Tuesday, 4 February 2014

UFC 169 Barao vs Faber II on BT Sport - TV Review

The Octagon is our destination once more as we take a look back at UFC 169, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on BT Sport here in Britain.

As always we begin with the preliminaries and the lightweight encounter between Al Iaquinta and Kevin Lee.

This proved to be a very enjoyable opener. It looked like we were going to get an early finish after Lee walked into a straight left from Iaquinta. Lee looked in some trouble, but by the time he'd recovered and caught Iaquinta's kick he was in more strife when Iaquinta countered and took the fight to the ground with a heel hook attempt.

Lee came back strongly in the second round when he dominated the action on the ground, taking Iaquinta's back. Raging Al looked in some trouble when Lee went for a rear naked choke, and even though he managed to survive that particular scare Lee kept control with his body lock as he continued to look for a choke.

The tide turned again at the beginning of the third when Iaquinta rocked Lee again, and whenever Lee went for a takedown Iaquinta managed to defend with ease. At that point it looked as if Iaquinta was ahead by a small margin, although Lee did manage to get in a few good blows as well.

As for the judges they were in complete agreement as Iaquinta took the unanimous decision.

Middleweight action followed as Nick Catone faced Tom Watson.

Despite some of the boos from those in attendance for me this was a very interesting three rounder. Watson put in a good stint in the striking department, especially with his leg kicks, and it wasn't long before Catone's leg began to redden up.

But as good as Watson's striking was he seemed a little powerless to stop Catone's takedowns, and although he showed some sound defensive skills at times Catone seemed able to transition quite freely as he looked for an opening.

As for the judges they couldn't agree as Catone took the split decision.

Flyweights were next on the agenda as Chris Cariaso took on Danny Martinez.

Martinez began his promotional debut by going for the immediate takedown. Cariaso defended this attempt quite easily before connecting with a few well-placed kicks, and it was this sort of action that set the tone for the rest of the fight.

Martinez was almost relentless with his takedown attempts at times, and while he scored more often than not Cariaso managed to get out of these precarious situations quite easily, and when he didn't he always looked to attack from his back.

Cariaso for his part got in some nice strikes, especially with his kicks, and when Martinez changed tactics for a brief moment and went toe to toe with him it was the only time that Cariaso looked in any real danger.

As for the judges they went back to their agreeing ways as Cariaso took the unanimous decision.

It was back to lightweight for the final preliminary fight as John Makdessi faced Alan Patrick.

Like Danny Martinez before him Patrick began the fight with a takedown attempt which ultimately failed. Makdessi responded with some sound striking, and even though he never really had his man in any trouble he was clearly getting the better of the exchanges.

That was because Patrick's striking looked somewhat one dimensional compared to that of the Canadian. Whenever the Brazilian went for a big kick or punch Makdessi could see them coming from a mile off, and while Makdessi chose to go for combinations allied to a few leg kicks Patrick always went for one blow at a time.

Despite his failure to take Makdessi to the ground early on Patrick was also constantly looking for the takedown. Makdessi put on a good defensive display, and even though Makdessi stuffed the majority of these attempts Patrick kept going for them.

But with no finish on the horizon the judges were called upon again, and to the surprise of just about everyone Patrick took the unanimous decision.

The main show began with more lightweight action as Jamie Varner went up against Abel Trujillo.

The first fight of the show that didn't go the distance proved to be an exciting affair, and another example of how the momentum can turn in a second.

Both fighters were very aggressive from the off, but when the fight went to the ground Varner took control, and as they jockeyed for position the former WEC king went for a north/south choke. Trujillo was in the hold for what seemed like an age until he managed to power his way out.

From there these two engaged in what could be described as all out war, and as they entered the second round both men began to swing for the fences. It wasn't long before Varner took control, and as Trujillo grabbed his man's leg looking for a takedown Varner went for the win.

But despite this assault Trujillo managed to get back to his feet, only for Varner to rock him again with another barrage of blows. Then, from out of nowhere, Trujillo connected with a big right that dropped Varner like a bad habit. There was no need for any follow up as the referee waved the fight to give Trujillo the KO win.

