The UFC ended 2013 with a bang as UFC 168 delivered on multiple levels and I was fortunate enough to be there live.
There are many different things about attending an event live but the biggest difference is in the crowd and interaction you get to have with fellow MMA fans. I checked into the MGM Grand Hotel at 9 AM and the hotel was already buzzing about the rematch between Weidman and Silva.
Everywhere I would look there would be hordes of fans wearing the walkout shirt of their favorite fighter. There is truly no better place to watch a fight than Las Vegas.
The atmosphere around the hotel was amazing but once I walked into the arena the buzz was multiplied by one hundred. There was a huge turnout of Brazilians to support Silva and the other Brazilian fighters who were competing on the card and they did not disappoint their countrymen.
The second fight of the night was a lower profile bout between Brazilian William Patolino and American Bobby Voelker. Sitting in the audience you would have sworn it was the main event. Brazilian fans were booing Voelker like Michael Bisping had just walked into the place and cheered Patolino like Silva, Big Nog, Little Nog, and Ronaldo were all walking out to fight. After the walkouts the crowd only intensified in its support of Patolino. The Brazilian fans filled the Grand Garden Arena with chants of “Uh, vai morrer” (you will die in Portugese) and songs that featured Patolino’s name. I know MMA fans always talk about how great the Brazilian fan base is but it really doesn’t do it justice.
I have never seen a more diehard group of fans in any sport and I tip my hat to them. As the night went on the size of the crowd grew bigger with each passing bout and so did the crowd’s reactions. Some of the biggest pops on the preliminary card came when John Howard slammed Siyar Bahadurzada, Dennis Siver took Manny Gamburyan’s back in the third round, and Uriah Hall’s finish of Chris Leben. When Michael Johnson knocked out Gleison Tibau the entire arena went silent due to the large amount of Brazilians in attendance. The silence was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever witnessed at a live sporting event.
The main card opened up with featherweights Dustin Poirier and Diego Brandao. I was fortunate enough to sit next to a very intelligent MMA fan by the name of Brian who had personal ties to Poirier which made for an interesting viewing experience. A good portion of the fans sitting around Brian and I were Brazilian and were going absolutely nuts for Brandao. Brian kept his cool but I could tell he was anxiously awaiting the outcome of this bout. Luckily for Brian, Poirier stopped Brandao in the first round thus putting the Brazilian fan base on mute and making a very happy man out of Brian.
The main card came and went very quickly as both Jim Miller and Travis Browne won with impressive first round stoppages leading the crowd to the main events of the evening. I’ve heard a lot of people question why the women are fighting in the UFC but let me tell you Rousey and Tate had the second and third biggest reactions of the night. Both women are certified rock stars and the co-main event felt just as big as the main event because of how interested the crowd was.
The fight itself was very one sided but still a highly enjoyable affair. Every time Tate would take an advantageous position or Ronda would look for an armbar the crowd would go crazy. When Ronda finally locked up the armbar the crowd went nuts. They went even crazier when Ronda did not shake Miesha’s hand. I watched the replay of that fight on UFC.tv and yes the boos came across well on the broadcast but it was far louder in stadium. I couldn’t hear a second of Rousey’s post fight interview because of how loud the boos were.
As soon as Rousey’s interview ended the entire crowd knew what was coming: the biggest fight in UFC history. As soon as the video package for the fight began playing the crowd erupted in a chant of “BRASIL!” I’ve never witnessed a moment at any sporting event like the moment “Ain’t no Sunshine” started playing and Anderson began his walk toward the octagon. The Anderson Silva mystique is very real as it did feel like a true legend was walking out to fight. Weidman did not get a pop like Silva but had a very vocal American fan base there to support him.
When the fight started I can’t remember if the crowd was yelling or completely quiet, I was completely sucked in by the fight. One image of the crowd I do remember was looking around the arena and seeing EVERYBODY leaning forward on the edge of their seat. When Silva got dropped in the first round the Brazilians sitting around me were reeling. Distressed shouts of “No! Anderson! No!” were the most prominent things I could hear.
Silva wrapped Weidman up and as he seemingly recovered the Brazilians quickly reacted positively cheering on their fellow countryman. The crowd came alive once again when the round ended due to the dominance Weidman displayed. The second round started and it looked far more promising for Anderson. He was keeping distance and hitting Weidman with hard leg kicks. Then it happened. I have never seen someone drop down to the floor in such pain.
It was horrible to watch a legend like Anderson go down like that. The crowd erupted but did not know the extent of what happened until the replays were shown on the big screen. When Silva’s leg break was first shown I can only describe the crowd’s reaction as a unified gag. Everyone had the same reaction yell “awwww” and look away from the screen. As I was walking out of the arena everyone was talking about the end to the fight. I heard a decent amount of fans say, “Weidman has two fluke wins over Silva” which was a bit disheartening to hear.
All in all UFC 168 was a great event to attend and if you have never been to a live event you need to go to one as soon as you possibly can.