What kind of night was the UFC on Fox show at Key Arena in Seattle? I know it’s a cliché… but here goes.
It was the best of fight nights, it was the worst of fight nights.
(Ugh… I thought I’d never type that one… as bad as using “remains to be seen” last week…?)
So, what were the highs? Here’s Demetrious Johnson, the best fighter of his division, fighting a brilliant fight – looking for the finish from the opening bell to the fifth round. Here’s a guy rallying his home state fans behind a record-breaking performance: scoring the latest stoppage victory in UFC history. Johnson’s trainer Matt Hume, a Pacific Northwest MMA pioneer, lifts Johnson up and soaks up a little attention on a big show, too. Awesome.
And… then, the lows… like, the sad realization that Key Arena, located only a few miles across Lake Washington from Hume’s AMC Kickboxing and Pankration academy in Kirkland, WA, was nowhere near full. Reports have attendance at 7,816, which is only about half capacity. Was the evening a victim of Seattle’s beautiful 2013 summer? Maybe, the high ticket prices? Was the lack of glamour of Johnson’s flyweight division to blame? I don’t know, but the size of the crowd didn’t exactly reflect this area’s great MMA heritage.
What else? Here are Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger, two of the welterweight division’s top names, paired in a great looking co-main event, which is exactly what we should expect from UFC matchmakers. The two even had a memorable exchange on Twitter to lead up to the fight. (Ugh…a few more words I never thought I’d type.) Excellent.
And then… there is the absolutely abysmal fight that resulted from that pairing. What happened? Ellenberger wouldn’t offer an excuse. “It just wasn’t my night,” he said. “I didn’t pull the trigger. I really have nothing to add. I’ll leave it at that…. I’m just very disappointed in myself.” So was Dana White. MacDonald insists he did his job, and the judges concurred, but Seattle fans disagreed.
What’s good? Here is a great showcase for MMA workhorse Aaron Riley, who was enjoying something of a homecoming as he fought out of AMC Pankration in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Those being known as “MMA’s dark years,” Riley may not always get the praise he deserves for his all-action fights. If you’re among the uninformed, his “Fight of the Year” candidates like his bout with Yves Edwards in 2001 and Robbie Lawler in 2002 are more than worth a look. What kind of institution is Aaron Riley? He sold me a ticket to my first live MMA fight, and I’m older than dirt as fans go.
But, unfortunately, it was end up a tough night for Riley, who would lose a split decision and decide to end a remarkable 45 fight career. Didn’t seem right… but, maybe it was.
Oh, and Yves Edwards? He fought that night too, and was the victim of a judges’ poor decision against Daron Cruickshank. It was a slow but not (entirely) uninteresting fight.
Other highs? Great performances by Robbie Lawler and Liz Carmouche in victory, and the “Fight of the Night” between Ed Herman and Trevor Smith. Michael Chiesa made an error tapping with only a second left against Jorge Masvidal, but that fight was fun while it lasted. Muay Thai standout Germaine de Randamie’s bout with Julie Kedzie was so-so, but it’s still fun watching her develop.
It was an up-and-down night. But in sum, more ups than downs, and hey — at least we’d all agree it ended on a high note.