I grow happier at the UFC + FOX deal every fight I see. The addition of MMA talkers on more channels means I get more MMA fix, and FOX is making sure I overdose. The amount of commentators...Ken Flo and Jay Glazer, Joe and Mike, that other Fox guy with Randy Couture and Jon Jones, plus Ariel Helwany made for a night full of perspectives, and I love, love, love getting me some additional perspectives.
Ariel Helwany...how good is it to be that guy nowadays? All that hard work grinding out interviews with fighters and their gyms has definitely paid off; the dude is prime time now and he deserves to be. I'm pretty pumped to be getting Ariel's interviews in between fights instead of just watching Spike footage of previous fights. We can count on Ariel to interview the less likely people, the behind the scenes folks, the fighters who've left the octagon and are happy to discuss their performances, all things I'd rather hear about than see highlights of main card fighter's bouts.
I am more than happy to overlook the commercials that accompany prime time free broadcasting versus the exclusive PPV stuff. The PPV fights actually wear the fight hype footage thin, and I get sick of seeing the same pre-fight fighter talk and highlight reels in between bouts. I'd argue that the commercials themselves were uplifting for an MMA fan, if only to see the sort of sponsors that wanted to be on the air with a prime time UFC event. Where Spike seemed to have only a handful of shows and sponsors to hype, FOX and FUEL turned it up a notch. Fox makes me feel like I'm farting in silk boxers, and I like that. The production was top notch, the number of commentators, really everything about being on Fox made me feel like, as a fan, my purchasing power, my demographic, just got an upgrade to first class.
Being able to DVR the preliminaries and main card allows me to watch everything over and over again, rewind the parts of the fights I want to see again, allows me to really feed my armchair analyst needs. Having the prelims on free TV also means getting to watch them on all the big screens at my favorite MMA bar, but more on that later. When the prelims were on Facebook, I had to drag a laptop to the bar so that I could still reserve my spot AND watch the fights, and that experience was less than ideal.
Lavar Johnson may have reaped the benefits of all the damage Joey Beltran has so willingly absorbed with his skull, but there is no denying his power and reach. I'd like to see him matched up with Stephan Struve, or even better, Shane Carwin. Shane is on the decline, and Lavar might just reveal what Shane should be doing with his power.
Congrats and LOLs to Michael Johnson for not pulling a Melvin. I agree with many others: Roller hasn't shown an ability to remain in one of the most competitive divisions at the UFC.
Charles Oliveira looks awesome at 145, and while everyone is talking about that totally sick submission, I thought he also did a great job of using his reach. The featherweight division is going to be so hot...
George Roop also showed how to utilize reach, too bad Cub Swanson showed how you combat that issue. For tall fighters wanting to see some examples of utilizing reach, those two fights are good primers. Oliveira, unafraid to be taken down, stands tall and drops his punches in. Roop stands tall but forgets to tuck his chin and utilize head movement; he didn't have Oliveira's luxury of not fearing the takedown, but he did an admirable job of jabbing and push kicking Swanson to the outside where Roop stood the best chance. Had Roop reacted better against the cage and not looked so visibly frightened when he got there, he could have used his game plan all the way to victory.
Russow v Einemo was just ugly, but kudos to Russow for not being afraid to get the W, even if it meant not wowing his hometown fans. I think Russow is in danger of using his chin up in fights like these, though, and I doubt he has many years left in MMA. If Einemo can deliver clinch knees to Russow, then too many top 25 HWs can, too, and he'll end up wandering the streets of Chicago like Mick Foley, trying to remember where he lives.
Evan Dunham delivered like expected, though Lentz was fairly game; in another weight division, he might keep his job.
I'm still waiting to hear why Demian Maia gassed so early. Weidman clearly deserved the W in that fight, and I'm looking forward to his future bouts. I'm thinking Maia dropped several ranks, and if he can't get reinvented he won't be in the UFC much longer.
Sonnen showed why he won't win his rematch with Silva; if he has improved since that fight, it sure did not show against Bisping. I hate to think that Sonnen needed those PEDs to deliver the high energy attack he utilized against Silva, but I spent the whole fight wondering why Sonnen wasn't exploding like he's shown in previous fights. The guy who landed hundreds of strikes on Anderson Silva seems to have changed strategy, trying to throw hard at the expense of his volume. Yeah, that overhand right landed, but Bisping weathered it too easily, and Silva is way, way too good at counter punching for that shit to work on him.
This is another example of a fighter forgetting the date that brought him to the dance. Sonnen needs to go back to scrambling like mad, being unpredictable via spazzing, throwing punches that block his opponent's view and disrupt their rhythm so he can land more takedowns and stay too busy to control on the ground. It may be that Chael felt he needed a different style for Bisping, who in my opinion, mirrored Sonnen's efforts on the feet a bit too much, and wasn't a threat to Chael in terms of striking power. Chael may have drank enough of his own Kool-Aid to think he had the power to put Bisping away, a strategy I hope he knows won't work in Brazil.
Bisping, on the other hand, showed consistency, doing all the things he is good at and even using some abilities we don't often see from him on the ground. I lost some Bisping hate to respect in that fight, but I doubt I'll ever look forward to cheering him in a fight. He's boring, in spite of being one of the busiest MWs in the division. I only want to see him fight Munoz to see if Munoz can pick up his speed and hone his striking enough to dominate Bisping. Otherwise, I hope Bisping lands a lucrative movie career, because in spite of being able to acknowledge him as a competitive fighter, I'll never think of his fights as exciting unless he's getting KTFO.
Evans was one of the few fighters on Saturday night that truly looked ready for his next fight. Good five round staying power, good negating of the reach, good display of wrestling and octagon awareness. Rashad looked hard to surprise, and I don't see Jones catching him with his trademark flashy spinning kicks and elbows...but I think Jones knows that, too, and the kid just learns too damned fast to not be prepared for Evans. Still, Evans looked so dominant in this fight that I honestly believe Evans v Jones will be competitive, and I see it going the most rounds of a Jones fight yet, possibly a five round decision bout.
Finally, I need to find another bar to watch fights. I love my local spot, but since they've dropped the cover charge, they get a lot of customers there for the food instead of the fights, and they try too hard to cater to everyone instead of focusing on being THE place to watch the fights. It is a tough decision for a bar to make, but they're losing fight fans as a result of sitting on the fence. Keeping the volume down to please families trying to have conversation pisses off fight fans. Keeping TVs tuned to Illini games pleases local fans but pisses off fight fans; segregate the seating if you're going to do this, so fight fans aren't forced to crane their necks to catch the fights. Not knowing what channel the @#$% fights are on is inexcusable, and if it weren't for my DVR, I'd hate you forever for making me miss Johnson v Beltran. It's bad enough I have to strain to hear the commentary and interviews, I shouldn't have to beg you to let me have the remote so I can find the fights for you. I think I'm heading to Buffalo Wild Wings next Saturday.