UFC 153 was EPIC

UFC 153 was EPIC

UFC  153 was EPIC. From start to finish there wasn’t a single bad fight. Even Jon Fitch delivered. Hell, he got fight of the night! Who saw that coming? I figured he would awkwardly hump his way to a decision victory as usual. Instead I’m treated to a highly technical, back and forth, grappling/ground &pound expo. He even survived a really bad spot to take 2 out of 3 rounds, and that is what I want to talk about: the name of the game on Saturday night was perseverance.

Everyone on that card came to win. There were some dominant performances, but even so the fighters who got the wrong end of the stick were full of heart and determination. It was a beautiful example of exactly why I freaking love MMA. It was a passionate fistful of drama that really displayed the courage, intelligence, talent, and desire of every competitor in the building.

Let’s examine the card in chronological order.

I won’t go into the preliminaries except to mention Gleison Tibau and Sam Sicillia very briefly. Tibau was involved in an extreme back and forth with Francisco Trinaldo that managed to get me even more excited for a card I was already insanely hyped to see.

And poor Sam Sicilia, he tried hard to knock out Rony Jason in spectacular fashion, but managed to end up with the opposite result. Both men were swinging for the fences the entire fight, and neither went home without some bruises. But only one ended up with his hand raised. That was a pure case of anyone’s match before the final bell, and Sicilia caught a tough break when the referee, (Mario Yamasaki for the record) decided to stand them up while he was still advancing position and throwing strikes. That was frustrating for me. I hate it when a ref stands the guys up when the top man is clearly working for something. It didn’t matter too much because Sicilia managed another takedown before the bell, but it did irrevocably alter the course of events during the match. If he hadn’t gotten that stand-up… Who knows?

Anyway, on to the main card which was, to reiterate, phenomenal. It started off with Damien Maia’s absolutely crushing submission of Rick Story. I’ll be honest; I had Story pulling out a win in this match. I expected to see the same crappy kickboxing from Maia, which had become his staple ever since the demoralizing loss he suffered to Anderson Silva.  Imagine my surprise when he forces a takedown, ragdolls Story to the ground, locks on a devastating neck crank, moves to a rear naked, and then literally squeezes Story’s neck until blood came squirting from his nose. It looked like he was shoving a particularly stubborn fruit through a juicer. It was simultaneously one of the scariest and most spectacular finishes I’ve ever seen.

And somehow they thought Nogeira deserved the sub of the night for an uninspired arm bar on an inferior opponent. It’s not that it wasn’t a great submission; it’s just that there were two other submissions that were way better. Plus I’m sick and tired of seeing Big Nog in anybody’s top ten list. Give him Stephan Struve or Bigfoot Silva and be done with it. He was a great fighter in his prime, but he’s better suited as a gate keeper at this point.

Speaking of better submissions, let’s talk about the absolute ass-beating that Phil Davis put on Wagner Prado. I don’t think Prado even managed to get any significant damage in throughout the two rounds that the fight lasted. But he tried God bless him, and he was super disappointed after the loss. I guess he thought that Brazilian crowd magic would somehow see him through. Home team advantage counts for a lot, but not everything. He was just hopelessly overmatched. Davis proved too tough, with his just ridiculous grappling that had Prado scrambling for position until the final seconds when Davis locked on an anaconda choke from a gator roll and got the tap. It was a really impressive performance. Davis pushed the pace, relentlessly threw punches, kicks, successfully attempted takedowns, and finally made a statement that other light heavyweights should take note of.

Next was the fight of the night, and my personal favorite as well. Jon Fitch must have felt like he needed to silence some critics with his performance at UFC 153. He came to Brawl! He was putting in his regular position battle game, but was staying way more active than usual. He even looked decent with his stand-up  and showed some real endurance when he managed to take a few very hard shots from Erick Silva. He managed to walk right through a front kick to the jaw. Still, he eventually got caught with one shot that was too hard to take, and had to play a little recovery game in round 2. A challenge he was more than up for as it turns out.

He has revealed now that he actually offered bounties to BJJ black belts to try and submit him. What kind of psycho do you have to be that you’ll offer money to people if they can choke you out? That’s like something you’d find in Heidi Fleiss’ diary. He drilled over and over the defense to a rear naked with deep hooks in, and that hard work payed off as he managed to escape a very near miss at that exact move from Silva.

I thought the fight was over, but Fitch peeled one arm away from the back of his head and then managed to pry the other from his throat. Not only did he survive, he returned in kind locking on a chain submission game that had me on my feet roaring my approval at the TV screen. First, he locked in a really deep arm bar that you’ve got to give all sorts of credit to Silva for escaping, but as soon as he went for the escape, Fitch has him in the omaplata. The bell rang before anything could come of it, but damn it was an exciting round. Like I said, super technical and edge-of-your-seat entertaining.

In the 3rd, Jon did his best Chael Sonnen impression, and just laid a beating on Silva. It was pretty much 5 minutes of Erick getting punched in the head and let me say this for Erick Silva: that man wanted that win bad. He was doing everything he could for all 15 minutes of that fight, and just couldn’t make it happen. He had some real success in the 2nd, but Fitch just proved that he still needs to be on everyone at welterweight’s radar for a long time to come.

Speaking of men who don’t want to quit. Fabio Maldonado. Take some time to read his name a couple of times, because you probably won’t be hearing from him again. It’ll be hard to ever fight again with his face smashed up so badly. As courageous as he was for never quitting in his fight against Glover Texeira… he probably should have quit.

Better yet, the ref should have stopped it. Once again, the bad call made by Mario Yamasaki, who has a difficult job, but needs to do it better next time. Texeira must have thought he was back in Karate class attempting to break bricks for the first time. He just kept pounding the hell out of Maldonado’s head with inhumane elbows and punches, but the man wouldn’t break. It was almost enough to make me turn away.

Almost.

I hate to say it, but I must be a little bit of a sadist, because I sat transfixed by the gruesome display.

I watched as one of the most heinous thrashings I’ve ever seen took place, and though I said that the fight should be stopped, I’ll be damned if Maldonado didn’t get up and almost score the upset with a looping hook that had Glover wobbling.  Texeira looked as if he couldn’t believe what just happened. Then he shook his head, gave a little half smile, and continued the unmitigated destruction of a person. Thankfully, the doctor put an end to the fight before the 3rd.

I covered Nogeira already. He beat somebody he was supposed to beat. Good for him, I guess. He should have been fighting somebody slightly relevant. Dave Herman isn’t anywhere near top 10 level, and he doesn’t deserve to be in the same building as Nogiera. Of everyone on the card, he looked the least concerned, and the least impressive. The thing that impressed me most about his fight though, was the fact that Minotauro addressed the Brazilian crowd in Portuguese and the fans in America/Britain in English. That’s classy. It made a statement of unity in an intensely nationalistic setting, and I feel he should be commended.

Which brings us to the MAIN EVENT! You get an extra point if you read that in Michael Buffer’s voice. There isn’t much to talk about really. The action was quick. It didn’t even take a whole round. However, in just under 5 minutes, so much excellence was displayed on the part of Anderson Silva that I could devote a year of my life to transcribing it.

Silva did what he always does. He spent the first round feeling his opponent out. He let Bonnar throw everything in his arsenal at him. He sat against the cage and took every shot that the American Psycho could muster. He dodged a spinning back kick and then deliberately walked right back into place to let the assault resume. His corner was screaming at him to get active, to which he lazily put his hand up and replied, “I got this.” And he certainly did.

The final 30 seconds of the round, the Spider tossed Bonnar to the ground with a leg trip and swarmed on him with strikes, putting an end to the biggest fight of the 205 pounder’s career with a knee to the solar plexus. A performance so dominant, so elegant, so praiseworthy that almost nothing can be said of it.

It’s impossible to talk about Silva without going into hyperbole. This is because he lives his life in a state of exaggerated talent. Not exaggerated in the sense that his mystique is greater than his skill-set, but exaggerated in the sense that if you describe the things he can do objectively to someone who’s never heard of him, they will curse you for a liar and a fraud. He is the closest thing our world will ever see to a superhuman.

These fights were exceptional, every one of them. Even though Bonnar, Story, and Maldonado all got decimated by  superior fighters, they put everything they had into their punches, attacked as hard as they could, and had no reason not to hold their heads high after the fight. It was inspiring, in an entertaining and exceptional way.

In this foolish season of political mind games, economic despair, and polarization of world views, everyone can stop and appreciate an intensely nationalistic crowd being won over by the hard work and furious fervor of a few elite men. Men whose only desires are to win, and put on an incredible show for the people that love them.  The art of combat being used as a unifying force. There’s a sort of poetry there that I can’t help but love.

This was, for me, the best card of the year, and I’ll be forever grateful that I had the opportunity to ever watch men care for something so much that they’re willing to bleed, sweat, and maybe even cause themselves permanent damage to achieve that fleetingly sweet moment of victory.