First of all, hats off to the UFC for doing such a great job of taking a huge stadium like the Rogers Centre and turning it into a truely unique and memorable, yet still recognisable UFC experience.
What impresses me most is that the backroom staff managed to pull off the whole show without any noticable hitch despite shipping in 38 semi-trucks of equipment, (including enormous screens made specially for the event) to kit out the stadium compared to their usual 5 semi-trucks.
Even better, the fights themselves lived up to the occasion, with just one exception. Unfortunately the one dark spot turned out to be the main event between GSP and Jake Shields which meant the event ended on an anti-climactic note.
Both fighters were to blame for this. St.Pierre didn’t ever step into top gear in an attempt to finish the fight despite clearly being the better fighter, while Shields decision to entirely abandon the idea of taking the fight to the mat after a couple of failed attempts in the first round was truely baffling as that was his only realistic chance of winning the fight.
GSP suffered an eye injury during the second round which left him essentially unable to see out of it for the remainder of his fight which could be a reason for his slightly lackluster performance, but really this was almost a mirror image of his overly cautious display we saw in his last fight with Josh Koscheck, aside from the addition of a sloppy overhand right that he seemed intent on winging throughout the course of the fight to little effect.
It seems that the champion is being somewhat crippled by his desire to play it safe and never to put a foot wrong (as he did against Matt Serra) and I hope that’s not also going to prevent him from ever committing to a ‘superfight’ with Anderson Silva because that’s exactly the kind of challenge he needs at this stage in his career.
Thankfully the rest of the main card was a lot of fun. Jose Aldo Vs Mark Hominick was a great showcase of the excitement and energy that the WEC’s lighter weight classes can bring to the UFC.
Aldo looked more human in his UFC debut that he did in his dominant reign in the WEC, but he was still impressive at times with his crisp combinations, hard leg kicks, and swift takedowns.
A lesser fighter would have wilted under the pressure, but Hominick showed great resolve, especially after suffering one of the worst hematomas ever seen in combat sports in the fourth. The fact that he then had his best round of the fight in the fifth was a true testament to his character.
I had felt fairly certain pre-fight that Lyoto Machida was going to KO Randy Couture (I called it in my predictions here on Friday), but I never expected it to happen in such spectacular fashion. The jumping front kick was one of the best KO’s I’ve ever seen and the fact that it effectively ended Couture’s illustrious career ensures that it’ll be featuring on MMA highlight reels forever more.
The truth is Couture’s been on borrowed time for quite a while, and his slowing reactions and weakened chin were always going to make him easy pray for a lightning quick striker like Machida.
Couture had nothing left to prove anyway, he’s already a legend and I’m glad he had already chosen to bring his career to an end rather than have to witness him getting KO’d repeatedly like his fellow hall-of-famer Chuck Liddell.
Hats of to Vladimir Matyushenko for his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it first round KO over Jason Brilz. To tell you the truth this was one of the fights I was least interested in on the entire fight card, but ‘The Janitor’ rose to the occasion perfectly.
In my pre-fight predictions I questioned whether or not Ben Henderson would be able to make the grade in the UFC, but he proved against Mark Bocek last night that he’s going to be a handful for anyone at 155lbs, and as in the WEC, he’s going to continue to put on entertaining fights.
And so it’s on to the prelims which were for the most part exemplary, perhaps sparked off by the fact that there was already a huge crowd watching by the time the first prelim started, and due to the fact that each and every one of them was being broadcast live on Facebook.
For me Rory MacDonald was the real stand-out here. Nate Diaz is no joke, but the 21 year-old Canadian outdid him in every aspect of the fight. from striking to clinchwork and grappling MacDonald proved beyond all doubt that he has the skill-set to be a force at 170lbs in the coming years.
Jake Ellenberger is also an emerging powerhouse at welterweight, and his KO victory last night takes his winning streak to four fights. He now needs a bigger name opponent next time to establish him as a legitimate title contender.
Almost every fight here deserves a mention, but hats off in particular to Pablo Garza and John Makdessi for kicking off the night with a flying triangle submission and a spinning back first KO respectively.
Garza was handsomely rewarded with a whopping $129,000 bonus, and Makdessi was desperately unlucky not to pick up the same amount for KO Of The Night due to Machida’s finish. Hopefully the UFC gave him some kind of locker-room bonus to make up for it.
Finally, congrats to Jason MacDonald for returning from a terrible leg break in the Octagon last year, and with his job on the line managing to produce a first round submission victory in front of his home fans.
Overall this event really did feel like a landmark moment in MMA’s history, and perhaps gave a glimpse at the future if the sport continues to grow at it’s current rate around the globe.
This may have been the UFC’s first stadium event, but it certainly won’t be it’s last.