The last two mixed martial arts (MMA) fights from UFC on FUEL TV 8 last night (March 2, 2013) at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, were among the most memorable that the promotion has had in some time.
I'll get to that in a minute, but let's start this recap from the "brutal" beginning.
Dong Hyun Kim dominated Siyar Bahadurzada in typical "Stun Gun" fashion, smothering hims with his top game and grinding his way to another decision win. It wasn't very flashy until near the very end of the Welterweight match, when Kim knew victory was within his grasp and he started to style and profile.
Badaduzada was throwing up some punches from underneath Kim's stifling mount and Kim seemed affronted by the Afghan's temerity. He stuck his chin out and told him to do it again and responded with a huge looping punch from the top that would've made Leonard Garcia proud.
Bahadurzada's complete inability to do anything against the smothering top game of Kim was the story for 15 minutes, however, not the showboating. It was fun seeing "The Great" lamp Paulo Thiago in an epic knockout, but there's no chance that he'll be able to advance in the wrestling-heavy 170-pound division unless he's able to shore up that hole.
For Kim, it was a return to normal as he has a win streak again after the bizarre rib injury cost him the Demian Maia fight just 47 seconds in.
Rani Yahya and Mizuto Hirota had another ground-based fight, but this one was much more entertaining as both men went at it from all kinds of angles. Yahya hasn't really been outgrappled by anyone in almost seven years and Hirota was not the man to do it last night. Actually even more credit to Yahya, as he was able to take down a fairly decent wrestler with alarming frequency.
Yahya will probably never be able to beat the very top of the ladder, but his only loss in three years was to Chad Mendes, which isn't an embarrassing loss for anyone. Hirota, on the other hand, is probably not going to survive the dreaded purge of 2013. There are a ton of Featherweight fighters out there, and while there's a chance he gets another crack, he might find himself cut until the next Asian card.
Speaking of the soon-to-be-unemployed, Hector Lombard is probably real close to that ledge, too. The man makes a lot of cheddar, and two of his three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fights have been mostly boring losses. One can sort of excuse the Tim Boetsch loss because it was a close fight that could have gone either way, but this -- THIS -- was a vintage Yushin Okami performance.
This was "Thunder" during his six-fight win streak, pumping the jab and grinding out a top-control victory over the likes of Alan Belcher and Mike Swick, among others. Lombard's best offense was the first minute of the last stanza, but he was unable to turn out Okami's lights with his power punching. He then foolishly wasted many minutes trying to play around in guard instead of standing back and attempting to bring the "Lightning" again.
It was a costly mistake, and we'll find out soon just how costly it was for Lombard.
I'm not really sure how to describe my feelings on Diego Sanchez's "win" over Takanori Gomi. Disgust comes to mind. I know how to describe what happened -- it was an absurd robbery. If you look back at my coverage, you'll see me describing -- in pretty accurate detail -- Sanchez getting thoroughly outboxed for at least two rounds and probably a third, while his only offense in the first two rounds were some leg kicks and takedowns that led to nothing as Gomi got right back up.
I really can't imagine what in the hell happened with the judging there. And as of the time of writing this article, the particular judges who screwed the pooch on this one haven't been revealed. I truly, truly hope they are never near a UFC event again, and that's the last thing I ever want to say about this travesty.
Mark Hunt is ... mystifying. This is a human being who lost to Sean McCorkle by submission, yet he was confident enough in his admittedly improved grappling game to spend much of the first two rounds on the ground with a man, Stefan Struve, who is one of the very best in the division at submitting people. His corner was screaming at him to get up, but as he fought off every submission attempt, the stubborn "Super Samoan" would eschew standing back up in favor of landing a bit and ground and pound and putting himself back in harm's way.
Finally in the third round, his corner's advice seemed to seep through the legendary skull of Hunt and he started bombing away on Struve. It was insane. Finally, he cracked the jaw of the 7-footer in the third round. Quite literally it turned out:
Thanks for the support everybody, I wanted Herb to take the tooth out of my cheek and continue but then it turned out my jaw was broken..— Stefan Struve (@StefanStruve) March 3, 2013
A right and a left felled the Dutchman, and Hunt turned away in victory. Referee Herb Dean actually wanted the fight to continue, but Struve declined and Dean waived it off. Knockout, technical knockout ... whatever. It was awesome and Hunt is now cemented into the Top 10 of the Heavyweight division.
Finally, in one of the early contenders for "Fight of the Year," Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann decided to pound on each other's heads until there was only one man left. That man was the man, the returning hero to Japan, "The Axe Murderer." That first round was an absurd display of fist-throwing possibly only bettered by the legendary hockey match between Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama.
Indeed, they knocked each other down half a dozen times, only to get back up and wage war upon each other again.
Finally, Stann's chin was cracked when he was met flush with a right as he stepped forward. The follow-up left hook from Silva might not have even been necessary, but it landed square and down went the "All-American" in a heap. He covered up, but wasn't offering any sort of intelligent defense, and it was all over.
This was a roller-coaster of an event. It was marred by an egregious decision we've already agreed to never name again, but aside from that, it was quality. Kim and Okami weren't exactly exciting, but we knew that was going to be the case going in. Everyone else made this a great event, and the fact that Silva and Hunt won matches under the Saitama Super Arena in 2013 has to put a smile on the faces of even the most cynical of MMA souls.
One last time, as it will probably never happen again, PRIDE NEVER DIE!