You know, every now and again there are nights when I think to myself, "It's time to end this suffering. I need a minute to myself." On those nights there's nothing I want more than to just drift away. Tempting as this might be I know the best way to deal with my problem is to just face the pain. "After all, there's no escape 'till you step to this," I tell myself, "There's nothing for it, old bean, but to face the pain ripping you to pieces."
Then I realize the pain that's ripping me to pieces is just the UFC's hopelessly dated nu metal theme song. I feel a lot better then because I know I'm about embark upon a night of watching highly trained athletes strive with every ounce of their being to put a hurtin' on one another. I believe it was Thomas Aquinas who said that watching an old fashioned beatdown is good for the soul. Or maybe it was Macho Man Randy Savage. Either way, the point stands.
This Saturday's UFC 153 saw the company make their return to Brazil and the beatdowns were appropriately profuse for a show emanating from the birthplace of Vale Tudo. Face the pain and join me as I drift away from this long winded intro and take a look at the highs and lows of UFC 153.
Highest High: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defends the honor of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu against Dave Herman
A word to the wise: don't talk a bunch of mess about how jiu jitusu "doesn't work" before fighting Minotauro Nogueira in Brazil. It's not going to end well for you. For Dave Herman the result was like something out of one of those Gracie Challenge legends: big mouth skeptic doubts the efficacy of BJJ and pays for it with a one sided beating and the use of a limb. Luckily Herman had the good sense to tap before ending up with broken arm, but I'm sure the lesson was learned nonetheless. Granted it wasn't the most technical affair standing up and doubts still linger as to whether Big Nog at age 36 - which probably is the equivalent of a normal man at 46 when you consider the abuse he's incurred over the years - can still hold his own against top competition in the UFC. On this night none of that mattered. Noguiera overcame the limitations of his road weary body and proved the effectiveness of an art he loves in front of a hometown crowd. It was a special moment in a storied career and the fans in Brazil reacted in kind by blowing the roof of the HSBC arena.
Lowest Low: Mario Yamasaki takes the night off and Fabio Maldonado takes a needless beating
It wasn't a good night for the Yamasaki brothers. Lesser known brother Fernando spent much of the evening handing out premature standups like Halloween candy whereas Mario stood by and let Fabio Maldonado take unnecessary blows to the head after his lights were obviously flickering off upstairs. Look, I get that you want to give fighters a chance to recover and let the outcome of the fight be decided by the combatants in the cage as much as possible. However, when a fighter's neural pathways have been so scrambled by consecutive hard shots to the head that he looks like a baby giraffe trying to stand up on a skating rink it's time to put fighter safety before fear of criticism over an early stoppage. That Maldonado came back and rocked Teixeira with a punch while in this state is beside the point. Knowing what we do about traumatic brain injuries it's difficult to watch a fighter take excessive hard shots to the head when he's out on his feet. The suicides of former NFL players Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, not to mention innumerable pro wrestlers, serve as a grim indictment against cavalier attitudes towards unnecessary blows to the head.
Personal High Point: Jon Fitch gets paid and saves his career in the process
For anyone who has watched his career the words "Jon Fitch" and "Fight of the Night" might be about as unlikely a pairing as "Honey Boo Boo" and "intellectually stimulating entertainment." We're talking about a guy whose last name has come to be used as a verb denoting a dull wrestling based victory that's light on flashy offense. This past Saturday though he fought with a heightened sense of urgency against opponent Erick Silva. The result was not only a much needed victory for Fitch but his first Fight of the Night award since his one sided trouncing at the hands of Georges St. Pierre back in August of 2008. Fitch's back was against the wall coming into this fight, having gone over two years since receiving a winner's purse. He wasn't shy about sharing his financial worries with the press and even went so far as to say a loss would probably force him out of full time training and into a day job. He didn't face an easy out in Silva, who many were touting as a future contender. Fitch fought through adversity in the second round and came back to win the third in a big way thanks to relentless ground and pound. With the victory he not only kept his career in the UFC afloat, he also earned a $70,000 bonus check that will go a long way towards putting his finances in the black. It was hard not to feel good for him as after the fight he emotionally sent a message to his wife, "I'm coming home...with a big check!"
