet. More good shots land for Mousasi including a nasty right hand, and he continues to use the jab to keep Thales at distance as the round ends. Dull-ish round. 10-9 Mousasi.

Round Two and Leites throws some haymakers, but Mousasi avoids deftly and clips him with a short right hand. More jabs from Mousasi including a nasty counter jab and he just looks completely nonchalant now like Leites can’t do anything to him. Left-right combo connects for Mousasi and Leites looks a bit mesmerised. Half-shot is easily stuffed by Gegard. Leites does land with a good leg kick but Mousasi catches him again with another combination. Leites is beginning to look a bit busted up. Strong left hook from Mousasi. He’s basically picking Thales apart here. More of the same follows with Mousasi landing jabs and right hands. Single leg attempt is blocked again by Mousasi. More jabs lead to another hard right. Another takedown attempt is easily stuffed by Mousasi and an attempt at pulling guard and even an ankle pick fails. Crowd boo loudly as he drops into the butt-scoot position and lets Mousasi kick at his legs. Round ends with the crowd cheering every kick from Mousasi. Clear-cut 10-9 for Mousasi.

Round Three and Leites comes out swinging and eats another right before pulling guard. Mousasi this time goes down with him into the full guard and appears just to chill out there before standing back up. Leites looks like his left eye is swelling up from the jabs. He’s being outclassed here. More jabs and the right cross follow. Leites has a bloody nose now as well. Pair of wild left hooks manage to connect for Leites in an exchange and he manages to back Mousasi up a bit, but doesn’t really seem to have him fazed and the jab quickly pegs him back again. Beautiful right cross lands for Mousasi. Leites’ face is a mess. Takedown attempt follows for Thales and he tries to pull guard again, but Mousasi settles down into half-guard instead. Crowd begin to boo loudly as the fight slows down but naturally Mousasi doesn’t care. He does allow Leites to get full guard, but he appears to be wincing due to blood running into his eyes and doesn’t really go for a submission anyway. Rubber guard from Leites and he appears to be looking for an oma plata, but he can’t get close and the fight ends there. Got to be 30-27 for Gegard Mousasi.

Judges have it 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27 for Gegard Mousasi. No idea how anyone could give Leites a round really. Not the most entertaining fight as it felt like Mousasi just figured he could outclass Thales on the feet and avoid the takedown without really putting himself in danger, and hey, a win is a win even if it wasn’t fun to watch. Not really sure where Mousasi goes next – maybe Derek Brunson or even the loser of the Rockhold/Weidman rematch could work in fact. He’s a dangerous fight for anyone but I just wish he’d open up some more in these types of fights to get the fans a little more excited about him. But then what do I know, I’m not a fighter.

Middleweight Fight: Anderson Silva vs Michael Bisping

Honestly after the Diaz fight and subsequent suspension for steroids, I didn’t expect to see Silva back in the UFC point blank, but this was definitely a great fight for him to come back into as Bisping had been after it for years – obviously moreso when Anderson was holding the UFC title, but even after that, it felt like the biggest fight that the UFC hadn’t made in the division over the last few years anyway. You could’ve argued in fact that they could’ve made Bisping the challenger rather than Weidman back in 2013 as he was coming off a couple of big wins and only a narrow loss to Chael Sonnen. Anyhow I digress – big fight for both men, as with the issues surrounding MW right now (particularly Yoel Romero’s PED bust), a win over Silva could finally net Bisping a title shot, while for Silva, at the age of 40 and following all the controversy of 2015, this was his chance to prove that he still had it. In their primes I’d have taken Silva in a heartbeat, but in 2016 it was anyone’s guess as to what would happen. On a side note it was also quite fascinating to see Silva back in England as he’d largely made his pre-UFC name there with his wild run in Cage Rage.

Round One begins and Silva circles on the outside as Bisping pushes forward and misses a head kick. So odd to see Silva without his trademark black and yellow shorts. Left hand glances for Bisping. Nothing thrown by Silva yet really. Glancing left from Bisping causes Silva to grin. Right hand lands for Bisping as Silva tries to clown with his wild hand movements. Good right hand lands again from Bisping. Side kick to the leg connects for Anderson as does a glancing counter knee to the body. Head kick misses for Bisping. Right hand over the top glances for the Brit. Quick left from Bisping and he’s quickly out of range. Counter right narrowly misses for Silva and Bisping catches him with a one-two. Silva backs him up a bit and begins to clown with his hands again but he isn’t landing anything and Bisping gets off the fence and begins to push some more. Nice combo from Bisping but Silva seems fine. Crowd are massively into this. Seconds remaining and Silva waves him on and drops his hands. Right hand lands for Bisping and Silva winds up on the fence with his hands down ala the Stephan Bonnar fight. Round ends with a solid counter combo from Bisping and Silva looks rocked for a second but then fires back! Silva then goes for a hug, but Bisping’s having none of that. 10-9 Bisping, pretty wild round at times too, typical Silva fare.

