Yesterday, UFC on FX 5 took place, and after having watched the card from top to bottom, one thing came into my head: the grinders, the just-good-enoughs-for-the-UFC, and middlers made the card the success it was. Sure, there were the divisionally important bouts at the top of the card, where ranking and title shots were on the line. But let’s be honest, it was the undercard that made noise.
For those people who viewed the Fuel TV prelim fights, they were treated to a largely spectacular array of fights. Apart from wrestling stud Marcus LeVesseur leaning against veteran Carlo Prater, the fights were thrilling. Fighters who have assumed the role of gatekeeper, have done well enough to avoid the cut, or are promotional newcomers, showed why the UFC wanted to pick them up (and also picked up all of the nightly bonuses).
There was the one sided submission styling’s of Darren Uyenoyama and Jacob Volkmann (both picking up their first UFC finish), the war of attrition between Diego Nunes and Bart Palaszewski, and the come from behind second round knockouts of Mike Pierce and Michael Johnson. All the aforementioned bouts made for a memorable night.
Even a few of the losing parties showed some bravado under fire. Phil Harris showed a willingness to stand and bang, Bart Palaszewski withstood a barrage that would have finished a lesser man, Aaron Simpson showed a finishing instinct not seen for the last two years, and Danny Castillo nearly finished the far more dynamic striker on a few separate occasions. Even in losing, they guaranteed that the UFC audience would be wanting to see them.
And where was the main card, the feature fighters, the more important matchups? At the top of the card, being tentative (John Dodson vs. Jussier Formiga, Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron) and suffering inexplicably bad luck (Travis Browne and his unfortunately timed leg injury). Granted, the Browne-Silva fight ended with a crushing knockout and was a general crowd pleaser (and the main card opener was a lightning quick submission), the 2nd fight and co-main event left the crowd with a bitter taste in their mouth because of inaction over the course of the bouts.
So here’s to the middlers, the grinders, the workmen. They may not be the most popular, the most watched, or the most googled, but when they hit their stride, they are just as exciting as any champion or main event fighter. Well done gentlemen, you’ve earned a good nights sleep (and an ice pack).