Hello and welcome to another edition of Championship Rounds. Thanks for stopping by to join me as I look at five big stories from the week in MMA and thanks to those of you who read and comment on CR every week, it’s really appreciated.
It’s been another busy week in the world of MMA. We’ve had great shows, fight announcements, Court battles and big name signings. Plus there’s the small matter of the super fight between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar coming up on Saturday. There’s so much to talk about this week I might need an extra round! So what are you waiting for? Let’s touch gloves and do this.
Round 1 – UFC on Fox 6 delivers in the cage and in the ratings.
Despite a few technical difficulties with the live broadcast, UFC on Fox 6 from Chicago has to be considered one of the most surprisingly successful shows of recent times. The event, headlined by a fantastic, five round, high paced, technically dazzling fight for the Flyweight Title between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson, continued the run of entertaining UFC shows on FOX that delivered in the ratings.
In the lead up to the show there were concerns that the show may be a flop in the ratings. The main event with Johnson defending against Dodson was something of an unknown quantity as neither fighter is a proven draw. The Flyweight Title is a new title that is not yet established. Even with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s last fight in the UFC being on the undercard, an argument could be made that the show lacked star power. Once the show was over and the ratings were in, no one could have any complaints.
The show did a 2.43 rating, drawing 4,219,000 viewers. It was the highest rated show on television, either network or cable, in all the key demographics. Overall they did a 3.02 in Males 18-34 and 3.00 in Males 35-49. The 2.09 overall 18-34 rating was more than double that of any other show on television that night.
It’s great to see that a technical fight like Johnson vs. Dodson was able to pull a healthy number of viewers and in turn expose the exciting Flyweight division to the wider public. There is no doubt that the UFC benefits hugely from being advertised during Fox’s NFL broadcasts and it will be interesting to see how the next show does in the ratings when the NFL season is over.
In the opening fight Chicago native Ricardo Lamas slipped but was able to then capitalise on over eagerness from his opponent Eric Koch to take advantage. Lamas secured top position quickly and then sliced open Koch with vicious elbow strikes from the top on his way to a 2nd round TKO victory.
The sight of Koch on the mat, blood literally squirting from his forehead, must have left Fox executives squirming. Thankfully the director was able to employ WWE’s old trick of finding as many wide angle shots as possible so the seriousness of the cut on Koch’s head wasn’t shown too graphically. This was a big win for Lamas who must now be considered one of the top contenders for Jose Aldo’s Featherweight Title.
The biggest star coming out of the show has to be Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis who made short work of one of the 155lbs division’s best fighters in Donald Cerrone. Pettis finished Cerrone with a sickening liver kick inside three minutes of the first round. This was the first time in 54 combined MMA and kickboxing fights that Cerrone was stopped by strikes. Pettis, who secured himself on highlight reels for the rest of time with his springboard off the cage ‘Showtime kick’ in the final show for the WEC, added to his Matrix style attack with a springboard off the cage into a flying knee to the body during his one sided destruction of Cerrone.
Post fight Pettis called out Dana White to grant him a shot at the Lightweight Title and White later confirmed Pettis will fight the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for the Lightweight Title later this year. The highly skilled and charismatic Pettis fighting either Henderson or Melendez is a MMA fans dream and if the fight goes a few rounds, it’ll be a sure fire fight of the year contender.
Rampage Jackson brought the curtain down on his UFC career with his third straight loss, this time via unanimous decision to Glover Teixeira. Rampage looked better than in his previous loss to Ryan Bader but he was still way off the pace and despite a few late flurries, he was handily beaten by Teixeira. The Brazilian was the far superior fighter and used his accurate striking to keep Rampage off balance and was able to take him down at will throughout the fight. It wasn’t a vintage performance by Teixeira, who many thought could be in line to fight Jon Jones but he will need a few more impressive victories before he’s ready for a shot at the Light Heavyweight Champion.
