Months of anticipation, weeks of analysis and days worth of promotion finally led up to last night (Nov. 12, 2011) and the broadcast network premiere of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Starting off as what could be described as the movie "Bloodsport" come to life and later banned in states across the country, the Las Vegas-based fight promotion has come a long way since its somewhat seedy beginnings.
Last night's inaugural event -- UFC on Fox 1 -- was the culmination of countless hours put in behind the scenes by Dana White and company. Even more so, it was the long sought after payoff brokered on the backs of the men who have stepped inside the Octagon. A litany of shattered and snapped bones, cuts small and large, and a near endless list of other injuries helped bring fans last night's historic moment.
Junior Dos Santos captured the heavyweight title by knocking out Cain Velasquez in four seconds past the minute mark in the main event of the card that Dana White called the most important in the company's history.
However, there was no back and forth action, there was no battle of attrition. By the very nature of mixed martial arts (MMA), fights can end as easily in a matter of seconds as they can stretch out for the entirety of the time allotted to it.
So was the payoff worth it?
When the UFC was left with little other option, The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show was birthed and its first season ended with the now myth-like fight between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. The two light heavyweights battled back and forth for 15 minutes and in their actions, personified everything that is -- and can be -- great about MMA.
We have witnessed a fight or flight moment inside the Octagon before and somehow the fight managed to supersede all expectations. And now we've seen a similar moment end with an exciting knockout, but there's a lingering feeling that it was a bit underwhelming.
But let's be honest.
If not for the enormous amount of hype, scrutiny and pressure attached to the heavyweight title bout, the ending -- quick, brutal and decisive -- would have been completely and wholly satisfying. Seeing the Brazilian loop his devastating hook directly into Velasquez's temple would have brought fans to their feet. Witnessing the new champ finish his opponent off with an unrelenting flurry of ground and pound would have left fans cheering themselves hoarse.
Instead, some are pontificating whether or not the minute-long fight was good for the UFC's bottom line instead of celebrating dos Santos' victory or the fact that the company -- once on the brink of vanishing from the sport -- has joined the likes of the NFL and MLB as a member of the FOX Sports family.
For every casual fan's "Was that it?," there surely is a corresponding "That was an incredible knockout!" A heavyweight Griffin/Bonnar would have been ideal, there's no doubt. It would have been the best possible outcome, but we got what we got and it was a performance from "Cigano" that cements his place at the top of the heavyweight mountain.
Another complaint about the broadcast was the decision to only air the main event when a lightweight bout that was predicted to be a Fight of the Year contender ended up being exactly that. The fight between Ben Henderson and Clay Guida pitted two top 155-pounders looking to secure a date in Japan against lightweight champion Frankie Edgar. Both "Smooth" and "The Carpenter" are notorious for entertaining scraps and more than lived up to their reputations with their three round war.
The fight was not aired on FOX. It instead had to be sought out online via Facebook or on the Spanish language FOX Deportes. In an hour-long broadcast that showcased a fight that ended in a little more than a minute, fans were putting the UFC to task for not promoting the bout onto network television.
But last night wasn't about putting on the type of show that will be what actually ends up on FOX in 2012. UFC's deal with FOX doesn't even begin until January. This show was somewhat of a one-off to hype the heavyweight division and also promote Brock Lesnar's tilt with Alistair Overeem next month.
It was designed to introduce the fan who had never seen UFC before to the raw power that heavyweights possess in their four-ounce glove covered fists. And there was no better way to do that than "Cigano" blasting Velasquez in a minute.
Was 60 minutes worth 64 seconds?