The UFC is the club to beat in MMA

Watching yesterday’s Affliction MMA event on pay-per-view it became very clear that the UFC remains the top brand for MMA enthusiasts. Here’s a quick list of things wrong with Affliction:

  1. Fights conducted in a boxing ring. Every time the fight went to the ground-against the ropes-the referee had to reposition the fighters. This broke up the momentum of the fight on many occasions.
  2. Megadeth. If I wanted to go to a hair metal show, I would have bought that on pay-per-view. Seriously, the between round entertainment just made a long event even longer and less interesting.
  3. Too much talk about celebrities, too little talk about the fighters. At one point, Michael Buffer actually read the names of the celebrities in attendance. Really? Does anyone care?
  4. Fight commentary. See below.
  5. Wasted time. See #2 & #3. A lot of the fluff surrounding this event could have been cut out reducing the time of this broadcast to less than 3 hours.

Bottom line is right now, the UFC understands their demographic better than the competition. The other MMA brands are trying to create something to appeal to a mass audience, while the UFC simply showcases a better product.

One of the best things the UFC has going for it is Joe Rogan. Do not discount the excellent commentary Joe provides during UFC bouts. A first time MMA viewer can watch a UFC event, and not only does Joe provide information about each fighter, throughout the matches he breaks down the strategy (yes I said it) that each fighter attempts to employ. It’s not just the fact that Joe knows the names of all the different wrestling holds a fighter might use, but he can tell the viewer why a fighter might use one technique over another. No other MMA brand has commentary that provides insight to MMA bouts like the UFC.

The next thing is a UFC pay-per-view or a free Spike TV event is all about MMA and the evening’s fights. No 15 minute entertainment breaks. No WWE over-the-top explosive entrances. No sideline dancers (which never get camera time anyway). When you watch a UFC fight, you’re going to see MMA action.

It’s a shame that Randy Couture is currently wrestling with the UFC over his contract. Last night Fedor Emelianenko was declared the MMA heavy weight to beat. A match between the two would bring in some dollars, but what company will promote the bout remains undecided.

MMA Review – What’s Next For Matt Hughes?

UFC 85: Bedlam – Thiago Alves TKOs Matt Hughes.

After another stunning loss, Matt Hughes may have just exposed himself as a fighter past his prime. Like the Mike Tyson of old, facing Hughes warranted courage just to step in the octagon, but the aura & mystique have long since passed. Matt Hughes has lost three of his last four fights, and none were even close contests. A 9-time welterweight champion, Matt’s contribution to the UFC, and mixed martial arts are unquestioned. His future in the sport is what many are pondering.

Steve Cofield makes some good points that perhaps it’s not so much Hughes being old (if 34 can be called old), as it is 2008 debuting a better breed of MMA fighters. I have watched Matt Hughes fight many times, and his powerful takedowns were absolutely impressive. In his last bouts, the other fighters have been faster, their takedown defense better, rendering Matt Hughes as a mere mortal.

In this new age of MMA, the best fighters are pushing the limits of the sport. It’s simply not striking vs grappling anymore. The longevity of a fighter and his (or her) success depends on a complete set of MMA skills not just a specialized mastery of techniques.

After the fight Matt Hughes called out Matt Serra giving way for perhaps his last MMA contest. It begs the question, with so many talented MMA fighters out there, what audience is going to pay to see these two fighters both coming off significant losses?

Personally, I think Matt Hughes is up to the challenge. Time will tell if he feels the same way.

MMA Review – Kimbo Slice vs. James Thompson

EliteXC made their mainstream debut on CBS network television this past Saturday night (May 31). I was curious what changes (if any) would be in place for an MMA experience that previously was only available on the Showtime cable network. I think the sponsors will be happy with the Nielsen ratings, but there are definitely some improvements that can be made. Here’s my breakdown of the main event Saturday night:

– Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson –
Kimbo Slice has been making a name for himself on the YouTube circuit for many years now with a showcase of streetfights. Before his MMA debut on Showtime, comments were abundant about how Kimbo would fair in a true MMA arena. His first test was an unsanctioned streetfight against Sean Gannon, a former Boston Police officer trained in MMA. That YouTube video is one of the first known defeats suffered by Kimbo, however, controversy rose at the time due to Sean using his MMA skills. Brought to media attention by an online marketing machine it was inevitable that Kimbo would make his way into the MMA.

Kimbo came to this fight undefeated, a record that could be argued as being “light” in terms of competition. Listening to Pugs & Kelly (Live 105.3FM) this afternoon, it is clear that many have the opinion that EliteXC may be padding Kimbo’s fight resume, feeding the marketing machine in order to capitalize on this fighter’s story. It’s safe to say many expected this fight to end quickly, under some power-punches by Kimbo or perhaps a quick submission. Little did anyone know that James Thompson (coming off a few losses) would not easily submit the match.

In the ensuing rounds, James matched Kimbo blow-for-blow, and managed to take him down in the first round. Fans got more than they expected as most of Kimbo’s fights have been stand up affairs favoring his striking ability and power. Could Kimbo win on the ground? How would he fair in a strong MMA battle? The first round proved two things – Kimbo had worked a bit on his wrestling skills (ground game), but his conditioning needed A LOT of work.

The second round would prove to be controversial. Again the fighters exchanged blows, with Kimbo throwing more power-punches, and James trying to match. James once again took the fight to the ground, and Kimbo’s lack of MMA experience, and poor conditioning started to be painfully obvious. Even though Kimbo managed a few “pile driver” submissions, he couldn’t maintain the hold for long as James repeatedly freed himself. Towards the end of the second round, James had managed to smother Kimbo, pounding him with a barrage of elbows. In fact, with one minute & thirty seconds left in Round 2, Kimbo took roughly two dozen elbows & hammerfists to the head. If this were a UFC fight, it would have been stopped. Kimbo was doing a poor job defending, and while he may not have been hurt, he was clearly being outgunned by James Thompson.

Slow to get up after the bell, a winded Kimbo made his way back to his corner. Entering the third round, both men were tired, but Kimbo managed to get off a final assault of power-punches. James’ ear burst open, and after taking four headshots the referee stopped the fight. James was visibly upset, and pushed the referee, but the match was ended. Kimbo celebrated by laying down in the ring.

EliteXC did a lot for the sport with a network television debut. I have to agree with comments made on the Pugs & Kelly show that by running on network vs cable the fights were managed differently. I concur that the Gina Carano vs Kaitlynn Young, and Robbie Lawler vs Scott Smith fights would not have been stopped had they been shown on cable tv. Scott Smith clearly could have (and wanted) to continue, and while Kaitlynn was a bloody mess, she didn’t seem down for the count. (Gina demolished her last opponent even worse on Showtime, and that fight came to decision)

I heard somewhere that Dana White the President of the UFC stated he would pit BJ “The Prodigy” Penn (the current lightweight champion) against Kimbo if there were ever a UFC bout. After watching the match, I agree that Kimbo has a long way to go in his quest to become a respected MMA fighter. In my opinion, top on his list should be his conditioning. More MMA experience will only make him a better fighter, but I think Saturday’s fight only proved Kimbo would be vulnerable to a top-ranked MMA veteran. Brock Lesner made a similar appearance in the UFC, and lost due to his lack of complete MMA skills. While some consider the UFC the “bully in the schoolyard” I’m of the opinion that they have the best MMA brand right now. However, healthy competition from competing brands will only make the MMA fight market better.

UPDATEKevin Leong has an editorial on the flaws of this CBS debut, and Ben (the ultimate MMA fan/practitioner) chimes in.