Round Two and Bisping pushes the action again, backing Silva up as the crowd chant his name. Decent right hand lands for Bisping as does a front kick to the body. Ton of hand movements from Silva now looking to confuse the Count. Really nice right lands for Bisping and he follows with some more punches that Silva absorbs with his hands by his waist. And then he really goes into the full Bonnar fight situation by standing with his hands down and using head movement to avoid punches. Bisping’s having none of that nonsense though and backs up himself, forcing Silva out of the game. Right hands land for both men, Silva quickly catching Bisping with a counter shot. Quick counter left lands for Silva as Bisping continues to back him up. Couple of shots land for Bisping but again Silva seems okay. Lot of pressure from Bisping though and he backs Silva up, forcing Anderson to….bust out a dance? Okay then. Combo glances for Bisping in answer. Suddenly Silva comes forward though and narrowly misses the Fryklund-killing upward elbow. More dancing from Silva and then he snaps Bisping’s head back with a flicking jab. Combo misses for Bisping but a low kick lands. More taunting from Silva follows and then he lands a leg kick. Bisping comes right back with one of his own. Weird moment follows as Silva turns to his corner and then takes a right hand. Good leg kick from Bisping. He’s definitely landing more here. Inside leg kick leads to a glancing left for the Brit. Front kick misses for Bisping but he catches Silva leaning in and lands a left, and another one DROPS ANDERSON! He throws an upkick as Bisping looks to follow, but it doesn’t land and Bisping pounces and pounds away in the guard like his name is Chael Sonnen! Crowd go MENTAL for this as Bisping tries to finish, but can’t land the killer shot and Silva manages to recover. Holy shit. Round ends inside Silva’s guard. Clear 10-9 for Bisping, especially with the knockdown. Crowd are deafening and this is AWESOME.

Round Three and Anderson switches stances to begin, but Bisping continues to push forward. Straight right hand and a leg kick land for Bisping and he backs Silva into the fence, but takes a leg kick and then has to back out a bit. Wild shots miss for both men in a brief exchange. Couple of glancing jabs into a right hand from Bisping. Monstrous chant for Bisping follows as he backs Anderson up again. Push kick to the knee from Silva but he takes a left hand and switches stances again. Good leg kick from Bisping again. Right hand answers for Anderson. Body kick glances for Bisping but Silva catches it and throws him down, only to let him back up. Big head kick follows but doesn’t quite land cleanly. Two minutes to go and Bisping glances on a combo. Anderson presses forward a bit more now and he’s got Bisping on his back foot a little. Beautiful counter right lands for Anderson. The amount of hand movement from both men is pretty insane. Combo glances for Bisping as Silva stops moving for a split-second. Stiff jab follows. Silva comes back though with a high kick that forces Bisping back. Right hand answers but Silva’s on the hunt here. Big knee from Silva and Bisping responds with a grin. Quick trade follows and Silva DROPS HIS HANDS AND EATS CLEAN SHOTS before firing back with a big right hand and a combo of his own! Bisping looks stunned and his mouthpiece is out. Silva tries to grab the plum clinch but can’t quite do it, and Bisping signals to Herb Dean for his mouthpiece….only for Silva to DESTROY HIM WITH A FLYING KNEE ON THE BUZZER!

Cue ABSOLUTE FUCKING MAYHEM as Silva assumes the fight is over and begins to celebrate, even climbing the fence despite Herb Dean saying over and over that he hasn’t stopped the fight. Guess Anderson’s been watching too much Rousimar Palhares? Bisping looks out of it to be fair, but his corner get him back on his stool and we end up with a longer break between rounds but with NO CUTMAN for Bisping who is a bloody mess. That was one of the most bizarre moments in UFC history, point blank. Silva’s round 10-9 and sure, we’ve seen fights stopped between rounds for less you could argue (Penn vs. Sherk?) although Bisping wasn’t unconscious. And so we continue!

