Michael Farrow's sports blog

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…on UFC 70 vs. Cage Rage 21… again

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Without a win in two years, Tank Abbott was Bob Sapp's late replacement for Cage Rage 21

It was a massive weekend of MMA in the UK. Two mainstream MMA shows; one was hit a despite its flaws, the other missed because of them.

UFC 70

I attended UFC 70 on Saturday, my first ever UFC show. The last time UFC were in the UK, I was still a poor university student and watched the show on pay-per-view with my friend. This time, just a few metres away from the Octagon, I had a great view of the action. As per usual, the show will be dissected every which way but loose so I thought I’d just bring a few thoughts on the show as I saw it live.

The undercard was probably more enjoyable than the main card. “Home” fighters were well-received and did well, winning three of four. Paul Taylor looked rusty at time but won a convincing TKO over Edilberto de Oliveira. Jess Liaudin made the PPV cut of the show, with his first round armbar victory over Dennis Siver. Finally, Terry Etim made the Spike TV cut with his victory over Matt Grice. At the time, I was extremely unhappy with Steve Mazzagatti as Grice looked to be unconscious in the standing guillotine choke and slipped out of it due to Etim loosening the choke. It featured one of two unfair standups that changed the course of their respective matches, the other being the standup of Gabriel Gonzaga in his match with Mirko Cro Cop, though things worked out better for Gonzaga than they did for Grice.

David Lee let the side down by losing and, if I’m honest, he looked overly-cocky, too aloof and outclassed. It’s bizarre that his public persona can rub people up the wrong way but, personally, he seems humble and quite charismatic.

Dana White said it best when he said that too many people failed to pull the trigger. The worst offender by far was Lyoto Machida, who toyed with David Heath for two-and-a-half dire rounds before bursting intermittently into life in the second half of the final stanza. Lyoto is an odd fighter and somewhat reminds me of British light welterweight boxer and WBC champion Junior Witter. Both have awkward styles that usually succeed in making their opponent look terrible more than making themselves look good. They both use their awkwardness to fight cagily and both are undoubtedly talented strikers when they let themselves be. That was what made the fight so frustrating; Machida could easily have stopped it, if only he’d tried.

Watching the recording of the event back, the level of support for Michael Bisping did not come across as much as it did being there. I’ve seldom been moved to jump out of my seat for anything but Bisping’s win was greeted with the loss of my seat and a massive cheer. It seemed that many followed suit.

It can’t be my imagination but Andrei Arlovski is really boring now, right? He was just horrible and Fabricio Werdum let himself down when Arlovski was right there for the taking.

I’ve read many things said about the main event but one thing I haven’t read is the level of shock in the building. Some cheered and clapped Gonzaga but, overwhelming, the shock in the building was palpable. People stood, distant looks upon their faces, hands over mouths, as though somebody had just shockingly died. It was a strange, surreal end to the evening.

Hopefully, I will be there in Belfast, the first time I will have graced the Emerald Isle. Hopefully, more fighters will leave it all in the Octagon this time. Still, despite the flaws of the show, the spectacle was a massive hit with those in attendance and nobody seemed disappointed when they left.

Cage Rage 21

Cage Rage finally arrived live on Sky Sports this weekend, providing us with the top five matches on their much-talked-about bill.

In the main event, Tank Abbott, a very late replacement for Bob “the Beast” Sapp, faced former K-1 fighter Gary Turner. Neither man screamed pure athlete but with extensive striking reputations on both sides, a brawl looked on the cards and it proved to be so. Tank floored Turner with the first punch that connected and then went to work with a torrent of punches, trying to win the bout early. Turner found his way back to the clinch, landing some weak knees to the stomach but Tank took the fight to the ground. Seemingly already gassed after less than two minutes, Tank went for a heel hook but, with no strength, Turner quickly shook off the hold and made it back to his feet. Less than fifty seconds later, it was all over. Abbott tried another takedown but his lack of conditioning saw Turner take his back and then fall into full mount, from which Turner landed blow after blow to win the match by a stoppage. Considering he had two days to prepare, Tank did himself proud and earned his money, even drinking a post-match beer in the cage.

Vitor Belfort won a first round, ground and pound victory over Ivan Zerati. Winning the standup battle, Vitor took the fight to the ground, changing angles and pounding Zerati. Passing the guard, Vitor found himself in the mount and then took Zerati’s back. Not looking for the choke, Vitor managed to rain down hammerfists and punches, leading to a TKO late in the first round.

James Zikic came back from a dreadful first round to Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos to win the vacant Cage Rage World Light Heavyweight title, vacated earlier in the year by Melvin Manhoef. Zikic, who entered the ring to a Christian soft-rock tune, returned from a near-three year absence from MMA and looked considerably lighter than the Chute Boxe fighter. Cyborg took the fight to Zikic early, throwing strikes and pushing Zikic into the fence. With Zikic looking tentative, Cyborg landed leg kick after leg kick and peppered Zikic with kicks, knees and punches. However, something clicked with Zikic and he started to use his boxing skills in the second round, getting on the front foot and landing some bombs, to which the crowd responded. However, his left thigh was purple from the punishment it had taken.

The third round followed in the same vein. With the ring rust seemingly all gone, Zikic continued to use great boxing but Cyborg kept landing leg kicks. With both men gassed and Zikic barely mobile, the pace slowed and neither man could finish. However, they showed heart and hung in there. When Zikic got the victory by majority decision, the crowd cheered for their hometown fighter. With the news that Melvin Manhoef could work around his HERO’s commitments to return to Cage Rage and with Vitor Belfort on the scene, they could have one more very credible light heavyweight title fight before the end of the year.

I cannot admit to being a K-1 fan but Michael McDonald and James McSweeney provided an entertaining scrap. McSweeney used his size advantage and punished McDonald with knees in the first round, scoring two knockdowns. In the second and third, McSweeney gassed and his urgency seemed to ebb away,due to the energy expended in the first round. McDonald started to show the fast hands that brought him two K-1 North American Grand Prix victories. However, the dominant first round saw McSweeney through to a victory in a well-received bout.

In a disappointing opening bout, Alex Reid and Murilo “Ninja” Rua contested one of the most bizarre matches I’ve ever seen. In the midst of a Reid leg kick, Ninja move his leg and the fighters clashed shins. Reid’s shin was deeply lacerated and began to pour with blood, leading to a stoppage on the advice of the ringside doctor.

There was an element of disjointedness about proceedings. Many blamed teething problems but the real problem was that the show looked very cheap. Cage Rage need to be quintessentially British sure, but their current style skews a little too much toward Guy Ritchie-gangster and away from real sport. I expected that, as this was a live d├ębut, that they would change elements. Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer looked out of place and the lack of organisation in general made it all the worse. For instance, at no point were the commentators introduced and the commentators did not set the scene for the match as the fighters came down to the ring. There was no explanation of the rules of Cage Rage or of K-1, which were in operation for the cage kickboxing bout between Michael McDonald and James McSweeney. If you’re going live on Sky, you should look as though you belong there and this show did not.

Maybe it is time to get Sky to present the show. Cage Rage should keep some control over the way the show looks and sounds, yes, but professionals are needed to take the presentation of Cage Rage forward as it is one of the major things that stops them from looking like a serious promotion right now. Just because of the shabby way, on TV, this was a miss.


Written by Michael Farrow

April 24, 2007 at 11:11 pm

Posted in MMA

Tagged with , ,

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