Sunday, March 8, 2009

UFC 96 Review

Last night was solid though not spectacular. There were definitely a couple great finishes and some interesting match ups but as a whole I was not overwhelmed by this card.

I really liked the UFC's new graphic design. It looks much more contemporary and I think it was time to catch up to what the major leagues were doing in terms of presentation.

I was happy that we all got to see nine out of the ten fights. It was good to hear the announcement that the Mir v. Lesnar fight will be replaced by an equally intriguing fight for the LHW crown at UFC 98. It also sounds as if there could be two title fights at UFC 100 based on what Mir said last night that he'd be ready by July.

There were some great individual performances last night but not a lot of great fights. Let's get down to business and start breaking down the results:

Shane Nelson v. Aaron Riley: In the only fight that wasn't televised Nelson won by TKO in the first round. I got the pick right but not the prediction. This could be the end of the road for Riley who is now 1-3 in the UFC.

Brandon Vera v. Mike Patt: I'm not going to slurp Vera here but from an objective POV I think this was exactly the type of performance he needed. Granted Patt was not the type of opponent that should've given Vera trouble but based on his last few performances anything was possible.

Vera admitted in his post fight interview that he was scared of losing his job as he should've been. Vera came out on the undercard, out of the spotlight, and went to work. He looked like he had laser focus and his Muay Thai looked as sharp as it did when he crushed Frank Mir three years ago.

He picked Patt apart finally winning by TKO (Patt couldn't continue due to leg kicks) in the second round. This fight went exactly like I thought it would and I got the pick and prediction right. I'm not a huge Vera fan but it was good to see the old Vera back in the cage.

Tim Boetsch v. Jason Brilz: Boetsch came out and handled his business in the stand up in round one but after that the fight was all Brilz. Boetsch had no answer for Brilz wrestling and ground and pound. Brilz pulled out a solid decision victory.

I was a little upset this fight got shown ahead of Nelson's TKO but I understand it was aired due to time considerations. I got this fight wrong.

Kendall Grove v. Jason Day: Day looked good early getting inside and getting off first. Ultimately Grove's length proved to be difference landing a great right from what seemed like an impossible distance and finishing him off with some vicious elbows for the first round TKO. I knew this was going to be a tough fight to pick but I got this one wrong.

This victory was absolutely huge for Grove, who much like Vera, was in serious trouble of losing his contract had he lost again.

Tamdan McCrory v. Ryan Madigan: This fight was a very impressive comeback performance for Tamdan. Tamdan literally came out and had his way with Madigan. Tamdan took Madigan down and passed his guard at will.

McCrory just beat Madigan into submission (literally) from the mount earning himself the submission (though really a TKO) in the first round. I picked this fight right on the money.

This fight ended Madigan's unbeaten streak and was an important bounce back win for McCrory after losing to Hazelett. I like McCrory's attitude. He's a badass stuck in a nerd's body and for some reason it just works for him and for me.

Gray Maynard v. Jim Miller: All I can say about this fight is that Miller is one tough guy. Maynard lived up to his nickname and just bullied Miller through all three rounds by using his wrestling to stay on his feet and beat up Miller.

Maynard almost got himself into trouble on the ground a couple times but wisely escaped back to his feet to earn the unanimous decision victory. Again I picked this fight right on the nose. Unfortunately for Maynard, while another win is great, he's not making a lot of fans with his lack of finishes. He appears to be the lightweight version of Lyoto Machida - extremely talented but may get passed over due to his lack of flair.

Matt Hamill v. Mark Munoz: In what had to be the most shocking and crowd pleasing finish of the night Hamill lands a head kick KO in the first round. This highlight real KO is up there with Gonzaga's kick on Cro Cop or Evans' kick on Sean Salmon. At no point in time did Hamill even look threatened.

Hamill just kept pushing forward and punishing Munoz until he finally finished him in style. I don't think anyone saw that finish coming from Hamill but I did get the pick right. If Hamill can continue to show stand up like that and let his wrestling keep the fight on the feet he is becoming a serious threat at 205.

Pete Sell v. Matt Brown: I'm telling you guys, Matt Brown's record may not look impressive on paper but this guy is for real. Sell may not be an upper echelon fighter but he is no joke and Brown walked right through him without a scratch. He earned a brutal first round TKO victory.

I got the pick right but not the prediction. The real story here though is the unforgivable botched job by referee Yves Lavigne. People gripe about Mazzagatti but Yves Lavigne is my pick for the worst referee in the UFC.

Brown obviously had ended the fight and Lavigne stepped in only to not call it off and continue to let Brown beat down a defenseless Sell. Sell was obviously out on his feet and Brown twice asked Lavgine to stop the fight. Maybe Lavigne has a personal beef with Sell and just wanted to see him take some more punishment because otherwise I can't understand some of the worst judgement I've ever seen in an MMA fight.

Shane Carwin v. Gabriel Gonzaga: In one of the best comebacks I can remember Carwin fought off getting stunned repeatedly by Gonzaga to earn the TKO victory in the first round. Gonzaga got off very quickly stunning Carwin who I thought was in real trouble early. All it took though was one short right with the refrigerators Carwin calls fists and boom the fight was over.

It was great to see Carwin get tested but this guy is obviously for real and I'm not sure anyone in the UFC has the power this guy packs in his hands, Lesnar included. I can't wait to see what's next for Carwin. My gutsy choice paid off and I got this pick right too.

Quinton Jackson v. Keith Jardine: This fight was everything I hoped for. Both guys were landing shots and they were going back forth all three rounds. It was obvious that Jardine's awkward style and leg kicks bothered Jackson.

Jackson however showed that he can still wrestle and that his power was definitely better than Jardine's. That was what ultimately won him the unanimous decision victory was takedowns and knock downs. I still don't understand how one judge didn't give Jardine the first round but in any case I got the pick right but not the prediction.

I have to say Evans' turn in the booth was not that impressive but I loved the way he stepped into the ring to trash talk the challenger to his title at UFC 98. He was obviously upset that Jardine lost but it was great to see him step into the bad guy role and challenge the fan favorite Jackson right to his face. The hype is going to be huge for this fight.

Evans is too soft spoken to be a good announcer like a Mir, Couture, or Florian but he plays the bad guy to a tee and I'm actually starting to dig it. Also, I was upset that Jardine lost because it means Machida gets passed over again for the title shot he deserves. This means he'll have to fight one more time to get his shot which in my opinion is unfair.

Overall I had a great night going 8-2 plus three bonus points for getting the prediction right. Fight of the night went to Jackson v. Jardine by default. Obviously KO of the night went to Hamill.

Hopefully you guys enjoyed the brilliant individual performances of Vera, McCrory, Hamill, Brown, and Carwin since there really weren't any great fights in my mind. I'm not sure it was worth $45 but it would take a really terrible card for me not to even bother watching.

Stay tuned for my DREAM 7 review. After that there will be a little break until Sengoku 7 in a couple weeks. Until then,

Soccer kicks and head stomps...

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