Tonight’s UFC On FOX 2 event was a big occasion for the promotion, their first full two hour event on their new television home in front of millions of viewers, and in all honesty it failed to live up to expectations.
Three lackluster fights, no exciting finishes and over-running it’s time slot by over 20 minutes, it seemed that nothing went right for the UFC tonight.
The evening started off on a bad footing right away with an overly long introduction featuring Curt Menafee, Randy Couture and Jon Jones.
It was a slightly uncomfortable segment, particularly as Jones was clearly still finding his feet after being thrust in front of the camera as an analyst for the first time and was all too often guilty of looking down at the cheat sheets in front of him.
Eventually the action switched down to cage-side where regular commentary team Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan did such a quick and effective job of preparing viewers for the first fight that it begged the question why we needed Couture and Co in the first place.
And so it was onto the fights, and even before they had a chance to throw down what was apparent was just how quiet the Chicago crowd was, which was strange given the novelty of this being a big FOX show.
Unfortunately the action they were about to see wasn’t about to inspire them to pick up the decibel level much other than to shout out the occasional ‘boo’.
Demain Maia Vs Chris Weidman was pretty much the worst UFC fight of the year so far. Both fighters looked somewhat tentative and lethargic, and yet somehow managed to completely gas out by the third round which resulted in some exceptionally sloppy striking.
It was then down to Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping to heat things up, but even given that this was the fight most people were excited to see the arrival of the two men was met with relative indifference by the fans inside the arena.
The eventual fight was close and competitive, but given that it was often based around clinch-work and grappling it wasn’t the kind of action that’s likely to be compelling to the casual observer watching for the first time.
The outcome works out for the UFC as Sonnen Vs Anderson Silva 2 is the fight everyone has been calling out for, but if you were a casual observer watching Sonnen give a rehearsed speech post-fight about being the greatest fighter around after a mediocre performance you might have been left wondering what all the fuss was about.
With two decisions in the book already the broadcast was already running late so unfortunately while we did get some scene setting videos of the two main event stars we didn’t get to see the highlights of some of the much more exciting prelminary bouts from earlier in the evening to spice things up a little and get the blood pumping.
Finally the main event came and again the Chicago crowd were somewhat muted.
Rashad Evans and Phil Davis would then go on to fight for a full 25 minutes, offering up few major highlights in the process with Evans proving himself to be the better fighter, but not offering up a great showcase of his skills.
Again the result works well for the UFC giving them the opportunity to put on a Evans Vs Jon Jones title fight in April, but this wasn’t the kind of display from the former champion that suggests he’s going to be the man to dethrone the current king of the division.
And that was that. Now we await the viewing numbers for the event and it’s going to make for interesting reading.
Dana White’s thoughts heading into the event was that if they could do a peak rating of close to 9 million viewers in November on the channel with only one fight then there was a good chance that they’d do a lot more with a two hour show.
I’m not so sure though. It’s hard to imagine that first time viewers were encourage to stick around for the full show given the lack of compelling fights, instead being subjected to long drawn out decisions that almost entirely lacked the ‘wow’ factor that’s present in many of the UFC’s events.
Hopefully those that did turn off won’t completely dismiss the sport now as a result of this one event.
As for the UFC and FOX, all they can do is learn what they can from this event and ensure that they deliver entertaining fights next time out rather than being solely concerned with the idea of meaningful bouts with title implication.
They need fighters who will deliver the goods, and Nate Diaz Vs Jim Miller which is already slated for UFC On FOX 3 in May is a step in the right direction, though other quality match-ups will be required on top of that.
The UFC have seven years to make this deal with FOX work so they’ll have plenty of opportunities to make amends, but if first impressions count then this certainly wasn’t a good one.