While Rampage was by far and away the most popular fighter on the show and he showed up in great shape, he is no longer the top level fighter he once was. There’s no doubt MMA has moved on significantly in recent years and Jackson has remained standing still. It’s sad that Rampage’s UFC career has ended this way (his attitude towards the company, media and fans has sucked in the last year) because he was once one of the most exciting, dangerous and charismatic fighters in the world. While he has made noises about going to other promotions or even moving to professional boxing, it’s more than likely this is the last time we will see Rampage Jackson fight on the biggest stage.
The main event, which saw Johnson successfully defend his Flyweight Title against John Dodson, was just as many had predicted – a ridiculously fast, exciting and technically proficient battle. Dodson actually made the better start to the fight and had Johnson knocked down three times in the second round. However the Champion showed his class by recovering well and dominating the championship rounds, using an excellent Muay Thai clinch and numerous knee strikes from that position to dominate the ‘significant strikes landed’ statistic in the later rounds. Dodson had no answer to this technique which Johnson used to perfection.
The fight did have a controversial moment as Johnson landed a knee to the head while Dodson had one hand on the mat. Dodson was technically grounded at this point and while Johnson’s knee wasn’t an intentional foul, he could have been docked a point – which would have ended the fight in a majority draw decision. However, referee John McCarthy decided not to dock Johnson a point and he was able to secure the win and a very impressive performance on national TV.
The main event drew 5.2 million viewers on FOX, which would tie for the 14th most watched MMA fight ever on U.S. television. Who says the little guys can’t draw? UFC on FOX 6 was another exciting and entertaining show and with star making performances from Pettis and Johnson, the UFC and FOX must be extremely pleased with their night in Chicago.
Round 2 – UFC vs. Bellator heats up in the Court room and on TV.
The increasingly public and bitter war between UFC and Bellator continued this week as the legal battle between former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez, Bellator and the UFC took a somewhat surprising turn.
Without going too deep into the legal situation, the basic position is this:
Alvarez was one of Bellator’s biggest stars. When his contract ended in October 2012 UFC offered him a deal to join their organisation. As per the terms of most top fighter contracts, Bellator had a clause in Alvarez’s contract known as ‘matching rights,’ which effectively meant they had the right to match UFC’s contract offer within a specified period of time (usually a few months, but in Alvarez’s case one year).
Bellator claimed they matched the UFC’s offer. Alvarez and his legal team did not agree and the matter eventually ended up in Court, with Alvarez attempting to secure an injunction against Bellator to free him up to fight for the UFC.
The issue that Alvarez is arguing is that while Bellator copied the UFC contract word for word (they only changed the wording from UFC to Bellator and from Fox to Spike TV and kept all financial figures the same as the UFC offer) that it was not a match on two grounds.
The first is that FOX is more valuable to fight on than Spike, as it boosts the fighters career due to better exposure and they can get more money from sponsors.
The second is that even if Bellator matched the PPV bonuses Alvarez was offered by UFC, it’s essentially meaningless since Bellator have never run a PPV and if they did, it would not draw anywhere near the number of buys that a UFC show would. Especially a top line UFC show.
The judge ruled against Alvarez and rejected his request for an injunction to allow him to fight at UFC 159. The judge ruled that to grant the injunction, he would have to believe Alvarez had a strong chance of winning the case. While he didn’t dismiss Alvarez’s chances of eventually winning, he concluded that there was not a “reasonable probability of success.” He also ruled that Alvarez would not suffer irreparable harm if he wasn’t granted the injunction.
As expected UFC President Dana White was not happy with the decision and his epic rant on the situation is one for the ages:
“The judge must not have done his homework if he’s agreeing that Spike TV and FOX are the same platforms,” said Dana White. “They’re so fucking far apart, it’s not even funny. It’s two different fucking universes. I saw in their argument where they said, `Oh, Spike launches pay-per-views.’ No, actually they don’t. That’s not true. We did. What they’re doing is, they’re saying not as much Spike, as Viacom, has been saying, `We built the UFC.’ No you fucking did not. No you did not, you arrogant pompous Jackass. You did not build the UFC.”
He then said, “You better think long and hard if you’re a manager or a fighter and you’re about to do a deal with Bellator. Think long and hard about how you negotiate that contract.
