UFC 147 – If a Pay Per View event falls in the forest and nobody is there to see it, does it make a sound?
Being both cheap and unemployed, I rarely pay for the PPV to watch UFC events at home. The sad result of this is that I wind up watching the fights at some hellish corporate chain of a bar. If I’m in Connecticut, as I am now, that corporate chain hell would be the local Buffalo Wild Wings. In order to spend as little time as possible at said chain bar, I usually hit the local pisser around the corner first, where the pours aren’t quite so miserly and the kind bartender will put on FX for me for the prelims. By the time the main event kicks off at 10PM EST and I’m at BWW, I have never, not once, been able to get even a bad seat in the back corner to watch the fights. Standing room only every time. Imagine my surprise tonight when I arrived at BWW and not only where there seats, there were a total of seven people at the bar, two of whom were there to watch the tail end of the Yankees – Mets game. The managing bartender, who knows me because I show up for nearly every PPV event, asked me what was up, as he put it, ‘Usually by 8.30 on UFC nights we’re jammed.’ I explained that the top of the card had taken something of a beating so the event might not be well attended. He immediately cut HALF of the kitchen and wait staff, and I told him that Silva – Sonnen II on July 7 should make up for it.
Just for perspective, I would say an average UFC PPV would have 125 people in the bar section watching the fights. A really good card, like Evans v Jones, would be 175. For the Brazilian Cotillion at no point were there more than seven people at the bar, not a single table was filled, and a total of two people (me and a surly Red Bull swilling fellow in an Affliction T) watched the entire event. Which is not to say the fights weren’t good, many were excellent and only a few were stinkers, but clearly the diamond in the rough that was TUF Brazil did not have the following in the Greater Southern Connecticut area that it did on my laptop. So then, on to the fights.
The prelim cards included a number of the better fighters from TUF Brazil who didn’t make the finals. For example, last time we saw Francisco Drinaldo, or Massaranduba to TUF Brazil aficionados, he was dazed on his feet, unable to start the last round of a fight against Bodao. The referee stepped in, mercifully, as Massaranduba crumpled to his knees, unable to continue. No such thing happened on Saturday night, where Drinaldo opened up a timed, four minute and 20 second can of striker’s whoop ass on his notably larger opponent, Delson ‘Pe de Chumbo’ Heleno. Massaranduba claims his natural weight is 155, a pair of weight classes below where he was fighting, and if this fight is any indication he should be a holy fucking terror at that weight. Drinaldo is also one of the TUF Brazil fighters from a truly impoverished background, so proper training facilities and coaching have not always been available to him. He said during the show sometimes he didn’t have the bus fare to get to the gym. Get that lad to Curitiba pronto, and see where his talent can take him.
The other prelim fight of special note was Rodrigo Damm against Gasparzinho. This was something of a grudge match, as Damm and Gasparzinho seemed really to get under the other’s skin during the show. Damm was one of the older fighters in the house and Gasparzinho’s constant late night screwing around seemed to annoy him more than anyone else. In fairness, Damm seemed a bit of a humorless gentleman, but he certainly made short work of his opponent in this fight, choking him out in a little over two minutes. Post fight there was none of the usually Brazilian hugging and congratulating either, reinforcing some genuine mutual distaste. Damm was DQ’d by doctors orders in the semifinals of TUF, and had he not been I suspect he would have had little trouble beating Pepey to make for a much more interesting final than what we actually were shown. Like Drinaldo, he looks to me to be ‘UFC Ready’ and I hope Dana brings him into the full time ranks.
I was looking forward to the Werdum fight, hoping Mike Russo could make a match of it, but he didn’t. If Russo had a game plan it wasn’t clear to me, and he was hacked to bits in no time. Please, Dana, get Werdum a better fight next time.
For the fights that were the actual TUF Brazil championships, it was very much a tale to two fights. The Rony Jason v Pepey fight went more or less as expected. Pepey tried a couple of arm bars, which seems to be his plan A, B, and C, and then he was dominated for the rest of the fight. I will say this for Pepey, he took enough shots nobody should question his chin any time soon, but this was one of the least exciting fights of the night. Also, Rony, the whole hockey mask, Friday the 13th shtick is whack. It reeks of washed up C-level Japanese pro wrestling. Give it up. I would have loved to see Damm in this fight, but them’s the breaks.
The middleweight TUF championship should have been the gem of the night. Originally it had Cezar Feirrera against Daniel Sarafian, both of whom I think clear the ‘UFC Ready’ bar by a half a foot or more. Both have well rounded skill sets, execute the game plans they put together with their corners, and have great frames for the weight class. However, Sarafian had to skip out due to injury and Serginho, a jiu-jitsu phenom, had to step in. I will admit, straight up, that Serginho was one of my two or three favorite fighters on the show. He took that familiar, laid back, ‘I’m a lover not a fighter’ Brazilian personality and laid it in on with trowel. Then, in the ring, he suddenly became a ferocious competitor. The kind of guy who after almost ripping your shoulder out of its socket would ask you out for caipirinhas and samba dancing. During the TUF semi Sarafian exposed Serginho’s striking deficiencies and it was obvious from the outset of the championship fight that Cezar was not going to the mat with Serginho if he had any way to avoid it. Serginho looked like a seriously improved striker and did some non-trivial damage to Cezar’s face, especially in round 2, but though I didn’t think the fight was as one sided as some of the judges, it was clearly a win for Cezar.
One has to wonder if it is too late in Serginho’s career to learn to be a good enough striker/boxer to force fighters even to think of taking their chances on the ground with him. It was interesting to hear in the pre-fight interview that he has moved to Curitiba to train, Curitiba being the base for many of the best Brazilian Muay Thai fighters and trainers. He is only 29, so it’s certainly not impossible, but I could see him being something of a journeyman fighter and then turning into a world class coach. Not a bad outcome to be sure, but it would be fun to see some him add some sick kickboxer moves to go with his undeniable ground game. And Cezar will be making noise in the UFC for years to come, he’s already there.
UFC 147 was, as much as anything, a well earned victory lap for TUF Brazil. Dana White has promised an entire series of international TUF shows, and while Brazil was the screamingly obvious first place to go, I’d be thrilled to see TUF Japan, TUF Thailand, TUF UK, and so on. It was also a nice group of fights no matter what. If my local Buffalo Wild Wings is any indication, nobody watched it, but it’s one of those things that people who didn’t bother watching will be telling everyone they did a few years from now when one of the fighters we saw is in a title bout. When that happens ask them something like, ‘Yeah, weren’t you shocked when Rodrigo Damm knocked out Pe de Chumba?’ and when they nod enthusiastically you’ll know who really took the time to see the event.
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