The worst thing a TV announcer can do is lie to the audience. That's true in any sport, but mixed martial arts has a particularly egregious history of announcers hyping up fighters at the expense of the truth: When a promoter wants to make one fighter or another into its next star, there are far too many announcers willing to overstate the fighter's abilities and mislead the viewers into thinking they're watching a better fighter than they are.
So it was refreshing on Friday night to hear the HDNet announcing team of Michael Schiavello and Frank Trigg tell the audience the truth about Bobby Lashley, who was fighting in the main event of a Titan Fighting card: Although the easy thing to do would have been to hype up Lashley as Titan Fighting's biggest star, Schiavello and Trigg instead offered a frank assessment of Lashley and told the audience the truth about who he is: A big, muscular former wrestler whose physique looks impressive but whose MMA skills are limited and whose cardiovascular conditioning is atrocious.
Schiavello and Trigg weren't out to badmouth Lashley. At the start of the fight, when Lashley slammed Ott to the ground, Schiavello shouted, "Bobby Lashley just pulverized him into the canvas like he was a rag doll."
But within a couple minutes, the announcers started noting, accurately, that Lashley hadn't finished the undersized Ott, which a good fighter would have. Midway through the first round, Schiavello said, "It's gone longer than most people thought it would."
And by the end of the first round, Schiavello was praising Ott for withstanding the barrage of punishment that Lashley was dishing out, exclaiming, "John Ott survives!"
Between the first and second rounds, Trigg identified Lashley's biggest problem: He's not in good enough shape to fight for more than five minutes.
"Lashley is exhausted," Trigg said. "He burnt everything he had in the first round."
In the second round, Schiavello added, "Lashley is slowing down -- that's not what you want. ... Lashley has visibly slowed down."
As the second round wore on, Schiavello said that Lashley was "showing himself off to be a one-dimensional fighter." And at the end of the second round, both Schiavello and Trigg pointed out that Lashley wasn't doing anything to shake his reputation as a WWE star who has not yet become a legitimate fighter.
"This does not do Lashley any favors in trying to generally establish himself as a true mixed martial artist and impress his scathing critics," Schiavello said.
"No, not at all," Trigg replied.
As the third round began and Ott started to pepper the exhausted Lashley, the crowd began to cheer loudly for Ott. Schiavello and Trigg joined the crowd in their enthusiasm, and continued to note that Lashley had no steam left.
"Bobby Lashley is breathing through his mouth," Schiavello said. "Bobby Lashley is gassed here."
"Lashley's in a lot of trouble here," Trigg said. "He's exhausted. He's got nothing left."
As the fight came to an end, Schiavello and Trigg praised Ott for lasting 15 minutes with the much bigger Lashley, and didn't praise Lashley for his efforts at all. This exchange was exactly the kind of candid assessment the fans at home deserved:
Trigg: "Lashley didn't prove to us, or to any naysayer, to anybody watching at home, one way or the other that he's a legit heavyweight contender in any shape, fashion or form. He's got a lot more work to do."
Schiavello: "He has not silenced any critics yet."
Trigg: "No, he made them louder. He still isn't that good. He was exhausted after the first round. He still showed that he can't finish a fight unless a guy just stands there and decides to get beaten up."
Schiavello: "And he had no other options but the right hand and the ground and pound."
Trigg: "Basically, what he is is a high-caliber college wrestler who spent some time in WWE, crossed over into fighting without learning anything else."
Schiavello: "Bobby Lashley, look how gassed he is."
In the end, Schiavello summed it up nicely.
"Bobby Lashley back in the winner's circle," Schiavello said. "Not an impressive victory."
But it was an impressive display of the right way to call a fight.