I think we can all agree that UFC 144 was a fantastic event. Great fights, great crowd (mostly – more on that later), and no real snoozers to speak of. I love MMA cards where there’s nothing to complain about, mostly because it means I don’t have to listen to a bunch of MMA fans complain about something.
Ok, there was a very close decision to b*tch about, but so what? Only the truly crazy fans are getting up in arms about that, right?
Still, it seems to me there are some fun facts being overlooked in the post-good event glow of UFC 144. Like a lover post-coitus, smoking a cigarette in bed, we’re too caught up in the good vibes to roll over and ask “So that part where you insisted I wear pointy ears, call you Captain Picard and said ‘make it so’ with each thrust…what was THAT all about?”.
Because UFC 144 was a strange card – and not only because it was in Japan, land of Godzilla, holographic pop stars, and soiled panty vending machines. There are some strange factoids about this UFC that, were I to go back in time and tell you just a few years ago, would have you calling BS. Who travels time to brag about weird MMA facts, anyways?
So without further ado, here are 5 fun, surprising, and downright bizarre facts from (and about) UFC 144. Bust one of these gems out next time you’re at a party and want to impress all the fine lookin’ ladies with your knowledge of MMA trivia…yeah…that’s how that works.
1) UFC 144′s Prelim card was epic…and epically sad
Consider this for a moment: The UFC 144 prelims – that is, the portion of the card which was broadcast on FX and not on PPV – featured some of the best the sport of MMA (once) had to offer.
Two of the men (Takanori Gomi and Kid Yamamoto) were once ranked #1 in their respective weight classes, and top 10 P4P in the world. Steve Cantwell is a former WEC champion, and Takeya Mizugaki was once the #1 contender at Bantamweight. That’s 6 of the 8 guys who competed on the 144 undercard, all of whom once fought for a belt in their weight class.
What’s more, Gomi and Yamamoto were considered, at various times, the very pinnacle of Japanese MMA. It was tough to watch them floundering on the undercard, in fights that would once have been considered mismatches. Combat sports can be brutally fickle sometimes.
Steve Cantwell was the final WEC light-heavyweight champion, knocking out some guy named Brian Stann to win the strap. He took that title, and the momentum, into the UFC with him. Now he’s riding a 5-fight losing streak, and likely faces the end of his UFC tenure. And Takeya Mizugaki once took Miguel Torres – when Torres was a P4P top-5 – to a hotly contested decision. He too might be facing the end of the road in the UFC.
All this just makes me sad. Just a few years ago, these men were kings of the sport. Now they’re fighting for their jobs while the fans are still looking for their seats and getting popcorn. Damn that’s depressing. Time to drink straight Jack and listen to “The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen on continuous repeat.
If you’re an old guard “Pride never die!” kind of fan, Sunday morning likely found you sprinkling salt on all the places where Hell just froze over.
Seriously Mark Hunt, what the hell? Just when I get used to the notion that you’re past your moment in MMA (I think it was right when Sean McCorkle tapped you out) you go and prove everybody wrong. Now you’re riding a 3-fight winning streak, with your latest win over Cheick Kongo likely launching you into contention for the UFC heavyweight title.
My head literally just unscrewed itself and flew away at the prospect of writing “Mark Hunt” and “UFC heavyweight title” in the same sentence. But like Kurt Angle might say, “It’s true! It’s damn true!”.
Fedor Emelianenko, on the other hand, is about as far from UFC title contention as is possible right now. He just halted a 3-fight losing skid by decisioning Jeff Monson’s ghost and giving a guy with a 4-1-1 record permanent brain damage. Few people know exactly what’s next for “The Last Emperor” – and worse, even fewer people care.
And Nogueira? He’s home in Brazil recovering, the dual myths of his invincible chin and unbeatable ground game shattered like the bones in his right arm. With a large stable of fighters now under his banner, Big Nog may never return to fighting again.