The judge knows nothing about the TV business, or the PPV business. When they said Spike was equivalent to FOX, the guy should have shut the case down right there.
It’d be one thing if they were fighting to save their champion, but he’s not even their champion and his contract is over. They have the right to match. So match the money. It’s impossible for them to match our TV. Our prelims pull bigger numbers than their live fucking main events on cable and their trying to say they’re the equivalent of being on FOX?!”
As far as Spike as a PPV platform, White said, “You know Dixie from TNA. They love Dixie at Spike. She worked her ass off to build her business. I have nothing negative to say about her. They were on Spike. They get 1.8 million viewers and they can’t sell a PPV.”
White said they should just be fair to Alvarez, saying Viacom has the money to pay him:
“They have the money to pay him. And they do have a right to match. I made an offer. They need to match it. Then people say, “well that number doesn’t make sense for them.” The money Lorenzo was paying fighters didn’t make sense when we were $44 million in the hole, but that’s how you start a business. The whole thing is so fucked up. They can have him. Just pay him what he’s supposed to be paid. You want to get into this business, welcome to the promoting business, pay the kid his money.”
Alvarez’s options at this point are to either sign an eight fight deal with Bellator, to continue his case and remain out of action until it is settled, or sit out until 18th October 2013, at which point the one-year matching period ends and he would be free to sign with UFC.
While the dust was still settling on the Alvarez decision, Spike TV announced Bellator had signed UFC Hall of Famer and former two weight World Champion Randy Couture to a multi-year contract. While all the details have yet to be released it is expected that Couture will be a coach on the upcoming Bellator reality TV show which is due to start filming later this month, as well as other TV commitments.
This is a significant move for Bellator as Couture is a legend in MMA and he brings huge name value to the promotion. It is expected that other big name MMA pioneers, who aren’t contracted to UFC, will soon join Couture in Bellator.
Dana White said after the story broke that he was glad to see Couture go, saying that while he comes across publicly as a great guy, in reality he’s not. White also confirmed Couture left the UFC without doing the final broadcast they had agreed to. White was quick to point out that both Couture and his management had been nightmares to deal with over the years.
Bellator are owned by Spike TV, who in turn are owned by the Viacom company, one of the biggest and most financially dominant companies in television. With Dana White believing that Viacom are sitting on ‘billions of dollars in cash’ it looks like they are now putting some of that money to good use with the signing of Couture.
Whether it’s in the Court room or on TV, everyone should expect the issues between UFC and Bellator/Spike TV/Viacom to continue to heat up as the weeks and months go by. The first shots in the new MMA war have certainly been fired.
Round 3 – Diaz vs. Thompson confirmed for UFC on Fox 7.
The theme for UFC on Fox 7 of UFC vs. Strikeforce fighters continued this week as the UFC confirmed former number one contender to the Lightweight Title, Nate Diaz, will fight former Strikeforce lightweight Champion, Josh Thompson. Thompson is making his return to the UFC after nine years away from the promotion.
This is an interesting fight as Diaz is coming off a Title fight loss to Benson Henderson on Fox, while Thompson arrives in the UFC with a big reputation following his epic trilogy of fights against Diaz’s teammate and good friend, Gilbert Melendez.
The fight should be a one of the more entertaining scraps of the year as both Thompson and Diaz are known to bring the fight to their opponent and neither are known for holding back verbally in the build up to fights.
The fight should also be a big draw locally as it takes place in the former home of Strikeforce, the HP Pavilion in San Jose on April 20. Thompson is from that area and Diaz lives a few miles away in Stockton, California.
Round 4 – UFC announces new ranking system.
Despite long being opposed to the introduction of a ranking system within the UFC, Dana White has announced that the promotion will soon implement a new top ten ranking system for all their divisions.
The new ranking system, in conjunction with UFC’s official statistical provider, FightMetric, will rank the Champions of each weight class at number one. Any interim Champion will be number two in the division.
