It was a little more than a decade ago that the UFC was a fledgling MMA promotion. The sport itself was widely considered an underground phenomenon that would never make it in mainstream America. Saturday nights UFC on FOX debut emphatically crushed any remaining notion of that.
The one-fight main card was worthy of introducing the UFC to mainstream audiences. Cain Velasquez, who fights out of AKA in San Jose, took on the Brazilian Junior dos Santos in a battle for Cains heavyweight title. Although that fight did not last as long as FOX officials had hoped, the night did not disappoint in excitement.
As we do with all live UFC events, lets take a look at our three honors of the night. Im sure you know who won Knockout of the Night.
Fight of the Night: Ben Henderson def. Clay Guida via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
The co-main event, which was not seen on the FOX broadcast, had the hype of any main event fight. Two fighters with non-stop motors, who arent afraid to strike or take it to the ground, put on quite a show for fans in attendance and online. It was worthy of being on the main card as the fight went three full rounds with both fighters gaining and losing momentum. Bendo, Henderson, was able to gain the upper-hand in some form in each round. Guida had chances to throw in submissions, but Bendo continued to roll out and gain control. That led to his victory, which clinched a shot at the UFC lightweight title.
Knockout of the Night: Junior dos Santos def. Cain Velasquez via TKO (punches) Round 1, 1:04 (Heavyweight title fight)
Thirty minutes of on-air hype by FOX and a little over a minute of an actual bout. Not the outcome fans, UFC officials and FOX officials had hoped for. The minute that the fight lasted was an exciting minute. Both men started out striking and it was the striking of JDS that ended the bout and Cains reign as champion. A right hook to the back of Velasquezs left ear staggered the champ and dos Santos pounced. Several shots to Cain from dos Santos caused referee John McCarthy to end the bout after a little over a minute.
Submission of the Night: Ricard Lamas def. Cub Swanson via submission (arm-triangle choke) Round 2, 2:16
This featherweight bout was the tale of two different rounds. The first was dominated by Cub Swanson. He was able to do all that he wanted in dominating Lamas early, but the second round was vastly different. Swanson came out with a high kick in the second, but slipped and Lamas charged to make his move. The two exchanged strikes and Lamas looked to take Swansons back. After that didnt work, Lamas set in a side choke to trap Swanson who ended up tapping after an impressive exchange.
UFCs FOX debut might not have lasted as long as people had hoped, but the images it left with fans will keep them coming back for more. For the sport, and the promotion, Saturday night was a night that few will ever forget. Its importance and significance is not lost on people close to the sport and it is a moment that signified MMA as a sport that has finally arrived.
Nitesh Dutt is a production assistant with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter at @NiteshDutt.