On a day that tested the patience of the best of MMA fans, UFC promoted 22 fights with mostly unknown stars and only one real main event. The results were a few fighters looked like they could be future stars, but a lot of fighters with impressive won-loss records fell short of the mark.
On Saturday, UFC did something that Dana White
had talked about for years. The company ran two shows in different parts of the world on the same day.
At first, when he started hinting at days like this a few years ago, it was more like why would that be done. When UFC was running maybe 25 or 30 shows a year, there was no need and it never happened. But now, with the expansion to a regular schedule of live events in North America, Brazil, Europe and the far east, and with more markets on the way, it became something that was inevitable.
Keep in mind that nobody is expecting most fans to watch two complete shows. The Brazil show was geared for fans in the Brazilian market and the U.S. market. The German show was geared for the European market, and admittedly with the Carl Froch fight, it may not have been the best day to garner attention there with a live event. For people who are used to watching every UFC match no matter what, and that is a tiny part of the fan base, there came a point midway through the Brazil show when it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Sports are supposed to be fun. And this had crossed a line. It's not that the fights were bad. This was just too much.
Most movies are kept under two hours because that's their usual perfect time frame. Most professional sports games are in the two-to-three hour range. A live UFC show can exceed six hours. Two of them in one day, well, the time consumption is staggering.
No time for family, friends, and barely timed for rushed meals. It's not even a matter at that point if the shows are good. The early show in Berlin was a well-paced fun show. Brazil had its moments, but it could have been the reincarnation of UFC 139
and it was still too much.
Saturday was no one time thing. UFC is going to be doing these double-shots fairly often going forward. June 28 has shows in Auckland, New Zealand, and San Antonio. August 23 has shows in Macau, China and Tulsa, Okla. October 4 has shows in Stockholm, Sweden and Halifax, N.S., Canada. In each case, there is an early show on Fight Pass and a prime time show on North American television, FS 1 in the United States.
As exhausting as this will be for the hardcores who want to watch every single UFC fight, as far as the big picture, it's not as damaging as those who are watching both shows would think. They are in the minority. In the end, it's probably best to wave the white flag of surrender and on those days, maybe watch the final two hours of one show and most of the other. You may miss a hot prospect in his UFC debut, or an action-packed prelim fight that few are going to remember or talk about anyway. But for the fan who wants to see every fight, that's the inevitability of the future.
If someone wanted to watch every single major league baseball game on any given day, it would be the same issue. It's just a wake-up call that the sport has changed again, and the idea of keeping up on it by never missing a UFC fight is going to become a thing of the past for all but a very few.
And Saturday was all about the UFC brand. Both shows were filled with unknown fighters. Between the two shows, there was really only one fight that even resembled a main event, the Gegard Mousasi vs. Mark Munoz
middleweight battle in Berlin. And that left you wondering if Mousasi has really improved that much, or if Munoz is done as a serious headliner.
The Sao Paulo main event, with No. 7 ranked heavyweight contender Stipe Miocic against nowhere near ranked light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado
, ended in 35 seconds. It was the second time in three weeks we've been taught that there's a reason for weight classes, and if you're physically small in your own weight class, moving up in this era should be avoided at all costs.
Two weeks ago, Alexander Shlemenko
, a small middleweight who was Bellator's champion in that division, got handled far easier than most expected (he was actually a big favorite) by a much larger but aging light heavyweight in Tito Ortiz. No matter that Shlemenko was able to eat his way to where on scale day he was at least close to 205, it's more about physical frame.
This one was even more pronounced. Maldonado was, at best, a soft in the middle, mid-level light heavyweight known for good body shots and a tough chin. Stipe Miocic
was a lean 238-pounder, a skilled, athletic heavyweight, whose first punch established quickly that a tough chin against light heavyweights is not the same thing against heavyweights. Most considered the fight a mismatch, and it was every bit of that and more.
Nobody ever thought Miocic vs. Maldonado was a good idea. The idea was Miocic vs. Junior Dos Santos but when the latter broke his hand and with no heavyweights available, Maldonado offered his service. It was a way to get a Brazilian in the main event that desperately needed anything close to a viable main event. But in hindsight, it left the show with a flat ending.
It was really the day of testing newcomers. A number of fighters with zero or one career loss, and one or less UFC fights coming in, were on the two shows. Some, like Pawel Pawlak
(who came in 10-0) were completely dominated.
Sgt. Nick Hein
(11-1, 1 no contest) was already a big favorite when he walked into the cage in Berlin. He looks like star, has had exposure on a German television show, is a national judo champion, a Sergeant in the army, a stand-up comedian, and looked like a guy on the cover of a fitness magazine. As announcer Dan Hardy
joked when reading all the things he's done, that he must somehow have more hours in a day than the rest of us.
Hein took the decision over journeyman fighter Drew Dober
(14-6), but struggled in the second and third rounds. Hein never made you feel like he was the future star the local audience saw him as or wanted him to be.
Nicklas Backstrom (now 8-0, with 1 no contest) scored a first round finishes over a solid UFC fighter, Tom Niinimaki
, passing his first test with flying colors.
