"This is the moment UFC fans around the world have been waiting for" - Bruce Buffer.
Bruce Buffer summed up the very thoughts that MMA fans have been feeling since the UFC announced the deal with Fox. It was OUR night. This is OUR sport. And WE finally have hit the big time. The night was the UFC's coming out party to a much larger audience and FOX put forward all the bells and whistles to make sure that it looks like a legitimate sport with their production. The fight unfortunately didn't live up to the expectations with Junior Dos Santos finishing Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds to capture the UFC heavyweight belt.
Due to contract restrictions the UFC was unable to air the undercard on FX or Fuel, instead having to put four fights on Fox Deportes. It is a shame since these four fights were extremely entertaining and displayed everything that we love about MMA.
- There will be two viewpoints on the Fox broadcast. The first is that the only purpose was to build a star. If that is the case then it worked out well since Junior can be sold as the heavy handed champion who has soul-sucking power. The other is that the only reason for the broadcast was to build up an audience. In order to do so many pundits predicted the fight would have to go at least two rounds. It's a point of view supported by the fact that plans were for the first two rounds to air commercial free. If this is the case then the fight would be viewed as an absolute failure. My personal opinion? I'm not sure that either is entirely wrong. The broadcast definitely helped with establishing Junior as a monster. Unfortunately, ending a fight in a minute definitely hurts some of the audience building hopes.
- As far as the production, I loved what Fox brought to the table. Judging by twitter I'm alone in this opinion as most MMA media types were pretty outspoken about it having a cookie cutter feel. There's a reason for that since that is what non fans expect from sports. They don't want Gladiator intros. They don't want Dana White and Joe Rogan yelling at each other. They want suits and professional feel. That's what Fox delivered.
- Hindsight being 20-20 the UFC would have been better served airing Ben Henderson vs Clay Guida on the broadcast. The fight was a FOTY candidate and would have been perfect to introduce fans to the sport. I get the reasoning for not airing the fight as you need to put the best product forward and there's no better product on paper than a heavyweight championship.
- Junior's post-fight speech is exactly why I love MMA so much. The ability to interview a fighter right after such a big moment allows for raw emotions. That was as genuine a reaction as you'll ever get in life. The tears in his eyes were those of joy and this fight means as much for him as it does for Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and the rest of his team.
Listen, I'm no strategist and I'm nobody's coach but I don't understand why they didn't go for the shot early. They should have shot in on Junior Dos Santos knowing that he has the power early in the fight and tries to knock you out. But the truth is that Junior Dos Santos gets tired at the end of fights, you know? Here he is standing right in front of him trying to trade and bang with Junior Dos Santos and gets hit with that big right hand right behind the ear and down he goes. Down goes his heavyweight championship. I'll say it again, not saying that I'm some strategy coach but I don't know why they wouldn't take the shot on him and wrestle early.It's one thing to feel a fight out but when you're standing right in front of a guy that you know his biggest weapons are his hands and he can knock you out and this thing is a five round fight. Get in there and start working him. Stay busy and put him against the fence. Rough him up and tire him out a little bit and bring it into the later rounds where Junior Dos Santos is well known for getting tired.
I can't agree with the President's opinions on the champion or his decision to bury his new crowned champion. It's bad for business and a bad decision to say these things in front of a new audience. The time would have been better served building Junior Dos Santos up as a force in the decision. I'm sure that Dana will look back and see this as well.
Additional thoughts after the jump...
The Facebook/FoxSports.com prelims were pretty good. While there weren't any finishes besides the weird ending to Robert Peralta and Mackens Semerzier's fight, they turned out to be decent scraps. The UFC has been trying to build up Alex Caceres since he made his debut on the Ultimate Fighter and tonight definitely established him. It was the absolute best that Bruce Leeroy has ever looked. On the flipside, the highly touted signing of Norifumi Yamamoto should be considered a bust at this point. He's now 0-2 in the UFC and just hasn't been able to find the exciting style that made him a star in Japan. His loss is Darren Uyenoyama's gain as he now has a big win over an established name. Nice to see new blood in the bantamweight division.
The final four fights continued on Facebook or fans were able to switch on their televisions and watch them live on Fox Deportes. The Spanish announce team is extremely excited during fights which makes for a great experience. With two submissions, a knockout, and a fight of the night in the final four prelims, they definitely set the tone for the main event. Dustin Poirier may be a win or two away from a featherweight title shot and Ben Henderson was awarded a shot at Frankie Edgar's title.
Overall, this was a solid night of fights. It may be the emotions from finally being able to say that MMA has made it but there's no disappointment in the evening. Fox did a great job at promoting the product in the lead up and the presentation tonight was fantastic. It was a night and day difference than Strikeforce and EliteXC's attempts at network broadcasts and hopefully things improve in the future.