The UFC's travels overseas have become something of a comedy of errors and UFC on Fuel 8 was no different. Yet again there were head scratching score cards all over this card along with questionable moments from referees. Diego Sanchez got a gift split decision win, Hyun Kyung Ho Kang was flat out robbed of a win on the prelims, somehow a judge saw Hector Lombard winning his fight with Yushin Okami, and there were a number of blatantly illegal strikes that didn't even draw so much as a verbal warning from the referees.
What makes all this truly concerning is that it is the UFC and Marc Ratner that hand pick the judges and referees for these non-North America events. Dana White cannot throw up his hands and bemoan the Athletic Commissions because it is within their power to correct. But if Ratner's history is anything to go off of there will be no action taken and the UFC will continue to rotate in the same overseas crew despite the consistent problems.
Some of the judges these use are fine. Take Chris Watts for example, while he did turn in a scorecard in favor of Sanchez historically he is a solid judge who go the Kang/Cacares fight earlier on that card correct. But then they stock the rest of the slots with local judges and guys that haven't worked a major show in years. Surely there has to be at least a few good judges from the U.S. willing to travel.
On to the other thoughts about this card:
- One quick note before talking about the fights. The UFC production is meant to be consistent, giving the in-house fans the same experience no matter where they go, but the result is that when watching on TV the venues lose all personality. Watching the fights last night it was impossible to tell Saitama Super Arena from any of the Las Vegas venues the UFC frequents. I'm not sure what the solution to that is, but I do wish there was more an effort to mic the crowd which would give fans on TV more of a fell for the large crowds.
- Wanderlei Silva and Brian Stann put on an epic fight. It was everything we hoped it would be and more, and the fact that Silva won in the very arena from which he lorded over Pride's Middleweight division made it a perfect sports moment.
- This very well could be the last high point of Silva's career and if he was to retire it would become a story book ending to a Hall of Fame career. But Silva is a fighter at heart and I fully expect to see him getting back in the Octagon.
- Mark Hunt and Stefan Struve put on one of the best bad fights of all time. From Hunt pulling mount to Struve going for an armbar without the arm, it was a giggle-fest on top of being a fun, back and forth fight. Hunt deserves a chance against a real contender, but it won't end well for him. I'd rather see him continue to have entertaining scraps with mid-level heavyweights.
- Stefan Struve needs to change something. Maybe he needs to change camps, or how he approaches fights, but he will need to change something or he will eventually have to change promotions. Anytime he faces a fighter with power that he isn't able to tap quickly, Struve gets dramatically beat up. He is still is young, but he isn't improving as a fighter and that is concerning.
- Takanori Gomi put on likely his most complete MMA performance last night and somehow wasn't able to get two judges to see things his way. Nobody looked more surprised than Diego Sanchez, who seemed to slow down significantly in this fight. It is very likely that cutting to Lightweight in addition to jet lag did him no favors.
- Hector Lombard blew it in the third round. He had Yushin Okami hurt and had a real chance to finish the fight but Lombard allowed Okami to go back to guard and survive the third round. Okami played it perfectly after clearly winning the first two rounds with some very nice single legs and top position grappling, not sure how a judge scored that fight for Lombard.
- That sure seemed like the end of Lombard's UFC run. He in his late 30's, isn't anywhere near a title shot, he pretty clearly would get handled by Anderson Silva, and he costs boatloads of money. I don't know if the UFC even offers him a chance to cut to Welterweight based on what we've seen so far.
- Rani Yahya and Mizuto Hirota had a really fun fight, mostly because Yahya showed off improved wrestling and forced Hirota into a grappling match. It was back and forth, and while Yahya showed off better takedowns, they took their toll on his stamina. Hirota came storming back in the third round to make this a very fun fight. I'm intrigued to see how far Yahya can go with better takedowns, but clearly that cardio needs to improve for him to make a serious run of it.
- The Dong Hyun Kim and Siyar Bahadurzada was a pretty one-sided fight. Siyar wowed a lot of MMA fans with his quick knockout of Paulo Thiago, but what UFC fans didn't see in that fight was the deficiencies in Siyar's grappling ability. Kim demonstrated pretty clearly that Siyar has a lot of room to improve on the ground.
- While Kim clearly dominated that fight there is still room for him to improve as well. Kim did show better strikes on the ground, using knees from the half guard to open up chances to pass to mount and dropping some nice elbows, but he still struggled to damage Siyar despite mounting him for much of the fight. Also Kim appears to not to really have a nose for submissions and isn't making strides there. Kim is going to struggle in the under levels facing guys who he cannot dominant on the ground since he doesn't have the ability to stop a fight.
- Riki Fukuda seemed to be hampered by injury, but he still put on a gutty performance against Brad Tavares. It was a solid win for Tavares, who is showing improvement since his TUF days.
- Bryan Caraway got some awful advice from his corner and girlfriend Miesha Tate, when she told him he was up two rounds and he could coast through the third. Caraway came out slow and that was all Takeya Mizugaki needed to rally from almost being finished in the second round. Now Caraway is facing the real possibility of being cut from the UFC. You cannot take rounds off in MMA and this is just another example of why that is a bad idea.
- Kazuki Tokudome put a pretty solid beating on Cristiano Marcello. Tokudome didn't get out unscathed however, mostly because when Marcello would charge forward Tokudome would run straight backwards instead of circling away or clinching. So clearly some footwork needs to be done in the gym by Tokudome, but he clearly won all three rounds and survived some time under Marcello, which is saying something.
- In the first two prelims we saw two Koreans make their UFC debuts and we had two very different results. Hyun Kyung Ho Kang showed off well rounded skills against the talented but wild Alex Caceres. Kang looked solid both standing and in the grappling. Caceres did show that Kang is less effective off his back but this one seemed a pretty clear 29-28 card for Kang but somehow Caceres got the nod.
- Alex Caceres isn't a bad fighter, he actually looks rather skilled and talented. His biggest problem comes from how he fights. Caceres played in the first two rounds, making it very easy for Kang to take him down and when on the ground there was no urgency from Caceres to do anything but throw up triangles.
- Gyu Lim looked fairly average in his fight against Marcelo Guimaraes, but ended up getting a nice knockout with a well-timed knee that he was landing all fight. I wasn't overly impressed with Lim but Guimaraes was awful and will likely be cut.