Posted 03/06/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC Fight Night 37 Preview

There’s a very distinct memory of my childhood that’s stuck with me. My father took us to Barnaby’s for lunch on some Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Barnaby’s is a dimly lit hot dog/hamburger/pizza joint with a couple locations in the Chicagoland area. They had a big screen TV on one side of the restaurant, one of those massive things from the late 80s/early 90s that could comfortably house a small family and seemed to weigh a few tons. On this particular day, the TV was tuned to professional wrestling.

Given the time period, I’m pretty sure it was WWF Superstars, which was basically an hour of promos, “news” updates from Gene Okerlund or Lord Alfred Hayes or someone else that I’m forgetting, a couple of squash matches, and maybe something competitive between a couple mid-carders. It was forgettable programming, but something about watching pro wrestling around noon at this restaurant filled me with excitement and joy.

I feel the same way about mid-day MMA. It used to happen once in a blue moon before the Fox deal when the UFC would hold PPVs in Europe. They got away from it for a while, opting to start events at bizarre local hours in order to line up with American prime time. Now we’ve come full circle. Moving a percentage of low-level international cards to Fight Pass allows the company to start events at appropriate times for the locals without burdening their broadcast partners or pay-per-view bottom line.

The first two Fight Pass shows took place in Singapore and China, and fans had to wake up at ungodly hours in order to watch live. This Saturday’s show, however, broadcasts live from England with a 12:30 p.m. ET start time for the first prelim. The main card fits the Superstars model perfectly: three of the four main card fights feature favorites of 3-1 or better with a near pick ‘em in the co-main event.

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Alexander Gustafsson isn’t as thrilled about Saturday’s Fight Pass card. He told the MMA Hour:

“Well, yeah, that sucks a little bit. I didn’t even know about that until just a few weeks ago. … I was a little bit shocked because I went from a title fight to a fight that only shows on the Internet, so I was a little bit- I didn’t know what to think.”

As I wrote about in my The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale Review, this is one of the cost of putting relevant fights/fighters on Fight Pass cards. These shows, presumably, aren’t drawing many fans outside of hardcore circles, and this leaves fighters picking up wins without much exposure. Dong Hyun Kim blasted himself into the top ten with a spinning elbow KO that might come as news to a lot of people who watch the highlight reel before his next (hopefully PPV) fight.

Gustafsson can’t be more than a win or two away from another shot for the light heavyweight title (a shot he arguably should have received right away). He should be headlining a Fox Sports 1 or Fox card or co-maining a pay-per-view. Instead, he’ll fight on a card with no major broadcasting outlet as a loss leader.

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Alexander Gustafsson’s opponent has a 14-0 MMA record, three wins inside the UFC, ranked 11th in the world, and is four years on the wrong side of 30. Does that sound like a “prospect” to you? No? Weird, because here’s what some of the MMA media is saying:

Alex Schlinsky at Fansided: “In the main event of the evening, undefeated English prospect, Jimi Manuwa…”
Marc Raimondi at Fox Sports: “Manuwa, the top English prospect…”
Brett Okamoto at ESPN: “…and undefeated prospect Jimi Manuwa has been scheduled for March 8…”

I don’t know much about Schlinsky (only 254 Twitter followers, so Dr. Johnny Benjamin wouldn’t give him the time of day), but Fansided is a thing, so all three of these dudes represent major outlets.

Here’s a list of things that should disqualify you from “prospect” status:

-34 years of age
-Ranked eleventh in your weight class in the top promotion
-Fighting the last title challenger
-34 years of age
-Multiple quality wins inside the UFC
-34 years of age

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