Out of curiosity, who went to watch it and what did you think? I though it was so awesome, and the best thing is that my friend and I got seats in the fifth row, right up in the action. There was this old man sitting in front of us which we payed no attention to at first, but then when a big Armenian guy came over and called him "Sensei Gene," only then did we realize who it was we were sitting behind. I turned to my friend, my friend turned to me, "DUDE! That's GENE LABBELL!" The Armenian guy turned out to be Gokor Chivikyan, wow and they were sitting right in front of us!!!!!!!! We introduced ourselves later. Boy, what an honor.
The first day of Abu Dhabi was great. Leo Viera was the first match of the day, and he vanquished his japanese opponent (who was wearing skin-toned tights...gosh). Leo took him down with an arm drag and had the rear naked choke for a long time. Leo also fought one of Rickson Gracie's students to what was almost a draw. Leo won in the very end by points. There was also a match with some kid who was busting out some quantum jiujitsu or something, he was going into like capoeira stances and trying to psych out his opponent by shooting backwards (No Joke!). He got tapped though, at least he was entertaining.
The undeniable greatest match of the event however was the match between Marcelo Garcia and Ricco Rodriguez during the Finals. Keep in mind, Marcelo "X-Guard" Garcia is only about 145lbs, and Ricco is going on 300lbs! That match gave me, a skrawny 160lb ectomorph, my confidence back! Marcelo was all over Ricco! He was like a panther and Ricco was like a big Rhinocerous stomping all over the place. Marcelo took his back with arm drag after arm drag and Ricco couldn't do a thing. Marcelo was even shooting and landing incredibly explosive leg takes on a guy who was 3 times his size! The crowd went absolutely wild! Ricco just didn't want to engage with Marcelo, he was rendered helpless. So helpless that Gene Labbell called him a wussy really loud while eveyone else was quiet. hehehe. Marcelo finally spun around and got Ricco in a toe-hold for a submission. Hoorah for the underdog!
Rhadi Ferguson's match in the heavy weight division against his japanese opponent was really exciting too because for a portion of the match, nothing was happening, and then BAM! Ferguson throws this sweet hi-amp Judo throw that makes the whole stadium jump out of their seats!
Jake Shields also did surprisingly well against Marcelo Garcia. Marcelo clearly had much more experience, and Shields lasted a good 10 mins at least. Against Marcelo, 10 seconds is doing good. Jeff Glover in the exhibition match is also someone to keep an eye on in the future.
The Gracie Family made a good showing, although the only Gracie's to advance were Kyra and Roger. Renzo lost his first match by points to someone who nobody's heard of, dissapointing. Daniel and Igor lost as well. Jacare's match with Roger in the final match was very high energy. I really thought Jacare was going to win because he had an experience advantage over Roger. He actually made short work of Marcelo by pulling him into HIS guard instead of playing top game, which is where marcelo can work. Smart move. However, Roger came out on top during the last seconds and restored honor to the Gracie name as the 2005 Abu Dhabi champion.
In the women's division, Leka Viera was amazing! I highly recommend checking out some of her matches online. Just the way she moves, I've never seen any grappler male or female with transitions as smooth as hers. She made short work of ALL of her opponents including Gazzy Parman. I really had my money on her when she fought Kyra, but it looks like the Gracie name still holds strong. When her and Kyra fought, Kyra quickly took her down with an unbalancing throw and eventually got an omo plata.
The superfight was an experience unlike any other. Dean Lister vs. the legendary Jean Jaques Machado. During the fight, the entire packed stadium was dead quiet. I'm serious. It was breathtaking, you could hear a pin drop! JJ pulled Dean into the butterfly guard and attempted classic Machado guard sweep. Dean was solid though, he kept his balance like he was somehow attached to the ground. There was not that much action during the fight, but pure technique. Dean eventually passed JJ's butterfly guard and ended the fight via submission. I was kinda disappointed, I wanted JJ Machado to win. Then again, Dean outweighed him significantly, and Machado is getting up there in years.
I was disappointed that Eddie Bravo wasn't fighting due to an injury, or that Royler had bowed out of the Abu Dhabi (Chicken...jk). A match between Eddie and Marcelo would have been something indeed. One of my sensei's, Erik Paulson, was there commentating and I introduced my friend to him. We also met Renzo, Rickson, Chuck Liddel, and of course Gene Labbell! Kyra Gracie at one point actually came up into the stands with her coach and sat down a few seats away from me. I wanted to say congrats or something, but she was speaking portuguese and silly me, I wasn't sure if she spoke english or not. Darn. At one point, my friend and I called my other friend who is currently serving a stint in Iraq and told him how we met Gene Labbell. My friend is really into Judo, so he nearly cried because he was at Fort Bragg, NC in the hot humidity while we were having a blast at Abu Dhabi! I had alot of fun anyway. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be competing in it instead of just watching it...or not. hehehe.