(The hardest version of "Marry-Fuck-Kill" that you will ever play.)
I don't think I'm the only one that noticed a marked lack of Zuffa polish/influence on last night's production values. Aside from the triumphant camera shots of Zuffa's Big Three (which, given their postures and gazes, may as well have featured them being carried to the cage while Rich Chou fed them grapes), the UFC ad in the Strikeforcecage and - let us not forget - elbows on the ground (side note - would anyone like to take this opportunity to point out to Gil Melendez that all elbows do is cut guys and allow wrestlers to stall?), I didn't notice any wholesale changes to the first widely watched SF card following their purchase. The ramp, the Hexagon, the unwillingness/inability to air undercard fights or properly utilize your allocated airtime - all Showtime hallmarks, all present on Saturday. I don't watch mixed martial artists fight for the fucking production values, so I can let all of that slide (if PRIDE's pageantry didn't make me weep for joy, then a lack thereof isn't going to affect me much the other way, either). Showtime's insistence on repeatedly assembling the revolting Voltron of Frank Shamrock, Mauro Ranallo and Gus Johnson, however, cannot stand without comment.
Now, some brief notes on each.
- I've never been a Mauro Ranallo fan. While he's responsible for the closest thing MMA has to a "The Giants win the pennant!" call with his shocked reaction to Kevin Randleman KOing Cro Cop, his shtick has become a caricature of what it was previously. I can imagine Mauro, sitting at the bar, scribbling down one-liners onto cocktail napkins, only to bust them out when a predetermined scenario (ie: one fighter is more aggressive than the other) presents itself. His stilted delivery, which almost forces his befuddled booth mates to respond with equally stilted laughter (or, in Frank's case, a sad attempt at oneupsmanship), distracts from the action - and is as clear as example as you'll ever see of an announcer taking away from a fight.
- This is difficult, because I'd tend to reserve the announcer for whom I carry the most hatred for the final bullet point. But how do you pick between the two remaining? (flips coin) Guess I'm ripping Frank first. Here's an announcer that, while admittedly dominant during the Clinton Administration, walked away from the sport during his prime, only to return later and lose back-to-back main event fights for a regional organization. Kid Nate at Bloody Elbow has a Frank Shamrock shrine in his house, but nothing impresses me less than a fighter that completely bailed on MMA at the ripe old age of 28. There's no underlying theme to his madness on the microphone - only examples will suffice.
- Gus Johnson is like a marauding Hellbeast, ransacking the few multimedia experiences that bring me pleasure. His preening, overanxious tone and approach - perfect for March Madness games - doesn't translate very well to a Week 5 AFC West game (typical Johnson NFL call: Moreno... gets the hand-off... Makes A Move!... GETS SOME SPACE!!!... Second and six on the 24 coming up). Then, he comes to my precious MMA, giving us such classics as "These things happen in MMA" and "Gentlemen, we're on national television!", giving off the vibe of a monocle-wearing patrician deigning to educate the plebs on their proper role. While Ranallo simply wants to tell his jokes and Frank is desperately trying to align his ego with reality (remember "those kicks don't hurt" during the first Le-Smith fight? They broke your fucking arm, Frank!), Johnson is doing what he always does - trying to be the guy that gets to make that one memorable call.
And now, my bottom five calls from Saturday's card. ... at HeadKickLegend! Come on by and vote on the poll too - I'm interested to see if you guys also hate Joe Theismann and Matt Millen like I do.