Tuesday, November 15, 2011

UFC on FOX Reaction: Dana's Follies

In the opening seconds of their historic UFC title bout on Saturday, both Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos looked flat. With both men reportedly battling various ailments and injuries leading up to the fight, this made some sense. Then, when Dos Santos whipped a jab into Cain's body and Cain answered with a couple of low kicks, things picked up. We appeared to be well on our way to getting the epic 5 round battle we all desired.

Junior Dos Santos decided against that concept. He landed a vicious overhand right that landed behind Cain's temple, and then followed up on the ground with brutally precise punches until Cain Velasquez stopped moving. It was all over in just 64 seconds.

This was, of course, anti-climactic. After a tense, surprisingly professional broadcast from our friends at FOX, a broadcast that saw Dana White in full "I really should stop yelling to get my point across, but I can't because I'm so freaking nervous and antsy" mode (more on this later), both casual fans and hardcores alike were ready to see some back-and-forth action. Before I'm ready to close this chapter in the annals of UFC history, a chapter that saw FOX devote 58 minutes and 56 seconds (out of a one hour time slot) to things that were not a live UFC title fight, I need to address a few things.

1. You can't make everyone happy, so don't even try.

The general reaction I heard immediately after this was over from friends of mine who are not MMA fans was "This is why I don't watch 'UFC' ... what the expletive deleted was that bleeping bullbleep?" And I had to calmly explain that yes, it was a knockout, and yes, the fight was over. I also heard a few people screaming down from their high horses about how "MMA is just a street fight ... those two were the two best heavyweights in the world?" Again, I had to explain that yes, they were. And are.

You can talk until you're blue in the face about how Cain looked soft and out-of-sorts, and how he came back too soon from a maybe-more-serious-than-we-originally-thought shoulder injury. You can prattle on about how bogus it was that they opted to nix Guida-Henderson (a fun battle) from the American broadcast in favor of having Curt Menefee (who did a nice job) hype up the fight with Dana and Brock Lesnar. Lastly, you can whine about feeling robbed of a potentially great fight. And really, you might not be wrong about any of these feelings.
However, the fact remains that this is heavyweight MMA. Knockouts happen. These guys are too big and powerful to take shots to the dome from each other. On top of that, did Junior Dos Santos win in 64 seconds with a flying armbar? No. He won doing what he does best, which is hit other heavyweight gentlemen in the head with great velocity and vigor. Stop acting like that wasn't a perfect stoppage, stop acting like you've never seen a fight end quickly before, and stop acting like Cain Velasquez could have kept fighting. And that brings us to ...

2. When Junior Dos Santos smells blood, watch out.

All of the bitching and moaning about the fight being over so quickly completely ignored how awesome of a finish it was. JDS belts him, and he goes down. He's still there, though. JDS proceeds to land 9 out of 12 strikes, the last four of which are jackhammers to the back of Cain's ear. Finito.

We see so many times in MMA where a guy gets hurt and dropped, and his opponent lets him back into the fight because instead of picking and measuring his shots as he's going for the finish, he tries to go berserk and throw a million punches, not stopping long enough to notice whether they're hitting arms and shoulders.

If JDS drops you with a punch, unless you're Roy Nelson, they might as well send a priest into the Octagon to administer the last rites. Big thumbs up to Junior for finishing fights properly and precisely.

3. Dana White, for all of his bombastic qualities, can be an absolutely atrocious promoter.

Hang on, before I go off on Dana White, let me allow him to hang himself first:

"Listen, I'm no strategist and I'm nobodies coach but I don't understand why they didn't go for the shot early. They should have shot in on Junior Dos Santos knowing that he has the power early in the fight and tries to knock you out. But the truth is that Junior Dos Santos gets tired at the end of fights, you know? Here he is standing right in front of him trying to trade and bang with Junior Dos Santos and gets hit with that big right hand right behind the ear and down he goes. Down goes his heavyweight championship. I'll say it again, not saying that I'm some strategy coach but I don't know why they wouldn't take the shot on him and wrestle early."

First of all, Dana, thanks so much for informing us that you aren't a strategist. We never would have figured that out on our own. Secondly ... I mean ... how can I say this ...


Zuffa is all about making stars. They can't put on cards and expect every single one to do gangbuster numbers just because it's the UFC. And they know this. This was why they chose Velasquez vs. Dos Santos to lead off their FOX tenure: here were two immensely talented heavyweights, largely unknown to the Joe Shmucks of the world, yet with specific niches that could carry each of them to new heights should they defeat the other man.

During the entire pre-fight production, Dana White gave off a vibe that screamed "I hope this fight doesn't suck ... I hope this fight doesn't suck ... shut up, Brock ... I hope this fight doesn't suck ..." when he should have been all smiles and enjoyed the moment no matter what might have happened. You're on primetime network TV, Dana! You've already won!

This, in a nutshell, is Dana White's biggest flaw as a promoter: he's a control freak, and when things don't go his way (even though there IS no "his way" when it comes to what happens inside the Octagon), he puts his own self-interest and reactionary disappointment above the fact that he's running a business, not an opinionated editorial blog.

Look, if he had come out after the fight and said something like "I was hoping we'd get a more extended look at these two guys because we wanted to show the world what great fighters they are. But we didn't. That's MMA; anything can happen. I'm sure Cain will look better his next time out, and congratulations to Junior Dos Santos. He's going to be a great champion", then that would have been fine. All of his bases are covered there; reading between the lines, he's saying that the length of the fight disappointed him, and he's acknowledging that he thought Cain didn't look great. But he's also reminding fans of the nature of the sport, and that he now has a new heavyweight champion to promote, which is kind of relevant being that it's his job and all.

But no. Instead, he opted to go all X's and O's on us and talk about "strategy" even though he's supposed to be a neutral party. I mean, can you imagine David Stern holding a press conference after Carmelo Anthony's first game as a Knick and openly saying that he didn't think the Knicks should have made the trade? Can you imagine that in a million years? The correct answer is no. Because, lockout brouhaha aside, Stern is a professional that is running a business. Jesus Christ.


  1. Also, not only did he shit on Cain's performance, he completely diminished JDS's victory. Instead of spending all his time talking about what Cain did wrong, he should've been amazed at what JDS accomplished in such a sort time. Good job at promoting your new champ by telling us he gets gassed. If we didn't know by now, he made it plainly obvious that Cain was his pet project and he hedged all his bets on him winning.

  2. Absolutely. The only thing I would revise is that I don't even think he "hoped" Cain would win, I just think he hoped for a longer fight. But, as we all know, you can't hope for a specific thing to happen in heavyweight MMA and then act all butthurt and betrayed if and when that thing doesn't happen.