(It turns out “No Rules, Just Right” is more of a slogan than actual Aussie law)
Strange walkout masks, chest hairrows, random laughter from the audience, a grudge match marred by an illegal knee, and a majority draw in the main event. UFC 127 “Fight for the Convicts 2” provided a night of entertaining bouts and more than its share bizarre moments. While the card might have lacked the star-power and championship fights of some larger events, the UFC loudly trumpeted its significance in deciding future title contenders and challengers alike. In the end little roadway was paved and talks of title runs were shelved for now.
The only thing certain at the top of the welterweight division is uncertainty. Leading up to this event Dana White announced that the winner of Fitch-Penn would advance to challenge the winner of GSP-Shields for the 170lb title. For much of the fight it looked like the same terror that ruled the lightweight division had found his way back to the Octagon. Penn followed up a hefty dose of cross-cage eye-fucking with an immediate shot off the opening bell. While his initial takedown attempt failed, he would out-wrestle the wrestler halfway through the first round and score a takedown. Once it hit the mat we saw shades of the “Old” BJ Penn, who quickly took Fitch’s back and worked for the same rear naked he’s employed in countless fights before. But Fitch proved just as tough to finish as always, and a reversal allowed him to land a little offense of his own on the ground. Round two saw a vintage Fitch try to wear on BJ against the cage. The two exchanged takedowns, with Penn again taking his back and threatening the choke before Fitch escaped to land some punches from the guard. Round 3 more closely resembled the fight many were expecting. Fitch followed up a solid punch with a takedown in the opening seconds of the round. BJ would kick him off shortly, only to be taken down again with just under four minutes left in the round. From BJ’s guard, Fitch was relentless with punches, giving BJ no room to adjust or counter for the remainder of the bout. That last round, scored 10-8 by two judges, would end this fight in a majority draw and add a little disarray to the welterweight picture.
A draw in itself is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s especially bitter when one of the judges gives you the fight. There’s a good reason there’s an odd number of judges, and that’s specifically to make draws an unlikely occurrence. In this instance, we have two judges in agreement that the bout had no decisive winner, while a third ruled in favor of one fighter. Is that not enough? Apparently not, and now we have a potential clusterfuck at the top of the welterweight division. The winner of tonight’s bout was supposed to challenge the winner of GSP-Shields for the belt. Now, not only do we not have a number one contender, but we may not have a rematch to determine one. Fitch seems adamant that simply not losing this fight was enough to earn a shot at the title, while BJ doesn’t even believe that a victory over Fitch would have earned him that honor. In his post fight convo with Joe Rogan and an interview with Ariel Helwani, Penn not only seems non-committal to a rematch, but doesn’t seem certain that he’ll return to competition period. Add into the mix that should GSP defeat Jake Shields, as most everyone expects him to do, he plans to vacate his title and the division for a superfight with Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva. Should Penn and Fitch fail to rematch and Shields fail to upset “Rush”, the welterweight division would be left without a champion and with no heir apparent to the throne.
There’s an old saying that when your work speaks for itself, let it. Michael Bisping would have been well served by that advice. Much of the attention tonight had been garnered by Jorge Rivera‘s well-documented, relentless mockery of “The Count”, and that disrespect quickly turned an innocent fight between two guys looking to knock the other unconscious into a heated grudge match between two guys looking to knock the other unconscious. Bisping surprisingly took the high road throughout most of the pre-fight hype, opting to leave the trash talk to Rivera and positioning himself as a true “professional” above such childish antics. Heading into the match, Bisping was the odds on favorite, with Rivera’s only real advantage coming in the form of knock-out power. There was no question that Bisping had the deeper skill set to draw from, as a few easily secured takedowns would attest. Unfortunately, that diverse arsenal also included an unforgivably deliberate knee to the head of a downed Rivera. Somehow Bisping riled up the crowd, earning applause for his cowardly attack. “The Conquistador” was clearly rocked by the illegal blow, but Rivera is a tough fighter and when you’ve demanded the spotlight with unmerciful shit talking there’s no way to quietly exit the stage. We’ll never know how well Rivera shook off that knee or what impact it played as he was dropped by a barrage of punches from Bisping in the second round. Knee aside, Bisping further endeared himself to fans by cursing out Rivera and spitting on his cornermen outside of the cage following his TKO victory. Rivera’s video tirade was clearly meant to hype the fight and it succeeded remarkably. Were the skits too harsh and did they go to far? Bisping certainly thought so. But “The Count” himself enjoys the trash talk game and the time for that is before you glove up. Bisping can talk about being an ambassador for the sport and conducting himself like an adult all he’d like, but his actions after the bout were embarrassing.
In other action, Dennis Siver put an end to the “meteoric rise” of George Sotiropoulis. G-Sot headed into the bout with a 7-0 UFC record and the cheers of a nation behind him. The BJJ wizard hoped to be on his way toward title contention with another victory last night, but even in the land down under the fights start on their feet and it would be the takedown defense of Siver that would dictate the fight. Sotiropoulis would try hard and often to take the fight to the mat, but his lack of wrestling skills and Siver’s power wouldn’t allow it. The Aussie caught numerous kicks and fought for the takedown, but Siver easily tossed him aside and kept the fight in his domain. George fought well, even taking round 2, but he couldn’t out match the German kickboxer on the feet. This was a big win for Siver and it will be interesting to see how the UFC matches him up for his next fight. Sotiropoulis is a tough competitor and will be back, hopefully after rounding out his ground game with some elite wrestlers.
The FOTN bonus landed predictably in the laps of Lytle and Ebersole. Lytle brought his fans-first style to the cage, but he came up short against UFC newcomer Brian Ebersole. From the wicked chest hair he sported in the Octagon to the cartwheel kick with which he opened the fight, Ebersole is one strange bird. A veteran fighter in his own right, Ebersole was not the least bit intimidated by Lytle. He was relaxed and confident, even playful at times, and showed great submission defense as he worked his way out of a few guillotine attempts. The weird double punches and awkward shots wore on Lytle, who ate a big knee in the second round and seemed to fade in the third. Ebersole came up big with a decision win in his first step up in the majors, and on short notice no less.
As for the night’s other bonuses: Mark Hunt won his first MMA bout since 2006 and took home the Knock Out of the Night bonus for his walk-off KO of Chris Tuchscherer in their battle of the bulge. Kyle Noke pocketed a cool $75k for his 1:35 second tap out of Chris Camozzi via rear naked choke.
- Chris Colemon