Written By: Mark Allen |
July 22, 2012 |
While the UFC’s first visit to Calgary, Alberta, Canada broke the Scotiabank Saddledome record for a paid gate by earning $4.1 million and selling over 16,000 tickets, the event went down with more than few black eyes. Despite the plague of injuries leading up the event that ravaged the card and forced the UFC brass to skip from Plan A down to almost Plan M, they still managed to put together a respectable card that would include a number of meaningful fights. For instance, the card was full of some of Canada’s best rising prospects. The muddled middleweight division would gain clarity following UFC 149. And of course, a new Interim Bantamweight Champion would be crowned. On paper, it seemed the event had been salvaged and fight fans would once again get their money’s worth. Unfortunately, that isn’t how UFC 149 unfolded.
Perhaps the most prevalent issue that affected the card Saturday night was once again, questionable refereeing. Given the recent late stoppage of the headliner between Mark Muñoz and Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4, it was clear that more scrutiny would be given. In the main card opener between Chris Clements and Matt Riddle, Josh Rosenthal once again drew the wrath of UFC President Dana White for a gaffe he committed. During the first round, Riddle landed a kick to Clements’ midsection that sent him backing into the cage. Rosenthal, thinking the kick had been a low blow, stopped the action and allowed Clements’ to regain his composure, though replay showed that the kick had been legal. Fortunately, it didn’t alter the turnout of the fight as Riddle was able to earn a third round submission victory with a slick arm triangle choke that he set up off of a counter turned takedown.
Then in the Cheick Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan fight, more questionable calls plagued the matchup. While clinched up against the fence in the first, Jordan landed what looked like an intentional elbow to Kongo’s groin that stopped the action. The stoppage was the correct call, but the illegal strike was certainly worthy of a point deduction. As the fight wore on and the action diminished, the two heavyweights spend the bulk of the decisive frame clinched against the fence again. While boos began to rain down, referee Yves Lavigne failed to intervene and restart the action. Once more, Dana White via his twitter page showed his ire with an emphatic “BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” and followed up with “Officiating is kicking combat sports right in the NUTS!!! A ref let’s (sic) 2 guys lay in a clinch against the fence for the last 5 mins of 3rd rd.” The lack of action would be the lasting impression left in Calgary Saturday night.
While the questionable refereeing set the table for trouble, the co-main event and the main event both fell victim to an impatient crowd as well. Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch was being promoted as the fight that would determine who the next top contender in the middleweight division would be. Lombard was making his much anticipated UFC debut and entered as a 3 to 1 favorite. Boetsch, after reinventing himself at 185 lbs. had proven to be a resilient fighter who could finish a fight at any moment and his star was on the rise as well. However, the typically aggressive Lombard came with a very passive game plan and didn’t control the action as was expected. Boetsch did his best to press, but broke his foot in the 2nd stanza which limited his ability to attack. The result was a close split decision victory for Boetsch in a fight that showed little fireworks and answered few questions about either of them as a top contender.
By the time the main event between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao started, the crowd was already restless. Save for the Clements vs. Riddle fight, the other main card matchups had gone the distance and failed to deliver the action UFC fans are accustomed to see. Consequently, the feeling out process between Faber and Barao didn’t do anything to change the tone. Barao was able to use his size and reach advantage to out strike the former WEC champion in a fight that played out entirely on the feet. Even when Faber tried to push the action with his quick combinations, Barao used deft footwork to move out of the way and counter with his own punches and kicks. After 25 minutes, Barao was the clear victor and took the Unanimous Decision and with it the Interim Bantamweight Championship belt. That however failed to satisfy the crowd on hand and the chants and boos became louder and more profane.
Even while addressing the press following the event, Dana White expressed his dismay about how the main card played out. He did promise to bring an event back to Calgary and did his best to remind UFC fans that “We can count on one hand how many shows suck, “but was quick to add, “Tonight is one more finger on the hand.”
Speaking directly to his fans in Calgary, he also stated, “We’re going to have bad fights. I’m not happy that we had a bad fight tonight, but it’s not Calgary’s problem. It’s me and my boys.”
With a full docket of events already booked and many others being planned, the UFC will certainly have a shot at redemption. In the meanwhile, just like the fighters Saturday night, they will have to recover from the beating they took in Calgary at UFC 149.