UFC 70: Nations Collide
-Bit of a different perspective for this review as being that this was the first UFC show in the UK for almost five years, I was there live to witness it. Naturally the atmosphere was incredible, with the most popular fighters being (in order) Michael Bisping, Mirko Cro Cop (who had a lot of Croatians in attendance), Andrei Arlovski, and then the various British fighters who filled the undercard. While this was a regular PPV show in the UK and Europe, in a cool move it was screened for free in the US on Spike TV due to the tape delay.
-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.
Welterweight Fight: Paul Taylor vs Edilberto Crocota
First thing I noted about being there live was the total emptiness of the arena for this, the first prelim bout. Like, the place was probably less than half full, with the ringside seats being totally empty outside of what I’m guessing were the various reporters and what-not. Now, the event did start pretty early (5.30pm) but if you’ve paid for a ticket and they’re putting on ten fights, why not get there for the first one? Anyhow â€“ these were two UFC debutants, with unbeaten Nogueira protÃ©gÃ© Crocota taking on Walsall, England’s Taylor, who was sporting a solid 7-1-1 record, with his biggest win being over Pride and K1 veteran Zelg Galesic.
Round 1 gets underway, after Crocota refuses to touch gloves pre-fight. Taylor comes out aggressively right away and lands a quick combo, countering a low kick with a crisp right hand. Crocota looks for a takedown, but Taylor avoids, only to eat a couple of jabs. The Brit avoids another takedown, and then they exchange some punches and low kicks, and Taylor’s nose ends up bloodied off a stiff jab. The exchange continues, before Taylor stuns the Brazilian with a right hand and misses a follow-up high kick. Good leg kick follows, and then Crocota looks for the takedown again and transitions to a rear waistlock. Taylor catches him with a sweet back elbow, but Crocota pulls him down, only for Taylor to quickly get back to his feet and turn into the clinch, landing a good knee to break off. Taylor continues to push the action, landing a good right uppercut and then a left high kick that stuns Crocota. Crocota begins to retreat now and Taylor continues to land, avoiding a takedown and ending with a good left high kick and a knee.
Between rounds Crocota looks really hurt in his corner, and takes forever to get off his stool for the second round.
Taylor continues on the offensive to begin the 2nd round, landing combinations and counterpunches, as well as some really nasty leg kicks. Crocota looks in trouble now, clearly outgunned standing but unable to get the fight to the mat. More leg kicks land and then an especially hard one puts Crocota down, but Taylor refuses to go into the guard and stands off. Crocota comes up, and continues to eat a variety of strikes from the Brit, who avoids another takedown attempt easily. Another leg kick puts Crocota down again, and as he gets up this time he looks seriously hurt. More sharp leg kicks follow, as Taylor continues to open up with the combinations, and as the round ends Crocota’s left eye looks badly swollen.
Between rounds again Crocota slumps on his stool and takes forever to come out for the final round; live we thought that his corner might throw in the towel at this point, but in the end he manages to come out.
Third and final round, and Crocota makes a desperate attempt to get to the clinch, where he lands an accidental groin kick. Taylor doesn’t take much recovery time, clearly not wanting to give Crocota any rest, and they restart with Taylor landing another leg kick. He lands a combo that gets Crocota on the retreat, and then follows in with a BIG RIGHT HIGH KICK that puts the Brazilian down, and then pounces viciously for the stoppage, with referee Herb Dean having to physically pull him off.
Great opening fight that was even better live than watching on the DVD, as despite the arena being quite empty the people who were there were really hot for Taylor and he stepped up impressively, putting the pressure on the Brazilian from the get-go and completely dominating him in the striking game. The ending was especially great as not only did he land a highlight reel high kick, but lived up to his â€˜Relentless’ nickname with the brutal pounding for the actual stoppage. Definitely an impressive debut for the Brit and a strong opener.
Welterweight Fight: Jess Liaudin vs Dennis Siver
Personally I was expecting both men to get less than favourable reactions here, with Siver being a German and Liaudin a Frenchman, but Liaudin’s technically an adopted Brit and as soon as he brought up wanting the submission of the night because â€œI need the dosh!â€ in the pre-fight interview he was immediately greeted with a large pop. Pre-fight Liaudin looks really pumped to finally be in the UFC; apparently he applied for it way back in 1995!
