The success of the event and UFC's drawing power caused Target Center booking director Andy Warg to characterize the company's shows as "the Super Bowl of events" in the arena business.
This time around, it was a combination of popular welterweight champ Georges St. Pierre along with local stars like Brock Lesnar and Roger Huerta that drew the huge gate.
Ryan Thomas vs. Ben Saunders
Round one: Big size differential in the first bout as Saunders is much taller than Thomas and has the reach advantage. Thomas tried to neutralize it with an early takedown. Saunders sprawled to stop it. Saunders scored with kicks to the body and rocked Thomas with a straight right. The fight went to the ground and Thomas slowed Saunders down off his back. Saunders tried a rear naked choke but Thomas defended well as the round concluded.
Round two: Saunders wrestled Thomas to the ground to start the round, but then rose off the mat and brought the fight back to a standing position. Saunders dropped Thomas with a punch but he realized his advantage in the standup and again let his opponent up. Saunders landed a kick flush to the ribs and Thomas visibly winced in pain. A punch put him down and Saunders followed him, transitioning from a kimura to an arm bar to end it.
Winner: Saunders via arm bar submission
Chris Wilson vs. Steve Bruno
Round one: In the early going, Wilson seems as though he wants to keep it standing while Bruno is more intent on bringing it to the ground. Bruno had a couple takedowns stuffed early, and Wilson reversed one into a nice throw takedown of his own. Wilson hurt Bruno with a straight right off a scramble with two minutes left in the round and took his back. Bruno defended well from the vulnerable position, though he ate a few shots in the process. Wilson earned the round by controlling the action and doing more damage.
Round two: Bruno is hellbent on a takedown and Wilson isn't having it. And the crowd is starting to get restless as well. After a break, Wilson scored with an uppercut and followed with a knee to the face. Bruno was hurt but immediately went for the legs, slowing action again but giving himself valuable recovery time. The ref stood them up after inaction and again, Bruno went for a single leg takedown, but was unsuccessful. Wilson is clearly ahead on the scorecards.
Round three: Wilson, who is nicknamed "the Professor," taking Bruno to school in this one. Another uppercut hurt him badly, but to Bruno's credit, he is apparently a hard guy to put away. It seems as though Bruno's whole offense was predicated on a takedown, because time after time, he tried and failed. With about 30 seconds to go, he tried one final one and took a hard knee to the head for his efforts. Bruno is a tough guy, but tough doesn't win fights. Wilson will win a lopsided decision.
Winner: Wilson by unanimous decision
Jon Jones vs. Andre Gusmao
Battle of alt bands for the intros, Jones had Poe's "Angry Johnny" while Gusmao countered with something a little angrier, Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls on Parade." That's a serious style clash right there. FYI, Jones is the youngest fighter in the UFC at just 21 years old.
Round one: Gusmao landed a hellaciously loud leg kick early, but it was that loud because of the slap. Thudding shots are usually the hardest ones. Jones, who was a college wrestler, scored the first takedown at 2:50. Jones looks fast and tough, landing a couple combinations in the early going. Gusmao has a mouse over his left eye as well as a cut. Jones threw a knee that apparently landed low, but before the ref could break them up, Jones connected on three solid punches that hurt his opponent. Gusmao has five minutes to recover and looks like he'll take every last second. This kid Jones has something. He's raw but at 21, impressive. Good round.
Round two: Another low blow stopped action early, although the replay made it hard to tell. A scramble brought them to the ground on the restart, but Jones wiggled free. Gusmao landed a hard right in the standup and they clinched against the fence. Gusmao looks a little fresher as the round goes on, but isn't doing much as Jones continues to press the action. Close round but Jones may win it in the judges' eyes by virtue of being the aggressor.
Round three: Jones got a takedown, but Gusmao got up quickly. Jones landed a left hook and then a back elbow. He seems to throw shots from weird angles and you can't help but wonder if his style is throwing Gusmao off. Jones added a flying knee against the cage for good measure, and Gumao just can't seem to pull the trigger. Gusmao finally looked for a takedown with 1:30 left, but Jones sprawled well, then earned a takedown of his own and quickly moved to side control. Jones is playing with fire as Gusmao has the edge on the ground. Jones survived the last 20 seconds and should win a decision.
Winner: Jones by unanimous decision
Cheick Kongo vs. Dan Evensen
Round one: Kongo got an early takedown but the fight quickly returned to standing. Kongo then worked hard for a takedown, at one time looking in trouble when Evensen briefly had a standing guillotine. Kongo eventually lets him up and on the restart, drills him with a straight right on the jaw. Evensen goes down and Kongo follows with heavy ground and pound for the TKO.
