First of all, here is the extended preview from the UFC for UFC 143: Diaz vs. Condit, which goes down at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, this Saturday night on ESPN in the UK. It's as sleek a production as ever, with some cool highlights to show off the fighters at their most exiting, and get the viewer hyped up for this promising event.
What I would also like to do, is address the shortcomings of this video, pretty much entirely focused around Joe Rogan's 'analysis' of the four featured fighters.
Before I begin, I would like to point out that I do not dislike Joe Rogan, and do not intend this to be attack on him. I actually happen to think he does a fairly decent job as a co-commentator for the UFC, filling a role that requires him to draw on a deep knowledge of several disciplines of martial arts and the history of the sport, as well as covering for the many, many inaccuracies in Mike Goldberg's commentary. Although he can often resort to excessive use of hyperbole and screaming when nothing of note has actually happened, his enthusiasm is infectious and he has no problem identifying when a fight stinks, or when a referee of fighter has behaved in an unacceptable way. Rogan usually manages to usually pull this off without any bias or agenda (support for Jason Miller in his fight with Michael Bisping excluded). He also does a fantastic job as a presenter at the weigh-ins, exciting the crowd (mainly through his uncontrollable screaming), and though not perfect, remains Zuffa's most competent post-fight interviewer to this point. Rogan is not a journalist, and often has to contend with fighters who do not want to be interviewed, or simply have nothing of interest to say, but still stands above Craig Hummer, Kenny Florian, Gus Johnson and (for now) Jon Anik.
What cannot be escaped from, however, is the torrent of nonsense that is sprayed at the viewer, every time one of these ten minute preview videos is released for a forthcoming UFC pay-per-view. It used to be the case that Dana White would contribute hyperbolic analysis for these videos, but now Rogan has sole responsibility, so unfortunately I have focused criticism on him. I'd first started to get frustrated at this sort of inaccurate build-up around the Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort fight. Rogan attempted to sell the fight by stating:
Before the fight goes to the ground, Anderson Silva has an advantage over almost every single human being in the world ... but if you wanted to build a perfect fighter to defeat a guy like Anderson Silva, it would be a guy like Vitor Belfort.
Ignoring the fact that Rogan also said Belfort was capable of ripping off 50-60 punches in a period of five or six seconds (really, check out the UFC 126 broadcast), this is simply rubbish. The world had seen the perfect way to go about beating Anderson Silva in his previous fight with Chael Sonnen. Rogan had explained this at the time. Silva then went out and showed why Vitor Belfort was not the perfect foil for him by knocking him into another dimension and evaporating all credibility form Rogan's pre-fight hype.
Let's have a look at what he says in this preview, starting with his opinions on the main event between Diaz and Condit:
"To have these guys throw down for the interim title is the absolute perfect match up"
This is fair enough. Rogan has his hype hat on, and needs to make the fight sound as though it will be exciting. Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit are probably the most exciting fighters in the welterweight division at the moment. They are both well rounded, with a range of ways to finish an opponent, whilst being difficult to finish themselves.
"He absolutely put on a show and dismantled the veteran BJ Penn in one of the finest performances of his career"
Once again, I have no complaints. I have never seen BJ Penn hurt like he was in his fight against Nick Diaz. It was truly impressive, and entertaining to boot.
"It is an opportunity [for Condit] to fight a guy ... considered the number one contender in the welterweight division"
Once again, I have no issue with this statement. It is an opinion that is up for debate, but given Jon Fitch's recent defeat, and Diaz's run, I would also consider him the no. 1 contender in the division. However, here is where things to start to be removed from reality.
"If he can get through Nick Diaz, it shows that he is amongst the best if not the very best at 170 pounds."
this is where things start to veer slightly away from the truth. Condit will not be the outright best fighter at welterweight. There is still the small matter of Georges St. Pierre, who has ruled the division since he beat Matt Hughes in December 2007. I'm not sure why Rogan really has to say this. Even the most casual fan of the UFC knows who GSP is. identifying him as the most dangerous threat to GSP would be more accurate, and would not undermine their biggest star.
