Retrospective: UFC 91

November 18, 2008

After Saturday night's broadcast of UFC 91, many of you may have found yourselves feeling lost and confused, yet inexplicably happy. We saw one of the sport's most iconic heroes fall, an awkward nerd threaten to kill BJ Penn and a sociopath ram himself, head-first into the cage. It's a lot for anyone to take, I know, so sit back and let the healing begin with some soothing rhetoric from spike.com.

In somewhat reverse order, lets fist talk about the emotional rollercoaster Randy Couture took us on that night. Without even mentioning the past, say, 15 months or so, Saturday night's escapade was enough to send even the most well-adjusted fight fans into an eating binge.

In case there was any lingering doubt that Randy Couture was actually about to fight this cyborg-like creature standing inside the cage, Aerosmith's Back in the Saddle blaring over the sound system put any disbelief to rest and an elated Randy Couture came strolling out of the gates. The camera closed in on his crooked smile and you forgot for just a second that he's nearing the half-century mark and was about to face this indestructible being. For just a second, Couture couldn't lose.

Then he stood in front of the monster and it suddenly became very apparent that we might be looking at a changing of the guard. Still, though, as the fight progressed, Couture's game plan looked solid and he appeared to be besting the beast. But then with one swift blow, it all came crashing down. We sat there stunned as Lesnar played bouncy ball with Couture's head and it was all over. The champ had fallen.

We stared at this creature in the middle of the Octagon and even with our old friend befuddled in a heap, it was hard not to get excited about the future implications. Lesnar graciously takes the mic and pays his respects to the former champ, then Couture himself takes the floor and he's almost giggly. He seems happy for Lesnar and not at all upset about his own shortcoming. He's effectively given us permission to get behind the new champ. The universe was whole again and our stomachs settled as the rollercoaster slowly pulled up to the exit gates.

Now let's backtrack a little and look at Kenny Florian. This was a fight that many people considered to be a formality; Florian would take out Stevenson and the next stop on the pain train was BJ Penn, where his climb to the top would end. Of course, Florian did take out Stevenson, but few expected him to do so in such a decisively badass manner. Stevenson represented what was probably Florian's biggest test in the Octagon and he dispatched the larger opponent while barely breaking a sweat. Then we see this kid, who looks like he's barely fit to do your math homework, proclaim that he wants to kill Penn and suddenly Florian looks like a legitimate threat to BJ's belt.

"I consider you a master, but it's time to kill that master," he shouted.

Just a few weeks ago, Penn was basking the glory that he had the chance to become the UFC's first-ever champion to hold belts in two different weight classes at the same time. It's unlikely that he ever seriously considered the possibility of loosing his lightweight crown, but after watching Florian's utter destruction of Stevenson, it became a very real chance that he may soon find himself beltless with a pair of XL Hugos.

It was the theme all night long. UFC 91 was a fight card that promised fireworks in the headliner, but few expected anything special from the supporting cast. What we got was one of the greatest nights of fighting all year.

Jeremy Stephens unleashed a monstrous uppercut on Rafael dos Anjos and then rammed his head into the cage at full speed as a celebration; we saw a huge step in the renaissance of Gabriel Gonzaga; a star began to emerge in Demain Maia; there were gut wrenching submissions, and dramatic KO's.

And when the dust settled, we were left with the memory of the Earth-shattering event it was promised to be.

 

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