Got my Best of 2010 DVD in the mail yesterday, and I immediately started watching my way though it. I'm pretty impressed with it, 2010 was a great year for the UFC and the quality of the Best Of DVD series keeps getting better. Here's my long, rambling, disorganized, nitpicky review.
First, the production values are awesome. Screen graphics are very reminiscent of the sharp red and white ESPN graphical style (in a good way), and the voice-over guy sounds appropriately self-important without being Goldberg-level pompous. The difference from the first "Best of" offering in 2007 is really noticable.
I was particularly happy that more thought seems to have been put into the 2010 DVD than the 2009, specifically in how it's organized. The 2010 DVD tries something new in organizing its chapters by weight class rather than chronologically. It works pretty well, and makes the split between disc 1 and 2 feel a little less arbitrary when they can split it right after the welterweight fights. In addition, the non-fight sections have improved. I found myself annoyed during the 2009 DVD at long sections of voice-overs about TUF, feuds between fighters and the fan expos (particularly near UFC 100). It all felt irritatingly self-congratulatory, and this year's DVD thankfully cuts down on that. There's still a section focusing on TUF seasons 11 and 12, but this is condensed into one montage. Better still, between fights the voiceover dude recaps some of the action in whatever weight division is currently being showcased. The video for these sections is much better than in 2009, highlights tend to be longer and give a better flavor for each fight mentioned than the brief flashes of the most memorable moments that the 2009 DVD tended to have.
The production team also makes some smart decisions about who to feature and how. Each weightclass tends to have a featured prospect or two, who get their own highlight recap and maybe a fight or two embedded within the divisional recap. Evan Dunham and Melvin Guillard (to a lesser extent) get featured in the LWs, Ricky Story and Dan Hardy (...really?) get featured in the WWs, you can guess which 3 got the LHW feature and who out of the 3 got featured most prominently, etc. Happily, the WEC gets some screen time as well, including the incoming bantam and featherweight divisions, and former champions Anthony Pettis and Carlos Condit. Yes, the Showtime kick is included (though not the whole fight). It would've been really nice to include some full WEC fights, now that the orgs are one...but I suppose they're saving that for a separate Best of WEC DVD.
Mostly, the DVD does a great job of fulfilling its dual roles: show the best fights while pushing the marketable fighters the most. There are even some surprisingly honest decisions: neither GSP title fight is shown in its entirety, even though I enjoyed the Koschek fight and wouldn't have minded its inclusion, I think I'm in the minority. The voiceover guy even talks about how disappointing the Maia-Silva fight was, to the point of showing Dana's angry rant at the press conference (though I guess that rant gives them permission in a way). There's a few areas where it falls short though. I already mentioned Dan Hardy and the UFC's continued insistence, through a highlight package in the DVD, to push a mediocre Brit who can't wrestle (bite me). I won't nitpick too much on decisions to include some full fights vs. putting others in highlight form; like I said before, the highlight videos are much longer and better organized than before. They even give a round-by-round highlight breakdown from all 10 rounds of Edgar-Penn. No mention through the whole DVD of the S-word with regards to either Carwin or Sonnen, but I guess that's to be expected.
The one fight I'm really unhappy with is the inclusion of Rampage-Evans. Having watched it a second time, I can say conclusively: this is a below-average fight. It's a terrible addition to the DVD. It's worth noting that while Okami and Fitch had all their fights relegated to a few minutes of highlights, Rashad got to show all 15 glorious minutes of his wall 'n stall. I don't have a problem with wrestling. I don't think Jon Fitch is quite as boring as everyone says he is, and I'm something of an Okami fan. Hell, I even thought Rashad was smart for implementing the gameplan he did. But to put this fight on the best of the year DVD is just awful. The fight actually picks up some when it goes to the ground, at least then there's some ground 'n pound and attempts to escape from the bottom man, it's just that it feels like half this fight takes place with Rashad pressing Rampage against the fence and tapping him on the knee with a hammerfist or two. This is where the UFC starts to really grind my gears, where pushing the stars and promoting their favorite fighters is placed above showing the true best of the year. They had time for this 15-minute snoozer but didn't even include Sanchez-Thiago in the highlights? Wake up Zuffa, the best way to push your product is to show exciting fights on your "Best of" DVD, names draw people in, good fights keep them there.
