This, my good readers, is a review of UFC 100; a landmark event in this sporting organisation's sixteen year history. The UFC, for those of you unfamiliar with the greatest sport ever invented, stands for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ah ok, but what is the UFC exactly? It's an organisation which, in 1993, offered sportsfans across the globe:
“The sport of the future........today”
It's a mixed martial arts competition that pits two men, mano-e-mano, against one another in a full contact combat situation (no weapons allowed!). The UFC was originally a very different beast to the incarnation which you have probably seen on television over the last couple of years. It was, to say the least, completely brutal. There were no rules, no time limits, no rounds and the referee could not actually stop the fight; only a knock out would end the match. Groin strikes, head butts and slams (in fact everything but fish hooking and eye gouging), were given the green light. In the early days of UFC competition, the tournament was not based around a series of single, isolated fights as it is today but rather involved a sixteen man knockout style tournament. In this gruelling style of competition, the victor would fight all of his matches in one night. In one my favourite events, 'UFC 8' (titled “David and Goliath”), impossibly enormous men (6'8” 140kgs), who aimed to rip their opponents' heads clean off, faced off against fighters who were only half their size. This was highly exciting and entertaining to say the least but it ultimately led to many of the fighters not making it to the second round of competition, as they were too beat-up, tired, or emotionally destroyed to continue. What this style of tournament highlighted, back in the day, was the immense skill and tenacity of some of the competitors and this is what really attracted me to the sport.
A prime example is one man who made Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a household name, Royce Gracie. Royce had quite a slight build, and it looked like some of his competitors (6'5" kickboxers and the like) were going to rip him a new a-hole, but the result was actually something new and inspirational. The smaller man won by using technique and leverage; which wins out every time if used correctly, regardless of your opponents size or strength. Everyone sat up and took notice of these foreign techniques and since then the sport has evolved, along with the fighters, with some genuine superstars emerging over the years (you know who your favourites are!). The earlier events resembled Tekken, with “kickboxing vs. Kung-fu” type bouts taking place. It quickly transpired that if you didn't at least learn a little bit about the ground game (which was a black art in the early days), your opponent would simply take you to a place where you were uncomfortable and then beat you.
With the fights taking place in an octagon shaped cage and lasting for three five minute rounds (five five minute rounds for Championship fights), there is not a whole lot to know about the sport with regards to the concept. “Two men enter, one man leaves”, to quote a Mel Gibson favourite, pretty much sums it up! The fighters can win by knockout, submission (basically the other guy taps and gives up) or referee stoppage (if the ref feels one guy has had enough). However, the UFC in its current incarnation (it has evolved over the years and has adopted the Nevada State Gaming Commission's rules), is not a one dimensional slug fest. There are many disciplines involved but the three primary groundings for any good MMA fighter are striking, BJJ and wresting (and I mean Greco-Roman, not WWE nonsense). If a fighter is not practiced in at least two of these disciplines, his/her chances in the cage are somewhat limited. There are a few exceptions to the rule, such as Lyoto Machida (the current light-heavyweight champ, who primarily practises karate) but the majority of successful fighters have at least two of the aforementioned “base skills”. This is what makes this sport much more interesting than boxing, which is the closest commercially available sport to UFC. There's not just the fist to worry about; there's knees, elbows, feet, take-downs, submissions etc. It opens up the game, raising the excitement levels and also adds unpredictability to the outcome to the fight. Coupled with the fighters passion to win, the UFC offers a fresh alternative to the many popular sports currently available.
For example, take one of the absolute legends of the sport, Randy “The Natural” Couture. This man is forty six years old and is still fighting strong. Often facing off against much larger fighters who are half his age, Randy has surprised many over the years with his undying passion for competition and victory. This is what this sport is all about. The majority of these guys don't give a damn about the money or the fame (aside from Rampage Jackson!), it's the competition that they love and what drives them forward. The UFC currently has three long standing champions (Anderson Silva, BJ Penn and George St. Pierre), who have recently moved into different weight classes to find better fighters and increased levels of competition. This shows the dedication of the fighters to the sport, as they often have to cut 20 pounds (or more) to make their respective weigh-ins. I also love the sportsmanship and the honour of the sport, with both men always shaking hands and showing each other the proper respect, following fifteen or more minutes of pounding the living hell out of one another!
