Two days ago, I attended the weigh-ins for UFC 172 in Baltimore. As members of the UFC's Fight Club -- a service you pay for that allows you to overpay for tickets that will be scalped for a third of the price later -- my dad and I got into the venue early and for the Q&A with a Mixed Martial Arts legend.
Unfortunately, that legend was Chuck Liddell.
Don't get me wrong, Liddel is the man. Awesome fighter, chill dude, knocked out Tito Ortiz twice; he has a lot going for him. But, being able to provide interesting or thought-provoking answers at Q&As is not one of them. A quiet guy without controversial opinions plus stupid questions from stupid fans is a fascinatingly dull combination.
Allow me to give you a few sample interactions directly from memory with "The Iceman."
Q: Do you think the UFC posters are boring compared to their Pride counterparts?
A: I don't know.
Q: Where would you rank Jon Jones in light heavyweight history?
A: I don't know, uhhh I like to wait until guys retire before talking about that kind of thing. But yeah, uhhh, I don't know.
Q: What's your favorite kale recipe (seriously)?
A: I don't know. I don't make it very well.
It was a solid forty-five minutes of exchanges like that. Luckily, at the end Liddell was nice enough to take pictures, sign stuff, and talk with fans. Definitely a great fighter and representative of the sport, but not the ideal Q&A guy.
The sad thing is that I think the UFC knows how remarkably average his answers are. He was originally to have a partner with him, an ape-like man named Forrest Griffin. Anyone who's been here for twenty seconds knows that I'm a huge Griffin fan, and that his comments are almost always unique to say the least.
#UFC172 I'm out of the Q&A due to injury. Sadly that's actually a true fact— Forrest Griffin (@ForrestGriffin) April 25, 2014
The weigh-ins came and went without any serious drama, although I did get to briefly say what's up to Justin Buchholz, who I rolled with a few weeks ago. No one looked likely to die on the scale, like Nick Catone did way back at UFC 159. Still, it was a fun time, and it's nice talking with other people who know MMA somewhere other than the internet.
In a hilarious series of events, Luke Thomas had people ask to get pictures with him at the weigh-ins. Wow. That's all I have to say about that.
The day of the event, we decided to go the UFC tailgate party. Basically, you stand in line to meet fighters. While doing so, you get accosted by Metro PCS salesmen quite frequently, who bombarded us with pens, buttons, and slips of paper. At least the Harley Davidson girl uniform of ass-less, black leather chaps and booty shorts (seriously) provides a fair bit of entertainment during this lengthy period of time. I apologize for not sneaking an OJR-esque picture, but I am not a bronze demi-god, merely a pale white kid.
After about two hours of waiting in Faber's line, we inched to the front. Despite only meeting him at Alpha Male once about four months ago -- Faber was in the Phillipines for almost all of my second visit, although he did capture a split-second video of me rolling on his Instagram right HERE -- Faber immediately remembered me, before I even introduced myself.
That was pretty damn cool.
After talking about the second trip and mentioning my plans to move out in the Summer, we got pictures and autographs. Urijah was very welcoming, and said he looked forward to having us.
I hope to one day have an entire photo album of me looking like a dork next to famous fighters.
Oh, and shout out to whoever was running the Mania twitter account (and everyone else) for retweeting the Faber picture.
We killed another couple hours by walking the tailgate party, seeing but not meeting fighters (Rousey, Weidman, and Cerrone), and stopping at PF Chang's. That damnable Great Wall of Chocolate may well kill me one day, but it's a solid way to go. Afterwards, we found our seats (below) and waited for the card to start.
I absolutely love going to live UFC events, but I do have a single complaint. Whoever the DJ is should be fired immediately. That guy/computer program rips apart solid songs and distorts them beyond repair. Just pick some decent stadium music and let it play between fights.
Anyway, here's my fight-by-fight analysis and opinion of the card.
- The first round of Williams vs Beal was very difficult to score live. Williams' wild movements and stumbles ensure that no one knew when shots were landing. Luckily, Beal's vicious flying knee made it clear who the winner was. That was some impressive athleticism from "Real Deal," who quite literally leaped into his chin
- Castillo scoring the knockout was my favorite moment of the night. I knew he had it in him, but Brenneman is a frustrating guy to wrestle with, especially when he grabs the fence a bunch of times. It was easy to see that Castillo was trying to set up the overhand early, as he immediately threw a ton of low kicks and level change punches to start the fight.
- Duke vs Correira is a picture perfect example of the problems with WMMA: sloppy grappling, zero power, and inexperience. The elite women of 135 can put on great fights that I enjoy watching, but this was awful and the lone low point of the card.
- Ike vs Gomi went about how I thought it would, except Gomi didn't gas until the third. That allowed him to clearly earn the first two rounds, but Vallie-Flagg stayed on him the entire time. Fun brawl, but my personal second choice for FOTN.
- Benavidez showed that his guillotine ain't nothing to be fucked wit. Overall, this fight went perfectly for me, as a big Tim Elliot fan but much larger "Joben" fan. Elliott looked tough and earned some props for his performance, but Benavidez still got a highlight reel finish.
- The opening bout of the main card hurt a bit, but it was an awesome fight and my pick for FOTN. Fili learned the hard way that it's very difficult to wrestle Holloway. The Hawaiian does a good job stuffing takedowns or getting up quickly and lands body shots while he does it, which is extremely exhausting for his opponent. That fatigue eventually landed Fili in a guillotine. I expect both men to eventually reach the top ten, as both are talented fighters under 25 years old.
- To beat Jim Miller, you usually have to survive at least one scary moment. Medeiros tried his best, but Miller's guillotine was just too nice.
- Luke Rockhold is a future champion. I've been a believer ever since I wrote his breakdown prior to the Belfort fight, and I still am. He's devastating against grapplers, which the middleweight division is full of near the top. His biggest stylistic challenge now that Vitor is drug-free is Machida, but even that will be a close match.
- "Rumble" beat the tar out of Davis, who needs to switch camps. I think Alliance is one of the best camps in the world, but that style of striking just does not work for Davis. He's too big and strong to be impersonating Dominick Cruz, and he isn't growing as a martial artist. I still want to see Johnson fight a half-decent striker inside the Light Heavyweight division top ten before I believe he's legitimately top 5.
- Jones mauled Glover for five rounds and did so with much improved clinch fighting skills. Glover's inability to do damage on the exit of the clinch really hurt him, as there were moments where "Bones" hung out in his range directly after breaking off the clinch that the Brazilian did not capitalize on.
Overall, the UFC in Baltimore was an awesome experience, as every live UFC event is. Even if it's a shitty, decision-filled event where all your favorite fighters lose in violent and controversial manner (UFC 169), it's still a ton of fun.