It was not at all surprising that there wasn't much buzz about tonight's Ultimate Finale on Spike TV, especially after sitting through months of a lackluster season that involved fighters with little personality, fights with even less action, and few if any defining moments that would catch the attention of a casual fan and get them hooked on the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA).
Considering the high points of the season were the big farm boy Tommy Speer scoring a surprising knockout upset over George Sotiropoulos (who many considered to be a heavy favorite to win it all) and John "War Machine" Koppenhaver dropping an "upper decker" in Team Hughes toilet (I still think that prank is and always will be a timeless classic), who could blame anyone for not getting their hopes up?
My, how one night can change it all.
Tonight UFC fans were given a gift from the MMA gods with two fights that could be considered all time great scraps. Both were very different versions of the MMA game. The first was a bloody, all out brawl with little technique and a ton of momentum changes that had everyone on the edge of their seats.
The second was one of the fastest-paced and most technical battles that saw bell-to-bell action, a near second round finish that was halted only due to the bell and a great ending to a fight that deserved nothing less.
Those two fights alone erased the memory of two less-than-spectacular pay-per-views in UFC 78 with its insomnia curing main event and UFC 77 with its Silva/Franklin squash match and Sylvia/Vera bear hug and tickle fight. The best part: IT WAS FREE.
The preliminary fights weren't much to get excited about since all of them ended in the first round. Jonathan Goulet made quick work of Paul Georgieff and Roman Mitchiyan did not even break a sweat submitting Dorian Price via ankle lock in just 24 seconds.
Matt Arroyo outclassed John Koslosci (who we'll probably never see in the Octagon again) with an armbar submission and Troy "Rude Boy" Mandaloniz KO'd Richie Hightower in a fight that was actually a quality stand up battle for both fighters.
The main card however delivered a night to remember. Ben Saunders and Dan Barrera both showed up and put forth great effort in a solid ground battle that Saunders won easily via unanimous decision. Saunders jiu-jitsu was well above where I thought it would be.
With his unusal height (6'3''), long limbs and solid striking game I can see him becoming a quality 170lb fighter in the UFC. George Sotiropoulos made quick work of Billy Miles and showed off his black belt jiu-jitsu skills and helped erase the memory of his KO loss to Tommy Speer during the TUF 6 semifinals.
Speaking of Tommy Speer, he had a monstrous size advantage over Mac Danzig and that was about it. Danzig dominated for the full minute that the fight lasted and won the TUF 6 crown. Danzig, who announced his move to a more natural 155lb weight class, definitely has a bright future with his well rounded game.
Now to the fights that made the night one to remember. Jared "J-Rock" Rollins vs. John "War Machine" Koppenhaver was one of the bloodiest and best brawls I have ever seen. The action was nonstop, brutal and momentum was constantly switching to each fighter.
Both fighters looked finished numerous times throughout the fight yet they somehow made it to the third round where War Machine almost out of nowhere went from being mounted by Rollins and looking like he was finished to a switch into a direct full mount where he finished the fight in stunning fashion.
This one will be talked about for years to come and a rematch will almost certainly happen at some point. The Roger Huerta vs. Clay Guida match up lived up to its billing. Guida controlled most of the fight with his dominance in the takedown and ground game.
I thought he had the fight finished after rocking Huerta with a right uppercut, but luck was not on his side and he was unable to close the deal as he simply ran out of time and Huerta was saved by the bell.
Round three was like the rest of the fight. The pace was relentless and a well-placed knee from Huerta to Guida's face put him to the ground rocked and bewildered. Huerta capitalized by taking Guida's back and finishing the fight with a rear naked choke.
It was obvious that Guida was up two rounds to none so a stoppage was the only option Huerta had and to his credit he stepped up in crunch time and came through. These two fights were instant classics and will be talked about for years to come.
I for one feel lucky that I was able to witness such a great demonstration of everything that's great about MMA. Even better, IT WAS FREE.
**TWO CENTS ALERT**
Hi folks, Jesse Holland checking in. First and foremost: Great job Druby on wrapping up tonight's show. I wanted to throw my two cents in on a couple of topics that you touched on.
- Danzig vs. Speer was a squash match. I find it a bit odd that Clay Guida was turned down for TUF 5 for being overqualified but Mac Danzig was allowed to board TUF 6.
- Roger Huerta has great hands and an even greater heart. I thought he was a little more fragile than that but tonight he proved me wrong.
- I could watch Clay Guida fight a crash test dummy. Lay 'N Prayers and sluggish heavyweights take note: This kid knows how to put on a show. He could fight on every PPV and I would not complain.
- Koppenhaver vs Rollins was like two junkyard dogs in a fight to the finish. While I prefer a more skilled performance, there is a time and place for these types of slugfests and tonight's delivered.
- Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson are coaches for TUF 7? Talk about the world's worst kept secret.
- Best of luck to Big John, his presence will be missed.
We had an exciting night of fights and to think that UFC 79 is just around the corner. What a great time to be a UFC fan!
For complete coverage and play-by-play of tonight's event, click here.