by Kevin Mahoney (@KeysRealTalk)
January 20, 2018
The UFC held its first marquee event of the new year, UFC 220 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. This was the first UFC live event that I had ever attended and it was an amazing experience.
I had first gotten word about the UFC coming to Boston during late 2017. I want to say it was either September or October of 2017, when I had first heard the news about it. At first, I was skeptical about whether or not I would go to it because I don’t have many friends or family that are into UFC. And I wasn’t too interested in going to the event by myself. Although as more fights were being announced over time, I found out that some of my family was interested in going and we all bought our tickets ASAP.
At that point, I was just so excited. The UFC had announced two title fights for the headliner. They first announced Daniel Cormier vs Volkan Oezdemir for the light heavyweight title. By December, Francis Ngannou had just scored a huge knockout win over Alistair Overeem and so, the UFC booked a heavyweight title fight main event, between The Baddest Man on the Planet, Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou.
By this time, I was stoked for the event. It was about a month away and I had no idea who else was on the card. But I knew that I would get to see one of my favorite fighters, Stipe Miocic and another one of my favorites, Daniel Cormier, both defend their titles right here in Boston. My hometown. Where I grew up, born and raised. I just couldn’t even believe it.
Fast forward about a month and I’m on the way to TD Garden for UFC 220. I’m heading in with some of my cousins and we are all debating about the fights. Just about half of our group was so sure of Francis Ngannou, saying that there was no way Stipe could beat him. I sat there and laughed because I was very sure of my guy Stipe and I knew he would find a way to get it done. I had full confidence in him. And come to think of it now… I really should’ve placed a bet on Miocic that night because I believe he came in as the underdog vs Ngannou.
It just felt like the whole TD Garden was in awe at Ngannou’s power, still starstruck from what he did to Overeem. But I wasn’t phased by this! A flash knockout like that is impressive but they failed to remember, Stipe ain’t Overeem!
So we get to the event. Were just waiting in a huge line of people so we can go through the security check. I just remember thinking to myself, so many times, ‘I just can’t believe that I’m here for this, live, seeing my favorite fighters.’ I was overwhelmed with excitement about this night.
So we got through the security and they stamped our tickets. At this point, I’m walking down the set of stairs down to our seats (we were in Loge section). We were very close to the Octagon, right by one of the tunnels where fighters were coming out, making their walk-outs. Crazy. The arena itself was decked out with lights everywhere. I remember seeing the four-sided screen, similar to the ‘JumboTron’, hovering above the Octagon and it said UFC 220 on it. I was so excited. This was just mind-blowing. Couldn’t believe that I was experiencing this live, still. It just didn’t feel real. In a good way though.
The card itself, besides the two title fights, seemed to look okay on paper. A lot of people were not too interested in this card online but in the arena, it was great! So many great scraps that night. For example, I really remember seeing Thomas Almeida vs Rob Font. Font stopped Almeida, I want to say in the second-round. And right there, I became a fan of Font!
I also remember seeing the Dustin Ortiz fight. I can’t remember who it was that he fought but I just remember thinking, wow, this kid is fast! I’m pretty sure Ortiz ended up losing a decision that night but either way, he had a memorable performance to me!
Abdul Razak Alhassan. This night was the very first time I had ever seen him fight. Alhassan kicked off the night, I believe, with a big knockout win. His knockout win really woke the crowd up, if they weren’t already!
When Cormier was making his walk to the Octagon, I just remember thinking wow, I’m really seeing Cormier walk to the Octagon right now. Live. Such a crazy feeling. And we were all very confident in Cormier to slide past Oezdemir. Cormier always does well vs power punchers like him so we all knew he would get it done. Cormier did, he won in dominant fashion, winning by second-round TKO stoppage. It was a great moment to see in real life. Truly amazing.
When Miocic was making his walk to the Octagon, I was just so excited. This was the fight that I was waiting for all this time. This was the fight I was waiting for all night. Miocic vs Ngannou. It just felt like, okay, time to prove to everybody who the real Champ is Stipe! Lets go! Let’s get it!
I was literally so excited for Stipe that I might as well have refereed the fight. This fight just felt like a true, true, Rocky moment. This might as well have been Stipe vs Ivan Drago. That’s how I felt! Crazy!
So, Stipe gets in there and the fight starts, Ngannou comes out throwing heavy shots in the first round. Of course. We expected this!
The crowd is going crazy. So much energy. So much suspense. It was truly like the whole TD Garden had frozen in time, everybody was super still, just locking in on this fight and not missing a second. Crazy, crazy, crazy feeling. Goosebumps.
There Stipe was, ducking and dodging Ngannou’s early shots and landing a couple of his own. This was the moment when Stipe began having success in the fight. He was playing good defense, wearing Ngannou down and landing clean shots of his own. Eventually, Miocic decided to use his wrestling, took him down and put on a clinic for the rest of the fight. Miocic dominated Ngannou, between early striking and wrestling, which led him to an unanimous decision victory to retain his heavyweight strap (also broke the HW record for title defenses)!
All in all, a truly great ending to a truly amazing night. UFC 220 was literally one of the best nights of my 22-year life so far and I can’t wait until UFC returns to Boston because YOU KNOW I am in there!