Judge Ian Visser got into trouble when he visited England...he split the difference and drove in the middle of the road.
Anarchy in the UK!
It's time to jump the pond as the UFC takes its pay-per-view powerhouse to Birmingham, England for UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben. Stacking the card with up-and-coming British and European fighters and featuring the best mixed martial artist in England, the UFC hoped to build on the sport's growing popularity in the land of Shakespeare and chips.
UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben features 11 matches, including five fights not broadcast during the live event. These include:
Sammy Shiavo vs. Per Eklund—Shiavo comes out aggressive and delivers some early head shots, but Eklund get a break on the ground while negating Shiavo's ground game with a half-successful rubber guard. Eklund suffers more of Shiavo's hands in round two but delivers some solid knees and nearly scores both a rear-naked choke and an arm bar. Eklund gets the win in round three with a rear-naked choke.
David Baron vs. Jim Miller—Miller scores an immediate takedown and spends most of the first round in Baron's half-guard trying to make something happen. Great ground transitions spice up the second round but Baron gets bloodied up by elbows. Miller scores the win with the second choke of the night.
Sam Stout vs. Terry Etin—Pretty much a straight-up striking battle, Stout has a strong chin and a lot of heart but suffers at the long reach of Etin. Stout counters with aggressive strikes but Etin's consistency pays off and he gets the unanimous decision.
Jess Liudin vs. David Bielkheden—Bielkheden does his best to keep the match on the ground in order to minimize his opponents striking, but Liaudin takes a dominant ground position to close out the first round. Liaudin's offense suffers in round two in the face of Bielkheden's aggressive takedowns, but Liaudin again finishes the round in the top position. Bielkheden takes the decision but it's a long fifteen minutes of ground fighting with few highlights.
Shane Carwin vs. Neil Wain—Wain gives up eight inches in reach to Carwin, who takes about 90 seconds to pound out Wain and gain the TKO. Not a good match-up and not a good fight.
The main fight card features the following matches:
Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono—Newcomer Dan Hardy has a four-inch reach advantage over Gono and he makes it work. Gono tries to find his range for much of the match but Hardy delivers a solid performance that overwhelms Gono to gain the decision. The match is marred late in the third round by two hard, illegal knees by Gono that Hardy fortunately manages to shrug off.
Paul Kelly vs. Marcus Davis—Brit Paul Kelly takes on the "Irish Hand Grenade" Marc Davis, who demonstrates the improvements he's made in his ground game by catching Kelly with a guillotine choke in the second round.
Paul Taylor vs. Chris Lytle—Taylor and Lytle trade punches, kicks, and knees at a furious pace. Lytle catches Taylor with some heavy punches against the cage in the third round, ultimately scoring the narrow but unanimous decision. The match scores the "Fight of the Night" distinction.
Sokoudjou vs. Luis Cane—Sokoudjou puts together a bunch of early combinations but Cane stands his ground in the face of the early pressure. A big knee at the tail-end of the second round gives Cane the chance to deliver a big head shot that leads to a TKO stoppage, earning Cane the "Knockout of the Night" award.
Keith Jardine vs. Brandon Vera—The "Dean of Mean" is always an interesting fighter to watch, but an early elbow from Vera gets him bleeding from the scalp in the first round. Jardine works his ground-and-pound while in Vera's guard and taps him repeatedly with strikes. Vera does his best to counter the attacks but loses the split decision.
Michael Bisping vs. Chris Leben—The main event of the night sees the UK's preeminent fighter up against the American Chris Leben, who is known for his heavy hands and bad-boy attitude. Bisping made his bones by winning the third season of the UFC's reality show The Ultimate Fighter and entered the fight with a 17-1 MMA record.
Leben comes out early with consistent strikes and kicks, pressuring Bisping who delivers combinations and counters in return. Bisping snaps some nice kicks and strikes, but Leben continues to press forward throughout the first round despite a bloodied nose. Round two sees the pace continued, with a flurry of punches and feet from both fighters. Neither man seems interested in taking the fight to ground; Bisping takes advantage of Leben's aggression to continue with his effective counters. Leben ends the second round bloody and cut.
The third and final round has Leben looking much slower than Bisping, who continues to assemble combinations and works his jab to good effect. Leben, however, refuses to back off and continues his forward motion, despite the abuse Bisping delivers. Leben scores the first takedown of the fight, but Bisping gets to his feet and lands a heavy right hand to rattle Leben. Leben closes out the third round with a flurry of haymakers, but he ultimately loses the unanimous decision.
As far as UFC live events go, UFC 89 is something of a disappointment. Dana White and his company took the event overseas to capitalize on the growing popularity of the UFC in the UK, but without a title match and handicapped by a less-than-stellar undercard, the result is an underwhelming experience. Bisping and Leben are both great fighters, but Bisping's plan to play it safe against Leben prevented the knockout fans were hoping to see and few matches on the undercard generated much excitement.
Part of the problem stems from the large number of UK and European fighters featured on the cards, who were not as advanced as their American or Brazilian counterparts in terms of experience and skills. It also didn't help that the UFC had to suspend Chris Leben for nine months due to a positive test for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol. UFC 89 ends up being more a footnote in the history of the company than a landmark.
As middling as UFC 89 event may have been, First Look Pictures has assembled a very solid DVD release. The widescreen video is as good as it gets, with no visible defects and deep blacks that look great on the screen. The audio is the standard 2-channel Dolby Digital, but it is well-mixed so that the hits and leg slaps are easily audible. The UFC has also gone an extra step and included a Spanish-language commentary of the fight.
The UFC is making most of its pay-per-view event DVDs in two-disc editions and UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben features a solid collection of extras.
Behind the Scenes follows Bisping and Leben in the days leading up to their main event match as they conduct interviews, hold press conferences, cut weight, and prepare the day of the fight. This is a great feature for fans looking to see more of their favorite fighters.
Countdown is a UFC-made promo for the event, recapping the careers of Bisping and Leben and featuring interviews with the fighters, their trainers, and their families. We see the road each man took to get to the top of the MMA world and what it takes to stay there. This is the usual UFC hype machine at work, but it's well-made and provides a good perspective of the event. Extra points are garnered for the home video of both fighters' early matches. A shorter review of the Jardine-Vera match is also included.
UFC.com is a collection of post-fight interviews, recaps, and press conferences from the event. I'm assuming this was content available on the UFC website, now assembled into one long feature for the DVD. It's brief, but it does provide an inside look at how badly the fighters look after being punched and kicked for 15 minutes.
Weigh Ins are just that: the weigh in of each fighter prior to the event. UFC commentator Joe Rogen (News Radio) is on hand to crank up the hype, and Bisping and Leben each get a chance to announce that they will emerge the victor.
UFC 89: Bisping vs. Leben won't go down as a "must see" event in the history of the UFC. The defendant is released for solid extras and the inclusion of fights not featured in the original broadcast.
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