By Jaime Feal
Vancouver is rocking. Friday, at the weigh ins, Joe Rogan and many of the fighters donned Canucks jerseys in recognition of the hockey team that would go on to win game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals later that night. The lone exception was Kenny Florian, the Massachusetts native, who wore a Bruins jersey at the weigh-ins to resounding boos from the crowd. Florian seemed more than happy to play the villain role for his featherweight debut against Diego Nunes. Junior Dos Santos and Shane Carwin both promised knock outs, and Vancouver was fired up for the UFC’s first ever event there.
Starting off Saturday night on SPIKE TV was some preliminary fight action. Undefeated Chris Weidman took on Canadian and fan favorite Jesse “The Water” Bongfeldt. Bongfeldt came out strong with two head kicks in the opening minute of the 1st round. Weidman, the former All-American wrestler, quickly took Bongfeldt to the ground where he gained side control and worked some ground and pound. Weidman continued to strike from inside Bongfedlt’s guard. In the later stages of the round Weidman continued his dominant top position grappling and ground striking and with 30 seconds left the fighters stood. Weidman landed a knee and then locked up a standing guillotine on Bongfeldt as he leaned forward. With just a few seconds remaining Weidman cranked the technique for the tap, much to the dismay of the partisan Vancouver crowd. With the win Weidman improved to 6-0 with 2 wins inside the Octagon.
Next up was a fight that could easily have made the main card, veteran lightweights Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout vs. Yves Edwards. No doubt Zuffa was using such an exciting fight to gain extra last minute pay per view buys. Stout, a Canadian, came out to a huge ovation. The fighters engaged each other on the feet, throwing more to try and find range. The feeling out process continued until Edwards shot in and, after some effort, took Stout down with a single leg. Edwards was unable to do much damage inside Stout’s guard and then Sam got back up with 2 minutes left. Stout landed an absolutely HUGE counter left hook on Edwards a short time later, knocking him out cold. Stout mercifully pulled back from follow up shots on the ground as Yves lay unconscious with his eyes rolled back into his head and legs quivering. The raucous crowd voiced their approval and Sam Stout has now won 4 of his last 5 fights.
In a battle of two out of shape heavyweights, Joey “The Mexicutioner” Beltran squared off with Aaron Rosa, who was making his UFC debut. A brief period of rock ’em sock ’em robots occurred midway through the first round with both men flailing wildly at each other and landing. Beltran pressed Rosa up against the cage and worked some nice strikes and then more rock ’em sock ’em robots ensued to close out the round. The second round was far less entertaining, with the most significant action probably being the fighters trading inadvertent low blows for which they were both given time to recover. In the third round Beltran rocked Rosa and dragged him to the ground. Beltran landed a huge elbow and Rosa, a bloody mess, was unable to defend himself as Beltran landed several hard follow up shots to get the TKO finish. With that, a solid hour of prelim action wrapped up and the main card begun.
Kicking off the pay per view card was another lightweight fight between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and submission specialist Vagner Rocha. You start to get the sense the lightweight division is the most talented in the UFC at this point and that Zuffa could put an entire PPV card together featuring only lightweight fights. Cerrone started strong with leg kicks and Rocha briefly countered with a takedown and hammerfists. Cowboy got back up and continued to control the stand up with inside and outside leg kicks. In between rounds Cerrone, the Greg Jackson fighter, was barely breathing and looked fresh as a daisy. This prompted Jackson to tell his charge to stop playing around with Rocha. In the other corner, Rocha’s trainer told him to “stop getting kicked so much.” Easier said than done as Cerrone continued his dominance with leg kicks in the second round and Rocha started showing the signs as his leg reddened and he was noticeably limping. Rocha continued to be outclassed in the stand up in the third round. Cowboy also stuffed all of Rocha’s takedown attempts after the 1st round and Cerrone cruised to a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, and 30-26)
Next up was wrestler Dave “Pee Wee” Herman taking on John-Olinav Einemo. Herman came out to Boy George music, an absolutely atrocious decision. Einemo followed with a superior choice in Guns N’ Roses “Sweet Child Of Mine”, climactically raising a Vancouver Canucks flag as he walked out, immediately garnering huge crowd support. Einemo came out agressive and ate a knee for his efforts. The Viking did not stop pressing forward despite Herman landing several good leg kicks and punches. Eventually Einemo caught a Herman leg kick and secured a double leg takedown, landing on top in half guard with 2 minutes to work. He passed within 10 seconds to side control and looked to mount or get a submission, but Herman was able to escape to his feet. Einemo then landed a leg kick and some good strikes on the cage. The Viking hit a takedown off the cage to close out the round. Einemo started to hurt Herman in the second round with big right hands. Herman was continuously backing up while getting rocked, then caught the Viking with a left hook and dropped him. Einemo looked to be close to being stopped as Herman reigned down elbows. The two got up and traded knees and vicious strikes. Herman landed big with two knees and a left hook which sent Einemo stumbling down. Herman swarmed again with ground and pound and the referee justifiably stepped in to save Einemo from further damage, giving Dave Herman the TKO win. What a fight.
