-This was of course one of the biggest money matches of 2012, with GSP finally returning, after nineteen months on the shelf rehabbing a torn ACL, to face off with Interim Champion Carlos Condit to decide the undisputed Welterweight Champion. And where else to do it but in Montreal? While the Nick Diaz match at this point (if he’d beaten Condit) obviously would’ve drawn more in terms of a PPV buyrate, personally I’d wanted to see this fight for a long, long time anyway, so I was pretty stoked.

UFC 154: St-Pierre vs. Condit

11/17/12

Montreal, Quebec

-Your hosts are Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan.

Featherweight Fight: Darren Elkins vs Steven Siler

This was an interesting fight actually given it was buried on Facebook, as Elkins had quietly put together a very impressive run at 145lbs – 3-0 with wins over Diego Brandao and Michihiro Omigawa – while Siler was unbeaten himself in the UFC coming off his TUF run. Even fight to call but my money was on Elkins.

Round One and Elkins lands a couple of decent punches right away but they don’t seem to have much effect. Leg kick connects for Siler. Right hand to the body from Elkins. Good right hook follows and he clinches for a moment but Siler breaks off. Another flurry sets up the clinch and this time Elkins forces Siler into the fence. Nice trip takedown from Elkins and he almost gets to mount right away, taking a low Kawajiri-esque mount. He turns that into side mount, but Siler does a good job of sliding his legs back through into full guard. Elkins postures up to deliver a couple of nice right hands, and then really drops a pair of hard punches from standing down into the guard. Siler keeps getting his legs up, but Elkins passes the guard by dropping some more punches. Siler again manages to slide back to half-guard, but it looks like Elkins is considering a top side guillotine. Short punches land for Elkins and he gives up the guillotine. Siler slides back to full guard and manages to reverse to his feet, but Elkins trips him back down into guard. Triangle attempt by Siler is shrugged off and this time Elkins grabs a guillotine and looks to drop to guard, then rolls through into top position, but Siler manages to survive nicely. Exchange ends up with Elkins in half-guard, where he drops some hammer fists to end the round. 10-9 Elkins.

Round Two and Elkins narrowly misses a combo as Siler keeps his head waaaay too high. Takedown from Elkins follows and he’s back in half-guard again. It looks like he might go for the guillotine once more, and then seems to be turning it into a neck crank attempt, but Siler pops his head free and gets to full guard. Good left hand from Elkins from the top and he keeps Siler down when the TUF veteran attempts to escape. Good upkick from Siler though. Elkins stands over him and eats another hard upkick, but he makes Siler pay with some hard punches and then takes the back with both hooks in a scramble. Body triangle now for Elkins and he looks for the rear naked choke, but he can’t lock it in and Siler survives. Short punches land for Elkins from back control but Siler throws some nice back elbows of his own. He’s bloodied from Elkins’s punches though. Big shots land for Elkins now as he flattens Siler out, but the TUF veteran manages to roll to avoid a stoppage. It looks like Elkins has the choke locked up now, but Siler is clearly a tough guy as he manages to free himself again. Less than a minute to go and it looks like he has the choke sunk again after softening Siler up with more punches, but he still can’t get it and a bloody Siler throws loads of punches from there to pop the crowd. Round ends with Elkins in firm control. I’d call that a 10-8 in fact.

Round Three and Siler comes out swinging, but he takes a couple of shots from Elkins on the way. Good combination from Elkins to counter a flurry from Siler. Got to give Siler credit here as he’s really trying. He’s got his head way too high though and Elkins is landing the better shots. Bodylock from Elkins and he gets Siler down again into side mount, but Siler quickly gets to full guard. He works his way to his feet, but Elkins stays on him like glue before breaking off surprisingly. Siler presses forward, but his punches look stiff now, likely due to him being tired from grappling. Single leg attempt from Elkins but Siler stuffs it initially. Elkins keeps going though and gets him down into guard again. Some good shots connect for Elkins again as Siler tries to stay active from the bottom, but Elkins passes the guard into half-guard. Siler gets his guard back and looks for the rubber guard now, but it’s too late for that sort of thing and Elkins postures out and stands to drop some punches. Triangle attempt is shrugged off but it allows Siler to stand with a minute to go. Elkins tackles him right away though back down to guard. This is looking like a shutout. Into half-guard and Elkins takes the back with no hooks as they stand, but Siler turns into him in the clinch. They break with seconds to go and Siler stuffs a takedown and looks to set up an anaconda choke, but Elkins slips free before the buzzer. 10-9 Elkins and 30-26 overall.

Judges officially call it 30-27 all round for Darren Elkins. Clear result there but I really enjoyed this fight actually, as Elkins looked excellent and kept a nasty pace throughout, but Siler was good enough defensively and kept active so much that he never truly seemed out of the fight until really late in the third. Good opener.

Bantamweight Fight: Ivan Menjivar vs Azamat Gashimov

Canadian-based Menjivar was looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to Mike Easton in this one – hard to believe he’s only 30 given how long he’s been around! He was the firm favourite here against newcomer Gashimov despite the Russian bringing a solid 7-1 record into his UFC debut.

Fight begins and Gashimov opens with a quick inside leg kick. Body shot connects for Menjivar but Gashimov counters with a fast combo. Good leg kick and an uppercut land for the Russian too, and then he shoots on a single and manages to bring Menjivar down despite an attempted sprawl. Full guard from Menjivar and he ties the Russian up tightly. Menjivar begins to look for an armbar and despite taking some hammer fists it looks like he might have it. Good job from Gashimov to lift Ivan up and shake him off though. Upkick lands for Menjivar before Gashimov drops back into the guard. Menjivar begins to set up for the armbar again, but Gashimov avoids. Ezekiel choke (!) attempt from Gashimov but he can’t get it, probably due to lack of gi. Short punches from the Russian but Menjivar locks up the armbar and this time it’s sunk, and in a really sick finish Gashimov tries to slam his way out, but ends up swinging Menjivar into extending the arm and that’s enough for the tapout. Looks like it might’ve popped in fact. Sick stuff.

