No known weaknesses.
That was the line we heard regarding (now former) UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez heading into the historic defense of his title against Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1. We heard it again on the broadcast, courtesy of Joe Rogan. Cain Velasquez has no weaknesses.
Of course, anyone who has followed Cain's career knows this line is nothing more than PR spin. He does have a weakness, and it's in his stand-up defense. Prior to dos Santos, Cain had faced one ranked Heavyweight who used striking as his primary weapon. That striker, Cheick Kongo, hurt Velasquez more than once, prompting many to ask if Cain had problems with his chin and his defense. On Fox, the heavy handed dos Santos found that chin again, and showed that yes, Velasquez can be knocked out, and yes, he does have a weakness.
The question then is, why couldn't the UFC be honest?
Why spin this hyperbole about Cain and his invincibility? Couldn't the story have just as easily been "Velasquez is a dominant champion, but he hasn't faced a powerful striker in 2 years. Last time he did, Cain found himself in trouble. Does the KO specialist challenger have his number?" That's the true story, the one hardcore fans knew was the actual narrative of the fight. But the UFC chose to sell us "Cain can't be beaten" instead.
The trouble is, Cain was beaten, and he was beaten convincingly. And this is where the problem with this kind of promoter speak comes in. Because now, fans who bought the UFC hype are left confused. What the UFC wants fans to walk away thinking is that dos Santos is Just That Good. But instead, the dishonest message only ends up muddying the water and damaging the credibility of the messengers.
This kind of promotion is nothing new to the UFC. They have long promoted champions as unbeatable with no flaws, and challengers as the perfect foil to this superhuman champion. But watching Fox's more sport-oriented production brought the absurdity of these claims into focus.
The UFC needs to take a cue from more mainstream sports coverage. Cut the spin and give fans the truth. An honest appraisal of Velasquez would have added more drama to the fight, not less. And it would have demonstrated that these analysts are indeed experts who understand the complexities of the sport.
Dana White has long insisted that the UFC and MMA should be considered a mainstream sport. The Fox broadcast was a good step in that direction. Now it's time to take that next step and dial down the hyperbole. Sell the fans the truth.