By Michael Talbot, CityNews.ca
Bolstered by a main event featuring the sport’s most marketable star, Canadian Georges St-Pierre, the UFC’s spectacular debut in Toronto last April saw the 55,000-seat Rogers Centre sell out in a matter of minutes.
In its return to the Big Smoke on Saturday for UFC 140, St-Pierre was markedly absent. Ticket sales at the Air Canada Centre were not as brisk, and the virginal jitters leading up to the sport’s bloody T.O. inauguration were somewhat tempered the second time around.
But in terms of mixed martial arts entertainment, there was no sophomore jinx for the UFC.
Saturday’s card was packed with intriguing storylines punctuated by a plethora of career-altering knockouts and submissions — delivered and endured by some of the sport’s rising, and fading, stars.
In the main event, Jon “Bones” Jones retained his light heavyweight title, choking out Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida in the second round.
Both fighters came out cautiously for round one. Machida landed some solid shots, but Jones looked calm and composed. The tide began to turn in the champion’s favour in round two. Jones landed an elbow that opened a cut over Machida’s eye and later floored him with a looping punch. When Machida rose to his feet, Jones forced him against the octagon, sinking in a deep, standing guillotine that rendered him unconscious.
The bout was called off as Machida limply flopped to the canvas.
“It feels great to have this win and retain the belt,” Jones said. “I kept my composure during the first round. I didn’t have too much strategy going into the fight except to perform at my best.”
His frightening submission was one of many dramatic moments that marked another memorable fight card in Toronto.
The co-main event between heavyweights Frank Mir and Minotauro Nogueira featured a thrilling reversal of fortunes and a stomach-churning submission that won’t soon be forgotten.
Nogueira came out strong stunning Mir with a series of strikes that eventually floored him. It looked like Mir was about to suffer a TKO stoppage, but Nogueira made a costly mistake, giving his opponent an unwise reprieve. Soon Mir had turned the tables and secured a kimura arm bar. Nog tried to roll, but Mir had it locked and the arm freakishly gave way under the pressure.
Video replay showed it snapping like a bread stick from a variety of different angles as fans at the ACC moaned in awe and disgust.
“I hope that Minotauro is okay,” Mir said after. “I idolize him and I’m curious to see what he has to say after. When you are as big as we are, things are going to happen.”
One of the biggest names on the card, UFC legend Tito Ortiz, was thoroughly dismantled by Rogerio Nogueira, who scored a first round TKO stoppage. The referee’s merciful halt was prompted by a breath-stealing barrage of body shots and elbows that Nogueira hammered down from a dominant mount.
Earlier in the round Nogueira stunned Ortiz with an elbow, and later dropped him with a knee to the midsection. Once on his back, Ortiz became a human punching bag for the seemingly tireless Nogueira.
“I feel so great. It’s like a dream come true,” the winner beamed. “Tito Ortiz is a legend of this sport, so I’m very, very happy. I wanted this win badly. Once we took it to the ground I got on top and gave it my all.”
“He’s a true champ I take my hat off to him,” Ortiz said of his opponent.
He also hinted that his long career was nearing a close.
“I have one more fight in my contract. I’m going to give the fans one more fight that is my best.”
Ortiz, who endeared himself to Torontonians by wearing a Leafs jersey at the weigh-in Friday, received a gracious round of applause before heading to the locker room for repairs.
Without St-Pierre in action, the physically unassuming but lion-hearted featherweight Mark “The Machine” Hominick, became the evening’s sentimental favourite.
The Thamesford Ontario native earned the admiration of MMA fans in Toronto and around the world after his gutsy performance at UFC 129, where he overcame a grotesque forehead hematoma to mount a stirring rally against reigning division champ Jose Aldo.
He would ultimately lose the match, but gain a giddy legion of admirers. He would also earn the tag of a burgeoning MMA superstar.
Unfortunately for local fans, his appointment as a top player in the featherweight division proved premature.
Facing Chan Sung Jung, who is eerily known as “The Korean Zombie” for his ability to endure punishment and keep coming forward, Hominick was knocked out within seconds of the opening round. The stunned crowd collectively groaned as Jung floored him with his first punch and promptly rained blows down on the prone Ontarian until the referee stopped the action.
“He came out aggressive. I needed to pace myself,” a disappointed Hominick said after the cobwebs cleared. “I let my emotions get the best of me and didn’t follow my game plan. I got a little too hyped up.”
Jung seemed almost as surprised as the crowd by the lightning stoppage.
“It was over so fast that it took me a few seconds to realize what just happened,” he admitted. “When I hit him I immediately knew it was over.”
The resonating disappointment following Hominick’s quick disposal was exasperated when Toronto’s Claude Patrick ended up on the losing end of a split decision against Brian Ebersole, who secured his 49th career victory. Despite almost stopping Ebersole several times with an impressive array of submission attempts, the judges were swayed by Ebersole’s takedowns and aggression.
Fans at the ACC loudly booed the decision.
“The outcome was unfortunate,” Patrick said. “I tried to take the fight to the ground, but he [Ebersole] ended up on top. I attempted three different submissions towards the end and even threw some hard punches. But you know what happens when you leave it in the judges hands.”
UFC 140 UNDERCARD NOTES AND QUOTES:
Fight 1.) John Cholish defeats Mitch Clarke via 2nd round TKO:
“It was a good win,” said a humble Cholish. “There are definitely little things I need to improve on. Coach told me to out there and do what I do best and that’s what I did. Mitch was a tough opponent and a good wrestler. Canadian fans are insane about their sports, including the UFC and I hope to be back here again.
Fight 2.) Jake Hecht defeats Rich Attonito via 2nd round TKO:
“This is a dream,” Hecht said. “Words can’t describe what I’m feeling right now. I learned from my mistakes during my last fight. I felt him go limp and my instinct kicked in. I knew what I had to do.”
Fight 3.) Woodbride Ontario’s Mark Bocek defeats Nik Lentz via unanimous decision:
“Nik was a super tough opponent,” Bocek admitted. “We played it safe and it was a friendly fight, but I wanted the win more. I kept him guessing, played with my hands and went for the takedown. I prepared for going all three rounds going into the fight. It was great to fight here. The fans are awesome.”
Fight 4.) Montreal’s Yves Jabouin defeats Walel Watson via split decision:
“This is an awesome feeling,” the winner said. “I hustled and did struggle in the fight. There was a fire burning inside me not to quit. I wasn’t going to give up. I fed off the energy from the crowd. I studied his footage coming into this fight and was ready for him. My game plan was to use momentum, strike and to catch him off balance.”
Fight 5.) Dennis Hallman defeats Montreal’s John Makdessi via 1st round submission:
“I am happy to get a win. I had a lot of accolades taken away from me because I didn’t make weight. I knew how to beat him,” Hallman added. “I studied him and was ready to win.”
Fight 6.) Costa Philippou defeats Jared Hamman via 1st round KO:
“This is the best day of my life,” a beaming Philippou declared. “My game plan was to strike. I’m a better striker than 99% of fighters in the UFC. He had the right idea staying away from my hands and using low kicks. Tonight was just my night. I proved I was better and I couldn’t be happier with this win. I didn’t expect the crowd’s energy but it helped.”
Fight 7.) Igor Pokrajac defeats Krzysztof via 1st round KO:
“It’s a wonderful feeling to get this win,” Pokrajac said. “I stuck to my gameplan. The booing didn’t concern me. I trained hard to finish the fight. I think it will be the Knockout of the Night. I hit him hard and put him to the ground.”