UFC 124: St-Pierre vs. Koscheck 2 unfolded very much according to expectations.
Well, I should say the co-main events did.
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre largely had his way with No. 1 contender Josh Koscheck from start to finish.
The class of the 170-pound division opened the title bout using his stiff left jab to tenderize Kos, and succeeded mightily. Apparently, he broke a bone in Josh's right orbital in those first five minutes and the scene only got more grizzly from there.
Koscheck was basically fighting with one eye for four of the five rounds and, by that measure, it's no small miracle he lasted the full 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, heavyweight contender Stefan Struve turned back a staunch challenge from recent addition Sean McCorkle and had the last word in their prefight war of the same.
But the news doesn't stop there; plenty of minor plot lines surfaced on Saturday night at the Bell Centre in Montreal. With those in mind, here are 20 lessons learned from the festivities.
UFC President Dana White is known to rub people the wrong way—whether it is his obvious self-confidence, his often-vulgar language or some other aspect of his daily interaction with the public, something about the 41-year-old former promoter inspires little middle ground.
Nevertheless, the dude is fearless atop the strongest organization in arguably the world's fastest-growing sport.
He has a dumbfounding willingness to risk making himself look foolish, as he did when he welcomed both Brock Lesnar and Kimbo Slice into the UFC, thus giving each warrior an opportunity to make White eat his own pugnacious words.
Or when he immediately responded to the fans' discontent with a proposed rubber match between Lesnar and Frank Mir by backing off the pairing.
However, his most valuable trait is his on-the-fly adaptability while maintaining the outward impression of total control.
His early adoption of such new media as Facebook and Twitter is one example of the president's keen awareness of new ways to reach/expand the organization's fanbase. As is the convention in place for the first time at UFC 124, where the UFC created a huge $100,000 bonus for Fight of the Night and then let the audience award it a la American Idol.
Whether the idea is a hit or miss is almost beside the point; it's Dana White's enthusiasm for calculated risks and savvy at recognizing intelligent ones that separate him from other figures atop the major professional sports.
Some of the luster is a direct reflection of his more nimble industry, but not all of it.
For whatever reason, parts of Canada have been overwhelmingly hostile to the sport of mixed martial arts. For example, it was only last year that British Columbia passed a sanctioning bill that opened the province's doors to the UFC and MMA.
Of course, that's the political temperature.
As far as the people are concerned, the organization and sport has been embraced with both arms, thanks in no small part to Georges St-Pierre.
UFC 124 in Montreal was the latest confirmation of this fact.
That mop top Matt Riddle is sporting might look swell in the mirror and it might make tween girls screech, but I really think it's a disadvantage in professional sports. Certainly mixed martial arts.
For one thing, it makes the individual in question look like Harry Potter (at best) or Justin Bieber (at worst). Why these guys are allowing pre-pubescent boys to dictate style is beyond me, especially that Bieber disaster—explain to me again how a home-schooled 16-year-old got popular singing about love and life.
But I digress.
More importantly, we saw the locks directly impact K.J. Noons in his bout with Nick Diaz, and I swear Riddle lost that second round on Saturday night because of his hair. Every impact on his noggin looked about 100 times more forceful because of the splash his mop would make—we've seen the judges be snowed by less.
And I'm only half kidding about that last point.
The looks from Jesse Bongfeldt and Rafael Natal just about say it all in the wake of their majority draw. I still haven't seen the color details, so I'll tread lightly, but suffice it to say a 28-28, 28-28, 28-29 effort from the three judges is mildly embarrassing no matter what happened.
Then there's the matter of Round 2 in the Sean Pierson-Matt Riddle contest.
Pierson eventually won the tussle by unanimous decision, winning all three rounds on all three cards by a score of 30-27. That's fine—the first was obviously the Canadian's and the third round was very close with Pierson arguably coming out on top.
But I thought the American pretty clearly won the second stanza, using an assortment of successful strikes and a nice takedown to control the majority of the round. He even opened a gnarly gash under his adversary's right eye.
And the round went to Pierson.
Again, it didn't ultimately matter, but it's yet another bullet in the growing ammunition against the current state of MMA judging (or at least that in the UFC).
Pat Audinwood is the dude getting his face smashed, literally, in the picture. He goes by the name "Awesomely Awesome."
The 6'0" lightweight got run over and submitted by Thiago Tavares in 3:47 at UFC 119. At UFC 124, newcomer John Makdessi continuously rocked the American's world and walked away with a unanimous trouncing (30-27, 30-27, 30-26).
Does that sound awesomely awesome?
Mark Bocek showed some slick Brazilian jiu-jitsu en route to his submission of Dustin Hazelett via triangle choke. After the fight, he was understandably pumped—McLovin is a big name and reputed to be one of the foremost BJJ practitioners at 155 pounds, 170 pounds or any other class.
But the Canadian might've gotten a little carried away when he said he's got the best jiu-jitsu in the lightweight division.
