Posted by: englishdubai | April 13, 2010

Invincible


After all the build up and hype it has been and gone. The UFC publicity machine rolled into the UAE last week and did an amazing job. The radio and TV were full of it as were the newspapers and magazines. It was a shame not to be around as I was in sunny Vienna for the run up. I would have love to have got really sucked in and wanted desperately to see the weigh-ins held at the Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and gone to some of the fighters signing session but it all did the desired effect and there was a real buzz about the Emirates when I landed early on Saturday morning.

There was a big gang of us making the trip to Abu Dhabi for the UFC 112 and we made the most of it and organized an SUV limo to arrive in style :

On the short walk to the stadium it was extra apparent where this event was being held and on the queue into the event the cacophony of Scouse, American and Arabic accents was a heady mix and I could feel the excitement building all ready:

First thing I did when in side was to go and grab some t-shirts from the Merchandise store – it was good that they were priced at a very reasonable 100 aed ($27) but bad that they didn’t hang them up so you could see the choice on offer:

Once I was done with the T-Shirts and was appropriately fed and watered I headed over the temporary arena. When the UFC announced that this event was going to be in Abu Dhabi I was wondering about the venue and if they could pull it off. In short they did and I take my hats off the to the people who put up an 11,000 seater temporary stadium complete with world class audio and visual on display. Here is the very lovely Renata showing off the great view of the Octagon we had from our seats:

So we settled into what was to be an eventful evening. It was clear that the organizers had put a lot of thought into the “card” for evening giving a little something to everyone.

First on the under card they wheeled out Mustafa Al Turk who was billed as being born in Saudi (though if you ever heard him speak you would swear he had been working in Billings Gate market all his life) and he quickly had the local crowd cheering from him and even some chants of “Mustafa, Mustafa”, sadly it wasn’t enough and he lost a decision to Madsen in what was a snooze-fest

Next up was the first of several UK fighters a lad called Paul Kelly who put on an excellent display and beat his opponent in an exciting manner. The big UK contingent in the crowd were warming up nicely and had other fights to look forward too.

Demarques Johnson in the next fight again did really well and the Ultimate Fighter star made an excellent comeback to win against Brad Blackburn and in his interview after the fight he gave big shout out to Abu Dhabi which went down really well with the crowd,

Then another British fighter recently also on Ultimate Fighter a chap called Nick Osipczak took on a tough American dude called Rick Story. I was a big fan of Nick’s style on the show and was sad when he was overwhelmed by Story’s superior wrestling for most of the fight ending up with Nick losing a decision. Still they did there best for 15 minutes and it was still really warm at around 30c at the time.

After popping out for further refreshments it was all ready time for the main card and the portion that is aired on pay per view in the USA. The video, music and lightshow they put on was excellent and the crowd was excited. After all – there were to be not one but two fights for titles as well as a bout featuring two MMA legends.  I got into it and was dancing around and enjoying myself

The opening fight on the card turned out to be the fight of the night. It featured the super tall and dangerous Kendall Grove – with mad ink on his body and sick knees, elbows and chokes at his disposal he is a great fighter. He was taking on one of my favourite UFC fighters in Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz. When Munoz walked out to the Black Eye Peas Filipino rap song Bebot – the Filipinos in the crowd and myself went slightly nuts.

This fight did not disappoint. Grove took it to Munoz with a wicked succession of close choke attempts only to be reversed in the second round when Munoz got the top position and gave him a “Ground and Pound”‘ lesson getting the stoppage. It was an excellent come back from behind and the crowd gave both fighters an excellent cheer for their efforts.

Next up was the big fight for the UK supporters. Scouse boy Terry Etim was taking on tough Brazillian Rafael Dos Anjos – it was not to be the Brit’s night as he lost to arm bar and the scousers were going to have a very long and sad flight back to Liverpool. Still, Terry has huge amounts of talent and I am sure he will back in no time.

After a good undercard and two decent fights it was the big time. First up was UFC legend Matt Huges coming back to the octagon after nearly 12 months to take on Renzo Gracie. Renzo’s cousin Royce was the grandfather of UFC back in the early days and put Ju-Jitsu on the map. Sometime ago Matt Huges took on Royce and beat him soundly so there was a little bit of edge to this match. That being said Renzo was a regular to the UAE supporting the MMA scene there and was the home town favourite. So when he walked out to Arabic infused music the local guys made their voices heard and the stadium really lit up. The same couldn’t be said for the match – two of the best ground exponents in the world spent nearly fifteen minutes engaged in a light sparring session. It was disappointing following the intensity of the early bouts. Still, it was clear they were both great sportsmen in the twilight of their careers and they were out there doing it and putting on a show. Huges sealed the match with a nasty upper cut but by then I was thinking Renzo would need to go to hospital for exhaustion so it was a fair ending.

So all that was left were the two title fights. First up was BJ Penn taking on the challenger Frankie Edgar. I am a huge BJ Penn fan and he seemed to bring a good sized following from Hawaii to support him. They were to be disappointed – BJ Penn didn’t seem to be himself and for five rounds Frankie kept busy with intelligent kick boxing and took the decision. It was weird – Penn didn’t seem to want it like before but I take my hat off to Frankie. He worked hard and got a fantastic result – here is the golden moment:

Looking at it so far it had been a reasonable set of fights. Sure the Gracie vs Huges was more an exhibition and there had been no spectacular knock outs. Surely this would be fixed by the Main Event? I was hyped for it. Here is the Anderson Silva walkout and you can taste the energy in the crowd:

Anderson Silva vs Damian Maia was a match everyone was hoping would put UFC on the map in the Middle East Region and I sure the UFC were looking at this as a launch pad to the lucrative sub-continent markets. As someone once said “Houston, we have a problem” this pretty much summed up the main event.

Silva is the best striker in the UFC, Maia the best ground guy. So Silva ran around the ring for 25 minutes goading Maia to punch him. Maia desperately tried to engage, but was outclassed on his feet and couldn’t really get close to Silva. All he got out it was a broken nose. With Silva clowning around in the first two rounds it was impressive but the rest of the fight it was boring and Dana White quite rightly described it as “The arena tonight was incredible. The energy was amazing, and to end it the way that we did was an embarrassment for me, the Fertittas, the UFC and the sport in general. I apologize, and I will – I don’t know how yet – but I will make this up to the fans who bought this [expletive] tonight.”

This was said in the post match press conference and he summed how I and my friends felt. More than that however, I felt embarrassed for the sport. I have been a a fan for so long and it was attempt of a real showcase and we were all let down. It was a real shame and as we all returned home in the limo, all we could talk about was what it could have been.

Dana if you or anyone of the UFC people read this. Do come back to the UAE and put on another even better show. That is how you can make it up to us. I for one will be up at midnight again buying tickets if you do.


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