Round Four and surprisingly Silva doesn’t come out looking for the kill and allows Bisping to stalk forward. Bisping’s face is a real state, wow. High kick from Anderson glances off Bisping’s arms. Bisping backs him up though and lands with a left hand. Head kick misses for Bisping but a jab connects and he follows with a solid combo. Low blow from Silva slows him down and Herb Dean has to call time. They restart and Bisping backs him up with a couple of low kicks and opens up with some punches that don’t really land cleanly. Good right does land but Anderson’s head movement seems to be minimising the damage. He’s right back against the fence though again. Right jab lands for Silva but a one-two lands cleanly for Bisping and now he’s opening up with decent flurries as Silva stays by the fence. No idea what Silva’s doing here really. Two minutes to go and he finally gets off the fence, but Bisping quickly forces him back towards it and lands some more punches. Looks like Silva’s trying some Wing Chun-style parrying and blocking. Eye poke from Bisping now and again Herb has to call time. Silva’s okay and they restart, with Anderson narrowly missing a huge left hook. Side kick to the leg from Silva but Bisping begins to back him up again. Combination lands for the Brit. One minute to go now and it’s more of the same with Silva trying all of his hand fighting as Bisping lands on him. Suddenly though Silva decides to get on the attack, landing a right and a left and then a knee before Bisping shoves him back. Upward elbow glances for Silva and then he stuns Bisping with an uppercut and a right and has him on the retreat. Round ends with a Silva superman punch. 10-9 Bisping in a really odd round really, Silva basically let him back into the fight!

Round Five and Silva throws out some right jabs as it looks like he’s got a small cut over his left eye now too. Left head kick glances for Anderson. Bisping’s whole face is covered in blood. Glancing combo from Bisping. Head kick glances again for Anderson and he seems to be more aggressive in this round. Jab and a side kick from the former champion but Bisping fires back with a jab of his own. Herb Dean decides to get Bisping’s face checked out by the doctor as he’s bleeding so, so badly, but they let it go thankfully. Straight left lands for Silva. Couple of punches miss for Bisping but he backs Silva up a bit more. Combo from Bisping glances but Anderson comes back with a FRONT KICK TO THE JAW and Bisping is wobbled! Big pair of knees follow for Silva as he senses the finish, but Bisping hangs tough and fires back somehow. Big knee from the clinch for Silva but Bisping breaks with a right. Head kick lands flush for Anderson but Bisping’s still standing and still swinging back, wow. Absolutely incredible heart from Michael Bisping. Two minutes to go and Bisping continues to swing but he’s definitely getting the worse of it in this round. Silva decides to slow down suddenly though and eats a trio of jabs and a low kick. Bisping backs him up and tries a takedown, but Silva manages to defend it and breaks off with a huge knee to the body. Right jab lands for Silva. Bisping still keeps coming forward and he lands some jabs with Silva against the fence before dodging the front kick. Leg kick from Bisping but Silva snaps his head back with a jab and follows with a standing elbow strike. Crowd are DEAFENING as we’re in the home straight. Jab again from Anderson and Bisping continues to push forward and that’s it! 10-9 Silva, but I think I’d call it 48-47 for Bisping overall despite all the crazy damage he took. Incredible fight.

And all three judges score it 48-47….for Michael fucking Bisping. Crowd sound like they’re blowing the roof off the O2 in one of the most incredible scenes I can ever remember in the UFC, and probably – outside of the Gonzaga head kick of Cro Cop – *the* defining moment for the UFC in the UK. Post-fight Bisping cuts a total babyface promo, putting over the fans and Silva massively too, saying how much he looked up to him as he was coming up the ranks. I’m sorry but if you still hate this guy after everything he’s done in the UFC you are WRONG.

Amazing fight, then. Basically I think Silva, unfortunately, most likely due both to his age and the massive layoffs he’s had, his speed and reflexes have started to abandon him and while he still shows flashes of brilliance – that front kick in the fifth for example – it makes him easier to hit than he’s ever been in his career before and that means he’s more likely to try to play mind games and do odd stuff than ever before. Bisping refused to play into that here – look at how he walked away when Silva put his back to the cage – and instead just waded in and used his superior speed to land strikes that, while not more devastating than the ones Silva landed on him, did land cleanly enough to rack up the points and win enough rounds to win the fight. Should the fight have been stopped in the third after that knee? It’s questionable. Certainly we’ve seen fights stopped for less and it did look like Bisping wasn’t in a condition to continue to fight. At the end of the day though he managed to drag himself back into the fight and all credit to him for that regardless of the controversy. Low-end FOTYC, the biggest win of Bisping’s career and – if Chris Weidman manages to win the title back from Luke Rockhold in June – it might be enough to net him that elusive title shot. Not bad for a night’s work!

-Show ends as Bisping celebrates with the British fans.

Final Thoughts….

Total one-fight show – Pickett/Rivera was decent I guess but Leites/Mousasi wasn’t really – but holy shit what a fight it was. Miss Bisping/Silva at your peril as it’s one of the best big fights the UFC have done in some time, but you’re probably best to check it out as a standalone fight. Thumbs in the middle for the show but it’s all for the main event.

Best Fight: Bisping vs. Silva
Worst Fight: Leites vs. Mousasi

Overall Rating: **1/2

Until next time,

Scott Newman:
NewmanMMA@gmail.com