Saturday September 3rd saw UFC Fight Night 93 (Aka UFC Hamburg, Aka UFC Fight Night Barnett Versus Arlovski). As with some of the more recent European Cards (Rotterdam and Zagreb particularly), the UFC has promoted Heavyweight main events, and this trip to Hamburg, Germany, was no different, with veterans and legends of the sport Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski squared off in a bout that promised explosiveness and delivered.
What more can you say about a fight like this? A combined experience of a whopping 79 professional fights between them before this one, with bouts in every time zone covering all major promotions in the history of the sport. The Pitbull versus the War Master, there is barely a thing these men haven’t achieved in the game between them.
The UFC face some criticism for it’s heavyweight division at times, but currently there seems to be a good mix of competitive styles with some extremely powerful veterans willing to put on a show and while neither of these guys will be getting a title shot soon, they both regularly ensure that those aiming for one are met with powerful punches and world class grappling along the way. These veterans are probably the scariest gatekeepers in the business and it is a testament to current champ Stipe Miocic that he had to come through Arlovski before getting his title.
As for the event as a whole, you could level some criticism at the card itself, with a fairly uninspiring undercard of what can only be described as Free TV fighters, with some debutants, including veteran journeyman Judo Jim Wallhead, who lost a split decision.
The main card
The main card began with German Judoka Nick Hein taking on Korean fighter Tae Hyun Bang. In a less than comfortable decision win for Hein, the crowd began to warm up, happy that their country man extended his mini win streak. It is, however, difficult to see Hein moving the needle and getting bigger fights without injecting far more excitement into his game.
Next up saw TUF alum Ryan Bader take on Ilir Latifi, who resembles an even more pumped up Hector Lombard in body shape, but looks like a solid wrestler, with a low centre of gravity who isn’t afraid to keep standing and throw some clean strikes. Being the European Latifi got the crowds support over American Bader and came out with the intention of putting on a show, dictating the pace and having arguably the better of the early exchanges, dropping Bader late in the first round, but landing at an awkward angle allowing Bader time to recover and avoid a quick finish. All Latifi’s good work, however, was blown out of the water 2 minutes into the second round when he was knocked out in spectacular fashion by the knee of Bader. Latifi had started to get lazy with his level changes and clearly telegraphed on too much, allowing the experienced American to smash him square in the head, sending him flying backwards in a spectacular and theatrical movement that was a few degrees off resembling a bizarre gymnastics display, such was the trajectory Latifi was driven back by. Bader’s £50k bonus for performance of the night for that one every bit deserved.
Next up was the intriguing co main between Alexander Gustafsson and Jan Blachowicz. Gustafsson is coming off a run which may seem poor at 1-4, but represent a period where he’s been fighting some of the best fighters in the business. He managed to take Jon Jones the distance and worried him a lot and lost a split to current champ Daniel Cormier, fights which sandwiched a good tko of Jimi Manuwa and a demolition at the hands of Rumble Johnson. Gustafsson needed an ordinary day at the office and this fight started in a manner which suggested he was going to have to work for his money. Blachowicz came out strong and caught the Swede with a couple of punches, doing visible damage under his right eye. If Gustafsson was worried that he’s underestimated the pole, he didn’t show it. In a masterful switch to plan b, Gustafsson proceeded to take Jan down and pound him into oblivion for 3 rounds, earning a solid decision win which puts him back on positive trajectory in the division. It wasn’t massively exciting, but it was technically brilliant, utilitarian fighting and he thoroughly deserves a W next to his name.
The main event
The first 30 seconds of this fight suggested these boys were taking a lead out of their experience from both Elite XC and Affliction, where rumours flew around that main event fighters were encouraged to take more risks if the prior card had been lacklustre. Straight away both men tried to do nothing other than punch each others head off, both being rocked and nearly going down to the canvas in quick succession before the fight began to level out. Some good strong stand up was coupled with some solid ground work, particularly by Barnett who was able multiple times to counter Arlovski’s leg trip take downs and fall dominant. As the fight went on Barnett became dominant and nearly got the finish in the 2nd round, the war and mess of blood made it quite apparent that this one wasn’t going the distance. After an accidental eye poke caused Barnett to turn away Arlovski nearly capitalised and if he’s been swinging a right hook from behind on a man who doesn’t possess a dolomite chin, he might have. As it were, Barnett reversed another take down, used his superior ju-jitsu and took Andrei’s back, choking him out 3 minutes into the third round. Both men showd each other a lot of respect afterwards and the crown certainly appreciated their efforts, if not the wider UFC’s somewhat lacklustre attempt at bringing a card to Europe.