The Weekly Wrap: Nov. 14 - Nov. 20

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By Jack Encarnacao Nov 21, 2009
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.

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It was a banner night for Great Britain on Nov. 14 as the Ultimate Fighting Championship staged UFC 105 in front of its biggest U.K. crowd to date. The audience enthusiastically bore witness to the victories of several native fighters and the ascension of a welterweight who will become the first Englishman to challenge for a UFC title.

UFC 105, broadcast in the U.K. on ESPN and in the United States on Spike TV, was headlined by the free-television debut of Randy Couture, who defeated Brandon Vera by decision in his first light heavyweight bout since 2006.

The bout was yet another close, debate-provoking UFC main event. Couture worked a persistent clinch to neutralize Vera, who got off flurries of strikes, including body shots that put Couture down in the second round. Vera sat dejected at the cage door as it was announced that Couture got the nod 29-28 for on all three scorecards. Observers were hardly unanimous; in fact, UFC President Dana White told Sherdog.com that he scored the fight for Couture, while fellow UFC executives Lorenzo Fertitta and Joe Silva scored it for Vera.

Couture will stay at 205 pounds, and has agreed to face Mark Coleman at UFC 109 on Feb. 6.

UFC 105 packed 16,693 fans into the Manchester Evening News Arena, and scored a 1.9 rating on Spike TV, which was a 2.9 million viewer average over three hours. The main event peaked at 3.7 million viewers; the fight was thought to potentially rival the rating drawn by Fedor Emelianenko last week, but it fell well short of the 5.46 million for the CBS bout. The event, which topped all of television in Males 18-34 that night, only did a tick better overall than recent Spike TV cards.

The attendance figure is a record for the UFC in the U.K., topping UFC 75 (16,235) in London and UFC 70 (15,114) in the same Manchester venue. The gate was $2 million, down from the $2.7 million, pre-dollar-devaluation U.K. record drawn for UFC 75, which featured Quinton Jackson vs. Dan Henderson and Michael Bisping vs. Matt Hamill. The company plans to return to England two times next year.

Locals had much to cheer for, as British fighters looked exceptional up and down the card -- particularly those out of the Team Rough House camp in Nottingham.

Dan Hardy became the surprise No. 1 contender for welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, beating Mike Swick convincingly via unanimous decision. Hardy was thought to be susceptible to Swick's ground-and-pound, but only went to the ground when he himself hit a third-round takedown. Hardy dictated the position of the fight and got off heavy, damaging punches.

St. Pierre entered the cage post-fight for a handshake with the colorful Hardy, and suddenly there was a match that could serviceably headline a card on English soil. Despite standing in opposition to a local, St. Pierre received a raucous ovation from the crowd. The 170-pound title match was rumored for March or April; the U.K. Telegraph reported that both were being considered as coaches for “The Ultimate Fighter 11.”

Another British star recently considered a title contender, Michael Bisping, got back on track with a sound victory over grizzled veteran Denis Kang. Kang dropped Bisping with a right counter in the first round, but Bisping switched to takedowns and effective ground-and-pound in the second to great effect, earning the TKO. Both fighters pocketed $40,000 bonuses for having the night's best fight.

Rough House fighters Ross Pearson, Andre Winner and Nick Ozipczak also notched big wins.

Pearson, fighting for the first time since winning the lightweight contract on season nine of “The Ultimate Fighter,” put forth a brilliant performance against double-tough UFC vet Aaron Riley. Pearson mixed up his punches and used quality clinch strikes to dominate. He hit a leaping knee in the second that busted Riley's nose and caused officials to stop the bout.

Winner scored a brutal first-round knockout over Rolando Delgado, while Ozipczak laid hits on Matt Riddle for a third-round TKO victory. Another Englishman, Terry Etim, continued his impressive rise by choking out submission specialist Shannon Gugerty. The guillotine earned Etim a bonus $40,000 “Submission of the Night” payday.

Two U.K. natives who did not find success were James Wilks and Paul Kelly.

Wilks became the fourth "Ultimate Fighter" winner in history to lose his first fight coming off the show. Matt Brown welted Wilks' face with heavy punches and a flying knee, and capitalized on a failed Kimura attempt in the third round to mount a ground-and-pound flurry for the TKO. Kelly was stopped by Denis Siver after the German landed a brilliant spinning back kick to the body, followed by punches that earned him the night’s knockout bonus. Kelly suffered a broken cheekbone in the fight.

Also picking up wins at UFC 105 were Alexander Gustaffson (41-second knockout of Jared Hamman) and John Hathaway (decision over Paul Taylor). Gustaffson's knockout, a crushing shot that came a second after he and Hamman had touched gloves, made the Spike TV broadcast.
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