(Photo courtesy of Josh Hedges via Getty Images.)
By George Shunick
On paper, UFC Fight Night 26 – or UFC on Fox Sports 1 1, or UFC Fight Night: Sonnen vs. Shogun, or whatever else people were calling this card – looked to be one of the strongest of the year. Usually those cards tend to be solid, but still fall a little short of the hype. This wasn’t one of those cards. All but one or two fights delivered in some form, often with jarring, violent finishes. It was all the UFC could have hoped for to cap off its run on Fox Sports’ new network.
Let’s start at the top; Chael Sonnen managed to control Mauricio “Shogun” Rua for the majority of the first round before shocking everyone by finishing Shogun with a guillotine choke. For Sonnen, this was a big win; it legitimizes his jump to 205, and he managed to submit an opponent with very high level submission grappling ability. It also netted him an extra $50,000 for one of the UFC’s Submission of the Night bonuses. Now everyone from Lyoto Machida to Vitor Belfort is chomping at the bit to get a shot at him. He’ll probably move on to fight either one of them, or Wanderlei Silva in a gimme matchup. As for Shogun, he was eulogized elsewhere before the fight. The hard truth is he hasn’t been the fighter he was since his third knee surgery after the second Machida fight, and getting hammered by Jon Jones and Dan Henderson probably didn’t help matters. Getting finished by Sonnen in the first round is evidence of that. It’s not quite time to hang up the gloves, but that day is drawing ever nearer for the 31 year-old.
On a slightly more enjoyable note was the shocking ending to the Travis Browne-Alistair Overeem co-main event. Overeem held the edge in power and technique, and it showed from the beginning. Overeem hammered Browne with shots from all angles, but particularly knees to the midsection. Browne was dropped a number of times but was never out of it, always maintaining an intelligent, if not necessarily effective, defense. But Overeem, as he is wont to do, began to tire. As he plodded forward, Browne unleashed a front kick that, while lacking the snap found in Anderson Silva’s or Lyoto Machida’s, was still sufficient to drop Ubereem. Browne followed with hammerfists and Mario Yamasaki stepped in. It was slightly premature, though Overeem had no complaints.