Another great night thanks to the UFC. Due to work commitments, I was unable to attend the live weigh-ins. But since it is only a short journey by car to the O2 Arena in London, I was able to sleep in my own bed after the fights.
If you have never been to London or the O2 Arena, I would seriously consider it. The whole place is excellent—lots of things to do and fantastic bars and restaurants to eat in.
Upon entering the arena, I walked around cage-side to see who I could find and to get some pictures. I was surprised to find myself standing next to Rampage and his girlfriend. Now, he’s funny on TV and in his interviews, but he’s even more so in person. He posed with a lot of people, interacting with everyone—from slamming a couple of bold guys to having a little dance during the walk-in entrances and in-between fights. Sitting in my seat watching a six-foot-tall man in the brightest red shirt and shoes dancing kept me, and a lot of fans, entertained during the event.
I managed to get a picture with B.J. Penn and Cheick Kongo. Now, we all know how big Kongo is. Well, let me tell you this from experience, when this guy grabs you, you know it. Kongo must have been drinking the same juice as Rampage because he was messing around with everyone, taking people’s beer, etc. I posed for a picture with Kongo and put up the fist, which proved to be a big mistake. Kongo grabbed my arms and pulled me over the railings. What joy that was! Now I’m not a small man—I train a lot—but he pulled me around like a little baby. He’s a great guy, though. It was all in fun.
The highlight of the fights for me was meeting Georges St. Pierre. I am a huge St. Pierre fan and couldn’t believe when he walked in. The crowd went nuts, and everyone—and I mean everyone—wanted a piece of Georges. I even saw the event security try to get pictures with him a few times. Georges was a very nice guy, and getting to meet the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world made my night.
Now to the fights: I have just finished watching them again, and you guys on Spike and Setanta Sports did mange to see most of the bouts.
I was really excited to see Paul Kelly back in the UK. I’m a big fan of his and even more so now after this bout. He really controlled things from the opening bell. But Troy’s heart is huge, and he just wouldn’t give in. I guess training with B.J. Penn does that to you. Wherever the fight went—on the ground or standing up—was so exciting, even more so since Kelly had Rampage screaming in his corner at every moment. Kelly hit Troy with a wicked hook to the body, and I could hear Rampage call it first. Kelly showed so much heart.
If you didn’t see this one, you have to find it online because this was, for me, the fight of the night.
Mike Ciesnolevicz vs Neil Grove
This didn’t last very long at all. The fighters felt each other out for a few moments until they both managed to get a heel hook on each other. Ciesnolevicz just got his in faster, and it did look from where I was that he snapped Grove’s ankle. After a while on the mat, though, Grove managed to stand up.
A very good submission fight.
Evan Dunham defeats Per Eklund
I saw Per Eklund at UFC 89 in Birmingham and wasn’t really impressed then with his win, but I was expecting to see something good at the O2 Arena. Shame I didn’t. He went back and forth for a while with Evan Dunham until an outstanding knockout by the new guy.
I am thinking that Per could be next for the axe.
Junior dos Santos defeats Stefan Struve
Well, I’m not shy to say that I had no idea who Stefan Struve was. Until I saw him coming, I thought it was a misprint in the program that this dude is 6’11”. I do, however, know who Junior dos Santos is, coming off an amazing knockout of Werdum, which then saw him leave the UFC. I was really hoping that it wasn’t a fluke and that he could continue with his winning knockouts.
From the get-go, Stefan was really on the back foot. I never saw him once use his massive reach advantage or the leg kicks I expected. But dos Santos impressed me fully once again. He delivered some brutal head shots that rocked Stefan numerous times.
A very good stoppage in my eyes. I think that dos Santos could very well be the next big thing in the heavyweight division, along with Shane Carwin.
Terry Etim vs Brian Cobb
Again, I was really expecting big things from another British fighter Terry Etim, and he didn’t disappoint me one bit. At no time did he even look like he wouldn’t win the fight. He controlled on the ground when he needed to pull guard, and his leg kicks were out of this world. His striking has improved leaps and bounds since the Sam Stout fight (which I also attended live).
