THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
It’s that time of the month again where the great and good of the Ultimate Fighting Championship gather for their latest pay-per-view offering, and this month two of the biggest names in the light heavyweight division are doing battle in UFC 96: Jackson v Jardine, shown live here in Britain on Setanta Sports.
The show begins with action from the lightweight division, with Gray Maynard taking on Jim Miller. From the beginning, this fight belonged to one man. Former Ultimate Fighter contestant Maynard controlled things from the outset. The superior wrestler showed tremendous boxing skills as he outfought Miller. Miller tried to take Maynard down in the first round, but, having grabbed hold of one leg, he found his opponent hopping around while delivering repeated blows to the head. From this moment on Miller looked like a beaten man, with blood pouring from his damaged nose and his left eye beginning to swell. By the end of the first round Miller looked like he’d fought for more than five minutes. Miller had some luck on the ground in the third round, but by then it was too little too late. All three judges gave the fight to Maynard, and rightfully so. A good performance from the bully to get the show started.
Then it was on to Matt Hamill against Mark Munoz in the light heavyweight division. The UFC’s other Hammer came out like a man possessed. Fighting in front of his home state fans, Hamill fought the perfect fight, defending the take downs well, and beating Munoz to the punch almost every time. Then, as the fight entered it’s fifth minute, a high right kick to the head sent Munoz crashing down to the mat. He was out before he even hit the ground, and Hamill got off a couple of punches before the referee jumped in. An excellent knock out performance from Hamill.
Pete Sell then took on Matt Brown in a welterweight contest. No feeling out process in this one, and not even a touch of the gloves to begin with. Brown took it to Sell from the beginning, and after knocking him down early on, there was a little confusion as the referee pulled them apart. But the fight wasn’t stopped, and as Brown continued to punch and kick away at Sell, Brown more or less pleaded with the referee to stop the fight. The referee soon saw it Brown’s way and stopped the fight, giving Brown the TKO victory. No technical nonsense here, this was just a brawl, and a damn entertaining one at that. Good stuff from Brown, and nice to see him showing some compassion for his opponent.
Filler material time, with Kendall Grove tackling Jason Day at middleweight. This one looked pretty even to begin with, with some good boxing exchanges between the two, but as is often the case with many MMA fights, this turned on an instant. A straight right hand from Grove sent Day down. Grove went for the ground and pound, but by then it was all over. The UFC’s other Spider was back, and it took him just over a minute as he looked great on his comeback fight.
Then it was time for the big boys to take centre stage, the heavyweights, with the man who more or less ended Mirko Cro Cop’s UFC career, Gabriel Gonzaga, facing Shane Carwin. Early on it looked like Gonzaga was going to control the fight, but as with the previous fight, it turned on an instant. After Gonzaga connected with a hard right, Carwin connected with an even harder right. The Brazilian slumped to the mat, and it was all over. Gonzaga didn’t know what hit him as Carwin announced himself as a heavyweight contender with one big punch.
More filler material, with Tamoan McCrory taking on Ryan Madigan at welterweight. The two rather lanky gentleman produced the first extended ground fighting period of the broadcast. Having had mainly knock outs so far, it was good to see some good grappling, with both men having their moments, and although Madigan controlled things early on, McCrory upped his game within moments, taking the full mount and unleashing the ground and pound, opening Madigan up, with the referee stepping in as Madigan tapped. Nice grappling here, more than welcome after having had so many stand up knock outs.
Main event time, top action from the light heavyweight division with “The Dean of Mean” Keith Jardine facing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. This was just everything a UFC main event should be, and from the beginning it had that “big fight” feeling. It began with the rather unique stare down, to the back and forth stand up trades, and to the way that Jackson more or less just shrugged off Jardine’s inadvertent low kick, this was the kind of fight that made you glad to be a mixed martial arts fan. By the time the third and final round began this looked like a pretty even fight, and it continued to do so right until the final minute. It was then that Rampage began to really unloaded, staggering Jardine in the final thirty seconds, and knocking him down with a left hook as the fight came to an end. The judges decision – unanimous in favour of Jackson, giving him a title shot against Rashad Evans in May. A really enjoyable fight here, with two very good performances, although it was almost overshadowed by the eye-to-eye between Rampage and Rashad afterwards!
Yet more filler material, beginning with more action from the light heavyweight division as Brandon Vera faced Mike Patt. This was probably the best performance I’ve seen from Vera. The Truth rattled off kick after kick after kick, to the point where, just over a minute into the second round, the repeated kicks to Patt’s left leg became too much, and having been knocked down for the second time in the round, the referee called a halt to the proceedings. Impressive stuff from Vera, who seems to have finally found his niche in the light heavyweight division.
The filler material continued with yet more light heavyweight action, this time between Tim Boetsch and Jason Brilz. If ever you needed an example of the proverbial game of two halves, then this fight would be a good example of that. Boetsch clearly won the first round with his superior striking, gaining the upper hand early on to the point where, between rounds, Brilz’s corner reminded him that he wasn’t a boxer. Brilz took heed of their advice, and quickly took his opponent down in the second round, controlling the fight with some great grappling. It was the same story in the third, and although Boetsch was clearly superior in the boxing game, Brilz was superior on the ground, almost synching in a choke or two, and opening up a cut near Boetsch’s left eye with his ground and pound. But with the fight going the distance, it went down to the judges, who gave the fight two rounds to one to Brilz. In a show that was somewhat lacking in ground work, this fight was a welcome addition to the card, even though it was only meant to be a preliminary fight. A good performance from Brilz, and hopefully we’ll see some more of him in the future.
In conclusion – having recently watched an MMA show that was woefully lacking in certain production standards, it was good to get back to normal service as it were with the UFC. Good fights throughout, especially the main event between Rampage and Jardine, although I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much ground work on show here. But then again you can’t have everything, and this was still a very good show. So in short, good show, and if you haven’t watched it yet then do so soon.