Sunday, April 08, 2007

UFC 69 Musings

Maybe I should find a new place to watch UFC. The first time I went, they seated me at a table with a nice young couple. The second time, they seated me beside an annoying guy who morphed into an annoying drunk guy. And last night, they stuck me behind a pillar. The pillar turned out to be unexpectedly useful. I moved my chair so it was right beside the pillar. I was reasonably comfortable the rest of the evening, even if I had to twist around 270 degrees every time I wanted to drink. I got to the bar about ten minutes before the show started, and barely had time to find my seat, order something and get my book and pen out before it got under way. It begins with an amusing promo shot that features leather body armor and a sword. Probably meant as an allusion to 300, but succeeds only in reminding me of Z3na: Warrior Princess.

It occurs to me that if I had chosen Texas over Kansas a year ago I could have gone to see this one live. Or maybe not, considering the ticket prices. The first fight shown is Alan Belcher vs. Kendall Grove (for a second there I'm thinking Walnut Grove. I've got 70s tv on my mind today.) There's a clip with Belcher; he is wearing a plaid shirt and a black and white kerchief on his head... aiee, my eyes. I can't hear what he's saying because the four guys at the table behind me are talking rather loudly.

Entrances: AB looks happy and relaxed. The info on the screen says that he's a striker with ko power and conditioning. He's got one tattoo on his left deltoid. I'm grateful for the restraint. Grove enters wearing a white punishment athlete sweatshirt and a lecterish red face mask. Meant to look intimidating, but reminds me of the transformers. He takes off the shirt to reveal oodles of tattoos. The screen says he's got a height advantage, and something about strikes and submissions. He also looks relaxed, but not as happy as AB. He gets a lot more cheers than AB did. John McCarthy is the ref for this one.

KG strikes first and AB answers with a takedown. AB does the knee to side and KG does elbow to head. They get to their feet and lock up again. A kick by KG sends AB reeling back but there's no follow through. There's a mini shot at the corner of the screen with Tito Ortiz yelling out advice. At least he's wearing a suit. There's a foot stomp by KG. At 24 seconds to go in the first round the ref breaks them apart. At 3:48 to go in the second round it looks like AB is bleeding. There's a flurry by KG, and he ends up winning it by a lovely choke. He does a digging demo I can do without, but I can't quibble with the win or the fight. AB recovers sufficiently to congratulate KG at the end of the fight.

The next fight is Mike Swick vs. Yushin Okami. The ref is Mario Yamasaki. YO enters unaccompanied. The ever helpful screen says that he is strong, knows ground & pound, and has experience. 20-3 record, apparently. MS comes in looking focused but not relaxed. Looks like sideburns are back in style. The commentators say he's the hometown boy. He shakes hands with people in the crown as he enters. The crowd definitely likes him. I miss his record because several people come into the room during this fight and my view of the screen is blocked. I appreciate the lack of tattoos on both of these fighters.

MS starts off with several kicks but they don't seem particularly convincing. YO grabs him and pushes him back across the octagon to the wall. He holds MS down and pounds. YO is in control and MS looks perturbed. In the second round MS kicks and YO grabs and pushes. MS has a "not again" look on his face. He seems to be panting. At one point YO has hold of MS's ankles, and the guy at the table behind me suggests a figure four. There's a flurry by MS, but YO pushes him against the fence again. There's a minute to go in the 2nd round. They're on the ground with MS on top. At 20 seconds or so to go MS wakes up and remembers that he really ought to do something if he wants to win this. Between rounds his trainers are putting ice on his chest and back.

3rd round. YO is panting. There's a flurry by MS but it lacks oomph. YO take down again. At two minutes left it seems to be all YO, but with 20 seconds to go MS comes to life. At the end of the fight both fighters are pacing around the ring, both looking seriously unhappy. It's an unsurprising unanimous decision for YO. The interviewer brings in a Japanese translator so they can get YO's post fight comments. The translator doesn't understand YO with the mouthpiece in his mouth...

We get a promo for UFC 70, then a look at GSP and Serra. Looks like GSP is doing a shoulder and arm warmup, loosening up. Back to the fights... not yet. First we have an announcement by Dana White: a teaser about the "superbowl of MMA" and then a lengthier announcement about the signing of Antonio "Minotauro" Nogueira. If you're wondering what a minotaur is, go here. AN has a nice smile, and I hate to sound petty, but why is he not wearing a suit?

The next fight is the lightweights. Roger Huerta vs Leonard Garcia. Tattoos: RH has a stylized something or other on one arm that looks pretty good. LG has a tiger on one shoulder and an assortment of other things that don't look quite so good. LG enters, runs around the octagon and kneels at the center. RH enters with earphones on. He looks calm and touches hands with the crowd as he walks. The screen says that he "likes to go to war". Who writes this stuff? RH crosses himself before entering. He is wearing the short, close-fitting trunks (think Arlovski) rather than floppy trunks, so I like him already. The measurements are very close. An inch difference in height and reach, a half pound difference in weight. The experience edge goes to RH, who has a record of 18-1-1 in contrast to LG's 13-1. It says that RH is fighting out of Minnesota. There's MMA in Minnesota?

The commentators mention that RH's last fight ended in 19 seconds. RH has G against the fence. LG takes RH down, driving his face/head into the mat. RH gets out of it. I'm guessing he's done his share of neck training. This fight has everything. Ground fighting, standup striking. At the end of the first round LG looks happy, although it might just be a perpetual smirk. His coach tells him "you need to calm down". But just as the coach's instructions to LG get interesting, they cut away to look at GSP and Serra getting their hands taped. Hello? On what planet is hand-taping more interesting than in-fight instructions?

