Recapping UFC 127

Random thoughts not connected to any individual fight:

Great, knowledgeable crowd in Sydney. They were treated to Oceania going 3-2, though they were chagrined to see their best chance at a champion (Sotiropoulos) get handled and were in stunned silence as Gustafsson knocked off Te-Huna. Brittany Palmer was a big hit between rounds (most significant impact the WEC has had since the merger?). “Stitch” Duran made the trip. I wonder whether he makes more money at an event like this with twelve fights, many for which he was employed, or a high profile boxing event, with only five or six fights, max. Who wants to see us interview him and find out? Loved Dana White’s Tyson shirt at the weigh-ins.

Penn vs. Fitch

Summary: Penn is aggressive in the first, cuts Fitch in the second, and spends the entire third period getting pummeled by Fitch’s ground and pound. The judges score it 29-28 Fitch, 28-28, and 28-28 for a majority draw. Penn tells Rogan he thought he lost the fight. White later claims he thought Penn won and that those two judges who scored the third 10-8 for Fitch got it wrong.

What I saw: This fight lived up to the hype in terms of its competitiveness, though maybe it went quite a bit differently than anyone expected. After watching Penn spend 10 rounds trying to counterpunch against Edgar, to see him commit to a takedown off the opening bell against a bigger wrestler was foreseen by no one, least of all Fitch. Not only was this a new strategy, but it also showed that Penn at least had a strategy for this fight, as over the last few years it hasn’t been completely clear that Penn has given himself a plan for attack. Against most fighters, his natural boxing and BJJ skills are so superior that he can win by just going with the flow, but he clearly knew that he had to draw something up for Fitch, and it was heartening to see that he came up with such an effective plan. Unfortunately for him, Fitch’s relentless grinding finally broke through in the third, and that tipped the scorecards towards the draw.

The post-fight interviews were quite bizarre. Fitch seemed to think that he deserved a title shot after his performance, and Penn seemed convinced he had lost just because of a poor third round performance à la Jackson in Jackson v. Machida. In fact, a few hours later BJ referenced Rampage’s similar interview and said that he probably was blowing the third round out of proportion just because he was so upset to end a fight that way. A rematch makes a lot of sense, though I worry that Penn won’t be able to come up with any more surprises for Fitch.

Bisping vs. Rivera

Summary: Bisping is deducted a point in the first for an illegal knee to the head while Rivera was down. Bisping by TKO at 1:54 of round 2.

What I saw: I hated this fight. In the first round, we witnessed Bisping grab the fence to keep Rivera down and then later knee Rivera square in the head while he was on TWO knees. Then, while the doctors are checking Rivera out to decide if he could continue (which looked highly unlikely), Bisping encouraged the crowd to taunt Rivera back into the fight. I have no idea why the referee let it continue; for the record, if you ask a fighter if he can continue, he will always say “yes”. You have to see how he says yes, and in this case Rivera was wide-eyed and still looking wobbly. Sure, Bisping was deducted a point, but there was no way Rivera was going to last twelve more minutes after taking that illegal knee. That Bisping got in Rivera’s face at the end of the round after twice breaking the rules shows how weak of a fighter he really is. If you want to fight a dirty fight, then fine, but you shouldn’t expect to get to offered a title shot anytime soon after you demonstrate that you can’t win fair and square.

This brings up a whole other issue that I want to address in a future article. The whole practice of deducting a point for an illegal strike does not really make for a good fight. We frequently see fighters who know they’re in over their heads throw a low blow or an illegal knee, and while the fighter in the lead is now compromised, the fighter who was already on his way to a loss just gets deducted a point on a scorecard he wasn’t likely to win on anyway. Watch Escudero-Oliveira for a prime example of a suspicious low blow that nearly changed the outcome of the fight. When Oliveira came back in, Escudero pounced. While it was satisfying to see Oliveira subsequently finish Escudero (and his career in the UFC), most times things end like they did for Bisping-Rivera: with the cheater getting the stoppage.

Sotiropoulos vs. Siver

Summary: Siver knocks Sots down in the first several times, but never follows to force a TKO. Sots never scores a takedown or a knockdown. 29-28, 30-28, 30-27 all for Siver.

