By Bryan Alvarez
This is Bryan. Dave's play-by-play will start when he's done with an interview he's conducting right now, at about 6:45 PM EST.
Notes: With the exception of a giant ramp and Titantron, this is set up exactly like this year's WrestleMania. There are about 6,000 fewer people, but otherwise same crowd, tons of lights and big screens, a ridiculous amount of speakers (to the point I was warned to bring earplugs), etc. There is a huge, and I mean HUGE four-sided video cube above the Octagon and the picture quality is ridiculously good. It is pretty amazing to watch a UFC event from a building this big.
1. Yves Jabouin vs. Pablo Garza. They just hit the music and it's LOUD. I should note that this place isn't even close to full here for the first prelim. Of course, the main show doesn't start for another three hours. Pablo was aggressive early, bulling Yves into the fence and landing hard knees from the clinch. Yves fought free to the middle. HARD leg kick by Yves, then another, knocking Pablo on his ass both times. Good God. He got kicked in the face and lot his mouthpiece. Yves floored him with another leg kick. Pablo needs an answer to those pretty much right this second. His mouth was bleeding. Now they were trading leg kicks. Yves tried a jumping spin kick. Huge mistake. He missed and ended up in the clinch, at which point Pablo did a jumping triangle. Yves was shaking his hand no like a pro-wrestler, but then Pablo pulled on his head and Yves tapped. US beats Canada. Fans were not happy, but not enough here to really make you think a riot was coming or anything like that. Good fight. They did cheer Pablo afterwards because they respected his technique.
HUGE pop for Joe Rogan. Biggest pop of the night so far.
2. John Makdessi vs. Kyle Watson. A bird just fly by. Swear to God, a legit bird. Big stadium. Not much action early as you can see. Watson looks like Christian. Oddly enough he's the American in this fight. People were booing at the four minute mark. Don't even know how to score this. Kyle landed a good kick to the stomach in the last one second. This would be like 10-9.5 (or 10-9.9) Kyle I guess, but they don't do that so 10-9 Watson. Kyle even moves like Christian. He ATE a right hand early in the second. Kyle started taking him apart with shots. High kick by Kyle. Spin kick by John missed. Kyle tried a takedown and missed by a mile. John was missing these wacky spinning kicks and such. Both missed spinning backfists. How about someone land something? John responded with a series of jabs. Kyle ate leather this round, so 10-9 Makdessi. And because of the scoring, this is now an even fight on my card even though Makdessi is very clearly winning this fight at this moment. Kyle was bleeding bad from the eye early in the third and he nonchalantly went to check it, I guess thinking John wouldn't punch him as he was doing this, and, well, John went right after him. Don't let your guard down during a fight. John then threw the same spinning backfist that both guys had missed by a mile early and hit it dead on, dropping Kyle like a great oak tree, and brought the Canada vs. The World score to 1-1.
I just moved my play-by-play to the top over Ben's because I am AN EGOMANIAC.
Dave just showed up, he's heading down to do play-by-play.
Watson just now got helped to his feet, at least two minutes after he was knocked down. That was something else.
3. Jason MacDonald vs. Ryan Jensen. Jason bulled him into the fence and Ryan immediately pulled an arm-in guillotine. Couldn't get it, and in losing it MacDonald got his back. He transitioned to the other side and set up a triangle. Ryan tried to powerbomb his way free but MacDonald held on and Ryan was forced to tap. Place went nuts. Sweet fucking jiu jitsu. That should be a submission of the night. They showed a replay and Jenson was punching desperately trying to escape right before tapping, and people laughed at that visual. 2-1 Canada at this point.
If you haven't seen it yet, my interview with Mauro Ranallo on The Score just hit number one on "Most Popular Videos". You can check it out here.
4. Charlie Valencia vs. Ivan Menjivar. Mejivar overwhelmed him quickly, knocked him on his ass with a hard left short elbow, destroying his nose, then pounded the crap out of him until the referee stopped it. It's now 3-1 Canada.
