The main event featured a 5'3" black
dude with big ears nicknamed "Mighty Mouse" versus a 5'5" white
dude with a ridiculous hipster mustache nicknamed "Uncle Creepy."
If we didn't know any better, we would have thought we were going to
watch a couple of midget wrestlers at a carnival side show.
Except, we were at a professional mixed martial arts show put on by the
sport's number one organization, the Ultimate Fighting Championship. And while UFC fans may have voted online for these dudes to step into the octagon, the names weren't enough to sell out the Bank Atlantic
Center in Sunrise for the UFC's Harley-Davidson Hometown Throwdown last night.
And despite it's title, there were no fighters from south Florida on
Cultist had a ringside seat for the Hometown Throwdown alongside two dozen sports reporters on press row. From our vantage point, it was easy to spot all the empty seats in the hockey arena. The final attendance numbers were around 10,000, way below the venue's capacity for 22,457 people.
But, you can't blame south Florida MMA fans from staying away. When you're expecting folks to pony up between $43.75 for general admission to $178.75 for VIP ringside seats, you better damn make sure the main event features fighters most MMA fans know or that the earlier cards are stacked with local brawlers with loyal followings in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
But that was lost on UFC head honcho Dana White, who was fuming over the low turnout in a post-event press conference. More on that later.
First, let's recap the action, or lack thereof. The first eight matches were so boring we would have more fun downing shots of Dramamine while watching old people play a shuffle board tournament. By the end of the sixth bout, the crowd vented their frustration with the lackluster fighting with a torrent of boos.
The audience's enthusiasm picked up when former UFC champs Rashad Evans and Chuck Lydell made there way to their ringside seats as dozens of spectators mobbed them for photo ops. Their arrival signaled the start of the four main cards, which were being broadcast live on cable network FX. It's too bad we had to wait until 9 p.m. to finally see some real blood curdling mixed martial arts.
In a bantamweight bout, Houston native Eddie Wineland destroyed Tennessee son Scott Jorgensen in the second round, after both fighters spent the first round exchanging bombs. At first, Jorgensen seemed in control when he opened a nasty gash on Wineland's forehead, just above his left eye.
But in the second round, with blood pouring down his face, Wineland laid Jorgensen out with a right cross. Once Jorgensen's ass hit the canvas, Wineland walloped his opponent four times in the face to (insert Mortal Kombat voiceover here) FINISH HIM!
The crowd lapped it up, cheering wildly for Wineland. "I've been practicing my 1, 3, 2 punches," Wineland said afterward. "It was just BAM, then bam, bam, good night." Wineland's TKO earned him the night's $40,000 knockout bonus.
Their battle was followed by another bruising exhibition between welterweights Mike Pyle, fighting out of Las Vegas, and Josh Neer, hailing from Des Moines. Neer, a former UFC welterweight champ, was banging hard on Pyle's rib cage and abdominal area and seemed he had his 36-year-old opponent on the ropes.
But Pyle connected with a perfect right hook to Neer's chin. He dropped like a sack of rocks sinking to the bottom of Biscayne Bay.When the fight was over, Pyle admitted he was taking quite a beating before his knockout blow shortly at the end of the first round.
"He hit me pretty hard in the liver," Pyle said. "My plan was not to take that abuse. I got tired of making him look good. I had enough."
In the fight before the main event, up-and-coming Brazilian welterweight Erick Silva made easy work of mop-haired New Jersey boy Charlie Brenneman with a reverse choke. It was a beautiful submission in which Silva was on Brenneman's back like a crab, pinning his opponent's legs with his own while squeezing both his forearms around Charlie's neck.
At 10:30 p.m., the main event got underway. But the fight already had enough built-in drama to make wrestling tycoon Vince McMahon green with envy. The last time Demetrious Johnson, aka Mighty Mouse, met Ian McCall, aka Uncle Creepy, the former won a controversial split decision in March. Immedietely after that fight, White held a press conference to announce that the judges had messed up royally. They should have called it a draw. That set the stage for last night's rematch.
The crowd was clearly in McCall's corner as chants of "Let's go Creepy!" echoed through the Bank Atlantic Center. But despite all the hype, Mighty Mouse and Uncle Creepy played a nice game of duck-and-dance for three straight rounds. McCall had some nice takedowns, including a few suplexes, but it wasn't enough to counter the strategic punches and kicks Johnson was able to score. Mighty Mouse emerged victorious.
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After the event, the press corps was ushered upstairs to a post-fight press conference in which White dismissively blamed south Florida's fickle sports fan base for the low attendance figures, but even he admitted that eight of the 12 bouts were terrible. Although he insisted the four main card fights, including the Johnson-McCall rematch, were worth the price of admission. "The main card delivered," He said. "The main card was awesome."
White pretty much assured the UFC, which had not put on a show here since 2003, won't be back in south Florida. "We go anywhere else and sell out or come close to selling out," White said. "Florida is a tough market. I am not going to say we won't ever come back, but it is going to be a while. I hope you guys like Las Vegas."