MONTREAL — Georges St. Pierre reclaimed his welterweight title Saturday night, dominating Matt Serra in a second-round TKO before a hometown crowd at UFC 83 as the UFC landed in Canada with a bang.
The 26-year-old St. Pierre came out to a tsunami of noise washing over a sold-out Bell Centre crowd of 21,390 filled with Canadian flags, fervour and more than a little testosterone. He wore black trunks with a fleur-de-lys, matching the tattoo on his right calf.
The boos started before the stocky Serra even started his entrance. The 33-year-old native of Long Island, N.Y., might as well have been wearing horns. His black shorts were emblazoned with sponsor GunsAmerica.com.
St. Pierre looked like he couldn’t wait. And he took Serra down right off the bat in the mixed martial arts bout.
The crowd sang “Ole, Ole Ole” as St. Pierre went about his business looking to improve his position on the ground. It took Serra four minutes to get back up and then St. Pierre took him down again, scooping him up like a pre-schooler.
It was more of the same in the second, with two takedowns and a standup exchange that St. Pierre won. The end came when Montreal referee Yves Lavigne moved in to stop a turtled Serra from absorbing any more knees to the body at 4:45 of the second round.
St. Pierre (16-2) did a backflip in the middle of the ring. A dazed Serra (16-5) regrouped and then the two fighters hugged.
Serra upset St. Pierre for the 170-pound crown one year ago at UFC 69 in Houston.
“It’s the most beautiful day of my life. A dream come true. And I couldn’t wish for a better scenario, honestly,” said St. Pierre. “It’s like a dream, it’s amazing.
“But I know what happened (when he lost to Serra). I’m going to work even harder to stay there.”
Earlier, middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald pounded out a win in an all-Canadian grudge match with rival Joe (El Dirte) Doerksen. MacDonald (21-9) finished the contest with a string of elbows to the head, then stood over his fallen opponent after referee Steve Mazzagatti stopped the bout 56 seconds into the second round.
There was bad blood between MacDonald, from Red Deer and Doerksen, from Winnipeg, dating back to their first meeting — won by MacDonald outside the UFC in 2005.
Doerksen escaped an early guillotine choke, then MacDonald survived a pair of nasty kimura attempts in an entertaining tactical battle on the ground.
Two of the three judges gave Doerksen (39-12) the first round. But MacDonald took control in the second and made his point — on Doerksen’s head.
In a disappointing co-main event, former middleweight champion Rich (Ace) Franklin bashed his way to a TKO over Travis (the Serial Killer) Lutter three minutes one second into the second round
Franklin survived a stint on the ground with Lutter, a black belt in jiu-jitsu who tried for an armbar but missed and soon paid for that failure. In the second, Franklin’s Muay Thai strikes and knees eventually took a toll on a gassed Lutter as he tried unsuccessfully for a takedown.
Franklin improved to 25-3 in bouncing back from a second loss to champion Anderson Silva. Lutter, fighting for the first time in 14 months after back and neck problems following his own loss to Silva, fell to 12-5.
The evening was different from other UFC shows from the get-go. The lineup to get in snaked around almost a full city block, veteran UFC announcer Bruce Buffer — who calls California home — opened the evening with “Madames et monsieurs, bon soir,” and the crowd of 21,000-plus was loud and proud.
The Canadian mixed martial arts show ranks as the biggest — and fastest sellout — in UFC history. The previous attendance record was 19,049, set at UFC 68 on March 3, 2007, at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio — a show that produced the biggest crowd ever for an MMA event in North America.
A UFC official said the Bell Centre gate was expected to reach $5 million, which would rank No. 2 on the UFC list behind UFC 66 in December 2006 when Chuck (The Iceman) Liddell defeated Tito (The Huntington Beach Bad Boy) Ortiz. That gate is two and a half times what Zuffa Inc. paid for the ailing UFC in 2001.
Welterweight Jonathan (The Road Warrior) Goulet of Victoriaville, Que., earned the first ever UFC win on Canadian soil to the delight of the partisan crowd when he survived some heavy punishment late in the first round to stop Japan’s Kuniyoshi Hironaka at 2:07 of the second.
But the big love was saved for St. Pierre. The crowd roared every time the Quebecer was shown on the big screens as the evening wore on. Serra was booed — loudly.
St. Pierre won the 170-pound title in November 2006, dethroning Matt Hughes at UFC 65. But he lost it to Serra next time out, at UFC 69 last April despite being a 10-1 favourite. The Canadian, whose training camp had been derailed by family illnesses, injuries and lack of focus, lasted just three minutes 25 seconds before being knocked out in one of the biggest upsets in recent mixed martial arts history.
St. Pierre was a 5-1 favourite going into Saturday’s rematch.
England’s Michael Bisping (16-1), who entered the cage to his traditional “London Calling” by the Clash, won his first bout as a middleweight by felling (Chainsaw) Charles McCarthy with a string of Muay Thai knees and punches. McCarthy (10-5) toppled just before the first round ended and the referee called a halt when the fighter didn’t get up after the bell.
McCarthy scored a big takedown in the first on Bisping, who previously fought at light-heavyweight, but had little else to offer other than mugging for the camera.
In a result that drew a chorus of boos, lightweight Rich (No Love) Clementi won a split decision over Canadian Sam (Hands of Stone) Stout.
The veteran American took Stout down in the first round but the 23-year-old from London, Ont., used his kickboxing to good advantage in the second.