They get underway and Liaudin comes right out with a crazy wheel kick that misses, but he follows up with a couple of nice low kicks. Flying knee to the body follows from the Frenchman but Siver grabs ahold of him and gets a takedown to half-guard. Jess quickly secures full guard, and from there he isolates an arm and rolls into a textbook armbar for the tapout.
Decent, short fight there with a nice ending for Liaudin, who definitely looked impressive in his UFC debut. Liaudin’s had some bad showings in the past (most notably in a couple of Cage Rage outings) but recently he’s clearly upped his training â€“ going to California with Dan Henderson’s Team Quest â€“ and it’s definitely showing as he’s now on a nice win streak. He always comes off as a really nice guy too, so it’s great to see him experiencing big success finally after a long career.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Alessio Sakara vs Victor Valimaki
Another very international match-up here with the Italian boxer Sakara taking on Canadian Valimaki. Live, the crowd seemed to be favouring Sakara probably because they’d seen him a few more times than Valimaki I think.
Round 1 begins, and Sakara comes out working the left jab/right cross combo, before avoiding a takedown attempt. Valimaki clinches, but Sakara lands a good uppercut to break and then presses forward with another combo. Valimaki goes for a single leg, but Sakara defends it well and then breaks off and stuns him with a BIG RIGHT HAND that causes the Canadian to turn away. Sakara follows with a high kick and referee Mario Yamasaki steps in to stop things, causing Sakara to leap onto the fence in celebrationâ€¦.but as they run the replays apparently there’s been a mistake, as Yamasaki was actually calling time out to replace Valimaki’s mouthpiece! We suddenly return to the action just in time to see Sakara close in on Valimaki and kill him dead with a combination for the *real* stoppage.
Live, as you can imagine, this was a hugely confusing finish. My first thought was that Sakara had randomly snapped post-stoppage and decided to assault Valimaki after the fight had ended, but thankfully that wasn’t the case! I honestly have NO idea what Yamasaki was thinking with that decision though â€“ Valimaki was clearly out of it when he called the time out, and restarting the fight only meant the poor guy took more unnecessary punishment. Good showing for Sakara, but one of the weirdest endings I can recall in UFC.
Lightweight Fight: Junior Assuncao vs David Lee
Both of these men were coming off UFC debut losses, to Kurt Pellegrino and Tyson Griffin respectively, and obviously being the Londoner Lee got a very big pop from the crowd, which was finally starting to fill up at this point. Immediately though a size advantage is pretty clear for Assuncao.
We get underway, and immediately Assuncao rocks Lee badly on an exchange of punches, knocking him into the cage. He follows by grabbing a plum clinch and landing some knees, and then they muscle along the fence for position, with Junior landing some hard punches inside. They break and exchange again, and once more Assuncao stuns him badly, landing a one-two-three combination. Lee tries a takedown, but Junior blocks into the clinch, and then they break again and Lee misses a crescent kick, eating two knees for his troubles. Lee comes back with a spinning backfist that lands decently, but Junior clinches and looks to transition to take the back. Lee avoids, but takes some more punishment in the clinch before the ref breaks them. Junior lands a low kick that drops Lee, but the Brit manages to get guard, only to eat some hard punches and hammer fists. Assuncao takes his back, but Lee manages to avoid the choke and last out the round.
Into the 2nd round, and Lee misses another spinning backfist attempt. Assuncao works for a takedown, but Lee defends and they muscle along the fence, before Assuncao lands a knee to the head to drop him. Junior passes to side mount, and then takes the back, where he lands some punches before securing a rear naked choke for the tapout.
Crowd were a bit deflated by this result but it was clear that there was only one winner from the moment these two exchanged. Assuncao just looked too big and powerful for Lee to handle in all areas, and it turned out to be a bit of a mismatch, to be honest. Wasn’t a horrible fight or anything, just a squash.
