UFC champion Cain Velasquez emerged from the depths of the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on Saturday night to a loud, pro-Velasquez crowd screaming at the top of their lungs with support for the Mexican-American fighter. The environment was undeniably new to the champion considering the magnified importance of the event he was headlining. Velasquez, alongside Junior dos Santos, was the focal point of the UFC's introduction to the even larger casual sports' fanbase, and in a sixty-four second flash -- Velasquez's reign came crumbling to an end.
That's all it took for Brazilian heavyweight striker Junior dos Santos to connect with a stunning right hand to the back of the ear of the champion. The shock of the punch disrupted the Velasquez's equilibrium, causing him to stumble around on the canvas as Dos Santos' assessed the situation and found the quickest route to his chin again. Dos Santos delivered, finishing Velasquez quickly and efficiently to become the new UFC heavyweight champion.
As expected, MMA's fickle fanbase couldn't decide whether this was a monumental success or a horrible turn of events. UFC President Dana White seemed to be frustrated the fight only lasted sixty-four seconds despite his speeches throughout the promotion of the event that it may only last thirty seconds. Many fans felt that the brief introduction wasn't enough to grab the attention of casual sports' fans tuning in for the first time. Historically, however, the ranting from fans is generally the opposite.
Fighters like Jon Fitch and Georges St. Pierre are generally the focus of fan criticism due to their inability to finish off their opposition despite dominating them for the entirety of a fight. We can draw the same criticisms from the boxing fanbase as well, particularly around the style of Floyd Mayweather.
So which is it, fans? Does every fight have to strike a delicate balance between length and action? Do we need to have Clay Guida and Ben Henderson fight on every Fox card to please the masses? History says that shorter, more destructive fights are far more pleasing to the eye than a boring decision that fans can ride hard against for weeks after the fight.
Hindsight is 20/20, and Henderson vs. Guida was predicted by many analysts to be the barn burner the UFC would need to connect with fans. Unfortunately, Fox didn't see their names as a selling point, which may have been the right move. The fight just doesn't have the allure that comes with a UFC heavyweight title showdown, nor does it have the stories that new fans witnessed in the lead-up to the main event.
At the end of the day, the UFC's debut on Fox was a monumental success. They were able to promote Brock Lesnar's fight coming up in December, air a number of commercials alerting fans to next week's UFC 139 pay-per-view, sell Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos for twenty solid minutes of UFC Primetime footage, and have enough time at the end of the broadcast to catch Junior's priceless reaction to becoming the new UFC heavyweight champion. The UFC got what they should have been hoping would come from either fighter, a highlight reel finish with all of the wow factor the UFC needs to draw in casual sports' fans. Isn't that, after all, what many casual fans want to see?