Posted 07/23/2013 by admin in Untethered MMA

UFC on FOX 8: Johnson vs Moraga Preview

By Mike Fagan, July 23rd, 2013

Back in January, Fox promoted Demetrious Johnson’s fight with John Dodson as a “World Title Bout” or some such nonsense. It was a clever (not clever) way to avoid promoting Johnson and Dodson as flyweights, which, fairly or not, the promotion and, more likely, the network believed would turn off the casual viewer. (They also heavily promoted Quinton Jackson, the only fighter on the main card with any mainstream appeal, despite the likelihood that it would be his last fight with the promotion.) That experiment seems to have worked, as it brought in a similar rating as the much more stacked UFC on Fox show the month prior.

Refusing to name the division of your title fight main event is weird. Some might call it disrespectful. I like weird, though.

Yet, that’s infinitely better than the promotion Johnson’s second appearance on Fox is getting. I’d like to tell you with 100% certainty that this show has had zero promotion, but I’d be lying to you (or, at the very least, pulling it out of my ass). Outside of the NFL season, I don’t watch a whole lot of Fox. I do watch a fair bit of FX, and I can’t recall seeing a promo there or anywhere else on TV, and the usual fight week buzz is nonexistent, despite being less than a week out from the fight.

I don’t really understand the Fox/UFC scheduling strategy here. The UFC has run the following schedule on Fox, post-Velasquez/dos Santos: January, May, August, December, January, May, July. The December/January shows should be a staple. Fox can plug holes left behind by NCAA and NFL football. It’s also a huge audience to promote the shows.

That’s about the maximum they can air DURING the football season. September through early December would compete directly with their own college football programming, and the UFC doesn’t draw enough eyeballs to make that worthwhile, even for one Saturday during the year. So, it makes sense that you’d have to schedule the other two shows during the spring/summer months.

But why not stack these shows? Your winter shows get a bump from the NFL. And yeah, you’ve still got to put together a credible fight card. But why resign yourself to a poor effort outside the football season?

Sure, this event’s been hurt by a couple of injuries and cancellations. Even still, here’s what the main card could have looked:

Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga

Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger

Liz Carmouche vs. Miesha Tate

Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub


Tarec Saffiedine/Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Robbie Lawler

Contrast that with the UFC’s debut on Fox Sports 1 next month:

Chael Sonnen vs. Mauricio Rua

Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne

Urijah Faber vs. Yuri Alcantara

Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle

For the serious fight fan, you can probably call this a wash. But the Fox Sports show has a significant advantage in name recognition. Sonnen, whatever you think of him, has two high profile fights with Anderson Silva, Shogun is a former champion and has a long history at the elite level of MMA, and Faber has penetrated the mainstream through various endorsement deals.

Last August’s Fox show, headlined by Mauricio Rua and Brandon Vera, pulled in some 2.4 million viewers. That’s the lowest rating the UFC has pulled on Fox so far. It would shock me if this came within 200,000 viewers of that number.

-Speaking of poor decisions that will tank this card’s rating: John Moraga’s two UFC fights both opened the show on Facebook. Nobody outside hardcore fans, Moraga’s family, the Arizona State wrestling team, and the MMA Lab gym know who this guy is. Demetrious is still a minor character on the MMA stage, but he has a bunch of face time on PPV and has headlined a handful of free TV shows. Moraga, to most people, is someone who popped up out of nowhere. How do you sell that to your audience? How do you sell him as a champion if he beats Johnson?

-Fortunately, Johnson stands as a 4-1 favorite at the moment. And that’s really as much fight analysis as I can give you on this one. Mostly because I haven’t seen Moraga fight. Or I don’t remember seeing his fights. (See above re: fight placement.)

-Related: I find it much more difficult to analyze fights at the lower weights. At the heavier weights, skill sets are more defined, and you can gauge a fight’s outcome on that alone. As you go down in weight, though, everyone is pretty well-rounded. Strengths and weaknesses are more granular. A lot of the differences between two fighters are nearly imperceptible advantages in speed or very specific technical details. Some guys have (relatively) heavy KO power and other guys might have creative submission games, but ultimately, a lot of fights at 135, 145, and, to an extent, 155 are 15ish-minute battles of skill attrition.

-I suppose the Rory MacDonald Love Fest couldn’t go on forever. Between beating up B.J. Penn and dressing like he only orders PBRs in ungentrified bars, Rory’s turned off a lot of (hardcore) MMA fans. Which is unfortunate, because dude is probably going to rule 170 pounds in a few years.

-Ellenberger’s a good test for him. It’s the most dangerous opponent he’s fought since Carlos Condit. Condit, I like to remind everyone, SHOULD have been ahead of MacDonald on the scorecards even before the dramatic 15th minute knockout. But MacDonald showed he could hang at that level, and it’s important to remember the context: MacDonald was 21 years old, fighting a top-10 guy who would go on to fight for the title.

-Here’s the crazy thing about Robbie Lawler: He’s still only 31 and he’s coming off a big knockout win over Josh Koscheck and he’s still only a -275 favorite over Bobby Voelker. Voelker done all of going 2-1 against Roger Bowling and losing to Patrick Cote. In a world where Robbie Lawler fights to his level, he’s -400 or better, but Lawler will fight down to his competition all the time.

-Liz Carmouche may be the first fight to go from a +750 underdog to a -500 favorite.


Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at, also available as a podcast via iTunes.