Lightweight Fight: Terry Etim vs Matt Grice
Liverpudlian Etim, despite being from a city with a history of rivalry with Manchester, got the biggest pop of the night thus far upon entrance, probably due to the fact that he would’ve had a lot of travelling support and also the arena looked pretty much full at this stage, this being the last prelim. His opponent here was a fellow undefeated fighter, wrestler Matt Grice. And at 6’2â€, Etim has to be one of the tallest Lightweights out there I would guess.
Etim opens with a good low kick, and then rocks Grice badly with a hard left hand! He leaps in with a flying knee to follow, but Grice recovers quickly and catches him in mid-air, delivering a BIG slam to side mount. Etim quickly manoeuvres into guard, but Grice avoids a triangle and begins to land punches. He lands some good shots, but Etim stays active from the bottom and blocks a lot of the shots, despite ending up with a bloody nose. Grice continues to be very active from the top, throwing a lot of punches, but Etim keeps blocking and holds on in the guard, and finally with about a minute to go he manages to kick Grice away and stand. Etim lands two body kicks and then gets a standing guillotine as Grice lunges for a takedown. Etim really squeezes on the choke, and suddenly it looks like Grice is out, as he drops to the ground, but once he’s there he comes round and looks for a takedown. Etim stays cool though and lands some punches, before clamping on the guillotine again, and this time he pulls guard. Grice holds on for a moment, but then passes out and this time the ref calls a stop to things. Crowd pop HUGE for the ending.
Etim looked very good here in what turned out to be a really exciting fight, and lived up to his popularity by closing the fight off with a nasty submission. Grice fought well and did some damage in the ground-and-pound department, but in the end he was a little one-dimensional and once Etim escaped from the bottom it was one-way traffic. Etim’s only 21 years old and with the physical skills he’s got already, he could be a force in the near future at Lightweight.
-I’d go amiss now if I didn’t mention the video package that plays for the live crowd before the actual PPV broadcast begins, a montage of UFC highlights set to the Who’s â€˜Baba O’Riley’. I’d consider it maybe the best video package I’ve ever seen, and that’s counting WWE stuff too.
Heavyweight Fight: Cheick Kongo vs Assuerio Silva
Kongo was surprisingly popular with the Manchester crowd considering he’s a Frenchman, but then again everything about the guy screams â€˜badass’ so it’s understandable, despite his previous fight before this one being a hugely disappointing loss. Fun fact â€“ the production crew actually botched the entrances here, and Kongo walked out early right as Silva’s music was still playing and had to go back into the tunnel for a few moments before they started his entrance properly, which was a bit strange to see. Silva looks in HORRIBLE shape here too, not nearly as ripped as he was against Tim Sylvia in his UFC debut.
Round 1 begins, and they exchange some low kicks and punches, before Silva decides he’s had enough of the striking game and gets a slam. Kongo tries to hold on and get to his feet, but Silva easily tackles him down to half-guard. Nothing happens from there as Kongo holds on tight again, and finally reverses to his feet and breaks off. Kongo lands a good combo and avoids a takedown, and then follows up with a knee to the body and a VICIOUS combo, but Silva shoots in again and sure enough, gets a slam to side mount. Man, Kongo’s takedown defense stinks. The Frenchman holds onto Silva’s head from the bottom and little happens, aside from Kongo blocking an attempt at full mount. Finally he escapes from the bottom and gets his own takedown to end. Probably Kongo’s round as although Silva got him down, he did very little while there.
Kongo opens the 2nd round with some low kicks, a heavy body kick, and then a crisp punching combination as Silva covers up, looking hurt. Assuerio tries to fire back, but gets little success, so he ends up shooting in again. Kongo tries desperately to sprawl, but Silva wrestles him to the ground pretty easily and ends up in half-guard. From there nothing happens aside from a couple of body shots, and the ref ends up standing them. Silva shoots into a single leg right away, and Kongo sprawls, but the Brazilian keeps driving in and slams him down to half-guard, and we end the round with more of Silva just holding Kongo down.
