Thursday, 19 April 2012

UFC Gustafsson vs Silva on ESPN - TV Review

So here’s the story. ESPN here in Britain normally shows all of the UFC events live, and with their latest show being held in Sweden it looked like we Brits wouldn’t have to stay up late to see the action.

However, the channel decided to air the French League Cup final last Saturday, with the UFC being shown later that night at around 10.15pm. Well, that was the plan, because the football match went into overtime, and UFC were pushed back to around 11pm.

But instead of doing what Sky Sports did with their UCMMA coverage, pushing the entire schedule back when the West Indies/Australia test match overran so they could broadcast the entire show - twice, ESPN decided to make drastic cuts so they could keep up with their schedules.

Which meant that British fans watched a show where fights were hyped and never shown, with the show abruptly ending when the main event finished, and unless British fans wanted to go down the download route it meant that they had to wait until the early hours of this past Wednesday morning to finally see the show in full.

So now, a few days later than planned, is The Two Sheds Review of UFC: Gustafsson vs. Silva.

The show began in the bantamweight division as my fellow Brit Brad Pickett went up against Damacio Page.

This was a great way to start the show. Both guys came out swinging as soon as the fight began, keeping up a frantic pace throughout the fight.

Both men had their moments in the first round, but Pickett just edged it with his striking. It was in the second though that the fight really came to life. Pickett connected with a big left that rocked Page, and it looked like the Brit was going to get the win with some tremendous ground and pound.

Page managed to work his way back, reversing the positions so he could attempt to take control on top. When they got back to their feet it wasn’t long before Pickett re-established control with a combination that rock Page again, and when they went back to the ground Pickett pounced, taking Page’s back and synching in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

It was up to welterweight for the next fight as Damarques Johnson took on another Brit, John Maguire.

This was a great example of ground fighting. For almost two rounds these two put on an intriguing back and forth battle.

After Johnson connected with a couple of kicks to the inner thigh Maguire took the fight to the ground. Johnson soon took control as he looked for a couple of arm submissions which Maguire managed to escape from.

There was more of the same in the second round. Johnson put in some more great work, but when he went for a kimura Maguire countered with an armbar. Johnson had no choice but to tap, giving Maguire the submission win.

After a hype video for next Saturday’s show it was on to the featherweight encounter between Dennis Siver and Diego Nunes.

The first fight on the broadcast to make it to the third round proved to be a very entertaining striking battle.

Both men were very impressive here, with Nunes in particular looking good, especially with his spin kicks. Siver, who was making his divisional debut here, was more than able to keep up with the Brazilian, landing plenty of nice strikes of his own, despite suffering from a couple of cuts around his left eye in the final round.

With the fight going the distance the judges were called into action for the first time as Siver took the unanimous decision.

Then it was back to the welterweight division as Paulo Thiago went up against Siyar Bahadurzada.

This one looked like it would take a while to get going as both men tried to gauge the distance. But when Thiago came forward Bahadurzada connected with a big right hand. Thiago went down like a sack of spuds, with the referee stepping in immediately to give Bahadurzada the KO win after just 42 seconds.

The co-main event featured middleweight action as Brian Stann faced Alessio Sakara.

Plenty of heavy hitting here. After a brief testing of the waters Stann began to unload with the big stuff, connecting with a couple of knees that rocked Sakara.

It wasn’t long before the fight went down, and it looked like Stann was going to take the win with an initial burst of ground and pound. Sakara managed to survive though, until Stann went into the guard. Stann continued his attack, a left hand knocking Sakara out for just a few seconds, and even though the Italian had regained his senses the referee wisely stepped in to give Stann the KO win.

Filler material followed in the form of the welterweight clash between Papy Abedi and James Head.

This encounter between two fighters looking for their first Octagon win proved to be an entertaining back and forth affair. After the initial feeling out period Abedi scored with the takedown, putting in some good work until Head managed to get back to his feet.

Head soon took control, and a hard elbow rocked Abedi. The fight soon went back to the ground where Head took Abedi’s back and synched in a rear naked choke for the submission win.

The main event featured light heavyweight action as Alexander Gustafsson took on Thiago Silva.

Gustafsson was looking to put on a show in front of his fellow countrymen, and he just about pulled it off with this performance.

The Swede used his height and reach advantage to good effect, connecting with an uppercut in the first round that put Silva on the canvas. But apart from a brief moment on the ground it was a intriguing striking battle.

Gustafsson was able to keep Silva at bay as he connected with countless strikes, opening up a cut between the Brazilian’s eyes and causing a swelling on his forehead. Silva had his moments, but there weren’t that many, and it looked like he was getting more and more frustrated as the fight went on.

Once again the judges were called into action, and it came as no surprise when Gustafsson took the unanimous decision.

In conclusion - this show was definitely worth the wait.

As seems to be the case these days there wasn’t a single disappointing fight on this broadcast. Every fight delivered, and although many will have gone for Gustafsson/Silva as the fight of the night I’m going to give that honor to Damarques Johnson and John Maguire, an example of how a fighter can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

There is one gripe I have about this show, and as you have probably already guess it concerns ESPN’s treatment of the original broadcast. Now I understand that they couldn’t just stop showing the football, they’re not ITV after all, but the way they heavily cut the original showing left many fans disappointed, and given that these shows are readily available via streaming and downloads these days ESPN could lose a few subscribers if they do that again.

But that’s enough moaning from me. Let’s end this on a high note by giving this show the big thumbs up.