UFC 66 Musings (and Spoilers)
Around 8:40pm I headed to my local sports bar to watch UFC 66. When I made my one person reservation they told me I would be sharing a table, which was fine by me. I ended up sharing a table in the back with a really nice couple named J and M. We had a good view of the big screen and we had some short between-fights conversations. I had forgotten that people smoke in bars since bars in Toronto have been smoke-free for some time. Still, cigarette smoke doesn't bother me, except when it obscurs the screen.
The card was a delight. I really like MMA: the diverse backgrounds of the fighters, the pesonalities, the courtesy and sportsmanship most of them display, which will probably dissipate as the sport goes mainstream, but I'm going to enjoy it while it lasts. Here are some observations I jotted down while watching. Next time (UFC67 is Feb 3) I may just bring my laptop and live-blog it.
The broadcast started at 9:00pm, and the first fight got underway at 9:12 or so. [Spoilers follow!]
1. Bisping/Schafer: Schafer looked tense, Bispring looked relaxed and happy. Bisping was wearing camo trunks, which annoyed me. I don't like people who didn't actually serve in the military wearing camouflage (exception: hunters while hunting). Schafer did well in the beginning, but then Bisping took control and won with a TKO. At this point I realised that the bar was too noisy for me to hear much of the post-fight interviews and commentary.
2. Cruz/Arlovsky: I took an immediate liking to Arlovsky for three reasons: first, he reminded me of a Russian guy from the gym in Jerusalem. Second, because he was wearing the close-fitting trunks rather than the floppy trunks most fighters wear. The floppy trunks just look sloppy to me, as if someone left their surfboard at home. Third, because he actually bowed in and bowed out of the octagon, like you do when you step on and off the mat at a martial arts school. I wasn't impressed with the illegal kick to the face, but the strike that followed after the ref (Herb Dean) gave him a talking-to was lovely and seemed to come out of nowhere. That was the beginning of the end for Cruz in this fight. I was struck by the courtesy, as the fighters parted with a handshake at the end of the fight.
3. MacDonald/Leben: Leben looked tense, MacDonald looked relaxed. According to the stats he's got a 6 inch reach advatage. I start to think that the person who looks happier at the beginning of the fight is more likely to win. I was looking forward to this fight, because MacDonald was the only Canadian on this card. I'm cheering for MacDonald because he's Canadian and because he's older, 31 to Leben's 26. I was so tense during this fight. At the beginning of the fight, when they show the stats for each fighter, it said that one of Leben's strengths is "sprawl and brawl". What the heck is that, a technical term? During the first round Leben tries all sorts of things but MacDonald keeps grabbing/clinching and effectively shuts him down. At the end of the first round the camera cuts to the audience and we get a shot of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf mock wrestling. They look very sweet. Hey, I think that UFC makes a perfect date night too. :-) In round two MacDonald finishes things off with a submission that is so lovely I could write a poem about it. (Relax, I'm not going to.) More courtesy at the post fight interviews, as Leben says something to the effect of "I made a mistake: it's his fault he won, it's my fault I lost". MacDonald takes the opportunity to say hi to his kids watching at home. This is the best fight so far, and not just because the Canadian won.
In between fights we get promos of UFC 67 on Feb 3, which will feature the UFC debut of Cro Cop. At this point I clarify to my tablemates why the promos don't actually have any footage of Cro Cop. They're thinking of going to Las Vegas to see this card live.