Unless he's officially stated he's never coming back, B.J. Penn still trolls those lightning-quick waters. And Mac Danzig isn't exactly Royce Gracie incarnate, yet the American submitted Bocek with a rear-naked choke in 2008.
Not to mention the guy Mark called out, George Sotiropoulos, who's got some fearsome grappling skills as well.
Color me skeptical.
Mac Danzig came into his bout with Joe Stevenson having lost four of his last five fights and four of his seven UFC engagements. As for Joe Daddy, he entered having dropped three of his last five and four of his last seven.
In other words, both lightweights came into UFC 124 desperate for a victory, and only Danzig got one.
His leash was probably shorter given Stevenson's long tenure and history of exciting (and bloody) scraps, but Joe Daddy has to be a little nervous. At this point, it would send a slight tremor through the organization if he were cut, but anything's possible now that the 155-pound ranks have swelled with the recent absorption of the WEC.
I don't know why the UFC always features a shot of Arianny Celeste from its events, but you're not guaranteed a live-action shot of her equally lovely colleague, Chandella Powell.
Given that photo, I'm still at a loss.
And now it includes my own name...
Dan Miller's night wasn't quite as smooth as his brother Jim's was, as you can see from the picture (what you don't see is the split decision victory over Joe Doerkson). But a win is a win and both Miller boys got victories on Saturday night.
Dan's a middleweight while Jim is a lightweight, so it's possible (technically) that the UFC could see two simultaneous champions from one family.
That'd be pretty cool.
The UFC's lightweight division is getting hard to keep straight with so many sincere challengers jockeying for position.
Throw Jim Miller's name into the thick of that mix, possibly right at the top of it. His performance against the meteoric and previously undefeated Charles Oliveira was jolting both because of the result and the ease of the outcome.
The American couldn't have been considered a favorite despite his five-fight win streak and not many would've imagined his victory would come via the grappling game, considering do Bronx's stellar stoppages of Efrain Escudero and Darren Elkins. Certainly, nobody predicted Miller would submit the Brazilian in less than two minutes.
But that's exactly what Miller did.
Now, he's got to be considered one of the top challengers to the winner of the Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard title bout at UFC 125.
The story here is John Howard's opponent, Thiago Alves, so I won't spend too much time regaling you with tales of Doomsday's performance.
But it must be stated that he was getting carved up by one of the welterweight division's most nuclear weapons and he just kept coming. By the end of the 15 minutes, his left leg wasn't much use and his bell had been ringing for about 900 seconds, but he still traded until the final horn.
The Pitbull was obviously the better man, but John Howard's future is still bright.
Apparently, Thiago Alves approves of the work one by trainer/nutriionist Mike Dolce.
After struggling to make weight and actually missing the cut his last time out against Jon Fitch, the Pitbull turned to the guru and it seemed to work. He was a man on fire against John Howard, turning Doomsday's own nickname into a personal theme.
The Brazilian chopped away at Howard's lead left leg, knocked him down with punches and repeatedly landed whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted.
Most surprisingly, Alves barely broke a sweat during the action and looked ready for another three rounds when the unanimous decision was announced.
Tremendous, tremendous renaissance for the Pitbull against a dangerous and tough adversary.
Big Sexy was actually putting on a nice show before gassing badly and allowing Stefan Struve to take command of the scrap with a beautiful sweep. Considering the 34-year-old cut all the way down to 265 from around 320 pounds for his UFC debut against Mark Hunt in September, that shouldn't have been a shock.
Nevertheless, McCorkle demonstrated a nice submission game against Hunt—winning the tussle in less than a minute with a straight armbar—and against versus the Skyscraper. Had the kimura attempt not happened up against the fence, there's a good chance the American stops the issue right then and there against a tough antagonist.
At 34, it will have to happen quickly, but Big Sexy could be a player in the heavyweight division if he improves his cardio while honing the rest of his edges.
Everyone's favorite Octagon Girl gets a bump in the slideshow this time because there's a decent chance we won't see her gracing the cage for too much longer.
I've gotta believe Arianny's transition to a bigger star via the Playboy spread and her increasing appearances in front of the camera will lead to a more substantive stage.
So enjoy her while you can.
I can't imagine what it was like to be in the Bell Centre in Montreal on Saturday night.
On television, it sounded like a bedlam reserved for European soccer matches, complete with the mid-fight singing.
More importantly, the arena was lustily deafening, and universally so, in its condemnation of the challenger Josh Koscheck. Then, it flipped to the opposite end of the spectrum and showered GSP with adulation of the same intensity.
It was astounding even though you had to be expecting something along those lines.
There's a good chance it's impossible for anyone not born or living under the Maple Leaf to completely appreciate what the 29-year-old UFC welterweight champion means to his countrymen and women.
And now that he's becoming ESPN's poster boy for mixed martial arts, St-Pierre's legend will only grow.
