The stage was set with everyone in the bar. UFC 112 had just started on the big screens, everyone had their beer and food, and everyone was pumped to see two P4P champs defend their titles. Of course the live show had already played, and this was the 7pm pst replay. That didn't matter though, as the hardcores in the crowd like myself had avoided all internet and news sources to avoid being spoiled. The casuals in the audience probably didn't know any better that this was a replay. It was, as they say, "all good."
There were half a dozen screens in the bar, with one lone TV in the corner playing the Canucks hockey game. This was, after all, the home of the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks had already clinched a playoff spot by locking up the third spot in the Western Division. For all intents and purposes, this was a meaningless game. The only thing up in the air, was Henrik Sedin, one half of the Swedish all star twins, who was one point behind Alex Ovechkin for the scoring title. This would be his last chance to take the lead. Nearly everyone in the bar could have been considered Canucks fans realistically, but the truth was, most were there to watch BJ Penn and Anderson Silva destroy their respective opponents. There were about a half a dozen fans amongst a hundred, who were wearing Canucks jerseys and were huddled around the one TV. When UFC 112 started and the heavy metal music started blaring, the Canucks game was forgotten. After all, the Canucks' regular season narrative had been written.
Kendall Grove and Mark Munoz put on the fight of the night. Munoz puts on a gutsy come from behind performance to win some new fans in the bar. But what happened over the course of the next two and a half hours was... confusing, to say the least. Matt Hughes vs Renzo Gracie failed utterly to entertain. Neither fighter would commit to much for most of the fight, and both fighters just looked... old. Then came the BJ Penn vs Frankie Edgar fight. I told my friends to get ready to watch a clinic. Edgar was dead meat. Instead, we saw a flat footed BJ chase a much more energized and active Edgar all across the ring. We didn't have the benefit of Fightmetric, but it seemed BJ was landing the harder shots, but Edgar was like a bee, darting in and out and stinging Penn. Penn seemed lethargic, almost like he had no energy and no sense of urgency. By the forth round, he was noticeably more tired than Edgar. I personally didn't think Edgar did enough to beat Penn, nor did I think Penn did enough to hold onto the title, so the outcome was no surprise to me. Could have gone either way. In the end, Penn fought Edgar's game. Hats off to Edgar! Too bad his brilliant win was overshadowed by the main event.
By now, the crowd was already a little dissatisfied. Most came to watch the fight, but the Canucks' meaningless hockey game was now starting to get more attention. As the fights went on, most people were gravitating towards the game, and I admit, so was I. I haven't watched a full hockey game in years (besides the 2010 Olympics, of course), having lost all interest since there are no rear naked chokes or head kicks allowed in the game. But I found myself getting into Henrik Sedin's scoring aspirations, as he got point after point.
Then came the Anderson Silva fight. I don't know what to say. But what I saw, was for two rounds people were amused with Silva's dancing. Laughing out loud even. Demian Maia had no chance. That flying knee was sick! But then those laughs turned to outright boos. By the forth round, the whole bar was resoundingly booing Silva, as was the audience at the event. Silva says Maia disrespected him. No, I think it was the other way around. I've always felt with the Leites fight and the Cote fight, there was something bothering Silva, like he was trying to send a message, that he was bored, that he wanted to fight Roy Jones Jr, etc. It was almost like he was throwing a tantrum because he wasn't getting his way. I got the same impression tonight. I know Silva has said he wants to go to the Heavyweight and Welterweight divisions, and Ed Soares has said they are only looking for the big fights. And maybe he is bored. I don't know. The thing is, he's the Middleweight champ. Dana White, and the fans, have an expectation of Silva. Not necessarily to finish all the time, but to not clown around. White doesn't feel inclined to indulge Silva if Silva isn't living up to his end of the bargain. And I don't blame him. The most amusing point in the fight was when referee Dan Mirgliotta chastised Silva for inaction. If the "Mirg" has to tell you you're doing something wrong, then you must be doing something really wrong. Hardcores will understand the significance of that.
I guess what it comes down to is I don't "get" Silva. I just don't. Which is why I'm not a fan. He's amazing, he's the best fighter out there, he's an artist in the cage, but I'd rather watch Kimbo right now than Silva. At least with a Kimbo fight, I know what I'm gonna get (mostly). And I don't think Silva "gets" the fans, or understands the promotion game. Indeed, maybe he does know, but just doesn't care. What Maia said was just talk. Nothing more. He's hyping the fight. If Silva thinks that was disrespectful, he should go talk to Frank Mir. Mir would probably say something about sucking out eyeballs and skull fucking someone to death. By comparison, look at someone like Lyoto Machida. Machida gets the fans. He knew what he had to do, which was to start finishing more fights, and, let's face it, learn English. It's the effort people appreciate. Maybe that's unfair, but it's unfortunately true.
No one can reasonably expect Silva to finish his fights all the time, but as Rome pointed out, at least GSP tries to finish his fights. Say what you want about GSP taking the "safer" (ie: smarter) route to win by going to his strengths and attacking his opponents weaknesses, but at least he tries to finish. People complain they'd rather not see a wrestling match. Well, would you rather see "Dancing with the Stars?" After last night, with what happened to Penn and Silva, the shine on GSP's belt just got a bit brighter. If that makes me a "nuthugger" to like my champs to be hard working and humble, then so be it. It's why he's getting the Gatorade and Under Armour sponsorships.
At any rate, I digress. Back to the fights: by the forth round, everyone, including myself, was fully invested in the hockey game. Henrik Sedin put on a hockey show, netting four points and overtaking Ovechkin for the scoring lead. Daniel Sedin matched his brother, scoring a hat trick, with his third goal being a "holy shit!" inducing backhand-to-forehand, between-his-legs play that was definitely the goal of the Canucks' season, and highlight of Saturday night. It was actually unreal, as the bar alternated by cheering every Sedin point, and booing every Silva round. You could see on the faces of the hockey fans: You're showing this mess over the hockey game? Really?
My friends and I left the bar with the same feeling everyone else had. Great Canucks game! Crappy Silva fight. Silva was cruel to Maia - toying with him, clowning around. Like a cat batting around a defenseless mouse. However, Maia made some new fans that night. I always liked Maia, but it was gutsy for him to go swinging in the fifth round. It was clear Maia came to fight. He's not Leites who wilted in the early rounds and did his best just to survive. Maia was as frustrated with the fight as everyone else. And it was clear he wasn't scared of Silva by the end of the fight. He was gonna finish or get taken out. He tried. You really can't ask for more than that of a fighter.