As you can tell from my previous "Breakdown" post, I'm not doing a minute-by-minute analysis of the fights, which can easily be found elsewhere. Instead, I'm focusing on elements that stood out, moments of particular interest, or conclusions that can be drawn, which, in the spirit of this blog, is harder to find on other sites. It is the nature of commentary to be subjective, so feel free to disagree (thoughtfully) in the comments section.
Cheick Kongo Vs. Heath Herring
While not a total slog, this fight lacked the fireworks both fighters appear capable of delivering. Kongo's improved wrestling was immediately noticeable; it allowed him to take down the defenseless Herring almost at will. Once on the ground, however, Kongo seemed lost, and he was incapable of maintaining the advantageous positions afforded by his takedowns.
Equally surprising was Herring's inability to submit Kongo, a novice grappler who was repeatedly underneath Herring in side-control and north-south positions. Herring chose to drop heavy knees to Kongo's midsection instead, a useful but not fight-ending technique. Several times Herring loaded up knees aimed at the floundering Frenchman's head, only to stop himself at the last second.
Perhaps the best reason to watch this fight (if you haven't already) is to see the perfect example of a match that would have been dramatically improved with knees to the head of a downed opponent. Both fighters had opportunities to deliver them, and both fighters were forced to use less effective and less exciting techniques instead. So rather than, say, knocking Kongo out with a series of crushing knees to the side of his shiny dome-piece, Herring ecked-out a sloppy split-decision. Bummer.
Yushin Okami Vs. Evan Tanner
It's hard not to like Evan Tanner. Here's a guy who taught himself submissions from instructional DVDs, held the UFC middleweight title, and temporarily walked away from the sport to travel and grow out his beard. He's also the proprietor of a famously detailed and personable MySpace page, which is far more entertaining than whatever work you're supposed to be doing right now.
That said, at 37 years old and coming off of a two year lay-off, Tanner didn't stand a chance against the tediously efficient Okami. It would never occur to Okami to shrug off fighting for a few years to ride his motorcycle or to drop out of college to gain a "real world education." Unfortunately, it also didn't occur to Okami to duck, chin first, into a hard left knee, as Tanner did before crumpling to the canvas like a sack of moldy tangerines. Okami is strong as an ox, patient to a fault, and always in impeccable physical condition. His counter-punches are cruelly accurate, and Tanner was paid in them every time he moved forward.
While Tanner's comeback looked more like a farewell tour, Okami is clearly on the rise (a trying, monotonous rise, but a rise nonetheless.) His "defeat" of Anderson Silva at Rumble On The Rock 8 should have been a "No Contest" (Silva was disqualified for using a totally sweet heel-kick from guard that knocked the kneeling Okami senseless), but a rematch between the two fighters would make sense at this point. Here's hoping that Silva would inject some excitement into the match-up.
Jon Fitch Vs. Chris Wilson
I'm not a huge fan of Jon Fitch, whose wrestling-oriented attack I find less than completely fascinating to watch. I also have a soft-spot for enormous underdogs, so I admit that I pretty quickly began pulling for Chris Wilson, a late-replacement for the much more capable Akihiro Gono.
Wilson showed that he's a gamer though with a strong stand-up attack and a kitchen sink-style ground game (i.e. constantly working for a submission.) He also threw a few solid roundhouse kicks to Fitch's midsection, a risky move against a wrestler, but one he executed fairly well. Wilson trains with Team Quest and has competed in SportFight, Matt Lindland's entertaining promotion (which has been shown on HDNet.) While he was clearly worn-out by Fitch's repetitious tackling, he definitively took the first round and came very close to submitting Fitch with a deep triangle at the end of the third.
Wilson may be not have enough experience to take on a guy like Fitch, but he showed enough skill to be a promising new fighter in the division.
Chris Leben Vs. Alessio Sakara
It's hard to understand why Alessio Sakara continues to get fights in the UFC. It's even harder to understand why his fight with Chris Leben, the Cabbage Corriera of the light heavyweight division, was on the main card when Andrei Arlovski, Diego Sanchez, and Josh Koschek were inexplicably relegated to the undercard. Without a single impressive win on "Legonarius's" resume, I've gotta assume it's his tattoos that keep him on TV, which are as impressive in their detail as they are insipid in their subject matter.
The funniest part of the fight had to be Joe Rogan's lecture on the relative merits of having a large head. Rogan earnestly contended that fighters with large heads are better equipped to withstand punches to said body part. When Sakara's smallish head proved incapable of coping with a hard left-hook from Leben, whose elephantine skull smoothly weathered Sakara's own stiff punches, Rogan briefly looked like some kind of a stoner genius. Amusing as it was, perhaps such live-action cranial experimentation can be left off the main pay-per view card in the future.