Tuesday, 19 November 2013

UFC 167 St-Pierre vs Hendricks on BT Sport - TV Review

It's time to step into the Octagon once again as we take a look at the latest title defence from welterweight king Georges St-Pierre in the main event of UFC 167, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

We begin with the preliminaries and the bantamweight encounter between Erik Perez and Edwin Figueroa.

This was a very enjoyable show opener. Apart from Perez's kick that strayed south of the equator the Mexican put in a very solid performance as he displayed all of the aspects of the MMA game.

His striking was top notch throughout, and even though he had his man in trouble several times with big punches and kicks it was his grappling that dominated here. As soon as he took the fight to the ground with his numerous takedowns he always looked to move into a more dominant position so he could apply a submission. Sadly those arm triangle attempts eventually came to nothing when Figueroa got back to his feet.

It wasn't all one way traffic though. Figueroa had his moments, it's just that there weren't very many of them. He cracked Perez a couple of times, but his main problem was his somewhat sloppy looking striking and his inability to stop the takedowns.

As for the judges, no surprise with the decision as Perez took the unanimous decision.

Then it was up to welterweight as Brian Ebersole took on Rick Story.

The second three rounder in a row proved to be another very enjoyable encounter as we saw a great display of striking from Story.

The Horror's punching power was evident from the very beginning, and I lost count of the number of times he rocked his man with big blows to the head and body. The only problem was that he was facing one of the most endurable fighters in the division, and it would have probably taken a sledgehammer to the skull to knock Ebersole off his feet.

There were brief trips to the ground, as well as Ebersole getting in a few good blows of his own, but it was only when Story began using kicks more often towards the end of the third that a finish looked on the cards. He had Ebersole in no end of trouble, with the final attack knocking him off his feet. Sadly time was against Story as he followed Ebersole to the ground.

Which meant more work for the judges, and once again there were no surprises as Story took the unanimous decision.

It was up another division to middleweight next as Ed Herman took on Thales Leites.

While the previous fight may have been all about the striking this one was all about the grappling. Leites put in a dominating performance here, showing just why he's been given a second chance in the UFC.

The Brazilian's ground work looked solid throughout. Whenever he took the fight down Herman just didn't seem to have any answer as Leites worked from position to position, taking his man's back on a few occasions while searching for submissions.

It got to the point where Herman's corner screamed at him before the start of the third. The talking to had it's desired effect briefly when he connected with a couple of good blows, but when Leites took the fight to the ground and took his time in top control to about ten minutes it was pretty obvious who was going to win this one.

The judges saw it that way as well as Leites took the unanimous decision.

The final preliminary fight featured lightweight action as Donald Cerrone went up against Evan Dunham.

Dunham began his shift in the cage by going for a takedown right off the bat, and when Cerrone countered with a hard knee to the chest it set the stage for the rest of this encounter.

Cerrone's striking was top notch through. Dunham looked a couple of steps behind as the Cowboy went to work with his Muay Thai technique as he connected with further knees to the body.

It was turning into a great performance for Cerrone, and when the second round began Dunham continued to look a little second-rate as far as his striking was concerned, and when Cerrone took the fight to the ground it wasn't long before he was locking in an triangle choke. Dunham had no choice but to tap out to give Cerrone the submission win.

The main show began with flyweight action as Tim Elliott faced Ali Bagautinov.

This was one of those fights that fits firmly into the interesting category. For three rounds these two put in pretty solid performances.

It began with Elliott coming forward with that unique stance of his, his head forward and his hands low, and at times he moved across the cage like a little old man walking across a car part towards the supermarket. The stance didn't put Bagautinov off though, because it wasn't long before the Russian was connecting with a few good shots.

We had some brief trips to the ground, the most notable being when Elliott went for a guillotine when Bagautinov scored with the takedown, but for this most part this was a mainly striking affair, and while Bagautinov always seemed to be looking for that one knockout blow Elliott was the calmer of the two.

But with no finish in sight it meant more work for the judges as Bagautinov took the unanimous decision.

It was back to welterweight for the next fight as Josh Koscheck took on Tyron Woodley.

