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UFC 82 Live Thoughts & Commentary

I had the opportunity to be live in attendance for last night’s UFC 82 card in Columbus, Ohio, so I’ll be giving you my thoughts on the fights like usual as well as the live experience of the UFC 82 event. Let’s get to it.

UPDATE: Here’s the audio from last night’s Any Given Saturday radio show with Luke Thomas directly after the event. I called in on our way back to give the live report from Columbus.

Who’s left for Anderson Silva?

Did he shock the hell out of everyone last night or what? Even if you picked Silva to win, you couldn’t have thought that it would have been that easy for him. And let’s face it: it was easy. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Silva fight in person twice now. I honestly can tell you that I feel honored to have watched such a dominant fighter dismantle his opponents in such devastating fashion at a time when the sport itself is on an uprise.

Anderson Silva is doing to the competition in the UFC what Tiger Woods is doing to the competition on the PGA Tour. Destroying them. Dan Henderson was the MMA equivalent of Stewart Cink at last week’s Accenture Match Play Championships. Cink lost 8 and 7 to Woods. Dan Henderson got a rear naked slapped on him with ease at the hands of Anderson Silva. After losing the first round, Anderson came out with a fury in the second round. He turned it up about ten notches during the break and thoroughly dominated Henderson in the second. He has the “it” factor. He’s able to take it to a higher level when he needs to and when he does, it’s at a level much higher than that of his opponents. Who’s left for him? Yushin Okami is the only one in the middleweight division. There are always dream matchups like GSP. But realistically, who can beat him right now in the UFC? I don’t have an answer to that question.

Enough with the boos and the heckling already.

This crowd was nowhere near the crowd it was at last year’s UFC 68 event. There was almost zero electricity in the crowd and almost every fight got booed at one point or another. I just don’t understand what some of these fans want. Do you want to see Don Frye vs. Takayama every time two guys fight? That’s not even MMA, folks. If you want to see that, go to your local Toughman Competition.

And to all you Ohio fans, enough with the booing of Anderson Silva. I know we all like Rich Franklin and Silva destroyed his face twice, but he also professed his man-crush for Rich two times now. I think it’s about due time we start giving this dominant champion the respect he deserves when he enters the cage.

What was up with Cheick Kongo’s gameplan?

Taking it to the ground? Did Juanito Ibarra tell Kongo that he had been transformed overnight into a wrestler? Don’t get me wrong, Kongo’s grappling game looked much improved and still needs a ton of work, but he is at his best when he is using his crippling strikes to dominate his opponents on the feet. If Heath Herring wanted a kickboxing battle, and it sounds like he did, Kongo should have rolled with it.

Herring doesn’t have the reach or the technical striking to inflict damage on Kongo and Kongo should have let him have it on the feet instead of trying to inflict damage on the ground. Kongo ended up in some bad positions and also took himself out of some good positions (i.e. having his hooks in on Herring’s back and standing up instead of inflicting damage from a dominant position). Props to Kongo for showing an improved game, but you gotta stick with what brought you to the big dance.

Columbus did not deliver like last year.

They didn’t even make a buzz for Mark Coleman when he got inducted into the Hall of Fame and he is FROM Columbus, Ohio and went to THE Ohio State University. That alone should have whipped them into a frenzy. Perhaps that had something to do with the knowledge of the current UFC fanbase. Many of them don’t know who Mark Coleman is. Or maybe it had something to do with the stands only being half full when he was being inducted. For the love of god, people, he’s the innovator of “ground and pound,” at least clap.

At UFC 68 last year, everyone was in their seats by the time the first fight started. Almost 19,000 people in their seats and ready to go. When the first fight started last night, the place wasn’t even half full. And there were sections of seats still left in the Lower Bowl during the main event. Columbus did not have a good showing tonight. I don’t think it will prevent them from getting another show next year but the UFC will be watching the third show there very closely and with a cautious eye.

Chris Leben is fun to watch.

