It was one of the most anticipated fights of the year as Cain Velasquez challenged Brock Lesnar for the Heavyweight title at UFC 121, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on ESPN here in Britain.
The broadcast began with the preliminary fights as Patrick Cote faced Tom Lawlor in the middleweight division.
This was a great way to open the show. Lawlor dominated as soon as the fight went to the ground in the first. Cote just didn’t seem to have any answer to Lawlor’s ground game, and he would probably have succumbed to Lawlor’s arm triangle had he not used the cage to escape.
All three judges gave everything to Lawlor, just reward for his outstanding efforts.
The middleweight action continued as Court McGee faced Ryan Jensen.
The proverbial game of two halves saw Jensen take control early on with some crisp striking, but as the fight progressed McGee took control, first in the striking department and then on the ground from the end of the second.
The end came in the third round. After McGee took the visibly tiring Jensen down he unleashed with the ground and pound before locking in an arm triangle for the impressive submission win.
Filler material in the form of the welterweight clash between Mike Guymon and Daniel Roberts followed.
Lasting just over a minute, Roberts went for a standing guillotine after a flurry of punches. He quickly modified the hold into an anaconda choke, with Guymon having no choice but to tap.
The main show began with heavyweight action as Brendan Schaub took on Gabriel Gonzaga.
Gonzaga looked the shadow of the man who took Cro Cop out a few years ago. Schaub had the beating of him early on with his superior striking, and the Brazilian just didn’t seem to have the answer to Schaub’s game plan.
All three judges gave the fight to Schaub. No surprises there, although you have to wonder what’s left for Gonzaga.
Then it was down to the light heavyweight division as Tito Ortiz went up against Matt Hammill.
Ortiz came into this fight needing to make a big statement after his loss to Forest Griffin and his recent health issues, and even though he came forward with punches and kicks early it wasn’t long before Hammill took control.
It was an impressive display from Hammill as he beat Ortiz in the striking department and on the ground, the fight ending with Hammill unleashing with the ground and pound as the horn sounded.
Once again the judges were called into action, with Hammill getting the unanimous decision. An excellent display, but I find myself asking that question again. What’s left for Ortiz?
Welterweight action in the form of Diego Sanchez against Paulo Thiago followed.
Sanchez was another fighter looking to make a big statement. He succeeded.
Thiago looked good early on as he went for a d’arce choke in the first round. But the big moment came in the second when Sanchez lifted Thiago into the air and roared as loud as he could when he slammed him to the mat.
From there it was all Sanchez as he put on a great display of ground work. Thiago went for another d’arce choke, but by that time he was exhausted, and easy prey to Sanchez’s ground and pound as the fight came to an end.
Yet more work for the judges, who once again gave a unanimous decision, this time in favour of the highly impressive Sanchez.
Yet more welterweight action followed as the debuting Jake Shields faced off against Martin Kampmann.
Everyone thought that the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion would have an easy time here. Kampmann obviously hadn’t read the script.
Shields put in some excellent ground work in the early stages, and although he looked on top Kampmann was able to keep up with him.
But as the third round began Shields looked spent, with Kampmann taking control, until Shields managed to reassert himself as the fight came to an end.
There was even more work for the judges as Shields took the split decision. His performance may have been enough to get him the win but he may be in the wrong weight division here.
The main event saw Brock Lesnar defending the Heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez.
This definitely lived up to all the hype, and then some. Lesnar took Velasquez down a couple of times, but the challenger was able to easily get to his feet. It was then that Velasquez took control, and when he managed to take Lesnar’s back it was the beginning of the end.
Velasquez’s striking was top notch, and as Lesnar’s energy levels went down to zero Velasquez unleashed with a torrent of blows which the champion had no answer to, and as the first round entered it’s final minute the referee wisely stepped in to give Velasquez the title winning TKO win.
With some time to kill more filler material followed, beginning with more heavyweight action between Jon Madsen and Gilbert Yvel.
A lengthy feeling out period at the beginning of this one before Madsen suddenly exploded into action with a massive take down. Seconds later he had the win, with Yvel unable to respond to his ground and pound.
The broadcast rounded out with another showing of the Guymon/Roberts fight.
In conclusion – having been slightly disappointed with last week’s effort, UFC 121 more than made up for that.
Every fight delivered, especially the main event, although I’m left to wonder what’s left in the career of a couple of the fighters, especially Tito Ortiz. The man is a true legend, and a definite Hall of Fame candidate, but the MMA world seems to be passing him by.
As for Jake Shields, I have to admit I was surprised that he was fighting in the welterweight division. He may have earned a shot at either Josh Koscheck or Georges St-Pierre, but he may be in the wrong weight class.
In all this was a good show, which means that Dana White and his crew have regained the full thumbs up from this particular writer.