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UFC 189 is the Greatest

Sports fans, and fight fans in particular, love to over hype. Listen to a discussion between some passionate fans and you will hear multiple uses of “the best ever” and “the greatest of all time”. Ask me what the greatest boxing match of all time is and I’ll tell you Ali vs Frazier 3. And Marvin Hagler vs Tommy Hearns. And Micky Ward vs Arturo Gatti 1. And about ten more. That’s not a list. They are all the best. And I genuinely believe that, despite it making zero sense. We have pointless pound for pound lists, rankings, and more stats than anyone could ever need or read. But we love it. Hyperbole is a big part of what makes following a sport such fun. The rational and level headed have no business here.

So in honor of that long and illustrious tradition I am declaring last Saturday’s UFC event, UFC 189, the greatest main card in the history of mixed martial arts.

It’s only real competition is UFC 100 which still has the greatest line up ever. On that card you had Mark Coleman, Jon Jones, Michael Bisping, Dan Henderson (delivering one of the most stunning knockouts you’ll ever see), Thiago Alves, Georges St. Pierre, Frank Mir, and Brock Lesnar. In terms of big name fighters, UFC 100 towers above 189.

But it is the fights that count.

And almost every one on the main card of UFC 189 was a classic.

To close out the prelims Matt “The Immortal” Brown came out, gave an exciting performance that reminded everyone why we love watching him, and then got the finish. And the crowd erupted. That sound, the thunderous applause and cheers, must have carried through to the changing rooms. All of the main card fighters heard that and thought to themselves “Huh. Crowds like finishes? Okay”.

From then on every fight ended dramatically. The judges were not called upon once.

The opening fight between Brad Pickett and Thomas Almeida started out as a slug fest. Pickett, the British veteran, gave Almeida all he could handle, battering him for the entire round, bloodying him up and breaking his nose. The second round started and Almeida fired back with a flying knee from hell that leaves Pickett unconscious before he hits the floor.

One fight in and we’ve already witnessed the knock out of the year.

Next is Gunnar Nelson taking on fearsome striker Brandon Thatch. Gunnar surprises everyone with his willingness to stand and trade with Thatch. Then it becomes clear why. He lands a hard hook and then follows it up with a lightning fast lunging straight to down his opponent. In seconds he is locking up a submission and then Thatch taps. The whole thing is over in under three minutes.

Third fight is Jeremy Stephens vs Dennis Bermudez. The round starts and both guys just start throwing with reckless abandon. Stephens has a history of luring fighters into brawls and he does it again here, but Bermudez appears to be getting the better of him. A nasty cut is opened above Stephens eye and he looks to be in trouble. About twenty seconds in to the third and final round Stephens backs up against the cage, looking tired and hurt, Bermudez jabs and then shoots for a take down. Stephens reacts and jumps straight up, bringing his knee up with him which lands flush on Bermudez’s chin. That’s it. Bermudez’s ceases to exist.

Another possible knock out of the year and a contender for fight of the year.

Then after that we are treated to the actual fight of the year. Robbie Lawler vs Rory MacDonald for the Welterweight title.

The opening round is basically nothing more than a feeling out process, with both fighters finding their range and getting comfortable. After that comfort goes out the window. From then on out neither fighter stops hitting the other. Punches, kicks, elbows, and a couple kitchen sinks. They threw it all. Both men get rocked. Both men appear to have it won, only for the other to rebound. Both men were cut to the point that it was hard to watch. I would post pictures but I can’t bring myself to look at them. The hole in Robbie’s lip looked like a crater. Rory’s entire face looked like a zombie Halloween mask. At the end of round four the bell sounds and both men just stand in the center of the ring staring at each other. They refuse to go back to their corners, locking eyes until their corner men drag them away. It was a moment that caused goosebumps. Looking at both fighters at that moment it became clear neither would ever be the same again. The damage done will take years off the careers of both men. The fifth round starts and they pick up where they left off. Robbie lands a punch on Rory’s already shattered nose and the pain becomes too much. He falls and it is over.

After that, as far as I’m concerned, both men were champions. A performance for the history books.

So after four fights we’ve been treated to two possible knock outs of the year, a fight of the year honorable mention, and the definite fight of the year. And all this happened in back to back fights. Not over a period of months on different cards. In one night.

Lastly was the main event. Conor McGregor taking on Chad Mendes for the Interim Featherweight title.

The fight was interesting for a number of reasons. In a world that loves to hype, Conor is perhaps the most hyped fighter to come along in a long time. And this fight was seen as his true test. To see if the hype was justified. Was it? Yes and no. Conor won the fight, stopping Mendes inside of two rounds which is undeniably impressive as Chad is one of the best Featherweights in the world. But Conor seemed a little too willing to eat huge punches in order to land some of his own. And when he was taken down, which was fairly often, he had little to offer from his back. He looked to the ref asking for a stand up even as he was being viciously elbowed in the face. In the end though that didn’t matter as he got up and landed the blows necessary to down an unusually exhausted Mendes (Chad, it should be stated, took the fight on two weeks notice after the Champ Jose Aldo pulled out with an injury).

I won’t take anything away from Conor, on that night he was the better man. But his performance didn’t really matter. What made me so thankful for his inclusion on the card was the amount of eyes he brought to the rest of the fights.

Conor McGregor had such a hype around him that even non sporting media started to take attention to him. Friends of mine who don’t follow the sport know who he is, and more importantly, wanted to see him fight. Thanks to McGregor there were more eyes on UFC fighters than ever before. And UFC 189 turned out to be the perfect showcase. Knock outs, submissions, back and forth battles, heart, guts, determination and will. It had it all. That card will be responsible for the conversion of hundreds of new fans.

And that, on top of the performances, is why it is the greatest main card of all time.

 

Until the next one.




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