Third and final round, and Kongo comes out aggressively, landing some hard body kicks, and then a BIG knee to the head and a nice combo. Silva shoots in though, and again manages to slam him down to side mount. He lands a few punches, but doesn’t stay really active and so the ref stands them again. Kongo opens up with some more body kicks, with Silva blocking a couple with his arms, and then the Frenchman lands a series of nasty knees to the body. A combo of elbows and uppercuts follows, and finally Kongo blocks a takedown attempt and ends up getting on top himself, landing punches in half-guard. Silva secures full guard, but Kongo cuts him with some elbows and the fight ends in that position.
Judges score it 29-28, 29-28 and 28-28 for the majority decision for Kongo. Watching live I actually had Silva winning due to the takedowns, but on a rewatch on the DVD Kongo definitely deserved it, as Silva did nothing with his takedowns while Kongo at least landed some damage standing and also when he got on top. This wasn’t a very convincing performance from the Frenchman though; as Silva took him down at will, showing he hadn’t really improved from the loss to Carmelo Marrero six months prior. Not the most exciting fight, either, and this took the wind out of the crowd a little, too.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Lyoto Machida vs David Heath
Machida’s original opponent here was Forrest Griffin, which would’ve meant a ridiculously loaded card in terms of name power, but Griffin picked up a nasty staph infection and was forced out, and so the unbeaten Heath â€“ 2-0 in UFC â€“ came in as a pretty solid replacement. Machida is a guy who seems to carry a reputation for boring fights, but his previous one against Sam Hoger had been pretty good so I was hoping for something decent here.
Round 1 begins, and they circle round with little happening outside of Machida landing a pair of nasty body kicks. Lyoto remains very elusive, dancing away from any swings from Heath, and the American looks a little confused as Lyoto continues to circle around, landing a glancing high kick. More of the same follows, until Heath gets really desperate and badly misses a spinning kick, crashing into the cage. Lyoto continues to pick him apart from the outside, although he only lands really small strikes, and the crowd begin to boo as the round ends.
Heath still looks totally unable to land anything as the second round begins, but Machida just continues to play counterpuncher, landing a couple of good straight left hands but nothing else. To say we were getting frustrated at this point would be an understatement. Machida slips on a left hand but pops up quickly, and lands a good body kick. Finally Heath lands his first strike, a spinning backfist, but nothing follows it and now the crowd begin to clap sarcastically. Ha, I still remember that part pretty well. Lyoto continues to pick him apart, landing a good low kick and then a body kick, and a straight left too. More circling follows until they clinch at the end of the round, with Lyoto landing a good knee.
Third and final round, and Lyoto keeps changing his stance from orthodox to southpaw, and continues to potshot Heath from the outside and avoid his swinging punches. Nothing happens for a while until finally Lyoto lands a BIG KNEE that stuns him, and follows by grabbing the head and landing a VICIOUS series of eight knees, ala Evan Tanner or Anderson Silva! Heath hits the mat hard and Lyoto tries to finish, punching into the guard, but Heath survives. Lyoto continues to land some sharp punches, and then passes to side mount, where he gets a crucifix and some elbows to the body and head. Full mount follows and then he takes the back and flattens Heath out, but the fight ends there.
Judges score it unanimously for Machida, 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26, but to say the crowd were less than enamoured with him would be an understatement. Despite the end of the third round being pretty awesome, what made this fight really frustrating, especially live when you can’t really tell exactly how hard a body kick is landing, was that you got the feeling Machida could’ve probably killed Heath dead at any time but just chose to potshot from the outside for fear of getting caught himself. And it’s this lack of taking any risks whatsoever that make Machida, despite being hugely skilled, a pretty dull fighter. Horribly boring fight that’s only slightly better watching on DVD.
Light-Heavyweight Fight: Michael Bisping vs Elvis Sinosic
Obviously one of the big selling points of this card was the return home of the UFC’s biggest British star in their history, Michael Bisping, and as expected â€˜The Count’ was easily the most popular fighter inside the arena, with every shot of him garnering a monstrous pop. His fight here, against perennial gatekeeper Elvis Sinosic, looked tailor made to give him a nice win in front of his hometown fans, and the pop he got upon entrance was absolutely ridiculous, just deafeningly loud. Some fans booed Sinosic too, although I certainly didn’t partake in that as I like Elvis a lot and he always seems like a truly nice guy.
