Dennis Siver (file photo, left) put on a show at UFC 127. | Sherdog.com
The UFC’s return to Australia was characterized by a couple of evenly matched fights. The quality and name value of UFC 127 “Penn vs. Fitch” offered a little bit of everything, with two upsets and a technically and tactically supreme headliner as its centerpieces.
Analysis follows for the five main card bouts at UFC 127.
Kyle Noke vs. Chris Camozzi -- Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) 1:35 R1
What happened: Eight-year veteran Noke, one of four Australians on the UFC 127 roster, needed just 95 seconds to dispatch fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Camozzi. The Coloradan started off well, showing off some explosive striking. However, a hard knee to the body from Noke forced an attempted Camozzi takedown that was easily stuffed. In return, the Aussie took down Camozzi with a body lock and landed in mount. Noke spun, took his opponent’s back and choked him into submission.
Forecast for Noke: Talented muay Thai striker Alan Belcher, Chris Leben or fellow UFC 127 winner Nick Ring could make for good future opponents for the 30-year-old Dubbo, New South Wales, native.
Forecast for Camozzi: Fights with Canadian karateka Jesse Bongfeldt, Renzo Gracie-trained black belt Rafael Natal or “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 winner Court McGee may be in Camozzi’s future.
Brian Ebersole vs. Chris Lytle -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: Riding a career-high four-fight win streak into this bout, Lytle had originally prepared for fellow slugger Carlos Condit. However, the “Natural Born Killer” went down with a knee injury, and 62-fight veteran Ebersole jumped at the chance to make his UFC debut on three weeks’ notice. Ebersole, an Indiana native who relocated to Sydney, Australia, a few years ago, brought an unorthodox game, featuring cartwheel kicks, slaps and spinning-back kicks. “Lights Out” threatened with his patented guillotine choke in rounds one and three, but otherwise could not get much offense going against the close-quarters grappling of Ebersole. The turning point of the fight was a cracking knee strike from Ebersole that saw Lytle crumble to the canvas in the second round. The following onslaught took a lot of wind out of Lytle’s sails. In the end, Ebersole, a former NCAA Div. I wrestler, not only out-grappled one of his best opponents to date but also landed some surprisingly stout knees from the clinch en route to a unanimous decision.
Forecast for Ebersole: In wake of his strong and unexpected performance, Ebersole inherited much of Lytle’s thunder and quickly moved up in the UFC’s welterweight pecking order. He deserves a shot at Lytle’s original opponent, Condit, Nebraska-based wrestler Jake Ellenberger or the winner of next month’s tilt between Mike Pyle and Ricardo Almeida.
Forecast for Lytle: “Lights Out” should keep a close eye on UFC Fight Night 24 in Seattle, as his next opponent could be recruited from the winners of two of its matches: Dennis Hallman vs. Anthony Waldburger and Duane Ludwig vs. Amir Sadollah. The 36-year-old former professional boxer would also make for a nice one-man welcoming committee for Mike Swick, should his condition allow him to return to fighting.
Dennis Siver vs. George Sotiropoulos -- Decision (Unanimous)
What happened: A lot of speculation revolved around whether Siver’s submission defense would hold up against the tremendous arsenal of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Sotiropoulos, but the Australian standout never put the fight on the ground. Instead, Siver displayed excellent takedown defense, a good eye and crisp striking. The Siberian-born German opened a lead with two knockdowns late in the first round. Instead of going crazy with ground-and-pound, Siver carefully stood up when he realized the impact was not enough to put away Sotiropoulos. The hometown hero found his rhythm in the second stanza, as he started to use his takedown attempts to generate some offense in the form of kicks and punches. Sotiropoulos also began using his reach advantage better by pumping the jab. As soon as there was a direct exchange, it was Siver who was quicker to the trigger, firing combinations with three and sometimes more punches. When the smoke cleared, Sotiropoulos had come up short, because, for the first time in his last eight fights, he was unable to push the fight into the realm in which he was most comfortable. Siver, an underdog entering the fight, ought to be applauded for a sharp and tactically disciplined performance.
