Ultimate Fighting. It's not intense -- it's fucking intense. Boxing looks quite civil compared to this stuff. Imagine: one fighter using tae kwon do and kickboxing against another using Thai boxing and grappling moves, both locked inside a cage. Sound messy? Brutal? It is. But people love it, and they'll be converging at the Engine Room for this weekend's Club Combat Mixed Martial Arts Cage Fight Night. A frenzied party atmosphere will surround the ten mixed martial arts cage matches, featuring go-go dancers during the matches, drum 'n' bass between fights, and live metal bands (Four, Incisor, Slow Roosevelt) afterward. "It's nightclub meets Fight Club," says brawler Jeff Messina.
These events, especially the Ultimate Fighting Championships, are popular in Las Vegas and on pay-per-view, but we normally don't get to see them live here. "This is the first event of its kind in Houston," says coach Saul Soliz. Even in Vegas and elsewhere, it's rare that the fights are made into such big spectacles. "They're usually formal, like a boxing match," says Soliz, "but we wanted to bring a couple different formats together."
"This is the sport of the future," says Messina, who specializes in both Brazilian fighting styles and jujitsu. "There's a lot more excitement and a lot more tools you can use. A boxer can't fight with his combo if he's laying on his back. We can fight from any angle, so there's more variety."
"Even if you're not familiar with our sport," Soliz points out, "everyone has seen some form of martial arts, whether it be in The Matrix, on TV or in demonstrations." Adds Messina: "And there's a lot more personality...The fighters are wild people." 7 p.m. Saturday, February 28. 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846, www.engineroomhouston.net. $15 in advance; $20 at the door. -- Eric A.T. Dieckman
We don't know about you, but nothing gets our mouths watering like the smell of connective tissue smoking over hardwood. For the 31st year in a row, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo World Championship Bar-B-Que Contest will be dishing up plenty of muscle for local meat eaters. More than 300 teams will be competing for the title of Grand Champion. Each ticket gets you a chopped beef sandwich plate -- not guaranteed to be cooked by the champ, but still delicious. 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday, February 26; noon to 11 p.m. Friday, February 27; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 28. Reliant Park parking lot, 610 Loop and Kirby. For information, call 832-667-1000 or visit www.rodeohouston.com. $6; $3 for kids under six. -- Lisa Simon
And the Beer Goes to...
Some people attend elegant Academy Awards parties, drinking champagne and eating strawberries and fancy cheese. Others are pathetic and stay home watching the Oscars on dinky out-of-focus TVs while drinking $7 bottles of Freixenet. What you really want -- don't lie to us -- is Academy Awards Night at the Alamo Drafthouse, where you can get service at your seat and a bigger screen to watch the stars on. They're movie stars, and they're winning awards for being in movies, so what better place to watch the awards than in a real theater? Especially one that serves beer. Best of all, the event benefits the Linda K. Manning chapter of the Ovarian Cancer Coalition. So while you drink your beer, you can save some lives. Organizers are also promising a surprise celebrity guest. Our bets are on Debra Duncan. 6 p.m. Sunday, February 29. 1000 West Oaks Mall. For information, call 281-556-5621 or visit www.drafthouse.com. Free. -- Wendy Grossman
Digital photography pioneers pit the natural world against the synthetic one
Back when personal computers were the size of Hyundais and you were still using film in your camera, artists Ed Hill and Suzanne Bloom were incorporating digital imaging into their photographic work. Collectively known as MANUAL (a play on words combining the ideas that art is both laborious and instructional), the internationally recognized husband-and-wife team has been using mixed media to explore the complicated relationship between nature and the man-made world for nearly 30 years. The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has brought together the couple's first retrospective, exhibiting more than 100 works in media ranging from traditional and digital photography to video, CD-ROM and digital animation. "MANUAL: Two Worlds" opens Sunday, February 29, and runs through May 23. 5601 Main. For information, call 713-639-7300 or visit www.mfah.org. $3.50 to $7. -- Sarah Heenan
Strumming and Stirring
Singer-songwriter Michael Fracasso is a master of the lightly strummed folk ballad, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know how to cook. He actually makes a mean meat ragu, and this Sunday he's holding a cooking class at Central Market to prove it. Fracasso and bassist George Reiff will prepare a full menu of Italian delights, including wilted endive- and ricotta-filled pastry, and then they'll sing for your supper. Fracasso will also celebrate the release of his new CD, A Pocketful of Rain, with a performance on Saturday night at Anderson Fair. It should be a light and tasty weekend. Performance: 9 p.m. Saturday, February 28, 2007 Grant, 713-528-8576, $10. Cooking class and performance: 3 p.m. Sunday, February 29, 3815 Westheimer, 713-386-1700, $50. -- Keith Plocek