What I saw: I was certain Sotiropoulos would dominate this fight, but Siver executed a flawless game plan, and not one so gimmicky that he needed any luck to make it work. All Siver did was dominate while standing, as expected, and defend Sotiropoulos’s takedowns flawlessly. With Sots unable to knock Siver down with punches or complete any of his lunging takedown attempts, Siver cruised to a decision. After the dominance Sotiropoulos showed in his last few fights, Joe Silva picked the perfect man to test whether he belongs among the elite, and he was quite exposed. I’m curious to see what Silva comes up with next for each of these guys.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have doubted Siver so much. He has a compact, muscular frame. It’s hard to control a small, strongly built bucking man down to the ground (think of all the people it can take to pin down a nervous, medium-sized dog at the vet’s office). So long as he’s not fighting an elite-level wrestler, Siver has proven here he has the discipline to keep the fight standing, where few in the UFC are able to hang with him. Now I’m curious to see if he’d fare any better against the Guillard-Maynard-Edgar-Miller-Sherk types that were beating him up a few years ago. Besides, there’s nobody else left for him to fight in his division now that Florian is dropping to featherweight and Pettis is booked. He’ll need to prove himself against a wrestler to advance.

Lytle vs. Ebersole

Summary: Ebersole fashions his chest hair into an arrow pointing at his face. Wins 30-27, 29-28, 29-28. Fight of the night.

What I saw: This fight was by far the most entertaining fight of UFC 127, and it was made by Brian Ebersole. Claiming to fight a “veteran fighter” style (which included a bit of first round clowning) since he took the fight on short notice without being in top form, Ebersole started the fight by quite literally running away from exchanging strikes with Lytle, despite throwing a cartwheel kick to start the match. Ebersole is one of those former Eastern Illinois wrestlers (see Matt Hughes and Mike Russow, among others) who have broken into the UFC, and it was clear he didn’t expect to beat Lytle toe-to-toe in the first round. Ebersole secured a takedown but ended up right in a guillotine, which would become a common theme in the fight. Lytle must have had at least six guillotine attempts (I completely lost count after the three in the first round), but it never seemed to change Ebersole’s strategy or wear him down. Though Ebersole was a UFC newbie, with over 60 fights ensured that he knew what to do in every situation and never panicked.

The second round was much more serious, and eventually Ebersole dropped Lytle with a knee from which Lytle never really seemed to recover. Ebersole also ended every round on top in Lytle’s guard landing surprisingly effective shoulder strikes in that position. The only thing that took away from the victory for Ebersole (or took the sting off of the defeat for Lytle) is that Ebersole is a highly unorthodox fighter making his UFC debut after having many of his fights happen in obscurity. Lytle, on the other hand, has spent most of his career in the limelight (he fought in the UFC as far back as 2000) and was a pretty known quantity for Ebersole to pick apart. Fighting a guy making a debut is no easy task, especially for a veteran. Lytle shouldn’t have to hang his head after this performance, especially with reports coming out now that he had his meniscus removed 4 weeks before the fight.

One more item: Ebersole gives a great interview. Check out this one from after the fight where he explains the history of his chest hair art.

Noke vs. Camozzi

Summary: Noke wins by rear naked choke at 1:35 of round 1.

What I saw: Steve Irwin’s former bodyguard treats Camozzi like the stingray that got away. My gut tells me Noke slept well that night.

Pearson vs. Fisher

Summary: Pearson wins a back-and-forth battle of effective striking and score-minded takedowns, 30–27, 29–28, 29–28.

What I saw: After watching Pearson get wrecked by Cole Miller, I wasn’t expecting much from him here. Imagine my surprise as I watched him shooting and scoring with takedowns! Good for you, Ross! It’s also always nice to see two guys actively trying to win Fight of the Night.

And what of Spencer Fisher? In his UFC debut in 2005, he submitted Thiago Alves with a triangle choke. Now, he’s lost three of four, and now just lost to a guy who just lost to Cole Miller, who just lost to Matt Wiman. Despite the beautiful performance Wiman put on, he’s not considered one of the top five lightweights, and this loss puts Fisher several rungs below him on the lightweight ladder. It seems like he’s going to need to knock off some of the new WEC blood to justify his place on the UFC roster.

Te-Huna vs. Gustafsson

Summary: Gustafsson by rear naked choke at 4:27 of round 1.