5. Daniel Roberts vs. Claude Patrick. Really starting to fill up in this building. The ring girls are consistently getting big ovations. Claude, the Canadian, took him down immediately. Claude actually bulled him away from the fence as opposed to into it, which to me indicates he wanted to work for a submission as opposed to ground and pounding him. Roberts went for the submission, however, a kimura. Claude tried to turn it into a kimura of his own but Patrick stood up. Long clinch on the fence. Claude with a big overhand right, then a takedown. Claude passed the half guard and tried a head and arm choke but Daniel saw it coming. Daniel tried some rubber guard. Claude just stood up and then unleashed hell upon him. They ended up at the fence and I heard, no joke, the loudest "KNEE!" chant of all time. That was fucking cool. 10-9 Claude. Roberts took him down in the second but Claude was right back up. Ben thought this was Roberts' fight. Ben Miller, the guy right next to me. He's right now typing about how I have no idea what I'm talking about. HARD knee to the face by Claude. "He does have to do something, though," said Ben. I'll say. Claude tried a takedown and Patrick caught him in a guillotine, but Claude slipped out and ended up on bottom. I can't cheer for or against any fighter there as a professional journalist, but I think it's OK to cheer for or against Ben. Claude did a good job defending from the bottom, then escaped to guard and stood up. Actually a hell of a scramble. Daniel was looking at the clock. More "KNEE!" chants in the clinch. High kick and right hand by Claude, then a leg kick. Tough to call there. Daniel had the takedown but pretty much did nothing with it, and I think Claude landed the harder strikes. So 10-9 Claude. I suspect Ben saw it the other way. Good body kick by Daniel. Clinch against the fence, then Claude took him down with a leg trip. Mount. Daniel escaped to butterfly and then stood up. Both guys looked tired. Daniel tried a takedown and couldn't get it. People booed a clinch like crazy and the ref separated them. Hard front kick to the body by Patrick. He stuffed a takedown and went for a guillotine but Daniel popped his head out. 10-9 Claude, so basically either 30-27 Patrick or 29-28 Patrick if you want to give Daniel the second round. Judges scored it 29-28, 29-28 and 29-28 Patrick. Sucks to be Ben. 4-1 Canada.
Welcome to Spike TV in the US!
6. Jake Ellenberger vs. Sean Pierson. Jake with a takedown, Sean stood right back up. They had a wild slugfest in the middle that Jake slightly got the better of. Jake then clipped him, sent him into harm's way, and then finished him off with a barrage of strikes. JAKE WINS, JAKE WINS, JAKE WINS! I won't even joke and make that the headline of this article because I can only imagine the emails I'd get. But Ellenberger turned it around for the US here. 4-2 Canada.
7. Rory MacDonald vs. Nate Diaz. Nate came out flanked by his brother Nick and Gilbert Melendez. Not sure if it occurred to anyone, but Jesus a Strikeforce vs. UFC-style program with Nate Diaz and his Strikeforce Homies against Random UFC Welterweight and his UFC crew would be so awesome. The Diaz Brothers are the best crew in MMA. I once interviewed Jay Briscoe and asked if anyone had every compares him and his brother to the Diaz Brothers and he said no, nobody had ever said that to him before. I couldn't believe my ears. Anyway, this fight should be fun. Nate was HATED here. So it's Nate Diaz and his Strikeforce Homies (which would also be a great band) vs. The Great White North. A huge portion of the crowd near me chanted "FUCK YOU DIAZ!" The building was so big it didn't catch on. Kick right to the face by Rory as Nate was fucking around being Nate. Nate then went after him and bulled him into the fence. I believe Nate attempted a deep half guard and, well, that didn't work. Back on the feet. Rory was taking him apart with leg kicks and Nate did the gesture as if to say, "Why won't you fight, motherfucker?", when, in fact, Rory was fighting rather effectively. Rory bulled him into the fence. Nate tried a takedown but couldn't get it and was getting hit. More "FUCK YOU DIAZ!" 10-9 Rory. Second round had the loudest "FUCK YOU DIAZ!" yet. These people really wanted Diaz fucked. Diaz kept trying and failing on the takedown attempts. He finally pulled guard. I should add that Rory had one of the worst cases of backne ever. He didn't stay down and waylaid Nate on the way up. Rory took him down and was in his guard briefly, but stood back up. HARD uppercut by Rory. Nate bulled him into the fence and started landing knees to the thighs. Trip by Diaz but Rory was right back up. Rory was starting to slow down and back up. This is his fight two rounds to one at this point, but him getting submitted in round three is not out of the question. Flying knee by Rory. Twice here he tried to take down Diaz, which was a questionable strategy. Crowd cheered the round. Nate was busted up around his eye. People were chanting "RORY!" and stomping their feet. Nate tried some wacky deal, probably an attempt at a leglock, and got punched for his troubles. Rory got behind him and gave him two nasty German suplexes. People went fucking NUTS, screaming and stomping and yelling "RORY" so loud that the building was legitimately shaking. There were also people behind me in the press area cheering, which is a big no-no. Jake lifted him up and dumped him on his head again. This was getting the kind of reaction Undertaker and HHH got at Mania when they were kicking out of their nearfalls. Nothing as big as the tombstone kickout, though, not even close, in fact. Rory was beating him on the ground as well, I should note. He got him down and appeared to go for a D'Arce, but Nate stood up. Nate needed a miracle at this point. He tried to pull guillotine but Rory slipped out and pounded on him. Hard elbows by Rory. Nate was trying various exotic guards and getting pounded for it. Easy 10-9 round for Rory and an easy 30-27. Incredible reactions for this fight. Amazingly, two judges actually scored it 30-26, surely for a 10-8 third round. Place went batty for Rory afterwards. 5-2 Canada.
