So the UFC’s first event on Versus is now in the books. There was a lot of anticipation leading up to this event, and it did have it’s moments, but overall I don’t feel it went as well as everyone had hoped it would.
A lot of the problems were beyond anyone’s control. Certain cards seem to be beacons for accidents and injuries – the infamous UFC: Fight For The Troops for instance – and this was certainly one of them.
For instance In the prelims Duane Ludwig broke his ankle after falling awkwardly, while on the main card Paul Buentello dislocated his finger (though thankfully it was put back into place to allow the fight to continue) and Brandon Vera is reported to have broken his face in three places. Elsewhere there were awkward pauses in the action as James Irvin got tagged with a fist in the eye, Buentello bore the brunt of an illegal knee from Cheick Kongo, and Jon Jones took an illegal upkick to the chin fromVera.
With much of this playing out on the main televised portion of the card it left a disjointed feel to the event that was unfortunately accented by Versus cramming in advert breaks at every opportunity, while there were also less than exciting interviews with Shane Carwin and GSP to wade through between fights.
All of this mean that there was little room for prelims to be shown (aside from Howard – Roberts which was a welcome addition to the show) which is unfortunate as there was some good action there which would have helped the pacing of the show tremendously had they been used.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though. Junior Dos Santos in particular stood out as he gave another demonstration of his jaw-dropping punching power that has helped ensure that the top end of the heavyweight division remains stacked. Jon Jones was another young up and coming star that made his mark on the proceedings, and on Vera’s head, in the main event of the evening. It’s likely we’ll be seeing both of these fighters for many years to come in the upper-reaches of their respective divisions.
Read on for a more detailed look back over the main fights on the card.
Jon Jones Picks Up The Biggest Win Of His Career To Date
Brandon Vera may have been the toughest opponent of Jon Jones short career, but he was still able to dispose of him within a single round to justify much of the hype that surrounds him.
Jones was clearly working to a game-plan from the opening bell as he avoided engaging with Vera on the feet, and instead looked to take the fight to the floor. He was successful almost immediately in that regard, though Vera was able to use his legs to push him off and stand up. It was not long before he was back on the deck however, and Jones began using his unusually long reach to his advantage, landing elbows from inside his opponents guard. Vera tried to fight back but landed an illegal up-kick to the jaw of his opponent which forced the referee to temporarily halt the fight and deduct a point from Vera.
After recovering from the blow Jones was allowed to restart from his advantageous position on the ground, and it wasn’t long before it paid dividends as he crashed a hard elbow towards Vera’s right eye-socket which forced the fighter to turtle up in obvious pain, leaving the referee with no option but to stop the fight as Jones rained down further strikes.
It was another strong performance by Jones who has now showed in his last two fights that his ground and pound on the mat is at least as dangerous as his unorthadox strikes on his feet. It wasn’t a flawless performance however, and his future opponents will no doubt take note of the potential for submission opportunities when Jones leaves his long limbs in danger while in top position.
It’s worth remembering that Jones is just 22 years old though, and only been fighting professionally since April of 2008, so every fight is a learning experience at this stage and he has plenty of time to learn. That unquestionably makes him one of the most exciting prospects in the sport today.
As for Vera, he is now 3-3 as a light-heavyweight and for the most part has failed to set the world alight with his performances in the division. He’s still a talented fighter and a handful for anyone, but in a talent-rich light-heavyweight division it seems the highest rungs of the ladder may continue to elude him.
Junior Dos Santos Chalks Up Another Quick KO Victory On His Resume
Much of the talk leading into this bout was focused on whether Gabe Gonzaga could test the ground skills of Junior Dos Santos, but coming out of the fight the attention shifted back once again to the devastating punching power of Dos Santos as he claimed another first round knockout victory.
The fight started slowly with both men mindful of the others power. The first real action saw Gonzaga tripping Dos Santos, but the Brazilian was quickly back to his feet. He then attempts a head kick, but misses, and Dos Santos fires back a high kick of his own that is blocked.
Gonzaga’s pre-fight game-plan was to use kicks and indeed he starts to utilize them more often as the round progresses, but it’s a strategy that’s doomed to failure as Dos Santos counters a leg-kick with a thunderous left hook that drops him. Capitalizing on the situation Dos Santos drops down a series of heavy left and rights that knock his opponent senseless as the referee steps in to call a halt to the fight.
The result takes Dos Santos unbeaten run in the UFC to five fights with only one lasting beyond the first round. Even more impressively they have all been worthy opponents. We’ve still yet to see his ground game, but there’s no doubt that in the striking realm he is a match for anyone in the division, and is now within touching distance of a title shot.
Gonzaga on the other hand will surely rue his decision to strike with Dos Santos, and after two KO losses in his last three fights he would be wise to re-connect with his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu skills at the earliest opportunity.
Cheick Kongo Changes Up His Strategy To Emerge Victorious Against Paul Buentello
On paper this had all the makings of a stand-up war but Cheick Kongo had other ideas and looked to exploit Paul Buentello’s weakness on the ground by utilizing his wrestling. It wasn’t a crowd-pleasing decision, but it proved to be a successful strategy as he was able to take his opponent down with ease and essentially neutralized any potential for Buentello to offer up an offensive threat.
The action was unfortunately marred by a number of unfortunate circumstances. In the first round Buentello appeared to dislocate his finger, but a doctor managed to put it back in place and the fight continued. In the second round Kongo caught Buentello with an illegal knee to the face while he was on the ground which caused him to be deducted a point. The same thing happened again later in the round, though no penalty was incurred on that occasion.
Thanks to this, along with Kongo’s ground and pound prolonged assault, Buentello entered into the final round looking a spent force. Kongo again took him down and began landing powerful elbows to his downed opponents thighs, and Buentello decided he could take no more punishment and submitted.
It wasn’t the fight people had come to see and it was very scrappy at times, but Kongo was clearly focused on getting the win to ensure he got his career back on track after two losses. It’s hard to blame him for that, and while the flaws in his game will prevent him from being a serious threat at the top of the division, his 8-4 record in the octagon means he’s still a solid mid-table fighter.
Alessio Sakara Claims A First Round Victory Over James Irvin
Still looking under-nourished after a rough first cut to 185lbs, James Irvin came off second-best in the early exchanges as Alessio Sakara appeared to find his range quickly, connecting with some 1-2 combinations, leg-kicks and occasional shot to the body. Mid-way through the round Irvin was caught with a left-hook which clearly hurt him, sending him retreating backwards while signaling to the referee that he was hurt.
At first it appeared it may have been an accidental poke in the eye, but replays show Sakara had his fist closed on impact, and the fight is eventually brought to a halt with Sakara earning the victory via TKO.
It was an unfortunate way for the fight to end, and not the outcome Irvin would have hoped for after a long absence from the octagon. I’m not sure the result would have been any different had the fight went on any longer however, and I hope that Irvin will now make a return to the light-heavyweight division rather than continue to make the cut to 185lbs in the future.
Sakara on the other hand is now three fights undefeated, the best run of form in his five year spell with the UFC.