UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" last night (Sat., Feb. 2, 2013) in Las Vegas, Nevada, was one of the best cards the promotion has had in a long, long time. See why it made this writer happier about MMA than he's been in ages.
One of the long-running narratives about Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2012 was the enormous amount of injuries to big fighters and how it tore apart otherwise exciting cards into flimsy nonsense held together with spit and bubble gum.
UFC 147 was a joke of a pay-per-view (PPV), headlined by the rematch hardly anyone cared about or wanted, with a supporting "Prelims" under card that featured The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Brazil" cast. It was hands down the worst PPV in terms of relevance, matchmaking, names, etc. since the time Tiki Ghosn was the co-main event and Jens Pulver gave David Velasquez his third loss in a row in the headliner.
That was UFC 24 ... and it was 13 years ago.
Even that stinker of an event managed to get overshadowed by 151 mere months later. Don't remember what happened that night? It isn't your alcohol-addled mind or senility catching up to you, Dan Henderson got hurt and since the card stank aside from the title fight, Zuffa canceled an event for the first time in its history.
Yeah, 2012 kind of sucked for the UFC. Poor gates and numbers, injuries everywhere, it was enough to make a mixed martial arts (MMA) fan sad.
Then, UFC 156 happened last night (Feb. 2, 2013).
Now, I grant you that some of this is haterism at it's finest. Quite frankly, I simply couldn't care. My name is Silky Johnson and what can I say about your suit that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan?
Chief among my joy last night was watching Alistair Overeem getting knocked into oblivion, which you can relive in epic highlight form right here. I generally do not care much for cheaters and performance-enhancing drug (PED) users. If we've ever talked baseball and the Hall of Fame, you know my stance is a fairly controversial one -- I wouldn't ever vote for a single player from that entire era. Anyone. Jeter. Griffey. Bonds. Maddux. Until someone from that era gets in, then they all deserve to get in, because it's incredibly likely they were all taking PEDs.
All or nothing, and I'd prefer nothing.
Alistair Overeem is or has been a cheater and a user for many years. He broke land speed records for T:E ratios after retiring Brock Lesnar. He went from a middling light heavyweight to the near top of the charts at heavy via science, "horse meat" and a padded resume, and he remained the biggest jerk in the world while doing so.
The smirking one talked an arrogant game in the leadup to the fight, and had an even more arrogant performance inside the cage. It ended with 10 unanswered punches from an enormously strong, 280-pound man blasting the cheeky grin into the cheap seats.
Who can't love that?
And if you're simply on the hate wagon, you've also got to love the fact that Antonio Silva has now derailed some of the biggest hype trains ever. In fact, every single one of his wins in the past two years involved a derailment. Fedor? Bludgeoned. Previously unbeaten Travis Browne? Nice spinning high kick, here's an overhand right. 'Reem? More like REEM SLEEPY! WORLDSTAAAAAAAAR!
Moving along on the "fighters I don't care much for losing" trail, we come to "Suga" Rashad Evans. I haven't liked him all that much since his groin grabbing days against people like Forrest Griffin, but my dislike really crystallized in the Thiago Silva fight. In this "fight", Hashad took down Silva eight times and spent the vast majority of the fight in top position.
He hit him with three punches from top control in a total of 10 minutes. He attempted zero submissions. He nearly got finished by a guy with a bad back and a future history of failed drug tests. I was thoroughly disgusted with Evans in that fight and have rooted against him ever since.
Watching him brain fart for 15 minutes was tedious and awful, but the look on his face when Buffer read that scorecard made it all worth it.
Seriously, though, the book is out on Antonio Rogerio Noguiera, and it doesn't involve playing patty cake for 15 minutes. It involves taking him down and beating on him as best you can. Lesser fighters like Phil Davis and Ryan Bader did it. Honestly, Jason Brilz did it, too, despite the judges not agreeing. Jason freaking Brilz, man. Evans is still one of the best light heavyweights in the world, and yet, he -- along with nearly everyone else from the Blackzillians -- has apparently taken leave of their senses and decided to fight with the worst game plans this side of Tim Sylvia standing in front of Ray Mercer.
Watching a complete lack of intelligence getting shot down is pretty satisfying.
UFC 156 gave me those two great moments, and it didn't even stop there! It's like an infomercial that keeps telling me "BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!"
That isn't even a fair or accurate description. That was possibly the greatest display of grappling and counter-grappling I've ever seen inside the Octagon. For 14 some-odd minutes, that fight was contested at hugging range as one of the literal best and most dangerous grapplers in the world tried desperately to finish a person who is clearly incapable of being submitted. I've never been a big Fitch fan. I'm kind of okay with Maia -- I liked his heart against Anderson Silva, but hated the K-1 version of him as he lost awful fights against Chris Weidman and Mark Munoz.
I understand some fans not "liking" the match, as it was slow-paced, but if you can't even appreciate and respect the technical aspects of what happened, then I don't know what to tell you. Maybe read this article and change a couple of nouns?
Getting back to people that many like to hate, we come to one named "Christmas." Bobby Green survived both the blanketing attack from Jacob Volkmann and the dumbest referee this side of Tan Dan to choke out one of the worst comedians in the fight game. Great for him and great for fans everywhere.
That's really the summary of the entire night in that last sentence, "great for [fighter] and great for fans everywhere."
There was something for everyone who likes MMA last night, unless you're some weird sick fan of Volkmann, Fitch, Evans, Overeem and Edgar. You had underdogs triumphing. You had hubris crashing down. You had a dominant champion take on an incredibly game opponent. You had submissions. You had knockouts. You had close fights and you had blowouts.
Congratulations to the UFC, that was the best night of fighting you guys have pulled off in a long time.
Please do it again soon!