Really, really slick work from Menjivar from the bottom there as he just caught Gashimov in a picture-perfect technique. Best UFC showing from Menjivar thus far in his career in fact. Fun little fight too.

Welterweight Fight: Matt Riddle vs John Maguire

This was a fight totally changed by injuries, as it was originally Stephen Thompson vs. Besam Yousef! First Thompson was forced out and replaced by Riddle – coming back from a positive test for marijuana at UFC 149 – and then Yousef was injured and Brit Maguire stepped in on short notice. Despite the short notice I was taking Maguire, for no good reason other than he’s British and I don’t really like Riddle’s attitude.

First round begins and it’s clear right away that Riddle has a huge size advantage. Little action in the first thirty seconds with Riddle landing a leg kick. Kick from Maguire is caught and Riddle counters with a couple of punches. Right hands land for both men. Body kick glances for Riddle. Nice right hand from Maguire on the counter as Riddle throws out some punches. This round has sucked so far to be quite frank. Good short elbow from Riddle but he takes a right from Maguire for his troubles. Left hand comes over the top for Riddle. Body kick is caught by Maguire and Riddle tries some sort of Pettis-style kick but it doesn’t come off at ALL. Kick is caught again by Maguire and again Riddle tries some sort of flashy kick, but it allows Maguire to go for a takedown. Riddle stuffs it and they wind up clinched with a minute to go, but nothing really happens and they break. Couple of jabs glance for both men before Riddle sprawls to avoid a takedown. Into the clinch again and Maguire just avoids a trip attempt. They exchange a couple more punches and that’s the round. 10-10. Boring stuff.

Second round and it picks up where the first left off, with Riddle backing Maguire up without really landing much. Decent body kick does connect though. Right hand follows over the top. Clinch from Riddle and he forces Maguire into the fence. They break after little happens and a nice combination lands for Maguire in an exchange. He lands some more shots, but Riddle catches a kick and shoves him down. He stands over him and looks a bit wary of entering the guard, but drops some punches for good measure anyway. Finally he drops into the guard. Not for long though as he stands and kicks the legs until the ref calls Maguire up. Good left hand from Maguire and then he shoots on a single leg, but Riddle stuffs it pretty easily. They break off with a minute to go and exchange some more strikes with Maguire again getting the better of it. Riddle shoots, but Maguire tries a guillotine, but can’t get it and they come back to their feet. Flurry from Riddle backs Maguire up to end the round. Tricky round to score. Fuck it. 10-10 again.

Third and final round and Riddle lands with a sweet right hook in a brief exchange. Looks like he’s outlanding Maguire in the early going here. They clinch, but Maguire breaks with a nice short right forearm. Brief exchange sees both men land. This fight is really bad. Just loads of striking that’s not really successful for either man. Good flurry does land for Riddle. Takedown attempt from Maguire but Riddle stuffs it and pins him into the fence. Good knee inside from Riddle and it looks like it might’ve hurt Maguire. He doesn’t really follow up though, instead keeping him clinched. Trip attempt by Riddle is blocked. They break with seconds to go and Riddle lands a couple more punches and then looks for the takedown. Maguire grabs a front choke though and rolls through with it, but the fight ends before he can go for the finish. Probably just about for Matt Riddle, 10-9 and 30-29 overall on my card.

Judges don’t agree with my scores naturally but they do give it unanimously to Riddle, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28. I thought this fight really sucked though; just loads of nothing going on and neither man got hurt or came close to a finish really. Blah.

Featherweight Fight: Antonio Carvalho vs Rodrigo Damm

The first fight following TUF Brazil for Damm then, and he was faced with a Canadian veteran in Carvalho, who was looking to follow his beautiful knockout of Daniel Pineda at UFC 149 in July. Quite a tough fight to pick actually but I was leaning slightly towards Pato who’s shown better striking than Damm overall in my eyes.

Round One and both men come out looking tentative. They circle around for a while and it’s thirty seconds of no contact to begin before a leg kick glances for Carvalho. Right hand connects for Damm. Another leg kick glances for Pato. Random observation time – Carvalho’s usually huge beard is trimmed to a handlebar moustache here. Wouldn’t normally mention it but there’s not much going on. Solid leg kick connects for Damm. Carvalho answers with a nice one of his own. Head kick misses for Pato. Leg kick from Damm. Carvalho answers with one of his own and it’s a better one, too. Another follows and you can see Damm beginning to hurt from them now. His leg is all marked up from them. Crowd begin to sound frustrated with about a minute to go as there’s not much action. Inside leg kick lands for Carvalho. Both men land leg kicks but Carvalho’s clearly connects with more force. Another one follows. Damm is really swinging here but not connecting with anything major. No sooner have I typed that than he lands with a stiff jab. Pato fires back with another leg kick and that’s the round. 10-9 Carvalho but it wasn’t a great round.

Round Two and it looks like Carvalho’s going to go right back to the leg kicks as he glances on one and then lands flush with another. Head kick misses, though. Front kick to the body from Damm forces him backwards. Yet another leg kick from Carvalho and he follows with a head kick that glances as Damm looks to fire back with a combo. Couple of pawing jabs from Damm and he lands with another front kick to the body. Carvalho slips on a head kick attempt and goes down, and Damm looks to get on top and then takes the back in a scramble. Carvalho quickly scrambles from there though and explodes to his feet in a nice move that pops the crowd. Right hand lands for Damm. Two minutes to go and sections of the crowd are booing again. Damm keeps pushing forward but can’t really land cleanly. This is beginning to suck, unfortunately. Big left hook glances for Damm but Carvalho comes back with a leg kick. One minute to go in the round now. Solid leg kick into a one-two from Damm and he follows with a jab. Damm really pushes the action from there but soon slows down. Combination lands for Damm with thirty seconds to go but he doesn’t follow up and Carvalho NAILS him with a hard right hand right before the buzzer. I’d go 10-10 there as Carvalho landed the slightly better shots, but didn’t really do enough and Damm was the aggressor throughout.