Interestingly, sports media from around the world will be polled on the rankings, which will be recognized by the UFC and integrated into its broadcast and featured on UFC.com. Voting will be open to media immediately after each live event with results made available to UFC.com within 24 hours.
Dana White commented on the new ranking system as follows:
“UFC Fighter Rankings are a great tool for new and existing fans alike to learn and better keep up with the fast pace of the UFC. We always look for opportunities to engage fans and media, allowing them to connect and voice their opinions, and this just one more way of doing that.”
As well as the rankings of each division there will also be a ‘pound for pound’ ranking which is surprising considering White has been quoted in the past as saying that a pound for pound ranking is similar to people debating who would win a fight between Superman and Batman. His point being, it’s all fantasy so why bother having the pound for pound ranking/debate in the first place?
It appears, just like having female fighters in the UFC, that White’s stance on the ranking system has softened recently. It will certainly be beneficial to new fans of the promotion to find out who are the top fighters and it will also continue to fuel the never ending debate about who is the best pound for pound fighter in the world.
Round 5 – UFC156 Preview – Aldo vs. Edgar super fight.
Speaking of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, this weekend two of them clash for the UFC Featherweight Title. It’s Superbowl weekend, which traditionally means a big UFC show and this year is no different.
UFC156 takes place on Saturday 2nd February 2013 from the Mandalay Events Centre in Las Vegas. Headlining a stacked card is the much anticipated battle between former Lightweight Champion, Frankie Edgar and current Featherweight Champion and one of the most highly skilled and dangerous fighters in the world, Jose Aldo.
This may not be a super fight for the casual UFC fan but for those of us who follow the sport closely, the prospect of Edgar vs. Aldo is more exciting than scoring a touchdown in the Superbowl . Well, it is for me as I don’t really follow NFL.
Edgar is dropping down from 155lbs to his natural weight of 145lbs and is the biggest challenge of Aldo’s career. It has long been said that Aldo has yet to face truly world class competition in the UFC. This weekend that all changes as Frankie Edgar is without a doubt a world class fighter and one of the toughest and most durable competitors in the UFC. He also has incredible cardio, footwork and is a great wrestler. He is without a doubt the biggest threat to Aldo’s Featherweight Title reign and the fight should an instant classic.
The undercard for UFC156 is also full of great fights. First up Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez clash. These two Flyweights are looking to get into Title contention and win here is vital for both men. Keep an eye out for McCall’s epic moustache!
In one of the most hard to call fights at Welterweight, Damian Maia goes up against Jon Fitch. Both looked great in their recent fights, with Maia moving down to Welterweight and Fitch looking to have rediscovered some of the form that earned him a title fight against GSP in the past. This could be a real grind of a fight with Fitch’s wrestling going against Maia’s BJJ skills.
UFC156 also sees the return of Alastair Overeem as he looks to secure himself a World Title fight against Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez. Standing in his way is Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. If the stare down between the two at the pre fight press conference was anything to go by, this one is going to be an intense war between two of the largest fighters in the world. I would try not to blink during this one as you might miss the finish if you do!
Former Lightweight Champion Rashad Evans also makes his return to the Octagon after some time away as he takes on ‘Little Nog’ Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. This is a big fight for Evans who has been the subject of a lot of speculation that if he wins this fight he may move down to Middleweight for a fight with Anderson Silva. First though Evans has to get past the accurate striking and dangerous BJJ skills of Little Nog. Evans should win this fight but I don’t think it’s as sure fire win for the former Champion as some others do.
On paper UFC156 is one of the strongest cards the promotion has put on in some time. The Edgar vs. Aldo fight should be worth the price of the PPV alone but with such a stacked undercard, this really is a can’t miss show for me. With UFC156 on Saturday and then the Superbowl on Sunday, this really is one of the biggest weekend’s of sport in the US. Expect as many fire works inside the Octagon as there will be at fulltime at the Superbowl.
Ok folks, that’s Championship Rounds for another week. Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy Superbowl weekend and UFC156! I’ll be looking after my two year old nephew, which uses up as much energy as a cage fight! Next week I’ll be back with a review of UFC156 and four other stories in the world of MMA that have caught my eye.
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