Anyway, despite how excruciating 13 of those 15 minutes are, it's a minor complaint considering the quality in the rest of the 2 discs. Here's a rundown of the fights/features included, in order.
Overture about "The best of 2010" and all the stuff you're about to see. Skip it, overtures are for performance mediums that don't include remote controls. Then some fluff about "The new era of the UF-"blahblahblah, skip this too.
- Recap of the Edgar-Penn duology: Very nice recap. Short sections on BJ and Edgar's careers give some flavor, then the progression of highlights through all 10 rounds do a nice job of showing us how the fight progressed.
- Sherk-Dunham: Excellent mostly-striking fight, horrible judging. Something else I should mention, the DVD team does a nice job cutting out unnecessary parts in the between-rounds time while still giving us the important stuff like replays and corner advice.
- Stevenson-Sotiropolous: Fantastic grappling match. No-brainer to include this one.
- Lightweight contenders: Sections on Dunham, Guillard and Maynard. No mention of Gomi...probably appropriate since he won't be fighting for a title any ever soon, but you'd think the Griffin KO would get some play, but we don't ever see it. Ends with a few highlights from Pettis, leading into...
- WEC Merger/New weight classes: Pretty nice feature here, plenty of attention on Pettis' exciting style, an impressive amount of focus on the bantamweights, mostly on Cruz with probably too much on Torres. They don't give Jose Aldo enough attention here, showing the finish from the Manvel fight but only one leg kick against Faber.
- Feature on GSP: Short-ish recap of the Hardy fight, slightly more focus on the Koschek fight. Most emphasis on GSP's overall domination across the past 30 rounds of his career. Not a lot of attention on his actual fights here, which is probably a first for a "UFC Best Of" DVD. Some attention on "who the f@#$ is gonna challenge this guy?"
- Feature on Matt Hughes: Includes the HOF induction, short career HL reel, Renzo gracie TKO and Almeida sub. Probably more focus than I'd have liked on a guy past his prime, it'd be better suited for a Hughes-centered DVD. Especially because it leads right to...
- Hughes-Penn III: Blink and it's over. 2 legends, exciting finish, 21 seconds total...this one was always gonna be in the DVD.
- Condit-MacDonald: Questionable stoppage, awesome fight. Condit gets a fair amount of screentime here with a recap of his career immediately after, and rightly so. Dude had a monster 2010.
- Welterweight contenders: Dan Hardy was somewhere in this first disc. I forget if it's here or not. Anyway, Shields gets a little screen time but the highlights are disappointing since they can't show any Strikeforce video. Rick Story gets some time here too. Fitch gets a tiny bit of attention, not much.
- Some behind-the-scenes crap. Whatever.
- Miller-Lauzon: Pretty good fight. Lauzon starts strong and fades quickly.
- Guillard-Lowe: Decent, sorta one-sided. It's pretty clear early on that Lowe is outmatched.
- Hardy-Condit: Short, exciting, Dan Hardy loses. I like it.
- Siver-Winner: Nice submission from a striker here. Good fight, Winner's chin is suspect.
- Sotiropolous-Lauzon: It's uncharacteristic for Joe, but like his brother Dan above, he starts strong and fades quick. Some nice back-and-forth, G-Sot shows his expert grappling, but Joe's not offering much resistance by the end. Especially nice to watch if Sot-Stevenson wasn't enough for you.
- Miller-Oliveira: What's the line? Oh right, it has a Miller brother, so watch it. Some really nice grappling against a young gun here.
Right into the fights, this is more like it!
- Akiyama-Leben: We all remember this FOTY candidate. Just as great on a 2nd viewing. Some nice background on Leben's 2010 resurgence too.
- Middleweight Contenders: I guess this was about Chael? I think they gave Okami some time too, and Marquardt's loss to each of them. I dunno, it was forgettable.