Well that's enough of my passionate warbling; let's get on to the main event.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are live!”
'UFC 100' took place in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of this year (2009). The card was an exciting one, with two championship events. The three main fights on the card (which was expertly put together by match maker supreme, Joe Silva), also had some interesting back story and animosity. The inclusion of Mark Coleman, one of the original UFC fighters was a nice touch; it was only a shame that this fight did not make it onto the main card. This fight, along with 5 other unaired bouts, is thankfully available as an additional supplement on this BD release. As is the norm with the UFC, the presentation is polished and the commentary from Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg is of the highest standard, and both, as always, are very knowledgeable on the fighters and what's taking place in the octagon. All of the filler which you would usually see on broadcast UFC events has been edited on this release, making the entire presentation very slick indeed. Only the top three fights have the “stare down” and “fighter walk-ins” included. The fighters do get their own mini-introductions, with some background information, so you get a feel for who they are and where they've come from.
Please note that a brief description of all aired fights is included in the next five paragraphs. I have tried not to give any of the results away but if you have not seen this event then you may wish to skip this section to avoid disappointment.
Alan Belcher Vs. Yoshiro Akiyama - Judo blackbelt, singer and actor, Akiyama, has enjoyed an unbeaten record lasting four years and is well known to the hardcore MMA fans. Here he takes on Belcher, one of the rising stars of the UFC, who has shown promise but has had a bumpy ride in the UFC in recent years. This middle weight bout is an exciting one, with both strikers exchanging plenty of blows (with Belcher throwing some highly inventive strikes). This one goes the distance, with a decision victory grated to the victor; a horribly inaccurate decision in my opinion.
John Fitch Vs. Paulo Thiago - Fitch has really excelled in recent years, having won sixteen of his last seventeen fights. His only loss was to the current welter weight champion, George St. Pierre, in what was a failed attempt to take the title from the seemingly invincible Canadian. Fitch is very well rounded and is one of hardest workers in the UFC. He faces off here against Thiago, an absolute monster on the ground, a skill he backs up with some vicious striking. With two such highly skilled BJJ practitioners, this is largely a ground based match. Educated fight fans will appreciate the technical battle which ensues on the mat but newcomers may find this one a bit ho-hum. This one goes the distance, with a unanimous decision for the victor.
Dan Henderson Vs. Michael Bisping - In this, the first of the three headlining fights, Henderson and Bisping face off, following their stint as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter reality television show (in a light heavyweight bout). Animosity had built up between the two during filming of TUF, with Bisping's cockiness getting under the skin of the docile Henderson. As one the fastest rising stars of the UFC, I believe that Bisping was thrown into the deep end far too early in his career. This is largely a factor of Dana White's desperation to bring the UFC to the UK. Bisping has shown a rapid increase in his skill set over the past couple of years but here he faces off against one of the most seasoned MMA veterans on the planet. Former Olympic wrestler and with a right hand like a jackhammer, Henderson's knock out portfolio contains a who's who of MMA. The fight is exciting none the less, with one fighter stalking the other, until one of the most brutal knockouts I have seen in recent years ends the fight in spectacular fashion. You want to see a definition of a “highlight reel knockout”; check this fight out!