Now this was good, and it could have ended in the first few seconds when Woodley rocked his man, and although he connected with a few knees in a clinch against the fence Koscheck managed to buy some valuable time so he could recover.

Koscheck managed to back Woodley up a couple of times, but the Chosen One's striking looked top notch as he continued to rock his man, sending him to the ground. A spot of ground and pound failed to get the job done though, and a few moments later Koscheck did a good job of tying his man up and negating his ground and pound.

But as the first round entered it's final thirty seconds Woodley connected with a big right that dropped Koscheck to the mat. One more punch followed before the referee stepped in to give Woodley the knockout win.

The welterweight action continued with Rory MacDonald taking on Robbie Lawler.

This was a great three round battle, and one of those that could easily have gone either way.

It began with Lawler connecting with a series of kicks to MacDonald's lead leg. It was a sign of things to come as Lawler took control with his striking, which at times caused MacDonald no end of trouble.

The Canadian came back into the fight in the second round when he managed to take the fight to the ground a few times. The only problem was that once he got there he didn't actually do much, and the perfect example of this was towards the end of the round when the referee threatened to stand them up for inactivity. MacDonald suddenly sprang into life and went to work with the elbows.

MacDonald's comeback spurred Lawler into action in the third, and his striking looked even better than before. Lawler's clubbing right hand gave MacDonald no end of trouble, and a beautiful left/right combination sent him crashing to the mat. Lawler then followed up with a spot of ground and pound, which was really what MacDonald should have done when he had the chance.

MacDonald managed to survive these onslaughts though as he came back towards the end of the fight, scoring with another takedown and finishing up with some ground and pound of his own.

As for the judges they couldn't agree as they gave Lawler the split decision.

The co-main event featured light heavyweight action as Rashad Evans went up against Chael Sonnen.

This one began with Sonnen coming across the cage looking for a takedown, and when that attempt failed the clinching battle against the fence began. Both guys had the upper hand at various points until Evans eventually scored with the takedown.

Once they reached the ground Evans was all over Sonnen like a cheap suit, throwing in a few punches into the mix as he tried to work into position. Sonnen tried a couple of defensive moves, but they meant nothing to an Evans in this kind of form.

Evans eventually took the mount and went to work with the ground and pound. Sonnen tried to defend as best he could, giving Evans his back after taking a couple of hard elbows. But as the assault continued all Sonnen could do was cover up, and it wasn't long before the referee stepped in to give Evans the TKO win.

The main event saw Johny Hendricks challenging Georges St-Pierre for the Welterweight title.

When GSP scored with a takedown after just a few seconds it looked like we were going to get another great performance from the champion. But then Hendricks did something which many have tried and failed to do, he made GSP look human.

For five hard fought rounds Hendricks took it to the champion and then some. It began soon after that takedown. When GSP tried to take him down again against the cage Hendricks connected with series of elbows to the side of the champion's head, causing a swelling, and from there Hendricks began to out-strike the champion, especially during the first two rounds.

The challenger really looked like he could cause an upset, especially when a great combination put GSP on rubber legs. Then a brief stoppage to replace his mouthpiece halted Hendricks a little, and it was then that GSP began to come back with that stinging jab of his.

As the fight entered the championship rounds it still looked like it could go either way, and while GSP wore the scars of battle Hendricks still looked as fresh as a daisy. Hendricks had slowed down a little, but it looked like his confidence was still sky high as he managed to keep up with the champion both in the striking and the grappling departments.

So after five tremendous rounds it went down to the judges, and they couldn't agree as Hendricks took the split decision.

In conclusion - I think there's really only one way I could describe this particular event.

UFC 167 delivered big time. From top to bottom it was filled with great fights and great performances, although this event will be remembered for one fight in particular.

Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks put on what will definitely be a fight of the year candidate. As I said before Hendricks made the long-time champion look positively human, and while many will probably disagree with and debate the decision you can't argue about just how good this fight was.

Normally I'd say that I get the feeling we'll see those two go at it again, but judging by GSP's post-fight interview I get the feeling that might not happen.

As for my fight of the night, that's a no-brainer. GSP versus Hendricks all the way.

So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing left to do, and that's to give UFC 167 the big thumbs up.