Winner: Kongo by TKO
Tamdan McCrory vs. Luke Cummo
Round one: Plenty of action from the clinch early, with the fighters trading elbows and strikes. McCrory got the trip takedown at 3:30, then took his back. McCrory tried a rear naked choke. Cummo defended for an eternity as it looked like the end was near. McCrory moved to half-mount, then fell into Cummo's guard after landing some strikes from the top. McCrory moved to an arm bar but Cummo slipped out and ended up on top, landing shots of his own as the round ended, but McCrory still earned the round.
Round two: McCrory utilized an early takedown this time around as he tried to keep his momentum rolling. McCrory again went for the rear naked choke. Cummo kept him from locking it in, but McCrory transitioned to an arm bar. Again, Cummo defended and escaped, ending up on top with two minutes remaining. McCrory tried an arm bar from the bottom this time, then again slickly transitioned to a rear naked choke, then full mount from the back. This time, McCrory dropped some elbows from the top to soften him up. Cummo used the rubber guard to stop the offensive.
Round three: Cummo landed a body shot and a hook early, then took McCrory down 30 seconds into the round. Cummo couldn't do much with the positional advantage, and McCrory stood up into a clinch against the cage. Cummo tried a knee, and McCrory used it to take him down again. McCrory seems determined to end it with a sub, but Cummo slips out of another arm bar try. Cummo tried a triangle with 30 seconds left, and McCrory picked him up for a slam, causing Cummo to break the hold. McCrory ended with ground and pound and should earn a win.
Winner: McCrory by unanimous decision
Demian Maia vs. Jason MacDonald
Maia (8-0) has Wanderlei Silva in his corner, and has spent some time training with him. Let's see if his hands have improved, because that's why you train with the "Axe Murderer." Maia's ground game is second to none anywhere.
Round one: Maia pulls guard 30 seconds in. Maia gets the triangle and throws some elbows but MacDonald gamely pulls out. MacDonald gets Maia's back and tries the rear naked choke. Good grappling early. MacDonald pulls out and lands a hard strike from the top. MacDonald tries the guillotine and Maia escapes. Maia ends up with MacDonald's back, and making this a grappling match is not a good ideal. Maia tries the rear naked choke. MacDonald pulls Maia's arm free, releasing the choke and the crowd goes bonkers. Great grappling by both. Round goes to Maia.
Round two: Maia used a clinch to land some knees to the head and body, then used a trip takedown. Maia quickly worked to full mount and landed a flurry of elbows, bloodying MacDonald's face. It was almost two minutes of ground and pound from Maia before he tried an arm bar and MacDonald slipped out. Likely a 10-8 round for Maia.
Round three: MacDonald winds up with top position off a scramble. Maia is too good on the ground. He sees moves coming two steps ahead and MacDonald is game but can't hang in his world. Maia ends up with full mount from the back and sinks in the rear naked choke.
Winner: Maia by rear naked choke
Roger Huerta vs. Kenny Florian
Big home-field advantage for Huerta, who got a huge ovation from the crowd. Huerta lives about eight miles from the arena.
Round one: After a long period of circling, Florian actually scores the first takedown on Huerta, and quickly moves to full mount. Florian gets his back, but Huerta, who seems to have a million lives, scrambles out of trouble. Huerta scores with a punch that moves Florian backward, and they clinch against the fence as the clock winds down to 90 seconds left. Florian circles off the cage and they free up. Lots of dancing as they both weave in and out of striking range for the remainder. Close round, Florian might get it because of the takedown.
Round two: Huerta scored with a combo and tried to drag Florian down but they broke free. Florian tried a single leg and stayed with it as Huerta defended. Florian got his back again, but Huerta slipped out the back door. Florian is employing a good game plan. He's staying out of Huerta's range, then gets off his offense quickly when he gets within range. A nice exchange near the end with both landing strikes. Very close round.
Round three: Crazy action to start the third. Big exchange, then they traded knees to the face. After Florian kneed Huerta, Huerta stepped back, shrugged and spit. Florian then took him down, but not for long. Huerta back to his feet. Florian landed a big left hook. Florian is landing more. Huerta is going to need a big finish as two minutes remain. Huerta wants to turn it into a brawl, and Florian won't let him. Florian landed a hard shot to the body and a left hook in the last 30 seconds. Florian peppering him with jabs as the round ends.
Winner: Florian by unanimous decision
Manny Gamburyan vs. Rob Emerson
Round one: Emerson floored Gamburyan with a perfectly placed right seconds into the fight. Gamburyan was already in deep trouble, and Emerson's follow-up left hook found its target. Gamburyan's head bounced off the canvas, and it was over after 12 seconds. Add that one to the highlight reel.
