Sunday, 25 October 2009

Almost come full circle

I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to getting back to the MEN Arena for UFC 105; not just because of the fight card itself, but also because it's where I shot my first ever UFC event - UFC 70, back in April of 2007.

Many years had passed from the day that I first saw UFC 1 on VHS. As a contributing photographer to the agency Camera Press, I received regular emails detailing what events of note were happening in the UK - mostly centered around the London scene, but occasionally further afield.

I was a little surprised to see that the UFC was still going strong as I had stopped training in martial arts about seven years earlier. Curious as to what the modern incarnation was, I asked my agency to credential me to the show. I booked my rail ticket and a B&B on the outskirts of the city, not knowing what was in store for me.

Suffice to say the event was a trial by fire for me. Believe it or not, this was my first time shooting MMA and it was very challenging. I learned some harsh lessons quickly and, to this day, I'm surprised that I got any material worth filing. Still, it was such a rush that I was instantly hooked on the sport!

Well that's enough rambling. Here for your enjoyment are some of the (very few) gems that I nailed that night.

Edilberto de Olivera vs. Paul Taylor
Taylor def. de Olivera, TKO (strikes), 0:37 R3

Jess Liaudin vs. Dennis Siver
Liaudin def. Siver, submission (armbar), 1:21 R1

Alessio Sakara vs. Victor Valimaki
Sakara def. Valimaki, TKO (strikes), 1:44 R1

Junior Assuncao vs. David Lee
Assuncao def. Lee, submission (rear naked choke), 1:55 R2

Terry Etim vs. Matt Grice
Etim def. Grice, submission (guillotine choke), 4:38 R1

Cheick Kongo vs. Assuerio Silva
Kongo def. Silva, maj. decision, 5:00 R3

Michael Bisping vs. Elvis Sinosic
Bisping def. Sinosic, TKO (strikes), 1:40 R2

Andrei Arlovski vs. Fabricio Werdum
Arlovski def. Werdum, unanimous decision, 5:00 R3

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic
Gonzaga def. Filipovic, KO (head kick), 4:51 R1

Note: I'd like to say that I've put up this shot of Mirko "Cro Cop" looking bewildered after his KO loss for its emotional content in lieu of an 'action' shot from his fight against Gonzaga, but the truth is... I missed the headkick KO on account of sheer stupidity.

Towards the end of the round, Filipovic was pressed up against the cage, grounded, with Gonzaga in full mount, raining down a seemingly endless barrage of elbow strikes. Whilst some slipped through, Mirko was managing to deflect most of them. Referee Herb Dean decided that the action had stalled and stood the fighters up.

I knew the round was close to an end but I wasn't sure how many seconds were left. I dropped my camera away from my face, turned my face to look at one of the big screens to check the round time and then "THWACK"; a big, wet, meaty thump of noise which I felt more than heard. Snapping my head back round, I saw Filipovic crumpled on the canvas, his ankle twisted at an odd angle beneath him. I raised my camera and tried to focus on the downed Croatian, knowing all too well that I'd just missed a brutal and spectacular KO.

The big screens quickly replayed the action and I was forced to watch what I missed; the slow motion showed Gonzaga's leg extending, Filipovic tucking his elbow in to his midsection (expecting a kick to the ribs, no doubt) and then having his lights turned out as the Brazilian's left foot caught him square on the skull.

So the lesson was learned: I'd never again take my eyes (and camera) off the action, no matter what was going on.

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