Injuries afflicted the UFC 161 main card. But the prelims survived almost perfectly intact on the way to Winnipeg.
The result was a compelling body of matchmaking, with some of the best veteran Canadian fighters competing. But there was more to it.
More than one matchup pitted an experienced, even grizzled competitor against a rising, would-be contender. Would the guard change, or would experience prove the best teacher? We found out on Saturday night.
The most appetizing appetizer featured South of the Border denizens Jake Shields and Tyron Woodley, which, on paper anyway, could have easily been pay-per-view material.
On the off chance you're not a real fan of MMA and had other plans on a Saturday evening, here's a full recap and ranking of each preliminary card bout.
Result: Jake Shields def. Tyron Woodley by split decision
Against a much bigger and stronger Tyron Woodley, Jake Shields was forced to trade strikes with his opponent. That's not something Shields is going to get super excited about doing.
No, he's a grappler. But every time he shot in for the single-leg takedown, Woodley shoved him away like an ill-behaved dog. And yet, the longtime MMA veteran Shields did what he does. He dirtied it up and tired out the muscular Woodley. Woodley landed a few things here and there, but nothing that put Shields in serious trouble. Woodley just never got going.
The FX main event was dull as a result, but that means it went swimmingly for Old Man Shields. Meanwhile, newcomer Woodley will have to wait awhile longer on that whole taking-over-the-division thing.
Result: Mitch Clarke def. John Maguire by unanimous decision
Canadian Mitch Clarke used two weapons to control this fight: pressure and foot stomps. Fighting for only his third time in the UFC, the 27-year-old kept John Maguire crushed against the fence or cemented on the ground while staying busy throughout.
In response, Maguire, who has twice as many pro fights as Clarke but made his lightweight debut at UFC 161, chose basically to stand there and take it. He mounted sparse offense of his own and has now dropped three in a row. This could be the end for the self-styled Gypsy jiu-jitsu specialist.
It was an emotional victory for Clarke, who tearfully told cameras and coaches afterward, "That's all I wanted!" He earned at least one new fan on Saturday night.
Result: Sean Pierson def. Kenny Robertson by majority decision
This breathless slugfest was the kind of thing you see in the wee hours behind the shebeen, assuming your shebeen's regulars are awesome at fighting.
Toronto veteran Sean Pierson was rocked by some Kenny Robertson haymakers at one point, but Robertson couldn't quite seal the deal. Robertson enjoyed a small but clear statistical edge, but a little home cooking and a little more aggression earned the nod for Pierson.
Result: Roland Delorme def. Edwin Figueroa by unanimous decision
Like Leonard Garcia before him, Edwin Figueroa and his free-wheeling, free-swinging attitude have landed him in plenty of MMA fans' hearts and minds. His relatively fledgling takedown defense and grappling landed him in hot water on Saturday night.
Figueroa was his usual tough-out self and showed surprisingly nice submission defense, but he was still outflanked by the Velcro-bodied Delorme.
Result: James Krause def. Sam Stout by submission (guillotine choke), 4:47, Round 3
Sam Stout usually earns his living on his feet, but James Krause, debuting in the UFC after a successful run in Resurrection Fighting Alliance, used rangy limbs early to keep Stout at bay and open a big cut on Stout's forehead. But the Canadian Stout, who is a gamer and a veteran, regrouped and stole the second round with body shots and takedowns.
Down the stretch, it looked like Krause was heading for a decision win, but it seems he wanted to avoid tasting the judges' home cooking. A point-grabbing Stout takedown in the waning seconds of the third round exposed his neck, and Krause cinched on the guillotine.
Chalk one up for the young bucks.
Result: Yves Jabouin def. Dustin Pague by split decision
The first fight of the evening was also the best, most evenly matched and most controversial.
Dustin Pague took the fight to the mat and fished for submissions throughout—in the first round from his back and in the second mainly from the top. Yves Jabouin, a striker first and foremost, scrambled out time after time and returned fire with ground strikes.
The Haitian-Canadian hung tough but began to flag as the fight wore on, and Pague appeared to pull away. Ultimately, the judges gave it to Jabouin, who defended the submissions and spent plenty of time on top. Oh, and he's also Canadian.
If we're being honest, Pague won 29-28 on my scorecard. But hey, this must be why I'm not a judge. In any event, it was a very entertaining fight, and both guys showed some great stuff.
For more MMA news and random rankings of things, follow Scott Harris on Twitter.