Saunders Sounds Off On UFC 114 and UFC Expo
UFC Expo is Off the Charts
Most people spend a life time wondering what it would be like to meet there favourite sports hero. I am very happy to say that last weekend I spent my time doing exactly just that. Not only did I see just one athlete I admire, but I met them all.
First, when Jamie Locke and I walked in to the Mandalay Bay, it was surreal. First person we saw was a gigantic Thiago Alves. As the two of us moved closer to the Expo itself, we saw a huge crowd of people huddled to our left snapping pictures. It turned out that they were taking pictures of the Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva. I was blown away, we were not even in the door yet and we have seen not one, but two huge UFC stars hanging out in the lobby.
Once, we finally got through the line of about two thousand people, we moved to the back of the Expo where Dana White was giving a Q&A. He was answering questions for people no matter how young or old they happened to be. He seemed to have a special place in his heart for the children who were very eager to ask questions. He also gave helpful advice to people who mentioned that they were promoters of smaller MMA promotions.
After the Q&A,I lost Jamie and sifted through piles and piles of people who were all frantically looking for their favourite fighters. I held back the urge to yell to Josh Koscheck “Penguins Suck!!” and I passed fighters and trainers like Frank Mir, Robbie Lawlor, Bas Rutten, Vitor Belfort, and Matt Serra who I got the chance to have a very quick conversation with. He wanted to chat more but had to go sign autographs. All fighters were extremely friendly and really seemed to appreciate the fans.
In all honesty this Expo alone made my whole trip to Las Vegas. For $35 per person you can’t beat it, the UFC made this a family friendly environment where people can go get their pictures taken and ask any questions they have. The grappling tournament was also happening there. I didn’t get to see too much of it but it looked well organized considering all the chaos going on around it. You owe it to yourself to go see an Expo in the future; I plan on attending the one held in Boston.
The main event definitely did not live up to its hype. For over a year I listened to both Quinton Jackson and Rashad Evans talk about how they were going to punish each other in the cage. All I got to see was Jackson pinned against the cage with Rashad occasionally taking him down. Jackson landed a big punch in the 3rd round almost ending the fight, but Evans struggled through and continued his game plan against a gassed opponent.
The crowds boo’s changed to cheers for Rashad Evans as it became clear that he would be the victor of this fight. A lot of the fight was booed but that was not the least bit surprising as the MGM Grand audience booed just about everything that happened Saturday night. Although Rashad Evans gave a impressive performance, the fans needed a KO victory to justify the build up for this fight.
What’s next for Rampage?
It makes sense for him to fight Lyoto Machida (16-1) as they are both coming off of losses. He could fight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (19-3) as he came off of an exciting controversial win. There has been talk of Anderson Silva (26-4) vacating his Middleweight belt to come up to 205 permanently. Ryan Bader (11-0) could be an excellent match up as well.
Fact is, I do not believe we seen the best Quinton Jackson that Quinton Jackson has to offer. I am not saying he would have beat Rashad Evans after a tune up fight, fact is Evans continues to surprise me so I will never predict any fight he is involved in again. Ring rust could have been a factor for Rampage or could Rampage not have the same desire to be the fighter he was before he went off to act in the A-Team?
I really think Rampage can be a huge force in the future, but he has nothing but tough competition in front of him. He has become part of what is probably the most competitive weight division the UFC has to offer. I just hope for one thing, and that’s for the Light-Heavyweight belt to stop being passed around like a quarter at an arcade.
Highlights of the Night
-Mike Russow (12-1) turned the tables on Todd Duffee (6-1) as he landed a huge counter on his heavy handed opponent and won by KO at 2:35 in the 3rd round. Mike Russow was awarded Knock Out Of The Night.
-Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Jason Brilz went balls out for three hard rounds and Lil’ Nog got the nod in a controversial split decision, and the two fighters got Fight Of the Night for their hard fought efforts. I can’t wait to see more of Jason Brilz.
-John Hathaway improved his record to (14-0) as he won an extremely one sided fight and even came close to finishing the fight as he hit Diego Sanchez (23-4) with a huge knee in the 1st round.
-Efrain Escudero (14-1) and Dan Lauzon (12-4) were booed for three rounds as they circled each other trying to figure out what to do next. Efrain had a few shining moments during the fight as he landed combos on Lauzon. I expected Escudero to walk through this fight considering the alleged training issues Dan Lauzon had during his camp.
All in all this was an impressive weekend. I got to find out why the UFC is the top fighting promotion out there. I only saw two celebrities at the actual event. David Spade was of course in attendance as usual and was shown on the big screen during the main event. We were in the nose bleed section (which is great seating for the record), and just in front of us sat Stephan Bonnar which was kind of surprising.