Misha Cirkunov d. Daniel Jolly: TKO, round 1 Shane Campbell d. Elias Silverio: unanimous decision Chris Kelades d. Chris Beal: split decision Nikita Krylov d. Marcos Rogerio de Lima: submission, round 1 Felipe Arantes d. Yves Jabouin: submission, round 1 Frankie Perez d. Sam Stout: KO, round 1 Valerie Letourneau d. Maryna Moroz: unanimous decision Olivier Aubin-Mercier d. Tony Sims: unanimous decision Francisco Trinaldo d. Chad Laprise: TKO, round 1 Patrick Cote d. Josh Burkman: TKO, round 3 Neil Magny d. Erick Silva: split decision Max Holloway d. Charles Oliviera: ref stoppage, round 1
Not Q, still D:
Over a week late for a show nobody cared about in the first place. But I feel like it.
This was UFC's debut in Saskatoon, my hometown and a city that has shown up in the top 10 hottest per-capita UFC markets in past Observers. I haven't seen it on those lists in a very long time, but then, I don't know if I've seen those lists in a very long time.
After attending UFC 161: Evans vs. Henderson in Winnipeg, I wasn't sold on the live UFC experience. It's a long show, geared very much towards the TV audience. You can't fast-forward boring fights (I'm looking at YOU, Ryan Jimmo). Also, and I'm not sure you'll believe me on this, but trust me - there are some d-bags among the UFC faithful. They turn out in droves to buy $8 beers and not watch the show.
But this was Saskatoon, a relatively short drive from Regina, where I live now, and I can mooch off family to save on hotel costs. I was also envisioning a relatively inexpensive ticket - our Winnipeg tickets were $100 each and were pretty reasonable seats. But then we did some digging and found that the ticket prices for Saskatoon were way less, what with being a TV special instead of a PPV, so we decided to splurge. About $250 each put us six rows from the Octagon on the floor. These tickets would be double that or more for a PPV, so this was a one-time thing for me. I will say it made the show way better, so there's that.
I caught a ride to town on Saturday morning with my buddy Jason and his wife Melissa. They were planning on hitting up all the pre-fight festivities they could. I was planning on getting dropped off at my cousin's house and having lunch and a nap. On the way in, he ran through the fight card and got me to make picks for each fight. I am not what one might call a "knowledgeable" fan, so I largely based my picks around "have I heard of this guy?" If so, I picked them, unless I believed them to be Canadian, in which case I went the other way. I should have had much stronger opinions, having been prepared for the show via multiple emails from our very own Feely, but I didn't really have a ton of thoughts about the card itself.
Lunch happened. The nap did not. But I did take some time to get started on Daniel Bryan's book, which I have now finished and would describe as "fine." Eventually I went to my visit my friends Dave and Jen; they had a multitude of additional Jens over for pizza and beer and a mass sampling of Canadian and American potato chips (you suck at chips, America) and Exploding Kittens (not bad) and The Mask? for some reason? and eventually most of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. The nice thing about getting WWE Network as an actual TV channel is that you don't run the risk of the feed cutting out; the bad thing is that you'd best have prepared for something you DVR'd to go long. We had not.
We also watched the weigh-ins for the UFC show. Nothing of note happened apart from Valerie Letourneau originally missing weight and Olivier Aubin-Mercier handing out cookies after weighing in (I've since been told he does that every time; of all the gimmicks to have, being the cookie guy seems like a pretty okay deal).
The next day I went back to Dave and Jen's for the end of the NXT special before heading to the SaskTel Centre. The UFC Experience was taking place in the parking lot. We walked through it, taking it all in, and were done in, like, three minutes. There was a UFC title belt you could get your picture taken with, and a UFC fighter you could get your picture taken with (Saskatoon's own Mitch Clarke). We did not do this. Someone from some gym or something gave us all reusable water bottles. Mine may have gotten itself recycled.
Poor Mitch Clarke. The day before UFC announces the Saskatoon show, he suffers an acupuncture accident - needle broke off in him - and he needed surgery and wound up missing the show. He also had a bunch of t-shirts made - red and yellow Mitchamania shirts. Nothing could go wrong there, right? Poor bugger with his numb arm and boxes of unsold shirts. If UFC ever comes back to Saskatoon, hopefully he can be on the card.
I'm not sure that return is too likely, though. There were only about 7,000 people there, in an arena set up for around 10,000. I really thought we were getting a first-day sellout. At least the people who showed up were really into the event. I'd say at least 50% of the crowd was there from the very first fight.
Our seats were directly facing the cage door. We found them, took pictures in front of the Octagon, and wandered off in search of snacks. We'd just returned with popcorn and drinks when we saw Bruce Buffer signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. We decided not to partake. And I immediately changed my mind. I didn't get a lot of time to chat with him - nobody did, he was a pro at moving the line along - but he was very friendly. I would say the same about Herb Dean, the other guy I got to briefly meet.
Actually, it's interesting. You have an entire company - industry, even - built on dudes punching and kicking and choking other dudes, and yet, every interaction I heard about was friendly and pleasant. Everyone was approachable and personable. Between fights, a number of the other fighters who'd been brought to town for meet-and-greet type stuff were sitting relatively close to us and they were taking pictures and chatting with anyone who was interested. We saw Tyron Woodley, Sarah Kaufman, Charmaine Tweet, Elias Theodorou, and others.
Fights (about which I don't have a ton to say, mostly):
Misha Cirkunov d. Daniel Jolly: TKO, round 1
Feely told me Cirkunov was some big prospect. He looked good. He fights out of Ontario now, so the crowd adopted him as our own. After this fight I'd already decided that this was better than the Winnipeg show.
