There are a lot of MMA fans that weren't around to see the rise and fall of Pride FC, and I'm not one of those people that likes to hold it over the heads of people relatively new to the sport. But as a guy that is a huge mark for the best era in MMA history to date, UFC on Fuel 8 was a total blast from the past. It was far from perfect - the last two fights salvaged a pretty weak card overall - but it's been a while since I did my obligatory Pride fanboy lap around the living room when one of my favorites picks up an awesome win. And I got to do it twice tonight, which was great. It should have been three times though, and that's going to bother me for a long time.
When the UFC sets up main events, they generally don't match up two guys coming off a loss because that doesn't sell tickets. But in Japan, Wanderlei Silva vs. a drunk penguin would sell so it doesn't matter. And before you start giving me crap, that wasn't a shot at Brian Stann. I'm certainly not a member of his fan club, but Stann knew why he was there and he brought it to the max against the Pride legend in his old stomping grounds. Their fight had more fireworks than the Fourth of July, with knockdowns aplenty and a bunch of jaw-dropping moments. The finish was just amazing and watching Wandy soak in the love of the adoring Japanese crowd after the knockout win was just icing on the cake. It might not be the last defining moment of the Axe Murderer's career, but if it is, I'm glad I got to see it.
Speaking of jaw-dropping, Mark Hunt damn near killed Stefan Struve. Hunt surviving on the ground surprised the hell out of me, but breaking Struve's jaw with the final shot was just pure devastation. The thing that stuck out to me the most though had nothing to do with Hunt - it was Struve's sloppy grappling. He hit a couple of nice reversals and all that, but his submission attempts were pretty weak. Even if you have no respect for Hunt on the ground, there's no excuse for being that bad. I like Struve, but the hard truth is that he's still a fighter with big holes in his game standing and on the floor.
Takanori Gomi got robbed. I'm not one to throw around the R word very often, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a total Fireball Kid mark and I'm not objective at all. It probably didn't qualify as a robbery to most, but Gomi won that fight. Every media member polled by MMA Decisions (including myself) had it for Gomi. There was a case for him losing the first with the takedowns, but the second and third were pretty clearly his and it was just a horrible decision. Especially in Japan of all places. I'm really happy about how tonight turned out in terms of the top two fights, but that really put a damper on things for me.
Yushin Okami implemented his gameplan well and I was surprised that he took Hector Lombard down that many times over the first two rounds. The third round felt like a replay of his bout with Tim Boetsch though and as a guy that bet on Okami, it scared the bejesus out of me. He held on though and got the W. Yes, Okami's a tough out for anyone at 185. But he's stuck in gatekeeper mode now, and that's not going to change. Chael Sonnen said that Lombard should be cut due to his big contract and his 1-2 record in the UFC so far when talking about the fight on the post-fight show. From a business standpoint, he's 100% correct. But I highly doubt he gets the boot.
Rani Yahya showed flashes of his grappling wizardry, but not enough to keep me interested for all that long. And Mizuto Hirota's hair looked pretty stupid.
I was not alone in saying that Siyar Bahadurzada was going to get exposed before his bout with Dong Hyun Kim, and that's exactly what happened. Siyar is exciting in the right matchups, but he's always been a pretty one-dimensional fighter and we saw that tonight. If Kim had an ounce of finish in him, there's no way that bout sees the third round. But he doesn't. So it did.
The undercard was highly uneventful other than Hyun Gyu Lim's knockout in the opening fight. I wish I had more to say about the prelims, but let's face it - Mark Hunt and Wanderlei Silva won bouts by knockout, and are probably ranked fighters. In 2013. Who gives a damn about the undercard when you can write about that kind of stuff! Speaking of that, I'm gonna cut this short so I mozy on over to the OFFICIAL UFC RANKINGS and submit my ballot for the first time! That's kinda cool, eh?