Tuesday, November 24, 2009

UFC 99: Franklin Beats Wandy In UFC German Debut

UFC 99 THE COMEBACK - Mike SwickImage by deskounlmtd.net via Flickr

By Ross Everett

From a business standpoint, the UFCs first trip to Germany will clearly fall short of their success in the UK. From poor ticket sales to a downright hostile German media, its been one headache after another for Dana White and company. That was all forgotten thanks to an entertaining if somewhat uneven fight card highlighted by a spectacular main event between Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva. Franklin would ultimately win the unanimous decision victory, but the fight itself far exceeded the expectations of most fans.

For the most part, Franklin picked Silva apart throughout the course of the fight (to quote UFC color commentator Joe Rogan) and deserved the unanimous decision verdict. What made the fight exceptional were the occasional glimpses of the old Axe Murderer. Late in the second and third rounds, Silva tagged Franklin with hard punches that left him clearly stunned. He did well to weather the storm and maintain control of the fight, but the uncertainty was enough to make the main event a very entertaining and exciting fight. Silva demurred on talk of retirement afterwards, though his tone gave some indication that hes leaning in that direction.

In the co-main event, heavyweight phenom Cain Velasquez survived a few nervous moments to put in a wall to wall domination of Cheick Kongo. Velasquez was rocked by Kongos punches early in rounds one and two, but quickly recovered to take the fight to the ground where he mauled the Frenchman. The result was an impressive victory for Velasquez over a top level opponent, but his struggles against Kongos standup game left several unanswered questions. The most compelling concern, of course, is that Velesquez might have a weak chin and simply not be able to take a punch particularly well. His problems could also be tactical or simply a case of not having enough patience"rushing his takedown attempts and eating punches rather than work for a less risky opportunity.

The event also featured the UFC return of former PRIDE open weight GP champion Mirko Cro Cop. Cro Cop was making his return to action from knee surgery, and the Croatian striking machine got off to a slow start against overmatched Mostapha Al-Turk as he clearly sought to protect his rebuilt wheels. Of particular note was the fact that Cro Cop didnt throw a kick the entire fight"his bread and butter during his PRIDE dominance, which evoked the mantra right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. Once he let his hands go, however, he demonstrated emphatically that hes still got serious power. He ended the fight late in the first round by flooring Al-Turk with an overhand left followed up with some hammer fists on the ground. Al-Turk survived this onslaught, but when the referee returned the fight to standup he caught a poke in the eye (similar to the one suffered by Josh Barnett in his PRIDE OWGP Final matchup against Cro Cop).

Perennial contender Mike Swick looked impressive as he defeated Ben Saunders via 2nd round TKO. After an uneventful first five minutes, Swick let his hands go and his impressive handspeed proved no match for his adversary. Veteran lightweight Caol Uno returned to the UFC after a five year absence, losing a decision to Spencer Fisher in a somewhat tedious tactical affair. In the opening match of the live PPV, Dan Hardy won a hard fought split decision over Marcus Davis. The two men had feuded back and forth in the UK media, and while the fight may not have settled their differences in a decisive manner it did provide a solid opener to the evenings fight card.

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