If you have never been to a live UFC, the pre-show video package may, in fact, be the greatest fucking video package in the history of life on Earth. With that said, it's edited together with highlights in such a way to make UFC look like the most violent and dangerous sport in the history of not just the Earth, but probably the entire Universe.
Show is starting. This feels like a really REALLY big deal. Though it didn't feel that way until about five minutes ago.
8. Ben Henderson vs. Mark Bocek. Bocek shot early but Henderson stuffed him. We'll see what effect, if any, the hard weight cut has on Henderson. And whether he fights better with an enormous angel wings tattoo on his back. Henderson initially missed weight by a half pound and I think it was a half pound of ink. A lot of movement but not much substance to it for a few minutes. Lots of bobbing, weaving, swinging and missing. Bocek went for another taekdown and Henderson started punching him in the face and body. Bocek finally kicked his leg out of his leg and took him down. Henderson tried to stand up but couldn't. This was actually a close round. Bocek took him down and held him down, but he largely just held onto him trying to keep him there. Henderson, meanwhile, landed a lot of shots from the bottom. So Bocek dominated the positioning but I felt Henderson did more damage. Very close round, though. Bocek went for another takedown in the second and Henderson was landing bodyshot after bodyshot as Bocek struggled to get it. He finally got a slam but Henderson landed in guillotine position. They were quickly back up. Clinch on the fence and Henderson was landing knees. Ref separated them quickly, which I didn't understand. Henderson got him down and was landing shots. Bocek looked like he was setting up a heel hook but let it go. Crowd actually chanted "KNEE" when Henderson, the American, had him in position to throw one. Bocek was trying for a version of the D'Arce. Doesn't he know you can't submit Henderson? He tried a guillotine but Henderson escaped and then lit into him. Henderson NAILED him with a knee on a shot. Bocek was bleeding all over. Easy 10-9 Henderson. Bocek got a takedown in the third. Henderson had him in guillotine position but let it go. I think Bocek's corner must have told him he needed to start hitting this guy. "LET'S GO BOCEK!" Ben stood up and started pounding on him while he laid in guard. Not just shots to the head, but also the body. Bocek looked to have him in heel hook position again but chose to control him instead of go for the submission. He got Henderson's back standing but couldn't do anything with it. He tried a shoot but Henderson sprawled and landed more shots. Ben was taking him apart against the fence. Bocek got a takedown and passed to half guard. 10-9 third for Henderson and 30-27 on my scorecard. I'll be three 29-28s though. Wow, 30-27 across the board for Henderson. Crowd not happy, but Henderson seemed like a good guy so there were only light boos and also applause. Actually, there were more boos when he started talking about Jesus. Currently 5-3 Canada.
Affliction girls are here with t-shirt guns.
9. Jason Brilz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko. Matyushenko knocked him out in like 20 seconds. The reaction to this was so weird. It was really fast. It came out of nowhere. After the ref stopped it Brilz popped right up. And the fans just kind of cheered a little. Not like a huge pop like a knockout shot, or booing like they thought it was a bullshit stoppage. Kind of a confused applause. Then they showed a replay and Brilz clearly went limp right before the ref stopped it, and when people had it confirmed that it was a good call they politely applauded. I think the key here is that nobody in the world cared at all about this fight.