Round Three and neither man comes out with any sense of urgency. Right hand glances for Damm and forces Pato onto the back foot a bit. Inside leg kick from Carvalho. This is SO FRUSTRATING as these guys are high level grapplers and they’re having a dull kickboxing match. Damm is at least pushing the action here but outside of the odd leg kick he isn’t landing enough to be winning the fight. Mouthpiece is dropped by Carvalho and they have to stop things to wash and replace it, frustrating the crowd further. Damm’s leg is BADLY marked up. Good combo from Damm and that finally gets the fans fired up as he backs Pato up, but then he slows right back down. Short trade follows but then they slow right back down again. Nice head movement from Pato to avoid some punches. Good right hand from Carvalho to counter a left hook. Inside leg kick from Carvalho and he glances on a head kick. Head kick answers for Damm. Inside leg kick for Carvalho. Glancing strikes from both men. YAWN. Damm with a flurry with seconds to go. Round ends with a sort-of trade. Flying knee misses for Pato as the buzzer sounds. 10-9 Damm I’d say for a draw but who the hell knows?

Judges have it a split decision; 29-28 Damm, 29-28 Carvalho and 29-28 Carvalho. Well, there you go. Really annoying fight in my eyes, as while some of the exchanges were decent and Carvalho’s leg kicks looked really good, it’s two high-level grapplers having a stand-up fight and yeah, that can be fun sometimes if it degenerates into a sloppy brawl, but this just DIDN’T and neither man showed much in the way of urgency. One to skip over for sure.

Lightweight Fight: John Makdessi vs Sam Stout

Battle of strikers in this one then, with the more traditional Muay Thai striking of Stout taking on the unorthodox karate of Makdessi. I was taking Stout to win basically because Makdessi looks so small for 155lbs, and a larger Muay Thai guy in Anthony Njokuani had been able to comfortably outpoint him earlier in the year.

First round gets underway and Makdessi starts throwing a left side kick right away as they circle and Stout looks to fire off with some jabs and an overhand right. Nice side kick from Makdessi and he uses some quick movement to avoid a Stout haymaker. Good right hand from Stout but Makdessi sticks him with a jab. Beautiful counter right from Makdessi as Stout rushes in. Combo glances for Stout but Makdessi fires back with a jab. Leg kick from Stout. Side kick from Makdessi forces him back. Makdessi is using his jab nicely here although he does take a solid right from Stout too. Leg kick connects for Stout and he follows with a left to the body. Big uppercut misses for Stout. Makdessi connects on a couple more jabs. Heavy leg kick from Stout but Makdessi counters with a right hand down the pipe. Stout is looking marked up. Potential takedown is avoided by Makdessi’s footwork. Stiff jab again from Makdessi. Stout tries a takedown but Makdessi does well to shrug it off and he lands with the jab once more. His movement is looking great here as Stout is barely landing with any of his shots. Jab lands flush for Makdessi and snaps Stout’s head back. Spinning back kick to the body from Makdessi and he follows with the jab. Makdessi is getting out of the way of Stout’s big combos by INCHES here. Awesome movement. Round ends on the feet. Good round for John Makdessi; 10-9.

Second round and Makdessi opens with a HOPPING SIDE KICK that misses. Dude had to try it! Stout keeps pushing forward and Makdessi continues to counter well with the jab. Left to the body from Stout but Makdessi counters with a left of his own that lands hard. Body kick from Makdessi. Another jab connects for the Bull. This is basically looking like a very good striker being picked apart by an even better one. A thousand times better than the previous fight! Good left uppercut from Stout and he shoots on a double and gets Makdessi down, but Makdessi immediately springs back to his feet. Solid right lands for Stout. Makdessi catches him with another counter jab though. Sick head movement allows Makdessi to slip a big combo, but a kick does connect for Stout. Good body kick from Stout but he takes another jab. Stout walks in with the left to the body but eats a pair of counters from Makdessi. Stats show Makdessi is WAAAY ahead in the total strikes, basically just by landing clean counters. Leg kick from Stout but it allows Makdessi to catch him with a right. Jab snaps Stout’s head back. Nice jab from Stout to answer. Side kick to the chest from Makdessi. Big combo again misses for Stout as he makes the error of chasing Makdessi, who uses slick movement to avoid and sticks him with the jab. More of the same follows and Stout needs to change his gameplan up badly. Takedown attempt indeed comes, but Makdessi manages to stuff it and remain standing. 10-9 Makdessi.

Third round and I’d say Stout needs a finish here. He pushes forward but walks right into a jab and almost a turning heel kick as Makdessi slips out of the way of Stout’s swings. Makdessi is looking great here, best I’ve ever seen him look. Side kick and an ultra-rare HOOK KICK!~! land for Makdessi although Stout has the chin to take them LIKE A MAN. Nice counter left hand from the Bull as Stout pushes forward. Good leg kick from Stout though. Another one follows but Makdessi catches it and lands a stiff counter. More of the same follows as Makdessi uses Stout’s aggression against him to land the slicker counter shots. Stout continues to walk right onto the end of stiff jabs. Sick head movement allows Makdessi to slip a combo and he catches Stout with a solid head kick. Big right hand snaps Stout’s head back. Guy has an excellent chin as always though and keeps coming forward, landing a leg kick. Takedown attempt is beautifully avoided by Makdessi like a matador. Couple of kicks glance for Stout but not enough to really damage Makdessi. More of the same follows and it’s largely advantage: Makdessi. Seconds to go now and another jab snaps Stout’s head back. Brief clinch almost allows Stout to land a knee but Makdessi avoids and then dodges another takedown too. Crowd are LOUD as Stout really tries to push it to end the fight, but he can’t catch Makdessi and that’s the fight. Shutout for John Makdessi in my eyes.

Official scores are 30-27, 29-28 and 30-27 for John Makdessi. Story of this fight was basically as I said – Makdessi using Stout’s aggression against him to constantly counter and land the cleaner shots while avoiding being hit himself. I mean sure, he didn’t come close to finishing or even stunning Stout really, but it was still a fascinating fight to watch to see a good striker like Stout being picked apart and Stout’s iron chin sort-of excuses Makdessi from not *really* hurting him. Decent stuff and Makdessi’s first impressive showing since that spinning backfist back in 2011.

