Straight to the Bar

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UFC 77 Musings and Spoilers
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I got to the bar early. They put me at a four person table and I debated for a bit which seat gave the best view. I needn’t have worried. I had the table to myself the entire night. I ordered a Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout and settled in to watch about twenty minutes of promos.
Belcher vs. Starnes: 23 year old AB arrives at the octagon wearing a black t-shirt, skipping, relaxed and happy. He has a kooky haircut with some message I can’t decipher, but it seems tame besides the assorted stripes adorning the head of the fellow that gives him the mouthguard, a hug and last minute advice. AB is barefoot with taped ankles and loose blue trunks. KS walks to the octagon slowly, looking focused and serious. He has a refreshing lack of tattoos. At this point the bar decides to lower the lights to the point where I can’t see to take notes, but they bring the lights up again a few moments later. (Obligatory audience celebrity sighting: Nick Lachey. I detest celebrity sightings in fights. Thank goodness this fight is in Ohio so there shouldn’t be that many.) KS is cut early. There are rivulets of blood down AB’s back. Now that I can write I note that AB tries a flying knee, then they’re standing up again and KS is landing punches. At 1:54 or so remaining AB lands a punch and a knee, and KS is bleeding from a cut over his eye. KS tries a takedown. He’s covering his face, trying to last to the end of the round. At the end of the 1st round AB looks happy, but I think it is too early (not to mention impolite) to raise one’s hand after one round. In KS’s corner the cutman is earning his pay.
In the 2nd round there’s more stand up. A punch and a punch and then a knee. AB drops his hands momentarily and smiles. I find this annoying. I remind myself that he’s 23. KS tries another takedown. The ref (Yves Lavigne) stops the fight because of KS’s cut. KS is furious and disappointed and I can’t blame him. At the post-fight interview AB smiles ruefully and has the good sense to apologize to the fans. The camera focuses on Matt Hughes, who is in the audience. The online poll is showing 54/46 for Franklin, whose fight with Silva will close the night.
After some promos for UFC 68 Validation, we move to Schafer vs. Bonnar. The two 30 year olds have near-identical stats except that SB has a 4″ reach advantage. ES comes to the octagon first, in a white gi and flip-flips. (Flip flops!?! Sheesh.) The commentators are saying that ES prefers a ground game and SB prefers stand up. SB arrives in a black baseball cap and tapout shirt. I note that his nose doesn’t look bad for a fighter. Neither one of them looks relaxed, maybe because they know each other and have trained together in the past? Ravishing red vs American Psycho, I don’t like either nickname. Camera is on Wanderlei Silva and the commentators are musing about his upcoming UFC debut.
ES tries a takedown, then there’s much holding and throwing of knees. At 3:46 or so to go they break apart. Down, up, ES grabs a leg and then does manage a takedown. SB holds on to ES’s left hand. ES has his legs around SB and tries to lock a choke but fails. SB raises a hand to block, leaving his side open, and ES hits him. Then SB is on top. At the end of the round SB’s corner tells him he’s doing great. ES looks disappointed that he didn’t finish things when he was on the ground and on top. I hope he’s not still thinking about the choke that went nowhere.
Two takedown attempts by ES, and then they’re on the ground. SB is on top and moving up. ES has one leg trapped but SB is scoring incessantly. ES is against the fence, curled up and covering up, not hitting back. Ref stops the fight. SB doesn’t seem to be breathing very hard. Good for him and his conditioning coach. At the post fight interviews he says that during the takedown he was thinking “You dumbass, don’t get taken down like that”. He thanks a bunch of people, concluding with “Even Duke Rufus. He wasn’t in my corner today but he helped me a lot in the past and I owe him.” I’m beginning to like this guy. Gratitude is classy.
Camera is on Wanderlei yet again, then a shot of BV and TS in their respective dressing rooms, and promos for everything remaining in 2007. The next fight is Robinson vs. Gurgel. This is a lightweight fight. I’m optimistic. I’ve yet to be disappointed in a lightweight fight. AR looks very calm. JG is five years older than AR and very good looking. He gets massive cheers from the audience and he walks very quickly to the octagon without stopping. He’s wearing a black t-shirt with a white towel around his neck. Looks like a shaved pattern in one eyebrow; reminds me of Russian gymnast Yelena Produnova, who shaved stripes in one eyebrow to look more fierce. He prays, crosses himself and bows before entering the octagon. His legs seems slim compared to the rest of him. He has a large tattoo on his back and one on his bicep. Camera flashes to Minotauro Nogeira.
They start and then AR is on his back and JG is striking. AR shuffles back and JG is holding on from his side. It’s like a ground skills clinic. AR keeps using his legs and hips to keep JG from finishing, then uses the cage to help change position. JG is still on top. In the last six (?) seconds of the round JG finally gets the mount but it’s too late to capitalize on it. In the second round AR executes a takedown and there’s lots of very fast scrambling. This is a fight I’d like to see in slow motion. JG is on top and then AR is on top. In the last minute AR keeps striking non stop, but JG stays alive and the ref does not stop the fight (I’m guessing that if KS is watching, he wishes he’d had this ref rather than Lavigne). At the end of the round JG gets up and walks away very quickly. In the third round AR picks up right where he left off. With 2 minutes or so remaining, AR has been on top and striking for most of this round. Every little while JG shows a sign of life and then the striking resumes. The buzzer sounds. They shake hands while still on the ground. AR looks like he could go on for another three rounds. I’m thinking that JG is going to have trouble opening his eyes tomorrow. His face is a mess. It should be a decision for AR, but it seems like it’s taking a long time. Phew. It is a decision for AR. He has a very cute smile.