Then it was back to flyweight as John Lineker faced Ali Bagautinov.

This battle between striker and grappler proved to be a very interesting three round affair, and a quite enjoyable one as well.

It began with Bagautinov scoring with the early takedown and controlling the action on the ground. The Russian did a good job of controlling his opponent, although at one point Lineker almost locked in a heel hook before looking for a kimura.

The tide turned a little in the second round when Lineker began to force his will on the proceedings. He was suddenly able to defend against any takedowns, and his striking looked top notch as he targeted Bagautinov's body with a series of hard shots.

But as soon as the third round began Bagautinov re-established control. Lineker suddenly looked vulnerable once again as the Russian took him down with ease, and although Lineker went looking for a couple of submissions again Bagautinov showed how confident he was by posing for the crowd while Lineker tried to apply a heel hook.

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

The big boys of the heavyweight division were up next as Frank Mir took on Alistair Overeem.

Now this was the Overeem we'd hoped to see in the UFC before. For three rounds he dominated the action and looked like a killer in the process.

It looked like we were going to get an early finish when Overeem scored with a big knee to Mir's head early on. The Dutchman followed him down, and while holding his left arm behind his head he connected with a hard series of punches and elbows. Mir looked almost out of it but soon managed to work his way back to his feet and back into the right.

It didn't help him much though. Although he scored with a second round takedown and briefly went for a guillotine Overeem easily escaped from this predicament and enforced his will on the fight once more. There just didn't seem anything Mir could do as Overeem connected with blow after blow after blow. Basically Overeem was beating Mir up.

It was the same story in the third, especially when the fight went to the ground. It was brutal, and somewhat compelling as well, and such was Overeem's dominance he let Mir get back to his feet in the final minute, only to rock him with a big right that went straight down the middle.

So for one of the few times in his career Overeem went the distance, and to the surprise of just about no-one he took each and every round in the judge's unanimous decision.

The co-main event saw Ricardo Lamas challenging Jose Aldo for the Featherweight title.

The last fight of the show to go the distance was another fine example of why Aldo is such a feared striker. Lamas began strongly, and his early leg kicks were causing a little damage, but it wasn't long before the champion worked his way into the fight.

His striking looked top notch throughout as he mixed in brutal punches with those even more brutal leg kicks of his. It really was a world class performance from the Brazilian.

With all the striking in the first three rounds it only seemed fitting that the championship rounds were fought mainly on the ground. Aldo had some early success here when he took Lamas' back and went for a rear naked choke, and he showed some sound defensive skills when Lamas ended up on top.

Lamas' best moments came in the final round when he ended up in Aldo's guard. Once again the champion showed some good defensive skills, but that didn't stop Lamas from getting in some good ground and pound blows, but by then it was too little, too late.

This was evidenced by the judge's decision as Aldo took the unanimous decision.

The main event saw Urijah Faber challenging Renan Barao for the Bantamweight title.

Now this was good. Both fighters got in some good shots early on, and with Faber looking extremely confident it looked like this one could go a while as well.

Then Barao connected with a big right that put his man on the canvas. The champion followed him down for a spot of ground and pound, but despite the onslaught Faber managed to get back to his feet, going on to connect with a couple of knees in the clinch.

However, it wasn't long before Faber was back on the canvas, and as he turtled up Barao connected with a series of blows that went unanswered. At one point he looked up at the referee, as if he was asking him to stop the fight. A few seconds later he did, giving Barao the TKO win, a decision that Faber questioned, saying that he gave the referee the thumbs up, saying he was okay.

The broadcast rounded out with a second showing of the Iaquinta/Lee fight.

In conclusion - this proved to be another great night of fights for the UFC.

Although the card wasn't jam packed with finishes we were treated to some top notch action, some great performances, and two great title fights, which actually doesn't happen that often.

As for the fight of the night no-prize while those in the know went for Varner/Trujillo this writer is going for the Overeem/Mir battle. It was great to see the big Dutchman back to winning form.

So with all of that out of the way there's just one more thing to do, and that's to give UFC 169 the thumbs up.