I haven’t seen any of the under-card bouts as I write now, and in fact I haven’t re-watched the fights I had seen on the night; perhaps I will update as and when relevant. And I am aware that the next instalment of the ongoing UFC odyssey, known as ‘76’ has technically ‘happened’ but, as I am in the UK and trust my viewing pleasure for these cards to Bravo, it is on tonight for me.
I was originally to be at this particular card. However, for reasons unpleasant (and ones that I don’t feel the desire to recount at this juncture), I wasn’t and was doomed to watch it on Setanta. I suppose the silver lining here would be the fact that I didn’t have Setanta until about a week prior to the event, and there would be further lining in the form of the card being on ‘free’ Setanta as opposed to pay-per-view. Quite the lining indeed but, all that said, I wasn’t at the O2 (nor, indeed was I present for any of the recent Prince concerts, but that – even grimmer – revelation is another I care not for explaining), so the grey cloud, lined though it was, loomed over me like the most malevolent cumulonimbus.
(At this point, using up word count: moi?, I would like to mention the writers of the ‘Sherdog’ ‘web’ ‘site’. It would seem that they, like Prometheus, have over-reached in their attempts to write well. In a way, I’m happy, as at least they are now making an effort. Still, it’s pretty sad; filling up columns on MMA with semi-colon usage and bizarre popular cultural references is my gimmick.)
OK, so there was a bunch of fighting at the O2 the other week. I shall start with the fights with which I was least bothered, so as to get them out of the way. Paul ‘The Party Animal’ Taylor vs. Marcus ‘Default’ Davis was exciting while it lasted, with great dynamic swings in whom the fortunes favoured. While both fighters displayed neat striking and killer instinct, it was the quick thinking submission application that separated the twain. Good for him. That said, I don’t care if I never see him again.
Mike ‘The Count’ Bisping vs. Matt ‘Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em’ Hamill was a scary fight for fans of the Brit. I don’t know what it is about fight sports, but they are the only realm of competition where I want my compatriot to win. In fact, it is only in MMA and boxing in which I am not actively willing the Brits/English to take a massive hammering. No idea why that is the case, but here we are. Which reminds me: Good riddance Tim!
Anyway, the fight was close, but in retrospect, reassuringly so. See, if it hadn’t been close, it would have been due to Hamill running away with it. Prior to the confrontation, received wisdom held that, as long as Bisping was able to avoid the takedown, he would be free to punch the American at will. What surprised both I and Bisping, then, was the clean, powerful striking emanating from Hamill.
Not that it was amazing or anything, but punches were thrown with a strength and confidence that threw Bisping off his game in the first round; he was attempting to throw his own strikes while on the retreat. While he regained his composure, and ended up deftly avoiding takedowns by the third round, he seemed to have done little damage compared to that which he had received. So while Bisping won the decision, perhaps in some way ostensibly to appease the British audience, his agitated post-match interview revealed all was not well in the state of Bisping. It will be interesting to see where the two go from here.
I don’t really know what to say about Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic. What was once the most feared fighter in all of mixed martial arts (while Fyodor Emelianenko was always better, it was Filipovic who could end it all, at any moment, with one shot) has been reduced to a shaken, smaller-looking, version of his old self. While I won’t attempt to play the game of ‘what the casual fan thinks’, the fact of the matter is that, with losses to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheik Congo, his sole American win against unheralded Eddie Sanchez, his presence in the upper UFC echelons is based on name only.
I am also not one to attempt to undermine the import of his loss to Gonzaga in the light of the latter’s undoing at the hands of Randy Couture. UFC 70 is what it is, and losing to the miraculous champion later is neither here nor there in affecting the perception of Gonzaga imposing his will on Filipovic to such a shattering extent. Nor should it affect that career-defining performance. UFC 75, on the other hand, asks questions of Filipovic, rather than making any proclamations on the ability of Kongo.
We have all seen Kongo before; we know he is a big, powerful kickboxer with little else in his skill-set. Indeed, while some said Kongo was the best possible opponent for Filipovic’s presumable return to form on account of he wouldn’t attempt a takedown any time soon, I was always filled with trepidation at the prospect of the Croatian attempting to knock out a fighter with the same techniques as he, but with a far larger frame; Kongo’s icily cool confidence in pre-match interview was ominous indeed.
And so it was that Kongo essentially ‘did a Hamill’ (or, perhaps to be more pertinent, ‘a Hunt’, in reference to the last time a striker walked ‘Cro Cop’ down to win an easy decision). Kongo hit Mirko at will, forcing the favourite on to a back foot from which he would never return. Straits were dire enough by the end of the first round that we nearly bore witness to that second most legendary of MMA punch lines, ‘”Cro Cop” by triangle’. As it was, though, the French fighter escaped that particular section of grappling and returned to his stratagem of regularly kicking the Croat’s body; kicking the fight, quite literally, out of Filipovic.
This win doesn’t mean Kongo is suddenly an elite mixed martial artist, nor does it necessarily mean – as some drama queens have stated – that it should spell the end of Filipovic as a current fighter. Kongo will go on from here and how he performs against more rounded fighters will either see him challenging for the title or returning to dark matches. Filipovic can recover, theoretically should recover but, after these unprecedented two straight losses, I wouldn’t like to bet on it.
Infinitely more heartening was the main event (Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson, for those unaware). Though many have banged on about missed opportunities (Sherdog did admittedly admirably on this front, actually) in hyping the momentous occasion of UFC champion fighting the Pride champion (even if they are both UFC fighters now, both of whom made their professional names in Pride, so perhaps the hype on that front would have been disingenuous), the fight was excellent.
As I thought it would be before the day, this was a close, titanic, struggle that was decided by the bigger, stronger Jackson being that bit more able to implement his game plan and wear down Henderson. Not for me the play-by-play style of fight discussion, but there were numerous moments that stood out to me. First and foremost, though UFC were playing themselves up more than title unification, Jackson’s insane level of pre-fight intensity was heartening compensation, especially as it didn’t drop a jot when Henderson smiled at him. The initial rush by Jackson of Henderson, and Henderson’s subsequent parry, was the perfect start. The swings in momentum kept this fight intriguing, even though – as the bell sounded the end of the fifth – Jackson quite clearly won.
This was a great fight, a display of rounded mixed martial artists. The tilt told a tale of a smaller man going the, very competitive, distance with a bigger, younger man. It told the tale of an erstwhile rough-around-the-edges ‘street fighter’ taking on a decorated amateur wrestler at his own game and winning. It went a long way to wash the foul taste of the numerous Sherk and Sylvia five-rounders from the collective mouth of the MMA fan. Last, but not least, it established who the linear cock of the light heavyweight walk really is.
Just in time for Shogun to debut, then.