In any high-level competition, an athlete's challenge is to manage emotions, riding the boundary between excitement and focus.
If there were prefight indications that Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre was letting his adrenalin get the better of him - he uncharacteristically responded to challenger Josh Koscheck's incessant provocation, vowing "the bully will get bullied" - they quickly dissipated when he entered the octagon.
St-Pierre said before Saturday's fight that he didn't want to deal with Koscheck ever again - St-Pierre won their first meeting in 2007 - and St-Pierre (21-2) will doubtless get his wish. A record North American mixed martial arts crowd of 23,152 at the Bell Centre saw St-Pierre dominate Koscheck through five rounds for a unanimous decision.
The packed house was treated to the full, ear-splitting UFC spectacle, and erupted when St-Pierre, 29, made his way to the ring.
Koscheck, 33, knew his role was to play the comic-book villain, and so he did, to the hilt, in the prefight hype.
Sporting a grey hoodie, an arrogant smirk and an intense glare, Koscheck played it up when boos shook the hockey-playoffs-loud Bell Centre as octagon-side screens showed him entering the building for his championship bout against heavily favoured native son St-Pierre, of Saint-Isidore, Que.
The champion drew a rapturous reaction from the fans when he was shown suited, booted and smiling confidently on the big screen.
In the first round, St-Pierre recorded the initial takedown and caught the challenger with a solid left hand that left Koscheck's right eye bleeding and badly swollen. St-Pierre won each of the five rounds.
St-Pierre has now defended his UFC welterweight title five times and won his last eight fights. He is close to cleaning out the 170-pound division, leaving a line of top contenders in his wake.
"He picked Josh Koscheck apart," said UFC president Dana White, who'd said before the bout that St-Pierre is the most famous Canadian athlete ever, including Wayne Gretzky. "I thought he fought a beautiful fight against a guy who I have a lot of respect for."
Despite the clear animosity between the fighters, they embraced for several moments after it was all over.
"I didn't reach my goal tonight, my goal was to take him out, but I didn't do it, sorry everyone," said St-Pierre, who commended Koscheck for facing him on his home turf.
Koscheck said "Georges St-Pierre is a true champion," and thanked the fans in French, winning over some of his critics.
In the co-main event, U.S. heavyweight Sean McCorkle, an accomplished trash talker who goes by the ring handle Big Sexy, was made to eat his words. Despite nearly getting 6-foot-11 giant Stefan Struve to submit early, the Dutchman turned the tables, and once he was on top of his 6-foot-7 opponent, bludgeoned him with a flurry of punches and elbows. Struve was declared winner by technical knockout in the later stages of the first round; it was McCorkle's first loss against 10 wins.
On the undercard, Toronto fighter Sean Pierson, a 34-year-old UFC rookie, made the most of his first appearance on MMA's brightest stage, winning a bloody decision over the previously undefeated American Matthew Riddle
Joe Doerksen of New Bothwell, Man., wasn't as fortunate, coming up on the losing end of a split decision against New Jersey native Dan Miller.
Among the other Canadians on the card: lightweight Mark Bocek of Toronto beat Dustin Hazlett by submission in the first round (Hazlett had won four fights in a row); Nova Scotia welterweight T.J. Grant lost a lopsided decision to Ricardo Almeida; Quebec-born kick boxer John Makdessi won a unanimous decision over American Pat Audinwood.
Jesse Bongfeldt of Kenora, Ont., the only other Canadian in competition, fought to a draw with Rafael Natal, a rare enough result for MMA to make it noteworthy.
With a report from The Canadian Press