They showed GSP and Shields on the big screen. Shields looked like a nervous teenager. GSP looked like he was ready to go hunt bears with no weaponry. I think this is going to be a slaughter. Like, a really bad one.
10. Randy Couture vs. Lyoto Machida~! Lyoto came out with Steven Segal, which is never not funny. Building is packed. They are pretty much pushing this as US vs. Japan, here in Canada, with both entrance videos starting with the respective man's home flag. Randy is clearly the big babyface though as people were chanting his name just when they put the flag on the screen. People are going nuts for Randy. "LET'S GO RANDY!" Lyoto was coming at him from all sorts of weird angles, but not actually throwing anything. First real shot was thrown a minute in and Lyoto clipped him. Randy with a straight right hand. Rnady appeared to try for a double leg. That didn't happen. An exchange and they both clipped each other. Randy looked like he took the worst of it. Big exchange in the middle but nobody got hit. Right hand by Lyoto. Hard knee by Lyoto. Randy got in there to clinch but Lyoto just shoved him off. Randy was trying freestyle takedowns, attacking the lower body, as opposed to his usual Greco-Roman game. Lyoto with a hard knee on a shot. 10-9 Lyoto. People applauded the round, which speaks to educated fans, because this was not the kind of fight a casual fan would have patience for. Lyoto peppered him with shots early in the second and then easily stuffed a takedown attempt. And then suddenly Lyoto Machida, the Karate master, did the fucking KARATE KID CRANE KICK and knocked Randy out. That was almost the exact same move that Anderson Silva used to knock out Vitor Belfort that Anderson also claimed he learned from STEVEN SEGAL. So maybe there is something to this. Anyway, everyone chanted "RANDY!" afterwards and gave him a standing ovation. I didn't think this was his retirement fight going in, but after the way this thing went, realistically I think this is the last fight of Randy's career, regardless of whether the fans believe it or not. Which I don't think they do. Machida did another one of his NEVER GIVE UP MACHIDA KARATE speeches afterwards, then said Randy was a hero and raised his hand. This was awesome. Randy, who appeared to be missing a tooth, said this was the end, he wasn't fighting again. He put over Lyoto as a tremendous fighter and athlete. Gigantic standing ovation and more "RANDY!" chants. He can't come back after this. Nothing could top it.
Barring some disaster, I'm thinking this will be remembered as the greatest UFC of all time.
11. Jose Aldo Jr. vs. Mark Hominick for the UFC 145-pound title. They were really playing up Canada versus the World here, or I guess more precisely, Canada going for a major world championship against an outsider. I'm just glad Aldo is alive because he looked near death prior to weigh-ins yesterday, as in, second only to the time I saw Jake Shields in an elevator before the Martin Kampmann fight where he was being held up by people and looked like he'd just been dug up. Someone in the crowd just blew an air horn like UFC uses between rounds. Can you imagine if someone at ringside did that during a fight? What a disaster. Homick with an uppercut instantly that sent spit flying. Hard leg kick by Aldo, Hard body shot. Jesus that guy hits hard. Hard leg kick. Aldo is just taking him apart. Hominick then hit a left and looked like he might have staggered him a bit. Trip by Hominick. Guy next to me in press row is marking out. Don't do that! More hard leg kicks. Takedown by Aldo. Armbar attempt by Hominick but couldn't get it. It was closer than many attempts. Loud "OLE!" singing. Generico is here? I know. Come on, I was at the Hockey Hall of Fame today, I'm a sports expert now. Aldo pounded on him from the guard. Hominick was trying to set up submission from the bottom but was getting hit. Aldo, renowned to have a world class ground game even though we never seen it, didn't appear concerned at all in Hominick's guard, and Mark is very, very good on the ground. Aldo just kept his hips pinned and landed shots. John McCarthy, who is bigger than ever, stood them up. Aldo got another takedown. Fans did not like their man on the ground. I think Aldo was trying to prove something here because he was winning the stand-up and there was zero reason to take it to the ground. 