DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Sometimes I love being a journalist. Sure deadlines can be a pain and there are plenty of times you work on a story that isn’t terribly interesting.
But then there are times like Saturday when I was sitting in press row at the Toyota Center in Houston for UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos.
Before even getting to the arena floor, we get to roll into the media room with an amazing dinner spread that including the biggest cookies that I … or likely any human … has even seen. The little card right in front of them that said ‘gourmet cookie’ sealed the deal.
All the people sitting at our table (aside from former co-worker Matt Welch) were Brazilian. I’m not adept at speaking Portuguese, but was still able to convince one of them to save my seat.
One of the first things one notices in press row are the UFC ring girls. Hey, it’s not my fault – I am watching the cage in an attempt to tweet (shameless plug alert … follow @OThankKevin) and write about the fights. When the girls walk by … it never fails, every time … some guys start whistling at them. Yeah, I’m sure that’s what these hot, scantily clad women are thinking, “Oh how sweet, this (probably drunk) man can take me away from all this.”
The fights start at 5:15 p.m. and the second bout featured Jeremy Larsen against Andre Fili.
You might be thinking, who? That’s OK, the fighters’ names are irrelevant. What matters is Fili came out to a song by Mumford and Sons. That’s way too soft of an entrance song – and hey, if you are going to go that direction, why not go all the way and walk out to “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. Are you telling me that wouldn’t give you a psychological advantage over your opponent? Of course it would.
The last fight of the Facebook prelims featured TJ Waldburger getting knocked out cold by Adlan Amagov at the same time Texas A&M was getting knocked out by Auburn … sports make me sad.
The crowd at the Toyota Center would be hot by the start of the pay-per-view, but was quiet for much of the prelims on FS1, which began at 7 p.m. This, however, was OK as it led to plenty of audible chants, like the obligatory “Put him in a body bag” and the less-often heard, “I love you Joe Rogan” … which came from a man.
It’s finally 9 p.m. After eight fights and nearly four hours cageside, it’s time for the PPV.
The first PPV fight was incredibly memorable, not necessarily for the one-sided beating John Dodson put up, but for the Ric Flair-like flop Darrell Montague took once he had been knocked out.
Right after that, the security woman next to me yelled at a random person with a beer who tried to sit on press row, “What are you doing here? You need to be back up there in your seat.”
The security lady smiled at me and I quickly showed her my credential.
This led us to what was easily the Fight of the Night and a leading candidate for Fight of the Year.
That would be Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez. Sure, Melendez won a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) but the fight was a slugfest throughout that had the sold-out crowd of 17,238 fans constantly on their feet to the final bell. UFC commentator Joe Rogan called it the, “wildest/most entertaining fight” he’s ever seen and it was definitely the best fight I’ve seen live. Ironically, it occurred in Houston, which is also the site of the best wrestling match I’ve ever seen live – Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels from WrestleMania 25 at Reliant Stadium.
There was another entertaining scrap right before the main event … but that took place in the stands.
There were hammerfists galore in this one and the winner of the fight was smart (I mean, not really, cause he got in a fight right before the main event) but he was smart cause he ran off before the cops could arrest him.
Then we get to the main event … and more sports sadness.
I’ve been a Junior Dos Santos fan since before he even came into the UFC while Welch has been a supporter of Cain Velasquez for as long as I can remember. They split the first two fights, but tonight the crowd was largely on the Cain Train and they went home happy as Velasquez beat the hell out of Dos Santos for the bulk of the fight before stopping him in Round 5 to retain the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
That sadness aside, it was still an awesome night of fights … probably the best MMA card of the year.
Don’t believe me, just ask UFC president Dana White.
“What a night,” he said. “Was that an amazing night or what … holy s@#!.”
He then went on to add, “We love you Houston,” in the post-event press conference.
I’m inclined to agree, especially since when we left the Toyota Center at 1 a.m. we saw and heard an ice cream truck less than a block away from a couple of hookers.
No thanks tasty ice cream or ladies of the night, I’ve enjoyed enough delicious treats tonight.
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