Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My LIVE(ish) UFC on Fox: Miller vs. Diaz Review!

Apparently, the third time is the charm when it comes to network broadcast UFC shows…


When I think “Cinco de Mayo,” I think about a lot of things. Excessive drinking, burritos, what happens to burritos after excessive drinking, etc. That said, after tonight’s Fox show, I think the UFC should implement a new May 5th tradition and air a kick-ass card of explosive, finish-heavy bouts every year. Forget about things like “title contention,” for one night, can you give us a full card of mismatches created SOLELY for the sake of explosive knockouts, brutal submissions and enough spilled plasma to turn an NBA arena into a biohazard zone? We can save the technical stuff for pay-per-views and the aberrant Fuel show - sometimes, we just want straight-up violence for the sake of having straight-up violence, and if the latest UFC on Fox show is any indication, it looks like we have a very solid blueprint for a lifetime of awesome, awesome free TV ass-kickings on the table.

So, what made UFC on Fox: Miller vs. Diaz such a tremendous TV experience, while the first two network TV outings, in a word, sucked? How about we take a look back on the show, and analyze it from top to bottom and uncover what made it work, why don’t we?

Heavyweight Bout: Lavar Johnson vs. Pat Barry

This was a bout genetically engineered to produce a knockout, and it definitely delivered. There were a few sighs of disappointment when Barry took the fight to the ground - where he came surprisingly close to finishing his adversary - but as soon as things got vertical in the last minute of the first round, the Cinco de Mayo fireworks started flying with Johnson rocking Barry with damn near two dozen right-left combos that dropped the UFC veteran like a sack of potatoes. An exciting, technique-less slugfest, which is exactly the kind of fight you want to open a network TV show.

RANDOM COMMERCIAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Tonight’s show is dedicated to the memory of MCA. Here’s hoping that, at the funeral, the pallbearers don’t let the coffin…mmmDROP!
  • Damn, are there are a lot of Blimpies commercials going on tonight, or are my eyes deceiving me? I haven’t seen one of those restaurants in my neck of the woods for at least 10 years. Here’s to hoping that, someway, somehow, this leads to a resurgence in the popularity of Del Taco as a national chain…

Middleweight Bout: Alan Belcher vs. Rousimar Palhares

Well, holy shit, this fight didn’t turn out like I expected. Belcher, in an absolute bitch slap to common sense, decides to take submission master (and, according to Goldberg, something of a “violent Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner") Palhares down early in the first, and attempts to lock in, of all things, a twister (but, uh, not that kind of twister, if you are an MMA newbie.) He can’t get it, but Rousimar comes dangerously close to sinking in a few leg lock submissions of his own. After some back and forth tussling, Belcher manages to get the full mount, where he rains elbows and fist burgers on the downed Brazilian until the ref calls a stop to the bout late in the first. A really, really entertaining fight, that definitely vaunts Belcher to status as a top ten middlewight. And big ups to Joe Rogan, who did a fantastic job of explaining the intricacies of BJJ submissions to a national audience tonight (even if yelling “get out of there, Alan!” probably isn’t a sign of objective play calling, but what the hell ever.)

RANDOM COMMERCIAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Hey, how about that new Ghost Recon game? Because when I think “tactical, squad-based shooters” and “Tom Clancy,” the first thing that pops into my mind is “closed quarters combat.”
  • Wow, is Mike Goldberg experiencing that many microphone problems, or did he accidentally swallow his lapel transmitter or something?

Welterweight Bout: Johny Hendricks vs. Josh Koscheck

The pre-fight promos involved Koscheck flying a Cessna (making him the only fighter in the division that routinely gets higher than Nick Diaz, I suppose) and Hendricks proving his Texas worth by shooting a bunch of fish with a bow and arrow. This was a really competitive bout, and a fight that, admittedly, could have gone either way. While Hendricks clearly landed more punches, I think Koscheck ended up landing the more destructive ones, and he definitely controlled the tempo of the fight up until the final round. Hendricks scoring a few takedowns might have been the big variable here, but that still didn’t make determining a clear-cut winner any easier here. Going into the reading of the scorecards, Koscheck’s eye was swollen like a purple kiwi…yet again. Hendricks earns a split-decision victory, but whether his performance tonight was truly enough to put him in line for a title shot is extremely debatable.

RANDOM COMMERCIAL OBSERVATIONS

  • Hey, “Diablo III” is coming out. Subsequently, expect productivity numbers across the nation to mysteriously shrink over the ensuing months, for some reason or another.
  • And hey, how about the “Max Payne 3,” huh? Unless Marky Mark is in this one too, I really don’t figure there’s much of a reason to get excited.

LIGHTWEIGHT BOUT: Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller

First off, does it make me a horrible human being if I said that one Shriner’s Hospital commercial with Kenny Florian made me laugh out loud a little?

