THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
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It’s been a long twelve weeks. We had a case herpes, fainting incidents, guys failing to make weight, egg throwing, a guy hitting himself with a sledgehammer, and a fighter gagging on his gum shield. Oh, and there were a few fights as well as mixed martial artists from America and Britain fought it out to make it to the lightweight and welterweight finals of The Ultimate Fighter at UFC’s The Ultimate Finale, shown live here in Britain on Setanta in the early hours of Sunday morning, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.
The broadcast begins with action from the lightweight division, a battle between former Ultimate Fighter winners, with Nate Diaz facing Joe Stevenson. A great fight to start the show, with both guys putting in great performances. Diaz looked like he’d get the win early on with a guillotine, but Stevenson managed to work his way before tying Diaz up in knots. The back and forth action continued like this throughout the fight, with several more guillotine attempts from Diaz, and Stevenson always countering with some good work on his own. So with the fight going distance, it went down to the judges, who gave the unanimous decision to Stevenson. Good fight here, and the right decision.
Then it was time for the first final, with British team-mates Ross Pearson and Andre Winner going at it in the lightweight final. This was a very interesting, if not overly spectacular fight. The majority of this one was fought up against the cage, with both fighters seeming to prefer using the clinch while delivering knees and trying for takedowns. When they did move to the centre, Pearson showed some good boxing skills, but perhaps the problem with this fight was the fact that because they had trained together they knew each other so well, so they actually cancelled each other out most of the time. The fight went the distance, with all three judges giving the decision to Pearson. Another good decision from the judges, who just about edged it in my opinion.
Welterweight action followed, with Chris Lytle taking on Kevin Burns. A very interesting fight between two men with a vast experience gap between them. While the first round clearly belonged to Burns, who out boxed Lytle and rocked him a couple of times, the rest of the fight belonged to Lytle. Lytle really upped his boxing game in the second and third rounds, and by the second half of the second round Burns was beginning to breath heavily. A hard Lytle right in the third opened up a cut near Burns left eye, which saw the blood just flowing down his face and chest. Lytle rocked him several more times as the final round went on. Lytle went on to win the unanimous judges decision, with Burns’ three inadvertent low blows costing him dear in the eyes of the judges.
Then it was time for the welterweight final, with American Damarques Johnson taking on Brit James Wilkes. Having had three fights go the distance, it was nice to see an early finish. This was a very exciting fight, with Johnson beginning strongly, but Wilkes quickly getting into his stride and out moving Johnson at every turn, and as the first round entered it’s final ten seconds Wilkes synched in a rear naked choke, with Johnson tapping out seconds later. An outstanding fight, one of the best I’ve seen this year.
Main event time, with Diego Sanchez taking on Clay Guida in the lightweight division. This was definitely worth it’s main event status. Round one began with both fighters swinging like crazy, and continued in the same vein throughout, with a left head kick from Sanchez sending Guida crashing down to the mat. Round two was fought mainly on the ground, and although Guida was able to control things early on, towards the end of the round Sanchez connected with a torrent of elbows to the top of Guida’s head. Round three saw them fight in the upright and on the ground. They both rolled off some good combinations, and both went for submissions on the ground. This was one of those fights that you just didn’t want to end, but sadly it did, with Sanchez getting the split decision. A tremendous fight.
In conclusion – as you may have guessed from my introduction, this was the first Ultimate Fighter season, aside from DVD releases, that I’ve watched from the beginning. It was great to see how the fighters progressed through the various rounds and into the finals, and with three Brits representing Michael Bisping’s team, they showed that mixed martial arts in this country is not just alive and well, but thriving, and that was evident by the fact that we had three fighters in the finals, so congratulations to Ross Pearson and James Wilkes for winning their respective tournaments.
As for the rest of the fights, not a bad one among them folks, with the main event pitting Diego Sanchez and Clay Guida clearly fight of the night. Although this particular fight would have been a perfect addition to any pay-per-view card, in a way I’m glad that it was aired on free TV, because it as the perfect advertisement for what mixed martial arts is all about. So who knows, if someone watching UFC on Spike TV in America for the first saw this show, they might go ahead and buy a pay-per-view in the future, and what better place to start than with UFC 100!