Light-Heavyweight Fight: Cyrille Diabate vs Chad Griggs

After a surprisingly successful run at Heavyweight was brought crashing down by Travis Browne, Griggs was making his first foray into the 205lbs division here, facing off with the Snake, who had last been seen in March taking a decision over prospect Tom De Blass. With Diabate being a much cleaner striker than Griggs who is more of a crude brawler, the smart money was likely on the Frenchman to win, but with his habit of leaving his chin open a victory for Griggs wasn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Fight begins and Griggs looks to close the distance as Diabate stays on his bike. A rushing attack forces the Snake backwards, but he fires back with a straight left counter that drops Griggs. Diabate pounces and drops some elbows as Griggs tries to hold on, but the Snake manages to get into side mount. Griggs uses brute force to hit a reversal and get to his feet, but Diabate stays on him and trips him back down. Whoa! Griggs gets half-guard, but Diabate controls him from the top and passes into side mount again. Looks like Griggs’s nose might be bust. He tries to get to his feet, but gives his back in the process and Diabate hits him with a vicious knee as he stands. Trip from Griggs though allows him to take top position and he tries a guillotine off the scramble. Diabate takes him back down and escapes, and this time he takes the back with a rear waistlock as they stand. Griggs trips him but that allows Diabate to slap both hooks in, and from there he gets a rear naked choke and Griggs taps!

Wild to see the Snake pull off a submission like that, but there you go. Big difference here was that Diabate was using skill and technique and Griggs was using brute power and force and just like in the old Royce Gracie days, the cleaner technique paid off. Exciting little fight actually.

Middleweight Fight: Patrick Cote vs Alessio Sakara

After a disappointing UFC return in his loss to Cung Le, this was Cote’s chance at redemption and on paper it seemed like a good match for him, as in my opinion Sakara’s stand-up is overrated and he doesn’t have much else in the toolbox, while Cote hits harder, has a better chin and is decent on the ground too. My pick was Cote via early TKO, ala Sakara’s loss to Brian Stann.

Round One and both men come out looking to strike. Early leg kick lands for Cote and he avoids a combo from the Italian. Decent jab connects for Sakara. Leg kick again from Cote. Clinch and Sakara tries to land some knees, but Cote breaks off and rocks him BAD with a combination. Big right hands from Cote back Sakara up, but the Italian does fire back and manages to force Cote into the fence. Suddenly HE opens up with a big right hook and a CRUSHING OVERHAND ELBOW and now Cote is rocked! More knees and a series of elbows stun Cote and a big one sends him crashing down. He tries to go for a single leg, but Sakara absolutely HAMMERS him with punches to the back of the head and from there the referee steps in. Crowd are booing as the finishing blows looked potentially illegal.

Replay confirms the elbows that hurt Cote initially were legal, but indeed, the final hammer fists were literally all to the back of the head. Damn. Bad break for Sakara but you have to follow the rules, dude, even though it’s hard to in that situation given the adrenaline rush and the position of Cote’s head as he’s going for the takedown. Official call is a DQ win for Patrick Cote, which probably saved his UFC career actually as he was likely cut with a TKO loss. I would’ve tried to book a rematch as the fight was incredibly exciting while it lasted, but Cote’s since dropped to 170lbs so c’est la vie. Post-fight Sakara apologises for his actions in a really classy moment.

Featherweight Fight: Pablo Garza vs Mark Hominick

I was pretty pumped to see this fight despite both men being on pretty bad skids – Hominick losing three in a row and Garza two, albeit all against pretty decent opposition – mainly because I’m a big fan of the Scarecrow and love his style and while I’m not as big on Hominick, the guy nearly always puts on an exciting fight regardless and he was back in his home country of Canada where he usually (Korean Zombie fight notwithstanding) delivers the goods. My pick was Garza based on the thinking that Hominick had looked like a potentially shot fighter in his loss to Eddie Yagin.

Round One and Hominick comes right out and walks Garza down, as the taller man looks to fire some knees at him. Good leg kick and a jumping kick land for Garza. Hominick keeps pushing forward though, obviously looking to negate the reach of Garza. More kicks from Garza before both men land combinations. Left hand connects for Hominick and he follows with a sharp combo. Big knee from Garza backs him up a bit though. Hard leg kick into a right hand from Hominick but again Garza backs him up a bit with kicks. Another nice combo lands for Hominick. This is a really high pace they’re keeping. Combo into a leg kick from Garza. Body shot answers for Hominick. Pair of heavy right hands get through too. One-two looks to have Garza stunned a little but he recovers well. Leg kick from Hominick is caught and Garza looks for a takedown, but Hominick reverses and hits a nice throw to land in half-guard. Garza gets full guard back quickly though and immediately locks up an armbar. Hominick lifts him up to try to shake it off and manages it, then lands some solid punches from the guard. Excellent submission defense there. Hard shots to the body connect for Hominick before Garza kicks him away and gets up, following with a knee to the body. This has been a hell of a round. Brief exchange and then a BRUTAL LEFT TO THE BODY from Hominick absolutely FOLDS Garza, dropping him HARD. Hominick pounces and starts pounding the body looking for the finish, but Garza guts it out and gets to his feet, and now HE opens up, landing a heavy right that busts Hominick open! Crowd are going crazy. This is AWESOME. Big left lands for Garza and Hominick looks wobbly, but still fires back with a left hook. Garza walks through it though and lands another combo before absolutely OPENING UP on Hominick on the fence, leaving his face a bloody mess. Hominick manages to stay standing though and the round ends there. That was a great, great round. Really difficult to score too but I think Garza just about stole it there at the end. 10-9 Garza.

