Tuesday, 28 January 2014

UFC Henderson vs Thompson on BT Sport - TV Review

We're heading into the Octagon for our next review as we take a look at the UFC's latest show on America's Fox Sports, shown live this past Saturday night/Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

As always we begin with the preliminaries and the welterweight encounter between George Sullivan and Mike Rhodes.

This battle of debutants proved to be an interesting three round affair. Although there were a few takedowns most of the action took place with the fighters on their feet.

Both fighters came into this one with their own style, with Rhodes and his tippy-tappy combinations against Sullivan's power game, and the power game was clearly the better of the two.

Rhodes got in some good blows, the only problem was though that there just weren't that many of them and they weren't doing that much damage. Sullivan, for his part, always seemed to be on the look out for a KO, putting as much power as he could into each shot.

As for the ground game it was pretty even. Rhodes scored with the best takedown of the fight and even went for a kimura at one point, but that particular submission went nowhere mainly because Sullivan was in the mount.

So after fifteen minutes of action the judges were called upon for the first time in the evening as they gave Sullivan the unanimous decision.

Then it was down to lightweight and the fight between Daron Cruickshank and Mike Rio.

The first fight of the broadcast that didn't need the judges began with a lengthy feeling out period, but as time went on it became apparent for all to see that Cruickshank was the better striker of the two. Everything he did just looked so smooth, and Rio looked almost second rate in comparison, especially when Cruickshank connected with a head kick that put him on his backside towards the end of the first.

The second round began in the same way as the first, with both fighters testing the waters and Cruickshank gradually edging ahead and rocking his man on a couple of occasions, but when he took the fight to the ground it almost proved to be a massive mistake, especially when Rio went for a heel hook. It really looked as if Cruickshank had thrown the fight away as Rio cranked down until Cruickshank managed to escape.

Then, as the second round neared it's end, Cruickshank connected with a wheel kick that stunned Rio. He followed up with a barrage of lefts and rights, and when Rio fell to the canvas the referee stepped in to give Cruickshank the TKO win.

Then it was on to bantamweight as Junior Hernandez took on Hugo Viana.

If you ever wanted to see a fine example of how not to fight then this is the one for you. Within seconds Viana connected with a big right that put Hernandez on the canvas, and for the next two rounds the Brazilian controlled the action perfectly.

But it wasn't just because of his expert striking, it was because Hernandez basically didn't do anything. Every punch he threw came up short, and for most of the time Viana was able to use him as a personal punching bag in what was in essence a completely one-sided affair.

It wasn't until the final round that Hernandez actually started to work, and when he did it brought him some measure of success. The only problem was that he began to showboat, and when he needed to attack and get the knockout he decided to do his rendition of the Running Man.

As for the judges, no surprises here as Viana took the unanimous decision.

More bantamweight action followed as Chico Camus faced Yaotzin Meza.

The first fight of the broadcast to feature any meaningful ground fighting proved to be a slightly one-sided affair. The striking exchanges were okay, but as soon as the fight went down it was Camus who proved to be the better fighter.

His work for the most part looked very smooth as he moved from position to position and as he went for a couple of submissions. Meza had his moments, but there weren't very many of them, and Camus almost always regained control soon after. And that was pretty much the story of the entire fight, with Camus keeping control on the ground and Meza doing the best he could in the circumstances.

As for the judges once again there were no surprises as Camus took the unanimous decision.

Yet more bantamweight action followed as Eddie Wineland went up against Yves Jabouin.

Striking was the order of the day in this particular encounter, and for the first seven minutes or so it looked to be a pretty even affair. Both fighters looked in top form as they connected with some good blows, and with the way things were going it looked like we were going to get another three rounder on the books.

But the fight changed in an instant when Wineland connected with a big right that felled Jabouin. Wineland quickly followed him to the ground, and when an arm triangle failed Wineland took his man's back and unloaded with the ground and pound, and with Jabouin offering nothing in reply the referee stepped in to give Wineland the TKO win.

The final preliminary fight featured even more bantamweight action as Alex Caceres took on Sergio Pettis.

As far as entertainment value goes this was a pretty decent fight. Both fighters put in good performances, and given that it was a shame that someone had to walk away with a loss on their records.

Pettis' performance in the first round was top notch. His striking was causing Caceres no end of problems, and although Caceres got in some good blows of his own Pettis was clearly on top.

