Posted 02/18/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 36 Review

UFC 129 was a milestone card. No, not because it was the UFC’s first run through Toronto. No, not because it was their first stadium show. No, not because of attendance (55,724) or gate ($12.075M) records.

UFC 129 was a milestone card because it was the first time during the Zuffa era that the company broadcast an entire event live.

There was a time before the advent of prelims on Fight Pass or Youtube or Facebook or Spike TV or Ion TV or Fox Sports 1 and 2. Your MMA consumption would look something like this: read a live blog of the show (they were useful once!); if something sounded good, hope for a series of quick finishes so the UFC needed to fill time; otherwise, spend $1.99 per fight in the UFC Vault for poorly formatted .WMV files (or find “alternative” methods).

The announcement of UFC 129′s full broadcast was something of a revelation for the hardcore fight fan. No longer would one have to wait hours or paradoxically root for quick finishes in higher-profile, higher-quality fights in order to watch those of lesser quality.

Nearly three years later, the prelims have become something of a sick joke. The UFC’s expansion – both internationally and in the number of cards being put on – has watered down each card. Five years ago, the hardcore fight fan knew every fight up and down the card, where they trained out of, and who they fought in their last three fights; today, the hardcore fight fan is fortunate to know half the names of the prelim fighters.

That doesn’t stop one from watching, however. Like a degenerate gambler unwilling to leave the roulette table lest he miss a “00” payoff, the hardcore fight fan fires up the computer at five in the afternoon to watch two strange fighters square off in front of sparsely attended arenas. After switching over to Fox Sports 1 and/or Fox and/or the pay-per-view, the hardcore fight fan has sat through some six-plus hours of fighting, most of it mediocre or worse.

This has played out poorly over the last two events. UFC 169 and Fight Night 36 both featured ten decisions, with the prelims being entirely shut out of finishes.

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Fortunately, there is a way to improve not only your fight-watching experience, but your life experience: stop watching the prelims.

I had an engagement party to attend during UFC 169. Fortunately, my buddy and both our ladyfriends wanted to watch the card, and we ducked out of the party to catch the main card at a separate bar. The difference was staggering. Without the fatigue of sitting through seven lackluster fights, the main card was fun! And exciting! Almost like when I first dove into the sport some seven-plus years ago.

Back in 2008, Dream and World Victory Road filled the void left by the collapse of Pride. It was fun for a couple years. It wore off, though, as more of the ex-Pride talent came over to the United States. By 2010-11, the problem wasn’t that Japanese MMA was “dead.” Rather, it became irrelevant, and one could hardly justify tuning in at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning to watch.

The same is happening here. There’s little reason to rearrange your Saturday schedule to watch fighters who you may never see in the UFC again. And, with the advent of Fight Pass (fingers crossed), you can catch up with anything worthwhile you may have missed. So, shut it down, hardcore fight fan, and enjoy watching MMA again.

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Lyoto Machida won a rather uncontroversial decision over Gegard Mousasi, but the FightMetric stats tell an interesting story:

Machida 28 sig. strikes, 35 total strikes, 1 takedown
Mousasi 36 sig. strikes, 66 total strikes

Mousasi also outlanded Machida in every round outside the first (they equaled) and fifth (Mousasi landed more total strikes, but fewer significant strikes).

This isn’t to point out any sort of flaw in FightMetric’s methodology, but rather the flaw of only looking at the numbers (and, as any Leonard Garcia fight shows, only looking at the fight). While Mousasi landed more “significant strikes” in the manner of an objective metric, Machida landed the more significant strikes as a subjective evaluation.

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Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza won the other featured middleweight bout over formerly-eighth-ranked Francis Carmont. Souza showed off a further-evolved game, and dug into his bread and butter to win a decisive third round.

Those two results make for an interesting middleweight title picture. Chris Weidman meets Vitor Belfort on May 24th (and I expect the UFC has both Machida and Souza at the ready in case Belfort’s TRT becomes an issues). The UFC will wait on announcing the next challenger until after that fight resolves; I assume in the event of a Weidman loss/immediate rematch.

Machida is 2-0 at middleweight, taking out an overrated Mark Munoz and a returning Gegard Mousasi. Souza is 3-0 in the UFC with wins over Tim Boetsch, Yushin Okami, and now Carmont, and he’s won sixth straight going back to his title loss against Luke Rockhold in Strikeforce.

The UFC is likely to go with Machida, who at 35 is eighteen months Souza’s elder, a former light heavyweight champion, and has headlined five PPVs in the past. That also allows the UFC to set up a rematch between Souza and Rockhold, though it might be a tough sell to the former, who can reasonably assert an earned title shot.

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Two things to brighten your day:

1) Lyoto Machida loses his hat, regains it.

2) I punked the UFC Twitter account.

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