10-9 Aldo. Aldo had slowed down in the second. He did the worst attempt at a single since, well, earlier in the show and it got him nowhere. Hominick with a hard right hand. Aldo was losing the exchanges this round, eating the jab. He got another takedown at last. I wonder if the weight cut took a lot out of him and he felt he could conserve more energy in Hominick's guard. Mark was blatantly grabbing the cage and John McCarthy said nothing. A rule change I was unaware of? Crowd was booing. McCarthy stood them up again. Another takedown and Jose moved to side control. Aldo didn't do much from that position. Very close round. Aldo looked like he lost a lot of steam here. He did dominate most of the round but Hominick did more damage. I'll give it to Hominick but if you want to give it to Aldo that's totally fair. Aldo was a little more active this round, but his speed was nothing at all like the early part of round one. He tried another takedown but got stuffed. They were both landing shots, but Hominick's were crisper. Aldo had good head movement, though, and avoided a lot of them. But the ones that landed were more solid than the ones Aldo was landing. Another takedown but Hominick right back up. Hominick landing jab after jab. Aldo then hit him in the sweet spot and dropped him. It looked really bad for a second but McCarthy let it go and Hominick recovered. Eventually he was able to give the thumbs-up to McCarthy. Aldo stole the round right there, 10-9. Jab by Mark (easier to type fast than "Hominick"), then Aldo rocked him with a shot and low-blowed him. He quickly apologized. Another low blow by Aldo. Time out. Aldo brought back the hard leg kicks. Not sure why he went away from them. Aldo dropped him with another shot and then bulled him into the fence. Should note that Hominick had slowed down dramatically as well. A fucking DISGUSTING -- let me emphasize that -- FUCKING DISGUSTING hematoma appeared on Hominick's head. I mean, he looked like the elephant man. Worse, perhaps. That was the most grotesque thing I have ever seen. And he kept grabbing the cage. What is up with the cage-grabbing? The doctor stopped the fight to look at the lump. He was allowed to continue. If that thing blows up, I will legit vomit right here all over my keyboard, AND I HAD VOWED TO NOT GET SICK THIS TRIP. Another 10-9 for Aldo. Well, say what you will about the fight but you'll never forget it if you saw THE LUMP. I should add that for those disgusted watching on at home, keep in mind I am looking at it on a ONE HUNDRED FOOT WIDE IMAX-LOOKING SCREEN. The doctor checked him out before the round started and let him go. Aldo was head-hunting now. Well, heads hunting. So Hominick took him down. Oh God, blood. DID IT BURST? No yet. Now Hominick was punching him in the face. The guy next to me was flipping out. "COME ON!" he screamed, right here in the press box. Crowd was going nuts stomping their feet. Mark actually wasn't doing that much damage, but these fans had HOPE. People were going crazy chanting "HOMINICK!" Hominick kept looking at the clock. Hominick with the hard body shots. Everyone in the building was on their feet for the final ten seconds. Literally 60% of the people here in the press area gave this a standing ovation. Last time a lot of people will get credentialed. Aldo and Hominick afterwards both dropped down and started doing push-ups. 10-8 Hominick. 47-47 draw on my card. 50-43, 48-46 and 49-46 for Jose Aldo Jr.
What the fuck.
Seriously, FIFTY-FORTY THREE FOR ALDO? Not kidding.
Give me a few minutes. We'll get scorecards soon. Someone had to have added something up wrong.
OK, they fucked up. Crosby gave the final round 10-8 for Hominick, so his score was actually 48-45 Aldo. Thank God.