Yet we could be looking at Hunt vs. Dos Santos in 2013. Unreal.
3) The Majority of the UFC’s Champions are former WEC fighters
Yes, I realize that right off the bat this is a misleading statement somewhat. Yes, two of the current UFC champs (Aldo and Cruz) were WEC guys who’s UFC titles were bestowed on them when the organization was folded into the UFC. That’s not exactly fair, but hey – they have remained champions in the UFC, indicating their talent was always UFC level.
Again, I get that two of those men were gifted their belts – but three of them were not, and that’s important too. The rise of Benson Henderson as champion (and Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone as legit challengers) proves once and for all the legitimacy of the WEC lightweight division. Carlos Condit’s epic thumping of Nick Diaz (I’m just messing with ya, Stockton-ites) did the same for the WEC’s 170 lbs. division.
So it turns out the WEC wasn’t just the home of amazing fights, “Showtime kicks”, and Frank Mir’s uncomfortable love for Miguel Torres. It was also the proving ground for the UFC champs of tomorrow.
4) Japanese Fans Suck Just as bad as North American Fans (Sorry)
For most of the night, I was basking in the supreme awe and majesty of a Japanese MMA crowd. It was quiet, respectful, intelligent, and seemingly perfect. Joe Rogan at one point said it “felt like a church” inside the Saitima Super Arena, so quiet and reverent were the fans.
It was awesome, a statement to the rest of the world that Japanese MMA crowds have always been, and will always be, the world’s best MMA-going audience.
Then Rampage vs. Bader happened.
Turns out Japanese fans are only quiet, respectful, and intelligent so long as they guy they like is winning. But when Bader took Rampage down and was smothering him with top control – laying, if you want – while hoping his positional control would net him points with the judges – almost praying, if you like – well wouldn’t you know it: Tokyo, Japan magically transformed into Anywhere, USA, and the crowd was tired of all this man-humping and wanted to see some standabang!
Japanese fans booing the slow action on the ground was the lowest moment of the night for me, on what was otherwise an amazing night of fights. For shame, Japan. For shame. Sorry, but the title of “best MMA crowd” is officially no longer yours – I’d hold it now as a toss up between Australia, Brazil, or Canada during a GSP fight.
5) Joe Rogan is the man
After every UFC event, there’s at least one angry blogger with not a lick of knowledge about TV production, doing live commentary, or anything outside of Ren & Stimpy reruns who wants to get on Joe Rogan’s case.
So I’m going to take the opposite tack, and congratulate Mr. Fear Factor on a great night of commentary – though not in the way you’d expect. I want to thank Mr. Rogan for going on an emotional roller coaster ride like no other commentator I’ve ever heard in MMA.
Sure, his technical commentary was on point – his breakdowns on the ground, as always, being particularly informative. But it was his reactions, at several points, that buttoned the show in such a unique way.
When Tim Boetsch came back to KO Yushin Okami, Rogan’s electrified, borderline hysterical reaction to it was simply awesome. It was the reaction any of us fans would likely have had if we were sitting in Joe’s seat that night. It’s also the sort of thing fans will get on Joe’s case about (he even apologized for the excited outburst later in the broadcast).
But so what? It was in the moment, unvarnished, and completely real. It was enthusiastic and energetic to match the immediacy of the moment.
And later in the evening, when Benson Henderson ventured into the crowd to celebrate with his family, Rogan did it again. The emotions of the moment were so powerful that Rogan got choked up, and openly admitted on the air that he was crying.
Good lord folks. In a sports world full of jaded, cynical professionals reading the same uninspired, recycled drivel with all the flash and sizzle of Leonard Nemoy on Percocet – here’s Rogan, a man who’s spent a decade watching and commentating Mixed Martial Arts, sill absolutely in love with the sport, still able to give himself up in the moment the way all the fans watching are.
So f*ck the haters. Joe Rogan is the sport’s biggest fan sitting cageside. He’s also the best color guy in MMA.