Monday, 20 January 2014

UFC Rockhold vs Philippou on BT Sport - TV Review

It's time to step into the Octagon for our latest review, with Luke Rockhold facing Costas Philippou in the main event of the UFC's latest event, shown live this past Wednesday night/Thursday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

We begin with the preliminaries and the flyweight encounter between Alptekin Ozkilic and Louis Smolka.

This proved to be a great way to start the show. Both fighters put in some good work early on, and while Smolka connected with some nice shots and knees to the body in the clinch Ozkilic often countered with takedowns and solid ground work.

But as the fight went on Smolka began to take control. Although Ozkilic was still scoring with some takedowns Smolka was able to escape, sometimes with great ease. He allied this with some more nice striking, especially when he got the Turk in a clinch and delivered several hard knees to the head and body.

Smolka went on to dominate the final round, and once again it was the knees to the body that really took it's toll on Ozkilic. He tried to counter with further takedowns, but fatigue was starting to become a factor by this part, and when Smolka unleashed with the ground and pound in the final minute it looked like we were going to get the finish, but as the old saying goes Ozkilic was saved by the bell.

Which meant that the judges came into the equation for the first time as Smolka took the unanimous decision.

It was up to middleweight for the next fight as Trevor Smith faced Brian Houston.

This was a pretty enjoyable three rounder. Both fighters gave a good account of themselves at times in what looked to be a very even contest.

Smith put on a good display in the first round, especially when he took the fight to the ground and went looking for submissions, but when the first became the second Houston began to really up his game, especially when his stinging left opened up a nasty cut on Smith's forehead. Smith tried to counter with numerous takedown attempts, but Houston managed to stuff each and every one of them.

Houston's striking seemed quite mooted in the final round. As Smith managed to roll off strike after strike Houston seemed worried about his opponent's takedown attempts, and this failure to open himself up so he could really go for broke harmed his chances as Smith took control.

But with no finish in sight the judges were called upon again. No agreements this time round as Smith took the split decision.

Lightweight action followed as Isaac Vallie-Flagg took on Elias Silverio.

The third three rounder in a row was another of those very entertaining affairs. Forward motion was the order of the day early on as Vallie-Flagg came forward from the off, and although he got in some good shots it wasn't long before Silverio took control of the fight when he sent IVF crashing with a big left.

Silverio continued his good work into the second, although he was derailed a little when a knee to Vallie-Flagg's body while he was grounded was ruled as a head strike by the referee. The Brazilian was given a point deduction, but all this seemed to do was spur him on as he re-established his control.

That control was total in the third round. Vallie-Flagg was simply overwhelmed by Silverio on the ground as he went to work with the ground and pound as well as looking for a couple of submissions. But as with the last fight time was against him, the bell saving Vallie-Flagg as Silverio looked for a rear naked choke.

As for the judges they were back to their agreeing ways as Silverio took the unanimous decision.

The final preliminary featured more lightweight action as Ramsey Nijem took on Justin Edwards.

This was a pretty enjoyable encounter. For three rounds these two gave us an excellent display of striking and ground fighting, and it was a joy to watch.

Edwards looked great early on with his striking, and it looked like he was causing his man quite a bit of trouble until Nijem came back with some nice blows of his own, and when the fight went to the ground the action was just as good as Edwards went looking for a couple of submissions.

Edwards continued his good work into the second round, but it was about halfway in that Nijem really began to come into his own as he began to out-strike Edwards, as well as taking him to the mat with some great looking takedowns.

As the action moved into the third it was becoming obvious just who was going to get the win. Edwards got in some good blows, but Nijem always seemed one step ahead of him, and when he took the fight to the ground again he opened up a nasty cut near Edwards' left eye. Edwards went on to have some minor success later on before the fight ended with Nijem on top looking for a foot lock.

As for the judges they finished off the prelims by giving Nijem the unanimous decision.

The main show began in the featherweight division as Cole Miller went up against Sam Sicilia.

The first fight of the broadcast that didn't require any assistance from the judges proved to be one of those intriguing affairs.

The first round saw our protagonists engaging in a mainly striking battle. It was a good contrast in styles because while Sicilia often went looking for that big damage causing blow Miller was more than happy to pepper his man with stinging jabs while adding in the odd telling bow.

Miller continued his good work into the second round, and by this time Sicilia was beginning to show the signs of battle, and when Miller connected with a big right it was the beginning of the end for Sicilia. Miller followed him down to the ground, and when a guillotine attempt went nowhere Miller took his man's back and synched in a rear naked choke, with Sicilia quickly tapping to give Miller the submission win.

