Gary Ward & Dana White at UFC 93Editor’s Note: This post was written by Gary Ward. Gary attends the live UFC events in the UK/Europe, and will be sharing his experiences with the readers of this site. Thanks Gary.

Greetings from Cambridge, England.

After an amazing five days in Ireland for UFC 93, I have to say that Dublin blew me away.

This is my fourth live event in the past year, having been to all UK based UFC events in 2008, and I must say the atmosphere was out of this world, second only to UFC 85 for one simple reason, Michael Bisping.

Having landed in Dublin on Thursday, I was interested to see how well the Irish would take to their first event in the newly refurbished 02 Arena, and they didn’t disappoint one bit, easily selling out the arena in less than four days.

During the weigh-ins, we were entertained by the UFC 93 Countdown show which put Mark Coleman over as a bit of an angry old man. I didn’t think anything of it until every time his face appeared on the screen, boos echoed from various parts of the packed arena. It was great to see all the fighters make weight with both Marcus Davis and Dublin’s own Tom Egan receiving huge ovations.

Michael Bisping was greeted by a huge cheer when he took a seat with the fans during the weigh-ins. Crowds formed very quickly, but I was lucky enough to get a quick picture with The Count. Bisping stayed for well over 30 minutes and made sure most fans got a picture or a signature, a very nice guy indeed.

If you have never been to a UFC weigh-in event, they are pretty good. I was impressed with the overall format of the live event, and was even able to see the fighters behind parts of the curtains warming up before they came out.

On my way back to the hotel, which was across the river, I was shocked to find mini-vans full of UFC fighters and personnel. I found myself talking to a surprisingly short Mark Coleman. After speaking to a lot of the guys and taking a lot of pictures, I still found myself shocked of how outgoing and easy minded these fighters were just days before their fights. Marcus Davis was easily the most sought after fighter. He was happy to do anything for the fans, and even handed out a Cage Fighter shirt and signed programs and hats.

On a sad note, I noticed a blacked out Zuffa van that I believed had a few UFC fighters in it, but it soon turned away after seeing a large crowd outside the hotel.

Fight Night

Alistair Overeem and Gary Ward at UFC 93As we entered the arena, you could tell that people were blown away by the impressive views from every seat in the house. Cageside was easily accessible unlike any other UFC event I have attended. I left my poor girlfriend alone for well over an hour speaking to fans and the UFC crew, and met Stitch, Mike Goldberg, Bruce Buffer, Mike Goldberg’s wife, Joe Silva and Eddie Bravo.

I also managed to speak to Dana White. I’ve read a lot bout Dana on the internet and in Tito Ortiz book, and wanted to see for myself what Dana was all about. And I have to say Dana is one the nicest guys I have been able to speak to. He was happy to speak to me for 5-10 minutes while taking pictures with fans, and thanking us for our support.

On a side note, I was also able to speak to Alistair Overeem. Now, let me tell you this guy is HUGE. I was shocked by how he dwarfed everyone around him. Whatever he’s been doing, it’s working because his muscle mass is off the chart. I managed to ask Alistair if he’s coming to the UFC, and he simply looked and smiled. Take that as you like, but seeing him in the crowd with Dana White, and then backstage, I think you’ll be seeing Alistair Overeem in the UFC in 2009, and if we do, Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem sounds pretty damn good to me.

Dennis Siver defeats Nate Mohr via TKO (Strikes) in Round Three

A very impressive undercard fight. This went back and forth for a round, but Dennis Siver really impressed me. Both fighters got huge cheers from the Irish crowd, which really added to an excellent fight.

John Hathaway defeats Tom Egan via TKO (Strikes) in Round One

As we say, someone has to go, and boy did it for poor hometown hero Tom Egan. He came out to one the loudest ovations I’ve heard since Michael Bisping’s last fight. Hathaway got a hostile reception since he was Tom’s opponent. Egan looked a bit nervous to me and was dominated from the start. Hathaway controlled the fight on the ground and on the feet. I’ve heard a lot about Hathaway, and he really impressed me with this win.

Eric Schafer defeats Antonio Mendes via TKO (Strikes) in Round One

Eric Schafer was very impressive against Antonio Mendes, who has won 11 of his last 12 MMA fights. Schafer controlled the fight on the ground after an excellent takedown. I felt that Mendes took a lot of punishment and never gave in, a true warrior’s effort, and thus the crowd really took to this fight.

Schafer looks in great shape now in the UFC after this dominating victory and a huge win over Houston Alexander back in September.

