It’s time to step into the Octagon once again as we take a look at the latest step in the UFC’s quest for world domination as Rich Franklin faced Cung Le at their first ever show in China, shown in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began in the bantamweight division as Takeya Mizugaki faced Jeff Houghland.
This proved to be a highly entertaining opener. Both fighters looked to unload with the heavy leather early on, but as soon as the fight went to the ground Mizugaki dominated the action.
His ground and pound looked brutal at times, and although Houghland had his moments when he went for a couple of submission attempts that was it for him.
It was the same kind of story in the second and third rounds, and even when Houghland pulled guard a couple of times it didn’t really do him any good. Mizugaki controlled the action again, and towards the end of the fight a short let elbow opened up a nasty cut near Houghland’s left eye.
With no finish in sight the judges were called into action with all three giving everything to Mizugaki, with one judge scoring the fight 30-25, such was the dominance of the Japanese star.
Then it was up to the lightweight division as Tiequan Zhang went up against Jon Tuck.
This was even better than the first fight, and showed every aspect of the MMA game.
The first two rounds saw plenty of action on the ground, with Tuck in particular putting on a fine performance, going for a number of submission holds. There were times when he seemed to transition with ease as he looked to put China’s only UFC fighter away.
Zhang came back well in the final round. As Tuck began to look fatigued Zhang took control with some crisp striking. It was a good display of fist work, but it came a bit too late.
That was evident with the judges as well as Tuck took the unanimous decision.
The lightweight action continued with Takanori Gomi taking on Mac Danzig.
This was a much more even looking affair. For three rounds these two put on some great back and forth exchanges.
Both fighters brought their A games into this one. Gomi’s striking looked great throughout, although Danzig wasn’t that far behind him in that respect, especially with his Thai clinch in the first round.
The ground work was just as good. Danzig looked like he was going to get the win in the second with an arm-in guillotine. They later went on to exchange leg submission attempts before treating us to more great striking exchanges, with Gomi calling his man onto him at one point.
Despite all of this great action the judges were called upon again as Gomi took the split decision, the scores showing just how close this fight was.
Welterweight action followed as Dong Hyun Kim took on Paulo Thiago.
After the unfortunate injury in his last fight Kim was looking to make a statement, and he certainly did that here.
Buoyed on by his travelling fans Kim put on a dominating performance on the ground. He made Thiago look positively ordinary at times.
It all began early in the first round when he scored with his first takedown. He took control immediately, controlling almost every aspect of the action, and as the fight progressed it looked as if Thiago just didn’t have an answer to his opponent’s questions, especially when he went for a couple of chokes at the end of the first and second rounds.
The Brazilian’s one moment of offence on the ground came when he went for a kimura, a submission attempt which Kim survived quite easily. By the end of the second round Thiago looked like a beaten man, and when Kim dominated the ground game again in the third it was obvious who was going to win.
The judges agreed with everyone else when they gave Kim the unanimous decision.
The penultimate fight featured light heavyweight action as Thiago Silva faced Stanislav Nedkov.
The first fight of the show not to go the distance proved to be a very interesting back and forth battle.
The first two rounds saw the fighters engage in a striking and clinching battle. Silva’s striking looked top notch, especially his outside leg kicks and in the clinches against the cage where he connected with a series of knees.
Nedkov had some success in that respect, but his biggest success came towards the end of the second round when an overhand right sent Silva crashing. The Bulgarian followed him down but time was against him as he looked for the finish.
This scare seemed to light a fire underneath Silva in the third as his striking got even better. Nedkov seemed out of it, almost turning his back on his opponent at once point before Silva scored with a takedown. It wasn’t long before the Brazilian moved into a position so he couple apply an arm triangle for the submission win.
The main event featured middleweight action as Rich Franklin went up against Cung Le.
The only fight of the show that didn’t make it out of the first round was proof of how the action can turn on just one punch.
Franklin began to control the action after a brief feeling out period, and his combinations looked crisp and sharp as he used his reach advantage to good effect.
But after Franklin connected with a kick Le connected with a big right that sent Franklin down like a sack of spuds. He looked out of it before he hit the ground as the referee stepped in immediately to give Le the knockout win.
In conclusion - the UFC’s incursion into new territory proved to be a highly enjoyable show.
There really wasn’t one howler of a fight here. We saw some great ground work throughout the three round affairs, particularly from Dong Hyun Kim, and some nice striking from the likes of Thiago Silva and Takanori Gomi.
But for me the fight of the night was the somewhat brief Rich Franklin/Cung Le affair. I know I’m going against the grain by not agreeing with the official verdict, but there’s just something about a one punch knockout that gets me, which is why it’s getting the no-prize this time around.
So with all of that out of the way there’s only one more thing left to do, and that’s to give the UFC’s first trip to China the thumbs up.