Then it was back to flyweight as John Moraga faced Dustin Ortiz.

What we had here was a very enjoyable back and forth affair, and even though we didn't get a finish we were treated to plenty of great action.

The fight began with a lengthy feeling out process before Ortiz scored with a takedown following a clinch against the cage. His work on the ground wasn't overly flashy, but it was solid enough to keep Moraga from getting back to his feet, and solid enough to prevent a referee's stand up.

As the action moved into the second round Moraga began to work his way back into the fight, and after Moraga's rear naked choke attempt it developed into that nice back and forth affair. Both fighters had a ton of success both on the ground and in the striking exchanges, and it was getting difficult to tell just who would walk away with the win.

That was never more evident than when Ortiz came back in the third. Moraga had looked pretty good up to that point, but with the former title challenger flat on his back and Ortiz looking for a spot of ground and pound as the fight came to an end it was difficult to separate them.

This proved to be the case with the judges as well, with their opinions differing as Moraga took the split decision.

More middleweight action followed as Yoel Romero took on Derek Brunson.

This was a great example of how not to rest on your laurels. For the first two rounds Brunson was in clear control of the action. Romero had his moments, but these were few and far between as Brunson did a great job in taking it to the Cuban with his striking as well as controlling the action on the ground, which surprised many given Romero's illustrious background.

But as soon as the third round started Romero came forward more and more. A big left rocked Brunson, and he began to look a shadow of the fighter who had controlled the action up until then, especially when Romero dropped him again. This time around Romero followed him down, and when a series of elbows to the kidneys went unanswered the referee stepped in to give Romero the TKO win.

The bantamweight encounter of the evening saw T.J. Dillashaw going up against Mike Easton.

This was another of those encounters that fit firmly into the very enjoyable bracket. For three rounds Dillashaw gave us a great all-round display. His striking looked top notch throughout, and this allied with some solid ground work made this display what it was.

Easton showed a lot of heart but there just didn't seem to be anything he could do to hurt his man. He got in his fair share of good blows, and even survived a few good blows from Dillashaw, but he always looked one step behind, unable to cope with Dillashaw's in/out striking tactics.

The only thing missing from Dillashaw's performance was a finish, which mean yet more work for the judges as they gave Dillashaw their unanimous decision.

The co-main event featured yet more middleweight action as Lorenz Larkin took on Brad Tavares.

These two gave us yet another enjoyable three round affair, and like the previous fight it showed how one man can always remain one step ahead of his opponent, for the most part anyway.

Like Dillashaw before him Tavares put on a great striking display of his own. It was an almost perfect display, and although Larkin had his moments early on Tavares soon took control.

That was pretty much the story of the striking exchanges throughout the entire fight, and the ground action saw Tavares taking his man's back at one point. Larkin's best chance of success came late on when he delivered a series of elbows while Tavares was looking for a takedown, but unfortunately for him Tavares managed to block most of those blows, and if any of them had landed he may well have taken the TKO win.

That wasn't the case though as the judges were called upon for the final time as Tavares took the unanimous decision.

The middleweight action continued into the main event as Luke Rockhold took on Costas Philippou.

The second fastest fight of the night actually had a lengthy feeling out period, and it wasn't until about a minute in that they made contact when they exchanged kicks. From there the action got a little more intense with both guys getting in some good blows, especially Rockhold when a kick to the head saw Philippou rubbing his right eye a few times afterwards.

Then, about halfway into the round, Rockhold connected with a kick to the body that crumpled Philippou up like a paper bag, and as he went down to the mat the referee immediately waved off the fight to give Rockhold the TKO win.

The show rounded out with filler material in the form of the lightweight encounter between Charlie Brenneman and Beneil Dariush.

The quickest fight of the night began with the fighters exchanges kicks before Brenneman got in some good blows during a clinch in the middle of the cage. But when Dariush connected with a big left it sent Brenneman crashing.

Dariush immediately joined him on the ground and took his back, tying up one arm as he applied his body lock, and while it looked like he was going to get the win with some well placed ground and pound it wasn't long before he synched in a rear naked choke to get the submission win.

In conclusion - well, it took me a while to get to this point, but I'm glad that I did because this turned out to be a very good show.

Every part of this near five hour marathon delivered, and even though we weren't treated to a plethora of knockouts and submissions we still were treated to some great performances throughout.

As for my fight of the night no-prize those in the know gave their award to the Romero/Brunson fight, and while I was tempted to emulate them I'm going to pick the Dillashaw/Easton encounter.

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.