(This post is blessedly the last part of the filling-in-the-blanks exercise from my account of the last three months).
UFC 89 at the NIA seems to have attracted some fairly mixed opinions online, but – in spite of the fact that one might have mistaken it for a kickboxing event rather than an MMA event for long stretches of time – I thought it was fantastic and am happy to call it the best fightcard I’ve ever attended live (with apologies to the previous titleholder, Cagewarriors’ Strike Force 4: Night Of Champions). Even the worst bits weren’t especially bad – David Bielkheiden vs Jess Liaudin slowed down at times but certainly had its moments (slams~!), and whilst Keith Jardine vs Brandon Vera seemed a bit awkward it was far from poor (I’ll have to confess to the fact that I thought something screwy was going on whilst I was watching it. There was the absolutely stupid stand-up whilst Jardine was punching Vera in the face early on, Jardine’s sudden inability to hit a non-moving target right in front of him at the end of the first round, and what looked from where I was sitting to be an un-penalised knee to the face from Vera [although I have since been informed that it was to the body. Must’ve been the angle I was viewing from]. I so rarely say things like this, but I would’ve been very suspicious were it not for Jardine actually taking the decision. Must just be my paranoia).
The good, meanwhile, was plentiful. I’ve heard people describe the main event as dull, but I really disagree – Bisping masterfully evaded Leben’s clumsy brawling and produced an entertaining display of technically proficient striking from the back foot. Three fights from this card have made their way onto Russ L’s Mighty List of His Favourite MMA Fights (yes, there’s an actual list), meanwhile: my fight of the night between Terry Etim and Sam Stout (Scouse Tez showed his stand-up skills and his ability to use his reach advantage against Stout, by no means a poor kickboxer himself. I still worry about Etim’s chances against any American who wants to take him down, though. I also still completely failed to make out a single word he said in the post-fight interview), Dan Hardy vs Akihiro Gono (I’ve been a fan of Hardy since I first saw him fight in May 2005. Also: Gono’s entrance dance. Oh mercy, Gono’s entrance dance…) and Paul Taylor vs Chris Lytle (I’m sure everyone knows how much of a Paul Taylor fan I am, but unlike many I thought the decision was reasonable).
My picks were pretty damn good, as well.