In my 32 years of existence, I don’t know if I’ve been more proud to be a Washingtonian than I was the night of October 1st, 2011. Going into Versus’ UFC Live 6, which emanated from the Verizon Center, my question was “How would the Nation’s Capital respond in the Phone Booth’s inaugural UFC event?”

Fight fans filed into the arena in time enough for the start of the first fight, which started at 6:30pm. The answer to the aforementioned question came in the card’s second bout between welterweights Josh Neer and Keith Wisniewski. The two were in an all out slugfest that wowed “The City”.  The brawl turned out to be a bloodbath, courtesy of Neer’s sharp elbows, which left cuts on both of Wisniewski’s eyes, resulting in a second round stoppage.  The Phone Booth expressed gratitude towards the combatants’ performances, especially Wisniewski’s toughness.

Fast forward to the fourth fight of the card. UFC bantamweight Byron Bloodworth, a Lynchburg, Virgina native, awaits his opponent for the evening. Mambo Sauce’s “Welcome To DC” echoed through the arena speakers, Mike “The Hulk” Easton is seen waiting in the entrance and the place went ballistic. When Easton walked out, his energy, coupled with the Phone Booth’s reception, made the environment conducive to a memorable homecoming. In the opening round, Easton took a Bruce Banner approach, where he sized up Bloodworth and got a feel of who he was.  He got in some key strikes, including a spinning back kick that found Bloodworth’s midsection. The second round was when the Banner to Hulk transformation went full circle. Chants of “Easton” and “Hulk Smash” rung throughout the arena as the Camp Springs, Maryland native pursued his prey.  He pushed the pace, landing a variety of punches and kicks.  An accidental kick to Bloodworth’s groin briefly stopped the match, but in no way did “The Hulk” simmer down.  At the conclusion of the stoppage, Bloodworth attempted to push forward with strikes of his own, but with no regard, Easton absorbed the shots that landed and continued dictating the pace of the fight. The two went into the cage, and that’s when Easton went into beast mode.  A series of knees found a home on Bloodworth’s head, followed by two body shots that sent Bloodworth to the mat. Easton stood over Bloodworth, pounded away at him and at the 4:52 mark of the second round, it was a done deal. Homecoming proved to be a successful one for “The Hulk”.

It’s safe to say the presence of Easton further ignited the energy packaged inside the Verizon Center.

Another highlight of the night came courtesy of the Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman contingency. Throughout the arena, you saw groups of fans with blue, Brenneman, “One Nation” tee shirts.  If you didn’t know any better, you would think Brenneman was also a Washington Metropolitan Area product.  Throughout the evening, you heard numerous “Spaniard” chants.  While sitting beside significant others of the Brenneman camp (Brenneman’s fiancé and Brenneman’s coach’s wife), I learned that “The Spaniard” is actually from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. As impressive as it was to witness how well traveled Pennsylvania sports fans were, the same could not be said for Brenneman’s night.  His opponent Anthony “Rumble” Johnson proved to be too imposing for him, ending Brenneman’s night with a first round TKO.

The most awe-inspiring moments of the night came in the co-main event between heavyweights Pat “HD” Barry and Stefan “The Skyscraper” Struve.  First, was the height of Struve. To see someone walk out at a stature of 6’11” is indescribable.  He was an entire foot taller than Barry. Height-wise, this match pitted polar opposites of UFC’s heavyweight division…a David vs. Goliath situation. Then the midpoint of the second round came.  Struve, on his back, had Barry in an arm bar submission.  In an amazing display of strength, the 5’11’ Barry,  lifted “The Skyscraper” in a power-bomb like motion,  while locked in the hold, and slammed Struve to the mat.  The impact was enough to rattle the foundation of the Verizon Center, but being the submission artist he is, Struve was able to maintain the hold, forcing Barry to tap out 3:22 into the second round.  Fans were left awe-struck.

Finally, the main event!  The Nation’s Capital was treated to an awesome title fight between Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz (champion) and Demetrius “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.  My thought going into this fight was for Cruz to keep Johnson at a distance with his strikes, making himself difficult to catch.  The champ no doubt tried to carry out that game plan, but Johnson proved to be too quick for him.  “Mighty Mouse” got inside of Cruz and his strikes found home. He out struck the Champion 63-60.  The Verizon Center was torn between the two fighters, who put on a show worthy of a rematch, let alone a Pay-Per-View, Main Event slot.  The challenger was out to be the “Little Engine That Could”, but the wrestling prowess of Cruz was too much.  The champion executed 10 takedowns to the challenger’s one. Cruz retained the bantamweight title.  The two left an everlasting impression on DC area fight fans, as well as MMA Nation.

With everything that took place, plus special appearances by UFC bantamweight Urijah Faber and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon “Bones” Jones, UFC Live 6 left its stamp on “The District”.  Speaking of impressions, Chocolate City made one of its own on this historic night.  However one question remains, “Was the energy convincing enough for UFC’s front office to book pay-per-views in the Nation’s Capital?”  Stay tuned!

By Antoine Hoffman

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