The UFC took its usual promotion efforts to a new level with its 3-part PrimeTime series leading up to UFC 94: St. PIerre vs. Penn 2. Though there's not much of a difference in screen time between a one-hour All Access Show and a three-part, 90 minute, PrimeTime series - the latter takes a quantum leap in production values and media attention.
So like you, I'm scratching my head over the UFC's decision to utlize the rare PrimeTime format to build up George St. Pierre's title defense at UFC 111.
I can't find many fans, except sadists perhaps, that are looking forward to the GSP/Hardy fight. While Hardy had the best fight of his career in a dominant win over Mike Swick at UFC 105, he didn't exactly blow anyone away in his prior performances.
It's not that Dan Hardy brings nothing to the cage. He is a solid, heavy-handed striker, and is highly motivated in terms of taking his skills to the next level. Hardy is also quite simply a very game fighter - very-well composed in the cage, and unlikely to be mentally psyched out before this fight.
But let's face facts, GSP is on another planet skills-wise. He is the best wrestler in the history of the sport, a very skilled striker armed with a huge variety of attacks, and absolutely brutal once he takes the top position. He's faced and destroyed the best welterweights in the sport. And he will not make the mistake of underestimating Dan Hardy.
There is no drama in this fight. Fights become huge for two reasons - bad blood (Lesnar vs. Mir, Tito vs. Ken), and when people are dying to see what happens (GSP vs. Penn 2).
GSP vs. Hardy offers neither.
The UFC 94 PrimeTime special had a real story to sell. It was a rematch between two current champions and future Hall-of-Famers. Guys who fought to a split decision earlier in their careers, one of whom was aiming to become the first fighter to hold belts in two different weight classes at the same time. And another guy who wants revenge at the smack-talking challenger.
What will this new special show us? Two guys that work hard? A big underdog who's going to throw it all on the line? It's all forgettable cliche. The only explanation I can come up with is that it's part of a general marketing scheme for George St. Pierre.
So where should the UFC be spending it's PrimeTime dollars? Here are five ideas:
1) Brock Lesnar's Comeback Fight
Like him or not, Brock Lesnar is the biggest name in the sport and we all follow his every move. When he does make his comeback from his health complications, his reappearance in the Octagon will be a monumental event.
More importantly, Brock is just plain great on camera, even though he obviously hates it. He's irritable as all hell and great at talking smack.
Plus, no matter who Lesnar fights next, whether it's Mir, Carwin, Velasquez, or Nogueira, each one introduces a great story of their own. The guy seeking tevenge, up-and-comers, and a crafty old vet that was counted out - they all work.
2) BJ Penn's Inevitable Move to Welterweight
Joining up with the Marinovich's was the best move of BJ Penn's career. He looked like a monster in his last fight with Diego Sanchez, so much so that it's starting to look unfair for BJ to fight at 155. Seriously Dana, BJ's somebody's gonna get hurt!
In all likelihood, BJ will move up to welterweight after his bout with Frankie Edgar. The wild arc of BJ's fight career might end after one more run at the welterweight title. The story of the charasmatic Penn taking that run with his head and body finally in shape is one that really deserves the PrimeTime treatment.
3) Shogun vs. Machida 2
Need I say more? The Shogun/Machida rematch is the most highly-anticipate fight of 2010 and is tailor made for PrimeTime - even though both combatants' Engilsh isn't the best.
You have Shogun, a guy who that people were completely counting out, a guy that got a title shot only because no other name light-heavyweight had two wins in a row at the time. And you have Machida, who has looked unstoppable throughout his MMA career, and who never even lost a round in the UFC on his way to winning the title.
What happened? The underdog came out and put on the performance of his career, only to lose a very controversial decision on the judge's scorecards. Is there a better story in MMA this year?
4) Rashad vs. Rampage
Do I really need to go into the TUF drama between these two?
The UFC could zero in on the question of whether Rampage really wants to be a fighter. It's a story a lot of fans are interested in. It would also further build up Rashad as a draw, who's been on a roll with fans since TUF and that impersonation of Mike Tyson.
5) Georges St. Pierre Moving Up To Middleweight/Anderson Silva Moving up to Light Heavyweight
See #2 - I put BJ up top because he's far more charismatic and entertaining to watch.