Round Two and Garza comes out with the HELICOPTER KICK!~! Unfortunately Hominick jumps out of the way. Left hook to the body from Hominick and he follows with a big left that misses. Garza comes back with a GSP-esque combo ending in a leg kick. Combo from Hominick but Garza comes back with a glancing head kick. Takedown attempt from Garza and he gets Hominick down, but Hominick rolls and looks for a reversal. Garza uses that to almost take the back, but Hominick shifts his weight and in the end Garza takes top position inside Hominick’s guard. Action finally slows down a bit as Hominick ties him up from the guard, restricting him to some short punches to the body. Garza does get through with some short elbows, however. Referee Marc-Andre Cote warns Garza for inactivity, and that triggers him to REALLY open up, posturing up in the guard to deliver some nasty punches down onto his opponent. Hominick suddenly looks in trouble, as his face is really badly busted open now. Big chant for Hominick and he tries for an oma plata, but Garza avoids it and stays on top, dropping a big elbow for good measure. One minute to go and this round has been all Pablo Garza. Vicious elbows begin to land with about thirty seconds to go, slicing Hominick’s face up even more, and the round ends shortly thereafter. 10-9 Garza and Hominick needs a stoppage most likely now.

Round Three and Garza fires off with the front kick to the face right away. Hominick pushes forward, obviously recognizing the urgency, but Garza lands on him with a sharp combo and a powerful leg kick. Hominick replies with a nice right hook. Clinch from Garza but Hominick shrugs it off and opens up with a combination. Head kick is blocked by Hominick but a takedown attempt is not and Garza winds up on top in the guard again. Big elbow lands for Garza and he shrugs off an oma plata attempt easily. Hominick tries to kick him away, but to no avail as Garza uses his length to land some more punches from above. Hominick is looking a bit tired now too which is unsurprising given he’s been trying to defend for a long time now. Big elbow lands for Garza as he continues to work the Canadian over. Hominick manages to escape to his feet and then sprawls to avoid another takedown, but makes the mistake of taking a risk and going for the oma plata and instead he ends up on his back in half-guard. And of course, Garza goes back to feeding him a steady diet of elbows. Armbar attempt by Hominick with seconds to go, but Garza pulls out and the fight ends there. I have this 30-27 for Pablo Garza in a comfortable win in the end.

Official scores are 29-27, 30-26 and 29-28 for Pablo Garza. Well, first off that was a great fight – best of the card so far. First round was absolutely outstanding and while the second and third weren’t as great, mainly because they were one-sided, it was still an exciting fight from bell to bell. Secondly, not to take anything away from Garza, because its arguably the best win of his career, but I think I was right about Hominick being a bit of a shot fighter, as he was much more easily rocked standing than he’d been in the past and he didn’t seem to have any answer for Garza on the ground once he took some damage to his face. He’s since retired which I think is the right move for him coming off this loss along with the losses to Yagin, Jung and Aldo. Not that he won’t be missed though as he was always an exciting fighter. Garza’s actually since been cut from the UFC himself, but that’s another show, so let’s just dwell on this fight, which was fantastic.

Lightweight Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos vs Mark Bocek

This one got elevated to the main card to replace Costa Philippou vs. Nick Ring, which was cancelled when Ring got sick. Personally I wasn’t impressed with the choice given it’s MARK BOCEK and I can’t even remember the last exciting fight involving the guy, but I guess RDA is pretty exciting and had been on a good run coming into this, so there was the off chance of it being something watchable at least. To say I was pulling for RDA would be an understatement, of course.

Fight gets started and they circle around before Bocek closes the distance and forces RDA into the fence. Right hand quickly breaks for Dos Anjos. Couple of kicks glance for the Brazilian and he’s moving around a lot here, obviously looking to avoid the takedown. Body kick from Dos Anjos but Bocek closes the distance and forces a clinch again. Bocek tries to get him down, but Dos Anjos looks too strong and separates with a pair of hard knees to the body. Good right hook connects for RDA. Nice combination follows and ends with a sweet uppercut. Bocek’s stand-up isn’t looking great here and he’s beginning to eat some shots. Bocek grabs the plum though to force another takedown attempt, but evidently Dos Anjos has been working a ton on his wrestling as Bocek can’t get him down. Flying knee glances for the Brazilian. Body kick follows. Leg kick lands but Bocek goes for the takedown, but again Dos Anjos stuffs it. Bocek is in trouble here if he can’t get RDA down. He really goes for a single leg, but fails on it and takes some elbows to the head for good measure. Dos Anjos breaks and lands a sharp leg kick, then clinches and lands a decent elbow and knee to end the round. 10-9 Dos Anjos.

Into the 2nd and both men glance on a couple of shots before a kick lands to Dos Anjos’ groin. Ref calls time and warns Bocek although he doesn’t take a point. Dos Anjos recovers quickly and they restart. Takedown attempt is easily stuffed by Dos Anjos, who follows with a hard straight left and a takedown of his own. Bocek tries to reverse position on the ground, but gives his back and takes a couple of shots before standing. Dos Anjos avoids a kimura attempt and drops into side mount as he drags Bocek back down, and now Dos Anjos looks for the kimura. Looks like he’s got it from north/south, too, which is always dangerous. He decides to switch to an armbar, but Bocek manages to avoid and looks for a reversal. He goes for a takedown, but Dos Anjos sprawls out and continues to control him, before taking a rear waistlock and using it to get Bocek on his back. Bocek looks busted up. He stands, but Dos Anjos cracks him with a left-right and separates. Another takedown is easily stuffed by Dos Anjos and then he hits a takedown of his own again. This time he takes the back with one hook and begins to land some hard punches, and it looks like Bocek is beginning to break. Bocek tries to roll, but he can’t get out of the bad position and Dos Anjos continues to land to the head while looking to get both hooks in. Bocek manages to stand, but Dos Anjos stays on the rear waistlock and then manages a slam to put Bocek on his back. Another scramble almost allows Bocek up, but RDA won’t let up and he continues to land hard shots. Back to the feet with seconds to go, but Bocek can’t land anything and that’s the round. Clear 10-9 for Rafael Dos Anjos.

