Everyone I know who follows the UFC was looking forward to the one hundredth episode; there were to be three huge fights, GSP versus Thiago Alves, Brock Lesnar versus Frank Mir and The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 coaches’ fight between Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping. There promised to be talented fighters, and, hopefully, some thrilling fights and action (physical, emotional and psychological).
The first broadcast match was between a judoka, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Alan Belcher, a muay thai guy. This one went the distance, with strong kicks by Belcher, such that Akiyama’s lead leg was continually whacked, resulting in his limping by the end of round two, and take downs by Akiyama (catching the kicking leg and throwing a straight right). While on the ground, Akiyama ground forearms into Belcher’s face and applied elbows. While standing, the judo guy threw some potent punches and was accurate with his kicks.
By the third round, Akiyama was obviously fatigued and Belcher attacked the lead leg again (as far as I could see Akiyama never changed his stance, a useful thing if your leg is becoming tenderized). Akiyama must also have received a poke to his left eye: his blinking was noticeable, but nothing came of it. Despite being tired, he did a spinning back kick. Belcher did a Superman punch, using the fence to gain purchase, basically launching himself off the fence.
Akiyama had a final take down with a solid left-sided o soto gari and remained on top until the end of the round. It was a fun fight with both men applying themselves well. Although we thought Belcher won round three, the decision was split in Akiyama’s favour.
Next up were the coaches from The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 – Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping. Henderson had made it known during the series that Bisping was not his favourite person, calling him a “douche bag” and wanting him to stop talking. After the finale of the series, in which three of the four finalists were from the U.K., I think he may also have wanted to prove that the U.S. was capable of winning too.
Henderson is thirty-eight, ancient in fighters’ years against Bisping’s thirty. He looked strong and far heavier than Bisping, who, since his change to middleweight, looks skinny to me.
The first round had Bisping light on his feet, backtracking most of the time, his legs in an extremely wide stance which had the potential for being off-balance. Henderson kept his eyes on the target and followed Bisping around the octagon, connecting with a leg kick, an uppercut and multiple shots and then, when in the clinch, an elbow. Bisping had a high kick and a looping right punch.
When in another clinch, Henderson used his knees. Bisping tried a take down (against a two-time Olympian in Greco-Roman wrestling) and walked into Henderson’s right hand.
During the break, Bisping’s crew told him to move to the right, essentially away from Henderson’s right hand. In the second round, Bisping almost continually moved to the left. Henderson threw a big right, knocking Bisping out on his feet. When Bisping toppled over, Henderson jumped on him and threw another right to his jaw, more than unnecessary. Bisping was unconscious for some time. Knock Out of the Night.
Georges St-Pierre‘s bout against Thiago Alves was up next. In terms of statistics, the most amazing aspect was St-Pierre’s six inch reach advantage, although the men are only one inch difference in height.
Alves is a very strong guy. Taken down by GSP many times (eight?) during the five rounds, he muscled his way up time after time. He was unable to accomplish anything while on the bottom though. St-Pierre did not always control the match and ended up on his back once, an unusual happening for GSP, but he proved that the belt was all his. He took Alves down, would get both hooks in, force Alves to hold all his weight. He would squash Alves against the fence when standing. He switched stances - a useful thing to throw people off and protect your lead leg.
Unanimous decision in Georges-St-Pierre’s favour. GSP was gracious, saying that Alves was strong and young and would become dangerous.
This was GSP’s first fight since “greasegate”, so it was interesting to see how his corner reacted to everything, whether they would change their behaviours. They had maintained that the rubbing of his back was one of the ways they got him to calm down between rounds. That is in fact what they still did. His corner rubbed his upper back, talked to him, forced him to focus his breathing, talked about what they expected him to do in the next round, had him repeat it. When, after round four, he told his corner that he had pulled a groin, they talked him out of focussing on the groin pull. Fascinating psychological aspects to this fighting business.
The main event was between heavyweights Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar. Mir’s background is in jiu jitsu, with most of his fights ending in submissions in the first round. Lesnar is a college wrestling champion and a former WWE guy. Lesnar is also the biggest guy in the UFC right now, weighing in at 265; he might have been 285 on fight night. Mir weighed in at 245. Mir had a haematoma on his right forehead, acquired during practice, and had his left knee wrapped up completely, as well as both ankles.
Lesnar was there to avenge his only loss in the UFC, which was to Mir. He refused to touch gloves to begin the match and, from the bell, attacked Mir. He used an inside leg kick and straight punch, took Mir down, employing all his massive weight chest-to-chest. He held Mir down by grabbing Mir’s neck with his left hand, thumb applying pressure. He then wrapped his left arm around Mir’s head, controlling his head off the mat and punched short shots to Mir’s face and ribs with his right hand.
Round two had Mir on the attack with a flying knee, a variety of punches and a low kick. He was taken down again, though, the same as in round one. This time, however, he was at the fence and Mir could not protect himself from the onslaught of Lesnar’s punches to the head and face. TKO referee stoppage.
The audience does not like Lesnar and showed their disdain. Lesnar then gave them two one-finger salutes and went around the octagon screaming, spitting and cursing. There was no need for this behaviour. It is not the WWE. He’s rude and obnoxious in the ring.
The final broadcast fight was between Jon Fitch and Paulo Thiago. Fitch is a jiu jitsu guy with wrestling and submissions as a specialty, whereas Thiago is a jiu jitsu guy with strong boxing skills. Thiago also came into the match undefeated.
This match was very technical, mostly on the ground. Fitch took Thiago down multiple times; Thaigo tried front guillotine chokes while Fitch was in his guard. Fitch seemed not to care about the chokes and at one point actually put his head back IN to the choke. Fitch took Thiago’s back with hooks in, applying many punches to Thiago’s face and ribs. In the third round, Thiago was in Fitch’s guard for some seconds, but ended up on the bottom again with another guillotine attempt. Fitch took Thiago’s back, got the hooks in and rolled with him.
Fitch dominated the match and won by unanimous decision. Unlike Lesnar’s fight against Mir, Fitch offered his hand to Thiago to help him up.
As for Fight of the Night, I can’t decide. Akiyama and Belcher’s fight was exciting and busy. It definitely wasn’t Henderson versus Bisping because Bisping didn’t accomplish anything. GSP versus Alves showed St-Pierre’s dominance in all aspects, including stamina. Lesnar versus Mir showed Lesnar’s strength and size mainly. He put his 900 pound body on Mir’s chest and pounded Mir’s face to mush. Then he was an obnoxious buffoon. Definitely NOT Lesnar versus Mir. I think Fitch versus Thiago had more Fitch than Thiago, so that fight is out.
So it could be GSP versus Alves or Akiyama versus Belcher and I’m leaning toward Akiyama and Belcher.
July 13, 2009
p.s. The Fight of the Night was given to Akiyama and Belcher.