Round 1 begins, and Elvis lands a couple of good low kicks in a brief exchange, before Bisping catches one and shoves him to the ground. Bisping ends up in Elvis’s guard, and from there he opens up with a series of punches, elbows and hammer fists that last throughout the round. Sinosic just has no answer for it, barely controlling Bisping’s posture, and the Brit continues to work the body and the head, bloodying the Australian up horribly until the round comes to an end. Totally one-sided round.
2nd round begins and Bisping looks confident, throwing some strikes, but suddenly Elvis catches him with a clipping knee to the head that drops him! To say the crowd had a collective heart attack there would be an understatement. Sinosic quickly closes in and gets side mount, and then looks to hook up a kimura. He seemingly has it locked in, but somehow Bisping wriggles free, only to give his back! Elvis gets both hooks in, but he looks exhausted and much to the crowd’s delight Bisping reverses into his guard, where he pounds away with some unanswered punches for the stoppage.
Post-fight Bisping celebrates with his young son in what was a really cool scene. Really exciting fight as it began as a very one-sided affair, but in the second round Bisping got caught badly and really had to fight to get himself out of a sticky situation. Not the most impressive performance from Bisping in itself, but his ground-and-pound looked much improved and from a live perspective this fight was absolutely fun as hell.
Heavyweight Fight: Andrei Arlovski vs Fabricio Werdum
Despite most of the live crowd seemingly having no clue who Werdum was (though he got a big pop from my section seemingly just for using â€˜Welcome To The Jungle’ as his entrance music’) this was one of the fights I was looking forward to most on the whole card, as it was one of the first true Pride vs. UFC fights, with the BJJ expert Werdum taking on the former UFC Heavyweight champ in Arlovski. With a potential title shot in the future for the winner, the stakes were definitely high in this one.
Round 1 begins, and both men press forward, exchanging some feeler strikes en route to the clinch. Werdum forces him into the fence, but then decides to break, landing a short right hand and a bizarre left slap to the face on the way out. Andrei comes forward and lands a leg kick, and then Werdum comes forward to attempt a clinch, but walks into a NICE right uppercut from Arlovski that puts him down! Werdum goes into the butt-scoot position, but Andrei’s having none of that and he kicks the Brazilian’s legs until the ref brings him back up. Off the restart Werdum comes forward with a mad flurry that backs Arlovski up, forcing him into the fence in a clinch. They muscle for position before Arlovski breaks off with an uppercut and a right hand. Andrei begins to stalk him with some leg kicks as Werdum circles off, and then the former champ lands a right hand as Werdum attempts to swing for him. More leg kicks from Andrei end the round. Pretty close, competitive round but I’d give it to Arlovski.
Into the 2nd, and Andrei presses forward early, easily avoiding a takedown attempt. He looks more tentative now though for some reason, and doesn’t get really aggressive. Werdum misses a ridiculous Capoeira kick, as Andrei continues to stalk him and land the odd leg kick, but the pace is seriously slowed down from the first round now. Werdum tries one of his flurries but this time Arlovski dodges and lands a leg kick, but the action becomes so few and far between that the crowd are beginning to get restless. Andrei lands another leg kick, but the levels of aggression are way down now as he closes the round out with a glancing right hand.
Third and final round, and we get a brief exchange to begin it, before it’s back to more of the same; Arlovski stalking him menacingly without really doing much, while Werdum just backs off wondering how the hell to actually do some damage. Werdum seems unable to land a thing as the crowd are now booing, but Arlovski’s hardly doing much more, only landing the odd leg kick. Finally with 30 seconds remaining Werdum gets aggressive, trying a flurry, but none of it lands and he ends up on his back as the fight ends.
Judges score it unanimously for Arlovski. That was a good first round, but then the rest went down the pan really quickly as Arlovski seemingly just stopped being aggressive for no reason at all, while Werdum looked lost; unable to bring the fight to the ground, but clearly wary of Arlovski’s counterstriking which made him unwilling to brawl or initiate any exchanges. Live this was even worse as the Bisping fight had pretty much emotionally exhausted the crowd, and the last thing any of us wanted was a snoozefest like this. Just goes to show that sometimes big name, top-ranked fighters don’t always put on the best show.
