UFC 129 Fight Card: Outside GSP, How Much Does Canadian Crowd Matter?
No fewer than 10 Canadian fighters will do battle tonight at UFC 129, and nine of them will step into the Octagon to take on Americans. Given that the event will be the first UFC event to take place in the province of Ontario, and will take place in front of a North American record 55,000 fans, that would seem to make the Canadians heavy fan favorites, and their opponents (especially the Americans) natural heels heading into Saturday night.
After watching the fighters weigh in on Friday, however, one wonders if that's truly going to be the case.
With the exceptions of UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, UFC Featherweight Championship top contender Mark Hominick, and preliminary fighter Jason "The Athlete" MacDonald, the Canadian fighters weren't much better received than their American counterparts, although Jake Shields was greeted with loud boos, and Nate Diaz' reception wasn't much better. The weigh-in crowd is a smaller sample than will be in the Rogers Centre tonight, but it's worth asking how much of an impact the crowd will have.
Certainly, as he's trained to face GSP in the main event for the UFC Welterweight Championship, Shields has prepared himself with a "me against the world" mindset, and as a fighter whose style isn't conducive to being a fan favorite, Shields is used to putting the crowd out of his mind. Diaz will likely be the same way, and overall, the fights will be about the two men in the Octagon at any given time, rather than the 55,000 watching.
The crowd factor should be most interesting at the margins: the fighter who finds a little extra second wind late in a fight, the stand-up war that intensifies at the encouragement of the crowd, or - if we're unlucky - the controversial judges' decision that gets an even louder vote of disapproval.
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