I can't say for sure, but that picture might very well be from the second round of UFC 124's co-main event. Josh Koscheck's eye was practically closed from the sixth minute onward in the five-rounder for the welterweight belt on Saturday night.
So, yes, Georges St-Pierre will take criticism for not being able to stop his opponent yet again.
Let's face it, the Canadian icon was essentially fighting a one-eyed man who he was smashing when Kos could see out of both eyes. If ever there were a situation where GSP wanted to put a guy away and had a golden opportunity to do so, it was last night.
So, yes, the criticism will be warranted.
But only if you're trying to place him in the context of the other, equally dominant champions—gladiators like Jose Aldo, Anderson Silva and (depending on what he does in his next fight) Fedor Emelianenko. Other than those three, there isn't a single man walking this planet who pays the bills by stepping in the Octagon who can compare with the UFC welterweight champion.
Nobody else can claim the sort of unassailable reign atop a division, and the Last Emperor's throne is crumbling after the Russian lost to Fabricio Werdum in June.
Other than those fellow pound-for-pounders, GSP's lack of an elite finishing arsenal is moot; it's like comparing Nate Robinson to Dwyane Wade—the three-time slam dunk champion might dunk better than Flash, but the idea of little Nate being Wade's equal as far as a player is hysterical.
On what must've been a massively disappointing night for Josh Koscheck, he can take one nugget of pride away from his beating at the hands of Georges St-Pierre.
Well, two if you include the ruggedness he showed absorbing all that punishment.
But the primary one is the fact that he more or less out-wrestled GSP—widely acknowledged to be one of the best in the UFC at the discipline. You've got to qualify the observation by pointing out the UFC welterweight champion had little reason to insist on dictating matters on the ground because he was decimating Blondie with his striking.
Additionally, St-Pierre did score a couple loud takedowns in both the first and fourth rounds.
However, Kos stuffed several of GSP's attempts (when do you EVER see that?), sprung back to his feet on both occasions he was put on his back and managed to put Rush on the canvas as well.
It wasn't a conclusive showing due to the aforementioned success Rush was having on his feet, but Josh Koscheck at least made a good argument for being the best wrestler in the welterweight division.
Stefan Struve is really is a marvel of the MMA universe, and not simply because the Skyscraper stands 6'11". While that statistic is absurd, the most perverse numerical combo the Dutchman has is the double whammy of his age (23 this coming February) and experience (21-4 in 25 professional fights).
The fact that he has so many bouts under his belt as such a young age is the primary reason observers are breathlessly anticipating the moment he arrives.
Well, Sean McCorkle proved that day is still off on the horizon by easily taking the big man to the ground.
Struve clearly has the heart and toughness to compete at the highest echelon of the heavyweight division, but he needs to shore up the ragged edges to his stand-up game—both in terms of defending against takedowns and hostile fire.
Granted, that still makes the Skyscraper one of the most exciting young prospects. He's got the beginnings of a slick all-around game and, despite the imperfections, has only lost to No. 1 heavyweight contender Junior dos Santos as well as top contender Roy Nelson since making his UFC debut.
Let's be clear about something—Josh Koscheck might as well have gotten down on both knees and begged Georges St-Pierre to jab him in the right orbital until his face looked like that picture.
That's how much of a [insert colorfully derogatory phrase] the former No. 1 welterweight challenger was in the build-up to UFC 124's co-main event.
Blondie became one of the most loathed professional athletes on the landscape for such people, and he certainly became the most despised man North of the Border. He took every opportunity and used most of his brain cells to figuratively slap Rush at every pass on The Ultimate Fighter.
In the process, he earned the scorn of the audience and the ire of the welterweight champion.
The thing in the photo that is allegedly a human eye is a direct consequence of his boorish behavior.
And he did it all to sell a fight.
Any doubt about that should've been erased by both GSP and the man himself in their post-fight comments. All of the above makes Josh Koscheck an excellent fighter, a savvy promoter, tough in body and mind, and more than a little crazy.
Which means he just might be back before this is all said and done.
In between two dominating unanimous decisions over Josh Koscheck, GSP has destroyed Matt Hughes (for the Interim UFC Welterweight Championship), Matt Serra (for the real welterweight belt), Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn, Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy.
In the eight consecutive wins since the Terror caught St-Pierre with that infamous right hand, only the Prodigy has put GSP in any kind of danger and that was of the least worrisome variety. Aside from Baby J, everyone the Canadian has dispatched has either been sitting atop the 170-pound division or the No. 1 contender.
True, he's hasn't finished his last three opponents.
Georges St-Pierre has run through the best a talented weigh class has offered and he's done it with awesome ease. The 29-year-old is well on his way to establishing himself as the most dominant welterweight champion the UFC has ever seen. He might not stop until he forces us to drop the "welterweight" qualifier.
Only time will tell.
But it's sure gonna be fun to watch.