This past Saturday I had the privilege of being in attendance at UFC Fight Night in Brisbane, Australia – the first time an official Ultimate Fighting Championship event has been held in this city.
I say “Fight Night”, but actually for the fans in attendance at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre, it was “Fight Morning and Early-Afternoon” – that’s what happens when pay-per-view is the most important consideration in scheduling (more power to the viewers in the US).
But I can’t complain about that, because it was such an awesome display of athleticism and competitive spirit that I can’t help but feel honoured by the chance to see it in person.
Let’s do the rounds (pun not intended):
Takeya Mizugaki (Japan) vs Nam Phan (USA)
The first fight on the card that really caught my attention, this bantamweight fight was scrappy but energetic, and fun to watch. Both fighters showed a lot of heart, but in the end Mizugaki took the fight and the decision.
Julie Kedzie (USA) vs Bethe Correia (Brazil)
The only female-fight on the card, and a great one at that. A more technical fight than some of those that preceded it, the superior skill of Correia eventually allowed her to walk away with the win.
Pat Barry (USA) vs Soa Palelei (Australia)
Up until this fight, the crowd (while at capacity) had been relatively subdued. The appearance of Palelei though changed all that – playing the home-town hero to perfection, Palelei worked the fans into a frenzy as he expertly demolished Barry, grappling with his American opponent for a short while before finishing with ground and pound.
Ryan Bader (USA) vs Anthony Perosh (Australia)
The winner of the Ultimate Fighter 8, Ryan Bader has been on the cusp of big things for a while, without managing to make the final leap into MMA superstardom. On Saturday he showed why he’s still got the goods, outclassing his Australian opponent Anthony Perosh, who despite the disadvantage of being ten years Bader’s senior, managed to show a lot of courage and heart and stand-up to the more physically-imposing American. In the end though, Bader was just too good.
Shogun Rua (Brazil) vs James Te Huna (Australia)
A fight that was over before it really began, Shogun Rua delivered the knockout punch par excellence in the first round, putting to bed (along with James Te Huna) any speculation about his future in the UFC.
Mark Hunt (Australia/New Zealand) vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (Brazil)
The main event and “fight of the night” – perhaps, as the commentators speculated, one of the best heavyweight fights ever in the UFC – the showdown between training partners Hunt and Silva quickly went from an anticipated knockout finish to a five-round slugfest and a master-class in toughness. After twenty-five minutes of near-continuous combat both fighters were bloody and exhausted, but still on their feet despite some horrendously punishing blows. A low-leg kick by Silva in round two nearly ended it, as did an early knockdown by Hunt, but both men managed to hold on and keep going. It was an edge-of-your-seat fight if I’ve ever seen one, and the crowd was going wild by the end. When the announcer proclaimed it a “majority draw” (in Mark Hunt’s favour, incidentally) I thought there might be a riot: but even the die-hard supporters on either side couldn’t help but admit that both fighters had done a spectacular job. No losers, only winners.
And that was that. Previously, if you wanted to see the UFC in the flesh here in Australia, you had to take a trip to the Gold Coast or Sydney on the rare occasion when a fight was scheduled Down Under. Now though, after such a successful Brisbane debut, I can’t help feeling that more UFC events shall soon be gracing the River City. Let’s wait and see…