4. Griffin/Jardine: The crowd at the bar is mostly pro-Griffin. I like Jardine. First of all, he was born in Butte, MT, and I've actually been to Butte. Second, I happen to think he's better looking: not many men can carry off the bald + goatee look, but he manages to do so. Jardine sees an opening and takes it. He strikes, and you can see the exact moment when he gets this look on his face, when realisation dawns that his strike damaged Griffin; I think it's about 29 seconds before the end of the first round. Then he goes in to finish it. The ref (John McCarthy) stops it with 19 seconds left, which is a hard way to lose, but it was the right call. Jardine's strikes are making Griffin's head bounce off the mat. At the end Griffin is devastated. I think everyone including him was expecting him to win and he probably feels he let the entire universe down. The camera cuts to him for a split second and he's sobbing. The morons at the table to the right of me start laughing/jeering, which makes me furious. None of them look like they know what training is, and I highly doubt any of them could last in the octagon with anyone for ten seconds. Idiots.
5. Alves/DeSouza: Alves is 23, DeSouza is 32, so I'm cheering for DeSouza, but the description for Alves says he can do both Muay Thai and BJJ, and I'm curious to see what the kid can do. Alves kneels and crosses himself after entering the octagon. When the fight starts they're both hesitant, testing each other. DeSouza just manages to survive the second round by clinching to stop Alves' barrage. But Alves ends it quickly at the beginning of the second round. I expect we'll hear more from Alves.
More flashes to celebrities in the audience. Since I don't own a tv I don't know most of them and don't particularly care.
6. Ortiz/Liddell: Finally. It starts around 11:10pm. I can't believe how fast the evening has gone by. I've been so engrossed in the fight I've forgotten to order food. Since the start of the broadcast UFC has been encouraging fans to go to their web site and vote as to whom they think will win this fight. at 9:15pm only 36% think Ortiz will win, at 9:46pm the % goes up to 43, and at 10:09pm it's up at 47%. Hmm. Does that mean Ortiz fans don't bother tuning in to the broadcast until later? Most of the people at the bar are pro-Liddell, but there is a small and vocal group of Ortiz supporters to my left.
Ortiz and his entourage enter in their coordinating costumes. He's got a silly kerchief on his head. (Note to fighters everywhere: only about 0.5% of you can carry off that look. Buy a toque instead. Op. cit. Jardine.) Ortiz doesn't remove his shirt for the pre-fight check. The first word that comes to my mind is primadonna; I don't care what it says on your shirt, go through the check like everyone else. Twit. Liddell enters looking relaxed and focused at the same time. No stupid kerchief, thank God. He takes off his shirt for the check without fussing.
The fight starts. The ref is Mario Yamasake, who also officiated the Bisping/Schafer fight. While Ortiz makes a couple of attempts at takedowns, Liddell stays upright. So Ortiz tries to go toe-to-toe with him. Nothing doing. At one point Liddell attempts a sweep. I was expecting him to (read the April 27 Real Fighter article on Liddell's site to see why). I stopped scribbling and just enjoyed the fight. Towards the end of the first round Ortiz is bleeding from a cut over his eye, but doesn't seem too bothered by it. I expect he's got a decent cutman in that identically dressed entourage of his. I don't have enough notes from this fight to do it justice, but there are plenty of reports online. The fight did make it to the third round, where it ended with a a Liddell victory. Ortiz made some gracious comments in the post fight interview, saying that he brought his A game and that this was almost the best that he could fight, but I'm still annoyed about the shirt antics. Liddell's post-fight interview was simple and professional: he invited people to the afterparty and noted the sponsor, a movie called 300. The movie is on my must-see list in any case. The fact that there's a Frank Miller comic book involved increases the chances that my students will see it too, which means that they'll learn about the battle of Thermopylae. It's a good thing. :-)
Once the main event was over people started to leave, but I stayed to watch the Marrero-Gonzaga fight. Lots of groundwork in this one, with the fighters spending a lot of time in the guard. It ended with submission by Gonzaga. I'm disappointed that the Singer-Okami and Wellisch-Perosh fights weren't broadcast. Couldn't UFC just tack them on to the end of the broadcast? What's the problem?
Full results are on the UFC site here. Go read and enjoy. And that's it: my first attempt at sports writing. :-) Next attempt February 3. Anyone else out there planning to watch it? Maybe we could do a blogburst.