The Two Sheds Review: UFC 115 Liddell v Franklin

THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne – now in it’s 10th year!
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It was meant to be one of the biggest fights of the year, but Tito Ortiz did an Alex Reid and pulled out of the big one, leaving Rich Franklin to replace him against Chuck Liddell in the main event of UFC 115, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain, with Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg handling commentary duties.

The broadcast began with the preliminary fights, as Mac Danzig faced Matt Wiman in the lightweight division. Nothing like a controversial incident to start the evening. Wiman had applied a guillotine choke, but the left side of Danzig’s neck was clearly open. However, the referee stopped the fight, giving Wiman the submission win, despite the fact that Danzig wasn’t actually unconscious. Now while I can’t really comment on the fight, I can comment on the referee, and he made a massive mistake here.

The action continued in the welterweight division, as Ricardo Funch took on Claude Patrick. Some nice grappling in this one, and another strange decision, when the referee warned Funch for an up kick which never actually happened. Afterwards Patrick opened up a nasty cut under Funch’s eye with his vicious ground and pound, before getting the submission win in the second round with a guillotine, ending an impressive debut.

It was back to the lightweight division for the next fight as Tyson Griffin faced Evan Dunham. This proved to be a very good fight, with Dunham putting on a great performance, using his height and reach advantage to good effect as he controlled Griffin for the majority of the fight, taking his back three times. It was only Griffin’s defensive work that stopped Dunham getting the submission win. There was a slight surprise with the decision as one judge scored in favour of Griffin as Dunham secured the split decision.

The main show began with welterweight action as Carlos Condit went up against Rory MacDonald. The proverbial game of two halves here. MacDonald, buoyed on by his rabid Canadian fans, controlled the first tow rounds both in the striking and the grappling. But a between rounds rollicking spurred Condit into action in the third as he went to work with the ground and pound, turning the youngster’s face into a bloody mess, and with just ten seconds left in the fight, and with Condit’s assault going unanswered, the referee stepped in and stopped the fight, giving Condit the TKO win. A very good third round performance by Condit, but MacDonald is definitely one for the future.

The big boys were up next as Ben Rothwell faced Gilbert Yvel in the heavyweight division. This proved to be a very intriguing battle. The first round was fought at a frantic pace with Rothwell looking good with his ground work. Although fought at a slower pace the second began in the same vein, although Yvel was able to reverse the positions on the ground for a sustained ground and pound, which looked like it could get him the win. Both fighters looked exhausted in the final round as Rothwell simply overwhelmed Yvel on the ground. It wasn’t spectacular but it was effective, and it was enough to get him the unanimous decision.

Then it was down to the welterweight division for Paulo Thiago against Martin Kampmann. Another of those intriguing encounters saw Kampmann, known mainly for his striking, putting on a good display of grappling throughout this fight. Thiago had his moments, but they were few and far between as Kampmann quickly re-established his control, with the fight ending as Kampmann went for an arm triangle. No surprises here as Kampmann secured the unanimous decision from the judges in what was his finest UFC performance.

It was back up to the heavyweight division for the next fight, the battle of the kick boxers as Mirko Cro Cop faced Pat Barry. You know, having watched MMA for a number of years now I’ve never seen a fight fought with such great respect and sportsmanship, but that didn’t stop these two from putting on a great fight. Barry’s big right put Cro Cop on his backside twice in the first round, swelling the left side of his face in the process. The Croatian really upped his game from the second round onwards, scoring with a take down and showing how underrated he is on the ground. Cro Cop continued his assault in the third, a strong combination knocking Barry down, following it up with some ground and pound, and sealing the deal with a rear naked choke. This was a vintage performance from Cro Cop, and I’d love to see him get a shot at the title.

The main event saw Chuck Liddell taking on Rich Franklin, a battle of the legends, in the light heavyweight division. This was one of those dream matches you wait years for, a highly entertaining battle that really could have gone either way. Both men put on great performances, and it looked like it could go some distance. But with just five seconds of the first round left, a Franklin right hand to the jaw sent Liddell crashing down to the mat, spark out. Franking had achieved a great knockout win, which was even more impressive considering he’d broken his left arm blocking one of Liddell’s kicks. As for the Iceman, if this is the end, then he should be proud of what he’s achieved. He truly is a legend.

Welterweight action followed in the form of Mike Pyle against Jesse Lennox. Another of those highly entertaining back and forth encounters. Lots of feeling out at the beginning was followed by good displays of striking and ground fighting. Both men had their moments in another fight that could have gone either way. It looked like it was going the distance until Lennox rocked Pyle with just seconds to go. But Pyle quickly countered when the fight went to the ground with a leg triangle choke. Pyle added a few elbows for good measure, getting the win when he told the referee that Lennox was out for the count.

In conclusion – apart from the extremely poor referee’s decision early on, the Ultimate Fighting Championship again delivered with a card stacked full of great fights, with the victories for Franklin and Cro Cop the highlights of the night for me. Dana White and his crew really are going from strength to strength, and at a time when certain professional wrestling companies just don’t cut the mustard for me at the moment it’s nice to have a more viable alternative.