After a second showing on FOX, the UFC is 0-for-2 so far on network television. With the brief debut back in November, and now 55 minutes of minimal action on Saturday, the organization’s welcome to the masses has not started off as White had envisioned.
While it certainly cannot be predicted whether three matches would turn out similarly lackluster, part of the blame must go to matchmaker Joe Silva and anyone else that decided the matches for this particular event. Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen, Michael Bisping, and Demian Maia, while all certainly talented, have never been fighters to endear themselves to crowds as the most exciting to watch.
UFC on FOX 2 turned out very similar to Strikeforce: Nashville, which was actually the last Strikeforce event to air on CBS. Three fights, three decisions. While Saturday did not feature a post-fight brawl like the Strikeforce event (“Mayhem” Miller being ambushed by Cesar Gracie’s camp), it still did not carry out the task that White and the rest of the UFC desire: persuading the public masses into becoming UFC fans.
The opposite aspects of UFC on FOX 1 and 2 are very similar, both a brief fight and a drawn-out decision entice no one. Plus, with Chael Sonnen grabbing the microphone and acting like he just knocked out Michael Bisping, many new onlookers probably assumed they were watching pro wrestling. After narrowly edging Bisping in a closely contested grappling match, Sonnen did what he usually does, he talked the talk. That certainly is not an issue for those who are aware of the kind of character he is, but for those tuning into MMA for the first time, it likely seemed more WWE than MMA.
I am not declaring the event a complete failure, as the city of Chicago was buzzing throughout the week, and while the matches were not the most exciting, the results still brought together two matches that fans have been looking forward to for months.
But let’s just say I am glad I did not go to a friend’s house to watch the event as I had originally planned. And I know what you’re thinking; no way this guy has friends. While that is mostly true, I likely would no longer be friends with anyone at all had I made them watch the event.
Biggest winner: UFC fans
Yes, that does seem like an oxymoron after criticizing the event, but as I mentioned, even with its lackluster event, UFC on FOX 2 brought together two matches that will be amongst the most highly anticipated of 2012: Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans and Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.
Jones vs. Evans will take place on at UFC 145 on April 21st in Atlanta, as long as Evans is not injured. That is certainly no guarantee given the last two years for Evans. Silva and Sonnen will rematch more than likely in Sao Paulo, Brazil in June. Sonnen has said be believes the fight will never happen, but Dana White says it will. I’ll take White’s word on this one.
Biggest loser: Demian Maia
Losing to a top prospect in Chris Weidman is nothing to be ashamed of. But losing to him in the way he did is, as Weidman took the fight on just eleven days’ notice, which included a 32 pound weight cut. That cut made its appearance known in the third round, as Weidman was visibly exhausted. But Maia was just as exhausted.
Maia looked to have just one weapon, repeatedly attempting to knock Weidman out with his left hand. That never happened, but Maia never strayed from it. I’m not sure what happened to the jiu-jitsu practitioner in Maia, but he has seemingly moved on from that stage of his career, as he has not submitted anyone since February 2009, and doesn’t even attempt to use his world class grappling skills anymore. In order to make his way back up the middleweight class, Maia needs to return to his roots. He will never be mistaken for a premier striker, and at 34 years old, he doesn’t have much longer to return to fighting for the title.
Biggest question: What do we make of Phil Davis?
Davis was never overly impressive in the five round affair with Evans, as he looked nervous going into the fight, and he fought that way. While it looked like he was walking on an ice rink, as he was slipping throughout the match, he looked pedestrian with his striking even when he could stand straight. Davis needs to return to the gym and go through many sparring sessions before his next match. He needs to learn to be able to use his reach much better, along with working his striking and takedowns together, instead of picking one or the other.
Rashad Evans vs. Jon Jones
This was decided the minute Evans had his hand raised, as UFC officials announced Jon Jones would be making his return to the octagon in April. With Evans declaring he did not sustain any injuries during the fight, this is the match that will likely take place.
Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva
Another matchup that was decided going into the match, Sonnen and Silva will be talked about non-stop until they make their way into the cage in June.
Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz
Munoz was originally expected to fight Chael Sonnen on Saturday, but withdrew due to an elbow injury. He had surgery last week, and is expected to return to training in 4-6 weeks.
Weidman continued his amazing start to his UFC career on Saturday, defeating Demian Maia. A win here for either one could pit them against the winner of Silva vs. Sonnen in June.
Phil Davis vs. Vladimir Matyushenko
Davis needs some time off, even though this was the first time he graced the cage since March 2011. He needs to work on his standup, and someone like “The Janitor” would be able to test that work when he returns to fight once again.
Michael Bisping vs. Rousimar Palhares
Palhares was considered to replace Bisping on Saturday, but he declined that opportunity. Bisping does not deserve to fall far down the ladder after his performance against Sonnen, and a title shot for either fighter in 2013 is not out of the question.