UFC 152 took place tonight from the Air Canada Center in Toronto, and four Canadians were on the preliminary card with big implications on the line.
Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, lightweight TJ Grant showed an arsenal on his feet to assault and batter Evan Dunham in a clear Fight of the Night war to a unanimous decision win. Grant was relentless with his forward pressure, and he threw many various strikes, mostly to Dunham's body. He cut Dunham with a knee, and his Muay Thai was vastly improved from any outing he has shown before.
Grant earned Fight Of The Night honors and picked up a well deserved $65K bonus in the process. The win should vault Grant up into the consciousness of all MMA fans and matchmakers and set him up for a very big fight in the near future in his career. Grant is known more for his jiu-jitsu prowess. This war showed a vastly improved striking game and a very strong will from the Canadian lightweight.
Toronto veteran and Ontario-area MMA pioneer Sean Pierson looked sharp and won the first two rounds of action over Lance Benoist in his preliminary bout. He then survived a late onslaught from Benoist where he came inches away from being knocked out to go on and finish the fight.
Pierson used his strong boxing skills to outpoint and outwork his opponent, and he also got a nice takedown on Benoist that played a big hand in the decision win. The judges gave him the unanimous decision win 29-28 on all three cards.
Sudbury, Ontario, native Mitch Gagnon kicked things off in a fast and positive way as he slipped an early superman punch from Walel Watson and countered with a rocking left hand on the chin that dropped Watson to the floor.
Gagnon then pounced on Watson on the ground with some good shots from top before securing his back for a rear-naked choke finish. Gagnon defeated Watson at 1:09 of the first round. The win has a nice impact for the Sudbury native and draws his record in the UFC to an even 1-1.
An emotional Gagnon gave himself credit for being smarter in his attempt to finish in his in-cage, post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.
In the only fight on the main card involving a Canadian, Halifax native Roger Hollett could not get anything going against his opponent Matt Hamill. Hamill fought in his first fight in over a year and beat Hollett via unanimous decision using takedowns and wrestling that were just a step up from the Canadian.
Hamill also landed more on the feet, though no fighter was able to really hurt the other in, clearly, the most sluggish and least relevant fight of the night.
Hollett's debut loss dropped the Canadians to 3-1 on the night.
It turned out to be a memorable and positive night, for the most part, for Canadian mixed martial artists inside the cage as well as another very strong UFC event and success on Canadian soil.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA and guest blogger for Sportsnet.ca.