Aug 05, 2013
By Ben Fowlkes
From : MMAjunkie.com
I’m sitting here at my desk on Monday morning with two tabs open on my Internet browser. One shows the fight card for the UFC on FOX 8 event, which was free on network TV here in the States. The other shows the card for UFC 163 this past Saturday night, which was available in standard definition for $45, and HD for $55.
The reason I’ve been staring at these two tabs for the past 10 minutes is because I’m trying to figure out the difference in quality that accounts for the radical difference in price. I’m trying, and honestly, I’m not coming up with much.
That’s not just the hindsight talking, either. Say you don’t know anything about how either of those events turned out. Say you’re just looking at them on paper, trying to decide which fights are worth watching and which might even be worth paying for. In both cases, you’ve got main-event title fights in two of the UFC’s lighter weight classes, both featuring heavily favored champions. In both cases you’ve also got top-contender fights in higher weight classes serving as co-main events. The rest of the respective main cards are fleshed out by reasonably compelling fights of varying importance, with no major differences in quality between them.
So tell me again, why was one free while the other would have nearly doubled the average cable bill? True, one required me to sit through the endless commercial breaks that come with network TV, but the fact that I’m now aware that “Amish Mafia” is a real show (and not a punchline on “30 Rock,” like it sounds) proves that I was not entirely shielded from advertisements during Saturday night’s pay-per-view.
I also got the chance to watch just about every prelim for a second time as the pay-per-view broadcast dragged on, though I’m not sure that’s a bonus – especially for fans on the East Coast, who found themselves sitting in front of the TV at 11:30 p.m., still waiting for the co-main to start.
Point is, there seems to be very little difference in quality – either on paper or in reality – between UFC on FOX 8 and UFC 163. Both were decent. Neither is up for “Event of the Year.” Only one of them had Robbie Lawler, and that was the one I wasn’t asked to pay for. Somehow one was just TV and the other was priced as premium entertainment.
What does that mean? Is it a sign that the UFC has beefed up the lineups for the FOX shows, like we’ve been waiting for? Or does it tell us that some events cost fans serious money for no other reason than the fact that the UFC says they do?
I’m not sure, but one thing I do know is that UFC President Dana White wasn’t in Rio de Janeiro for UFC 163. That’s why we saw UFC matchmaker Joe Silva putting the belt on featherweight champ Jose Aldo after his win. I know White had a lot going on, what with the UFC’s “World Tour” and all, but you’re telling me that if Anderson Silva had been fighting in Rio on Saturday night, he wouldn’t have found a way to make the trip?
Little things like that tell us how important an event really is – and isn’t. And empty seats in the upper deck – even in Rio, even with the last remaining Brazilian (non-interim) UFC champion headlining – tell us that even the most dedicated MMA markets have their limits.
Some other notes and observations from UFC 163 …
Aldo and the Zombie demonstrate an important distinction in MMA’s toughness quotient
Jose Aldo (23-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) broke his foot on Chan Sung Jung’s (13-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) leg, and “The Korean Zombie” dislocated his shoulder on Aldo’s head. The fact that neither missed a beat, with Jung even attempting to pop his own shoulder back into place in the middle of a round (!!!), tells us a little something about what it takes to be a pro fighter.
One of the things that’s unique about this sport is the vast imbalance between time spent preparing and time spent competing. Few other sports require six weeks or more of practices all for less than a half-hour of action. And once the action starts, you don’t get timeouts or a halftime break to figure out what’s happening and how you should respond. Even in a five-round fight you get, what, a maximum of four round breaks, each no more than 60 seconds? That’s nothing. There’s no going to the locker room to take a closer look at your wounds, no meetings with the team trainer. There’s no team, which means no replacements, which means if you can’t keep going – and go right this very instant – it’s over. All that training for nothing.
That’s part of what makes the fight, as Greg Jackson likes to say, “a special time.” It’s the time where the only thing your broken hand means is that you’d better start using your elbow. It’s also a time where, should your shoulder happen to pop out of the socket, you’d better see if you can’t pop that sucker right back in, and quick, before your opponent – who is himself trying to conceal the fact that his foot is broken – sees that you’re hurt.
