Success equals expansion and while the UFC's efforts to break through in Japan have been stymied, they have found some headway across the other side of the pond in England, Ireland, and they have an upcoming show in Germany.
UFC 89 took place on October 18, 2008 in Birmingham, England and was the third UK event that the UFC held that year. The time delay aspect of holding events overseas has resulted in many of these cards not having pay per view spots. Not expecting viewers to tune in the regular numbers on a lazy weekend afternoon, the UFC often tape delays the shows and airs them on Spike tv. This also means the cards are not packed with too many megafights, such is the case here with a very weak main event that would never draw huge numbers on a usual pay per view.
Top to bottom, this really isn't the greatest card. The prelims begin with a duo of chokes and a duo of decisions. In Samy Schiavo vs. Per Eklund, the French Schiavo tags the Swede Eklund, knocking him briefly to his knees, but Eklund recovers and keeps pushing to take Schiavo down. The second round sets the pattern for the finish in the third, Eklund getting Schiavo in trouble on the mat with close rear naked choke and armbar attempts. Jim Miller vs. David Baron is an even more lop-sided affair. Miller's superior wrestling and careful control makes for dominance but also less than edge of your seat action until Baron finally succumbs to a choke in the third. Terry Etim vs. Sam Stout and Jess Liaudin vs. David Bielkheden are not bad fights, no shortage of technique, but are lacking in fireworks, just the sort of pitting where one man slightly outpoints the other.
The prelims end with two polar opposite matches, a complete and total tko blowout and then some competative action that results in a narrow split decision win. In Shane Carwin vs. Neil Wain, US HW prospect Carwin blitzes the UK's Wain, a blubbery bruiser who in no way, shape, or rotund form deserved to be in the UFC. Then we have Dan Hardy vs. Akihiro Gono, for me, the best fight on the entire card. The little known UK'er Hardy was making his debut against nothing less than an MMA veteran of almost fifteen years in the offbeat Gono. The fight is very interesting. Hardy has tight and technical standup, mixing up standard offensive combinations, while Gono is the slickster counter fighter looking to move, perplex, and pick off power shots. Hardy gets the edge by simply outlanding Gono, who was the only one to push for occasional takedowns which Hardy mostly scrambled out of quickly without taking any damage.
The broadcast night begins with Paul Kelly vs. Marcus Davis. Not much to speak of as Kelly seems to be a bit of a deer in the headlights, unable to deal with Davis movement, incapable of landing anything significant. Kelly then decides to try for a takedown in the second and carelessly leaves his neck exposed, so Davis grabs a guillotine, forcing Kelly to tap. Paul Taylor vs. Chris Lytle is an absolute slobbernocker slugfest. Taylor is the more traditional, while Lytle loads up and wings hooks like he's a human weed whacker. The difference in this fight, which quickly had both men exhausted from power punching, is the fact that Lytle could put Taylor agaisnt the cage and maintain clinch control and score random takedowns.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou vs. Luis Arthur Cane gets my vote for second best fight of the card. Basically you have, respectively, judo-striker versus pure striker. After being relatively nothing special, Sokoudjou made waves by ko'ing two top LHW's back to back in Ricardo Arona and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. His star quickly fell, this match being one of those indicators. Sokoudjou throws everything he has at Cane, who musters not even as much of a blink while he absorbs shots and methodically doesn't back down looking for his spot. Sokoudjou quickly wilts in the second, a pattern with him, if he cannot hurt an opponent, make them cautious early, he fades. The co-main event is next, Kieth Jardine vs. Brandon Vera. Basically, Jardine is a perennial fringe contender, always falling short when it looks like he's a fight or two away from a title shot, while Vera was a groomed star who through contract disputes and some underwhelming fights also fell from the ranking graces. The fight is a near stalemate. While there are some flourishes, Jardine getting cut and his face bruised early, Vera getting taken down and pummeled a little against the cage, for the most parent it is tentative standup with Jardine's herky-jerky style slightly outpointing Vera.
The main event of Micheal Bisping vs. Chris Leben is also pretty uneventful and follows the same three round pattern. Bisping has the superior movement, he circles and more or less throws the exact same combination, jab-jab-right hand, or jab-jab-right low rick, or, if really close, jab-jab-knee. Leben is also a creature of habit, plods forward, looking to slug, all the while eating punches like he's snacking on popcorn at the movies. By the end of the fight Leben's face looks like hamburger, he's otherwise unphased but also unable to implement any other plan of attack. Its an easy, peck away win for Bisping.
The DVD: First Look Studios.
Picture: The event is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Overall, technically and transferwise, there are no glaring problems. Good overall image. Crisp sharpness. Nice contrast levels. Decent colors. Appears free from nagging artifacts like severe edge enhancement or noise.
Sound: Two workmanlike 2.0 Stereo tracks give you the option of English or Spanish audio commentary. Really, nothing but the basics. It is a sporting event, so the mixing is as per usual, all one asks for is clarity and you get it.
Extras: A second disc of extras contains the following: Behind the Scenes (24:08), UFC 89 Countdown (40:51), UFC.com Interviews and fight highlights (43:51), and the event weigh-ins (11:02).
The Behind the Scenes focuses on Bisping and Leben at the prefight press conference (Bisping in a suit, Leben in t-shit and cap), weight cutting, prefight time killing, routine prep, locker room warm-ups, and dealing with post fight lumps and lacerations. The Countdown show is more in-depth with Leben and Bisping, going over their history (both in and outside the cage), following them at training camps, and Jardine and Vera get the same but much briefer treatment at the tail end of the feature. The .com stuff is also good, giving all the fighters some interview time but perhaps the highlight is footage of Gono's always welcome, goofy, afrowigged, choreographed ringwalk routine.
Conclusion: Of course, if you are a fan, you try to be a completest must look at your UFC DVD's without a space between 88 and 90. So, I wont be speaking to those people. For all you casual fans, even at the bargain price these DVD usually drop down to, even though the extras are really good and thorough, the event itself is not likely to get many spins. Really only two fights on the whole card stand out as halfway memorable, so I'll lean towards giving UFC 89 a rental.