Geroge St. Pierre Vs. Thiago Alves - Well what can I say about St. Pierre (GSP); the man is simply a legend. Naturally gifted with immense athletic ability (with an incredible 77% takedown record), GSP is fast becoming one the most dominant and versatile welter weights the UFC has ever seen and is, in my opinion, very close to taking the crown (for all time welter weight champion) from the great Matt Hughes. The man is so well versed in every aspect of the game that there are seemingly no chinks in his armour. Combined with a desire to become the greatest champion the UFC has ever seen, and some of the most intelligent game plans I have ever witnessed, opponents do not come much more dangerous than GSP. The same could be said for Alves, a huge welterweight (he walks around at 200lbs and this category has a weigh in of 170lbs!) with some devastating striking power. This one is an exciting bout but it's largely down to one fighter's ability to dominate, neutralise and control, which gains the victor a well deserved unanimous decision.
Brock Lesnar Vs. Frank Mir - This is it, the main event and last fight on the card. Lesnar, formerly a “fake wrestler” in the WWE, broke into the MMA world only three years ago but yet finds himself headlining this landmark event. Some hardcore MMA fans see this as a farce, as if Dana White brought in the loudmouthed and brash Lesnar to add some WWE pageantry to the UFC. The fact stands; Lesnar took out Heath Herring and Randy Coutre with relative ease. The man has beaten two of the most decorated and capable fighters the UFC has to offer and deserves to be where he is. A freak athlete, Lesnar is a man-monster (he has to get 4XL UFC gloves specially made for him!) with almost superhuman strength and agility. He can move very quickly for a man his size and he has diligently studied MMA over the past five years, increasing his already impressive skill set. Here he faces off, in a heavyweight bout, against one of my all time favourite fighters, Frank Mir. With some of the best BJJ in the game (he famously broke Tim Silvia's forearm) and the speed of a much smaller man, Mir is the former UFC heavyweight champion. A tragic motorcycle accident put his career on hold but Mir bounced back in last couple of fights with some impressive victories. He is in the best shape of his life for this match, with vastly improved stand-up, as demonstrated in his annihilation of Nogueria (another one of the most accomplished MMA fighters) at 'UFC 92'. These two faced off previously at 'UFC 81', with Mir cheekily pulling off a skilful knee-bar, much to the chagrin of Lesnar, who was, in my opinion, dominating the fight up until that point. This sequel is a savage grudge match, with these two enormous men facing off and intent on doing as much damage as possible. The fight itself is somewhat disappointing. One fighter completely controls the other, beats him up and forces a referee stoppage. A bit of an anti-climax to the event but a reasonable fight none the less. Lesnar's post fight behaviour was, however, a disgrace, and he needs to learn some respect before he becomes hated by MMA fans around the globe, irrespective of his undeniable talents.
There are many other MMA events available at the moment (Affliction, Strikeforce, Dream etc.) but for me, since the demise of the wonderful Pride organisation (a Japanese MMA event), the UFC is still the original and best. I only wonder how long the still fresh and virginal sport will last before money ruins it forever. I have faith that UFC president Dana White will keep the sport pure, as exemplified by the incredibly deep wealth of talent available in all weight categories, but he will not be there forever (and is already putting money before the fans; take the Fedor situation for example). Do some people still consider the sport to be a violent and brutal one, “Yes”. Do people refuse to watch it even when I try to force them to, “Yes”. But, when you get into this sport and actually realise that it's not all about two men punching each other for fifteen minutes solid, you begin to appreciate the art involved in the sport. You think that chess is a game of strategy?; you have not seen real strategy until you see someone like Fabricio Werdum, BJ Penn or George St. Pierre wear someone down on the ground and choke them out/pound them into submission. You want to see tactics, watch Anderson Silva, the best pound for pound fighter in the world right now (well, joint first with Fedor), pick someone apart with devastating and inventive accuracy. Trust me; if you need somewhere to begin watching this amazing sport, then this landmark event is a very good place to start. My only complaint is that this release did not include more aspects of the UFC's interesting history but overall it's well worth a watch.
George St. Pierre (to his trainer during his fight with Alves): “I've torn my groin”
Greg Jackson (his trainer): “I don't care George, I don't care.
This is where champions are made....you understand me?
That's ALL that matters right now.......HIT HIM with your groin!”
“As real as it gets”
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