By Roy Billington
Last night the UFC hit The Honda Center in Anaheim, California for the historic debut of the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC. The night featured Olympic judo medalist Ronda Rousey facing Iraq war veteran Liz Carmouche, and the card also featured former PRIDE champion Dan Henderson facing a much younger adversary in former UFC champion Lyoto Machida. The event also featured a stacked undercard featuring a good mix of established fighters and Ultimate Fighter alumni. Here are the highs and lows of last night’s UFC 157 event:
The night started with a bout which on paper looked like a make or break fight for both Nah-Shon Burrell and 21 year old Blackzilian Yuri Villefort. The fighters looked evenly-matched on paper, and that proved true when they faced each other in the Octagon. Despite Villefort taking Burrell’s back early, the "Rock n Rolla" recovered to win a unanimous decision victory.
Nah-Shon showed awareness early to stave off his opponent’s rear naked choke attempts, and his better conditioning proved all important in later rounds. This fight really captivated the audience early with two young explosive technical fighters giving their all in the cage, and I have to say I was impressed with both. Hopefully Villefort can avoid getting cut and finally start to get fight more frequently. As for Nah-Shon, I would love to see him battle against Germany’s Pascal Krauss.
In the final Facebook preliminary bout of the evening, Kenny Robertson faced a very tough test in Brock Jardine, and passed with flying colours. In the opening minutes of the fight Jardine locked a tight arm-in guillotine against Robertson, but Robertson used his experience to calmly defend before showing his own repertoire of submission skills. Robertson locked in a very unorthodox knee bar from back control which left his opponent with no other option but to tap.
Many people were singing Robertson’s praises following last night’s performance, but I err on the side of caution. I remember how he was TKO’d by Mike Pierce and how Aaron Simpson dominated him in San Jose last July, so I hope the UFC gives Robertson a easier path in the UFC to hopefully develop his obvious talents. I say give him Neil Magny next.
In what was easily Fight of the Year so far, The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 runner up Dennis Bermudez faced Division I wrestler Matt Grice. From the get go this fight was a barn burner, with Grice showing much improved standup, including great lateral movement and technical boxing. He used the aforementioned standup improvements to land a pin point perfect left hook which dropped Bermudez and almost led to Herb Dean stopping the fight, but luckily he didn’t.
After a dominant early display from Grice, Bermudez was left with it all to do, and boy did he deliver. In the third, Bermudez landed hard and often, at one point he had Grice backed against the cage and unleashed a hellish combo reminiscent of Pat Curran vs. Joe Warren. In my opinion, the ref could have stopped it, as I believe there was a 30-second period that Grice didn’t intelligently defend himself.
My final high for the night was Ronda Rousey vs. Liz Carmouche. I have to say as a fan who has been following women’s MMA for a long time that I was extremely happy the ladies put on a fight of epic proportions last night. Carmouche looked as calm and collected as always, and almost forced a tap from a face crank, but last night was Rousey’s time. Ronda did what Ronda does best and secured a first round armbar. All said and done, last night’s card was the best in a long time.
Brendan Schaub has been a fighter known for his exciting standup style, but last night we saw a more muted performance from "The Hybrid" as he squared off against the downright scary Lavar Johnson.
Schaub implemented a very smart game plan which consisted of limited standup exchanges and a fight more emphasised on taking the fight to the ground, and this was a wise plan, but my gripe was with how Schaub blatantly neglected offense while in these top positions and seemed content to lay on his opponent.
Next time out I hope we see Schaub trying to go for the finish, and I for one would love to see him face off against Todd Duffee.
The co-main event saw a former PRIDE FC champ face a former UFC champ, and although on paper it had the makings for a classic, unfortunately it really didn’t deliver.
Machida showed his elusive greatness once more, but although I do realise how great it is, eventually it does begin to border on tedious. Dan Henderson can also be both applauded and chastised for his performance, as he clearly pressed the action, but failed to diversify his attacks, which made him a easy target to read for the master tactician Lyoto Machida.
UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche took place on February 23, 2013 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
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February 25, 2013
By Roy Billington