Jiu Jitsu world champion Demian Maia took on Mark “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” Munoz next. Surprisingly Maia won the stand up in the first 2 minutes and then clinched Munoz against the cage. Maia continued to display vastly improved stand up with power and aggression in his strikes, again backing up Munoz against the cage. Munoz looked bewildered and surprised at the BJJ specialist’s aggression in the stand up and Munoz never seemed right all round. The second round was a different story as Munoz tagged Maia early and got on top of him where he landed some heavy shots on the ground to the body and thigh. Maia got up and shot for a takedown which was easily stuffed. Munoz landed more good shots to the body and then went for a D’arce choke. Maia escaped as if it were nothing and now had top position. Maia briefly took Munoz’s back with one hook but Munoz stood up and escaped. Munoz gained top control and landed more shots to Maia’s leg. Maia gained guard and then scrambled to his feet. Munoz again took Maia down and landed more ground and pound to end the round. The final round featured more Munoz aggression and an attempted crucifix submission by Maia, but ultimately the Munoz top control and aggression in rounds 2 and 3 won him a unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27).
The featherweight debut of Kenny Florian went well as he won a decision against Diego Nunes.
Nunes won the first round with strong leg kicks and superior footwork and speed. Nunes dropped KenFlo at the end of the round as well. In the second Florian was able to take down Nunes several times. He also cut Nunes on the hairline with an elbow, and finished the round strong with some ground and pound. Florian took Nunes down in the third and methodically worked top control. When the fighters stood KenFlo dominated the standup with good Muay Thai. Nunes buckled Ken Flo at the bell but it was too little, too late. The official scorecards read 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27 for Florian.
THE MAIN EVENT. Heavyweight Title Eliminator between Junior Dos Santos and Shane Carwin.
At the beginning of the first round there was a feeling out process. Junior defended the takedown initially and got pressed against the cage. Dos Santos got off the cage and Carwin hit a takedown but Junior popped right back up and smiled at Shane. Dos Santos then started to control with the jab. Towards the end of the round he hurt Carwin behind the jab and right hand, dropping Carwin. Dos Santos then pounded on Carwin for nearly 40 straight seconds with strike after unanswered strike while Carwin was turtled up. Herb Dean tells Dos Santos to continue to work as he looks at the ref for a stoppage. With eleven seconds left Dos Santos cannot punch anymore and Carwin stands up to reveal his bloody mess of a face. Carwin’s nose looks broken between rounds and his face is severely swollen, and bloody, especially underneath his left eye. “Cigano” continues to dominate Carwin in round 2 with a steady jab, sometimes throwing a second punch off it. Dos Santos finally gets hit by Carwin but shrugs it off. Dos Santos lands a head kick that Carwin takes. Carwin displaying enormous ability to take punishment. Dos Santos closes out the round with nice body shots. Dos Santos does more of the same in the third, controlling the distance with the jab and picking Carwin apart. Dos Santos emphatically hits a couple takedowns to close out the fight. The scorecards read 30-27, 30-27, and 30-26, for the winner by unanimous decision and now the #1 contender in the heavyweight division, Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos.