The good and the great of the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to television this past weekend with their first ever show on U.S. television station Versus, headlined by Brandon “The Truth” Vera taking on Jon “Bones” Jones, and shown live here in Britain in the early hours of this past Monday morning on ESPN, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.
The broadcast began in the middleweight division, as Alessio Sakara faced James Irvin. This was certainly an interesting fight. Both fighters tested the waters with combinations and kicks, until a left from Sakara saw Irvin go to the ground. At first it looked like an eye poke, but replays showed that it was actually a punch that caused the damage. As the officials tried to sort things out, the referee informed them of the punch, and the decision was made in favour of Sakara. This is kind of a hard fight to comment on, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see these two against each other again.
Then it was up to the heavyweight division as Cheick Kongo faced Paul Buentello. All of the experts thought that this was going to be a stand up battle. They couldn’t have been more wrong. From the outset it was obvious what Kongo’s game plan was, and he implemented it perfectly, taking Buentello down whenever he could and unleashing with the ground and pound. Buentello suffered what looked like a dislocated pinky on his right hand which was quickly seen to. A little bit of controversy followed in the second when Kongo connected with a knee to the head while Buentello was grounded, earning him a point deduction. Kongo connected with a second knee to the head moments later, but there was no point loss this time as the referee saw Buentello placed his hand on the ground before the knee connected. Buentello looked exhausted by the time the third round started, and he soon tapped as Kongo went for more ground and pound. A good performance from the Frenchman here, but the jury is still out as to whether he can be a major player in the division.
The heavyweight action continued with Junior Dos Santos and Gabriel Gonzaga. This battle of the Brazilians looked a mouth watering prospect on paper, and it proved to be a good stand up battle, with both fighters getting off some good shots until Dos Santos countered Gonzaga’s left kick with a left hook that sent Gonzaga crashing down like a sack of spuds. Some brief ground and pound followed, before the referee stopped the action, giving Dos Santos the knockout win. Another good performance from Dos Santos here, putting him right in the mix in the heavyweight division.
Filler material followed from the welterweight division as John Howard took on Daniel Roberts. An entertaining back and forth affair that turned on an instant. Roberts controlled the early action with some great grappling, but Howard was soon able to reverse with a big slam. Seconds later Howard stood up, but instead of letting Roberts back up Howard went back in with a big left that knocked Roberts clean out, ending an extraordinary fight.
The main event saw Brandon Vera taking on Jon Jones in the light heavyweight division. Vera came into this fight looking to re-establish himself after his controversial loss to Randy Couture. Sadly he didn’t get it done. Jones controlled the fight for the most part, and an up kick that connected to Jones’ head while he still had one knee grounded earned Vera a point deduction. The fight ended moments later when Jones connected with a vicious left elbow to Vera’s right eye. The Truth turned away immediately, and it wasn’t long before the referee stepped in and called a halt to the proceedings, giving Jones the deserved TKO win.
In conclusion – well, four good fights out of five isn’t bad. While the opener between Irvin and Sakara didn’t really satisfy, the rest of the broadcast did, with some great performances from the likes of Kongo, Dos Santos and Jones, meaning the UFC’s debut on Versus can only be termed a big success. Well done to all concerned.