Monday, May 2, 2011
*UFC 129: Epic Achievement of Glory
At a time of year when the NHL and NBA playoffs are giving us so much juicy drama to talk about, the UFC came along and, for one night at least, rendered them both completely irrelevant. No big.
The massive spectacle staged Saturday night at Toronto's Rogers Centre was a full-on coup for the world's biggest fight promotion. A living metaphor for the sport's validity in the global landscape. The sheer magnitude of the event was enough to make it a classic, but the action on the card is what truly made the evening a resounding success.
A record ten Canadians competed on the UFC 129 card, a piece of intelligent and strategic fight picking on behalf of Dana White and his staff. The Canucks went six for four on the night, and even those who lost put on a great show. Ontario native Mark Hominick may have gotten the largest ever ovation for a dude who got thoroughly beaten down. Featherweight champ Jose Aldo laid the smackdown on Hominick through the first four rounds, but the deformed Hominick riled his hometown crowd into a frenzy when he turned the tables in the fifth and nearly knocked Aldo out.
Seven out of the twelve fights on the card were finishes, with a few nasty ones, like Randy Couture eating a Steven Seagal kick from Lyoto Machida, and gritty veteran Jason MacDonald getting the W with a textbook triangle choke. The important part here is that the fans got some literal bang for their buck, which goes a long way when lower level seats are being sold for four-digit numbers.
The aforementioned Couture capped off his legendary career by receiving an emotional ovation from the record crowd, the type of moment that alone is worth the price of admission. A Randy Couture retirement fight is big enough to headline any UFC event, but rather than hog the spotlight, "The Natural" opted to be a part of history. And history it was.
Canadian demi-god Georges St-Pierre put in yet another workman-like victory over top contender Jake Shields, playing it safe by feeding Shields a steady diet of his trademark jab, and scoring some takedowns late in the fight to secure the victory. The impressive aspect of the win was that GSP maintained control throughout the fight, despite being blind in one eye for more than half of it. No big. Winning is what legends do. I for one would still love to see a rematch with Shields, but that doesn't seem to be a thought shared by anyone in the industry.
In the aftermath it is difficult to even reflect on the magnitude of what was accomplished in this city on Saturday night. It was not just a big show with a big gate. This was a symbol. This time last year mixed martial arts was not even legal in this province, and no signs of that changing were on the horizon. Dana White and Canadian director Tom Wright (he of former CFL commissioner fame) did a fantastic job of convincing the McGuinty government of how good this could be for the local economy.
The real victory is in how significant this event was on the world stage, and in raising the profile of the city. This ain't no Pan-Am games, and sports fans know that. There was a special feeling in the building on Saturday. A feeling that those in attendance were a part of something special. A part of history. From the layout of the floor, to the positioning of the screens, to the selection of the fights, to the performances of the fighters themselves, the UFC scored a unanimous decision: epic achievement of glory. No big.