He’s not going to be threatening Anderson Silva anytime soon, especially with how he leads with his chin and lets his hands fall, but he is very entertaining to watch. He relies on his chin and his heavy hands too much but you can always expect him to go out and slug it out with whoever is on the other side of the Octagon. He’s a great component to their middleweight division because he’s never going to be on top, but puts on exciting fights and is a good litmus test for up and coming middleweights.

Mark Coleman vs. Brock Lesnar in August.

This was a big announcement at the event and the crowd did mark out for Lesnar, so at least they showed they had a pulse. This is an intriguing matchup, certainly better than a fight against Justin McCully. The UFC can really promote a matchup between these two wrestlers and bill it as the “Innovator of Ground and Pound” versus “The Next Generation of Ground and Pound.” I don’t really think Coleman stands too much of a chance because he’s past his prime, but this is a fight that can draw pay per view buys for the UFC.

Two years off proved to be too much for Evan Tanner.

I really do wish the guy well in his comeback but he just didn’t look right last night. He looked in shape but did not look beefed up like he usually does. Coming into the Octagon he sort of had a blank stare on his face and actually looked nervous. Two years’ worth of ring rust was bad news for him and he was no match for Yushin Okami. Okami was the much larger fighter and took advantage of Tanner in the clinch. Now that Tanner’s knocked a bit of the ring rust off, he’ll probably face an easier opponent the next time out.

Stop hatin’ on Jon Fitch.

Everyone’s saying that he’s not ready for a title fight with GSP, he would get destroyed, this and that. Whatever. Whether or not he would beat St. Pierre doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Fitch has earned his way to a title shot by going 8-0 inside the Octagon. Chris Wilson was highly underestimated by many people going into this bout. He is dominant on the feet and he showed that against Fitch.

But Fitch’s game is so well-rounded and so fluid that eventually he overwhelms you with his skill set and his will. It may not be the prettiest thing to watch in the world but it gets the job done. Like I said, he’s now 8-0 in the UFC so he must be doing something right. Wilson put on a great showing for himself and should earn himself a contract with the UFC. Props to Fitch for grinding out a victory over possibly the best replacement that the UFC could have brought in.

Notes from the undercard

I had a chance to see all 10 fights because I was at the event, which is always nice, so here’s some thoughts on the undercard fights.

– I don’t really ever care to see Jake O’Brien fight again. He reminds me of Josh Koscheck two years ago. He is a wrestler who relies on his wrestling and that’s it. Andrei Arlovski’s knees were skinned because he had to stuff so many takedowns. And when O’Brien ended up in a bad position in the mount, he had no answer for it and basically gave up. O’Brien the next big thing? Please. Also, whoever had the “#1 Jake O’Brien Fan” sign, I hope Dana White paid you well.

Josh Koscheck’s win was impressive. And he actually drew heat from the crowd, imagine that. People hate them some Josh Koscheck. It was a really good win for him over a very tough guy in Dustin Hazelett and he finished the fight in exciting fashion with a head kick and then an eventual stoppage due to strikes. Great win for him on his last fight of his contract. He probably made himself some extra cashflow.

Luke Cummo, hit the wrestling mats. He must have been taken down a dozen times in his fight with Fioravanti with no takedown defense to speak of. Fioravanti beat him up on the ground and took him down at will. Disappointing performance from Cummo, who seemed to be on the up and up in the division.

David Bielkheden never stood a chance. When I heard earlier in the week that he hadn’t even seen tape on Diego Sanchez, I knew it would be a thrashing. And it was. Sanchez tore through Bielkheden like he was an amateur, moving from guard, to half guard, and eventually to mount where he made Bielkheden tap due to strikes. Dominating win for Sanchez, one that should give him a much needed boost of confidence. Bielkheden had no answer for him.

Jorge Gurgel got a nice response from the crowd because he fights out of Cincinnati, Ohio. He also put on an entertaining fight and probably put John Halverson out of the UFC. Not a surprising victory for Gurgel, but nothing to suggest that he’s ready for anyone even near the top in the 155 lbs. division.