Photo of Rashad Evans (top) and Phil Davis by Esther Lin via MMAFighting.com.
My comrade Sergio Hernandez thinks the UFC on FOX 2: "Evans vs. Davis" event that took place last night (Sat., Jan. 28, 2012) wasn't nearly as bad as some have painted it out to be. He takes the "glass half full" approach and let's his optimism shine on through.
Good for you, Serg. It's nice to have a positive outlook on things.
That's not what you'll get from me, though, folks. Because this event was as bad as it seemed. And I'm not just talking about the fights themselves, which were severely lacking in anything resembling excitement, though that was likely by design, at least to an extent.
I'm also shocked at how poorly executed the broadcast was, from the booth down to the cageside commentary. If UFC on FOX 1 was a failure because it was a 64-second fight sandwiched between 55-minutes of mostly awkward analysis, UFC on FOX 2 was a failure for how long and arduous its fights were.
I've got a lot of gripes about this card, so let's hit the bullet points after the jump and run them down.
- Curt Menefee was off his game and Jon Jones is a terrible analyst. One of the big reasons the FOX deal was supposed to be so good for the UFC was that they would get the professional treatment we see other major sports get, like the NFL. Except that's not really what's happened. Curt Menefee was excellent during his debut as a host in the booth for the pre and post-show but he was definitely off his game last night. He lacked the necessary umph to really sell the fights we were getting ready to watch. Randy Couture was fantastic and should be a permanent fixture for these broadcasts but Jon Jones couldn't have been worse in his role. For starters, fire whoever decided to give him a spinning chair. He was nervous and it showed in his child-like inability to sit still for longer than four seconds. Maybe it's a minor gripe but how can I take this man's analysis seriously while he's spinning back and forth in his chair? Not only that, he was literally staring at his notes and reading off them for long periods of time while the camera was on him. He's not the best talker as it is, putting him in this role was a terrible idea that produced a disastrous result.
- I also found it troubling that the broadcast seemed unprepared to bleep out a curse word uttered by Mihcael Bisping in a pre-made promo that was already set to air no matter what happened. It's not like they didn't have time to be ready for it. Bisping was heard saying the word "goddamn" before the FOX broadcast bleeped it out with silence. Then, after he had already said it, the silence extended for another five or six seconds, to the point that most of his words were forever lost and not to be heard by the viewers who were getting ready to watch him fight. Another minor gripe perhaps? Maybe but they're adding up, folks.
- Then we get to the cageside commentary from UFC mainstays Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan. On a normal day the former is serviceable and the latter is well-informed but they both did little to make this a memorable broadcast in any positive manner. Rogan was educational in spots, as he needs to be during FOX broadcasts, and that deserves credit. But at one point during a fight, he literally said these words: "This really doesn't look pretty but hey, it works." The number one rule in promotion -- and make no mistake about it, Rogan is a promoter as much as he's a commentator -- is to never bury your own product. What on Earth can be accomplished by telling the viewers that what they're watching isn't pretty? "You know what, he's right, change this crap."
- Speaking of burying the product, Goldberg perpetuating negative stereotypes is the last thing the UFC needs at any point but during a FOX broadcast that seemingly features new viewers is unfathomable. It's asinine, in fact. During an extremely close bout between Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping, Goldberg could be heard saying these words -- "Never leave it in the hands of the judges." That really takes the cake, everybody. Even if the judges are terrible, you don't draw attention to that fact because it directly undermines your product. Like it or not, the judges are associated with MMA and have a great deal of effect on the sport. If we can't trust them to be competent, why should we care about the sport at all? It would be like NFL announcers calling out referees for being terrible at their job during a football game. Sure, you can remark that you felt something was a bad call but literally saying you should never utilize the judges because they can't get it right is to say you have a major flaw in your entire sport. "Hi, new viewers, don't take us seriously, we can't get it right!"
- Finally, we get to the fights themselves, which were, by design, matched up to ultimately be the snoozefests we were given. I predicted -- correctly, I might add -- that all three fight bookings could ultimately produce three boring decisions and -- surprise! -- we got three boring decisions. This is, of course, the most damning aspect of this failure of a broadcast because new viewers tuning in most certainly did not get paid off with exciting action like they were undoubtedly hoping for. Instead, they were met with fights that even hardcore fans struggle to get into. And before you go rushing to defend these fights, hardcores, let's just admit that they failed to compel you beyond your expectations for what we knew they would be anyone.
- On top of the fights being relatively boring and mostly uninteresting, they also adversely affected the upcoming title fights Sergio was cooing over in his post. Neither Chael Sonnen nor Rashad Evans did much of anything to make folks believe they are legitimate threats to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, respectively. Sonnen struggled greatly to defeat Michael Bisping, a man he was supposed to run over on his way to the biggest rematch of the century. Instead he barely squeaked by, stole a pro wrestler's promo for his post-fight interview and generally looked like he poses as much a threat to Silva's reign as a banana peel "The Spider" doesn't notice before he slips on it. Evans was far better in his fight, mostly dominating Phil Davis en route to a unanimous decision win. But his win, while dominant, lacked the necessary punch and power to make fans feel he is a legitimate threat to Jonny "Bones," a physical specimen who is coming off the greatest year by a single fighter in MMA history. We're talking about a guy who made Mauricio Rua tap to strikes, submitted Quinton Jackson and choked Lyoto Machida unconscious ... in three consecutive fights within eight months time. Cruising to a decision win over Davis, who clearly wasn't ready to be in that fight to begin with, raises legitimate questions about Rashad's chances against Jones. It's now less about whether or not Evans can win but how long he can last as opposed to the foes the champion has vanquished before him.
- I'll close with my biggest beef and the single biggest issue with this abomination of a broadcast: the failure to properly promote the two title fights that came about based on the results of the evening. Chael Sonnen's stolen promo was lame enough, but the fact that he didn't even mention Anderson Silva or his impending title shot is almost criminal. UFC wasted an opportunity here to have Silva come to the fight and get in the cage for an interview with both guys on TV to do a staredown and the full nine. Isn't that the point of the FOX deal? To deliver good fights on free TV while getting casuals to convert to pay-per-view buyers? This would have been a pretty damn easy way to do it and UFC missed the boat completely. It was shocking. It was even worse when Rashad Evans defeated Phil Davis in the main event of the evening and they didn't bring Jon Jones into the cage for a contentious interview and staredown between those two, who can't help but stare daggers into one another when they're within range of one another. They could have announced the date, time and place for their bout, right then and there, live on the air. The worst part in all this? JON JONES WAS ACTUALLY IN THE BUILDING DOING ANALYSIS FOR FOX. This was so bad on a promotional level, my brain cannot comprehend it. The UFC is usually very good with situations like this. Instead of having Jones inside the cage carrying his title and promoting a huge upcoming defense of said belt, they had him up in the booth, dying on the vine trying to be an analyst, a position he had no previous experience in and was doing a terrible job at. It was mind-boggling.
There you have it, folks. A nice little ribbon tied around an event that failed to do anything other than waste a few hours of everyone's time.
If you feel differently, come with some solid analysis as to why that is. Let's hear it, Maniacs, I'm all ears.