Last weekend was a great day for fans of combat sports. For most fans, the big event of the day was the UFC on Fox 2, with Rashad Evans vs. Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping, and that one other fight that we don't want to speak of. But for many sports fans, the UFC stood in the shadow of another major event - the retirement of Badr Hari.
In the main event of an It's Showtime event on Saturday, Hari retired from the world of kickboxing. And he did it in style. Hari said farewell to kickboxing with a brutal one round KO of top ranked Gokhan Saki, blasting an uppercut through Saki's defenses midway through the first round. The tough Saki never had a chance after that, and soon after, he was done - the final victim on Hari's 10 year path of destruction through kickboxing.
As I outlined in the lead-up to Saturday's fight, Badr Hari is a man who has made a career out of spectacular moments - many good, many bad. It's fitting that he end his career with one final moment, and I for one am glad it was a moment of Hari at his finest. The last image he leaves us with is his hand raised, his opponent vanquished. That's the Hari I am a fan of, and it was good to see him one last time.
Hari's dynamite KO and emotional farewell capped off a great show from It's Showtime - one that featured other fast and impressive stoppage victories from the likes of Daniel Ghita and Errol Zimmerman.
Watching the UFC show later that night, it was hard not to draw a parallel between the two. Both organizations put on major shows, both looked to draw in new audiences. But the differences in the action each delivered were clear. While It's Showtime had a card filled with fast action and some of the best stand-up fighting in the world, the UFC ended up with a slower paced, decision heavy card that turned off a lot of viewers. After the UFC card, the most talked about highlight was a few seconds of post-fight talk from Chael Sonnen - one of the few moments that night to catch fire and give a real feeling of excitement to fans everywhere. Watching the UFC show and thinking about the earlier It's Showtime event did not do the UFC any favors. Despite the quality technical battles of Sonnen vs. Bisping and Davis vs. Evans, the UFC on Fox show lacked a certain spark - one that was on display throughout It''s Showtime's event, culminating in Hari's big win. From a pure action and excitement perspective, one card was superior on Saturday, and it wasn't the one on network TV.
But while It's Showtime may have trumped the UFC in action on Saturday, Dana and company triumph in perhaps the area that matters most - building for what comes next. Walking away from the UFC show, we have Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen and Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans both lined up - two fights fans have been eagerly anticipating for some time, now both on the way. It's Showtime fans walked away having seen the last fight (for now) of the undeniable greatest star of this sport's era. Yes Ghita and Zimmerman looked good, but a future without Hari is simply less exciting. And as much as I enjoyed watching the kickboxing action on Saturday, I couldn't help but wonder what the future will bring for the sport.
But thoughts of the future can come later. For now, I encourage you to join me in reveling in the moment we were given on Saturday. Check out Hari vs. Saki if you haven't seen it, and stick around for the complete It's Showtime show. If you don't watch it, you're missing out on the weekend's best action combat sports had to offer.