The UFC made its official debut on network television on Saturday night and while the fights gave clarity to future matchups booked for later this year, the event left uncertainty in many fans minds about the longevity of the sport.
I was not one of them.
In the main event, “Suga” Rashad Evans booked his fight versus light heavyweight champion (and former friend) Jon Jones as he out-grappled the previous unbeaten Phil Davis in route to a unanimous decision victory. Evans showcased why he was the superior mixed martial artist despite lacking the wrestling credentials of his opponent, dictating the pace of the fight while landing the better strikes.
Evans won the fight 50-45 on all three judges scorecards and despite the dominating win, still thought afterward that he could have been better.
Still, UFC fans get the fight they wanted, Evans challenging the seemingly unbeatable Jones, his former training partner at UFC 145 this April in Atlanta.
Not to be outdone, Chael Sonnen punched his ticket for the most anticipated rematch in UFC history, defeating Michael Bisping in the evening’s co-main event via split decision
The victory was sour tasting for Sonnen. He did not dominate Bisping like many thought he would and one judge scoring the bout gave all three rounds to Bisping. Sonnen looked tired throughout the fight, unable to keep Bisping down until the third round. In fact, most MMA fans believe the fight did more for Bisping than Sonnen. Anyway, Sonnen will now meet UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva, most likely this June for a fight card in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Those results should be enough for MMA fans, hardcore or casual, to be satisfied with the UFC on Fox 2 results. But they aren’t.
Instead, Monday morning has brought a negative backlash, the fact that the aforementioned Evans/Davis and Sonnen/Bisping fights, plus the opening bout between Chris Weidman and Demian Maia were boring, lacked excitement and paled in comparison to the UFC’s last fight in November, a first round knockout by Junior dos Santos over Cain Velasquez to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion.
What many of those pundits do not understand is that the sport of MMA is both of these events; a quick, shocking knockout and a half-hour grinder.
The fact that Saturday nights fight showcased the great skills these mixed martial artists have is the only way that MMA is going to make it. The sport is not streamlined by quick knockouts and one-minute fights, but rather superior athletes that utilize their amateur backgrounds to become full-fledged mixed martial artists.
Think about it from a college basketball segment. The A-C-C conference is typically high-flying, offensive oriented schemes that see games reach the hundreds. The Big Ten is a grind-out, defensive game plan that sees scores land in the 60’s. Both are considered big time college basketball and both forms are universally accepted by the college hoops fan.
In fact, come March, it is those types of matchups that make the NCAA Tournament so intriguing.
Why can’t the same be applied for MMA?
Look, if fans are going to turn away because Evans is transitioning from full-mount to half-guard to side-control, than so be it. They just do not understand mixed martial arts.
If MMA is going to be showcased on network television, it has to show these types of fights. We get them all the time in MMA.
I won’t accept that type of negativity regarding those tuning in. If you were negative, than you should have seen the UFC prelims on Fuel, which saw two excellent knockouts (Lavar Johnson and Cub Swanson) a silly submission (Charles Oliveira) and a doctor stoppage win by Evan Dunham.
If that doesn’t work, tune in on May 5th for UFC on Fox 3. The one fight already announced, lightweights Jim Miller and Nate Diaz, should be a war.
Give MMA a chance, because between UFC on Fox and UFC on Fox 2, the diversity of the sport was shown.
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