When the UFC’s travelling road show comes to Canada, there are a few things one should expect.
A definite shortage on space to store parkas, mild rambunctiousness in the seats, and, of course, Can-Con in the cage.
Six fighters competed with the hometown — or home country — support at their backs at UFC 231 on Saturday in the promotion’s first visit to Toronto in just short of two years. It didn’t, however, prove to be overly advantageous, as the Canadian contingent combined for more uninspiring performances than impressive ones.
Hakeem Dawodu, Elias Theodorou and Brad Katona picked up victories in the octagon — each by decision — while Olivier Aubin-Mercier, Chad Laprise and Kyle Nelson saw their professional records take a dip.
It was Katona that was the closest to making a statement with his win. The come-from-behind victory ended in a mad scramble where Katona locked up a rear-naked choke and looked to put his opponent, Matthew Lopez, to sleep. Katona hopped off at the belt and proceeded into his victory lap, but had to wait for the judges’ decision to officially celebrate the win as the referee determined that Lopez has survived the bell, even as he crawled around the cage in a complete fog.
The wait didn’t ruin the moment for Katona.
“There is only one word to describe how I’m feeling: amazing,” Katona said after the fight. “To be back here in Canada fighting for the Canadian fans and giving them our first victory of the night is a very special thing.”
Dawodu and Theodorou’s wins came via split decision, though the former much more contentiously.
Dawodu clearly out kick-boxed Kyle Bochniak over three rounds on the main card, but one judge submitted a 29-28 score in Bochniak’s favour while the other two deemed that the fight was a 30-27 sweep. Still, Dawodu failed to deliver a memorable performance with the main card showcase in his home country.
Theodorou’s fight with former Erik Anders, formerly of the Alabama Crimson Tide, was razor thin. In the end he used his unorthodox style to better the power puncher in the first and third rounds after Anders hurt him in the second.
In true Canadian fashion, he didn’t use his time on the mic to promote his next fight, but to advocate for medical marijuana and push anti-doping agencies to remove it from their banned lists.
“My next fight isn’t necessarily against one man, it’s against the stigma of medical cannabis — that includes pushing through with my therapeutic use exemption for USADA to be able to medicate as prescribed.”
“I was denied going into the fight and put at a competitive disadvantage.”
Aubin-Mercier and Laprise lost to Brazilians Gilbert Burns and Dhiego Lima, respectively, as betting favourites.
Aubin-Mercier’s loss was a competitive but reasonably one-sided decision, while Laprise was devastated in the first round with a long, sweeping left hook that took forever to find the target, but demolished it anyway.
A late injury replacement, Nelson was the biggest underdog on the card in his fight with Diego Ferreira. Still, he had a moment to savour in the first round. After surprising Ferreira early on the feet, he stuffed a lazy takedown and basked in his early work, playing to the crowd while instructing the opponent to get up off his back. It wasn’t long though before Ferriera would connect on the takedown and pound Nelson out.
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