Those two contests were worth the price of admission. The others on the pay-per-view portion of the card, however, were not.
The undercard was supposed to be UFC matchmaker Joe Silva unleashing lightning in a bottle in the form of crowd-pleasing matchups. The main and co-main events were supposed to be epic struggles for dominance.
Like the end-of-the-year PPVs of year's past, it wasn't just a fight card, it was an event.
But after the first fight between Chris Leben and Derek Brunson, UFC 155 looked more like a regional show rather than a top-of-the-line production.
Leben was expected to walk all over Brunson. He was supposed to get fans pumped by scoring a huge knockout. Leben was the legendary brawler and Brunson was the unheralded late replacement. It was, in theory, an easy fight to call.
But as that annoying, persistent truism goes, anything can happen in MMA.
The fight that viewers expected—and wanted—wasn't what they got. Instead of a slugfest, it was Brunson smothering Leben with his superior wrestling abilities.
The poor conditioning displayed by both men made the fight worse. Brunson had an excuse because he took the fight on short notice. Leben was badly out of shape and had no reason to be. He knew well in advance he was fighting that night.
His lack of cardio helped the fight drag on. Leben was unable to escape many takedowns and was too tired to capitalize on Brunson's takedowns that failed.
Even UFC president Dana White wasn't pleased:
Ya that fight was BAD!!!
— Dana White (@danawhite) December 30, 2012
At the post-fight press conference, White further elaborated on Brunson vs. Leben:
I think I made a mistake putting [Leben] on the pay-per-view. I should have had him on the undercard. He's been off with personal problems for a while. He's had a lot of time off, and he looked slow tonight. I wasn't crazy about that fight. That wasn't my favorite fight of the night, that's for damn sure...
[Brunson] was looking at the clock like he was a 14-year-old waiting for school to get out the entire fight – looking at the clock. You're in the UFC your first time, and I wasn't very impressed.
UFC 155's woes would continue in the next fight: Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher.
The match had a good buzz around it, mostly centered around Belcher and his possible status as a title contender down the road. "The Talent" had beaten Brazilian phenom Rousimar Palhares in his last fight. If he could best Yushin Okami as well, he'd be a top-echelon middleweight.
Alas, Belcher's hype train was derailed in spectacularly dull fashion. Okami grappled Belcher to exhaustion, and the audience to sleep.
It was a good display of wrestling and control in MMA, but that's not what bloodthirsty casual fans wanted, especially after a similarly "boring" fight like Leben vs. Brunson.
At this point, the "stacked" card seemed to be stacked only with Ambien.
The following fight, Constantinos Philippou vs. Tim Boetsch picked up the pace.
Boetsch performed strongly in the first round and floored Philippou with a Silva vs. Belfort-like front kick to the face. Philippou endured the first round and staged a comeback, scoring a TKO victory over a bloodied Boetsch in the third round.
Still, it didn't have enough pep to wipe away the malaise from the previous two contests.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller was where things changed.
Miller hit Lauzon with almost every feasible combination in the first round. It was an incredible display of striking abilities. Lauzon wasn't just cut open, he was gashed open. Cheers flowed from the crowd as the blood flowed from his head.
Somehow Lauzon made it to the second round, where Miller noticeably slowed down. This enabled Lauzon to reverse the tides briefly in the second round but he couldn't finish Miller.
The third round was more of the same. Miller had control, save for Lauzon's almost-miracle leg lock in the final seconds of the fight.
Miller won a unanimous decision. Fans were cheering loudly. Twitter was ablaze with sanguinary joy.
The main event intensified these feelings.
Cain Velasquez shocked the MMA world by dismantling UFC heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos.
Velasquez's dominance started with a massive overhand right in the first round. It continued until the final bell. Some rounds it was like watching a man against a child.
Velasquez was too fast, too strong and too skilled. It wasn't a fight; it was a beatdown.
MMA fans were wowed by Velasquez's abilities, but they were also enamored with dos Santos' toughness.
Dos Santos looked half-dead after the first round. He had almost been knocked out and his conditioning was failing him. He was barely able to hobble to his corner. Nobody expected the fight to last much longer.
It lasted twenty more minutes.
It was a superlative, exemplary display of mettle. Dos Santos was, in a way, a real-life Rocky Balboa in the sense that he was able to absorb unreal amounts of punishment without succumbing to unconsciousness. Unfortunately for dos Santos, the Rocky-like comeback victory eluded him.
This fight left people with a great taste in their mouths. Velasquez's reputation was reforged, and dos Santos, despite losing, managed to please fans with his valor and inability to quit.
The skills and traits on display in the main and co-main events saved the card.
If the night's first two matches showed the poor side of MMA, the last two showed the wondrous side of MMA: the unpredictability, the courage, the perseverance, the expertise, the sportsmanship, the passion.
UFC 155 did live up to the hype because we got to see MMA's most positive aspects brilliantly put into action on a grand scale. You can't ask for more than that, even if there are a couple bad fights along the way.
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