Growing up in a rural area in Kentucky, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of new products as a child. However, I’ll never forget falling in love with the sport of mixed martial arts.
At 9 years old, my cousin and I had our grandmother rent what we believed was a pro wrestling video tape from the local rental store. What we laid witness to was insane, and probably too graphic for 9 year olds, especially at the time. UFC 5 was the tape, featuring now-legends such as Dan Severn, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie. However, the reason I remember the tape, was the dirty, underhanded tactics of a fighter named “Big” John Hess. The event was a spectacle, and now, 16 years after I watched that tape, the UFC is a full fledged SPORT. Saturday night, the UFC made its debut on network television, on FOX, in the prime time slot.
While only one fight aired on the main card, it was of heavy magnitude, in which I mean literally. The UFC Heavyweight title was on the line as defending, and undefeated champion Cain Velasquez took on number one contender Junior Dos Santos. Velasquez went in to this bout with a world-class wrestling advantage, against JDS’ world-class standup and experience advantage, in a much hyped bout that got coverage during the NFL season and MLB playoffs.
The fight, as important as it was, ended as quickly as it started. A minute into the first round, Dos Santos countered a Velasquez punch with a perfectly placed overhand right that grounded the champion. Dos Santos followed Velasquez to the ground, and a few short seconds later was the new UFC Heavyweight Champion, the first Brazilian to hold the title (Nogueira was Interim champion) in company history.
While this fight was satisfying for hardcore fans of the sport who are used to these types of outcomes, the bar-going crowd, the casual fans, were likely not impressed. I received comments from the typical trolls with the “UFC SUX DOOD”, and etc. The beauty of MMA is the unpredictability. In boxing, you know the two fighters are swinging at each other, in amateur wrestling, the style is understood. With MMA, you don’t know what type of finish you’ll encounter, or when.
With that being said, it was announced beforehand that the Heavyweight title fight would be the only bout appearing on the network television debut, with the remainder of the show being designated to educate the fans. In my opinion, the best way to educate the fans is to let them watch more great fights.
The rest of the card wasn’t highly hyped, with the exception of the number one contenders bout for the Lightweight title, pitting former WEC Champion Benson Henderson against former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Clay “The Carpenter” Guida.
In a fight that SHOULD have been on the FOX telecast, these two showed samples of almost everything that MMA has to offer- boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, jiu jitsu, clinch work, creative offense, and an intense pace. Henderson won 30-27 on my scorecards, by controlling the stand up, avoiding the takedown, and effectively controlling Guida. The few times Guida was able to drag Henderson to the ground, Henderson answered well with transitions.
Guida was able to lock in a guillotine choke on Henderson, and threatened to finish, but Henderson was able to persevere, and continue. Henderson improved his UFC record to 3-0, and has won 13 of his last 14. He will now be scheduled to face one of the greatest lightweight champions in company history in Frank Edgar at UFC Japan, which has the makings of one of the most exciting main events of all time.
All in all, we won’t know how well the move to Fox benefitted the UFC until the ratings and future PPV buys come in. There’s absolutely NO negative to the situation, as you won’t lose hardcore fans with a first round KO in a free title fight. The people who think the show was garbage MAY never watch again, but any fans you gained are in addition to what you already had.
The UFC came out looking even better in the aftermath of the Pacquiao-Marquez robbery. Who was the true winner? Likely the WWE, as they have complete control over the conclusion of their bouts. Go figure, folks.
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