Monday, October 25, 2010

UFC 121: Brocked!

On Saturday night I got a few friends together, ordered some delicious chickens wings, and enjoyed myself a few hours of scantily clad men beating each other up. This is the first time in over 7 years I've plunked down some cash to watch a PPV event (pay per view). This was a ritual I had often partook in throughout the 90s and early '00s. Though back then, it was almost always wrestling cards. Though we were getting together to be entertained by men in their underwear, often a big part of it was just enjoying the rowdy company of each other. So, it was a pleasure to revisit a tradition of old, though this time it was watching men actually hurt themselves rather than pretend to (well, actually they often hurt themselves in pro wrestling too -- but that was more due to doing grueling maneuvers in a staged event).

Of course, this was an event I was actually really looking forward to seeing, and so it was nice to have people over to share the cost (an UFC card costs you $49.95 before tax to watch). If you have an interest in UFC then you know this was a loaded show, which had lots of big names competing in important matches. If you don't watch UFC, then you probably already stopped reading this post anyway. The night of wings and hanging out was awesome, but in the end, we were putting our butts down on that couch to be entertained for hours of man beatings. So, I'll now do a quick look back at the card, and if you plan to catch it at a later date then you may want to turn back now, because there will be spoilers.

Patrick Cote vs. Tom Lawlor: This was actually part of the 'free broadcast' (as in you don't need to pay extra to watch this portion, but you still need to plop down the bucks for cable) on Spike TV or Sportsnet One. I was rooting for Cote simply due to the fact he was Canadian, even though Lawlor would normally be someone I'd cheer for simply because he has the nickname 'Filthy' and is known to sport some rocking facial hair. On this night Lawlor didn't bring his best beard game, but that was the only thing he was lacking. Cote apparently has a weak ground game, and that was made clear throughout this fight as Lawlor would bring him down and Cote would use the 'dead possum' strategy of fighting. This produced a really boring fight which isn't how you want to kick off the television portion of a major card. It also demonstrated that Lawlor was a far superior fighter compared to Cote, and it was a dominating (and boring) victory. I do have to say my disinterest was the fault of Cote not doing anything once he was on the ground, and I would be interested in seeing Lawlor fight again in the future. I think, Lawlor definitely has a chance to start getting some recognition and maybe begin having his fights on the main card (the PPV portion).

Court McGee vs. Ryan Jensen:
This isn't a fight that contains any major stars or legitimate title threats, but it made it on television because McGee is the most recent The Ultimate Fighter winner (a show on Spike where they essentially have a tournament to win a contract with UFC). This was a really fun fight to watch because both guys really started out aggressively. Jensen was rocking McGee early with take downs, punches and knee, but to the credit of McGee (this was the fight he had to prove he was legit), he continually came back at Jensen. As the fight proceeded, McGee started landing a lot more shots and blocking lots of Jensen's take down attempts. Finally, in the third round, McGee took down Jensen then he delivered some elbows, which lead to an arm triangle for the tap out victory. McGee was able to justify his contract, and will hopefully get a bigger profile fight his next time around.

Mike Guymon vs. Daniel Roberts: This fight actually happened earlier in the evening, but was shown on television at this point. Guymon was the hometown boy and definitely wanted to put on a great performance for his family and friends. Instead, he ended up being the recipient of the coolest submission of the night. Roberts put him in a choke, but flipped his entire body over to get him on to the ground (I can't really describe it properly, but it was very impressive). Roberts got a cool looking victory, and Guymon lost in under a minute in his hometown (somebody got a better deal in that one).

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Brendan Schaub: Gonzanga is sort of like a mixture of Frankenstein's monster and Lurch, or in other words, not the man I want to meet in a dark alley. Schaub is another previous The Ultimate Fighter competitor, and made it to the finals of his year. The fight started off really hot with Schaub unleashing with a flurry of punches and was keeping a really great pace that benefited him. I am not sure if Schaub's offense psyched out Gonzanga or if he gassed out early, but Gonzanga was doing almost nothing by the time the third round arrived. This meant the fight ended in a rather boring manner. Gonzanga is one of those guys that has such power, that you just assume he could knock out his opponent at any point, even when he is losing badly. Unfortunately, Gonzanga tried very little despite being in a losing position in the third round; I wondered if it was because he lost so many of the exchanges in the earlier rounds thus was mentally out of it. Gonzanga did have a burst at the last few seconds where he even almost got a choke locked in, but it was far too late in the fight (thought this didn't stop Gonzanga from inexplicably raising his own hands in victory -- maybe being alive was just a win for him?). Unfortunately, in the first fight where there was some 'stars' it ended up being a little boring at the end. Schaub proved he has a lot of energy, and was capable of hanging with the bigger stars, but he still has a ways to go since the heavyweight division is so stacked right now.

Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill:
Tito is one of the 'bad guys' of the UFC where he tends to cut promos (interviews) that disparage the other fighter, and makes himself come off as a conceited ass. In the fight game, you never know for sure how close that is to reality, because your job is to sell fights. So, if people want to see your opponent beat you up but you then are able to win; you will continually convince fans to shell out money for your fights to see you eventually lose. Also, there is the whole strategy of trying to make the fight look like you legitimately hate each other, because the promise of two guys tearing into each other will draw a huge amount of fans. In this case, it was the teacher (Ortiz) v. the student (Hamill), because Hamill was formerly on The Ultimate Fighter and Ortiz was his trainer for that show. It was clear that both guys did respect and like each other, but in order to sell the fight, Ortiz had constantly made reference to how Hamill will be easy to knock down because he is deaf (not sure where Ortiz got his medical degree with such great knowledge of the human body -- aka his claim makes no sense).

Tito actually hasn't won a fight in over 4 years, but is such an established name he still gets used to sell a card. Tito seemed to know he had to put on a good showing because this was a really great fight. Tito immediately took it to Hamill, which hasn't been Ortiz's style in a long time. In the heavy exchange in the first round, Hamill was actually able to open up Ortiz, and this caused Hamill to continually concentrate on the cut. The first round was a series of kicks and punches to be exchanged, and each guy landed some really great blows, but it was probably Ortiz's round.

The second round wasn't as quick, and it was clear that Ortiz was starting to tire. A good portion of this round ended up going to the ground after a take down by Hamill. The third round saw the continuation of punch exchanges. Ortiz attempted a big take down, but was stopped by Hamill which seemed to show that Hamill had more strength and energy at this point. The end of the fight saw Hamill get another take down, and start to really show his dominance at this point (announcers remarked he was using the Ortiz strategy of ground a pound throughout). It ended up going to the time limit, and Hamill won the unanimous decision. At the end, both gave each other a hug, and a huge amount of respect was shown. At this point, this was probably the best fight of the night, and was the hottest the crowd had been (though they'd get much more excited and vocal for the main event).

Diego Sanchez vs. Paulo Thiago:
This was another really awesome fight. This was another one where the guys just went at it right at the start. Thiago landed the more dominant blows in the first round. At the halfway point in the first round, Thaigo took down Sanchez, and essentially was working for the submission for the rest of the round. It really seemed like this was Thiago's fight to win. He may have come out too strong in the first round, because the next two rounds really were Sanchez's. In the second round, Thiago attempted a few more submissions but Sanchez was constantly able to block him, and stay in the dominant position. Then in a moment that any pro wrestling fan would appreciate, Sanchez lifted up Thiago and gave him a powerslam. Though, it seemed like it did some damage to Sanchez because his head hit the mat hard. Though, in retrospect, this was the turning point of the fight, and Sanchez controlled it from this point on. This was another fight that went the distance, but was incredibly entertaining with lots of attempts for submissions throughout plus the awesome powerslam. In the end, Sanchez was the clear winner (which is probably why he won).

Jake Shields vs. Martin Kampmann: Shields is a fighter that UFC just 'stole' from their competitor, Strikeforce. The attempt was to use this card to showcase Shields, and build him up for a future welterweight title fight with George St. Pierre. I am assuming they spent a lot of money on him, and had hopes of making him a big star (he is talented and on a huge win streak, but was never a real draw in Strikeforce). If that was the hope, then this fight was a total flop. It was a painfully boring fight, and the most exciting parts were all Kampmann. In the second round, Kampmann dealt out two hard knees which dropped Shields, and allowed Kampmann control on the ground. The problem is, Shields is a good wrestler, and was able to get a few take downs and keep Kampmann in the guard. Shields won the fight because he was on top for longer, but rarely did he ever make solid attempts for a submission. I think, there could have been an argument that Kampmann should have won the fight too, but Shields is the bigger name thus probably got the benefit of the doubt. Either way, it was a really poor UFC debut for Shields, and can't see them justify a title match for him now. My friend suggest he'd probably be relegated to a free Spike show next (they rarely put the big stars on free shows, but you also don't want to put a guy who doesn't sell on a PPV show -- and a man who creates boring fights doesn't sell).

Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title: It was a loaded card, and up until this point (minus the Shields fight) it had been a really good card. The reality was we paid the money this night and the crowd packed the arena in Anaheim for one reason, everyone wanted to see the huge world title fight. The crowd was deafening during the entrances, and it was clear Brock was a huge star (maybe the biggest in the company). He got a lot of cheers, but the thing is, there is a lot of people that hate Brock too. That is partly because he plays it up, but I also think that he is a former pro wrestler makes people really dislike him. They seem to forget he was a successful NCCA amateur wrestler and has spent a the last few years really trying to perfect his skills in MMA. Of course, there is the whole thing that he is the world champion. Since Brock winning pisses off the MMA purist, I always have and always will root for him.

