It was six years ago to the day of this story being written (May 24, 2010) that I entered a Gamestop following my night class to chill with some fellow gamers and await the midnight release of “UFC Undisputed 2010” – one of the last physical games I’ve pre-ordered. When I walked into the store I discovered several girls standing around a small table filled with nachos and coupons from a local restaurant. Apparently this restaurant and the Gamestop agreed to do a little co-promotion that would tie-in with several midnight video game releases including “UFC Undisputed 2010”. To make the event even more exciting it was decided there would be a one-night tournament for all the gamers who had pre-ordered where we’d step up to the sticks and play “UFC Undisputed 2009” in a single elimination virtual battle. I was totally unprepared and out of my environment, but for the sake of fun I decided to officially put my name on the brackets.
I had been playing “2009” almost religiously since the game was released; rarely taking breaks to focus on other games until the turn of the year. There was a good chance my skills and reflexes had deteriorated slightly; giving me the belief that a first round loss could be in my future. With the tournament being only Light Heavyweight fights, I went with my personal favorite in the game (and one of my favorite fighters in real life), Anderson Silva. My opponent chose fellow Brazilian Thiago Silva. I played very defensively during that fight; shaking off the figurative rust while coasting to the first and only decision of the tournament that resulted in 29-28 split decision victory for me (we didn’t know the result until Anderson’s hand was raised as the announcer Bruce Buffer only said last names while reading the scores).
Feeling a little more comfortable, I stuck with Anderson Silva when the quarterfinals began. My opponent was slightly older than me and bragged about winning another Gamestop UFC tournament when “2009” was originally released. He destroyed his first opponent with Rashad Evans and looked to do the same to me. The first round of this fight was pretty even with me focusing on body shots. By the second round, Evans was winded and easy prey to Silva’s near lethal Muay Thai knee strikes – ending the fight in my favor via knockout.
A pair of brothers (one barely in his teens while the other in his early twenties) were dominating the other side of the tournament; resulting in a battle between the two that resulted in the older earning his position in the finals. I had to win another one if I wanted to even think about seeing a fourth fight. Instead sticking with Anderson, I switched fighters during the semi-finals by choosing Lyoto Machida as the character who would take me to another victory. My third opponent was the most quiet guy in the room, letting his hands do the talking throughout the night as his skills with Rampage Jackson were enough to overwhelm both of his opponents early and put them in position for some ground & pound. Since I didn’t use much grappling in the first two fights, my latest adversary didn’t know what to expect when it came to my ground game. But if there’s one part I’m an expert at in “2009” it’s the action when it hits the canvas. What came from us was a submission war that left my hands and forearms exhausted by the end of round one (submission successes came by way of button mashing). Round two saw more ground fighting, but this time I ignored the submissions and went straight to full mount. With him unable to reverse the position, I punched him into oblivion (or referee’s stoppage – whatever reads better to you).
Shaking the feeling into my arms, I readied myself for the finale. Across from me didn’t just stand a guy who won his first three fights with Keith Jardine and Rich Franklin by way of knockout midway through the first and second rounds respectively, but also his brother and dad giving me the badmouth. This guy had a full-blown cheering squad reminding me that my inevitable loss would result in me walking away without a soul in that building feeling sorry for me. I didn’t have a friend in the world according to the father; let alone one who would associate with me after being thumped. Then one older lady waiting to pick up the new game for her son currently at work spoke up to say that she believed I could win. I believed I could, too.
With Owl City’s “Fireflies” blaring from the store’s speakers, I picked up the controller for one last battle. Once again, Anderson Silva was my choice. My opposition decided to pick Rashad Evans with the promise of showing me how to really dominate someone on the ground. Evans’ strong wrestling was proving my opponent (and his family) right as I struggled throughout the first round to stop takedowns and avoid being mounted. The second round was a little more in my favor as I got my timing down and started landing more strikes while keeping the fight standing. With the score probably 1-1 by the second round’s end, I knew I had to finish him to ensure victory. Sadly for me an early takedown put Silva on his back and I couldn’t get up to save my life. Then he decided to advance position. With a quick flick of the right analog stick, I reversed his transition and ended up on top. Without the ability to reverse or stop my forward movement, the Rashad player couldn’t avoid some vicious punches aimed at his head and body. After what felt like an eternity, the referee waved the fight off, declaring Evans unable to continue and Anderson Silva the victor.
I couldn’t believe it as everyone except my opponent and his family popped, cheering as I did the Chuck Liddell victory pose. Collecting myself, I thanked everyone who gave me some incredible digitized fights before accepting my trophy, a Gamestop gift card (which was used to buy some “Fallout 3” DLC) and a pair of kisses from the restaurant girls (so glad I shaved that day). To this day it’s one of the proudest moments of my life when it comes to being a gamer.