Shane Campbell d. Elias Silverio: unanimous decision
These guys split the first two rounds, which made the third more fun. And the Canadian wins, hooray.
You know, I'd likely have texted Feely a ton during this show which would have given me nice detailed notes to work off, but once a critical mass of people made it to the arena, cell and data service died right off. Eventually, I put my phone in airplane mode in hopes of being able to use it as a camera throughout the whole show. I should have turned the flash on while I was at it because our pictures with Herb Dean required a LOT of time in post-production to be even remotely discernable. Oh well.
Chris Kelades d. Chris Beal: split decision
The Canadian wins again, though we all thought the decision went the wrong way. At one point, Dave leaned over and said that Kelades' only chance was hometown (well, home country) judging. And then there you go.
Nikita Krylov d. Marcos Rogerio de Lima: submission, round 1
Fun, short, I don't know, what do you want from me
Felipe Arantes d. Yves Jabouin: submission, round 1
Jabouin hit a full on powerslam to start this fight and that was rad but then yeah that was it. Dave and Jen missed this fight in search of food.
Frankie Perez d. Sam Stout: KO, round 1
People loved them some Sam Stout. And then he got straight up murderized, knocked silly in under a minute. I left as soon as this fight was over so I missed Perez's retirement announcement, whoops. I spent about 20 minutes at a charging station trying to breathe life into my dying phone and then got some mini-donuts and lemonade. Is it funny to eat mini-donuts at the UFC? In Winnipeg, I had a bag of cotton candy and I'm pretty sure that's funny. Anyway I only had mini-donuts because the mini-donut place was the only stand that didn't have a hundred people in line. They were good though.
Valerie Letourneau d. Maryna Moroz: unanimous decision
I dunno, this was fine, whatever
Olivier Aubin-Mercier d. Tony Sims: unanimous decision
AUBIN-MERCIER YOU ARE SO BORING but I don't really mind because I needed a new Ryan Jimmo to hate on now that original Jimmo got canned. Also his entrance music, what the heck. It was bizarre but I danced to it, so look for that whenever this card shows up on Fight Pass.
Francisco Trinaldo d. Chad Laprise: TKO, round 1
Another fast one. I had picked Trinaldo on the ride up based on my "Canadians lose" and apparently that would have been (and was) a big upset so clearly I am a UFC super genius prognosticator.
Patrick Cote d. Josh Burkman: TKO, round 3
THIS FIGHT RULED. The first two rounds were fun enough but then in the third it turned into the battle of crazy punches and then Cote (another Canadian) won and the place went absolutely bonkers. This was the best the best the best.
Neil Magny d. Erick Silva: split decision
I don't know how anyone goes with Silva here but whatever
Max Holloway d. Charles Oliviera: ref stoppage, round 1
Before this fight, I was thinking "man, we've been here forever, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if this fight was a quick one." So yeah. This was weird. The two circled around and didn't touch much. Oliviera rushed Holloway into the side of the cage. What happened next was a bit of a blur. I saw the two guys touch gloves, like maybe there had been an accidental eyepoke or nutshot or something. Then Oliviera suddenly grabbed at himself - I thought he was making the "I'm choking" sign while others thought he was grabbing at his shoulder or collarbone - and he dropped like a stone and the fight was stopped. A doctor ran in and checked on him, and then made the X sign like in WWE. A stretcher was quickly brought out, which I've never seen in UFC before. I was honestly thinking we'd just seen a man die. We left immediately so as to 1) not be ghoulish and 2) (and more importantly, let's be honest) beat the traffic, so we didn't stick around to see what happened or hear Holloway's post-fight interview. I was staying off the internet so as to avoid Summerslam spoilers, so I get Feely to let me know if he heard anything. Eventually, it came out that Oliviera had suffered a torn esophagus, which, no. I do not ever want that ever. But it sounds like he'll be okay.
After this, we went back to Dave and Jen's for Summerslam, which probably would have seemed like a much better show if it wasn't ending (for us) at 2:00 a.m. Or maybe not? That Brock/Undertaker finish was dumb as balls.
I caught a ride back to Regina the next morning with Jason and Melissa. As expected, they’d hit up most of the MMA-related events, including meeting Randy Couture at an autograph signing at the casino. We spent the drive listening to Frank Turner, which is a pretty good way to spend a drive if you ask me. Once we got into town, I went into the office. Don’t I sound like a responsible adult human person? Do not let the fact that I am writing this on company time dissuade you from that impression.
1. There were two girls sitting directly in front of me. Both relatively young (18 mayyyybe?), very pretty, and absolute DIEHARD Maryna Moroz fans. To a point where I assumed they had to be family. If not, it was a very devout and specific fandom.
2. I didn't watch the show on TV, but apparently, there was an overhead shot before the main event where my friends and I were very visible. I did not pull my old Raw/Smackdown taping deal of wearing a bright yellow shirt, though. Too bad as that works amazingly well.
3. Not only were we facing the cage door, but we were also near the aisle where all the fighters came out. All, that is, except for Max Holloway, who came out the other aisle (the one most fighters left through). He was cageside before most of us figured out that we should turn around and stop trying to look for him.
4. I didn't really give my overall thoughts on the show, though they were kind of sprinkled throughout that wall of text:
- Much better than Winnipeg from both a fight perspective and a personal experience perspective - Was a very long show (and felt very long) - UFC has lots to learn from WWE about putting on a show for a live audience - I'd prefer they not run head-to-head with WWE PPVs - I'd say "I don't know about attending future UFC events" but as long as they're relatively infrequent and/or inexpensive and/or big enough shows and/or conveniently located, we know that's a lie