Cro Cop returned, Velasquez ascended and the Ace handled the Axe, all before the sun went down here in the United States.
Complete with a few controversial endings, UFC's first event in Germany had a handful of exciting televised bouts nonetheless. As expected, Franklin and Silva put on an exciting fight that "Ace" took by unanimous decision, but in which the "Axe Murderer" arguably delivered more damage. Silva hurt Franklin badly in the second round, but the former UFC Middleweight Champion seemed to have Wanderlei's timing down after the first round and was able to weather the flurries of punches that Silva dished out.
We also got a look at what somewhere down the road has to be a formidable opponent for UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar, with Cain Velasquez improving his record to 6-0 over Chieck Kongo. You can probably remove the prospect tag off Velasquez, but don't hand him an experienced one just yet either. Velasquez, a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler showed off elite endurance and frequent as well as effortless takedowns and transitions into mount on Kongo that impressed. Kongo, though, seemed to outmatch Velasquez on his feet and did damage with punches, but closed in allowing Velasquez to take him down and control the fight. Velasquez still needs to improve his ability to finish and his submissions, and also showed that while he was beating Kongo with ground and pound, he wasn't severely damaging him the way a fighter like Mark Coleman would. That said, a lot of potential still here.
Another anticipated bout was the return of Mirko Cro-Cop, who unfortunately has his first-round TKO over Mostapha Al Turk diminshed by an eye poke prior to being finished, by Cro-Cop (who, as I recall, didn't throw a kick over the several minutes the fight lasted) still seemed in control of an overmatched Al Turk.
Mike Swick also looked impressive, ending his bout with fellow welterweight Ben Saunders in the second round with punches and moved to 8-1 now in the UFC. Saunders has imposing size for the division, but Swick in his move from 185 to 170 looked much more suited for the weight class. He constantly used combinations and punches in bunches to finally put down Saunders. One has to believe that Swick is getting close to being a top contender in the division.
Another hotly-debated finish was the result of the grudge match between Marcus Davis and Dan Hardy. While Davis seemed to dominate the fight, he ended the final minutes of the bout wiping blood from out of his vision and took more damage. The bout could have been scored 29-28 either way, but Hardy took the split decision.
Overall, some fans are going to be disappointed but viewers on television got a pretty solid show with a mix of decisions and finishes that were worth the money. It's going to be interesting to see what the UFC's heavyweight contender picture looks like after Mir and Lesnar square off at UFC 100 next month. As Silva will move down from the catchweight of 195 that he and Franklin met at to transition from light heavyweight to middleweight, the talk of bad blood between he and former training partner Anderson Silva squaring off is highly unlikely now. Wanderlei will need to string together several impressive victories before that discussion picks up steam again.
Finally, here's a look at my predictions for the fight, with the correct picks in bold, and incorrect picks with a strikethrough.
Rich Franklin v. Wanderlei Silva
Winner: Rich Franklin
Mike Swick v. Ben Saunders
Winner: Mike Swick
Marcus Davis v. Dan Hardy
Winner: Marcus Davis
Dennis Siver v. Dale Hartt
Winner: Dennis Siver
Denis Stojnic v. Stefan Struve
Winner: Denis Stojnic
Spencer Fisher v. Caol Uno
Winner: Spencer Fisher
John Hathaway v. Rick Story
Winner: John Hathaway
Paul Taylor v. Peter Sobotta
Winner: Paul Taylor
Terry Etim v. Justin Buchholz
Winner: Terry Etim
Paul Kelly v. Rolando Delgado
Winner: Paul Kelly
Cheick Kongo v. Cain Velasquez
Winner: Cain Velasquez
Mirko Cro Cop v. Mostapha Al Turk
Winner: Mirko Cro Cop
Things went fairly close to predicted, with 10/12 correctly picked, or 83.3%.
I'll be back with more MMA likely before or after The Ultimate Fighter finale.