Winner: Emerson via TKO
Brock Lesnar vs. Heath Herring
Brock comes out to Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil." For the record, he's 0-1 with that theme song in the UFC. Herring, who's known for his unique hair during his fights, went with a simply Mohawk. This is a huge matchup. Lesnar weighed in at 265 yesterday, but he cut weight to get there. Herring at 250, so today there's about 530 pounds of fighter in the ring.
Round one: Lesnar knocks him down with his first punch of the fight. Herring is stunned, but recovers and clinches Lesnar against the fence to get time. Huge cut over Herring's left eye. Lesnar bullrushes him again and scores the takedown. Lesnar pounds at Herring from the back. Herring tried to roll out, and Lesnar sent him back. Huge knee to the body as Herring tried to escape. Everything looks like it hurts. Herring is on his hands and knees trying to pull away, and Lesnar just rides him everywhere. Lesnar with more heavy knees as the round ends. Dominant round for Lesnar.
Round two: Herring is game, stuffing Lesnar's first takedown and winking at him. The second time, not as good. Lesnar gets side control and temporarily looks for a submission. Herring escapes, but Lesnar transitions to mount for just a second before Herring gives up his back. Lesnar spins to side control and lands knee after knee to the body. No quit in Herring though. He gets the fight back to standing with a minute left. Lesnar lands another knee to the body with 30 seconds to go. Brutal punishment. One thing has to be said here: Heath Herring is a real man.
Round three: A little standup early, but this time Herring initiates the clinch, which of course, Lesnar finishes. He lands three big knees to the body before Herring shifts positions. Herring tried the kimura but ended up getting mounted. Lesnar wasn't able to land a thing before Herring twisted away, giving Lesnar his back again. More punches from the side and Lesnar rides out the round for what should be an easy unanimous decision.
As the final bell rings, Lesnar pretends to lasso the Texan Herring, much to the crowd's delight.
Winner: Lesnar by unanimous decision
UFC Welterweight title match
Jon Fitch vs. Georges St. Pierre
Fitch comes in with a 15-fight win streak and the cool theme song, Johnny Cash's "Rusty Cage."
Round one: St. Pierre gets the takedown within 10 seconds of the opening bell. Fitch defends well early, controlling GSP's hands. Fitch momentarily wriggles free, but GSP hangs on to the single leg takedown and puts the fight on the ground again. GSP rocks him with a straight right, putting Fitch down. GSP follows with hellacious elbows and looks to finish. Fitch takes a beating but manages to avoid enough shots to stay in the match. Fitch back to standing. GSP drills ihm with another shot. Fitch is taking a pounding, but ref Yves Lavigne lets them fight on. Fitch took an absolute pounding in what will be a 10-8 or possibly even a 10-7 round.
Round two: St. Pierre is so sharp, landing nearly every jab he throws. Fitch has a cut under his left eye. The quickness advantage is apparent as well. Fitch lands his first hard shot of the bout with a straight right. Fitch has his legs back under him and is moving well, being a bit more elusive. Fitch stuffs a takedown try with :35 left, then Fitch lands another sharp right as momentum begins to shift. Close round for the judges to score.
Round three: St. Pierre with a right hook that floors Fitch in the opening seconds. He takes Fitch's back, but Fitch turns into him and gets top position. GSP hasn't spent much of his career on his back. He only spends about 60 seconds here. Fitch went for the mount and GSP's quickness let him slip out the back. The left side of Fitch's face is bloodied in two places now. Fitch took a right hook, a head kick and another cross, and still GSP couldn't finish him. GSP scoops him up with a huge double-leg takedown with 15 seconds remaining and rides out the round from the top.
Round four: St. Pierre has a cut under his left eye, though it's unclear whether it was from a punch or accidental headbutt. Big portion of the round spent standing, with St. Pierre successfully countering Fitch's shots. Fitch tried a single leg takedown but GSP was able to stave it off, hopping all the way across the cage to the fence where he steadied himself. After a scramble, GSP ended up in Fitch's guard with 40 seconds left. GSP tried a heel hook as the round expired.
Round five: St. Pierre wobbled Fitch with his first punch of the round, then hurt him seconds later with a right cross near the fence, following with a takedown. GSP stood up in his guard and connected with a left hook. Fitch wasn't giving up much though. After a brief standup, St. Pierre took the match back down one last time and let the clock run out.
Winner: St. Pierre by unanimous decision
Fitch picked up St. Pierre and carried him around the ring before the decision was read. Afterward, lightweight champ B.J. Penn came in the ring to challenge St. Pierre, a request St. Pierre said he'd be happy to grant.
Video: MMA from NBC Sports
Cavalcante didn't want fight to stop
After losing his fight with Justin Gaethje due to a deep cut above his left eye, Gesias Cavalcante talks about the decision to stop the fight. Cavalcante says he was ready to continue the fight before the doctors made the call.
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