Photo from Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
The Ultimate Fighting Championship makes its long-awaited return to the country of Brazil this Saturday (August 27). It's a country that -- along with Japan -- helped form the sport we all know and love. Mixed martial arts' (MMA) brutal origins in vale tudo are an integral part of its history as are many of Brazil's native sons. As we head towards UFC 134: "Silva vs. Okami," Viva Brazil! will serve as a celebration of some of those countrymen and a look back at historic moments in the sport involving them.
Lyoto Machida has been known as a lot of things during his time in the UFC.
First, he was an effective -- albeit unmarketable -- talent whose picture would be next to the dictionary entry for "elusive." Next, he became a knockout artist who was well on his way to a title shot. Then, he was the future of the light heavyweight division, ready to rule the division for years and years to come.
A knockout at the hands of Mauricio Rua and a decision loss to Quinton Jackson later and "The Dragon" found himself facing the very realistic prospect of being unemployed should he drop a third consecutive bout.
Not only did he avoid the unemployment line, he also produced one of the greatest knockouts of all time at UFC 129: "St. Pierre vs. Shields" when he took on Randy Couture. We'll take a look at that brilliant kick as we continue Viva Brazil!
We're only a little more than 48 hours away from the big day. Are you as excited as I am?
Let's hope so!
The event in Toronto was half spectacle, half sporting event but 100% impressive. When over 55,000 people packed into the Rogers Centre, it was almost like a scene from a decade old Pride FC event.
While giant arenas were almost the norm in Japan during mixed martial art's (MMA) heyday, it took quite a while to get that many North Americans together in one building to watch two guys beat the hell out of each other.
The last time a show of that scale was attempted was in 2007 and the result was decidedly less... impressive.
Hey, it's Jake Shields! The same guy who headlined UFC 129! But why is he fighting in front of what appears to be 50 people? Well, that's K-1's Dynamite!! USA show where they claimed to have over 40,000 fight fans pack into the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Those sly Japanese Pinocchios, it was really only about half that.
So why did so many people buy tickets for UFC 129? Two reasons, really: the name "UFC" and Georges St. Pierre.
Those two factors led to the biggest MMA event in North American history and one of the greatest events we fans were lucky enough to see.
"Hey, I thought this was 'Viva Brazil!,' not one of your boring "History in the Making' pieces!" I'm sure you're thinking to yourself right now.
It is, you're right. But I'm painting a picture for you! This event was huge -- MASSIVE -- and almost ever single fight on the card was a hoot to watch. Immediately afterwards, the 'Event of the Year' trophy for 2011 was all but etched with UFC 129 on it.
And in the middle of all this pomp, all this glitz, all this energy, there was one man standing above all others.
The Brazilian stole the show -- the Event of the Year, remember? -- with a move that became popular before a lot of MMA fans were even born. The Crane Kick played a small but crucial role in the classic "The Karate Kid" when Daniel LaRusso used it to defeat Cobra Kai member Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Karate Tournament.
In the sequel, Daniel-san faces an opponent who is able to block the flying kick but that's a column for another day. Apparently Couture -- for all his movie-making -- never saw the second Karate Kid flick because when Machida busted it out, it snapped his head back and knocked a tooth out.
In a card dominated by Americans and Canadians -- only Jose Aldo and Belrusian Vladimir Matyushenko represented other countries -- it was a Brazilian who provided the most talked about moment in a night full of moments worth talking about.
Even Couture -- who was set to retire -- seemed to be in a jovial mood afterwards despite being on the business end of a brutal KO.
It almost seemed like an "anything you can do, I can do better" moment between Machida and teammate Anderson Silva after the latter's amazing snap kick KO over Vitor Belfort less than three months earlier.
I don't care what possessed "The Dragon" to perform that kick -- I'm looking in your direction Seagal, you chunky shaman! --, I just care that he did and gave fans -- especially those in his home country of Brazil -- a reason to cheer.
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