My god, what a card.
Tonight’s UFC 82 event was stacked, but it ended up being far better than I thought it would be.
JON FITCH D. CHRIS WILSON (DECISION): Wilson looked good and gave Fitch far more trouble than I thought he would, but Fitch did control most of the fight. Wilson slapped on a triangle choke with roughly 18 seconds left and tried to pull it tight, but Fitch survived to score the unanimous decision. Fitch secured himself a title shot at the winner of Georges St. Pierre/Matt Serra next month with this win, as well he should have: he’s won 15 fights in a row. A very good start to the show.
After the fight, we go to Joe Rogan in the crowd, who is interviewing new UFC Hall Of Famer Mark Coleman. Coleman drops a bombshell: he’ll be fighting Brock Lesnar in Minnesota in August. That’s a HUGE story. I don’t think Coleman stands a chance in hell against Lesnar; he’s 3-4 in his last 7 fights and my last memory of him was watching him get mauled by Fedor Emelianenko. Brock Lesnar isn’t Fedor, but he’s also way better than Mark Coleman, and my early prediction is a very, very quick fight with a TKO by Lesnar.
YUSHIN OKAMI D. EVAN TANNER (KO, 3:00 OF ROUND TWO): This was a far different Okami than I’m used to seeing. He was striking with pinpoint precision and a lot of power, and ended up knocking out the returning UFC vet with an absolutely perfect muay thai knee to the jaw. Okami followed up with a punch to the unconscious Tanner, but seemed to pull up short when he realized that Tanner was out cold. A very strong showing by Okami, and unless they are able to sign Matt Lindlan, he’ll probably get the next shot at Anderson Silva in a depleted middleweight division.
CHRIS LEBEN D. ALLESIO SAKARA (TKO, 3:16 OF ROUND ONE): These two men came out swinging wildly. Leben spent most of the fight eating punches with his face, but dropped the Italian with a big left hook. Leben followed up with several big shots, Sakara turtled up, and Leben landed several more unanswered shots before Herb Dean stepped in to stop the fight. This is why Chris Leben will always have a job: he wins some, he loses some, but he’ll always put on a great show. This was an awesome fight.
HEATH HERRING D. CHEICK KONGO (SPLIT DECISION): Herring was in the shape of his life for this fight. I’ve read several reports of people being bored by this bout, but I was highly entertained and would even come pretty close to saying it was the fight of the night. It was certainly far better than most people figured out would be. Kongo controlled the first round, showcasing a ground game that has improved by leaps and bounds since he first entered the UFC. I gave the second round to Herring, mostly because he was able to pull a lot of ground reversals on Kongo and hit the big Frenchman with about 25 unanswered knees to the ribs while in side control. The third round was more of the same, with Herring reversing everything Kongo threw at him on the ground and landing more knees to the body and elbows to the head. The judges ruled this a split decision, but I thought it was easily Herring’s fight because he won the second and third rounds. Kongo had more takedowns but couldn’t do anything with them and Herring pulled out some very nice reversals, so the takedowns really shouldn’t count for much. After the fight, Herring apologized to the crowd, saying that he thought Kongo was going to stand and bang with him and that he didn’t train at ALL on the ground for this fight. He sure looked like he did.
ANDERSON SILVA D. DAN HENDERSON (SUBMISSION, 4:52 OF THE 2ND ROUND): There was a very long feeling out process in the first round, but Henderson eventually took Silva down and hit him with a bunch of hammerfists to the side of the head. A lot of those hammerfists came very close to the back of the head, and I was surprised (especially given how quick Steve Mazzagati stood up Lesnar and Mir at the last PPV) that they didn’t stand them up. The second round was a pure clinic from Anderson Silva, who struck with precision and then dropped Henderson with a crunching muay thai knee to the face. Silva tried to finish Henderson, but Dan recovered enough to tie Silva up. Silva took Henderson’s back far too easily, got his hooks in, flattened Henderson out, and sunk in a perfect rear naked choke. Henderson tried to hold on for the 8 seconds left in the round, but realized he wasn’t going to make it and tapped out.
There shouldn’t be anyone left in the entire world who doesn’t believe that Anderson Silva is the best pound for pound fighter in the world. After being controlled for the entire first round and in a small amount of danger, he endured and came back in the second round in vintage Silva fashion, schooling Henderson in striking, wrestling and submissions. This dude is scary as hell, and there is NO ONE currently in the middleweight division who will beat him. Unless the UFC can sign Matt Lindland, there are literally no challengers left for Silva in the division, and his best bet for challengers is to move up to light heavyweight. Yushin Okami will likely get the next title shot, and that’s not even going to be a real fight. Moving to light heavyweight would be easy for him, because he walks around at about 210 pounds and probably fought tonight at 200 pounds. He’ll have a ton of opponents ready-made for huge fights, too. Chuck Liddell is the first that comes to mind, but there’s also Shogun Rua, Wanderlei Silva, and Rampage Jackson, all of whom would draw gigantic buyrates with Silva in a main event.
They replayed the Koschek/Hazelett fight from the pre-show card. I usually don’t talk about the swing bouts, but the finish to this fight was SO PERFECT that I have to mention it. These dudes beat the living crap out of each other for a round and a half, and then Koschek hit what appeared to be a flying kick to the head that knocked Hazelett to the ground. Kos then scrambled very, very fast to Hazelett’s position and drilled him with a few shots to the face before the ref stopped it. It was an AWESOME fight and an amazing finish.
This was one of the best overall UFC events I can remember seeing. I usually don’t do this, but this card was so strong that I recommend buying the DVD when they release it.
I’ll have the March edition of my UFC Rankings up on Monday or Tuesday. I suspect there will be quite a bit of movement, so stay tuned for that.