THEY came, they saw and they oh-so absolutely conquered.
The UFC army rolled into Winnipeg like Roman legions over the last few days for UFC 161 and by the time the last fight was done at close to midnight Saturday at the MTS Centre, it had thrilled the 14,754 fans and left fans across the globe watching on pay-per-view thirsty for more.
The card may have started out with a couple of shiners and a busted lip after losing two fighters to injury prior to the event, but the 11 bouts served up offered a little of everything, from finesse to brutal pounding, strange decisions and knockout blows.
Aficionados called the card "lacklustre," but there certainly weren't many in attendance complaining about the spectacle that came with UFC's first visit here. And there will be a second appearance, according to UFC president Dana White.
"It was awesome from the first fight," said White. "The place was packed and they were all going crazy. It was a really great experience to come into a new market like this with fans that were that pumped up. The place was awesome. It couldn't have been any better."
Here's a recap of what went down in the octagon at UFC 161:
And the winner is...
On top of the results, the UFC hands out its own honours at the end of every card. White declared the James Krause vs. Sam Stout battle as Fight of the Night (Krause won by a guillotine choke in the dying moments of the last round) and Krause also won Submission of the Night. That put an extra $100,000 in bonuses into Krause's pocket while Stout picked up 50k.
The KO of the Night went to Shawn Jordan, who scored a TKO of Pat Barry 59 seconds into the first round of their fight, a result that earned him another $50,000.
The main event
Rashad 'Suga' Evans scored a split decision over Dan Henderson in a battle of UFC stars trying to stop losing streaks and pump some life back into their careers. The former light heavyweight champion ended a two-fight losing skid to improve to 23-3-1.
Henderson, one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history, fell to 29-10.
"I had to step it up in the last round," said Evans. "I got dropped in the first round, and I thought I was winning the round till then, but I won the second for sure and I knew I needed to come on more in the third.
"I was a man on a mission in the last round. I was not going home losing tonight. I got a lot of respect for Hendo, and I'm happy to have got the win."
LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Winnipeg's Roland Delorme, who grew up in St. Norbert, stood in front of a media scrum after his fight with a couple of cuts on his face and a pair of eyes swelling up by the minute. But there was also a size-large smile on the man's face after he scored a unanimous decision over Edwin Figueroa. Delorme's entrance into the MTS Centre and the fans chanting his name throughout the bout provided one of the top moments of the night.
"I heard the 'Rolly!' chants," Delorme said. "Maybe that's what gave me that extra push to really get a 'W.' I haven't fought in my hometown for three years so it felt good.
"Today is euphoric for me. It feels like my career has come full circle. I started fighting in Winnipeg at the Convention Centre way back in the day in front of 1,500 people, now I got to fight in front of 15,000 people at the MTS Centre.
"I tried to stay calm as much as possible but at the same time it's hard. It's hard when you walk out into your hometown and they're screaming your name and the crowd's roaring. That's a feeling I'm never going to forget...That's something I'll take with me for the rest of my career and my life."
Six of the seven Canadians on the card -- Delorme, Yves Jabouin (Montreal), Mitch Clarke (Saskatoon), Sean Pierson (Toronto), Ryan Jimmo (Edmonton) and Alexis Davis (Niagara Falls, Ont.) -- all had their arms raised in victory afterward. Stout, who hails from London, Ont. was the only Canadian to lose, falling to Krause.
A STRANGE DECISION
It's an old saying in boxing and in MMA: Fighters should never leave a fight in the hands of the judges... "knuckleheads" as White referred to them after watching Jake Shields score a split decision over Tyron Woodley. Split decisions aren't unusual, but two judges gave two of the three rounds to Shields; the third gave all three to Woodley.
That prompted White to use his Twitter account to express his disgust: 'Does anyone think Jake won that fight!?! WTF???' and 'Woodley got ROBBED!!'
Afterward the UFC boss continued to express his disgust with the result.
"That fight sucked. It was a s -- fight. I almost went home. It was a bad fight all around and an even worse decision."
MOST EMOTIONAL REACTION
Saskatoon's Mitch Clarke won his fight and then broke down in the cage when the result was announced -- his first since joining the UFC. Afterward, he teared up in a media scrum.
"This is a very emotional night for me. It doesn't seem real, like a dream come true," he said. "I'm sorry to use a clich©. I wanted to fight in the UFC since 2006, when I was a lazy Judo player who was drinking and doing other things that weren't good for me. Having a goal to get to the UFC changed me, it make me a better person, I got rid of so many negative forces in my life.
"I spent 20 hours a week, every week, since then working towards this night. I was crushed in the Octagon once I got here -- I lost two in a row -- but obviously the UFC saw something in me and gave me a chance. I am so happy now I can't explain it. "
The UFC 161 took in a gate of $3.15 million, an MTS Centre single-event record.
"Overall, I'd say it was a good night," said White. "Was it a record-breaking night of knockouts and finishes and excitement? No. But it was a solid card.
"I love this country... just not in the winter."
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