Okay, let me be clear about which part of the night I feel failed to meet expectations. It was the most important segment of the event, the three final fights, which aired on FOX as the “tripleheader”. Fortunately, the seven odd preliminary bouts on Fuel TV delivered for the most part, saving the entire night from mediocrity.
In an effort to put my criticism into perspective, last night officially marked the UFC’s inagural showcase on FOX for millions of viewer—loyal fans and those looking to be converted—and the fights underwhelmed in many ways. All three matches were concluded by decisions, largely due to the fact that nearly all the participants fought too cautiously and/or sloppy to make the affairs exciting.
It was as if the fighters had too much on the line or not enough time to properly prepare. Chris Weidman took the fight with Demian Maia, by far the most important of his career on the biggest stage, on 11 days notice. I’m not sure what Maia’s excuse was though. After the first round, both men were running—or hobbling—on mere fumes and laboring their punches almost on an amateur level.
Following that bump in the road, Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping, arguably the most intriguing and hyped fight on the entire card, ended in a controversial decision victory for Sonnen, a 5-1 favorite, who looked out of sorts from start to finish. A convincing argument can be made that Bisping’s takedown defense and striking won him the first two rounds.
Similar to all UFC events though, there was that infamous “WTF” moment after hearing Bruce Buffer read the scorecards, from one judge in particular who gave Sonnen all three rounds (Since when does hair buoyancy get you points? That would have been the only mathematical way he won all three rounds).
Not only did Sonnen vs. Bisping have title implications, but so did the main event between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, the winner getting a shot at Jon Jones’ gold strap. Quickly speaking of Jones, his commentary for FOX was beyond awkward. He was clearly wearing his nerves on his sleeves, stammering over his points and creating dead air. It was Brock Lesnar at the first Fox event all over again; leave the oratory skills to the retired fighters.
Anyways, instead of 15 uneventful minutes of battle, fans were treated to a main event filled with 25 uneventful minutes. Davis seemed overwhelmed by Rashad’s ability to change levels and land strikes first with his superior hand speed. To make matters worse, Davis looked like he was fighting on ice skates, slipping and sliding on the mat at every turn. The young prospect never really looked comfortable enough to make the most of his opportunity to fight an experienced and elite guy like Rashad.
As Davis’ chances of finishing the fight dwindled with every passing second, Rashad threw his opportunities out the window as well by failing to capitalize on a lesser opponent. There were plenty of chances for Rashad to be more aggressive had he not been thinking about Jones the entire fight. This lackluster main event closed out the evening how it started: boring (yes I said it).
As a result, I fear the product missed the mark of displaying what makes the sport of mixed martial arts intoxicating. If one of the essential goals of being on primetime television is to convince an untapped slice of the sporting fan market why they should watch MMA or the UFC, UFC on FOX 2 produced dull results.
To truly appreciate the intrinsic value of the sport, you can’t expect a thrilling knockout or limb shattering submission every time the bell rings. But, there is a certain level of entertainment and unpredictability that is required to sell the sport’s legitimacy and longevity to casual fans. The FOX partnership is a perfect tool for the UFC execute those strategies; they should couldn’t get it done last night.
I’m a forgiving MMA loyalist and I thought the card was barely sub par. I can’t imagine what the naysayers or more importantly the fringe fans had to say about the night.
To be somewhat fair, there were obstacles out of the gate for the UFC to overcome.
From the beginning of the match making process, these top three billings started off in a bad way. Originally, Mark Munoz was slated to face Sonnen and Bisping was put up against Maia. But after Munoz pulled out due to injury, the lineup was shuffled around. Bisping and Sonnen both had little time to prepare for their new, drastically different, opponents and stand in up-and-comer Weidman got threw on the card to face Maia 11 days before the big event.
Whatever the reasons—preventable or not—the show did not produce the results I’m sure the UFC was hoping for. Luckily, they have plenty of chances to get it right. On the brighter side of things, the host city showed its appreciation by packing pre-fight events and proving to the organization that it is a great sporting town with unique venues for future shows.
Despite poor fight results, it’s fair to say UFC on FOX 2 was a local success.
Huge success or not, nationally, as a Chicago local I was thrilled to have the UFC return after a long three year absence (though also irate that Dana White opted to open up more tickets for sale rather than continue his tradition of tweeting complimentary ones to the public).
Hopefully, the third largest market in the country doesn’t have to wait another three years for the UFC to bring the octagon back to the Windy City.