San Strickland, in his second UFC fight, improved to 15-0. But as the crowd booed his split decision win over Luke Barnatt
that left a lot of people befuddled. He did nothing to convince people he was a fighter at the level of that record.
(11-1), a bantamweight prospect who came into UFC undefeated, but lost a short notice fight to highly-ranked Raphael Assuncao
, bounced back strong with a first round knockout of debuting Matt Hobar
(6-1), in his second UFC outing, had the most exciting round of the day against second-timer Kevin Souza, before being finished for the first time in round two.
The newcomer who showed the most promise was the one with the most hype coming in, TUF Brazil middleweight Warlley Alves
(8-0). Alves showed a combination of speed, explosiveness, and power in finishing previously unbeaten tournament finalist Marcio Alexandre in round three.
, who admittedly can go over the top when it comes to hype, had stated that Alves, who he coached on TUF Brazil, could walk into the UFC and be a top ten middleweight and challenge for the title within a year. But not only was Sonnen saying that publicly, he was also saying it privately. We may never know if that's true, since Alves stated he was going to cut to welterweight going forward.
Alves may have been the most impressive prospect to come out of the TUF series, which is saying a mouthful when you consider the show has spawned champions like Forrest Griffin
, Rashad Evans
and T.J. Dillashaw
(I'm not including Matt Serra
, who was an established star before being put on the Comeback season). Forgetting Roy Nelson
, who was really a "ringer" when he won the show, no show winner has come right out the show appearing to have his level of potential. But you can look no farther than Uriah Hall
to know that potential on TUF is often not lived up to.
Here's alook at how fortunes changed and what is next for some of Saturday's stars:
WARLLEY ALVES -
For those who followed TUF Brazil, Alves had been the standout throughout the season. But opponent Alexandre came in with a 13-0 record, and had walked through his half of the tournament. Alves has a chance to become a major star in the Brazilian market in rapid order. The weekly show did nine to 12 million viewers in his home country, meaning he's gotten exposure far beyond the level of any similar-skilled newcomer that has ever come into the promotion. TUF made Forrest Griffin and Michael Bisping
instant stars when they won in highly rated seasons, and this is a better athlete with multiple times the exposure. The entire idea of running all these regional shows is to create market-specific stars, and fans love to follow a fighter who they feel they saw breaking in and were able to follow their journey to the top.
C.B. DOLLAWAY -
Dollaway (16-6), who for years was that other All-American wrestler from Arizona State who was the guy best known for being a college teammate of Cain Velasquez
and Ryan Bader
, looks like a new fighter from three summers ago when he suffered knockout losses to Mark Munoz
and Jarred Hamman. He scored his fourth win in his last five outings. His lone loss during that period, to Tim Boetch on Oct. 19, was among the worst decisions of that year.
Carmont was ranked No. 9, so this win should get Dollaway near the top ten and a fighter the caliber of Tim Kennedy
or Yoel Romero
STIPE MIOCIC - It's nearly impossible to improve on a 35 second knockout, but the ease of the win almost made it come across as less valuable. Had Miocic (12-1) dominated a longer war, his win would have gotten a lot more talk. But he got in and out with a fast win and no damage.
The obvious next match would be his career-maker if he could win, which is the originally scheduled Junior Dos Santos fight, That was to headline Saturday until the former heavyweight champ broke his hand in training.
Any of those fights could headline a television show, and be a featured main card fight on a pay-per-view. A strong win against of those names would have people talking about him on the short list for a potential title shot.
GEGARD MOUSASI - Mousasi (35-4-2) has been one of the best stand-up fighters, either at light heavyweight or middleweight. The weakness, as exposed by King Mo Lawal four years ago, was his deficiencies against a top caliber wrestler. That's why Munoz was given a good shot at beating him. But Mousasi was like a completely different fighter. He was able to sprawl and get top position most of the time when Munoz shot. When Munoz was able to take him down early, he got back up immediately. Mousasi dominated the ground positioning game, which was the surprise of the short fight, before winning via choke.
Names like Luke Rockhold
and Kennedy were talked about for Mousasi after the win. Middleweight
has an obvious top contender in Vitor Belfort
as far as who gets the next shot at the Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
winner. That's provided Belfort beats Sonnen next. After that, the most logical guy next would be Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. If Mousasi got Souza next, he could get a shot with one more win. If he got Rockhold, he'd be one step behind that. With Kennedy, a win would put him as a viable contender but slightly lower on the ladder.
MARK MUNOZ - Munoz (13-5) is at a real career crossroads. He's 36, and lost two straight in the first round. He's dropped from 205 to 185, and physically, because of following the best nutrition plan of his career, looks like he's in the best condition of his career. But that hasn't translated into results.
His previous loss, to Machida, was against a fighter who has feasted on wrestlers most of his career. With Mousasi, a lot of the fight involved defensive wrestling and scrambling. What Munoz has going for him as far as his career goes is that he's been a television personality and analyst, so that helps with notoriety. He's not a boring fighter, at least not with the reputations of Jon Fitch
, Jake Shields
and Yushin Okami
, who were all cut while higher ranked and for less than two straight first-round losses.
But it's clear he's going to need a significant overhaul in his game, and fast, to continue without hitting the same problems against top-tier competition. And he may be on the verge of a do-or-die situation right now.