Second round starts. LG looks tired. with two minutes to go they're on the ground with RH on top. Another takedown at 40 seconds or so to go in the round. I'm enjoying this fight so much I forget to write things down. At the end of the round RH gives LG a pat on the back. It's nice to see some sportsmanship to offset the morons who are coming up later. The cutman is working LG between rounds. 3rd round. At 4:10 to go, they're on the ground with LG on top. RH reverses. There's a flurry of activity with a minute to go. At 20 seconds to go RH is still hitting and LG is still alive. The crowd in the bar is applauding.

At the end of this fight RH and LG are kneeling in the center of the octagon across from each other, hands on each other's shoulders, heads touching, talking intently to each other. Then they walk around the octagon together. Beautiful. This level of class is why I watch this sport. LG's right eye is swollen near-shut. It's a decision for RH. He thanks God, his trainers, his mom, says "I love Texas", and spends the rest of the time praising his opponent. When the commentator is done RH asks to add something. He talks about his last fight, says "it was a legit knee" and "I belong here". You can see that criticism of his previous fight and 19 second win was bothering him, and going through all three rounds here is a vindication for him. I hope to see both of these guys again.

In retrospect, this was the most satisfying fight of the night. Almost made me forget the subsequent fight. Koscheck and Sanchez. The commentators say that when it comes to these two, "the word is hate". No, the word is "idiot". Everytime they show the clip of the shoving at the weigh-in I get annoyed. I'm somewhat more favorably inclined towards Koscheck because he wasn't the one shoving, and he had the sense to not shove back. I really hope the shoving wasn't pre-planned. If I wanted to see this nonsense I'd watch pro wrestling.

JK enters first, looking focused but not happy. What's with the pouting? He's wearing a camo t-shirt under a gray sweatshirt. Once in the octagon he listens to the ref's instructions and nods. He looks very serious. DS is preceded by a mariachi band: the "Mariachi Imperial de America". Oy. (I do not like overdone entrances, and this one brings up a five year old boxing memory - Hameed-Barrera, April 7, 2001. Hameed had an over-the-top entrance and ended up getting his butt kicked by Barerra. One of my favorite boxing matches ever.) DS enters running and skipping. JK is bouncing lightly and waiting. John McCarthy is the ref for this fight.

The first round is all wary striking and circling. JK is not keeping his head down. He's got one hand out, keeping distance between himself and DS. Neither fighter is endearing themselves to the crowd with all this inaction. With two minutes to go DS is bobbing and weaving and the crowd is booking. At 20 seconds or so to go, JK does a takedown. He pushes forward, picks DS up and lands. DS gets up. The round ends and the ref separates them. The second round is more of the same - nothing happening. Same thing in the third round. I take the opportunity to look around the bar. More activity in here than on the screen. There's a woman with an interesting t-shirt. It says "What do you call a person with no fear?" and the answer below "an ambulance".

It's a decision for JK. DS looks like a man who's been had and just realized it. What a dull, stupid fight. I don't want to see either of these two anytime soon. Maybe Mr. White can sit them down and make them watch the lightweight fight about fifty times. They might learn something about class. JK puts on a red cap at an angle. He re-enacts the shoving and tells the interviewer: "love me or hate me I don't care, he's 19 and ooooone" referring to DS's no longer perfect record.

Finally we get to the GSP-Serra fight. I hope it is good enough to make me forget the preceding stupidity. Serra comes in first. I like his entrance music. He looks good in that cap, brings out his cheekbones. Someone get this man a Men's Fitn3ss cover (they got one for Chuck Liddell, didn't they?) He looks relaxed and happy and I start worrying. He greets the crowd as he passes. He listens to the ref instructions looking serious and focused. GSP comes in next and I like his entrance music also. He's wearing a gi over shorts and a t-shirt. He crosses himself and bows in. This is a tough one for me. I like GSP because he's Canadian and because he has a reputation of being a very classy person. But Serra is older and shorter, and at a 6" reach disadvantage, so I want to cheer for him too. Sigh. I decide to cheer for GSP because the entire bar seems to be pro-Serra.

Serra is pacing and GSP is skipping. There's an extended glove touch/handshake and bow. As I often do in main events, I get too focused on the screen. I didn't get to write anything down before this one ended. The people in the bar were screaming when Serra moved in. It looked to me like GSP was still in a recoverable position until he tripped for the second time. And then it was over. GSP is on the ground. He recovers enough to be classy about the defeat. "Tonight I got beat by a better fighter than... myself", he says, pausing between the "than" and the "myself" - looking for the correct English equivalent. I love watching him; I hope there's a rematch. Serra is gracious also, saying that GSP is "the future of the sport". They're showing Hughes at ringside looking very happy with the Serra win. Well, it was a short fight, but I'm not disappointed.

The left-over time means that we get to see one of the earlier fights. It's a sore sport with me that not all the fights are televised. Would it kill them to show all the preliminary fights at the end of the card? Those who aren't interested could go home after the main event, and those that like the sport could stay and watch the whole thing. It's Luke Cummo vs Josh Haynes. Haynes has a blue mohawk and sideburns, and a tattoo on his side that might as well say "aim body shots here". I like this fight, except that people leaving the bar keep walking past me so I keep missing bits of it. LC won this one, and even though JH's UFC record is now three losses, I would like to see him fight again.

And that's it. You can see the official results and read coverage on the UFC's site. A decent card overall, a wonderful lightweight fight, and while the main event was short, that's the sport. Not every fight can go twenty-five minutes like RC-MS did at 68. Next report on April 21 if I can figure out where to watch UFC 70. I don't have a tv and I forgot to ask if the bar will be showing it even though it isn't a PPV.

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