An outstanding leg kick to the head dropped Cobb early in the second round, followed by a few shots to ensure the fight was over.
I have to agree with Joe Rogan: Terry Etim did look like a 155-pound Anderson Silva. I’m really hoping to see his next fight against one of the top 10 at 155.
Paulo Thiago vs Josh Koscheck
I know that Koscheck loves to be booed, but he never really was until he was knocked out. I don’t believe for one minute that it was an early stoppage. You clearly see him go out once, if not twice—a very impressive knockout by Paulo.
Where does Koscheck go from here? Three fights in less than six months and it just doesn’t look like his consistency is there.
An okay fight. Nothing special, apart from a pretty good knockout.
Demian Maia vs Chael Sonnen
I was really looking forward to seeing Chael Sonnen back in the ring; I saw his last fight against Paulo Filho. Chael looked impressive to me. Demian is one of, if not the best BJJ guys in the UFC, and it showed. A very impressive triangle choke—he managed to sink it in very well. Not much else really happened in this one for me. Chael wanted to stand and Maia wanted to go to the ground. But I have to disagree with Maia. I don’t think he’s next in line for Anderson. For me, Hendo and Bisping will fight that one out. We shall see from there. Maybe Maia and Marquardt next to see who’s in the top five.
Nate Marquardt vs Wilson Gouveia
Now, I am a big fan of both of these guys. I have been really impressed with Wilson as of late, and even more so with Nate since his loss to Anderson. He really does look like a new man. This match was awesome—the back and forth strikes by both guys and the never-give-in of Wilson. He pushed Nate time and time again. Training and having Silva in your corner will do that to you, Wilson never looked tired and you could just see it in his eyes how badly he wanted it.
Nate’s superior striking lead him to the victory with an excellent jab followed by a huge knee that really rocked Wilson, before strikes in the corner ended the bout.
This one really showed the progression of Nate ‘The Great’ Marquardt.
Dan Hardy vs Rory Markham
This is the second time I’ve seen Dan Hardy live now, and I can’t say anything negative about the guy. Maybe his hair, but that’s another debate.
Hardy looked outstanding during this fight with an out-of-this-world knockout—a huge win for him after an excellent decision win back at UFC 89 against Gono.
Who’s next for Hardy at 170? I’d love to see him fight Martin Kampmann, but it might just be a little too early in his UFC career for that yet.
Diego Sanchez vs Joe Stevenson
Boy, was this a great fight. I know that most people saw this as the fight of the night, and it was a contender for me. What this didn’t have was the back-and-forth, non-stop action on the mat and standing like the Kelly–Troy fight.
I wasn’t to sure how Sanchez would handle the large weight cut—around 20 pounds. I am a big Stevenson fan and was rooting for him, but he disappointed me a little bit. I wanted to see the old Joe Daddy taking him down, ground and pound and submission. He’s an excellent wrestler, but I just think Diego is that little bit better as well as very strong on the floor, which really played in Joe’s mind I think. Not once did he really try to take him down, looking a bit predictable during the early round.
You could see both guys really wanted to entertain in the main event. Diego looked great in every position and maybe just squeaked out the win. I did think Joe got it and was disappointed for him to lose. That’s two in a row now, and I’m a little worried that he’s not improving and learning from his losses like Nate and GSP have.
All in all, this was a very good event. It’s just a shame we didn’t see Chuck and Anderson on the card. That was rumored at first since this was a free event in the US. I really think that’s the type of fight the UK needs.
We have had some really excellent and exciting bouts here, but I just want that “wow” card that will sell out one of our large football/soccer stadiums. I think Michael Bisping vs. Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight title would do it.
I hope the next UK-based event has those marquee-value names, but I’m sure of one thing: I’ll be there no matter what as I love to see the up-and-coming guys like I did tonight.
Until next time, take care.
Fight of the Night—Paul Kelly vs. Troy Mandaloniz
Submission of the Night—Demian Maia
Knockout of the Night—Dan Hardy & Paulo Thiago
Surprise of the Night—Paulo Thiago
Dancer of the Night—Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson & his red shoes