Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not ready for prime time

With the UFC making its first return to the state where it was first commisioned, New Jersey, fans turned out in full force. This should serve notice to the UFC the next time they have a big fight and Vegas is booked.

The main event featured Michael Bisping, the proverbial heel, versus anonymous contender Rashad Evans. Evans who was on the cusp of MMA stardom, came narrowly close to fulfilling that expectation against the oft beaten and original UFC poster boy, Tito Ortiz. Bisping, on the other hand, won a very controversial decision which most, including yours truly, felt he deserved to lose against Matt Hamill.

At the weigh in, Evans did not even shake Bisping 's extended hand and Bisping, who was heavily booed during the weigh in, retaliated to that insult by head shoving Evans before UFC president Dana White intervened. So, how did these two respond when it really counted?

They struggled to validate their showcase on the big stage.

In the first round, Evans showed his superiority on the ground by taking Bisping down. Bisping, to his credit, improved his takedown defense over the next two rounds and basically held Evans' wrestling skills at bay. Ironically, other than a few knees to the body by Bisping, Evans did better in the stand up game--courtesy of a few right hands, though none came close to hurting Bisping.

The third was more of the same in one of the most difficult fights to score. In the end, the judges scored it for Evans by a split decision. Give Bisping credit for accepting his comeuppence with grace.

On the undercard, chief support to the main even, ko phenom Keith Houston faced off against undefeated Chute Boxe fighter Thiago Silva. Houston, whose own personal story eclipses his remarkable MMA career, brought the fight to the hulking Silva.

Just seconds in, Houston made the mistake of trying to muscle a jiu jitsu expert. Once Silva closed the distance, it was clear that Houston's raw power may not be enough.

After mounting Houston early in the first, Silva began to rain elbows and punches to Houston's face. When the referee first stepped in to stop the fight after a few punches landed, many in the crowd were fairly silent as it seemed like an early stoppage. But the replay clearly showed Houston going in and out of consciousness. The ending was as sudden as it was emphatic.

Also on the undercard, exciting contender Karo "Heat" Parysian squared off against PRIDE FC veteran Ryo "Pirhanna" Chonan. Chonan, whose biggest victory was a submission over current UFC middleweight champion, Anderson "Spider" Silva.

Karo controlled the action, though Chonan showed great conditioning and avoided being completely outclassed. Karo was the effective aggressor and won a well deserved unanimous decision.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the Parysian and Evans bout was that they failed to deliver excitement. This was an unseen gamble as both fighter's are known more for their exalting performances than big-name victories. Let's hope next month's UFC has its intended affect. And let's also hope that next time, east coast fans are treated to a Grade A event with prime time names from PRIDE and lighter fighters, too.

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