UFC 89: Bisping vs Leben

Birmingham, England - 17/10/2008

UFC 89 held at the NIA in Birmingham England was a huge success, and having 6 British fighters on the card certainly added to the atmosphere, making the crowd very vocal from the start. Michael Bisping proved that middleweight is definitely the weight for him as he picked apart Chris Leben for 3 rounds, and earning unanimous decision win taking him to 3-0 in his middleweight move. The roars that greeted Bisping as he walked to the Octagon are normally reserved for big football matches, however this has become a part of Bisping’s fights and he certainly didn’t disappoint the sold out arena. With Leben only ever being knocked out once in 24 professional fights, and that coming against the best pound for pound fighter on the planet Anderson Silva, Bisping opted for the old tactic of stick and move as he counter punched Leben for the full 3 rounds. A tactic that worked incredibly well as Bisping caught Leben time and time again, which showed as Lebens face looked battered and bruised. Chris Leben had taken full advantage of the press leading up to the fight to try and wind Bisping up, even calling him a scaredy cat. However he was full of praise for Bisping in the post fight interview admitting Bisping was much faster on his feet, and even though he had lost Leben claimed it was his favourite ever fight. Micheal Bisping now moves onto TUF 9 as the British coach in the UK vs US season, and then a potential number one contender fight against Dan Henderson. Chris Leben I’m sure will be back as he looked refocused in the build up to the fight, and showing massively improved technique and stamina during.

In the co-main event between Keith Jardine and Brandon Vera we saw an extremely close fight take each fighter two completely different directions. Keith Jardine came through with the split decision win which has left Brandon Vera unsure where to go next. I had asked Vera in the pre fight press conference if the weight issue had been resolved in dropping down to 205lb, to which he had replied “you will never see me tired in the Octagon again”, however this fight did not see the Brandon Vera that tore through the Heavyweight division. Keith Jardine took Vera down early in the first round and gave him some ground and pound which bloodied the fighter. Vera certainly took the second round with some great leg kicks, however Jardine’s late flurry in the final round swayed the judges to give the decision to Jardine. Keith Jardine may have been knocked out twice in his last 5 fights, however his 3 wins have come against the current UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Forrest Griffin, the former Champion Chuck Liddell and now one of the top Heavyweight contenders Brandon Vera. It appears fighters are getting title shots for a lot less than Jardine  these days, so who knows, there may be a title shot somewhere in the near future.

In a Light-Heavyweight bout between 2 young up and coming stars, Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Luiz Cane, we saw the emergence of a true contender in Luiz Cane. Cane had obviously studied his opponent, as true to form Sokoudjou came out all guns blazing and it is easy to see why he had 2 back to back knockout victories in Pride. Cane did the sensible thing and stayed out of range for the first round. The second round it appeared Sokoudjou began to tire and Cane sensing this, took full advantage as he began stalking Sokoudjou walking through his opponent’s kicks to land some great shots. Cane rained down knees and blows,  then tagged Sokoudjou with a left that dropped him to the canvas. Cane started throwing down his left arm and left the referee no alternative but to step in and end the fight. Luiz Cane now moves to 9-1 with his only loss coming from the very controversial disqualification to James Irvin. Cane looks a very dangerous striker and I’m sure we could see him against top contenders at 205lb very soon.

In the welterweight division bout between the UK’s very own Paul Taylor and American Chris Lytle we saw without question fight of the night. The fight set off at blistering pace as they stood in the middle of the Octagon and traded blows, this trend continued for the full 3 rounds with little break in between. Lytle appeared to land heavier blows in the 3rd round however Taylor just absorbed them and kept on coming, Taylor gave a late flourish towards the end of the fight, but the judges gave the decision in favour of Lytle. Joe Rogan had some reassuring words for Taylor at the end starting that he is still young and will come back, and I really hope this is true as Paul Taylor is one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the UFC. Chris Lytle may be back in action in January on the Dublin card.

In the first bout on the Live Card, the Wolfslair’s Paul Kelly squared off against the Irish Hand Grenade Marcus Davis in a welterweight match up. In the first round it was an even fight as they stood and traded for most of the round until Davies took Kelly down and gave him some ground and pound. In the second round Kelly got the takedown he had been trying to get however Davis managed to secure guard then lock in Kelly’s head forcing Kelly to tap out due to a guillotine choke. Marcus Davis in his post match interview begged Dana White to put him on the Dublin card due to his heritage. Paul Kelly is a very talented fighter and will be back, it appeared nerves may have got to Kelly but I’m sure we will see him back very soon. The undercard’s final fight saw the UK’s Dan Hardy in the Octagon for the very first time against Akihiro Gono. Gono proved a very difficult first opponent for Hardy as he continually frustrated him with his awkward style. Despite this, the fight went to a split decision in favour of Hardy. Dan Hardy could become a future star within the UFC and one to watch for 2009.

Also fighting on the undercard was the UK’s Terry Etim who gave the NIA another hugely entertaining fight against Sam Stout. Etim came through with a unanimous victory and could again be another one to watch in 2009.



By Patrick Lawton


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Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

Michael Bisping

Cheick Kongo