The concept of Mana is one that is difficult to truly encapsulate in words. Often intangible, but always felt, there is little justice in describing it as purely physical, emotional or spiritual terms. The electricity and heady sensation of it, however, is not one easily missed when experienced and, on June the 11th, there was a true sense of mana at the Spark Arena.
Following Kiwi Welterweight Luke Jumeau’s unanimous decision win against the always dangerous American Dominique Steele in the Prelims, the crowd rallied in support behind the kiwi fighter and the Arena became visibly, and very audibly, animated in anticipation for the Main Card. However, before the start of the main Card, the crowd were treated to an electric knockout in the final fight of the prelim, courtesy of Vinc “From Hell” Pichel. Pichel caught Damien Brown with a stunningly accurate counter punch as Brown tried to rush forward with a flurry. Vinc has a core of stalwart supporters here in New Zealand, who saw the TKO as a strong omen for the remainder of the kiwi fighters on the main card.
After a decision and two adrenaline inducing finishes (a submission and performance of the night by top Flyweight Ben Nguyen and TKO by the imposing Ion Cutelaba) the anticipation was overflowing as the Crowd awaited the coming of Dan Hooker and Mark Hunt.
Dan Hooker’s walk out to the octagon was met with deafening cheers. Known for his clinical striking and calm demeanor, he is undoubtedly a crowd favorite in his home town. His opponent, the veteran Ross Pearson, is never to be underestimated. Much of the conversation around this fight favored Hooker, however the same talk was punctuated with acknowledgement and respect for “The Real Deal” Pearson.
It was a single, devastating knee that ignited the crowd. “Hangman” Hooker had established his range well in the first round and bided his time through the starting minutes of the second before catching Pearson flush on the chin with a knee that all but took the British fighter’s soul to the shadow realm. The din in the arena was rapturous; fans roared, stomped their feet and shredded their vocal chords through the decision, post fight speeches and well into the next fight which was all but overshadowed by Hooker’s outstanding performance.
As fights go Hunt versus Lewis was slightly more demure. Hunt, whose devastating power even threatens to concuss small planets, stalked a heavy footed and cautious Lewis for four rounds before finishing Lewis by TKO.
In all, the audience did not leave disappointed. The Kiwi crowd, in majority, showed their appreciation and educated view of the fights with respect for every fighter, even the New Zealand fighters’ opponents. The card was stacked with talent, however some bemoaned the absence of other well-known kiwi fighters who would have loved the opportunity to fight, even on short notice, and perform in front of a home crowd.
The Mana of the event was undeniably felt throughout the entire arena. It’s a rare event that brings an entire audience together to revel in the collectively electric atmosphere that often fight sports can only deliver. It’s clear that an event like this continues to create momentum in the ever-growing world of Mixed Martial Arts and, even more importantly, in legitimizing Mixed Martial Arts in the mind of New Zealanders and of New Zealand in the mind of the international fighting community.