Randy Couture and Brandon Vera failed to bring the house down, but thankfully the rest of the fighters on the card gave their best performances to make this one of the finest events ever held in the United Kingdom. Several of the UFC’s British stars shined brightest on their own soil with season 3 “Ultimate Fighter” winner Michael Bisping scoring a huge win in his hometown. Dan Hardy is now slated to become the first Brit to get a shot at UFC gold after his one-sided decision over Mike Swick, and one season 9 “TUF” champ got an impressive victory while another was not so lucky.
THUMBS DOWN to a thoroughly unsatisfying main event. I’m not talking about the judging, as the decision rendered was what it was. This was a close fight but when the final buzzer sounded neither man had really made it clear that they deserved to win. Randy Couture seemed to be showing his age a bit more than usual as he took a page straight out of Clay Guida’s book: How To Win Decisions (Without Inflicting Any Damage). Like most MMA fans I’ve got a mean man-crush on “The Natural” but he was completely lackluster in Manchester, and I don’t want to hear any talk of him fighting for the title until he gets a more convincing win under his belt.
Meanwhile you’ve got perennial runner-up Brandon Vera failing to capitalize on crucial opportunities in the biggest fight of his career. Vera clearly won the striking portion of the bout, it’s just too bad that it only amounted to roughly 2 minutes of a 15 minute fight. Why couldn’t he turn on the aggression when he knocked Randy down? Why wasn’t he able to spin off the cage and get out of those never-ending clinches? I don’t know the answers to those questions but I do know that Brandon Vera will never be a UFC champion.
THUMBS (WAY) UP to the rest of the card. Sour ending aside, this was easily one of the best events we’ve seen this year from the UFC. This show outshined several of 2009’s PPV offerings with great performances from (almost) every one of the night’s winners. In terms of production and commentary there was little to be upset about, although I know I’m not alone in wishing Joe Rogan would downplay his outrage when a close fight ends in a decision he doesn’t agree with.
THUMBS DOWN to Dan Hardy‘s upcoming shot at the welterweight title. I’ve enjoyed Hardy’s run in the UFC thus far but I do feel his shot at gold is too much, too soon. Let’s not forget who the champion is. Georges St. Pierre has had his way with anybody and everybody that faces him in the octagon, and he’s currently in possession of the most dominant ground game of anybody in the welterweight division. Hardy’s got big power, this is true, but is there anybody that thinks he’s stronger than Thiago Alves? He defended Swick’s takedown attempts but I don’t think he’ll have as much luck when GSP shoots in. The only chance anyone will be giving “The Outlaw” is the tried-and-true puncher’s chance.
While we’re on the subject, I don’t like the idea of having these two coach the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter” either. With the company’s current drought of healthy champions there’s no reason to stretch out a title fight with such a foregone conclusion.
THUMBS UP to Michael Bisping being somewhat likable now. My problem with Bisping is probably the same one so many other people have; the dude is just too cocky. There were questions about how he would react after his cobweb-clearing insta-nap at UFC 100, but it appears that Dan Henderson’s vicious KO served to remind “The Count” that he’s only human. While he didn’t have much to get excited about in the first round against Denis Kang, Bisping got a fire lit under his butt when he hit his corner’s stool. He was a completely different fighter in the second round and as a result he’s got what could arguably be called the biggest win of his career. He was humble and straight-forward in his post-fight interview, and I’ll be damned but I’m actually starting to like the guy. What’s next? Am I going to become a Tito Ortiz fan?
THUMBS UP to Matt Brown being one bad dude. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Matt Brown is better than his record. If he’s got a weakness against submissions he must’ve gotten rid of it before the show, because that kimura was sick. I don’t know how he didn’t tap out to that but I know my arm was sore as hell just watching it. I’ll give some credit to James Wilks for taking some serious punishment and still nearly finishing the fight in the third, but this was clearly Brown’s night. I still want to see him matched up with Anthony Johnson (a bout that was postponed earlier this year) but I have a feeling that won’t happen anytime soon if Johnson is victorious this Saturday.
THUMBS DOWN to Andre Winner not winning “Knockout of the Night.” I still have yet to see Dennis Siver’s spinning back kick against Paul Kelly, but from reading the descriptions it doesn’t sound like a KO. Siver knocked Kelly down with the kick and then unleashed a flurry of punches to get the TKO win. So why does Siver get the end of the night bonus for a knockout when Winner actually knocked his opponent out? This was a candidate for “Knockout of the Year,” and Dana can’t give Winner a little extra scratch? I don’t get it.
And while we’re at it, Brown and Wilks should have won “Fight of the Night.”
THUMBS UP to Ross Pearson for proving almost everybody wrong. He was the underdog on every betting line despite the fact that he was an “Ultimate Fighter” winner making his post-show debut. I picked the “TUF” 9 champ to squeak out a decision against the always-tough Aaron Riley, but even I was surprised to see Pearson thoroughly outclass his opponent for the entire duration. “The Real Deal” lit up Riley like Christmas had come early by throwing all manner of punches, kicks, and knees. If that first round didn’t constitute a 10-8 then I really don’t know what does. Pearson’s run on “The Ultimate Fighter” proved he had talent, but now that he’s quit his day job and focused entirely on training we’re starting to see what kind of potential this young man from Team Rough House really has.
THUMBS DOWN to whoever stole Mike Swick and Randy Couture‘s hats. Not cool bro. Souvenir stand workers have one of the toughest jobs of anyone in the building, and you’re going to deprive them of their hard-earned dollars while simultaneously allowing a fighter’s head to be unnecessarily exposed? What kind of scumbag are you?
THUMBS UP to free MMA. This isn’t so much UFC 105 specific, but I don’t know how you can not love the recent blowout of free mixed-martial arts on TV. We’ve already seen Fedor fight in primetime, followed by this past weekend’s action-packed event. We’ve still got WEC 44 coming on Wednesday and if you’ve got Showtime then you’ve also got two Strikeforce: Challenger events in one week. All of these free events are aimed at bringing in new viewers and the casual fan of the sport, but it’s us hardcore fans that are reaping all the benefits.