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UFC Fight Night 81 in hindsight: 12 action-packed hours in 'Bean Town'

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It is just before noon on Sunday and I am being talked down from a 16" pizza. The extremely Bostonian man behind the counter at Regina Pizzeria is right, of course, because my stomach is still grievously wounded from the prior day's chocolate tour and the gargantuan sundae that proved my undoing.

While one of my very few points of personal pride is my ability to eat inordinate amounts of food for my size, I dial it down to a 10" pie, although I do inform the man that I could definitely finish the 16" if I tried. He doesn't seem convinced.

When it arrives, it's delightfully hodgepodge. Rather than trim the toppings down into the relative smoothness you see at most chains, the sausage and onions and mushrooms have basically been slapped on at full size, resulting in a deliciously misshapen lump.

It's really, really good pizza.

Two young men near me at the bar mention to another that they're here from Philadelphia to support Eddie Alvarez. Besides a couple of small advertisements on street corners, they are the first indication I've seen that the city's prepared for the night's event, UFC Fight Night 81.

I chime in and we talk a bit. Their hopes aren't high for their hometown hero. They mention betting, and I tell them to put money down on Matt Mitrione. Suckers.

***

It is a little before 6 p.m. ET. From the promenade -- in a seat conveniently located just feet from both the concessions and the bathroom -- I listen to the horrific remixes endemic to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) events. They are currently butchering "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones, and I mention this fact to the lady beside me. She's not a native English speaker, but she tells me that being here to see UFC live is a dream come true. Despite it being my third time, I feel the same way.

Elvis Mutapcic and Francimar Barroso walk to the cage. Thanks to some combination of my atrocious sleep schedule and the fact that I have a small area to rest my head and arms, allowing for a more relaxed posture, I've already got the classic sleep-deprivation headache.

As the "Prelims" undercard matches proceed, the Boston crowd both deny and fulfill expectations. The lower areas are reasonably full by the second or third bout and -- despite a somewhat slow start to the evening -- the boos only come in response to Mutapcic repeatedly losing his mouthpiece. They are every bit as raucous as expected.

I picked Mutapcic. I picked Joey Gomez, too, and he gets absolute routed. This is not helping the headache.

Thankfully, things quickly pick up, even if my prediction record stays in the dirt. The crowd goes absolutely wild for Charles "Boston Strong" Rosa as he scrapes past Kyle Bochniak. The crowd gets extremely confused when Ilir Latifi sparks Sean O'Connell, only erupting when the replay confirms the stoppage's validity.

It's an educated crowd, I realize. Chris Wade spends the entire first round on top of Mehdi Baghdad, but those watching recognize the work he's doing with ground-and-pound and passing. These guys know their stuff. The momentum doesn't stop, as we get highlight-reel finish after highlight-reel finish.

***

It is just before 9 p.m. ET. My favorite song of all time, The Who's "Baba O'Riley" roars from the stadium speakers as the Jumbotron plays the promotion's ever-changing highlight package. Ross Pearson faces Francisco Trinaldo and has no answers for the Brazilian giant's offense.

After the madness of the "Prelims," it feels like there's something missing. It doesn't hit me until most of the way through the massive gap between the first and second fight: It's a three-hour main card with four fights. The headache's back.

The crowd does not like Travis Browne. The big man gets hearty boos from the get-go, and their intensity ratchets up notably with each eye poke. I feel like I'm only half-watching by the time Matt Mitrione, winded from repeated body shots and the aforementioned pokes, gets slammed down and broken on the mat. The Philly contingent has been chanting "Eddie" since late in round two.

Another losing week on the betting guide. I shake a metaphorical fist at the idiots who robbed Nina Ansaroff back at UFC 195.

Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez fails to live up to expectations as the thunder from the "Prelims" dissipates entirely. Three fights in two hours, barely half the pace the "Prelims" put together for the opening bouts. The funniest moment of the night, at least for me, comes when the crowd, loudly expressing its displeasure Alvarez's repeated takedown attempts, switches to cheers mid-boo when he finally manages to drag "Showtime" to the mat.

They don't like the fight, but they do like the result. One pocket of extreme Alvarez supporters -- almost all wearing green and cheering loudly from the upper sections -- continues its victory boogie long after the Lightweight standouts have left the building.

***

It is five minutes to midnight. Despite three straight fights going at least 14 minutes, there's still a sizable delay between the main- and co-main events. The hot dog stand is dark -- I must face the end of my ordeal with no overpriced soda or questionable meat products to carry me.

Dominick Cruz gets more applause than T.J. Dillashaw, although the latter does not get any McGregorian jeers. At this point, I'm half-asleep and the other half is willing to sacrifice Money Pool points for the sake of an early finish.

The main event is electric.

The crowd oohs and ahs at Cruz's incredible defensive work as, for about three rounds, he makes Dillashaw look flat-out stupid as he swings at air. Despite fighting off the back foot, the former champ gets no grief from the gathered Bostonians.

He's not alone -- when Dillashaw's punches finally start reaching him, the crowd gives him plenty of credit as well. It's a technical marvel of a fight, beautiful despite no finish in sight.

By the end, with both fighters swinging viciously and their movement sapped by fatigue and low kicks, the whole stadium is on their feet. It's hard to sit back down while they tabulate the scores.

"48-47, Cruz." Cheers.

"49-46, Dillashaw." Jeers.

"And 49-46 for your winner, by split decision..." Silence.

"...Annnnnnnnd..." Silence.

"New." Cacophony.

***

It is 30 minutes past midnight. It's snowing outside, the air is crisp and the Dillashaw fans are angry. Lots of talk of robbery, with a side order of bafflement at Cruz's 49-46 card. It's less than a 10 minute walk back to the hotel, and about eight hours of sleep back to reality.

***

It is almost 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Save for delays and a very nice, very hammered lady in a seat nearby, last night's flights were rather uneventful.

It'll be almost two weeks before the Octagon returns and however many months until I decide to go and meet it once again. I can wait -- I still have 12 raucous, slogging, beautiful, painful, unique hours in Boston to ride through the days.

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