Jim Miller came out to “Bad Moon Rising” by CCR, which may or may not have been an oblique homage to the so-called “Super Moon” event that was to transpire about an hour after the fight. Diaz, meanwhile, came out to some Tupac, yet, unfortunately, he wasn’t courted to the cage by a holographic Shakur, Coachella style.

This was an absolutely brutal performance by Diaz, who outstruck Miller - generally considered one of the toughest hombres in the division as it is - before taking him down and choking him out in the second round. In the post-fight, Diaz thanked just about every single Strikeforce employee, while Miller felt bad about getting his ass kicked. Dana White said that if Diaz won tonight, he would set himself up for a title shot at some point in the immediate future. While whether or not White lives up to his promise is something we can’t gauge at the current, I’d say that Diaz has definitely earned at least a number one contender bout…and if he hasn’t had at least one crack at the lightweight strap this time next year, I would be one extremely shocked spectator.

THE VERDICT: Well, after two very disappointing shows on Fox, the UFC FINALLY delivered a broadcast TV card worth talking about, with nary a disappointing bout on the entire program. Ultimately, the show felt VERY much like a Strikeforce card, and not just because of all of the finishes and the fact that the show concluded with a Diaz standing in the middle of the cage and demonstrating horrible public speaking skills. The tempo of the program was WAY better than the last two shows, and I really liked some of the additions to the broadcast presentation, like the scrolling tweets at the bottom of the screen (even if it is a little “Dancing with the Stars”-esque). As always, the announcing fluctuated from really good to pretty stupid, but hey, that’s MMA broadcasts for you. I have to say that I really liked the booth team of Curt Menefree, Brian Stann and Randy Couture a whole lot more than I did any of the previous commentary tandems…not that outdoing Brock Lesnar and Jon Jones being fed lines through their earpieces was all that daunting a task, anyway.

The pre-packaged stuff (primarily, the “video profiles“ they air before fights), however, are still really ho-hum, and dear lord, did they ever hunch the pooch when it came to hyping the dos Santos/Mir show later this month. Even so, it was still far and away the best Fox outing yet, and a nice template for the company to utilize going forward with these national broadcasts. At this point, I think the company is finally figuring out the strategy here - put your championship fights on PPV, and make your Fox broadcasts nothing but super-explosive eliminator bouts and matches meant to showcase some of the undercard guys that will soon be in title contention. And seeing as how the next Fox main event is tentatively scheduled to be Hector Lombard taking on Brian Stann - the equivalent of super gluing a time bomb to a land mine and shooting Roman Candles at it - I think it’s safe to say that the company knows what makes for good TV in the long run.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? The plotlines for several title picture stories have definitely thickened after this show, beginning with the lightweight hunt. Diaz was allegedly offered  a crack at the winner of the upcoming Henderson/Edgar rematch, although I really think it would be a better business move to put Diaz in at least one more fight before giving him a shot at the title. I think a Diaz/Pettis bout for the number one contender’s spot is an absolute given, and a match potentially exciting enough to headline a future PPV. As far as Hendricks goes, his win tonight was huge, although nowhere near as commanding as it probably should have been. Instead of putting Johny on ice while Georges St-Pierre and Carlos Condit gear up for a November tussle, how about putting Hendricks in the cage against Rory MacDonald to determine a TRUE number one contender for the welterweight strap instead? Meanwhile, Belcher definitely proved his status as a top ten middleweight tonight, although he still has quite a few fights left before he can be considered a serious contender for the title. How about giving “The Talon” the winner of the upcoming Michael Bisping/Tim Boetsch bout for an eliminator fight come November or so? And lastly, there’s Lavar Johnson, a heavyweight prospect that’s still a little too green for serious top ten (or maybe, even top twenty) consideration within the division. For the time being, why don’t we throw Johnson in the cage against Brendan Schaub later this fall, and see what sort of carnage ensues?

SHOW HIGHLIGHT: Well, you had three fights with finishes and a really competitive one that went the distance…take your pick, really.

SHOW LOWLIGHT: I’ve heard lots of great things about the Roland Delorme / Nick Denis bout on the undercard…too bad you had to have a Facebook account to have seen it, though.

ROGAN-ISM OF THE NIGHT: “That is gross! Gross, and effective.” (Joe on Diaz’s rear naked choke submission of Jim Miller)

While, that’s all I’ve got for you this week. Crank up “Libel” by Tilt and “Sheena is a T-Shirt Salesman” by The Future of the Left, and I’ll be seeing you in a few.

IN THE MOOD FOR MORE MMA-MAYHEM?
CHECK OUT MY LIVE(ISH) RECAP OF UFC 145: JONES VS. EVANS RIGHT HERE!

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