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UFC has the last laugh

Postfight report by Andreas Hale
Photos by Chris Cozzone

It was supposed to be a night full of disappointment - according to the naysayers in the blogosphere and internet message boards. UFC 108, with all of its injuries and mishaps leading up to the UFC’s first event of 2010, was thought to be “cursed” and quite possibly one of the “worst” cards in recent memory.

Boy, did Dana White and UFC match maker Joe Silva prove them wrong.

What transpired at UFC 108 was a series of highlight reel finishes and a smorgasbord of matches that electrified the 13,255 in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas, NV.

After a ho-hum first bout that saw Rafaello Oliveira easily outpoint John Gunderson in a relatively boring contest, the rest of the card exceeded all expectations.

It’s something that Dana White saw coming all along.

“I think a lot of the guys felt disrespected this week by a lot of the so-called media and whoever else,” White said. “Whether that stuff was talked or not, this is the way they fight every time. It drives me crazy when people start yapping. I knew it was going to happen tonight.”

“I’m not happy it’s over,” White said when asked by Fightnews if he was relieved that the events leading up to January 2nd have finally come to a close. “I get pissed off a lot of times about a lot of different things. All of these guys talk about respecting fighters. More disrespect was thrown at these fighters than ever. I think people are trying to take shots at the UFC, but you are taking shots at the fighters (by) saying this card sucked or was lackluster. I said it at the press conference that these guys would lay it on the line and the fans would get a kick ass show. Real fight fans want real fights and real fans saw that tonight.”

“I love when people under expect and we over deliver,” White said as he punctuated the statement the UFC made with an impressive card.

The main event saw Rashad Evans get back to his winning ways as he narrowly escaped a furious comeback by Thiago Silva. The co-main saw Paul “Semtex” Daley vanquish Dustin “McLovin” Hazelett with a “Knockout Of The Night” winning finish. Other standouts included Sam Stout’s explosive performance that earned him a victory over Joe Lauzon, Junior Dos Santos demolition of Gilbert Yvel, Cole Miller’s inverted triangle/kimura finish of Dan Lauzon and a bevy of other great fights.

Paul Daley may have surprised many with his utter destruction of acclaimed jiu jitsu specialist Dustin Hazelett in the first round. While it was assumed that if “McLovin” could get Daley to the mat, the rest would be elementary, “Semtex” would never allow his opponent to get close and uncorked a monster left hook that immediately separated Hazelett from his senses.

“It really doesn’t make me feel any way,” Daley responded when asked if he should factor into the welterweight title picture. “I keep saying this but I’m just here to fight. Whatever the UFC wants to do with me, they do with me. I’m just here to fight and to win.”

With two stellar victories under his belt, it may not be long before “Semtex” is granted the opportunity to step into the Octagon for a title. Dana White feels that, even though Daley has shown a lot, he still needs to outclass one of the top dogs in the welterweight division before getting a shot at the belt.

“He’s going to have to fight one of the top two contenders before we think about him (against Georges St. Pierre),” White said. “My problem is that my two best guys out there are (Josh) Koscheck and (Jon) Fitch. Trying to get them to fight each other is a nightmare (note: Koscheck and Fitch are teammates from the American Kickboxing Academy stable). We put Paul Daley against one of them and see what happens.”

“I’d like to take on Fitch or Koscheck just to prove that I’ve improved my takedown defense and this is stuff that I’m continually working on,” Daley said when asked which of the AKA fighters he would like to take on. “I just haven’t had a chance to display it because I keep knocking people out standing up.”

With most people tuning in to see Evans take on Silva, many wondered what the TUF season 10 coach would have to do to get by the tough as nails Silva. Evans would utilize his superior wrestling skills to takedown Silva seemingly at will throughout the first two rounds before nearly waltzing into disaster during the final stanza.

Silva - obviously frustrated with his inability to keep Evans from taking him down - looked to bait the former light heavyweight champion into a firefight by mocking Evans and his fighting style. It seemed to work as Silva would catch Evans with a right cross that nearly sent him on dream street as Silva eagerly looked for the kill.

“In the third round I got a little bit tired, I came out lazy and he caught me with a shot,” Evans said when recalling the deep water he was in during the final round. But Evans would hang on and manage to eek out the unanimous decision with scores of 29-28 across the board.

It wasn’t the “Suga” Rashad Evans that we have seen lately. The one that has let his hands go and knock opponents out. This version of Evans went back to his roots of wrestling and soundly dominated Silva for two and a half rounds.

“It’s no secret what I was going to do,” Evans said when discussing his strategy. “I’m a wrestler. I said, time and time again before the fight, that I was going to get back to my wrestling. I wanted to mix it up and throw my hands but my corner warned me against that. They said to fight a smart fight and systematically break him down.”

At the end of the fight, a smattering of boos were present in the MGM as Evans barely escaped the final round. White doesn’t think it was because Evans fought a bad fight. He had other ideas as to why the audience reacted the way they did.

“I think it was such a good card that…people wanted to see another finish is what it was,” White said regarding the mixed reaction the crowd gave Evans when he was announced as the winner.

Now, a highly anticipated fight with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is on the horizon for Evans. It’s a fight that was originally scheduled for UFC 107 but could possibly take place in May.

“This fight should have happened a few weeks ago. It didn’t and I’m over it,” White said. “Now it’s time to do that fight.”

White also disclosed some information regarding the heavyweight division and its champion Brock Lesnar with Junior Dos Santos now factoring into the title picture.

“This week Brock Lesnar is going back to the doctor and getting fully checked out by one of the best doctors in the world,” White stated when asked to bring clarity to a increasingly crowded division. “I hope that Brock is okay. If the doctor says things are going well, then maybe we are a few months away from him coming back.”

But White knows that there is another side that could rear its ugly head come next week.

“If it’s not going in the right direction, he’ll either be done and have to retire or be out a couple of years.”

White made it clear that he is more concerned for Lesnar’s health than PPV buys but does hope that he can make his way back into the Octagon and fight tough customers like Dos Santos.

In the end, White and the UFC had the last laugh on everyone who was concerned about the quality of UFC 108. Should we ever doubt him again? Only time will tell.

 


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