With such a large volume of shows that the UFC puts on each year, you can expect for there to be criticism when some of the events just don't hit the mark. Fighters withdraw due to injuries, matches just don't go the way they're expected to go, and the big picture just doesn't always come together the way fans hope that it will.
Tonight was the complete opposite scenario. UFC 132 fired on all cylinders from the very get-go. There was something for everyone, regardless of which fighters you're a fan of.
If you like knockouts, particularly KO's of the 1st round variety, this was the event for you. The unconsciousness epidemic began when Rafael dos Anjos looked to have won the Knockout of the Night award bonus with a quick and brilliant KO of fellow BJJ practitioner George Sotiropoulis at 59 seconds of round 1.
The award did not stay dos Anjos' for long, as Melvin Guillard appeared to have stolen the honors in the very next fight. Guillard looked fantastic as he danced, picked his shots, and finally KO'ed Shane Roller at 2:12 of R1.
Not to be outdone, Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit hit Dong Hyun Kim with a nasty flying knee roughly 3 minutes into R1. He then followed up the knee with a few finishing punches before the referee finally called a stop to the match.
At this point, it seemed certain that string of brutal KO's were over, and the bonus would securely belong to Condit. Chris Leben had other ideas. Not a ton of people gave Leben great odds in this fight. Months ago, Wanderlei Silva refused a fight with Brian Stann, citing his need for a "warmup fight". Leading up to this fight (during the prior week actually), Wandy spent some time and energy calling out Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort, neither of whom were his scheduled opponent. If you're taking notes at home, this is what happens when you look past an opponent; especially one as talented a striker as Chris Leben. At 29 seconds of R1, Leben hit Silva with a beautiful combination that had Silva plummeting face-down into the canvas. It was a huge win for Leben, and a very disappointing loss for Silva. It'll be interesting to see where they both go from here (EDIT: The award actually did end up going to Condit).
Bud Light Lime stole some of the spotlight from the event with their over-the-top marketing/sponsorship campaign. In what was one of the most blatant (and possibly hardest to look at) advertisements at a UFC event, Zuffa allowed Bud Light to plaster a massive neon lime green ad in the center of the cage. They also changed the UFC octagon girls' bikini color to the same putred green. It's the first time, to the best of my memory, that the UFC has ever involved the octagon girls in a sponsorship deal. I don't know what Bud Light paid Zuffa, but it wasn't enough.
Leading up to UFC 132, it was clear that Tito Ortiz was in a do or die situation. Having not won a victory in the octagon since 2006, "The Huntington Bad Boy" sorely needed a win. No one (including me) gave him a chance. The messageboard and Twitter fodder was over the top. Fans were, in advance, trying to decide what Tito's excuse would be when he lost. Tito was pitted against a phenom in Ryan Bader who many believed was given Tito on a platter as a stepping stone to get his career back on track (after a terrible drubbing at the hands of LHW champ Jon Jones). From the opening bell, Tito was all over Bader. Not only did he beat him, he looked great doing it, winning "Submission of the Night" honors in the process. I'm not and never have been a Tito Ortiz fan, but if you have a heart (and somewhere, deep down, I do), you have to feel good for the guy. He had no one supporting him. His girlfriend and mother of his children walked on him and has publicly bashed him. His boss basically said his pink slip was, for the most part, signed and ready to be delivered. Who could have blamed him if he came in and rolled over? He didn't, and I have to say, he forever earned my respect with his performance tonight.
The main event was one of the most hyped MMA fights we've ever seen in this era of Twitter, YouTube and social media galore. "These guys don't like each other." -- "Cruz wants revenge." -- Etc, etc, etc, etc. At some point, you have to stop talking, close the cage, and let the fists do the talking. For five rounds, MMA fans were treated to some of the finest back and forth exchanges we've ever seen in the UFC. The two bantamweights put on not only the best show of the night, but possibly of the year. In the end, Cruz's awkward style and insane cardio were just too much for The California Kid. Faber competed the whole way, and threatened throughout. He just couldn't ever totally get the Champ's timing down. We will see if the beef is "squashed" now. Either way, I have a feeling we will see a rematch, and hopefully soon.
- Right after the Leben vs. Silva fight, Mike Goldberg did an unforgettable interview with "Conan The Barbarian" star Jason Momoa. The star was wearing a derby hat which was too small for him, a leather vest with nothing underneath, and was clearly inebriated to the point of falling over. I was embarrassed for the actor, for Mike Goldberg, and for myself, due to the fact that I was even watching what was transpiring. I don't care how much the movie's production company was paying to sponsor the event. You've got to cut that guy off. It was atrocious.
- Mike Goldberg takes a lot heat for the way he analyzes the technical aspects which he views in the cage. His vocabulary and prowess with words sometimes sabotages him at inopportune moments. Tonight was no different. I actually enjoy "Goldie" as a commentator, but even I could not stop from cracking up when, during the Wiman-Siver fight, he exclaimed: "kick." Really? Don't be so specific Mike. The casual fan won't be able to follow you.
- Anthony Njokuani looked really good for one round, and clearly improved during the fight, in general. If he can find a way to sustain his effort, he could make some noise in the division. His muay thai abilities are unrivaled at lightweight (in the UFC anyway). His unconventional style could give problems to some of the top guys. He's certainly on the way up.