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Affliction Has Nothing But Potential: Thoughts On Saturday Night’s Programming Throwdown

The jam packed MMA weekend is finally over and I have taken sufficient time to watch and re-watch both Affliction:Banned as well as UFN 14. My initial thoughts are on Affliction’s potential for long term growth, and of course the comparison between “Banned” and Ultimate Fight Night 14. Let’s get right to it.

If they have the dough for another show, I dare say that Affliction may very well become a lasting and solid MMA promotion. Lack of quality fighters, money, marketing and know-how have plagued fallen and floundering promotions in the past, but Affliction may very well succeed where countless others have failed thanks to their bankroll, impressive roster (albeit mostly heavyweights), the recent growth in MMA popularity, and, most notably, an open mind which embraces all facets of the fight and fan community.

Now before I go on some fanboy Affliction rant lets lay down the negatives. Affliction indeed shot themselves in the foot by having an extremely poorly produced debut show. The announcing team- atrocious. The metal band- worst idea…ever. The pacing- the phrases “extremely lousy” and “they obviously had no idea what they were doing” sum up my thoughts pretty well…but.

Affliction has nowhere to go but up and trust when I say that the sky is the limit. Getting back to Affliction embracing the fight community, for starters Affliction acknowledges that they are the new guys in town, they do not act as if they know all there is to know in the world of mixed martial arts promotions, and Tom Atencio does not claim to be a better boss than Dana White. Affliction comes off as an entity simply looking for its own piece of the MMA pie, and doing their very best to get it. They do not seem to feel the same air of animosity and competition that Dana and Co. obviously feel.

Further more, Affliction even went as far as specifically thanking the independent internet media, aka blogs just like the one you are reading right now. That speaks volumes of a promotion, especially when the face of the biggest MMA game around has a history of publicly insulting all things spawned from the internet community, as well as an uber-lame yet strict policy of not credentialing any members of the online media, aka people like myself.

They Had To Reel Them In Somehow

Yes, the Megadeath concert injection as well as the oversized ring were completely gratuitous and downright silly attributes, but hey, Affliction knew that they needed to create some kind of gimmick to put fans in the seats and eyes on the screen. They got creative. They had no access to UFC or PrideFC footage and many of their fighters, though talented, were seldom known to the casual U.S. fan base. But Affliction did their absolute best in focusing on the most cardinal of rules for putting together a fight card which you want people to buy: Have. Great. Fights. That’s all; just have great fighters fighting other great fighters. If nothing else, make me want to see the fights and when I see them, make sure that I remember them.

Sure, the UFC featured Anderson Silva in spectacular fashion once again and that’s great for The Spider, my hats off to ya buddy. But that fight meant little to nothing in the grand scheme of things. James Irvin is hardly even a top 20 LHW so to me, Silva’s punishing victory does very little to help cement his status as the best fighter there is. Affliction, on the other hand, featured arguably the best pound for pound fighter in the world proving that he might still be the best pound for pound in the world. Like it or not, Affliction’s main event (as well as a few of their other bouts) mattered and the UFC’s, while entertaining, really didn’t. It was a fun fight, an unnecessary filler fight to combat a rival promotion, and you could tell.

UFC vs. Affliction- Breaking It Down.

Both main events were simply over too fast for bang-for-buck status but that happens some times. However from a pure entertainment angle, specifically the main cards, Affliction gets the win despite all of the above mentioned production failings. Let’s look some of the bouts on Affliction’s card first:

Fedor Emelianenko def. Tim Sylvia via submission – Round 1, 0:36

Regardless of the fact that Fedor’s victory on Saturday happened too quickly to give fans that firework main event, it still does miles for Fedor’s status and popularity on U.S. soil, as well as negatively effecting Tim Sylvia’s already poor popularity and now reduced HW ranking.

Andrei Arlovski def. Ben Rothwell via KO – Round 3, 1:13

Arlovski is definitely a top five heavyweight who can now be set up for an even bigger fight against Barnett or Emelianenko in the future. Rothwell was probably not the best talent Affliction could have used to face Arlovski, but he had a very strong reputation behind him and it was by no means a squash match. The fight slowed at times but Arlovski came up big and gave fans what they wanted to see, and now they definitely want to see more of Arlovski.

Josh Barnett def. Pedro Rizzo via KO – Round 2, 1:44

Yes yes, Pedro Rizzo is not nearly the man he was when he defeated Barnett years ago, but this fight did miles for Barnett who is easily the top 2 or 3 heavyweight in the world, yet fairly unknown to American audiences. Now Barnett can build his American brand name which should be easy enough, since he has that likable funny, nerdy persona that fans throughout Japan have eaten up for years. Not to mention his K.O. win displayed a power that many have not seen from Barnett, who traditionally is best know for his ground game.

Vitor Belfort def. Terry Martin via KO – Round 2, 3:12

This match had its soft spots but there are many die hard fans who remember Vitor as “The Phenom” and really ached to see him come back in dominating fashion. While Belfort looked less than impressive early on, he managed to score the knock out that even I must admit was hoping he would deliver. Maybe Vitor won’t be the next king at 185lbs but he’s still got some strong pull to his name, and this victory only helped make that pull stronger.

