The final UFC event of 2010, UFC 124, has come and gone. It was a really, really strong event. There were good fights both on the main card and in the prelims. There were knockouts, submissions, beatdowns, and everything in between. Some guys stepped their game up and helped make a name for themselves. Some guys stumbled and took serious steps back. Either way if you were a fan of MMA and you saw this event, you would be hard pressed to find something to complain about.
With the end of the UFC calendar year, here are 15 reasons that the final event of 2010 was the best event of the year.
All the Georges St-Pierre haters are coming out now, "Oh he's overrated, he can't finish a fight." Blah, blah, blah. The UFC welterweight champion made a statement with his performance against Josh Koscheck in Montreal. He is a great fighter who can beat his opponent in any way. If you want to stand up and fight, he can do it. If you want to take it to the ground, he can do it. If you want to kick, he can kick. He improves so much everytime that he is in the octagon that you wonder who can beat him.
The main event failed to live up to the hype because Josh Koscheck was outmatched. However, for someone that is so brash and arrogant it's really a testament to his performance that he became a sympathetic figure. In between the third and fourth round, with his right eye nearly swollen shut, the doctor came into examine Koscheck and decide whether or not he could continue. Honestly, it probably should have been stopped in that moment because he had no answer for GSP. Koscheck was begging and pleading with the doctor to let him keep fighting. We knew that he was tough coming into the fight, but when it was all said and done Josh Koscheck was able to show another, better side of himself.
After a poor performance against Jon Fitch at UFC 117, in which he lost and failed to make weight, Thiago Alves knew that he had to prove himself to everyone. He had to get back to being the fighter that was a top contender in the welterweight division. He was able to do that on this night. He looked in great physical shape and when the fight started you could tell that this was a new Thiago Alves. He was in control against John Howard the entire fight.
In one of the more unique knockout's that you will see, Mac Danzig landed a perfect punch against Joe Stevenson. It was early in the first round and Stevenson had just connected with a good right hook to Danzig's head. Stevenson continued the attack and as Danzig was jumping backwards to defend himself he connected a perfect shot right to the jaw of Joe Stevenson, knocking him out cold.
Charles Oliveira has a lot of potential and he showed it in his fight against Jim Miller. He has a very good ground game and has strong, powerful kicks. He did show a flaw in the fight and that led him to get caught in the kneebar submission. But watching the fight you can see that this kid has star written all over him.
Jim Miller made a strong impression in his fight with Charles Oliveira. He was getting kicked all over the octagon to start with, then he was able to score a takedown on Oliveira. From the ground, Oliveira was going for a couple different submissions but couldn't lock anything in. Then, there was a little scramble with both guys throwing elbows. As Oliveira is throwing elbows, Miller catches Oliveira's leg and twists it to get the submission. Really impressive submission win.
At this event, UFC decided to let the fans vote on the fight that would get the "fight of the night" bonus. The people voted for GSP-Koscheck. The people got it wrong. In a fight that took place before the main card, but was put on the PPV in between fights because it was so good, Sean Pierson and Matt Riddle had a really great fight.
They went three rounds and it was a unanimous decision win for Pierson but it was a great back-and-forth battle. The first round was owned by Pierson but Riddle didn't quit. He came out in the second round landing hard punches and had a good takedown defense. Third round was just both men throwing punches and hoping to land something to knock the other down. It didn't happen. A unanimous win for Pierson but it really could have gone either way.
Sean McCorkle loves to talk, almost as much as Josh Koscheck. He talked a lot coming into his fight with Stefan Struve. He looked like he was going to back up that talk too. In the first round, he slammed down Struve and then put him in a nasty looking Kimura. Struve fought to the cage to create some leverage for himself and was able to fight to the cage. It was really a testament to Struve that he didn't tap because that kimura looked like it was close to snapping his arm.
It was billed as the co-main event, though I don't know a lot of people who were buying the event to see Stefan Struve-Sean McCorkle fight. That said, it was still another exciting finish in a show that was filled with exciting finishes. McCorkle slammed Struve to the ground and nearly locked him in a kimura. Struve fought out of that position and with McCorkle on the side trying to do something he was able to roll onto the top and started pounding away on McCorkle for the stoppage.
Mark Bocek vs Dustin Hazelett was another fight that was on the undercard that got put on the main card because of the main card was going so quickly. Bocek got an early takedown, then started throwing punches and elbows at Hazelett. After that little ground flurry, Bocek got full mount position and caught Hazelett's head for a triangle choke. It was a co-winner of submission of the night.
Maybe it's just because a week prior I watched Strikforce and no one wanted to issue a challenge to anyone after a victory, but when I heard Mark Bocek and Jim Miller issue challenges after their victories I thought that elevated this event.
When guys win, you want them to call out the fight that they want. For Bocek, he issued a challenge to the rising star in the lightweight division, George Sotiropolous. He said "let's see who is the best submission specialist in the lightweight division." Great, that's what the post fight interview is for.
In the case of Jim Miller, he said that he wants a title shot against the winner of Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard. It's doubtful that he will get it, but at least he threw it out there for everyone to see. Again, maybe this was just something that I liked but I think it made this event better because you could see these guys potentially use these wins to springboard to bigger things down the line.
The first slide was all about GSP the fighter, this one is about his performance in this event. He put on a boxing/kickboxing clinic in the fight with Josh Koscheck. He knew what Koscheck did well and made sure that he neutralized it. He landed a stiff jab early that caused Koscheck's right eye to swell. He just kept coming back to that again and again. He landed jab after jab, hook after hook. He was so great in the fight that it really makes you wonder who can beat him, at least among welterweight fighters.
There was a nice moment for Josh Koscheck and GSP after the fight was over. Everyone knew what the result was going to be but after the fifth round the two men embraced and said something to each other. It was a big moment for Koscheck, even in defeat, because if he had come out and made excuses he would have been another talker who really doesn't get it. Instead, he was humble and gracious in defeat. I believe that he made a lot of fans after the event with his humility because it's something that is rarely seen from him.
This was Josh Koscheck's moment to really prove himself and everyone knew it. In that moment, he was beaten by a better man. However, a great moment came when Josh Koscheck was getting his eye looked over in between rounds 3 & 4. It was nasty to see. But in this moment, he needed to keep going even if it was a longshot that he would win. There was always a chance that he could connect with a punch and knock GSP out. He didn't, but UFC and the doctor deserve a lot of credit for not stopping the fight when they easily could have.*
*Yes, I know the future ramifications this could have had but in this moment you couldn't end it for him and the look in Koscheck's other eye told them that.
The crowd in Montreal was hot all evening long. They made the event even better because they were so into everything that was going on. In the main event, the heat was really, really something else. I don't think that watching on television did it justice. Josh Koscheck was the ultimate villain coming out and GSP got a hero's welcome in his hometown. The crowd really helped elevate the event because they were so loud and so into everything that was going on. If you don't have a good crowd, the event really suffers. Fortunately, on a night that featured a number of great fights, the crowd was able to do their part and bring the energy for UFC 124.