Canadians impress as UFC 152 opens to empty seats, big finishes at ACC

09/22/2012 07:56 EDT | Updated 11/22/2012 05:12 EST
TORONTO - UFC 152 opened to plenty of empty seats Saturday night. But latecomers to the Air Canada Centre missed three quick, decisive finishes.

It wasn't until the fourth bout of the night that anyone saw a second round — in an entertaining back-and-forth featherweight battle between Marcus (The Bama Beast) Brimage and Jimy (The Kid) Hettes.

Canadians, meanwhile, went 3-0 prior to the main card.

The main event pitted light-heavyweight champion Jon (Bones) Jones against former title-holder Vitor (The Phenom) Belfort.

For Jones, the spotlight provided a chance to win back some fans after declining to meet Chael Sonnen on short notice, a decision that resulted in the cancellation of UFC 151 in Las Vegas.

Earlier, welterweight Sean (The Punisher) Pierson of Pickering, Ont., put on a gutsy show in defeating Lance Benoist via 29-28 unanimous decision.

At 36, Pierson (13-6) was giving up 12 years to Benoist (6-2). But with the crowd roaring "Let's Go Pierson," the veteran gave Benoist all he could handle in the first two rounds.

In the third, Pierson landed a kick and could be seen to mouth 'Ow." A lump showed on his left leg above the ankle but he kept going and survived a late battering at the fence and on the ground to finish out the fight.

Lightweight T.J. Grant of Cole Harbour, N.S., won a bloody, entertaining battle with Evan Dunham to take a 29-28, 30-27, 29-28 decision for his third straight win.

Dunham had a cut over his eye in the first and was bleeding profusely from the forehead in the second after taking a knee. It looked like he had taken an axe to the head. Grant was also leaking blood, although it was hard to tell if it was all his.

Between the second and third rounds, the doctor looked over Dunham as his cornerman yelled at him.

Dunham refused to yield, however, and finished the night on top of an exhausted Grant.

As first Canadian to fight on the night, bantamweight Mitch Gagnon of Sudbury, Ont., got a rousing reception when he was introduced to fight lanky Walel (The Gazelle) Watson second up on the mixed martial arts card.

The five-foot-six Canadian won more cheers when he dropped Watson (9-5) with a counter left off a attempted Superman punch. Gagnon (9-2) then took Watson's back and choked him out at 1:09 of the first round for his first UFC win.

It was Watson's third straight UFC loss and second at the hands of a Canadian. Yves Jabouin defeated him by split decision at UFC 140 in Toronto.

In a battle of two of the worst nicknames in the UFC, welterweight Seth (Polish Pistola) Baczynski stopped Norway's Simeon (The Grin) Thoresen with a big left at 4:10 of the first round. The finish seemed against the run of play, with Thoresen bloodying Baczynski (17-6). But the one big blow turned the tide and led to Baczynski's sixth straight win.

Thoresen (17-3-1) needed several minutes to recover from the KO.

Brimage ran his UFC win streak to three with a unanimous 29-28 decision over Hettes.

Brimage (6-1) was relentless in the first round, throwing punches throughout, but Hettes (10-1) kept coming even if it meant taking punishment. He had more success in the second round when he took Brimage down and showed off his submission skills.

Brimage was more accurate and efficient in striking in the third, however.

"Not taking anything away from him but I knew that if I got it to the floor I would win the fight and I wasn't able to do that," said Hettes.

Australian Kyle Noke, in his first outing at welterweight, stopped Charlie (The Spaniard) Brenneman via TKO 45 seconds into the first round. Noke (20-6-1) crumpled Brenneman (15-5) with a right to the chin and then kept punching until ref Dan Miragliotta stepped in to save the dazed fighter.

Brenneman seemed to object to the stoppage but UFC boss Dana White, via Twitter, gave it a thumbs up.

"A disappointment for sure," tweeted Brenneman. "Tough biz we are in."

Light-heavyweight Vinny Magalhaes returned to the UFC with a bang, showing off sublime submission skills in submitting Igor (The Duke) Pokrajac (25-9). He bent the Croatian like a pretzel before locking on an armbar at 1:14 of the second round

Magalhaes (11-5-0 with one no contest) had fought his last eight bouts — winning seven — outside the UFC after a loss at UFC 97 in April 2009.

The card marked the UFC's 10th show in Canada and third in Toronto.