Friend of MMANews.com Robin Black, who co-hosts No Shit MMA with Jonathan Baldock every Tuesday on Thatchannel.com, is on location this weekend for The National Post and is blogging about his experiences during the weekend. You can click HERE to read part two which focuses on the weigh in's and below is part 3 of his blog from during the show.
By Robin Black
It's here. Fight night in Montreal.
As we walk to The Bell Center, we can feel the electricity on the streets. Fight fans, clothes emblazoned with TapouT and UFC and other symbols of their loyalty to the sport, are marching to the event.
Inside, it is the proverbial calm before the storm. The Octagon, the eight-sided cage that these men will fight in, is empty, as is the arena. It's eerily quiet. As I walk in, I see Mark Bocek, who will fight tonight.
Mark is the head Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor at Xtreme Couture Toronto, where I train. He is a good man, and a great fighter. Mark looks INTENSE. Focused.
I watch as Mark gets in The Octagon, and familiarizes himself with the feel. He moves around with his coach, circling, shadowboxing. He gets on the ground, and lightly grapples. The look on his face says that he is ready to go to war.
We see other fighters mentally preparing for their upcoming battles. They are all getting focused, focused for an extreme physical and mental test. I am excited and nervous for them.
As I am sitting here, trying to think of clever and interesting things to write, the EMTs arrive cage-side, with a stretcher. I am reminded of the fact that this is a dangerous sport, like all contact sports. I am reminded that these men will put themselves at risk tonight, for the entertainment of others. They will risk injury for the crowd that is starting to fill the building.
My buddy Eddie Bravo comes over, and we talk about the fights to come. We also chat about life. Eddie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, a fight innovator, a legend in the sport. But his first love is music. I'm a musician whose first love is fighting. We talk about our similarities, our difference, and the night ahead. I've been so lucky to meet some great human beings in this sport, and I bump in to many of them. There's the feeling of a school prom in the air. It is going to be an exciting night.
Suddenly, at 7:30, the lights go down, the crowd goes nuts, and it's time!
Sam Stout is up first, and I'm anxious and excited for him.
As the big screens start rolling the intro, I realize Sam is not up yet after all….. the intro is for Eliot Marshall….
Ok, that makes sense I guess. They must be saving Sam's fight for a bit later, because he's so popular here in his home country. As they walk to the cage, I feel butterflies for them. I know what they're feeling. They are about to have an incredibly intense experience. They are about to be tested at the highest level.
Really, every instinct in us humans tells us NOT to walk down an isle to a violent altercation with a professional athlete.
Millions of years of evolution have taught us to AVOID danger and pain. And here, these men are walking towards it. They are trying their best to prevent their nervous systems from exploding with adrenaline. They step in, touch gloves, and the fight, and the night of fights, begins.
It's not a classic, but it's an exciting fight, back and forth. Marshall wins a decision.
There were brief moments of inactivity, during which the crowd booed. I find myself disappointed with the booing. I know what these men have gone through to get here, and what they are going through now, locked in battle in front of 21,000 people here, and millions more at home. I think it is in poor taste to boo these warriors.
Fight number 2 is about to start… this is probably Stout's fight… the intro on the screen is for….
Ryo Chonan. Oh. I guess it's not Sam's fight. Oh, I guess he'll be last on the undercard instead…
Ryo Chonan vs TJ Grant is a fight I really was really looking forward to. Chonan is a big striker, and TJ is a Canadian Maritimer whose having his first UFC fight.
Many, many UFC fighters have spoken about “the UFC jitters”, the massive adrenaline dump that happens in your body when you first experience the UFC. Will TJ go through the jitters? No. TJ will not.
Grant looked great in his first fight, a spirited, fast-paced affair. As the crowd chants “T-J, T-J!”, Grant appeared to win the first round.
Grant fights a great fight, up and down, back and forth. He definitely controls the fight on the ground, and looks good standing. He guts it out. He ends up winning a split decision. I thought he won fairly soundly, but I'm not a judge. I'm a fighter and fight fan, lucky enough to get this sweet assignment of covering these great fights for you, our readers.
He got the win, anyway.
I don't know TJ Grant personally, but I am feeling very happy for him. Tonight is a dream come true for him, fighting in the UFC in Canada, and fighting a great fight for the win. Kinda makes ya feel all warm and fuzzy.
They get right to the next fight, and it's David Bielkheden squaring off against Mark Bocek.
Again, I am nervous. Nervous for Mark. Mark is exceptionally mentally strong. His focus, will, and drive appear, to me, to be one of his great strengths. (That and his world class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu).
After my first fight last year, Mark pulled me aside to congratulate me. He said “People can never know what this is really like until they do it. Well, now you know. It really is 90% mental”. If it really is 90% mental, Mark's in good shape. He is so mentally tough. Mark wins at 4:57 of the first round by rear naked choke. He looks fantastic in a dominating win. He cracks a smile.
Fight number 4 is supposed to be the triumphant return of Montrealer David “The Crow” Loiseau to the UFC. It is not triumphant, as Loiseau get's dominated and abused by Ed Hermen en route to a unanimous decision loss.