Matt Lindland def. Fabio Negao via unanimous decision

Matt Lindland did exactly what everyone expected him to do against a lesser known and experienced opponent. But Lindland has solid recognition to his name thanks to his publicized feud with the UFC and even his dabbling into politics. Lindland didn’t prove much by beating up Fabio Negao, but he helped keep his name out there in the fans minds so that if and when Lindland fights for Affliction in the future, they can say “oh that guy, he won last time, he used to be in the UFC and he’s some kind of politician too, I think.” Putting Lindland up next against Vitor Belfort now seems like an obvious move that would add a great middleweight match up to Afflictions predominantly heavyweight features.

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira def. Edwin Dewees via TKO – Round 1, 4:06

Total mismatch here and no one ever expected Dewees (who normally fights at middleweight) to have a fraction of a chance at defeating the man known as “little nog”, but he was a late replacement for Vernon White in case you forgot. Most importantly, I think people are overlooking the fact that Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is an absolute beast at LHW, who has yet to break on the scene much due to his slack fighting schedule and over shadowing twin brother “big nog.” But if Affliction can get the younger Nogueira to compete consistently, then they will have their own LHW star in the making.

Renato “Babalu” Sobral def. Mike Whitehead via unanimous decision

Not the most exciting fight in the world but Sobral is another guy who has recognition from the UFC, and can now be set up to take on “lil nog” in a very well matched LHW bout. Babalu vs. Nogueira is definitely a solid fight that I hope Affliction tries to make happen for their next showcase.

Now lets take a look at the bouts from UFC Ultimate Fight Night 14:

Anderson Silva def. James Irvin via KO – Round 1, 1:01

As I stated above, this bout (like Fedor vs. Sylvia) was over too fast to be considered a great main event, and while I give Silva props for continuing to dominate, the win did absolutely nothing to further his status or ranking. A fun fight and I admittedly watched it quite a few times on my DVR, but a meaningless (and short) fight nonetheless.

Brandon Vera def. Reese Andy via unanimous decision

What a horrible, horrible fight. My most disappointing moment of the evening came when I saw Vera struggling to breathe against the relatively unknown Reese Andy late in the third round. The UFC was kind enough to give Vera an arguable nobody in his 205 pound debut, but Vera did not deliver. Vera won the bout but in poor fashion, as he appeared severely gassed and content to grind out a decision. Maybe Reese Andy is actually way better than some have speculated, but Vera still did not take the fight to him after the first round.

Frank Edgar def. Hermes Franca via unanimous decision

Great fight. This bout could have co-headlined UFN 14 and it probably should have. Edgar surprised me with this victory but a great performance like this is what the UFC needs when trying to combat a stacked line up like Affliction’s.

Cain Velasquez def. Jake O’Brien via TKO – Round 1, 2:02

Also a great fight. It was well paced and delivered a punishing TKO victory, something fans will always eat up. Cain Velasquez needs a quality HW next time for sure.

Kevin Burns def. Anthony Johnson via TKO – Round 3, 3:35

(Sigh) What a horrible ending to an otherwise entertaining fight. Johnson was en route to a victory then got poked in the eye (repeatedly) and toppled due to what appeared to the referee as a knock out punch. This bout just made me angry and I can only hope that Johnson’s loss is overturned to a no contest.

CB Dollaway def. Jesse Taylor via submission – Round 1, 3:58

Definitely an exciting bout and I have to give huge respect to Dollaway for pulling off that Peruvian Necktie submission. But, as good as CB Dollaway is, he likely has a short future in the UFC. The only reason he can hang around for a little while is because the MW division is so in need, but in general I don’t feel that CB can hang with the UFC’s finest. Dollaway showed excellent resilience in addition to that ultra slick submission, but does pulling off a fancy sub on a TUF cast-off really mean anything in the grand UFC landscape? I don’t think so.

The Bottom Line

The UFC can continue to do what they do and fans will still follow. They do not need to put together spontaneous, underwhelming cards to combat rival programming. To me, this sort of counter-programming business is nothing more than a desperate, childish attempt to make sure that you are still the most popular kid in school, and it’s ridiculous. For the UFC, I’d say just stick to putting together solid PPV’s and we will all watch with awe just like we always have.

Promotions like Affliction may or may not become the real deal in terms of future success, but just because they have the potential to do so does not mean that the UFC should worry themselves sick with pointless Fight Night’s and endless “t-shirt guy” insults. Trust me Dana, more MMA is still a good thing even for the UFC. Affliction has to work on many, many issues in order to succeed in similar fashion as the UFC but this past weekend, by simply using the biggest names they could find, Affliction won the Saturday Night Throwdown between “Banned” and UFN 14.  Of course the UFC’s show was, as expected, much better produced and organized, but Affliction had the better fights and if they can keep doing that, they will continue to earn at least my pay-per-view dollar.

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