On paper it looked like one of the best FUEL TV cards to date, but for several hours of lacklustre action and dodgy judging with eight successive bouts going to decision, it looked like UFC Japan was going to be a let down.
One of the highlights of the undercard (I am being a bit sarcastic referring to a grinding decision win as a highlight) was a dominant performance by Dong Hyun Kim over Blackzillian Siyar ‘the Great’ which served to u decline Kim’s true standing in the welterweight division and yet again highlight the apparent game planning and cardio deficiencies in the Jaco Hybrid camp…
Elsewhere Pride veteran Takanori Gomi comprehensively out struck Diego Sanchez and while Sanchez got a few takedowns, he couldn’t keep Gomi on his back for more than a few seconds. This of course led to a split decision win for Sanchez, which is one of the biggest robberies I’ve seen this year.
Another home fighter, Yushin Okami used his reach and grappling to evade and frustrate Hector Lombard, who appeared to have no plan other than swinging for the fences, although he did have some success in the final round. Okami took home a spot decision win to leave Lombard with a 1-2 record in the UFC following his 24-0-1 streak in the lower leagues.
In any case, we reached the co-main event desperately trying to stay awake (this was about 5:20 am UK time) and praying for some action or finishes. Both were provided, first by Stefan Struve and Mark Hunt who produced a compelling, if bizarre looking contest with Hunt managing to regularly tag the significantly larger Struve, while Struve responded with takedowns, ground & pound and submission attempts.
Hunt showed more nous on the ground than we’ve ever seen from him, regularly scrambling free of bad positions and getting on top, but we had the bout all tied up at 19-19 going into the third round.
In the end, Hunt’s awesome striking made the difference as he backed Struve up with a right and then sent him to the mat with a thunderous left before walking away, sure the bout was won. It took referee Herb Dean a few seconds to agree, but when Struve confessed to a broken jaw, the bout as all over.
Hunt rises to a 4-0 streak, with three of them by highlight reel knockout and while his post match eloquence might not earn him any big fights, there is a considerable groundswell of support for Hunt to be seriously included in the title consideration. I think he should fight the winner of Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir next…
The main event felt special. It’s always fun watching Brian Stann compete, with his stand & bang attitude combined with the amount of sheer class he exudes. However, tonight was all about Wanderlei Silva and hearing ‘Sandstorm’ play through the Saitama Super Arena again and seeing a faraway, almost tearful look in Wandy’s eyes as he came out, you got the feeling this could be the last time we hear it.
These two locked up and I will not make any attempt to play by play that first round, other than to say it was periods of shadow boxing interspersed with furious bursts of rock ’em, sock ’em brawling that led to both men being knocked down and bloodied and I scored it a 10-7 win for the FANS.
We got more of the same in the second, right up until the point where Wanderlei caught Stann on the button with a right, which I’m sure knocked him out and sent him straight down, before Silva’s classic left hook follow up sent him falling backwards. Wandy swarmed with more shots, but they weren’t needed, Stann was out and Marc Goddard jumped in to save him.
The arena went MENTAL and Wanderlei celebrated atop the cage, with everyone watching sure they had witnessed something truly special, like a glimpse into a former age of MMA, a historic, impassioned moment. Fight of the Year so far, no question.
The half expected retirement announcement never came, but this will surely rank among the finest nights of Silva’s career. An underdog win against a younger, larger opponent in the arena where he made his name.
Stann was all class afterwards, as you’d expect from him but the enduring image is Wanderlei celebrating after the KO.
Now those last two fights… THAT was worth staying up till 6am for.
This was the night that PRIDE reared its head and the warriors of old showed they still have something to teach the young generation. Thank you Wanderlei and thank you Mark, with fair credit going to their game, younger opposition.
Twitter hash tags of the night – a return for #RallyforMarkHunt and the immense #WanderleiforPope.
MAIN (FUEL TV, 10 p.m. ET)
• Wanderlei Silva def. Brian Stann via KO (punches) – Round 2, 4:08
• Mark Hunt def. Stefan Struve via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 1:44
• Diego Sanchez def. Takanori Gomi via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Yushin Okami def. Hector Lombard via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
• Rani Yahya def. Mizuto Hirota via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Dong Hyun Kim def. Siyar Bahadurzada via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 7:40 p.m. ET)
• Brad Tavares def. Riki Fukuda via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27
• Takeya Mizugaki def. Bryan Caraway via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Kazuki Tokudome def. Cristiano Marcello via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Alex Caceres def. Kyung Ho Kang via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Hyun Gyu Lim def. Marcelo Guimaraes via KO (knee) – Round 2, 4:00