THE TWO SHEDS REVIEW by Julian Radbourne – now in it’s 10th year!
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The final part of the series to mark the tenth anniversary of The Two Sheds Review sees us taking another look at the first ever MMA show I saw, when the Ultimate Fighting Championship made their first visit to Great Britain in July 2002 for UFC 38: Brawl at the Royal Albert Hall, headlined by Matt Hughes defending the Welterweight title against Carlos Newton, with Mike Goldberg and Jeff Osborne handling commentary duties.
The show began with action from the light heavyweight division as James Zikic faced off against Phillip Miller. A very good fight to begin the show with. Miller controlled the first round after a somewhat sloppy take down, dominating with his grappling.
The Brit came back well from the second round onwards as he was able to defend Miller’s take downs better than he had previously. He really upped his game in the third with some nice ground and pound, until Miller manager to escape when Zikic took his back. The fight ended with Zikic seemingly getting the better of a striking contest.
So with the fight going the distance the judges were called into action, giving Miller the unanimous decision, a decision that really could have gone either way.
It was down to the lightweight division next as Leigh Remedios went up against Japanese star Genki Sudo and his highly entertaining entrance. Sudo began this one full of confidence, showboating at the beginning, before getting down to business, showing some good work on the ground, and almost getting the win with a couple of submissions.
It was pretty much the same in the second, only this time Sudo finished the Brit off, taking his back and synching in a rear naked choke in the blink of an eye for the impressive submission win.
Middleweight action followed as another Brit, Mark Weir, faced Eugene Jackson. The blink and you’ll miss it affair of the evening saw Weir connect with a right to the chin that sent Jackson down like the proverbial sack of spuds, with the referee stepping in when Weir followed Jackson to the ground. The time – just ten seconds. An explosive performance from the Wizard, with the British contingent finally getting the win.
The big boys were up next as Ian Freeman faced Frank Mir in the heavyweight division. A much slimmer Mir than we’ve seen recently began the fight quickly, but it wasn’t long before the action went to the ground. Mir went for a few submissions, but Freeman more or less dominated with his ground and pound, and as Mir got to his feet and began to stagger around, the ref called the doctor in to look at a cut near his right eye. He then decided that he didn’t need the doctor after all and ended the fight himself, giving Freeman the highly impressive TKO win. This was, by far, the most impressive performance in Freeman’s career.
The main event saw Carlos Newton challenging Matt Hughes for the UFC Welterweight title, a re-match from their controversial first fight the previous November. This was Hughes in his prime, dominating for the most part with his superior ground and pound and grappling. Newton had a few fleeting moments of offence in the third round, but Hughes soon reasserted control in the fourth, the referee stopping the fight when Newton, with both of arms tied, tapped out to Hughes’ ground and pound, ending a tremendous display from one of the greatest ever fighters.
In conclusion – when I first saw this show eight years ago I didn’t really know what mixed martial arts was about. But now I can really appreciate the action here, and the UFC’s debut on British soil was a very good show. It was a little disappointing that only two of the Brits won, but the performances of Mark Weir and Ian Freeman more than made up for that.
It was also interesting to see how much the UFC has changed over the years. Parts of the production would have fitted in well on a professional wrestling show, things like the big screen and the entrance ramp, as well as Bruce Buffer introducing the non-main event fighters as they walked down to the octagon. Mike Goldberg’s commentary also sounded completely different. In fact I didn’t actually know it was him until he appeared on screen after the first fight.
But perhaps the biggest change was that Dana White had hair back then!
But in all, this was a very good show, and it’s a shame that the powers that be recently banned boxing from the Royal Albert Hall. It’s a great old historic venue full of atmosphere, and it would have been great to see the UFC return to the place where it all began for so many of us British MMA fans.