12. GSP vs. Jake Shields for the 170-pound title. If GSP or Shields doesn't finish this fight before about round three, the PPV is going off the air before it ends. We could be about to see the greatest UFC of all time end in disaster. Or this could be a single round shellacking, which is what I am expecting. Shields was booed, of course, but he was booed like a pro-wrestling crowd would boo a heel, meaning they are booing him because he's facing GSP and they're supposed to, but they don't really have any reason to actually hate him. Gigantic ovation for GSP. GSP witha high kick early. Shields trying for a single but not happening. Clinch on the fence. Shields throwing knees but not really much behind them. George just bulled him around into the fence. Separation. Jab by Shields. GSP tried a spin kick. Another. Not connecting. He's fighting a very cautious fight and landing the jab. Shields throwing kicks like he's in a cardio kickboxing class. "GSP!" Crowd is very patient despite nothing really happening. George knocked him on his ass with a jab. Shields tried another takedown but didn't get it. GSP did a little shuffle and the place went nuts. GSP's round 10-9 and the fans were remarkably patient. Buffer told the fans not to use air horns during the fight and the people booed. Jesus, people. More of the "OLE!" song. This was like a replay of the first round. I can't explain this. Maybe George really did convince himself that Shields was the most dangerous opponent of all time and was legitimately terrified to engage, or maybe more accurately was just being way too overly cautious. But you'd think you would want to perform in front of the hometown crowd, and this was two largely boring rounds in a row, pretty much sparring with a guy who did not appear to be any sort of stand-up threat at all. 10-9 GSP. Even Shields went back to this corner with a look on his face where if I had that look I would be thinking, "This is all this guy has?" Jake came into the third more aggressive. George was kind of landing these big overhand rights, but he didn't appear to be doing damage. Shields tried and failed at another takedown attempt. Crowd was just kind of sitting there. Another failed shot. They started to clap and stomp their feet. GSP was messing around with his eye and looked at the clock. He looked at it again with 25 seconds left. He then took Shields down. I guess he thought there was a chance that if he took him down with two much time left maybe Shields would submit him? GSP 10-9. He is winning via points. His left eye was bothering him. Shields came out in the fourth doing the Nick Diaz routine, throwing a hundred punches and kicks. GSP took him down and let him up. GSP dropped him with a Mirko Crocop high kick, but didn't rush in, just kind of meandered in here, let Jake recover, and then let him up. Shields was now mocking him, doing the Diaz hands-up, "Show me what you got!" taunt. There were guys trying to start "GSP" chants but at this point it wasn't taking throughout the arena. Jab by GSP. He was bleeding from the eye. 10-9 George. He sat down and shook his head. Join the club.
Judges had it 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47 GSP, so he retains the title. He did a promo afterwards saying his eye was in really bad shape, he couldn't see out of it and it was all blurry, and that he was sorry for his performance. Rogan asked him about a fight with Anderson Silva and he made it pretty clear he wasn't hot on the idea of moving up in weight and said, "Maybe there is another way," pretty clearly suggesting at best a fight at catchweight.
I can't overstate what a massive disappointment this was. GSP had the chance to create a real legitimate lifetime legacy for himself by destroying Jake Shields before 54,000 fans in the main event of the biggest UFC of all time in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Instead, all he did was prove the he would beat Jake Shields on points standing, which everyone in the entire world, almost certainly including Jake Shields and all of his teammates, knew going in. I understand not underestimating your opponent and that's obviously a very important deal in fighting, but what happened here, to me, was that instead of buying into his own hype, GSP bought into the hype that UFC created for Jake Shields and went in there thinking he actually was facing Anderson Silva in a 185- vs. 205-pound fight. There was zero evidence in this fight -- I mean, literally ZERO -- that Shields was better standing, better on the ground, bigger, stronger, faster, more athletic or anything, and still, GSP went in there and fought the most tentative fight imaginable, like Shields had blades taped to his fists or something. People can blame the eye, but that doesn't explain him doing nothing with a guy with a reputation for having a horrible stand-up game for the first seven or eight minutes of the fight, the fact that Dan Henderson nearly killed Shields standing in a lot less than five minutes, and the fact that even after the eye injury he was outstriking him -- including nearly KO'ing him with a high kick he didn't follow up on -- and taking him down at will. Worse, what had been up to this point the greatest UFC of all time ended up concluding with some of the fans actually booing GSP, and then the place quietly clearing out, many before the result was even read, and that buzz you get after an event you won't forget for the rest of your life was pretty much completely absent. And to me, that's the most important thing. People didn't pay to see GSP win on points over five rounds. They didn't pay to see him for 25 minutes, they paid to see him kill someone, and that's not the memory they are taking home with them. Worse, for the future, even if UFC does want to do Anderson Silva vs. GSP I can't imagine the world clamoring to see that fight after this performance.
I would still argue that, bottom-to-second-from-the-top, between the fights, the vastness of the crowd and the overall atmosphere and production values it was the greatest UFC of all time. Just really sad that, to use a sports analogy which I can do now after visiting the Hockey Hall of Fame, GSP had a chance to really hit a home run here and instead he walked.