UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill" went down this past Saturday night, May 28, 2011 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Filled with compelling match-ups, the fight card showed promise, even with losing its main event just a few weeks away from showtime.
Then it happened and the reaction was tepid at best
I've seen the entire card called "uneventful and lacking excitement" as well as those who have chosen to simply harp on the main event, calling it a plodding three round mismatch.
Color me confused.
For the sake of this discussion, let's discount the three Facebook fights, although they featured an interesting clash in Michael McDonald vs. Chris Cariaso and the eventual "Submission of the Night" winner Gleison Tibua choking out Rafaello Oliveira.
That leaves seven fights that all delivered in some form or another ... that is, if your standards aren't impossibly high.
Maybe Tim Boetsch's destruction of Kendall Grove doesn't necessarily suit your fancy, and that's fine. "The Barbarian" controlled "Da Spyder" for three rounds, potentially sending him to the unemployment line with yet another listless and uninspired performance.
What about Miguel Torres vs. Demetrious Johnson? That not good enough either? The controversial nature of the bout only serves to add to the excitement and intrigue surrounding it.
Whether you come down on the side of "Mighty Mouse," who won the fight with effective wrestling and top position, or Torres, who nearly took it with a relentless attack from the bottom and plenty of near submissions, it was a highly gratifying scrap.
And those were just the lead-in to the big show.
When reading and listening to criticism of the show, it's clear exactly where the collective ire is drawn. Quinton Jackson vs. Matt Hamill is absorbing a ton of criticism and it doesn't necessarily deserve it, or at least not the fervor with which it's being delivered.
Was it pacing? No, couldn't be. "Rampage" wasn't as aggressive as he's been in times past but he wasn't exactly Kalib Starnes in there. He pushed when it was called for and he held back when necessary. What's wrong with that?
Perhaps it was "The Hammer" and his unbelievable lack of success in taking Jackson down. This is a man known widely as an elite wrestler, taking on a man just as well known for his defensive deficiencies, who went a staggering 0 for 17 on takedown attempts.
More than that, he looked sloppy and uneven in the process. There was very little rhythm or rhyme to his game and by the time it was all over, it was clear he was in way over his head.
Still, when taking the fight for what it was, it was entertaining nonetheless. Yes, it was no Griffin vs. Bonnar at the Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 1 Finale but even that fight had its slow spots.
I don't know about you, but I was on the edge of my seat every time "Rampage" waded in with punches, landing clean uppercuts that were staggering the hard-headed Hamill. A finish always felt close, like it was just a matter of another clean shot or two.
The fact that it never came should not be a mark against the fight as a whole. Not every fight has to be Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung part one. Really, it doesn't.
There's also issue with the co-main event of the evening. Frank Mir vs. Roy Nelson, whose friendship storyline was beaten to death in the lead-up to the bout.
That narrative had fight fans nearly dry-heaving in the days leading up to the show; however, come fight time, it was the two BFF's that were heaving for breath after just one round of action.
Mir might have a broken rib to blame for that and that's certainly understandable. But Nelson has no such excuse and a big belly target for both Dana White and expectant fans disdain.
Again, though, when not looking through the clouded lens of bloodlust and impossible expectations, it was, overall, a fun fight.
Watch this .gif (via IronforgesIron.com) and tell me you didn't light up in delight:
The first round saw most of the action but even deep into the third, Mir was taking his beefy opponent to the mat, flinging his girth around with expert precision, and landing big elbows from on top.
Frank Mir, the wrestler. Who'da thunk it?
Yet, Dana White again controlled the post-fight narrative, blasting this as an "ugly heavyweight fight" that deeply disappointed. His reasoning, other than the previously mentioned talking points, was that they didn't "bring it" with the necessary "bang" for a co-main event billing.
It should be noted that White later retracted his criticisms of Mir, lauding his game plan and effective implementation of it, all the while battling through an apparent injury.
Which takes us to the rest of the card and this is where the boxing mentality becomes evident. What I mean by that is that folks pay for the headliners. If you're not on the event poster, the assumption becomes you don't matter and therefore your fight is given less weight in the grand scheme.
Which is the dumbest attitude ever.
Brian Stann started the night with a ridiculously strong performance, absolutely destroying Jorge Santiago with multiple knockdowns and vicious striking.
Illustration (via IronforgesIron):
Stann, a former Marine, did this against a former champion who was 11-1 in his last 12 fights, on Memorial Day weekend.
That's just b-e-a-utiful.
If that wasn't enough, Rick Story went out next and put on an impressive display of grappling mixed with an inhuman ability to absorb punishment from a "Pitbull" like Thiago Alves.
"Horror" had his way with Alves throughout the first two frames, doing the necessary deeds to deliver the proverbial "W." He was also completely willing to stand in the pocket and trade with the Brazilian eating shot after shot in the final round and walking right through it.
But, you know... nothing that made anyone stand up, right?
To complete the trifecta of destruction, Hawaiian hitman Travis Browne went out and skillfully applied his knowledge of Stefan Struve's tendencies to earn himself an unbelievable knockout win via, of all things, a superman punch.
Watching "Hapa" raze the "Skyscraper" inside the first round, and then learning exactly how he did it, was nothing short of jaw-dropping.
Last .gif to show my point:
Oh yes, indeedy, feed the needy.
Keep in mind, this is Stefan Struve, the man that went toe-to-toe trading blows with Paul Buentello and Christian Morecraft, taking an unreal amount of punishment before eventually winning the former fight by decision and the latter fight by knockout.
This man was felled by just one punch from Browne.
That's a holy sh*t moment if there ever was one and yet, it wasn't enough to overshadow a main and co-main event that pundits and bloodthirsty fans just couldn't enjoy.
I'm not preaching that you should accept mediocrity in your entertainment. But don't outright look for a reason to throw a turd in the punchbowl.
My glass of UFC 130 was half-full. Why wasn't yours?