LAS VEGAS -- Before last night's Ultimate Fighting Championship event, Canadian Georges St. Pierre entered the caged Octagon just as the undercards were set to begin.
Wearing a suit and no shoes, he walked around the cage twice, shadow boxing to himself as the crowds began settling in their seats.
Before he left the Octagon for the dressing room, he made the sign of the cross and said a small prayer.
Later in the night, before a crowd of about 10,000 at the Mandalay Bay Events Centre, his prayer was answered.
Though St. Pierre was not the feature fight -- that honour belonged to his friend and training partner David Loiseau who lost a one-sided middleweight championship bout to champ Rich Franklin -- St.Pierre's match against former world welterweight champ B.J. Penn was the most anticipated of UFC 58: Canada vs. U.S.A.
Penn, who was forced to relinquish his belt after a contract dispute with the UFC, entered the arena wearing the belt, anyways -- but walked away a loser. Both fighters exchanged punches early in the bout and St.Pierre received a cut under his right eye and struggled with his vision for the remainder of the fight.
The 24-year-old Montrealer lost the first round to Penn but overpowered the Hawaiian with his brute strength -- at one point picking him up over his shoulder and slamming him to the mat.
Boos ringed through the arena after St.Pierre was declared the winner in a split decision.
"I know this is Canada and the U.S.A. but this is about the sport we love. I won this fight, not for Canada, not U.S.A. but for me and for my fans," said St.Pierre before asking the UFC for a championship match against belt holder Matt Hughes.
Loiseau also got some boos last night but for a much different reason.
The Montrealer spent much of the early rounds running to avoid Franklin's relentless attack.
It wasn't until the third round that a bloodied Loiseau, with his eyes nearly closed from so many strikes to the head, showed any life, rocking Franklin and momentarily giving the illusion he had a chance at beating the champ.
But it was short lived as Franklin dominated all five rounds despite breaking his hand in the second frame. He won a unanimous decision.
In other fights, Winnipeg's Joe Doerksen traded blows with Nate Marquardt in a middleweight match that saw the tough Manitoban prove he has one of the toughest jaws in the business. But despite rocking Marquardt with a nasty left in the second round, the American took the fight in a unanimous decision.
Decorated mixed martial artist Mark Hominick, of Thamesford, Ont., moved up a weight class to take on lethal lightweight Yves Howard. The under-rated Hominick, who dedicated the fight to his father who is battling cancer, surprised the crowd and Vegas oddmakers by submitting Howard with a triangle choke in the second round.
Canadian kickboxing champ Sam Stout, who entered the Octagon wearing a London Knights hockey jersey, went the distance with Spencer Fisher in a fight that featured all the speed and agility expected in a lightweight match. Stout won the fight in split decision.
Sudbury's Rob MacDonald tapped out after having his arm twisted behind his back in a submission hold.
Quebec heavyweight Icho Larenas made an unimpressive UFC debut, losing to Tom Murphy.
Also, Quebec's Steve Vigneault lost in a guillotine submission to American Mike Swick in a middleweight bout.