Martin Kampmann defeats Alexandre Barros via TKO (Strikes) in Round Two

I was personally really excited about seeing Martin Kampmann at welterweight, and he didn’t disappoint. After a rough start, Barros looked huge and was taking it to Martin till Kampmann’s sheer class took over. The cut didn’t seem to brother him, and he certainly didn’t gas.

Watch out for Kampmann at 170lbs this year.

Marcus Davis defeats Chris Lytle via Split Decision

The first fight on the live card, and it didn’t disappoint. After speaking to both Davis and Lytle the day before at the hotel, it was apparent they really wanted to put on a great fight for the fans.

Davis shined after a shaky start, which saw him knocked down and nearly out from where I was. He was getting beat up till the Irish fans gave him that extra 10% he needed. The crowd was out of this world with support for Marcus, and that showed in the post fight interview which saw him in tears.

The fight lived up to the hype as slugfest as neither man took it the ground. Both wanted to get the “Knockout of the Night” and “Fight of the Night” awards. I scored it 29-28 Lytle and was a little surprised to see Davis win. A few people around me agreed.

It’s not a “Fight of the Year” contender, but definitely a good choice for “Fight of the Night.”

Alan Belcher defeats Denis Kang via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round Two

I was really excited to see Denis Kang’s UFC debut, and felt that he was going to walk right though Belcher. Boy was I wrong. Kang looked nervous like many have making their UFC debuts. He never seemed comfortable in the cage at any point during the fight, and never looked like he was going to finish Belcher.

Belcher’s “never say quit” attitude pulled him though this fight, and was able to secure an excellent guiliotine choke in the second round. I was really disappointed with Kang but am hopeful for a great come back fight.

On a side note, Belcher’s confidence may have got the best of him when he said he may be ready to fight Anderson Silva for the belt. I doubt he would last a round with Silva, He needs a at least 2-3 more fights against top middleweights.

Rousimar Palhares defeats Jeremy Horn via Unanimous Decision

From my perspective in the arena, the Irish were not big fans of BJJ, and this was always going to be a ground war between two excellent BJJ fighters.

Palhares strength was out of this world. Watching him pick Horn up and slam him to the ground twice was amazing.

I did think that Palhares was going to take him down with ease, and win with a quick submission, but he never came close to the latter. Horn isn’t going anywhere in the division, but he gained a lot of respect after this hard-fought fight.

It was shocking to me to hear that Palhares broke his hand in the first round, and yet he continued to throw Horn around with little effort.

Palhares was very impressive, but with two working hands I think he would have finished him.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua defeats Mark Coleman via TKO (Strikes) in Round Three

Wow, this was a war. I was really impressed with both Coleman and Rua’s heart and warrior’s sprit. Some thought Coleman’s takedown and punching power in the first 30 seconds meant the old Coleman was back. I really felt that Shogun was more in control on the feet, and Coleman controlled the most of the action on the ground. After a quick 2-3 minutes both men’s cardio went out the window, and maybe Coleman cut too early in his return.

Shogun stand-up was very impressive in the latter parts of the fight with excellent leg kicks to the head and knees to the body, while also knocking Coleman down and maybe out in the last minute.

I would have to say that if Shogun was fighting Chuck like what was booked for UFC 85 in London, and gassed this hard, he would have been finished in one round, but he survived against an aging Coleman.

Coleman had very little left in the early stages of the second round, and the old ground and pound we used to see was never there. At times Coleman looked like he just wanted out, taking shot after shot to his face. At times I thought Coleman was out, but his warrior spirit kept him going, and it eventually he won over the crowd because of it.

Shogun ended the fight with strikes in the third, and after the ref stopped the fight, it appeared Coleman was out. He didn’t take it well though, and tried to go after the ref following the stoppage.

Dan Henderson defeats Rich Franklin via Split Decision

Both got amazing receptions, which really added to an interesting fight. The first round saw them both go toe-to-toe until Hendo took Rich down, which was expected due to his excellent wrestling. During the first round, Hendo controlled Rich on the floor and in most the stand-up.

Hendo’s excellent wrestling and ever improving stand-up was enough for him to take the first two rounds.

Franklin came back in third, but it wasn’t enough. Rich was clearly upset with the decision.

Performance of the night – Marcus Davis & Chris Lytle, John Hathaway
Worst Performance of the night – Dennis Kang & Ivan Serati
Ovation of the night – Tom Egan & Marcus Davis.
Surprise of the night – Jeremy Horn