"Carlos Condit shows no weaknesses ... every time you see him you see improvement, you see growth, you see him rising to the pressure of being amongst the very best fighters in the world at 170 pounds"
Now this is just false. Even just looking at Condit's UFC run you can identify many shortcomings. After losing a close decision to a very good technical striker in Martin Kampmann, Conndit was nearly decapitated in the first round against Jake Ellenberger, who dropped him repeatedly with wild strikes, which Condit left himself open to. Ellenberger also managed to take him down by countering kicks and by double-legging the static Condit. In Condit's next fight with Rory MacDonald, he was beaten for two rounds, out-struck and repeatedly taken down. Condit did manage to miraculously win both of those fights, but he had to battle though adversity, thanks to his lack of takedown defence and porous striking defence. The jury is out on whether he has improved in these areas after he has given his opponents little opportunity to mount offence against him, knocking out Dan Hardy and Dong Hyun Kim in the first round. He has improved the power he generates with his striking at least.
Diaz fought Shamrock at a catchweight of 179 pounds, and Smith at 180 pounds. I understand that Rogan would not highlight the fact that these are distinctly sub-par fighters, but he could at least be accurate about the facts of the fight. Maybe he doesn't even realise this.
"I guarantee you the Carlos Condit that you see against Nick Diaz for the interim welterweight championship will be a new level of Carlos Condit. He will reach his full potential and rise to the occasion."
This is pure conjecture. It is just as conceivable that Condit will be completely shut down by Diaz and be made to look as bad as he has done in the UFC. It would be nice for him to qualify his statement.
Rogan has less to say about the Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce with it being the co-main event, but there are still several examples of embellishment
"They've both taken to striking very well"
Whilst both fighters certainly pack a great deal of power, they are hardly channelling the abilities of pro boxers. Pierce's striking remains rudimentary and Koscheck's has gaping holes. Lest we forget this is a man who was knocked out by Paulo Thiago and jabbed to a five round decision by GSP.
The comments that follow highlighting each fighters wrestling ability are fair. Rogan explains their credentials and success in adapting their amateur wrestling for use in MMA. He does not go overboard and state that their wrestling is the best in MMA, the UFC or even the welterweight division. When referring back to striking however, Rogan drops the ball once again.
"It's safe to say that Josh Koscheck has faced a guy who can punch as hard as Pierce, has Pierce faced a guy who can punch as hard as Koscheck? I don't think he has."
Now this is purely my own opinion, so perhaps not completely fair to use as a criticism, but I believe there is validity in this argument. Last year Mike Pierce fought (and arguably defeated) Johny Hendricks over three rounds. Johny Hendricks recently became the first man to stop Jon Fitch in the UFC after a blistering left hook after only 12 seconds. The only men Koscheck has knocked out in the last three years are Matt Hughes and Frank Trigg. Two fighters who were in their prime seven years ago.
I understand that Joe Rogan has to sell the fights and the event as a whole in order to get fans to put down their hard earned cash for the PPV, so must be allowed some leeway to draw attention to the positive and accentuate what the most enticing aspects of each fighter are. However, the extent to which he exaggerates a fighter's abilities and status is embarrassing to the educated fan, and simply unnecessary. By identifying a fighter's shortcomings, particularly in relation to another's strengths, Rogan could identify likely opportunities for fireworks within a fight. For example - Mike Pierce hits hard, and Josh Koscheck has poor defence and a suspect chin, allowing for the possibility for a huge knockout upset. Surely this could be an effective marketing possibility given everyone's appreciation for knockouts and Koscheck's unpopularity. Similarly, the unwillingness to identify attributes such as the durability of Diaz and Condit, or the less stellar tendency of each fighter to sacrifice sound defence for offensive output in fights eliminates the opportunity to describe how the fight could develop into a five round masterpiece.
The UFC and Joe Rogan do not need to lower themselves to this level for the purposes of promotion. It has the effect of over hyping a fight, which will in turn leave the audience feeling short changed if the event disappoints, and put them off future pay-per-views. Selling inaccurate analysis reduces credibility, leading people to believe that they will say anything to sell a PPV. Then, when an event such as this comes around with lesser known fighters that is truly deserving of everyone's attention a lack of confidence in the brand could further affect PPV sales. It is frustrating to see the leading organisation of a sport that is so desperately chasing legitimacy and mainstream appeal resort to such tactics when the same kind of promotion is rarely seen for other sports. Hopefully in the future either the fighters can speak for themselves, or at the very least have an analyst comment clips of previous fights to show us why we should be interested, rather than relying on fabrication.