It's one thing to lose a fight - that's happened to Stephan Bonnar with regularity throughout his UFC career - but it's another thing entirely to be thoroughly emasculated at the hands of another man, even if he happens to be the greatest fighter alive. Bonnar did his best to take the fight to Silva, but his best wasn't enough to make the legendary middleweight champion break a sweat. Silva had such little respect for his opponent's abilities that he stood flat backed against the cage and allowed Bonnar to unload on him. It looked like a small boy ineffectually wailing away against a grown man. Then when Silva tired of playing cat and mouse he delivered a deadly knee to the solar plexus that brought Bonnar to the canvas and led to the end of the fight. It was the kind of performance that reinforces the legend of Silva as not only the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but also as an almost mythic figure who can do whatever he wants inside the cage. Bonnar was said to be devastated after the loss. All week he had been saying he sensed a Rocky like upset in the air but when he got in the cage with Silva the result was anything but a Hollywood happy ending. Sometimes when a fighter is said to have nothing to lose going into a fight what it really means is that he has no way to win. There shouldn't be any shame in getting outclassed by the best to ever play the game.
Assorted Highlights and Lowlights
Highlight: Glover Teixeira shows off his skills
Despite Mario Yamasaki allowing the fight to go on too long, Glover Teixeira looked fantastic in his bought with Fabio Maldonado. After the fight, originally scheduled opponent Quinton "Rampage" Jackson set a tweet to Dana White asking to face Teixeira. That sounds like a perfect next test for the promising light heavyweight.
Lowlight: Out with Mick and Keef, in with P. Diddy?
Big Nog ditching the Stones' "Gimmie Shelter" for P. Diddy nee Puff Daddy's "Come With Me" for his walk to the octagon was about as drastic a downgrade in music as I can remember. You're going to take what was arguably the most bad ass walk in song in the company and replace it with a goofy tune off the soundtrack to that horrible 90's Godzilla remake? Seriously? What's next, the UFC yanking the Who's "Baby O'Riley" off the traditional video that plays in the arena before the main card starts and replacing it with "The Thong Song?"
Highlight: Demian Maia stops messing around
It was great to see Demian Maia return to what brought him to the dance - his masterful jiu jitsu game - and in the process run through a legit fighter in Rick Story. The deluge of blood that instantly poured forth from Story's nose when Maia cranked on his neck sent a graphic message to the rest of the welterweight division.
Lowlight: Judges once again miss the mark
The judges got it wrong again when they awarded Christiano Marcello the victory over Reza Madadi. The questionable loss puts Madadi at just 1-1 in the UFC, which is a lot more precarious a position than he deserves after the way he controlled the first two rounds.
Highlight: Davis' dominance
Phil Davis turned in a great performance against Wagner Prado that went a long way towards erasing the memories of how outclassed he was by Rashad Evans earlier in the year. Davis' grappling looked next level as he handled the outmatched Prado with ease.
Lowlight: RYU sponsorships
RYU might just be a new low in the sordid history of MMA apparel start ups. Just what exactly "respect your universe" is supposed to mean remains a mystery as vague as the outer limits of the universe itself. I wasn't aware the universe was often a target of disrespect. Is there a secret international cabal of MMA fighters who spend their nights gathered around a radio telescope beaming "yo mamma" jokes to Alpha Centauri? If so I guess that's pretty reprehensible and all, but I fail to see what it has to do with the guy in the white gi from Street Fighter.
Highlight: Overall show
UFC 153 was a card where two of the top three fights were thrown together at the last minute due to injuries, but in the end it delivered in spades. It was a show filled with action fights, memorable moments, and rising contenders. What more do you need out of a Saturday night spent watching grown men beat one another up?
Follow me on Twitter @BorchardtMMA