Think about that the next time you see some football player being praised for his toughness after coming back into the game to compete on an injured knee. The difference between that guy and an MMA fighter? He got a few minutes to think about it first, plus some Gatorade to swig while the doctors decided how best to put him back together again. The fighter’s happy if he can make it to the end of the round, where he’ll be rewarded with a smear of Vaseline on his face and a trainer who’s too busy telling him what to do next to listen to him complain about what just happened.
At least on paper, Davis is riding a hot streak
Don’t look now, but Phil Davis (12-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) has won three in a row, with the only loss of his career coming against perennial top contender Rashad Evans. Not bad, so why aren’t fans more excited about Mr. Wonderful? If you saw his past two fights, you know why. Against Vinny Magalhaes (10-7 MMA, 1-4 UFC), Davis cruised to an easy, though not exactly thrilling decision. Against Lyoto Machida (19-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC) he received what looked like an unexpected gift from the judges.
Still, you can’t say Davis looked bad against Machida, who’s still one of the toughest fighters to figure out in the 205-pound class. Davis outworked him (even if, as I’ve already covered here, he wasn’t nearly as efficient as Machida), and the judges rewarded him for it. Too bad the UFC and MMA fans in general seem nowhere near as eager to do the same.
Put yourself in Davis’ shoes for a second. You’ve only lost once as a pro, and it was to the guy who then gave Jon Jones his toughest test as champion. The guy you submitted in your second UFC fight? Yeah, he’s fighting for the title next. And immediately after your latest win over the man who’s been hovering right around the no. 1 contender spot for months, UFC execs are talking about how this Glover Teixeira dude is probably next in line for a title shot.
I’m not saying I don’t understand how we got here, but I wouldn’t blame Davis for being a little annoyed all the same.
For both Lineker and Ferreira, a night of qualified successes
In the “Nice Job, However …” department, consider the wins by (supposed) flyweight John Lineker and “TUF: Brazil” winner Cezar Ferreira. Lineker (22-6 MMA, 3-1 UFC) survived an early scare at the hands of Jose Maria (33-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC), and came back to win via TKO after Maria seemed to collapse all on his own from an injured knee. Not bad, except that Lineker missed weight badly, coming in at 129 pounds for a 125-pound fight. It’s not the first time for Lineker, either, and you know that sort of thing is, shall we say, frowned upon by the UFC.
No such trouble for Ferreira (6-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC). He made weight, then absolutely demolished late replacement Thiago “Marreta” Santos (8-2) in the first round. Impressive, at least until you take a closer look at Santos’ record and see that, of the eight men he’s defeated as a pro, only one – Mauricio Cheuke (4-3) – has a winning record. In other words, if you thought Ferreira looked like he was in a totally different class than Santos, it’s probably because he is. Not that that’s Ferreira’s fault. He fought who the UFC gave him, and looked good doing it. Now let’s see him against someone who is UFC caliber, maybe even somewhere other than Brazil.
Stann shines in broadcast role
I can’t be the only one who, while listening to Brian Stann’s work as a color commentator this weekend, was reminded of the cautionary tale of Wally Pip. For those who don’t know, Pip played first base for the New York Yankees way back before batting helmets were a thing, until he showed up at the ballpark one day not quite ready to work. The coach gave him the day off, and the Yankees tried out a kid named Lou Gehrig at first. Then they kept trying Gehrig for the next 2,129 games. Moral of the story? Give up your spot, and you might not get it back.
I’m not saying Stann will replace Joe Rogan on all future broadcasts. The UFC has too many events in too many far-flung locations for one color commentator to work them all, and anyway Stann recently signed on to call ACC football games this fall on FOX Sports South, which will put him out of commission for quite a few Saturdays. What I am saying is that if the UFC producers didn’t know what they had in Stann before UFC 163, they know now. He’s calm, competent, and professional on the mic, almost like he’s been doing it for decades. He can explain the finer technical points without alienating the uninitiated, and even the snarkiest of know-it-all fight fans can’t question his knowledge without feeling like a jerk.
Let’s hope Stann finds his way back on the mic for the UFC often. Anyone who can stand in front of the cage before the pay-per-view starts and sell us on it without screaming is fine by me.
For complete coverage of UFC 163, stay tuned to the UFC Events section of the site.