Posted 01/02/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA
 
 

UFC Fight Night 34 Preview

The UFC makes its long-anticipated debut in Singapore on Saturday. More importantly, UFC Fight Pass will broadcast the event, its first. Fight Pass is the UFC’s shiny new digital subscription service, providing fans with live fight cards (i.e., foreign cards not worthy for Fox Sports 1 or 2), Zuffa’s tape library, and other exclusive online content.

Tim Stark ran through Fight Pass’s issues over at Fight Opinion earlier this week. As Stark notes, it’s an unfinished product, one probably rushed thanks to WWE’s own digital network debuting (almost assuredly) at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show. Among the list of problems: a lack of links to related content, poor content management, an anemic search engine, no ability to create playlists, no access on smart devices or consoles, and, not surprisingly, bugs.

The UFC wants to avoid adding “crappy live streams” to the list. The servers should have a light load. The prelims start at 6 a.m. ET, and the main card isn’t likely to draw the masses out of bed (or, more likely, have them grab the laptop off the nightstand) at 9 a.m. ET. (And that’s an estimation. I’ve heard the UFC plans on keeping a fast pace for these Fight Pass shows, so we could be done by 9 a.m.) We’re talking a fraction of the eyeballs that watch Facebook/Youtube prelims at 5 in the afternoon.

Think of the audience that will tune in, though: journalists and hardcore fans. While 99% of the UFC’s fans may not even watch the show, they’re likely to hear about something going wrong. Hell hath no fury like a jaded MMA head watching a crappy fight stream before breakfast time.

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Another issue with Fight Pass: As of right now, the only way to cancel service is to send an email to UFCTVSupport@UFC.com. You can find that information in the Terms of Service (and nowhere else, from what I can tell).

The UFC is currently offering free trials through the end of February, albeit with one’s credit card information in hand. Is the UFC hoping you sign up and forget about the charges in March? Are they purposely making it as difficult as possible to cancel your subscription? Let’s hope not, because this reeks of incompetence, a rushed product, or a slimy cash grab, and none of those is a good look.

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Four scenarios I see playing out:

1) The UFC continues to provide a half-brained service that draws enough revenue to maintain, but not enough to improve. As progressive as the UFC can be with technology, we need only look at the UFC’s track record at digital distribution. The UFC Vault, in all its incarnations, was a disaster. The UFC app (for Xboxes, PS3/4, smart phones, etc.) is little more than an alternative PPV outlet for those who’ve cut cable/satellite television out of their lives. This is the worst-case scenario for the consumer.

2) The UFC works double time to enhance the service: bug fixes, increased stability and access, enhanced features, etc. The product realizes its potential in March or shortly thereafter. This is the best-case scenario for the consumer.

3) The UFC gets it right…eventually. Maybe in six months. Maybe by the end of the year. This is the most likely scenario.

4) Saturday’s stream dies, hackers access credit card information, Dana White quarters a baby in an ill-advised attempt at Exclusive Online Content. The disaster scenario. People tune out and stay tuned out. The UFC loses a bunch of money and quietly forgets about the whole thing, while fans revert back to “buying” UFC event “DVDs” at “local retailers.” This is the worst-case scenario for everyone.

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No one wants to wake up at 5 a.m., especially if one is waking up at 5 a.m. to watch mediocre MMA, but there’s some nostalgia at play for those MMA fans among us who woke up early/stayed up late watching Japanese shows until 2010 or 2011 or whenever the major Japan scene died. It’s a unique experience. It’s pitch black outside, no one’s awake in your neighborhood, Twitter is dead outside the bots and other weirdo MMA fans watching along with you. It’s a miserable existence once a week or once a month, but once a quarter? Yeah, that’ll do.

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Oh, there’s fights.

Tarec Saffiedine and Hyun Gyu Lim is an interesting fight, if one that inspires few to set their alarms for ungodly hours. Saffiedine has the better fight pedigree with wins over Nate Marquardt and Roger Bowling, but Lim, to put it lightly, is a big fucking welterweight. According to Fightnomics*, the average welterweights stands 5 feet 11.5 inches tall with a 73.5-inch reach. Lim is 6′ 3” with a 77-inch reach and looks every bit as big as the numbers suggest. The betting lines for the card opened as I was writing, with Saffiedine quickly shooting from -135ish to -210.

* - Posted January 2013.

The other name of interest is Tatsuya Kawajiri. A Pride Bushido stable during that promotion’s final years, Kawajiri makes his UFC debut at 35 years of age. He’s had success since Pride’s fall, racking up a 13-3 record with over Gesias Cavalcante, Josh Thomson, Joachim Hansen, Kazuyuki Miyata, and Michihiro Omigawa. Those last three names account for 75% of his 4-0 record since moving to featherweight.

He’ll meet Sean Soriano, a 24-year-old fighting out of the Blackzilians camp. He’s 8-0 on the regional circuit, with stoppages in his first six pro fights. I know little of Soriano, though I’ll note that the money coming in on him has moved lines at the online books from Kawajiri -254 to Kawajiri -171.

 Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.  


Mike Fagan