THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne
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It was time for the Brits to shine again this past Saturday night as the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to the MEN Arena in Manchester for their latest offering, with Randy Couture and Brandon Vera going at it in the main event of UFC 105: Couture vs. Vera, shown live here in Britain on ESPN, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.
The broadcast began with Ultimate Fighter 9 lightweight winner Ross Pearson making his UFC debut proper against Aaron Riley. This was a hell of a debut for Pearson, as he put in a dominating performance, controlling the flow of the fight from the beginning, with Riley looking very tentative. Pearson looked great in all aspects, and he probably would have finished the fight himself if the doctors hadn’t stopped it, with Riley having sustained a nasty cut, courtesy of a Pearson flying knee. Good stuff from Pearson here, giving us Brits another fighter to keep an eye on.
Then it was on to James Wilks taking on Matt Brown at welterweight. Wilks looked good to begin with, but as the fight progressed Brown really got into his game, controlling the fight and putting in some nice work. He may well have got the submission win with a triangle in the second round, but the clock was against him. Wilks looked exhausted as the third round started, and it looked like he was about to stage something of a comeback until a sustained ground and pound attack from Brown earned him the TKO win. Another very good fight, with Brown in particular looking great.
Fight three was the proverbial blink and you’ll miss it affair, with Andre Winner facing Rolando Delgado in a lightweight encounter. Delgado went for a few knees and kicks early on, but a big right from Winner sent him crashing to the mat. It wasn’t long before Winner unloaded with the big right hand again, and this one completely knocked Delgado out as he fell to the ground like a sack of spuds, ending a very impressive performance from Winner here.
Britain’s most popular mixed martial artist, Michael Bisping, was up next, looking to get his career back on track as we went up against Denis Kang in a middleweight bout. Kang came into this one with a big reputation, and many people thought that this would be a cake walk for the former Pride star, and he put on a good display in the first round with his ground game. However, Bisping proved to be his equal, quickly shaking off the right hand that had knocked him down to put on a tremendous defensive display. So having been on the defensive in the first round, Bisping went on the offensive in the second, scoring with numerous take downs. When Bisping went for the ground and pound after the second take down, Kang got busted open, and from there you could tell it was only a matter of time, with the referee calling a halt to proceedings when Kang failed to respond to Bisping’s final ground and pound onslaught, earning him the TKO win in what was possibly the best performance of his career.
The second blink and you’ll miss it affair came next, with Alexander Gustafsson facing Jared Hamman in a light heavyweight fight. This one began as a slugfest, but soon saw Hamman down on the mat after a Gustafsson right. Brief ground and pound followed, but Hamman was out of it by the time the referee stepped in. A short but impressive display from Gustafsson here as he earned the TKO win.
The big welterweight fight followed, with Mike Swick facing Dan Hardy for a possible shot at Georges St-Pierre’s title. This may have been the best fight on the night, a great encounter between two fighters looking to get that big fight. Both men put on a good display in an even looking first two rounds, with Hardy really upping his game in the third, showing some good stand-up and ground work. All in all it was a very good fight, with Hardy getting the unanimous decision after three hard fought rounds, and rightfully so. This writer hopes that he gets that well deserved title shot.
The main event saw Randy Couture returning to the light heavyweight division to face a man who had recently gone down there himself, Brandon Vera. To say that the Natural got a great reception would be an understatement. This fight proved to be a little controversial to say the least. Couture’s game plan was to use his wrestling skills against Vera, and this involved controlling his opponent up against the cage. If truth be told, Couture did a good job here, but it was in the third round that many thought Vera had won it, rocking Couture with his punches and causing damage to his ribs with several great kicks. But this just didn’t seem to be enough in the eyes of the judges, with all three giving the fight to Couture, which didn’t sit too well with Vera. Many thought that even though Couture had controlled the majority of the fight, the damage Vera caused in the third was enough to get him the win. And I have to admit, I thought Vera had edged it.
In conclusion – the UFC’s latest foray to this side of the pond proved to be a very good show, and a very good advertisement for how far mixed martial arts has come in this country over the past few years, with Ross Pearson, Michael Bisping and Dan Hardy all putting in great performances. As for the main event decision, well, we’ve had two dodgy main event decisions in a row now. Let’s hope we don’t get another one next weekend.