Third and final round and Dos Anjos looks confident, rightly so. Bocek’s left eye is a MESS. Body kick connects for Dos Anjos. Right hand follows. Bocek’s punches are coming up way short. Takedown attempt from Bocek is shrugged off, but he manages to hit a switch and take top position when RDA tries a takedown of his own. Right away though RDA reverses back to his feet. Bocek keeps trying to get him down, dropping for a double leg, and he manages to get the Brazilian down for a split second before he springs back up. Dos Anjos is looking awesome here. Good knee to the body from RDA and he follows with a big slam that dumps Bocek onto the ground. Kimura is wide open but he takes the back instead and lands some shots. Bocek manages to get to his feet and goes for a standing kimura (!) but Dos Anjos spins right out of it. Nice combination from RDA and he lands a jumping knee to the body too. Left hand fires back for Bocek. Can’t fault him for effort. He tries the takedown again but it’s still to no avail and they wind up clinched. Single leg attempt from Bocek fails again and RDA makes him pay with a pair of knees from the plum clinch. Referee breaks them up with seconds to go and Dos Anjos just misses with a hopping front kick. Slip sees Dos Anjos go down but he’s back up immediately. Another takedown is avoided and in a weird moment Dos Anjos stumbles right into the cage. Bocek begins to push forward towards the end of the round, but he can’t land anything significant before the buzzer sounds. Clear-cut 30-27 for Dos Anjos; literally no other score would be possible in my eyes.

Indeed the judges all have it 30-27 for Rafael Dos Anjos. This was total domination as Bocek could literally do NOTHING with this guy, couldn’t come close to taking him down and got owned in all areas basically. Credit to Bocek for not giving up but he was totally outclassed in this fight and Dos Anjos did everything but get a finish, basically. He might be *the* most improved fighter in the UFC right now when you consider what he looked like in his early UFC fights with Jeremy Stephens and Tyson Griffin – basically a one-dimensional grappler with little striking and wrestling – and I think he could turn out to be a legit contender at 155lbs when you also take into account he’s still only 28. Fight was surprisingly okay to watch given it involved Mark Bocek!

Middleweight Fight: Francis Carmont vs Tom Lawlor

Well, I seem to be a rare online fan who actually LIKES Carmont – dude is a physical beast so of course I do! - and so I was excited to see him make another step up in competition after comfortably running over lower-level opposition in his first three UFC fights. Lawlor had looked impressive in his previous fight – a knockout win over Jason MacDonald – and the question was whether Carmont’s super-physical game could overcome the superior wrestling of the TUF veteran. I was betting on yes.

Round One and Lawlor quickly pushes forward and closes the distance, forcing Carmont into the fence. Carmont manages to stay vertical and lands a decent knee to the body, but he can’t seem to separate. Carmont gets a reversal in position for a second, but Lawlor manages to spin him right back around. Ref finally calls a separation which DISGUSTS Joe Rogan, but c’mon Joe, they weren’t exactly doing much and clinch work isn’t great to watch in my opinion. Carmont is using this weird stance with his left hand waaaay extended here. Couple of good kicks land to the body for the Frenchman. Lawlor manages to clinch again and goes for the takedown, but Carmont defends nicely. He goes for a standing kimura, but can’t quite get it locked up correctly and Lawlor manages to break free. Takedown attempt from Carmont now but Lawlor stuffs it and we’re back to the stalemate in the clinch. Lawlor breaks with a glancing left. Solid right hook from Lawlor as Carmont pushes forward. Carmont answers with a body kick and manages to avoid the clinch this time. Right hand and a body kick from Carmont and he goes for a takedown, but Lawlor grabs onto a guillotine and pulls guard. This looks TIGHT and Carmont is in some trouble, but it’s an arm-in guillotine and Lawlor makes the error of pulling back rather than squeezing forward, and that basically allows Carmont to survive and escape right before the buzzer. Big elbow lands on the buzzer in fact. I’d go 10-9 Carmont there as the guillotine wasn’t THAT close and Carmont was outstriking Lawlor and stuffed all of the takedowns too.

Round Two and Carmont makes some weird hand gestures before landing a leg kick. Both men miss with combos before Lawlor glances on a left hand. Straight right from Carmont. Lawlor looks for a takedown but Carmont blocks it and lands a NASTY knee to the body. Leg kick follows. Lawlor manages to close the distance though and forces him into the fence again. Right uppercut breaks for Carmont. Good right hand from Lawlor gets through in an exchange. He’s pushing the action more now as Carmont stays on the outside. Right-left from Lawlor and he walks through a right hand to go for the takedown. Carmont again blocks it, and man, these clinches are KILLING ME. Crowd too evidently as they begin to boo. Left hook connects for Carmont but Lawlor drops for the takedown and finally gets it. Full guard for Carmont and he immediately looks to get towards the fence. Lawlor postures up to drop some shots, but Carmont uses brute strength and gets his back to the fence to stand. Nice knee by Lawlor as he gets up though and he looks for the takedown again. Good knee inside from Carmont as he blocks, but Lawlor drags him to the ground again and looks to pass the guard this time. Carmont looks for a triangle, but Lawlor postures out and uses it to take side mount. Guillotine attempt again from Lawlor but he makes the same error as before, and with seconds on the clock like last time it looks like Carmont will survive. Again the round ends with Carmont breaking free and dropping some punches. 10-9 Lawlor for me as he did better standing in that round and hit two takedowns as well.

Round Three and both men miss on some punches before Carmont glances with a straight right. Good leg kick from Lawlor is answered by a body kick from the Frenchman. Jumping knee attempt from Carmont glances, but Lawlor grabs him and drives him into the fence looking for the double leg. Carmont stuffs it and lands a couple of elbows to the head, and the crowd begin to boo as Lawlor can’t get him down. Referee decides to separate them and a weird moment ensues on commentary as it sounds like Goldie is gasping for breath for a moment. No clue what that was about. Good leg kick inside from Carmont. This fight, it must be said, is nowhere near as bad as I remembered it being when I saw it live. Left hand from Lawlor sets up another clinch, but he can’t get Francis down and he takes some more elbows to the head. Both men look tired at this point as this is a SLOOOOOW clinch. Lawlor almost gets him down but Carmont manages to slip away. Right hook connects for Lawlor. Body kick glances for Carmont. Good combination lands for Carmont to answer a Lawlor right hand. One minute to go now. Kicks from Carmont back Lawlor up a little. Leg kick from Lawlor. Nice body kick from Carmont as Lawlor comes forward. Another clinch follows to the boos of the crowd. This time Lawlor goes for the Ruas foot stomps, but he finds himself down for a second only to get up on the buzzer. Crowd are booing as the fight ends. Incredibly close fight to score but I’m leaning to Carmont, if only because he stopped Lawlor from doing what he wanted to do and just about landed the better strikes.