Camera flashes to Houston Alexander in the audience in a red cap and then to Franklin and Silva getting their hands wrapped. Silva looks completely still, a picture of tranquility. He is one of the best looking men on the planet. Joe Rogan wastes an entire minute interviewing Brock Lesnar, hyping his amateur wrestling career and mma training, glossing over his pro wrestling adventure. I’m completely indifferent.
Onwards to the heavyweight fight. Silvia vs. Vera. I was watching the weigh-ins on-line earlier, and Silvia showed up in an extreme couture shirt, looking very relaxed and happy despite the jeers from the crowd. “Will Tim Silvia rise again?” intones commentator Mike Goldberg. Rise again? What is he, the Mary Ellen Carter of MMA?
TS does not come across well in promos. That white cap does nothing for him. BV is walking down very slowly, eyes downcast. He looks up briefly and then right down again, same when McCarthy talks to him before he enters the octagon. TS walks down to the crowd’s boos. He’s wearing the extreme couture clothes again, and has an American flag draped over the right shoulder. He hits hands as he walks by. I think TS needs a fashion consultant. He’s not ugly, but the yellow trunks combined with those knee and ankle wraps do absolutely nothing for him. He’s got 5 inches height and 35 lbs weight advantage over BV, but only 2″ reach advantage. The ref is Lavigne again. Another quick look at Nogueira.
Fight begins, and the crowd starts booing. Clinch and hold and a couple of knees and then another clinch and hold. Oy this is going to be dull. With 1:20 to go there’s a flurry of striking, but then it’s right back to holding again. Camera flashes to Matt Hughes in the audience. Second round, more of the same. At 4:10 to go TS is holding BV and the crowd is booking. At 3:29 to go the ref separates them and by 3:00 to go they’re back holding again, with TS pressing BV against a cage. At 0:13 the fight is stopped because of an illegal BV knee to TS’s temple. After the fight resumes we get 13 seconds with more activity than the entire round that preceded them.
Onwards to round three. A bit of striking, then back to holding. Wih 2:20 to go ref separates them again and we get another measly bit of striking, and another stoppage because of loose tape on BV’s gloves. That’s just sloppy. There’s an open cut on BV’s head. The last 23 seconds are good. TS shows a flurry of strikes and punches. If he had done that earlier in the fight the crowd would have probably started to cheer for him. The fight ends and BV tells his corner that his hand is broken. Looks like he’s saying “sorry” to someone. Unsurprising unanimous decision for TS. He thanks God and the men and women of the armed forces. Rogan, maybe attempting to get the crowd to warm up to TS, keeps mentioning his back surgery. TS says he wants to fight Cheick Kongo and that his (obviously successful but oh so boring) strategy was to stay close and overwhelm BV’s kicks. BV is interviewed and begins by apologizing to his coach for not implementing the game plan. He says that TS is a good guy if you get to know him personally, and also says he’s still a heavyweight, meaning, he’s not dropping to 205.
More promos, including one for a stupid horror movie opening this Friday. Blech. (I don’t know what marketing genius dreamt this up, but no, revolting torture movies aren’t redeemed by pairing them with a blood drive.)
Main event, finally. Franklin vs Silva. I don’t have a favorite in this one. RF has a Masters in education, so I should cheer for him out of professional courtesy. I also liked the fact that during the weigh-ins he was encouraging the crowd to be courteous and cheer for his opponent. AS is extremely good looking and classy to boot. RF walks down to Welcome to the Jungle. He’s wearing a gray shirt with a red log. Looks expectant if not relaxed. He starts to go in even before the man had a chance to put grease on his face. He’s wearing orange and black, which look good on him. The crowd is booing Silva. He walk down to Ain’t No Sunshine, a song I love (bought two versions of it on iTunes recently). He looks relaxed and completely untroubled by the boos and jeers. Before he enters he gets three hugs from his team, and another hug from fellow Brazilian Nogueira. He bows in four directions, very muay thai, then bows to and shakes hands with RF.
This is an absolutely beautiful fight. Striking, clinch, down, up. RF captures one leg. Another clinch, a knee, a spinning back kick from AS, a flurry and then a spinning back fist. A left kick by AS, RF comes back. Two right hands, RF goes down and is pummeled, but saved by the end of the round. In the second round it’s more of the same, hands and elbows and two knees, and RF is down and the ref stops the fight. AS is kneeling at the center of the octagon. He gets a hug from a very happy Nogueira. At the post fight interview RF says that he just realized 30 seconds ago that he was in Cincinnati, and that he doesn’t remember what happened exactly; he’ll have to look at the tape.
The four most annoying words in the MMA lexicon are “may not be broadcast”. When I bestir myself and go to the local sports bar to watch fights, I don’t go only for the main event. It makes it more fun to see a title fight and think, I remember seeing this fighter when he (or she) was just starting out. BurkmanPetz, GriceBlack and MacDonaldOkami were not broadcast, unfortunately. MeiaJensen was shown, but it wasn’t a particularly remarkable fight. They showed it because it was ended by a lovely submission which was then proclaimed the submission of the night.
A worthwhile night of fights. I wish the last fight had been longer, but it was so lovely I can’t complain. AS is like liquid sunlight when he’s fighting and like still water when he’s not. Sounds like some writers’ workshop poetry dreck, I know, but those were the first metaphors that came to mind. Both RF and AS are incredibly classy. They should make an instructional dvd of their behavior from the weigh-ins to the the end of the fight, and distribute it to young fighters so that they know how to act. Actually, to all fighters who could use a lesson in sportsmanship. cough(Hughes-and-Serra)cough.

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