As for the fight, it was really short but incredibly explosive. Lesnar seemed to know that he couldn't allow this fight to go long, because Cain has unparalleled stamina and endurance. Brock immediately started throwing out punches and went for a huge take down. It did very little damage on Cain, and then Cain responded by one of the most explosive flurry of punches I had ever seen. Brock was cut open really bad, and blood was pouring all over the mat. The man who proved he had an amazing chin and could take a beating, was then TKOed by Cain. We saw a new world champion, and the crowd exploded with delight. Even though I was rooting for Brock, I was really impressed by Cain's performance, and plus he seems like a legitimately good guy (he does a lot of motivational talks among the Hispanic youth community). I was happy with his championship win.

At this moment, I want to make a comment about the commentary. It is so clear that the commentators have certain orders they have to follow. During the Shield fight, they wouldn't stop talking up his amazing ground skills and how he needs to finish off Kampmann, despite the fact Shields was showing very little in the fight (and in no spot to finish it). For the main event, they spent the whole night talking about how both guys were legit monsters and Brock was the 'baddest man on the planet'. Suddenly after the fight, the commentators stated Brock was 'exposed' and it was clear to them that Cain was far superior. It is stuff like that which is not only annoying but hurts the credibility of the announcers. I haven't seen enough shows, to know how often this type of stuff is done, but I felt it took away from the broadcast. It is silly to talk up a guy who clearly is not doing well in a fight, and you definitely make your biases clear by doing that. It is is even sillier to say one thing the whole night, but then say the opposite when an unexpected result happens. Yes, Brock was rocked, but I think the results still could have gone differently on another night, and he is far from being done with the title picture.

All in all, it was a really great night of fights, and I immensely enjoyed myself. If your a MMA fan, you should definitely try to get a replay or wait for the DVD. There is hot and explosive fights, and the wild main event alone is worth checking out.

8 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:56 am

    What a night, what a night. Shields did nothing but absolutely tick me off. When the fight ended I just loved the fact that, not only was the crowd booing almost as loud as they ended up cheering during the main event, but that they did not even give Jake an in-octagon interview.

    What do they do with this? A title shot is credible based off of his career, but not off of his performance. He does claim that a lot of it was that he had to cut 20 pounds in one day to make weight. This could definately impact his performance, but is really inexcusable. Sure, he had fought a few times at 185, but he also wasn't told last minute that this fight would be at 170. If he is a professional (and also an elite fighter) he should be planning on a healthier and effective weight cut, using the months that he had to prep for this fight.

    Sigh... seriously, this fight really took away more than it gave. How can someone who claims to be great, and who is considered a pound-for pound best fighter in the world, fight for 15 minutes and land only 53 strikes? Not only that, but those strikes were getting weaker and weaker to the point that I knew for sure that even I could shrug them off. He was litterally tapping Kampman.

    It does take two to tango, but it takes only one fighter with superior skills to make a crappy fight. Kampman definately could have been a bit more agressive at times, but his real downfall was trying to wrestle Shields in the third round instead of keeping the fight on the feet. That said, Kampmam is indeed good, Shields is indeed better, and Shields needs to return at least five dollars to me and my friends for wasting some of our money.

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  2. You make a really good point, I don't understand why Kampman didn't try to keep it standing in the 3rd round when Shields was obviously gassed. He had the obvious advantage in striking to begin with, and it doesn't make sense to use a strategy that would help Shield to just drag the round to the time limit. If he kept it standing, he had a good chance of knocking Shields into next year, and essentially turn this into a career making fight.

    The weight cut excuse is one of the most pathetic ever, because did Shields just learn on Friday what weight limits of that division were? We knew about that fight for a few months now, and he had tons of time to voice his concerns about weight cutting. And if that is the issue, he is in the wrong division (which then kills the whole reason he was brought into UFC).

    If he uses that excuse long enough, then you just need to sign him for a fight in the higher weight division, and see if he can go up there (if he can't, maybe UFC cuts their losses).

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  3. Anonymous1:34 pm

    It definately is a huge question. Dana really wants him at 170, and is still stating that he will be getting a title shot next. I really have a hard time seeing that from a business perspective. The only footage that the UFC owns to cut promos for Shields is highlights from Saturday's fight. Selling this would be insanely tough. They are saying that they want to set a new attendance record, and they want to do it in Toronto in the spring of 2011. The best way to do this is a fight with St Pierre, but not with Shields. Maybe a fight between Jake Shields and Jon Fitch would be great if Shields could come out on top. Perhaps that way there could be some serious momentum put behind him to make people see him as a challenge.

    I think my two biggest curiosities coming out of Saturday are Court McGee and Diego Sanchez. Court seemed to improve his striking a lot, so I am really wanting to see just how much he will keep progressing. I think that with the number of promotions out there it is less likely for standouts to be farmed from the Ultimate Fighter and I am interested to see if perhaps Court can make it.

