After the 64 seconds of action that comprised UFC on Fox 1 in Nov. 2011, the heavyweight championship fight between Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez underscored the risks of going with a single-bout telecast. So, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flipped the script for Saturday night's (Jan. 28, 2012) show at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., installing a three-fight card.
Instead, all the bouts went the distance, and, with the exception of Chael Sonnen's close decision win over a resilient Michael Bisping, the telecast was largely free of out-of-your-seat moments. You can't make everybody happy all the time, and it'll be interesting to see what the mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion does next to mitigate against what happened last night:
A telecast that never seemed to get out of second gear.
There are no certainties with matchmaking. Nonetheless, I'd suggest the following in order to strike a balance between quality entertainment and creating excess "fill time" on the telecast:
Lavar Johnson's stoppage of Joey Beltran (Watch it right here) was a great example of how a heavyweight fight can provide entertainment and watchability, though to be fair to the UFC, if it'd gone three rounds, it might have been every bit as underwhelming as you'd expect, and with much lower-ranked fighters then those on the main card.
That's the reason matchmaking heavies is especially important, as the Mike Russow vs. Jon Olav Einemo snoozer proved. Thank god that bout wasn't on the main card, but then again, everyone knows precisely why it wasn't. But styles make fights, and aggressive big guys looking to slug is acceptable red meat to throw to a massive fan base looking to be entertained.
Until core viewing audience has been subjected to the MMA learning curve as the pay-per-view (PPV) bunch has, it may be hard to televise sluggish bouts like Chris Weidman vs. Demian Maia without some promotional blowback.
Perception is everything.
Second, as much Randy Couture as possible on the broadcast panel.
Couture is solid on the mic and provides a critical recognizable link in that role, both for newer and old-school fans. Like Pat Miletich, he speaks in the rare style of being understated and plain, yet exceptionally effective, precisely because he doesn't waste words. That's a key grounding element in the give-and-take of a broadcast, especially as the team gels and flows together with everyone involved becoming more comfortable with their role.
UFC on Fox 2 had its share of growing pains, and the evolution of the telecast, from both a production and matchmaking perspective, will move forward. There's a happy medium out there, and after two extreme results on either end of the pendulum, the organization is definitely due for a hit that provides exciting action and sustained content for the duration of a telecast.
It just wasn't Saturday night, but that's the good part of having a seven-year deal.
Jason Probst can be reached at www.twitter.com/jasonprobst.