UFC 118 After Thoughts...Busy Boston Brews Battles

Here's hoping that everyone is having a great weekend as it is another hot and beautiful day in Norman, Oklahoma. We're 6 days away from kickoff with the Sooners opening the season at home against Utah State at the stadium which is 3 miles from our home.    

Yours truly watched the UFC 118 fights on Spike and then the PPV all emanating from Boston and here are some random thoughts:

Overall I would give the PPV an average grade. While most of the fights looked good on paper, the execution of some of the bouts was lacking.

Hometown boy Joe Lauzon had one of the best performances of the night in his one round destruction on free TV, Spike, which one could surmise helped garner a few PPV buys as Lauzon turned it on for his fellow locals and that emotion carried over right into my living room. If a fan was sitting on the PPV fence, seeing an exciting pre-PPV fight for free is a great marketing tool. UFC should always book one, great overachieving bout on Spike when Spike airs the prelims for free. 

On Friday I blogged that Randy Couture would finish James Toney in one round or less and that's what happened. I'm no MMA savant but it was easy to see that Toney was going to be in way over his head inside the Octagon and that once the former boxing great was taken down the meter would begin running. 

Many boxing fans took exception to my comments regarding that a skilled boxer would likely never defeat a skilled MMA fighter in a MMA bout simply because most boxers have no ground skills. It's no knock on the 'sweet science' but simply a statement of fact. Muhammad Ali told me the same thing years ago and I would consider him somewhat of an expert on all things boxing.

Couture vs. Toney was an attraction bout. In the world of pro wrestling, it would have been akin to the attraction bouts from back in the day when Andre the Giant performed against multiple opponents simultaneously and the question wasn't IF Andre was winning but how long it would take for the Giant to be declared victorious. 

Nate Diaz is an interesting enigma. It feels that Nate's about to implode from time to time however with all his perceived flaws therein lies a potentially, outstanding MMA fighter. He's long and athletic with a defiant, beat-me-if-you-can attitude. Nate will keep UFC honchos on their toes throughout his 'run' but he also should earn the company some significant cash during his career.

Thought it was interesting that UFC TV people did not exploit Diaz' opponent's eye that was grotesque to say the least. Joe Rogan adequately described what many of us could see with fleeting looks but I'm still surprised that cameras did not pick up a shot of the casualty of combat considering the event was on PPV. 

The crowd was mic'ed well. Lively sellout at the TD Garden Arena, a facility that I have broadcast from many times. Ironically, WWE is there Monday night for their 900th broadcast of Raw. 

I perceive that Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan are stars ala like back in the NFL days of Summerall and Madden and that their load should be lessened when it comes to reading the seemingly endless volume of copy that comes across their announce table. It would be very easy for UFC to retain the services of a 'big voice guy or gal' who does commercial reads for a living to read many of the promotional considerations, sponsor billboards, etc with which Goldberg gets saddled. Considering UFC essentially features only two, primary voices on a PPV, deviating from Goldberg and Rogan from time to time keeps them more special. After hearing Joe and Mike for the Spike show and then a three hour pay per view it's like how much BBQ can Ol J.R. consume?  

I'm always curious as to what some first time attendees think of ring announcer Bruce Buffer's pre game warm up at ringside. My wife still talks about Buffer's warm up ritual as being one of the more entertaining aspects of her live event experience.  For the record, I  wholeheartedly encourage all MMA fans to experience UFC live at some point.

As a fan, I'm still much more interested in hearing what English speaking corner men are saying to their fighters between rounds than to look at obligatory replays. 'Nat Sounds' are money and allow those of us that are paying retail PPV prices to get more of the live fight feel. It also provides the announcers a chance to lay out and then to comment on what they have heard from a strategic standpoint.

Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar certainly validated his 'dance card' Saturday night with his second consecutive victory over the much ballyhooed BJ Penn. First of all, Edgar is really good. Really good. The Jersey native is five rounds of perpetual motion with a solid wrestling skill set, mental and physical toughness, and youth on his side. Edgar won decisively and easier than many wanted to admit. 

One of the biggest positives to come out of UFC 118 is that UFC has another marketable main event upcoming now with Edgar defending his title against the imposing challenge of Gray Maynard, the only man to ever beat Edgar in MMA. These are the types of match ups that a guy like me would love to produce because of the contract in styles and personalities of the combatants. Remember, anticipation builds interest and interest builds the bottom line.  

Not sure what's up with BJ Penn, one of my favorite MMA fighters over the years, but either his heart simply isn't in it any longer or Edgar is MUCH better than even the experts perceive. Penn needs to decide what he truly wans to do with his career and who to be inside the octagon. The strategy that BJ employed Saturday night in Boston was a head scratcher. Why the lack of kicks and take down attempts? BJ also seemed more reactive than proactive.

I was expecting more out of Kenny Florian and Gray Maynard but their fight just never clicked. I even thought that they might have the fight of the night especially considering the stakes, a Lightweight Title fight going to the winner, and that Florian was essentially fighting 'at home.' Styles make fights, or so it is said, and this one simply did not deliver.

However, UFC took another positive, marketing and brand building step in a key, Northeast market and will obviously return to Boston at some point in the future. One can assume that many UFC honchos would have preferred to have had a better night of fights in Bean Town. However, once the athletes enter the Octagon how well they engage and entertain the fans lies within their hands and feet and not of the promotion.

I've been a part of many events that looked great on paper but because of poor execution by the talents on a given might we simply did not deliver the desired product to the consumer. Nonetheless for my money UFC PPV's are still one of the best values available on TV. Although Mir-Cro Cop hasn't captured my imagination as of yet, I'll likely watch their fight from Indianapolis unless OU football intervenes.

A man has to have his priorities, right?

Thanks for stopping by and if the mood strikes we will accept your on line orders and ship them out on Monday.

Boomer Sooner!

J.R.

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Comments

 I really enjoy hearing your take on the UFC events, JR; I particularly like hearing about the promotion side of things, since I know much less about that than about the martial arts side. I agree wholeheartedly on getting a dedicated "promo" voice aside from Goldy would be a nice change of pace. Hopefully it could also cut down on the time he spends with  promoting/advertising blurbs while fights have already started (though he's been getting better at that).

Nate Diaz at 170 is going to be interesting, especially because the UFC has yet to commit to signing his older, more talented brother Nick...especially because Nick usually fights at 170 too. With Paul Daley having imploded half a year ago, there are very, very few good strikers in the welterweight division to give either Diaz a test regarding their unorthodox boxing style.

Speaking of Nick Diaz, Strikeforce made a characteristically huge error in signing him to fight KJ Noons (a rematch that was interesting 2 years ago) rather than against Mayhem Miller. The two have been feuding and essentially doing pro-bono promotional work for months, since the brawl after Jake Shields' last fight.

I guess my point is this: Why has no one in MMA hired you as a consultant yet? Strikeforce could definitely use the help.

Always interesting to read your thoughtful comments, JR.

In terms of the Toney/Couture bout, I felt that it had the best outcome it could have given how horribly under-conditioned Toney seemed to be.  It would be tragic on many levels for UFC to build their brand for years and then be saddled with a scandal because they booked an "attraction bout" with someone who was dumb enough to not take it seriously enough to get into fighting shape.

Boxing has proven for years that they have no brains in this regard.  UFC - which has had to climb out of a pretty swampy past - ought to be smarter.

Whey they saw how ridiculously unconditioned Toney was for that fight, they should have cancelled the dang thing, broadcast one or two of the fights that they had not planned to televise.

Chances Oklahoma doesn't choke against Texas this season?