UFC 85 took place on June 7, 2008 in London England and was troubled form the start. A plague of injuries lead to the main event being changed several times, from Chuck Liddell Vs. "Shogun" Rua, to Liddell Vs. Rashad Evans, to Evans Vs., if memory serves me, James Irvin, to finally Matt Hughes Vs. Thiago Alves. Likewise the co-main event, Chirs Leben Vs. Micheal Bisping was scrapped when Leben had legal troubles so the lesser known Jason Day stepped up. In addition, the preliminary undercard had a few dropped fights and late replacements.
The preliminary card begins with Antoni Hardonk Vs. Eddie Sanchez- Sanchez clocks Hardonk early and follows him to the mat where Hardonk does a good job of tying up. In the second Hardonk mounts a comeback, seemingly aided by the fact that Sanchez has no conditioning, is slowed, and labors to keep his hands up. Jeff Liaudin Vs. Paul Taylor- Commentator Mike Goldberg offers one of his beloved/derided observations that one man is "World Class" quick while the other is "Olympic" quick. Three rounds of some scrappy fighting but it basically amounts to Liaudin rushing in wild throwing punches with his head down, locking up Taylor, taking him down, and controlling the match in the clinch and on the ground. Fight is punctuated my a comic moment when referee Dan Miragliotta accidentally raises the wrong man's hand. Jason Lambert Vs. Luis Cane- Displays a great example of needing a defensive plan B. That is, Lambert, a fireplug wrestler, is hurt by striker Cane and Lambert's instinct is to continue rushing forward with sloppy aggression while Cane continues to tee off.
Roan Carneiro Vs. Kevin Burns- Burns, a replacement, was almost a total unknown making his UFC debut. As commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg continually note, Burns is in it thick agaisnt the well-regarded Brazilian Jiu Jitsu blackbelt, but Rogan (the knowledgeable one in the duo) is quickly impressed by Burns composure and good guard work and even more amazed when Burns pulls off one of the upsets of the year by submitting Carneiro. Matt Wiman Vs. Thiago Tavares- Fantastic fight that begins with some nearly a move a second grappling and scrambles for the first two minutes. Things go back and forth, until the second, when Tavares is "Nelmarked" into unconsciousness. Jorge Rivera Vs. Martin Kampmann- The well-rounded Kampmann was a top MW contender until a knee injury sidelined him. This was his first fight back was versus veteran Jorge Rivera and Kampmann displays his smooth technical ground prowess. Evidence that the DVD was taken from the Spike broadcast source is the fact that the word "fuck" is bleeped in Kampmann's post-fight interview.
The main card began with Brandon Vera Vs. Fabricio Werdum- This somewhat controversial fight sent almost-star Vera, who was a smallish heavyweight, down to the light heavyweight division and seemed to put Werdum in line for a title shot in the always thin heavyweight division. But, Werdum wasn't resigned. Go figure, makes no sense to me. Nate Marquardt Vs. Thales Leites- Next to Wiman-Tavares, this is the real barn burner of the night. Delivers in blood, guts, skill, and controversy. Both men are dropped in the fist, but Lietes ends the round with some good ground work on Marquardt. In the second an illegal knee rattles Lietes, results in point deduction from Marqaurdt, and Lietes struggles on. The third finds Marquardt dominating but receiving an unjustified additional point deduction. Mike Swick Vs. Marcus Davis- Snoozer. Watching it live, I took the opportunity for a snack break. Rewatching it on DVD, I hit the fast forward button. Micheal Bisping Vs. Jason Day- Bisping enters to a raucous hometown reception that seems to establish the pattern of the local hero versus an overwhelmed late replacement opponent. The outcome isn't surprising.
The main event pitted Matt Hughes Vs. Thiago Alves. They needed a main fight and with former longtime welterweight champ Hughes in limbo after losing twice to Georges St. Pierre and Alves in the rising ranks of title contenders, well, why not? Hughes wins, he gets to re-establish his legacy. Alves wins, he has hops into number one contendership. A sour mark on the match is that the massive Alves missed weight, bringing up bad memories of his past bust for using diuretics. Alves size and power simply overwhelms Hughes, who once had a sizable wrestling advantage over everyone that seems to have disappointing in quickly evolving modern ranks of MMA.
Picture: All the muscle, tattoos, and buzzed down haircuts come at you in Anamorphic Widescreen. Conscious of looks from the start of its post-Zuffa buyout, UFC's production has really honed itself into a very smooth machine over the years. The DVD presentation is adequate, no real severe defects with a decently detailed image.
Sound: We get two 2.0 Stereo tracks, English or Spanish. Basic stuff that just gets the job done. The really amusing aspect to me is how they must remove all of the ringwalk music due to right issues, so we get to see the oddity of Matt Hughes, known for his "Shucks I'm just a farmer" persona and signature ringwalk song Hank Williams Jr's "Country Boy Can Survive," replaced by generic, cheesey metal.
Extras: A nice round of extras includes the Spike tv Countdown show (39:51), Weigh-in footage (22:42), Behind the Scenes Featurette (26:22), and UFC.com features (21:22). The Countdown focuses on the main event'ers. Behind the Scenes follows Swick and Davis. Basically all of these features add up to a good dearth of promotion pandering and letting fans get a fairly intimate look behind the scenes with fighters going through preparation and giving rounds of pre and post fight interviewing.
Conclusion: What started off disastrous in the planning stages turned out to be a very nice card of fights. This was largely due to losing a compelling main event so many times it aired for free instead of ppv and then most of the main event matches ended early enough that three very good prelim fights made it onto the broadcast. It is one of those puzzling fight cards that begins pretty great and fizzles a bit when it gets to the higher profile marquee fights. While not stellar, definitely worth a buy for die hard or casual MMA fans.