There is nothing like having the success UFC 113 had in Montreal this past Saturday to help extinguish the sour taste that was left from the last Bell Centre venture, UFC 97: Silva vs. Leites, last April.
If there are any fans in the world right now that deserve such a make-up, it’s the Canadian fans in Montreal.
Come fight night, the Labatt Blue guzzlers are making it notoriously clear why that area of the world has become such a mixed martial arts hotbed. Give that crowd a solid card and a whiff of Georges St-Pierre and they run wild with it.
Once the opening bout started with Patrick Cote, one of the many Canucks on the card, and Alan Belcher, the audience was firing synced chants of “Ole” or maybe “Cote”, deafening the commentators’ dialogue.
At one point, I felt like I was watching an all Canadian Stanley Cup; the energy really pulsated throughout the arena from the opening bell.
Looking back at the results, it was a great night for Brazilians and Canadian fans—not so much for Canadian fighters though.
Out of seven Canadian fighters, veteran Joe Doerkson was the only competitor to walk away from the octagon a victory, a hard fought one at that, coming back from a turbulent first round to submit colorful Tom Lawlor in the second.
Overall, it was an exciting night filled with action-packed fights that determined the future, good or bad, for many—Josh Koscheck finally earned a shot at Georges St-Pierre’s title, while Kimbo Slice and Paul Daley were handed their pink slips.
Alan “The Talent” Belcher, 26, (15-5) – two fight win-streak
First things first: is that an overly tan Johnny Cash or a rockabilly Jay Leno on Belcher’s left arm? I suppose it doesn’t matter because he decided against walking out to a segment of Leno’s terrible monologue, very unconventional to even suggest, or even a classic song from the “Man in Black.”
Musical tastes and tattoo analysis aside, the Arkansas native aggressively stood with Cote, in a southpaw stance, ruining the French-Canadian’s homecoming after being sidelined for 18 months.
Belcher’s movement was effective, almost awkward at times, as he circled around Cote for most of the fight. His devastating kicks proved to a major plot twist in this battle, being thrown at will with a lot of power causing visible damage to Cote’s body. To say Belcher wasn’t worried about Cote’s take down, would be an understatement.
His tree trunk legs were triggered multiple times throughout the fight, even reminding Dana White of a time he witnessed Cro-Cop damaging Noguiera’s midsection with kicks in Japan.
After a competitive two rounds of back and forth fighting, Belcher, who was nearly submitted himself, used his strength advantage by lifting Cote and dropping him on his face.
After face flopping onto the canvas, Cote was slow gathering his bearings, giving Belcher the time he needed to take the Canadian’s back and sink in a rear naked choke for the win.
Verdict: Alan Belcher looked impressive, but is he really ready to step in Anderson Silva’s spider web? There’s no doubt he would be one of Silva’s more aggressive opponents.
At best, he would probably rank behind Vitor Belfort as a potential contender. Until then, he needs to be tested, at least once more, against somebody else clearly in the mix. Let’s give him Vitor Belfort.
Matt “Meat” Mitrione, 31, (2-0) – two fight win-streak
If only Mitrione had been a star in the WWE after his football career, he could have pulled a “Brock Lesnar,” milking his undefeated record all the way to a title shot.
Regardless of how Mitrione appeared on the reality show, there is one thing hard to deny: this Kimbo Killer enjoyed every second of his fight.
Furthermore, when the Ultimate Fighter alumnus wasn’t singing Lynyrd Skynyrd during his entrance to the octagon or jumping into cameraman, he was calmly weathering Kimbo’s early slams and displaying a very improved submission skill set.
However, there were some holes in his game—not being able to finish the many attempts and being too eager to throw the high kick.
I can understand the desire to want to head kick a polarizing figure like Kimbo Slice out of the UFC; it would an instant highlight reel classic. Instead, he sent the YouTube brawler back to the yard via TKO in the second.
Verdict: For somebody who lacks any kind of fighting background, Mitrione has proven to be a quick learner, showing improved striking and a decent ground game, after only two professional fights.
31 years old is a bit late to be stepping into MMA, but at the rate he is catching on, he has the potential to convince people why he is in the UFC in the first place. Let’s give him Anthony Perosh or Antoni Hardonk.
Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens, 23, (18-5) – two fight win-streak
There’s no secret to why Stephen’s fight with Sam Stout earned “Fight of the Night” honors—first time for Stephens, the fifth time for Stout, who ties only Tyson Griffin for the UFC record.
Each lightweight played well to their strengths—Stephens landed more damaging shots while Stout’s cardio and technique allowed him to connect more—in what was a grueling three round war.
Throughout the whole fight, Stephens fished for the knockout, throwing good power combos and countering well against Stout’s kicks.
Though, towards the end of the bout, Stephens had trouble rivaling the Canadian’s superb cardio, getting peppered by quick jabs.
In addition, Stephens lost some spring in his step, but compensated by causing Stout more visible damage, which could have helped him eke out a very close split decision.
Verdict: Stephens is incredibly young to be such a seasoned UFC veteran with nine bouts in the octagon at only 23 years old.
It will be interesting to see if he can “spinning backhand” his way out of the lightweight division’s middle tier. Let’s give him the winner of Dan Lauzon vs. Efrain Escudero or a rematch with Spencer Fisher.
Josh Koscheck, 32, (15-4) – three fight win-streak
It seems like fans are torn between what transpired throughout this co-main event. What is a worse display of sportsmanship: sucker punching your opponent after the final bell or possibly feigning an injury in back-to-back fights?
I think everybody can agree across the board that Daley got what he deserved. Part of being a true martial artist is having discipline, being able to control yourself in order to separate the violence from the sport.
Koscheck is no angel either, instigating and fueling the verbal warfare with Daley, but he is a respected fighter who has yet to cold cock somebody who has their back turned.
To add fuel to the fire, he did admit to saying some “impolite things” in Daley’s guard during the last minute of the fight.
Even then, Daley not only showed his incompetence as a professional athlete, but always his lack of foresight by “decimating” his chances at the title, a coaching position on TUF, and further employment in the UFC.
“Yeah, it landed. It was the best punch he threw all night,” Koscheck told MMAfighting’s Ariel Helwani right after the fight. “Plus, he’s a blatant cheater. He was oiled up; I could smell it throughout the fight.”
Any fighter would be frustrated after getting dominated for three rounds and outclassed by a world class wrestler who was able to take you down at will.
This fight was all Koscheck. He intelligently stuck to his game plan, fought conservatively, and now has plenty of opportunity in his future.
Whether you like him or not, there is no denying Koscheck’s accolades. The AKA fighter has 13 wins in the UFC, tied with Jon Fitch and Rich Franklin as the sixth most victorious fighter in octagon history.
Verdict: The time has finally come for Koscheck to get his sought after title shot that has evaded him for so long.
Between Koscheck and St-Pierre, it seems apparent that well-rounded wrestlers trump one dimensional strikers—Daley would have suffered the same fate against GSP as his teammate Dan Hardy.
All things happen for a reason, right? No surprise here, but let’s give Koscheck welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, 28, (19-4) – one fight win-streak
Being a fan of Shogun since his second fight in Japan, it is such a relief to see the Brazilian finally reach his potential. Every PRIDE fan knew he was capable of being UFC champion; now it has happened.
There was no better way for Shogun to redeem himself—after losing a controversial unanimous decision to Lyoto Machida—than knocking out the undefeated champion in the first round. It really leaves nothing to the imagination.
When Shogun is fully healthy, mixes his natural talent and aggression, he’s nearly impossible to stop. Unfortunately for Machida, he had to learn that fact the unconscious way.
Shogun looked extremely confident and fluid throughout the fight as well, setting himself up for an opportunity to finish the fight after landing that overhand right.
On paper this was one of the most intriguing rematches in recent history, being so closely contested, with so many unanswered questions left in the air after the first fight.
Now, with everything decisively concluded, fans will look at Machida vs. Shogun 2 as possibly the greatest example of redemption in combat sport history.
Verdict: Shogun is back. Let’s give him the winner of Rashad vs. Rampage. Then let’s give him Randy Couture. Then let’s give him Jon Jones. Then let’s give him a rubber match with Machida….Then let’s give him Ironman.