And it’s a split decision – 29-28 Lawlor, 29-28 Carmont, and 29-28 for Francis Carmont to pick up his fourth UFC win in a row. Crowd seem pretty split over this which is surprising given Carmont is practically a hometown fighter. Erm, a lot of fans online claimed Lawlor was robbed here but I don’t see it myself – I just can’t agree with the idea that a guy is winning by shoving the opponent into the fence, sorry. Granted, Carmont didn’t exactly do a ton to make it clear that HE was winning either, but even so – I thought he landed the better shots standing and the two guillotine attempts just weren’t as close as they first appeared to be, so I have no problems with the decision. The fight was definitely killed by all the clinching though and while it wasn’t quite as bad of a stinker as I thought it was at the time, it wasn’t good or anything.

Welterweight Fight: Johny Hendricks vs Martin Kampmann

This was being pegged – quite rightfully so – as a #1 Contender’s fight, as both men were on pretty impressive streaks – Kampmann had beaten Rick Story and then finished both Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, while Hendricks had knocked out Jon Fitch for his biggest win but had also beaten Josh Koscheck earlier in the year. I personally loved the fight too as it meant whoever won, GSP (or Condit I guess...) would get a fresh opponent. I was leaning towards Hendricks to win as not only did he have the wrestling to be able to ground Kampmann if need be, but the Dane had also shown a shaky chin in the past and Hendricks evidently hits HARD. Still, after seeing the Alves and Ellenberger fights, you couldn’t count Kampmann out.

Fight gets underway and Kampmann looks to gauge the distance before Hendricks comes forward swinging with intent. Kampmann avoids it and backs up, then pushes forward with a jab that misses. Kick misses for Kampmann and Hendricks LANDS WITH THE LEFT HAND AND KAMPMANN GOES DOWN LIKE A CORPSE!~! He’s out before he hits the ground but Hendricks lands another for good measure and naturally IT’S OVER.

Scary, scary knockout from Johny Hendricks. I mean after the Fitch fight it was clear that the dude has bricks for hands, but to see Kampmann go down in pretty much EXACTLY the same way as Fitch did – stiff before he even hit the ground – was really eerie. This was expected to be a tough fight for Hendricks and instead it was a MASSACRE. Post-fight Hendricks basically begs for a title shot and well, the expectation was that it’d happen, but....well, it is happening in November now so it doesn’t matter so much, but naturally shenanigans ensued and Johny ended up fighting another time after this. As for poor Kampmann, it’s back to the drawing board for him again and I doubt he gets this close to a title shot again realistically. Regardless, this was one of the most memorable knockouts of 2012 and really got this show back on track after the previous slower fight.

UFC World Welterweight Title: Georges St-Pierre vs Carlos Condit

Well, talk about a highly-anticipated fight. This was one that I’d personally wanted to see since Condit first arrived in the UFC in 2009, as while he isn’t the absolute best in any area, he’s a FIGHTER and has the ability to force anyone into a wild fight, and so I thought it’d mean GSP would really have to open up in a way that he didn’t have to against the likes of Shields, Koscheck and Hardy. Throw in the fact that GSP was of course coming back from a very serious knee injury and a long time on the shelf, AND Greg Jackson having to distance himself from the fight due to his ties to both men, and you had the makings of one of the most intriguing bouts of 2012. Admittedly for the casual fans the shine had come off Condit a bit post-Diaz fight, but ignoring that fight (which I actually liked due to the smart gameplanning of Condit), the Natural Born Killer had pretty much always lived up to his nickname, and so I was RIDICULOUSLY excited. As for a pick? Well, I never pick against GSP to begin with, but I also had a massive amount of faith in his ability to recover from the injury and thought he’d be able to ground Condit and weather a few storms to win by decision or a late stoppage.

And HERE WE GO!~! Condit circles on the outside as GSP moves forward right away, and they trade some feeler strikes with GSP looking to establish the jab. Crowd are already DEAFENING with the OLE OLE chants. Right hand glances for St-Pierre. Condit is staying way on the outside here. Combination is blocked by GSP. Nice jab into a leg kick from Condit. Takedown attempt from GSP and he gets Condit down. Rubber guard from Condit but GSP postures up and breaks out of it before chopping at the body. Armbar attempt from Condit is avoided and GSP drops some punches to make him pay. Into half-guard but Condit regains guard quickly. GSP is beginning to wear on him though with short shots from the top as well as using a can opener to force Condit to open his guard. Into half-guard again for GSP but Condit once again scrambles back to guard. Flurry from the top lands for GSP. Good left hand from GSP as he stacks up, but Condit is getting his legs up high looking for submissions. Flurry again from GSP but Condit seems fine. Seconds to go though and GSP is really beginning to land with some hard shots. BIG LEFT ELBOW opens Condit up before he uses a leglock attempt to scramble to his feet. Condit is cut badly. Round ends there. 10-9 GSP and he didn’t seem to have lost a step.

Into the 2nd and GSP again pushes forward, forcing Condit to circle out although he is throwing combinations. GSP moves nicely out of the way though and lands a stiff jab. Head kick misses for GSP but a right hand connects. Good right hook from Georges. Right hand answers for Condit. He looks a little gunshy though, possibly due to the threat of the takedown from GSP. Another jab lands for St-Pierre. Condit fires right back with a nice combo of his own though. Left to the body follows and Condit begins to come forward a bit more, but GSP immediately makes him pay with a counter right. Jab lands for Georges. Condit’s face is totally busted up. Body kick is caught by St-Pierre and he tackles Condit to the ground and passes into half-guard, where he opens up with elbows to cut Carlos further. Good scramble from Condit but GSP connects with a nasty left hand. More good shots land for GSP and there’s literally blood everywhere at this point, but Condit to his credit is landing shots from his back too. Scramble allows Condit to his feet, and from there they outright trade briefly with both landing punches before the round ends. Great round; 10-9 GSP.

