UFC 169 very likely featured two of the best three fighters in MMA in Jose Aldo and Renan Barao, and it was very disappointing how little of a push this card got. There was very little buzz in the lead up this card and it is easy to explain away with the smaller fighters headlining, the Super Bowl looming tomorrow, and the lack of NFL games to push the event.
But when it comes down to it, Super Bowl Weekend has historically been a big show for the UFC. They originally were very excited about getting a card in the city as the Super Bowl, and there just wasn't any excitement for the card. The UFC is running so many shows there is no time to hype any fights. Ronda Rousey is later this month and tonight was the first ad I have seen run for that fight. It is just so hard to build hype for a card when you only one week to build awareness for a card.
So I fully expect disappointing numbers for this card, and it will be written off as the fault that little guys were main eventing, but the problem runs much deeper and will continue to impact UFC PPV numbers this entire year.
Thoughts on tonight's fights:
- Renan Barao put a beating on Urijah Faber, that fight was a total beatdown. It was abundantly clear that Barao has continued to grow as a fighter and has just outstripped the rest of the division. Faber's extra work in striking appear to only create more openings for Barao to punish him.
- I don't really have a problem with stoppage by Herb Dean. Faber had been hurt badly several times and while he was on a leg and had his hand up, Dean is always clear that he requires movement from fighters who are in a bad position. Barao did show a little gamesmanship nudging Herb towards stopping the fight.
- While Jose Aldo's fight with Ricardo Lamas wasn't thrilling in a flying knee knockout kind of way, Aldo has continued to advance his striking. Lamas is a very skilled striker and Aldo was basically never in danger at any point as he meticulously took Lamas apart over the course of five rounds.
- As Aldo moves up to Lightweight I fully expect him to compete on an elite level right away, if not beat Anthony Pettis and claim the Lightweight title. Aldo is likely is the most skilled fighter in the sport and moving up will only increase his edge in speed and make him only more dangerous.
- Alistair Overeem put a one-sided beating on Frank Mir, and he had Mir hurt pretty badly, but he didn't actually get the finish. Overeem played it off as his pacing himself, and that likely played a role, but Mir also recovered from the strikes So respect given to Mir for making it through those three rounds.
- For Mir, while his run of being a contending Heavyweight is over, there are plenty of interesting fights for Mir and chances to make money as he is not a shot fighter, but he should no longer be fighting guys a fight or two from a title shot.
- John Lineker tried his darnedest to land a big punch and really worked Ali Bagautinov's body at times, but Bagutinov's grappling and more measured boxing ended up winning the day. Lineker is still very young, but a move up in weight class and a more measured approach to striking would benefit him.
- Jamie Varner was looking pretty good as he had Abel Trujillo's range figured, was tagging him, and once he had Trujillo hurt he flurried. But Varner stopped respecting Trujillo's striking as he had him hurt, and boy did he pay for that.
- The prelims were capped with some fairly forgettable fights with Nick Catone beating Tom Watson, Chris Cariaso beating Danny Martinez and Alan Patrick getting a rather controversial decision over John Makdessi. My biggest takeaway besides that Makdessi likely got jobbed, is that he has become very good at using the whizzer to stop takedowns.
- Al Iaquinta had a tough fight against Kevin Lee, who acquitted himself very well and bloodied Iaquinta. It was a close fight and Iaquinta gutted out a win, but after that fight I'd be willing to declare Lee a better prospect moving forward.
- Clint Hester won his fight with Andy Enz, but Hester remains a very raw talent. There is no skill he has that looks polished, but his power makes him very interesting to watch. His striking on breaking from the clinch or as Enz went to stand using the cage looked improved, but Hester is still very a work in progress.
- Rashid Magomdeov gritted out an armbar escape that was flat out jaw-dropping in a fight he managed to come back in and win in an impressive fashion. Tony Martin looked fantastic early on in this fight and showed off the kind of grappling that could make him a player at lightweight.
- Neil Magny pulled off a minor upset, as he was badly underestimated coming into fight. While Magny had lost his last two fights coming in, he is a scrappy fighter who is fairly good at clinch fighting and pushing the pace. Gasan Umalatov is already in his thirties and not a particularly dynamic athlete, so while Combat Sambo guys are the hot prospects in the UFC, Ulmalatov is not one of them.