Yoo Eff Cee 95: X vs Y makes for a boring title
Change, change and change again. Upon learning that UFC 95 was due to be at the 02 Arena and that Anderson Silva was strongly rumoured to headline, I steamed in: I ordered my ticket and booked the Premier Inn at Beckton, pausing only to shudder at the memory of Travelodge faff and nonsense last time I went to the 02. The initial plan was to go with The Boy Trig, but when it became apparent that he wouldn’t be able our Louise stepped in. Not to go to the MMA, obviously, but to come with me to London in general – she’s never been before. We were getting quite excited about what would be a lovely weekend together when, a few days before, her achey-breaky knee decided to re-injure itself in a worse-than-usual way.
So, I ended up going on my own.
Rumours of Anderson Silva, meanwhile, turned out to be greatly exaggerated. When the card was eventually announced it didn’t seem dreadful but it did lack a certain something. I don’t want to sound like I’m only interested in big names but Diego Sanchez vs Joe Stevenson certainly did not have the feel of a main event. Worse still, Paul “Black Countraaaay” Taylor was out with injury. The UFC press man who posts on the Boxrec forums often seems to make a big deal of the fact that they can sell a big pile o’ tickets without announcing the card, but I doubt I’ll ‘go in blind’ again (mind you… this one had the most empty seats I’ve seen at a UFC card yet. Previously I’ve felt the need to scramble and get in early in case of a sell-out. That might not be a worry any longer – I do get the impression that the novelty of “ooh, the actual UFC over here!” is wearing off a bit).
I’m in danger of overstating. The card was by no means awful, as I’ve said: on paper it did look well-matched (the large number of early finishes on the night belie that a little bit, but hindsight is always like some kind of bad-bwoy pin-spotting eagle with hi-tech binoculars). Boxing has been taking up more of my attention than MMA just lately, but I was still really looking forward to this.
L-Day, then, the 21st of February. A 404 bus took me to Sandwell & Dudley station, and a Virgin Train thence to Euston. A little bit of a look at The British Museum (never been there before. I particularly liked Cradle To Grave by Pharmacopoeia, and the Mayan ocelot-shaped serving bowl. Ocelots~! Truly the master race) was followed by a general wander around before I hopped onto public transport to cross the big bad city for Beckton. After checking in I had time for a quick hour’s nap before heading on my merry way.
The 02, as I learned last time, is big. Very big (but that’s just peanuts compared to etc etc etc). This time I found myself in a seat that was very high indeed – the last-but-one row in the top tier, if you can imagine that. I’m not sure why, considering that elsewhere around the arena there were visibly tonnes of empty seats lower down in the same tier (including one row with only one seat occupied on the opposite side), but there we go. I couldn’t drink myself back to earth because I’m just not willing to pay £4.30 for a pint, no sirree. Still, never mind. The good thing about these super-size arenas is that the height ensures that your view is always clear, even if you are 381 miles away.
Notes from cageside (well, no, not from cageside. Notes from a few hundred yards in the air above the octagon and then across a bit):
~ Paul Kelly’s ground ‘n’ pound is just frightening. Troy Mandaloniz’ face ended up looking like some kind of blancmange made from uncooked beef. It’s also interesting to note that historically I’ve found Kelly to be the UFC’s comprehensible scouser whereas I could rarely make out a word that Terry Etim said, but they swapped roles this time around. Etim also (happily) won, by second round stoppage.
~ The only British representative to lose all night was Neil Grove, who’s actually South African so that’s alright. Well, sort of. It’s hard to claim that he’s a UFC-level fighter skill-wise, but then again they’ve had some right sorts in the past so who can say? Good luck to him. Size and hitting power can get you far. If not in this particular instance. Also: those old interviews where he’d take the piss out of Cage Rage and Elite XC whilst fighting for them were magnificent and the sort of thing I’d like to see more of.
~ I’ve decided that Demian Maia is one of my favourite MMA fighters going at the moment. On the ground he just pure chews people up and spits ‘em out. He also gets a bagful of extra style points for finessing the finish here (“What do you think of my triangle choke, Chael Sonnen?” enquired Maia. “Hmmph. I don’t care for it,” came the muffled reply).
~ It may have been in a battle of Skilled Fighters I Don’t Care About (or SFIDCA, for short. American MMA is full of them), but another bagful of style points go to Nate Marquadt for his “everything up to and including the kitchen sink” finish of Wilson Gouvaia (Wheeee! Kapow! Splat! Kerblamo!).
~ If you’ll excuse my French, Josh Koscheck really is the most petulant little shit going. I know he was upset about what he saw as an unfair stoppage and so on and so forth, but the way he pulled his hand away from Mark Goddard like that during the official announcement of the winner had more than a slight air of a child who’d just been told he couldn’t have something he wanted.
~ It was interesting to see Dan Hardy getting the superstar build-up, ala Bisping (the lighting during his entrance was a nice touch). I’ve been a fan of Dan Hardy since I first saw him fighting on the old Cagewarriors cards in Coventry, so I’m glad to see him doing so well. I can see this schtick of mentioning ‘England’ or ‘Britain’ at least once every fifteen seconds getting boring quickly, but it’ll probably work out well for him. Great knock-out, anyway, with a perfectly scouted and timed counter left hook. Bring on the plastic paddy for him next.
~ Lots of people in the arena gave their loudest boo when the Sanchez/Stevenson (another SFIDCA affair) decision was announced, but I fail to see why. What did Stevenson do to win that fight?
Overall, it was a reasonably fun card but by no means a great one. There were some really fun finishes but not anything that you’d describe as an especially memorable fight (although no absolute stinkers either, in the name of fairness).
Sunday saw me having an amble around the pubs and markets of Camden (always huge fun. Cards and small prezzies were purchased) before hopping on the train back.
And that was that.