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As a seasoned MMA fan, it would be difficult to watch the second installment of the World Series of Fighting, held in Atlantic City this past Saturday, and not experience at least one or two eye rolls. Shows like this remind us why the UFC and Bellator are the cream of the crop, and they carry the burden of inevitable collapse. So, why would I take time out of my day just to make fun of them and complain about the various atrocities that took place last Saturday? Because it’s fun!
1. Bas Rutten teaming up with Todd Harris.
This continues to be a match made in announcing hell. I’ll get to Rutten in a minute, but Todd Harris is so bland and uninspired that I honestly think he might just be a series of programmed video game soundbites. He seems like a guy who clearly has no passion for MMA, and he certainly doesn’t feel obligated to do his homework to create the illusion that he knows what he’s talking about. Alot of people despised Gus Johnson as an MMA announcer, but I always respected his approach. This guy TRIED. He studied up, came prepared, seemed like he actually wanted to be there, and was remembered for wearing tons of makeup and creating the meme “These things happen in MMA sometimes.” A bit unfair, if you ask me.
The other thing that’s so crazy about Todd Harris is that he’s been doing this forever. Not a stitch of improvement, not a single good call to a fight that I can remember, not an ounce of passion. But hey, like I always say, if you have trouble remembering what color each fighter’s trunks are, Todd Harris is your man.
And Rutten. Oh, Rutten. I must preface what I’m about to write by saying that I was once an ardent supporter of anything Bas Rutten. I saw The Eliminator, for Gods sake. When I became an MMA fan in 2005, I loved mowing through those old PRIDE DVD’s and listening to Rutten’s youthful exuberance. He was having so much fun announcing those fights, and seemed to have the analytical skills to back it up.
(Wait for it …)
Two problems here. The first is that my first glimpse of Bas came from the early PRIDE’s, where his analytical skills WERE on point, because there was nothing to analyze. A guy would gain mount, and Bas would go “He needs to buck.” And my brain, which had a protozoic understanding of MMA at best, would think “Good idea, Bas!”
The second problem is more theoretical. My theory is this: When you are 18 years old, the reasons that you choose to like someone are usually pretty singular. Like, “So-and-so is awesome because he said/did this one thing”. I liked Johnny Depp because he made me laugh in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I liked Peja Stojakovic because of the way his jumper looked. Singular reasons. This is what happened to me with Bas. My 18 year old brain thought “Bas is awesome! Seems like a great guy, and he laughs at Scanners references!”
Then you get older, and you start to examine the full package, not just the one thing you chose to single out because you liked it so much. Listening to him objectively, I think Bas still watches MMA like it’s as evolved as it was in 1999. Bas, elbows do not “just cause cuts” (a tired diatribe he made during WSOF’s first show … does he even watch MMA?). I almost spit out my Dead Guy Ale when Bas proclaimed that Anthony Johnson won the first round 10-8, as well. Rounds as competitive as that usually aren’t considered 10-8′s, bud.
Another example of the “1999 perspective” was when he said (I’m paraphrasing) “left hook right low kick … it always works.” Yeah, it always works when you do it to your pads in the gym. Come on now.
At a certain point, Bas just gave up. During the sad beating David Branch put on Paulo Filho, Bas quipped “Nobody wants to see this.” Which, while being true, didn’t take away from the fact that we still had to watch the rest of the fight. Long gone are the days where Bas would openly mock both fighters, mining his own kind of entertainment from the depths of a terrible fight.
Other than that, they’re great together.
2. Ring announcer Tim Hughes.
Ever wonder what it would be like if a cage announcer peppered his intros with weird editorial comments? Check out Tim Hughes. Also, he’ll have these moments of forced enthusiasm in which he sounds like he’s passing a stone. So here’s what you get:
“He’s a two time muay thai kickboxing champion, with GOOOO*grunt*OOD submission SKILLS.” *shits himself*
He’s still better than Bruce Buffer. Where’s Joe Martinez, Zuffa? More Joe, please!
3. The matchmaking.
It’s been talked about ad nauseam, but most of these fights simply don’t matter. It’s just some guys on cable TV fighting. There’s a cage, there’s a ref, and there’s the term “UFC veteran” being thrown around with great abundance. It’s not just that the WSOF is showcasing UFC castoffs; it’s more that they’re showcasing UFC castoffs that probably aren’t making it back to the UFC. Aaron Simpson is long in the tooth. David Branch beat the ghost of Paulo Filho. Andrei Arlovski got busted up. The only fight that really had greater implications than “It’s two guys fighting!” was Marlon Moraes vs. Tyson Nam. But then the question inevitably becomes “How would Marlon Moraes fare in the UFC?”
How does the WSOF remedy this? They can’t, really. Bellator is snapping up all the prospects that the UFC hasn’t gotten to yet. So the matchmaking isn’t great, but it’s crappy out of necessity. They can’t put on something novel and compelling like the MMA debut of Tyrone Spong every time out. They’ll just have to continue overpaying for spare parts and hoping the ship doesn’t sink before they at least break even. But hey, have fun running an MMA promotion!
4. The delusions of grandeur.
We’ve seen this happen so many times with upstart promotions. They hold their first event, and then the excitement of that goes too far and manifests itself in outlandish ways.
We’re going to do 15 shows next year, we’re going to sign every marquee free agent to multifight deals, we’re going to bring Evan Tanner and Gilbert Aldana back to life, we’re going to get MMA regulated in New York, and I figure that should have us nipping at the UFC’s heels in the next 15 or so seconds!
Shockingly, it never works out for these types. And it won’t end well for the WSOF. It might make it through 2013, but if it does, it will go into 2014 running on fumes and possibly even main eventing someone like Jay Silva, or, God forbid, company figurehead Ray Sefo. They’re overpaying these guys, the production isn’t good, and the platform is too big to succeed beyond “Hey, it’s free MMA on TV!”
Also, Paulo Filho should never be allowed to fight again.