Oversaturation, Overshmaturation: The Best of the UFC in April
Allow me to preemptively strike against some predictable criticism, as my Untethered MMA co-hosts have taught me to do reflexively: there’s a very specific reason Bellator isn’t going to be mentioned here. The trouble with putting on a PPV with a thin roster of world class fighters – aside from not being able to afford it – is that said roster of world class fighters is effectively banished from free TV for months on each end of said PPV. While Bellator 106 gave the promotion their best free TV number to date, it also represented their entire stable of draws focused on a single night, as opposed to being spread across multiple events. It’s hard to blame Bellator’s recent run of atrocious numbers on Spike on anything other than the fact that their best, most relevant fighters are preparing for their PPV debut next month; whether their return to free TV (again, months AFTER the PPV event) can turn the dismal tide remains to be seen.
UFC Fight Night 39: Nogueira v. Nelson, April 11, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Yes, the UFC’s initial offering to their (and our, let’s stop kidding ourselves) Arab overlords fall flat on its face – and Mike Fagan, cur that he is, recently delighted in the number of fighters from UFC 112 that are no longer competing – but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Those that lament the lack of multiple title-fight cards either don’t remember or have blocked from their memories both UFC 112 and Strikeforce: Stockton (I mean Nashville). 50 minutes of fighting involving two legends against competition regarded to be beneath them not good enough for you? How about if one of the GOATs at his respective weight class lost a controversial decision? And the icing? A properly-booked-yet-atrociously-executed bout between Renzo Gracie and Matt Hughes that saw the former’s legs reduced to Jello in front of a BJJ-crazed crowd. We might have been better off had the much-feared sandstorm cancelled the event.
The UFC’s return to Abu Dhabi will also occur at the du Arena, outdoors, so the event is once again at the mercy of the wind. In the spirit of recent overseas UFC Fight Night events, the event is topped with two exciting and watchable bouts between non-contenders and filled with a loooooooooooot of detrius (Chris Camozzi v. Andrew Craig, however, stands out). And while many of my brethren have been burying Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira ever since his second loss to Frank Mir, I believe that he’ll provide a perfectly acceptable foil to Roy Nelson in the main event, as will Tatsuya Kawajiri against Clay Guida. That, or Roy Nelson will take home Nog’s soul and force it to reenact Pride Final Conflict 2003 with Cro Cop’s over and over again.
UFC Fight Night 40/TUF Nations Finale: Bisping v. Kennedy, April 16, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada – You know what you do when you have a legitimate American war hero pitted against a British asshole? Put the fight in the heart Queen-loving (the monarch, not the band) Canada, of course! The alternative may well have been to headline the card with Kyle Noke vs. Patrick Cote – that is to say, there may not have been an alternative – but this fight should be in a place where one of the fighters has an incredibly unfair home-court advantage. All fights like this should be held in hostile territory for one of the parties involved, not this neutral field bullshit. I don’t want to know who the better fighter is in Omaha, people: I want to see one either drive a crowd to frenzy or shut it up completely.
Mercifully, this offering has more meat on its bones than the aforementioned card, starting with the main event and moving on down the card. Sam Stout and KJ Noons seem destined for a 15 minute boxing match, Dustin Poirier fights for the fifth time in 16 months and Shayna Baszler is set to challenge Sarah Kaufman. I’m a pretty good UFC salesman, and this card gives me a helluva lot more to work with than (cough) others. For that, I thank them.
UFC on Fox 11: Werdum v. Browne, April 19, Orlando, Florida - Oh, no. Not Florida. I can’t get images of Troy Waugh disqualifying Travis Browne for completely legal elbows out of my head. Fabricio Werdum’s (completely correct) decision to wait for his title shot was derailed by the latest shoulder injury suffered by Cain Velasquez, necessitating this incredibly risky fight. Browne had my attention before he brutalized Josh Barnett; now, he has my heart. No matter what happens in this bout, a non-JDS fighter has a legitimate claim at a heavyweight title fight. Nothing wrong with that.
I can’t be objective about Donald Cerrone, so I won’t bother, but if there’s a better fantasy opponent for him than actual opponent Edson Barboza, I’m all ears. Khabib Nurmagomedov, which I am ashamed to say I can now spell without looking, finally has an opponent, and he’s a top ten lightweight to boot in Rafael dos Anjos. Yoel Romero? The return of Thiago Alves? Jordan Mein???
You know what? I’m going to pretend UFC 172 – which might just feature the greatest MMA fighter in history – is in May. This is ridiculous, this spoil of riches we enjoy. Perhaps you don’t enjoy every minute of a seven hour UFC event the way you used to, and that disappoints you. I kindly suggest, on behalf of those of us that are happy to pick and choose from this cornucopia of violence, that you temper said disappointment with the knowledge that many of the fighters you don’t particularly think belong in the UFC are currently living their dreams.