I had been really struggling to come up with topics to write about this week. The only topic I had an opinion on was covered in detail by Paul Johnson, whom I agree with wholeheartedly. But then, today happened.
Every once in a while, you get to experience a day as a sports fan that reminds you why you became a sports fan in the first place. Hopefully you experience more of these sorts of days than you do the days where you don’t remember why you are a sports fan at all.
Today I woke with two sporting events I was massively excited for. One of them I simply wanted to be entertaining and the other was because it was my team in a huge match. In the former, it was UFC 166, headlined by the trilogy fight between Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and former champ Junior dos Santos.
The thing about UFC is though, watching the undercard is as much a part of the experience as the main event. I was more excited for a couple of the undercard fights than the main event and amazingly, they all delivered.
The fight between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez, both Mexican-Americans, fighting in Texas no less, was mind blowing. I would actually say that two of the best fights I have ever seen have now taken place in back to back UFC events, as this follows the incredible fight between Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson.
Anyway, Melendez and Sanchez went to war. By the end of the three rounds it felt like someone could die had there have been a fourth and fifth round scheduled. Melendez rightfully won the decision, but Sanchez was no loser in that one.
There were also two Aussies on the undercard. Old timer George Sotiropolous lost a close decision to KJ Noons and it could signal the end of his time in the UFC, as he has now dropped four in a row. Cuban migrant Hector Lombard however looked amazing in his first fight since dropping from middleweight to welterweight. A couple more fights and Lombard could well be in title contention, which could lead to him being the first ever Aussie UFC champion… even if he is from Cuba and partially lives in Florida.
The main event was incredible for different reasons. The fight itself was basically a carbon copy of the second fight between the pair, where Velasquez dominated for 25 minutes. In this instance however, he finally got the finish, which is good because dos Santos needed to be saved from his own toughness. As incredible as the champion is, the fact that dos Santos simply wouldn’t go away became the prevailing story. JDS will now have to rely on Cain losing the title elsewhere to realistically get back into the title picture, but with Daniel Cormier (another impressive winner today) moving down to light heavyweight, JDS clearly is still the best heavyweight not wearing the belt. It’s a weird situation that there is a guy who can and likely will beat everyone else, but now he can’t fight the champ again because he just got beaten up by him for nine straight rounds.
If you are a fan of UFC, MMA or combat sports in general, I really hope you caught this card. A lot of casual fans would have been made hardcore fans today.
In the other sporting event today my beloved Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS to advance to their first World Series since 2007. Despite the series not going 7 games, it was a fantastic series between great teams. The Red Sox, not for the first time this week, had to pull off a late comeback thanks to a timely grand slam home run, which is probably the most exciting thing to witness in baseball. To see my team be the ones to pull that off, led to some very loud screams in the Cousens household.
Baseball can be a tough sport to follow because games take a long time and because during the regular season each individual game doesn’t matter that much. But when the playoffs roll around in October and November, baseball goes to another level. Every pitch has so much tension and pressure and four hours feels like it took 20 years off your life… but today it was all worth it.
The Sox now go on to face the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Cardinals have been a fantastic team for years now and were actually the team the Sox defeated in 2004 to end their famous 86 year title drought.
What makes it more amazing as a Red Sox fan is that the team were awful last year, traded away a bunch of players and were headed into a rebuilding phase. Somehow that rebuild worked instantaneously and the very next year we are back into the World Series. I had low expectations for this year and success when you aren’t expecting it is the best kind of success.
Now, you may not be a fan of the UFC or of baseball, but if you are a sports fan at all, you can appreciate having one of those days where sports live up to everything they can be.
Today was one of those for me.