Heavyweight Fight: Mirko Cro Cop vs Gabriel Gonzaga
Big main event as not only was a shot at Randy Couture’s Heavyweight Title at stake, but for Gonzaga this was his big chance to prove his worth as an elite-level competitor at heavyweight, as Cro Cop was on a tear at this point, coming off his UFC debut, a massacre of Eddie Sanchez, as well as his Pride Openweight Grand Prix win the year before. Personally I was picking the upset and predicted Gonzaga by submission â€“ I figured the cage would give Mirko problems and Gonzaga was big enough to get him down at some stage and skilled enough to submit him â€“ but due to the large Croatian contingent around me in the arena I decided to keep that prediction quiet. Big pop for Cro Cop upon arrival, probably second behind Bisping.
Round 1 begins and Gonzaga wastes no time, coming right out of the gates with a straight right hand that causes Mirko to backpedal a bit. Gonzaga continues to push forward, circling away from Mirko’s powerful left kick and throwing strikes out. Cro Cop throws a HEAVY body kick that lands, but Gonzaga catches the leg and tackles him down to the mat in guard! Mirko holds on tightly, as Napao begins to work him over with some thudding elbows, landing a series of shots that cut Mirko open. Gonzaga begins to slowly move him towards the fence, where he continues to land elbowsâ€¦.but for some reason referee Herb Dean calls the stand-up. Definitely a poor choice in my opinion as Gonzaga was clearly active. Anyhow, they restart, and circle for a moment, with Mirko looking tentativeâ€¦.when suddenly Gonzaga KILLS HIM DEAD WITH A RIGHT HIGH KICK!~!
Good lord. Absolutely terrifying stuff. Crowd go pretty silent as Gonzaga celebrates, while Mirko, who still looks dead, ends up being put into the recovery position by the medical staff who immediately flood the cage.
Post-fight Gonzaga and Randy Couture discuss their now-upcoming fight, while about five minutes later a barely coherent Mirko says he’ll have to take a step back and think about his future.
Absolutely unbelievable ending; being there live to see it was amazing and the sound that Gonzaga’s kick made when it connected will live with me forever â€“ it literally sounded like a gunshot going off, a sickening crack and to see Mirko sprawled out for about five minutes after it happened was really frightening. The whole crowd seemed really deflated for a while afterwards â€“ the Croatian contingent in disappointment, obviously, while everyone else just seemed stunned into silence. It didn’t even sink in till a lot later, I don’t think, that what we had seen was possibly the most awesome knockout finish of 2007. As for the fight itself, well, Mirko had been knocked out before, by Kevin Randleman, but he’d never been outright dominated in the way Gonzaga did â€“ literally Napao took him down, beat him up with elbows, and then killed him dead when the fight came back to standing. What a way to arrive into the elite level at Heavyweight.
-And we close with a highlight reel, ending with that sick knockout again. Jesus.
The Inside Pulse
: I guess you have to take into account my bias from being there live, which was an awesome experience, but honestly UFC 70 top to bottom, including the preliminary fights, is a really good show. Granted there’s two absolute snoozers on the card in Machida/Heath and Arlovski/Werdum (and Kongo/Silva’s not much better for that matter) which means I can understand why US fans who didn’t see the prelims were disappointed, but taking into account exciting prelim fights like Taylor/Crocota and Etim/Grice, as well as the very fun fight between Bisping and Elvis and then the sick finish to Gonzaga/Cro Cop on top, and you’ve got a solid show I think. It won’t make the shortlist for show of the year or anything when it comes to it, but I think UFC 70’s worth a recommendationâ€¦unless you’re a Cro Cop fanboy. Thumbs up.
UFC: 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, Fight Nights 10-11, and the TUF IV Finale.
King of the Cage: 23, 29, 30, 32, 33, 36, 42, 48, 52, and 58.
Until next time,
Tags: Mixed Martial Arts