What I saw: Gustafsson is still only 24 years old, has lost to only Phil Davis, and just beat an Australian in Sydney who was on a six-fight win streak after had him in side control 30 seconds into the fight. Throw in Gustafsson’s beating of Cyrille Diabaté (who had also won six in a row) in October, and we have the most exciting development out of Sweden since the debut of “Game, Set, and Mats”.

As for Te-Huna, he was full of piss and vinegar in the opening minute, but was slowing by two minutes in, and a fish by four minutes in. Either he burnt out due to enthusiasm or he needs to reevaluate his training.

Ring vs. Fukuda

Summary: Ring wins 29-28, 29-28, 29-28 despite being taken down many times by Fukuda. White says he will not respect the decision and continue Fukuda’s promotion in the company as though he won, even going so far as to pay him his win bonus.

What I saw: I thought Fukuda won. By a lot. As in, after the final bell, I went to the bathroom assuming there was no way he could lose the decision. I didn’t learn about the ridiculous decision until Sunday. I even told people late Saturday night that Fukuda had won impressively. I couldn’t agree with White’s decision more. Neither fighter did a lot of damage or dominated on the feet, so the win has to go to the takedown artist.

Fukuda is a Japanese champion wrestler and trains at AKA, so he’s getting the right kind of support. He’s even built like Koscheck with a long torso and short, trunky legs. I wonder, though, if he can make welterweight since Ring looked a lot bigger than him overall.

All I knew about Ring was from TUF 11, where he beat eventual champion Court McGee before his knee completely fell apart. Kudos to him for throwing some nice kicks during the fight and taking some nice leg kicks despite that injury. He looks to be fully recovered.

In the second round the crowd mysteriously booed a lot. I’m not sure what they wanted to see; they seemed very responsive to seeing the fights on the ground (loud cheers for almost all such moments except when Fitch was smothering Penn), but Fukuda and Ring were throwing punches and kicks throughout the entire fight. What more could you ask for? If there could have been a little more damage by either fighter, this would have definitely been a Fight of the Night candidate. It also didn’t help that after the ref put the fighters on their feet with 20 seconds left, Ring didn’t throw a single strike. Apparently he and the judges were the only people in the building who thought he had won.

Perosh vs. Blackledge

Summary: Perosh by rear naked choke at 2:45 of round 1.

What I saw: The RNC was in full effect in Sydney, and Perosh (making his light heavyweight debut) was just too much Australian for Blackledge. You’ve gotta love that these Facebook-broadcasted fights were a combined 3 minutes and 33 seconds. If you didn’t bother to “tune” in, you missed two dominant performances, but you also missed 56 minutes and 27 seconds of essentially dead air. A bit of a wash there, though Perosh’s celebrating with everyone in the arena was highly entertaining.

Zhang vs. Jason Reinhardt

Summary: Zhang by guillotine at 48 seconds of round 1.

What I saw: I loved Zhang here. A lot of times, fighters sink in a guillotine on a lazy takedown from their opponent, but Reinhardt was slightly bent over standing in front of Zhang, and Zhang just took the neck and ended the fight.

Hunt vs. Tuchscherer

Summary: Hunt by KO at 1:41 of round 2.

What I saw: The wait is over; Hunt is back in the hunt! Or at least he won’t get cut yet. Although Hunt’s record is underwhelming, he’s generally fought some very solid fighters. Tuchscherer, despite being 21-4, might be the worst fighter Hunt’s ever faced. And Hunt did exactly what you’re supposed to do to somebody who trains with Deathclutch: punch them in the face, then punch them in the face again, then keep punching them in the face until they crumble. The doctor almost had to stop the fight in the first due to a gash in Tuchscherer’s eyelid, but this still worked to Hunt’s advantage as the big North Dakotan was unable to finish a kimura due to all the blood pouring out of the wound onto Hunt’s arm. In the second round, Hunt lured his opponent into a brawl and ended it decisively, walking away from a limp Tuchscherer. Good for Hunt, and not necessarily so bad for Tuchscherer: he’s 1-3 in the UFC, but crowd-pleasers like this one don’t get you cut.

Jewtuszko vs. Warburton

Summary: UFC debut for Jewtuszko. Judges score it Warburton, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28.

What I saw: Nothing. This was unaired and The Other Sports wouldn’t pony up for a ticket to Sydney. I’m sure I missed a classic.

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