After much anticipation leading up to UFC 114, I came back from Vegas feeling great, yet unfulfilled. On one hand, my personal time with my friends experiencing everything from the UFC Fan Expo, meeting fighters along with MMA notables and taking photos was more than I could have asked for. However, the actual fight card, in my estimation, left me wondering what happened to all the hype. What had all the makings of an exciting night of fights, turned out to be an arena filled with more boos than cheers.
The main event, which featured a lot of bad blood between two superstars of the sport, 'Suga' Rashad Evans and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson, only lived up to the hype for three of the fifteen minutes they fought. This was not due to the fighters as much as it was the old adage; "styles make fights". In this particular case you had Rashad Evans, a superior wrestler by trade, sticking to his strength and using his bread and butter to nullify his opponent. Rampage, whose strength lies standing up and banging, had no answer for Rashad's speed. Evans elusiveness of Rampage's punches and slick quick takedowns proved the difference in the fight.
There was a tense moment in the third and final round with about three minutes to go where it looked like all of Rashad's hard work was all for naught. As he went to shoot in one more time on Rampage, he lost his balance and fell short, thus giving Rampage the break he had been looking for. Finally, able to get his hands on Evans, Jackson pounced on his opponent, trapping him against the cage and began raining down punches. Evans was clearly in trouble and when Referee Herb Dean stepped in to take a closer look, it looked as though he was about to stop it.
Luckily, he did not because Rashad weathered the storm of Rampage's onslaught and not only made it back to his feet, but eventually turned the tide and took Rampage down once again. This time he unleashed his most telling attack of the fight as he had Rampage pinned down and was smashing him flush with right hands to the face. This last three minutes of the fight brought the crowd to its feet and drew the biggest response of the night outside of the split decision win by Antonio Rogerio Nogueira over Jason Brilz.
Brilz, who took this fight with less than three weeks notice due to an injury to Forrest Griffin, was a huge underdog to the decorated MMA veteran Nogueira. No one expected he could compete with the man known as 'Lil' Nog', let alone finish the fight, however he did both while almost defeating the Brazilian at his own game. After standing toe to toe with him in the first round, the wrestler from North Dakota, caught Nogueira in a tight guillotine choke, not once, but twice in the second round. While Nog survived, he was not the same after that and Brilz clearly dominated from that point on in my eyes and in the estimation of 15,000 plus who booed unmercifully after the decision was read. Brilz may have not won the decision, but he won over the fans and more importantly Dana White, which will prove more lucrative in the long run.
In another surprising turn of events, Heavyweight Todd Duffee, who was clearly in control of his fight against Mike Russow for two and a half rounds was shocked, clocked and literally put to sleep by a Russow right hand he never saw coming. Before the fight I had stated that the book was still out on Duffee as all we had seen on him was all of seven seconds in the octagon. One has to wonder now if the giant who has a body that looks like it was sculpted out of a rock, has a jaw made of glass. Only time will tell. One other young fighter to keep an eye on is welterweight John Hathaway, who came into the UFC undefeated and stayed that way as he totally dominated Ultimate Fighter winner Diego 'Nightmare' Sanchez over three rounds for a unanimous decision win. Tall and lanky for a welterweight with fast hands and good takedown defense, he may be a name to remember.
Out of the seven fights on TV, the two on Spike and five on Pay-Per-View, six of them went to a decision. Even the Russow KO win was on its way to being a unanimous decision by Duffee until the unexpected shot heard around the arena. Many of those fights were uneventful, which drew more than a few boos throughout the night that I know ultimately that cannot make Dana White happy. Overall as a fan, my experience between the Expo and the UFC live was an entertaining one, but as far expectations for the fights went, especially the main event, I don't think they were met.
On a personal note, my thanks to all the friends and Junkie Nation I was rolling with throughout the weekend, especially Gorgeous George, Goze and 'Jenny from the Block' of MMA Junkie Radio who always make it happen.