This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I'm no expert when it comes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. I had never watched an entire mixed-martial arts fight before Saturday night, unless you count Ronda Rousey putting Turtle in an armbar in the movie, "Entourage."
So if you're expecting me to explain what separates jujitsu from taekwondo and karate, ask somebody else. My knowledge of MMA before Saturday was limited to this: If a fighter gets kicked in the face, loses consciousness and is unable to finish, his opponent is declared the winner by knockout, via face-kicking.
Thanks for reading, folks. The NFL draft is less than three weeks away.
If you're still with me, know that my ignorance wasn't born from disinterest in or disdain. I was more intrigued by corruption in Albany contributing to its statewide ban than the sport itself. I did my homework leading into UFC 210, but I wouldn't attempt to score fights or begin to suggest I'm some authority.
Full disclosure, I purposely didn't learn too much about the sport before sitting ringside – correction, octagonside – Saturday. I wanted to see mixed-martial arts from the outside without preconceived notions or opinions, like many newbies in the arena watching for the first time.
It quickly became apparent that you didn't need to be a UFC aficionado to appreciate the spectacle inside KeyBank Center. You could feel the electricity of something new and exciting in town. Fresh faces and untapped storylines were a departure from the usual dread hanging over the region in April. Fans were into the action all night, unlike a vast majority of Sabres games over the past five years.
OK, so that was a little cheap shot.
It was nothing compared to two blows Magomed Bibulatov delivered to Jenel Lausa's groin in a flyweight bout to start the night. Bibulatov had a point deducted, a light sentence given the crime, but dominated in a unanimous decision. Come to think of it, there were more groin shots Saturday night than in a Fruit of the Loom commercial.
Ah, what he heck. It's all in fun.
Nobody had more fun than Desmond Green, the local favorite who grew up in Rochester and wrestled for three years at the University at Buffalo. He had a big win over Josh Emmett. Green, a southpaw and former Mid-American Conference champion, fed off chants of "Let's Go, Gre-en!" throughout the fight.
"It was more than what I expected," Green said afterward. "If you would have asked me: Do think this would happen? Do you think I would get so much love and support? I knew I would, but not this much – not at all. I wish I could relive this night 1,000 times. It's just great."
Green was more patient and aggressive after a tentative start. He gained control over Emmett in the second round, opened a gash in his opponent's head and proved to be more skilled in a split-decision victory. Rochester native Gregor Gillespie made quick work of his opponent, landing a heavy left in the opening seconds and finishing Andrew Holbrook in 21 seconds.
Charles Oliveira wasted little time with Will Brooks in a lightweight fight on the main card, dispatching him with a rear-naked choke hold before the referee stopped the fight in the first round.
In the main event, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier retained his title when he forced Anthony "Rumble" Johnson into submission with a rear-naked choke hold. Johnson is one of the great power punchers, but he was forced into a wrestling match with one of the great grapplers in the world. Johnson announced his retirement immediately after the fight.
Wait, it almost sounds like I know what I'm talking about.
Maybe the UFC has rubbed off on me, a good thing considering how much success it had since wiggling into the American mainstream and sweeping up millions of fans along the way. Here's hoping it comes back to Buffalo sooner than later.
UFC has a way of grabbing your attention while testing your values. You wonder why anyone would want to participate in such callousness with the punching, kicking and attempting to mutilate. But you can't help but watch and admire their craft, knowing the discipline, commitment and athleticism required at the highest level.
UFC 210 didn't come without a problem, of course.
Well, make that two problems in the case of Pearl Gonzalez.
Rumors swirled Friday that Gonzalez wouldn't be allowed to make her UFC debut because she had breast implants, prohibited for fighters when New York finally lifted its ban on professional MMA. I'm the wrong person to say, but it's safe to assume suffering a ruptured breast implant is a below-average experience.
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens in New York is usually the result of Albany making up the rules as it goes along. Gonzalez said she told the state athletic commission about her surgery in preliminary paperwork and heard no response, leading her to believe there was no issue.
For reasons still not entirely clear Saturday – we'll go with commission oversight, not her mistake, no apparent danger, common sense prevails – Gonzalez was allowed to fight undefeated Cynthia Calvillo in an events scheduled for the main card. The fighters were real, and they were spectacular. Calvillo worked like a python before getting Gonzalez to tap out in the third round.
You probably don't know much about Gonzalez, who was upbeat and charming earlier in the week before revealing the tiger within. She grew up on Chicago's tough south side, the oldest child of drug-addicted parents. She and her sisters were taken away from their mother and placed in separate foster homes.
Gonzalez took pent-up anger into the streets as a young girl, worked for a few years for a veterinarian after high school, reunited with her parents and rediscovered her passion for MMA. Her father gave her $500 to kick-start her career, and she spent four years hoping for an opportunity in the UFC.
Of course, there was controversy that led to Chris Weidman losing this third straight fight. Gegard Mousasi was awarded a technical knockout after the referee's mistake. Referee Dan Miragliotta stopped the fight and reprimanded Mousasi for kneeing Weidman when he had one hand on the mat. However, it was a rules violation only if the vulnerable fighter, in this case Weidman, had both hands on the mat when the blow was delivered.
Weidman, who was born on Long Island and spent years trying to convince New York lawmakers to legalize MMA, is a crowd favorite everywhere he fights. He was looking to bounce back in Buffalo after losing in Madison Square Garden, where Yoel Romero dropped him with a flying knee.
Somebody told me Saturday that the move was self-explanatory. Pardon me while I brush up on the MMA lingo. Hopefully, when the UFC rolls into town again, I can have an intelligent conversation about the kimura, which apparently is a jujitsu submission hold similar to the chicken wing in wrestling.
Now that's something we in Buffalo understand.