All of that changed in the second round when Caceres connected with a left that sent Pettis crashing to the canvas, and from that moment on Caceres seemed a more confident fighter. He was now the one getting the better of the striking exchanges, and his performance matched that of Pettis in the first.

With both guys continuing their great performances into the third it looked like this was going to be placed in the hands of the judges, and that they'd have trouble separating them, but as the fight entered it's final minute Pettis' takedown attempt failed and left Caceres in top position, and although Pettis tried to defend at first it wasn't long before Caceres took his back and synched in a rear naked choke, the tap out giving Caceres the submission win with just twenty one seconds in the fight remaining.

The main show began in the featherweight division as Darren Elkins faced Jeremy Stephens.

This proved to be another entertaining three rounder. Stephens put in a very good striking performance here. He always seemed one step ahead of Elkins in that particular department. Mind you, Elkins case wasn't helped by his failed takedown attempts. Whenever he tried to take the fight to the ground Stephens foiled each and every attempt.

There were a couple of brief moments of ground fighting when Stephens scored with the takedown, and these almost proved to be costly for him when Elkins went for a couple of guillotines. But when one attempt went nowhere and with the other coming at the end of the fight it seemed that things were against Elkins as far as that tactic were concerned.

No finish meant more work for the judges, and they were in agreement once again as Stephens took the unanimous decision.

Then it was back to lightweight as Donald Cerrone faced Adriano Martins.

The first few seconds of this one were a bit frantic, and at first it looked like we were going to get a slugfest until the action settled down and both fighters got in some good shots. In fact it looked quite even, and when Cerrone took the fight to the ground and Martins quickly scrambled back to his feet it looked as if we were going to get another extended striking battle.

Then the Cowboy connected with a right kick to the head that sent Martins crashing. No follow up ground and pound was needed as the referee waved the fight to give Cerrone the KO win.

The penultimate fight featured heavyweight action as Stipe Miocic took on Gabriel Gonzaga.

The great striking action continued into this three rounder. As the fight began Gonzaga signalled his intent with a couple of his trademark leg kicks, and Miocic was limping slightly within seconds. The Brazilian followed up with some sound striking, although Miocic was able to keep up with him, and when Gonzaga scored with a takedown Miocic was back on his feet within seconds.

The Gonzaga that came out for the second round looked like a completely different fighter, although in truth he'd begun to visibly slow down towards the end of the first. But by this time he looked a slow and plodding shadow of his former self. Miocic easily capitalized on this, working behind his jabs and leg kicks while also stuffing Gonzaga's takedown attempts.

It was a tactic that served him well into the third round, and when Gonzaga found himself on his back with further failed takedown attempts and slips Miocic didn't fall into the trap of immediately going into his guard, instead opting for the more measured approach of delivering a couple of blows and then moving out so Gonzaga couldn't get a hold of him.

Once again there were no surprises from the judges as Miocic took the unanimous decision.

The main event featured more lightweight action as Benson Henderson went up against Josh Thomson.

After all the striking we'd seen it was nice to see some grappling action, and that's exactly what we got from these two former champions.

Thomson put in some excellent work in the first two rounds with his takedowns and ground fighting. The former Strikeforce king looked great as he took Henderson's back a couple of times, and it was only Henderson great defensive work that stopped Thomson from gaining any further advantage. Henderson, in reply, gave as good as he got and looked to get the win when he went for a standing arm triangle.

The complexion of the fight changed from the third round onwards when Thomson suffered a broken right hand. It clearly hampered him in almost every department, and although he still threw some rights it gave Henderson the chance to step up his game and take control. Thomson still had his moments, but the striking and grappling exchanges clearly belonged to Henderson.

As good as the fight was the only thing missing was the finish, which meant that the judges were called upon for the final time, and they couldn't agree as Henderson took the split decision.

In conclusion - we've finally made it to the end of this near five and half hour UFC marathon, but did this show deliver?

I would have to say that yes, for the most part it did. A couple of performances left a little to be desired but these were far outweighed by the fighters that delivered. There were some top notch striking displays here and some nice grappling exchanges throughout.

As for my fight of the night no-prize those in the know went for the Caceres/Pettis encounter, and while I can see their point I'm going for the Henderson/Thomson main event.

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