Third round and GSP dodges out of the way of a combo nicely. Good inside leg kick from St-Pierre. Spinning kick misses for Condit. Wild left-right misses for Condit but a BIG HEAD KICK CONNECTS AND FOLDS GSP! Holy shit. Condit pounces and looks for the finish, dropping BOMBS as GSP tries to cover up and desperately grabs onto guard. Sweep attempt from St-Pierre but Condit stays on top and lands some more shots, and then almost gets to half-guard before GSP gets guard back. Big elbows by Condit though and GSP’s face looks badly swollen now. GSP kicks him away and scrambles to his feet, but he still looks a bit stunned. Crowd are going BATSHIT now. Stiff jabs land for both men. Big right hand lands for St-Pierre and now HE opens up with a combo before getting a big takedown into Condit’s guard. Condit again stays active from his back, keeping a high guard and landing shots from there to the swollen eye of the champ. St-Pierre returns the favour of course with more short elbows and punches. Condit manages to reverse to his feet, but GSP gets a single leg. Condit grabs a kimura to prevent it though and then drops for it, but he can’t lock it up and GSP takes top position in the guard again. Massive GSP chant from the crowd as he works with elbows and punches while Condit tries to sweep. Into half-guard for GSP with seconds to go, but Condit again rolls for a kimura. No dice as GSP breaks free and lands a couple of elbows, and that’s the round. 10-9 Condit though as despite GSP controlling more of the round in a time sense, Condit clearly did the most damage.

We’re into championship territory (or main event territory if you will!) now, fourth round. The right side of GSP’s face looks badly swollen. Couple of early kicks from Condit come close but don’t land flush. GSP keeps pushing forward and almost eats the head kick again en route to landing a jab. Head kick from GSP and he fires off a flurry before hitting a takedown. Condit sits up though to look for a switch, but GSP passes into side mount. Condit quickly sneaks back to half-guard though. Dude really is excellent from his back. GSP tries to work him over but Condit quickly slips back to full guard and lands some nice shots to the head with punches and elbows. GSP passes back into half-guard though and lands with a pair of really hard right hands. Condit works back into full guard though once more. Armbar tease from Condit and then he tries to turn it into a possible leglock as GSP postures out, and from there he goes for a triangle but GSP postures out and makes him pay with some more ground-and-pound. Condit manages to reverse to his feet, but GSP still has him tied up. He hits a reversal though as GSP takes him down and now Condit is on top! Before he can do anything though GSP reverses him and gets him right back down. Condit goes back to full guard and we’re back to square one really. There’s a TON of blood coming from both men now. Announcers keep talking about GSP possibly fighting Anderson Silva and they even show Silva at ringside which is annoying given neither man really seems to want the fight. Round ends with Condit trying to scramble to his feet. 10-9 GSP.

Fifth and final round of what has really been a great fight. Right hand lands for Condit as GSP moves forward. Superman punch into a leg kick (!~!) from GSP. Condit is throwing combos but not landing cleanly. Good leg kick again from GSP. Condit fires back with a spinning back kick that glances. Beautiful low single leg from GSP but Condit uses a switch to escape to his feet and then breaks off with a side kick. Georges fires back with a hard right hand. Combination from Condit answers right back. Left hand connects for GSP in an exchange. Jab lands to counter a Condit combo. Another one follows to counter a leg kick and a double jab followed by a right hand comes after. Takedown from GSP and it looks like he might get full mount, but Condit immediately sneaks into full guard. GSP passes back into half-guard and it looks like he’s trying to pass that, too, pushing down onto Condit’s leg to free his own legs up. Condit proves to be a tricky customer though and avoids that. One minute to go and Condit gives up his back, but he doesn’t allow GSP to get his hooks in and tries to free himself in the scramble, but GSP is too good for that and winds up on top in guard again. Kimura attempt from Condit again but GSP avoids it and they trade from the guard to end the round. Crowd are blowing the roof off the building. Tremendous fight. 10-9 GSP and I have it 49-46 overall.

Judges have it 49-46, 50-45, and 50-45 for the UNDISPUTED UFC Welterweight Champion of the World, Georges St-Pierre. As if there was any doubt! Well, to be fair when that head kick landed there was – that was the first time GSP had been in legitimate trouble since the first Matt Serra fight and coming off such a long layoff, Georges did an incredible job to not only survive it, but come back and win the round on two of the scorecards. Overall this was a tremendous fight in my opinion – low-end FOTYC when you consider all the aspects coming into it with GSP’s injury and stuff – as it went exactly how I’d hoped, with Condit really making a fight of it and busting GSP up even when he was being controlled on the ground, and Condit’s gameness made it a far superior fight to GSP’s last few – I’d say it was his best fight in terms of entertainment value since the Jon Fitch fight in fact. To see GSP return from an injury like a wrecked ACL to fight an awesome fighter like Carlos Condit and to beat him in that way just cements his greatness even further. Forget the haters – GSP is the best fighter in UFC history in my eyes.

Post-fight GSP discusses his ring rust and again dodges the question of the Anderson Silva fight, and to be frank I wish they’d just forget about it now because it’s a silly idea anyway and both men have more intriguing opponents in their own divisions. But that’s another article. Condit then says he’s disappointed and thought he had Georges with the head kick, but he loved putting on such a great fight in Montreal anyway. Word.

-Highlight reel rolls there and that’s our night, baby.

Final Thoughts….

A handful of slower fights (Maguire/Riddle, Carvalho/Damm, Carmont/Lawlor) keep this show from being up there with the very best of 2012, but I mean, the main event delivered hugely, Hendricks hit one of the best knockouts of the year, and Hominick/Garza was a fantastic fight too as was Cote/Sakara while it lasted. If you’re a GSP hater you should probably stay away but outside of that I’d definitely give this one a high recommendation – just skip over those slower fights and don’t waste your time with them.

Best Fight: St-Pierre vs. Condit

Worst Fight: Riddle vs. Maguire

Overall Rating: ****

Until next time,

Scott Newman:

NewmanMMA@gmail.com