For a card that stumbled out of the gates, Ultimate Fighting Championship 109: Relentless sure finished with gusto.
After the six preliminary bouts got off to a slow start?Rolles Gracie and Joey "Mexicutioner" Beltran actually stopped at one point in the middle of their clash?the five main card fights delivered another satisfying event for the UFC.
It wasn't quite UFC 108, but it was still a thoroughly entertaining evening once the bigger names stepped into the Octagon.
Matt "The Terror" Serra put the pedal to the floor and it stayed there until Randy "The Natural" Couture won the battle of Hall-of-Famers in the main event.
And then the real action started.
The post-fight press conference benefited from a fine performance by all involved?Couture, Serra, Dana White, Chael Sonnen, Demian Maia, Paulo Thiago via interpreter, and even FOX's Mike Straka got in on the fun.
But the brightest stars were Serra and Sonnen.
For the first 10 minutes, they were like Chris Farley and David Spade, except you had to laugh; otherwise, they might wade into the crowd to pop you one. That, and Farley had more fat in his posterior than these guys have on their entire bodies combined.
The Terror really is like a character from?pick your cliche?Casino , Goodfellas , My Cousin Vinny , or pretty much any movie where a stocky Italian guy with a thick New York City accent plays a likable badass.
He wasn't quite as articulate as Sonnen, but he had the house rolling.
Honestly, I have zero idea how Serra could become a fighter. I just can't see why anyone would want to lay hands on this guy in anger?he's shockingly affable given his profession and totally at ease with himself.
Plus, the dude can chuck some leather and has one hell of a Brazilian jiu jitsu resume.
What's not to like?
Toss in the quick wit, it seems like a no-brainer. Are New Yorkers really that unreasonable?
When asked if he would be taking less time between contests, Serra grinned and replied, "You want me back right away, donchya buddy?"
The answer then wandered to his doings outside the Octagon, which includes training fighters in his Big Apple schools. Serra, ever the opportunist, saw a wide-open door: "This is a good time to plug my new school. Look at this, see what I'm gonna do here, see what I'm doin' here?"
Tell me you don't see Bobby D in a pink bathrobe with a cigarette holder in the background.
His peak came courtesy of the aforementioned Straka, who is clearly a friend.
The FOX columnist asked if the Terror planned on spending some of his Knockout of the Night bonus ($60,000 for the sold-out event) on lifts to make himself look taller. Serra immediately perked up.
"Haha, who said that?"
After finding the culprit?himself no giant?Serra gave a hearty laugh, but only for a split-second before the shovel came out.
"Yeah, and you'd know where to get 'em, too, donchya buddy...[Straka]'s my size , don't let him fool you, anybody's behind him at the airport, they'll know. Those shoes come off..."
But even the Terror knows his limits.
After he finished ruminating over when his next bout would come, White jumped in with a little barb as he's prone to do on occasion: "Depends on how much weight he gains."
The welterweight could only laugh and mutter, "that's awesome."
I'm a big fan of people who don't take themselves too seriously, and Serra qualifies for that in spades.
Nevertheless, the night belonged to Chael Sonnen?both in the Octagon where he scored a tremendous upset (although the former wrestler didn't see it that way, and who can really argue at this point?) and behind the mic.
The Oregonian was incredibly articulate and gave thoughtful responses, which was ridiculous, considering the punishment he took from Nate "The Great" Marquardt. Sonnen's face was an absolute mess and he said he felt even worse.
It looks like fun and games on television, but when you see some of the winners after the dust has settled?
Let's just say there are mothers worldwide praying their children never discover this amazing sport.
Sonnen had a jagged line of fresh stitches over his forehead from a gnarly elbow Marquardt landed in the second round.
He also admitted that, though tapping was never a consideration, the guillotine the Great sunk in near the end of the third almost sent him off to the Land of Nod.
As well, one of Marquardt's big knees made everything go "all white" and stuck with the new No. 1 contender at middleweight: "Yeah, that knee hurt. A lot. And I went out, but I pushed through."
According to the victor, it was a necessary evil. He knew his opponent was a brutal assignment, but the plan was simple (if unpleasant): "Take what he gives ya, just make sure you give back."
However, one sound byte stood above all the rest.
Sonnen was asked who'd he prefers to fight for the title?current champ Anderson "The Spider" Silva or Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort (the duo are set for an April battle at UFC 111 in Abu Dhabi). The top contender might want to beg his answer off as after-effects of that big knee:
"I hope Anderson wins, because I think Vitor's a lot tougher fighter, so if I have to choose between the two, I'm gonna take the low road and take the easier opponent to get to the championship."
It's be the height of hubris to reflex right back into skepticism so soon after Sonnen delivered triumphantly on his pre-Marquardt fight boasts. Yet, the Spider beats greatness; he already has.
To his credit, the public official softened his stance a bit with this qualifier:
"If you want to get to the top of the card in the UFC, you gotta fight tough guys. If you wanna to be a fighter and get in the cage and be a big deal at your local strip club, go to Showtime."
Talk about a thunderous hook to Strikeforce's temple.
As Dana White interjected, he couldn't have said it better himself.
On this night, nobody could have.