- Silva-Sonnen: This was the BE reader fight of the year for good reason. The fight is good, the comeback is world-class. Silva doesn't look as bad as I remember, Sonnen looks even better. Seems in hindsight like lazy guard work and foolish kicks had more to do with Anderson's performance than the rib injury.
- The Ultimate Fight: Not even a little bit interested, I skipped this.
- Machida-Shogun II: Sad for a Machida fanboy like me. Lyoto actually looks quite good before the knockdown here, though his top control is lacking. For comedy value, watch Yves Lavigne, Shogun and Machida all stare at one another blankly after Yves' Quebequoi-accented "You wanna touch gloves, do it now" falls upon Portuguese and Portuguese/Japanese-speaking ears.
- Jackson-Evans: Ugh. There are a total of about 5 significant punches in this fight, 3 takedowns (one with a really nice set-up), and13 minutes of Rashad pushing Quinton against the cage while hammerfisting his kneecap. Skip it.
- Vera-Jones: This is the Jonny
BonesMartian Manhunter section. You know what to expect from this and the next fight, quality action that's very 1-sided. Interesting note, Vera actually looked somewhat better than Shogun in the striking game, and Jones did seem to be baiting the armbar.
- Matyushenko-Jones: Salaverry, Salaverry, Salaverry. Ok fight, good choice to push the young gun. We're learning here that guard does not apply to Jon Jones.
- Light Heavy Contenders: Like I said, you can guess who got featured here. Jones already had some screentime, so his to start this section quickly transitions into Bader and the Jardine KO and Nog fight. From there, we go to Mr. Wonderful, who probably gets the 2nd-biggest push behind Jones given his whirlwind 2010. Shame they didn't include the whole Boetsch fight, that was a truly special sub. The voiceover dude calls it the "Wonderbar."
- Heavyweight Contenders: Schaub and Mitrione get the focus. TUF stars aren't going to convince me the heavyweight division is anything other than razor-thin. You work with what you have, I guess.
- Junior Dos Santos feature: Hard not to like JDS, nice feature highlighting the Yvel, Gonzaga and Nelson fights (holy shit does Nelson have a chin
or 3!). Then again, what other heavy can they push? Frank Mir?
- Nogueira-Velasquez: One of 3 HW fights on the non-bonus part of the disc. You can probably guess the other 2. Brutal KO, awesome technique from Cain. Apparently I'd forgotten he has nice kicks too.
- Lesnar-Carwin: Obviously this was gonna be here. Carwin does his best Bob Sapp-circa 2002 impression (ape spaz followed by "Paaant! Wheeeeeze! Paaant!") Great comeback by Brock, preceded by a surprisingly short segment on both Lesnar and Carwin. I guess the next fight influenced how much focus Brock got. Hard not to like Brock at the end of this fight, no matter how you feel about him.
- Lesnar-Cain: You knew this was coming too. We've all seen it before. Total domination by Cain, though Brock has more heart than we give him credit for, exchanging punches early. They push the "First Mexican Combat Sports Champion" thing here too. Comedy moment: Brock's standing straight backfist at 2:33 of the only round.
"What at year it's be-"blahblahblah. DVD's over.
- Dos Santos-Gonzaga: Good they included a JDS fight, nice striking from him. He walks through a headkick right before the KO. This is conjecture, but Joe sounds high as fuck calling this one. Several "whooaa!'"s.
- Liddell-Franklin: Good fight, great performance by Chuck in his last UFC fight, right up until the KO. Watch for Rich to shake his left arm out very early in the fight following a Liddell head kick, though a head kick with 30 seconds left shatters it for sure.
- Soszynski-Bonnar II: Good scrap between two mid-level LHWs. Nice feel-good fight if you're a
Cubs Detroit Lions Washington GeneralsStephan Bonnar fan like me.
- Couture-Toney: Oy. James Toney technically made it on the "Best Of" DVD. The voiceover guy framed it earlier as "boxing vs. mma" in the overture on Disc 1. Please. Comedy value: 1. The whole fight, 2. Goldie's smug self-congratulatory tone, 3. Rogan's obvious disappointment at how completely inept Toney is.
The big picture? Fantastic DVD. Buy it, watch (almost) all of it, skip the sections on TUF and Rampage-Rashad.