Then, in fight number 5, Jason McDonald gets cut open by elbows by Nate Quarry, and the fight is stopped in the first round. Two consecutive losses by the Canadian boys take a bit of steam out of the crowd.
In the 6th fight, Denis Kang gets another win for The Canadian fans with an outstanding performance over tough striker Professor X. Professor X tried some razzle-dazzle kicks, but Kang looked sharp and slick throughout. Nice win for Kang.
As the pre main-card hype video starts playing, I realize that the main card will start in 10 minutes… hey, what happened to the Sam Stout/Matt Wiman fight? I text Sam's cornermen in the back, and discover that, apparently, Sam and Wiman have been told to be ready since 7:00 pm. It's now 10:00.
This waiting in a perpetual state of preparedness must be exhausting for these guys. I feel for them. They are in the back, right now, ready to fight, but unsure of when that will happen. Man, that's pressure.
The music goes up, the lights start moving, and the main card, the fights that will be televised live, starts. The crowd goes nuts.
Light Heavyweights Luiz Cane and Steve Cantwell get the main show started with a bang. An intense, stand up war, with both guys landing heavy, heavy shots. Cane consistently gets the better of Cantwell, who is bloodied up. The fight goes the distance, and the crowd approves. Cane wins the decision. Great fight. Really gets the crowd going.
Then it's the BIG boys, Antoni Hardonk and Cheik Congo. They weigh a combined total of 485 pounds. A mass of humanity.
They go at it, another exciting stand up battle. Congo starts landing the crisper strikes, and, in the second round, takes Hardonk down and grounds and pounds him until the ref stops the fight. The crowd appreciates the big boys, especially the Frenchman Congo, who wins by TKO.
In the evening's 9th fight, Winnipegger Krystof Soszynski controls the fight, getting Brian Stann down, and finishes him off with his patented Kimura armlock. Krystof is the happiest man in Montreal after, and the audience is happy for him.
Man, this night is flying by, one fight after the other. You can taste the energy in the room.
Suddenly, the screens announce the Co-main event (hey, is the Stout/Wiman fight not gonna happen?) and the crowd goes ballistic.
This fight features Chuck Liddell, the most popular fighter in all of the UFC, against Shogun Hua, a violent, exciting fighter. The crowd is here to see Liddell, see their hero knock out Shogun.
That is not going to happen tonight.
After an exciting back and forth battle, it is Chuck that will fall to a big Hua left hand, and Chuck that will be knocked out. Shogun Hua knocks Liddell out in the first round. When Chuck's mind clears, and he speaks into the mic, he gets a rousing ovation from the crowd.
Most everyone in attendance knows they've probably just witnessed Chuck's last fight, and the ovation he receives moves him. He knows the crowd is thanking him for helping grow their favorite sport. In Montreal, on this night, these people saw the last fight of Chuck Liddell's career. The UFC equivalent of Wayne Gretzky's last hockey game. They show their appreciation for the former champ with a rousing ovation.
Next up is….
Hey, it looks like they're going to slip in the Stout/Wiman fight now!
After warming up for over five HOURS, these 2 come out, and put on a show! Punching, kicking, wrestling, submission attempts, they give it all.
Sam appears to win the first 2 rounds quite handily, but Wiman comes on in the 3rd, and has Sam in some trouble. Sam guts it out, survives the 3rd, and goes on win the decision. Awesome fight.
I found myself cheering a bit during this fight, which is a no-no in the press area. A reporter tells me “if you want to cheer, buy a ticket.” Ooops. Sorry. Will try to control myself.
Sam thanks his “brother-in-law, mentor, and best friend”, Shawn Tompkins. Shawn's one of the best trainers on Earth. Sam, Shawn, Mark, and all their team look happy. It was a tough night with all the extra stress of not knowing when the fight would happen, but they won.
Later that night, when they hand out bonuses, Sam and Matt would each receive a bonus of $70, 000 each for putting on the “Fight of The Night”.
Wow. At this point we've been here since 6PM, and it's now after midnight. But it's main event time.
Everyone in attendance, myself included, is excited to see the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet, Anderson Silva, defend his Middleweight belt against Thales Leites.
Well, it was an anti-climactic end to a great night of fights, as the worst fight of the night unfolds for five rounds.
Silva circled and noly engaged for 25 minutes, and Leites, a ground specialist, literally let himself fall to the ground in hopes of taking the fight there.
The crowd voiced their displeasure with the inactivity, even chanting “G-S-P, G-S-P” for Georges St. Pierre, who was in attendance.
Silva won a decision in a boring title fight.
UFC president Dana White would later admit at the press conference that he was “a little” embarrassed by the fight.
I don't dwell on the last fight for long, because the event as a whole was so great, and because its after 2 AM, and I have a couple hours of writing to do to get this blog up. I also just so genuinely appreciate what these 24 athletes have all gone through to entertain us all. These are special humans, incredible men who have just performed in front of us. They should be appreciated. I appreciate them.
Because it's so late, and I feel really privileged to get to share this with you, my friends, I had to skip the after-party to come back here and write what you are now reading.
If I get the honor to review some more great fights for you again, I will blog from an after-party to give you some insight into what these guys do after the events. Thank you so much for reading my blog. I really hope you enjoyed it.
See you at the fights!