It felt like we’d been waiting an age for it, but this past weekend they finally got it on in the main event of UFC 114: Rampage v Evans, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain, with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan handling commentary duties.
The broadcast began with the preliminary bouts, beginning with Efrain Escudero and Dan Lauzon in the lightweight division. Two distinct performances in this one. Escudero put on a great display of striking here, out-gunning his opponent at every turn, the only down point in his performance being the points deduction for several low kicks. Lauzon, on the other hand, was quite disappointing, and he looked exhausted from the second round onwards. No surprise here when Escudero was given the unanimous decision. You have to wonder though how much the public falling out with his coach and his brother took out of Lauzon.
Then it was on to the light heavyweight division as Luiz Cane faced Cyrille Diabate. A good, quick back and forth encounter saw Cane drop his man early on with a big left. Diabate quickly reversed the positions when the fight went to the ground. Diabate took the TKO win after knocking Cane down with a good combination, the referee stepping in as Diabate applied the finishing touches.
It was down to the welterweight division for the next fight as Amir Sadollah took on Dong Hyun Kim. ESPN almost missed the introductions for this one, but thankfully they didn’t miss any of the fight, otherwise I would have missed Kim’s great performance. The Korean put on an excellent display of ground work and controlled Sadollah for most of the fight. The former Ultimate Fighter seemed powerless against him, and only seemed to do any sort of damage with a couple of good shots towards the end of the third round. All three judges gave the decision to Kim, a decision that you can’t really argue with.
The welterweight action continued with the first fight of the main show between Diego Sanchez and John Hathaway. Another somewhat one-sided affair saw Hathaway putting on a good performance in his American debut, controlling the fight after sending Sanchez down with a knee as he went for the take down in the first round. Sanchez just seemed a couple of steps behind the Brit as Hathaway won the unanimous decision.
It was back up to light heavyweight for the next fight with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira going up against Jason Brilz. The most even fight of the show so far saw Brilz exceed all expectations as he took the fight to his far more experienced opponent, frustrating Little Nog throughout. It was a highly entertaining back and forth affair, and their exchange of choke holds in the second round made for great viewing. Brilz also rocked Nogueira in that same round with some wild brawling. The split decision went in favour of Nogueira, which didn’t sit too well with some of the crowd.
The big boys were up next as Todd Duffee faced Mike Russow in the heavyweight division. No ground work to speak of in this one. Duffee controlled the majority of the fight with some crisp striking early on, although he was visibly tiring as time went on. Then, halfway through the third round, Russow, who hadn’t really done anything of note, connected with a big right. Duffee fell to the ground like the proverbial sack of spuds, and from out of nowhere Russow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
Lightweight action followed as Melvin Guillard went up against Waylon Lowe, and once again ESPN screwed up by cutting to a commercial just as the fight began, which meant that we didn’t get to see the first minute or so. Thankfully we saw enough of Guillard’s good performance as he defended well against Lowe’s take down attempts, with a knee to the mid-section as Lowe went for another take down ending the fighting, giving Guillard the good looking TKO win.
The penultimate fight of the show saw Michael Bisping taking on Dan Miller. Bisping’s pain began before the fight even started when the cut man accidentally poked him in the eye while applying Vaseline before he went into the cage. The Count had recovered by the time the fight began as he put on a great striking display. Miller had his moments, but his take down in the third round may have been too little too late as Bisping easily escaped. Once again the judges were called upon to render a decision, with Bisping getting all of the votes.
The main event was the fight that everyone wanted to see, the light heavyweight clash between Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “Sugar” Rashad Evans. This fight certainly lived up to all the hype. Just seconds into the first round Evans rocked Rampage with a big right, and this momentum helped Evans take the first two rounds with his take downs and superior speed. Rampage’s moment of glory came early in the third when he rocked Evans with a great combination, followed by a brief period of ground and pound. Evans managed to recover, mainly because Jackson allowed him to, failing to go in for the kill after Evans managed to get back to his feet. He soon reasserted control, scoring with two impressive take downs. The judges were called upon for the final time as they gave the unanimous decision to Evans, and rightfully so, because apart from a few fleeting moments this fight clearly belonged to Evans.
In conclusion – once again the UFC delivered. This was a night full of decisions for the main fights, showing that we don’t have to have a night full of quick submissions or explosive knockouts to have an enjoyable show. As for Rashad Evans and Rampage Jackson, I pity the fool who says we won’t see these two against each other again.
Now if we can just get ESPN to sort out this problem with the commercials!