Sunday, 5 January 2014

UFC Saffiedine vs Lim on BT Sport - TV Review

It's time to step into the Octagon for the first time in 2014 as we take a look at the UFC's first ever show in Singapore, shown this past Saturday night on BT Sport here in Britain.

The show began in the bantamweight division as Kang Kyung Ho took on Shunichi Shimizu.

This certainly proved to be an eventful fight, especially in the first round. Kang looked almost unstoppable at first when he took the fight to the ground and went for a variety of submissions, and when those didn't quite come off he went down the ground and pound route instead.

That's when his assault came to a halt. The referee stepped in after Kang connected with two twelve-to-six elbows, blows which are illegal under MMA rules. He then took not one but two points away from him, meaning that although he'd been on top he would end the round one point down.

This seemed to derail him a little, and things looked slightly worse when one of his kicks looked like it had gone south of the border. Shimizu complained about the groin strike, but when the referee saw the replay he declared the kick legal.

Despite the setbacks Kang continued his dominance as soon as the second round began, and although Shimizu had some success with a couple of takedowns he just seemed powerless against the Korean's ground game, and as the second became the third it was the same story, only this time around Kang was a lot more aggressive.

His ground and pound from within Shimizu's guard looked almost brutal at times, but it was also highly effective, and with Shimizu floundering Kang soon worked his way into position for an arm triangle, with Shimizu tapping to give Kang the highly impressive submission win.

It was up to welterweight for the next fight as Kiichi Kunimoto faced Luiz Dutra.

Like the first fight this was another eventful encounter. It began with a lengthy feeling out process as the two debuting fighters tried to find their range before Kunimoto went for an unsuccessful takedown against the cage. They then went back to testing the waters a little before both fighters got off a couple of good blows.

Then came the controversial moment. When Kunimoto went for another takedown against the fence Dutra connected with three elbows to the back of Kunimoto's head. The referee immediately stopped the Brazilian from inflicting further damage as the Japanese star slumped to the canvas.

So while Dutra protested his innocence the doctors checked Kunimoto over, and when it became obvious that he couldn't continue the referee waved the fight off and gave Kunimoto the win via disqualification. As for Dutra, when he it finally dawned on him what he'd done he left the cage in tears.

Then it was down to featherweight as Tatsuya Kawajiri went up against Sean Soriano.

This one was pretty good. Soriano had some success early on with a couple of knees in the clinch, and a few moments later he did a great job of defending against Kawajiri's takedown attempts.

But with the Japanese star relentless in his attempts to take the fight to the ground the American finally succumbed. Kawajiri went to work quickly as he took Soriano's back, and when a brief attempt at a rear naked choke failed he unleashed a ground and pound barrage that Soriano just managed to survive.

As the second round began Soriano had a little more success when he scored with a brief takedown, but that was it as far as he was concerned. Kawajiri quickly took control and scored with a takedown of his own as he took Soriano's back and synched in a rear naked choke. It looked like Soriano had tapped at one point, but a few seconds later he passed out as the referee stepped in to give Kawajiri the submission win.

The main event saw a return to the welterweight division as Tarec Saffiedine took on Lim Hyun Gyu.

The only fight on the main show to go the distance proved to be another eventful encounter, and a great way for the company to finish their first night in Singapore.

Both fighters began well, but as the action progressed Saffiedine began to get the better of the striking exchanges, mainly because Lim seemed to forget that he had a big reach advantage. Instead of peppering his opponent with jabs he tried to fight on the inside, which kind of played into Saffiedine's hands.

As the fight went on Saffiedine began to target Lim's lead left leg with a series of brutal kicks. Thankfully there were no broken limbs this time around, but Saffiedine's tactic was definitely having it's desired effect as Lim's thigh turned the wrong shade of purple.

Saffiedine allied this attack with some nice work on the mat as well with some well-placed ground and pound shots. By this time Lim was starting to look exhausted, and at one point he had to be helped back to his corner between rounds.

But despite Saffiedine's onslaught turning the Korean into the proverbial one legged man in a you know what kicking contest Lim managed to psych himself up for the final round, and just as it looked like Saffiedine was cruising to victory Lim connected with some nice blows that caused the former Strikeforce king some trouble, although as the fight came to an end it seemed obvious who had won.

That final decision was put in the hands of the judges as Saffiedine took the unanimous decision.

In conclusion - so how did the latest stage in the UFC's plan for world domination go then?

Pretty well I thought. There were a couple of unfortunate incidents with regards to illegal strikes, but overall the fights were very enjoyable and filled with good performances.

As for my fight of the night no-prize I was tempted to go for the Kawajiri/Soriano fight, but once again I find myself agreeing with those in the know by plumping for the Saffiedine/Lim main event.

Kudos must also be handed out to BT Sport. I've never really been one for watching shows online, so when it looked like this was only going to be shown as part of the UFC's new Fight Pass network I was going to give this one a miss. Then BT Sport stepped in a few days ago and announced they'd be showing this for those of us who prefer watching TV shows the old fashioned way, so hats off to them.

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