Forecast for Siver: The dimensions of his push will be directly proportional to the progress Zuffa LLC makes on the lawsuit against the media authority of Bavaria, which has been responsible for removing UFC programming from German television. If it manages to put UFC back on air in late summer or fall, Siver may be rewarded with another fight against an even bigger name, perhaps even in a title eliminator. Potential foes include former champion Sean Sherk, as well as “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 9 winner Ross Pearson and Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout Melvin Guillard; both Pearson and Guillard dealt losses to Siver, losses he would undoubtedly like to avenge.
Forecast for Sotiropoulos: It is hard to predict where he goes from here. One fight he would certainly welcome is a rematch with fellow grappling virtuoso Shinya Aoki, a man against whom he was disqualified in October 2006. With Aoki’s homeland in near MMA dire straits, maybe the time is right for UFC matchmaker Joe Silva and Co. to make the Tokyo submission master a proposal to jump ship.
Michael Bisping def. Jorge Rivera -- TKO (Punches) 1:54 R2
What happened: There was plenty of bad blood between the two before, during and, unfortunately, even after the fight. From the opening bell, it was clearly visible that Bisping did not come to bang but to win. A trio of Bisping takedowns sandwiched a blatant illegal knee strike that completely changed the complexion of the fight. Owner of one of the biggest hearts in MMA, Rivera chose to continue the fight when he could have taken the easy way out and secured the win via disqualification. However, he likely made the wrong decision, as he was not the same afterwards. Rivera seemed hesitant and gunshy in the second round, a fact which resulted in Bisping cornering him on the fence and unleashing a combination of strikes. “El Conquistador” covered up but had no foot movement through which to escape. Referee Marc Goddard gave him time to recover, but after 10 unanswered blows, Rivera dropped to one knee, and he had no chance but to stop the contest. Bisping appeared to spit at Rivera’s cornermen after the match and uttered face-to-face taunts at his opponent.
Forecast for Bisping: The 32-year-old Brit could find his next opponent from a group that includes the world-ranked Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami and Demian Maia. On paper, Maia appears to present the best matchup for him.
Forecast for Rivera: It is hard to know how much impact the illegal knee had on Rivera, but he looked like a shot fighter in the second round. In this condition, the 39-year-old may need to take stock and ask himself if he can still compete at the highest level.
Jon Fitch vs. B.J. Penn -- Draw
What happened: Penn brought out the best in Fitch and proved he can still put on entertaining fights against the American Kickboxing Academy ace. Penn surprised fans and experts alike by immediately clinching and pushing Fitch against the fence after the opening bell. “The Prodigy” even took down Fitch, a very accomplished wrestler, and took his back, threatening him with the rear-naked choke. Fitch defended well and turned into Penn to end up on top, but the Hawaiian returned to his feet as the first round came to a close. The second stanza was the closest of the three rounds. An upward elbow from Penn let the blood flow from Fitch’s nose, which appeared to be broken. Round three featured plenty of work in the clinch against the fence. Penn took down again and secured back control, but this time, Fitch turned into him with more time to work. The third round was the most one-sided of the three, as Fitch took down Penn right of the bat and put a beating on him for the entire five minutes. Fitch landed some vicious punches to the ribcage and also worked some nasty short elbows into the face.
Forecast for Fitch: Both men appeared to be open for a rematch. Fitch could also lock horns Jake Shields, provided he keeps it competitive against Georges St. Pierre in April, or the winner of the Diego Sanchez-Martin Kampmann main event at UFC Live 3. If St. Pierre happens to vacate the title and move up to middleweight, Fitch could find himself in a title bout.
Forecast for Penn: A rematch with Fitch or return to the lightweight division, where he could face the winner of the upcoming fight between Jim Miller and Kamal Shalorus.
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