    With Diego, I have always cheered against him. I felt that we were robbed of two things on Saturday; an anime style stare-down from Diego, and a more-epic-than-epic mustache from Filthy. That aside, I was a fan of how Diego fought. He made a change in his camp for this fight, and the big question was just how much of a difference training with Greg Jackson would make, especially after an incredibly unmotivated performance at his return to welter weight. I think the question was answered as Sanchez really took it to an amazing fighter and looked legit at 170. I am quite looking forward to see his next fight and follow this progression.

    We definately need to get together again for another good card. It was just too much fun. And the potatos...

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  4. I totally agree with Shields getting the next title shot being a poor business decision especially if St. Pierre ends up still being the champ (which is not only likely, but what I am sure UFC hopes for too). Because like you said, they want to break an attendance record in Toronto and there is absolutely no argument that St. Pierre is the most popular and biggest UFC star in Canada (even bigger than Brock, I'd think). If you want a record then you put that country's biggest draw in the main event. But the issue is, Shields put on a horrible fight, and I'd bet a huge number of people are UFC fans rather than MMA fans. Which I mean is, they watch UFC and follow UFC but don't care for any other promotions. Just like how WWE was huge in 2000, but nobody cared about WCW or knew what was happening there.

    What this means is, that I think a large portion of people know very little about Shields. They only know what UFC and Dana tells them, and of course, what they now saw on Saturday. The big problem about Saturday, is I am guessing that show did a monster buy rate, which means lots of people saw Shields make a shit sandwich. All those fans only have that one fight to know him, and UFC doesn't have any footage to prove otherwise about their opinion that Shields kind of sucks a piss popsicle. All that to say, I can't see St. Pierre vs. Shields doing anything special in attendance or buy rate unless I'm either underestimating how much of a draw St. Pierre is, or if they really load up the under card with something amazing. I just don't know if UFC can do that since they're spreading themselves so thin right now (maybe they try to do a Mir v. Lesnar match underneath? Or when is Forrest Griffin due back?)

    I like Court; he really impressed me. I say they try to give him a few more 'build up' fights and hope it goes in a positive direction. He seems he is improving his game. I agree with you, that TUF is going to start produciung less and less standouts just based off the fact you're destined to run out of available talent. The only advantage at this point is UFC is trendy, and so it may attract potential athletes that would normally go elsewhere. But a good amateur wrestler or kick boxer or football player or chess genius may have great potential to be a MMA star, but there is a big difference between potential and the now. In UFC, you can't last long on potential since it is so deep in talent, and those guys may be better suited to start out in Strikeforce (rather than fizzle in UFC for a few years).

    Anyway, some interesting points you brought up, and I enjoy the discussion, especially since you are far more knowledgeable than I -- so I learn stuff.

    Oh yeah, potatoes.

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  5. Anonymous2:33 pm

    Haha... latest news. Undertaker was there, which was saw, and aparently got into it with Brock after the main event. It seems as though there was an angle for it. The WWE wants Brock to face the Undertaker in a one time pro-wrestling match at Mania. I just heard that on a radio show, and was wondering if any of the sites you check out are saying anything from the WWE side of things.

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  6. I just heard the same thing, that WWE wants to do Brock vs. Undertaker for Wrestlemania. I have no idea if anything is signed or official. I'd assume they would need the okay from Dana, and this would also mean Brock probably wouldn't be training for a fight, which would put Mir v. Brock off the books for April. But again, I think it is more just a wish by WWE, but I did hear that the 'confrontation' was designed to build up something for 'Mania.

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  7. Anonymous2:58 pm

    If they get the fight, it was smart having Undertaker there... Vince could do some good stuff from that. And, this would actually get my geek back on for Wrestlemania. Call me a sheep, call me whatever. It would definately spark some interest in me, and I would get some excite on for that. It would easily be the safest sort of cross-promotion that Dana could be involved in. If his fighter loses, it is what it is and that's all. The hardcores of MMA would hate it, but I would appreciate such a thing. The man was entertaining in the squared circle.

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  8. You're right. It is smart to try cross promotion because UFC is so hot, and so why not try to at least appeal to the casual UFC fan. Brock is the smartest guy to use because 1) some casual WWE fans that only watch for Wrestlemania's will already know Brock thus be interested, 2) It might draw back in people who have left WWE because they'll fondly remember Brock from a 'better time' 3) might draw in some UFC fans (except for the hardcores and purists), and 4) Brock used to be a pro wrestler so he won't need as much training to put on a good match and more importantly, he'll know how to pull punches or do moves to prevent a mass injury.

    There really is only one show I'd ever consider paying money for in WWE nowadays anyway. And this would pull me even closer to being interested.

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