Posted 06/15/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

UFC 174: Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov Review

UFC 174 looked like an event that, hey, maybe your aunt’s second husband’s friend from high school who told you he was an MMA fan at the wedding reception may not have bought, but would be a fun little under-the-radar event that you, the serious fight fan, would enjoy. It wasn’t. Sorry. The two most interesting fights at the top of the card – Demetrious Johnson vs. Ali Bagautinov and Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley – ended up one-sided affairs, and the rest of the card featured Ryan Bader doing the same thing against an impotent Rafael “Feijao,” Andrei Arlovski winning a decision he did not earn, and Ryan Jimmo screaming that his arm broke. Let’s get into the details.


I was a bit disingenuous in the introduction. Johnson and MacDonald both won one-sided decisions, but both won by implementing smart gameplans that rendered their opponents helpless. So, perhaps not as aesthetically pleasing a fight as a more visceral back and forth slugfest, but intriguing enough for those with any knowledge of what they’re watching.

Those gameplans were similar: control the center of the Octagon and keep the opponent’s back against the fence as much as possible. This cut down on Bagautinov and Woodley’s aggression and ability to shoot for takedowns, and led to clean sweeps on the scorecards.

We’ve come to expect this level of dominance from Johnson over the course of his title run. For MacDonald, it was a return to a version of himself we haven’t seen since he fought B.J. Penn late in 2012. Against Jake Ellenberger, MacDonald largely dominated with the jab alone, but a seeming reluctance to engage any more than necessary with an outmatched Ellenberger led to a drudgery of a fight. That passivity carried over to his fight with Robbie Lawler, who won by split decision and a shot at the welterweight title. He returned to better form against Demian Maia, though it lacked the bell-to-bell dominance of last night’s fight.

MacDonald was deemed the heir apparent to Georges St-Pierre’s title at 170 pounds. He’s suffered setbacks, the aforementioned Lawler fight and a beating at the hands of Carlos Condit. That latter was a reminder that MacDonald was then a month shy of his 21st birthday. This fight with Woodley should be a reminder of MacDonald’s former blue chip status: he’s still only 24 years old, and he just reduced a fellow top-five welterweight to a one-dimensional striker. If this is the “real” Rory MacDonald, we should expect the welterweight title to find a home in Canada within the year.


There were reports “on the ground” at UFC 174 that fans were walking out of the arena during Johnson/Bagautinov. In addition, the event only drew a $1.14 million gate with an announced attendance of 13,506. As Mookie Alexander noted on Twitter, the event had already passed the $1 million gate mark a few weeks out with 7,000 tickets sold, meaning the UFC likely papered the hell out of the remaining 6,000+ seats.

I already noted that the UFC’s decision to use this fight as a pay-per-view headliner screamed desperation. This gate, along with a likely low buyrate, raises a question expressed since the UFC signed a television deal with Fox: Is it time to cut down on the number of pay-per-view events?

How many fighters can the UFC reasonably rely on to carry a PPV? Jon Jones, despite a couple sub-350k PPVs in his last two outings, has a track record of bringing in half-a-million buys with name opposition. Past that, it’s a lot of speculation. We’re told Ronda Rousey is the company’s biggest star, but she’s now scheduled in her second stint in a supporting role after her second effort headlining brought in 340k buys against Sara McMann. Cain Velasquez has done decent numbers in the past, but it’s hard to see him cracking above 350k in the near future given his two straight destructions of Junior dos Santos and Jon Jones still dallying at 205 pounds. It’s possible Johny Hendricks and Chris Weidman got the rub from Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, respectively, but we haven’t seen it yet.

In fact, Silva may still be the promotion’s top draw, and he’s not long for this MMA world.


The judges awarded Andrei Arlovski a decision over Brendan Schaub. It was a bad decision made worse by the fact that two dreadful early rounds preceded a third in which Schaub took the fight to Arlovski. While those first two rounds featured little action, Arlovski, at best, won only the first, and the optimal scorecard should have given Schaub a 30-28 decision.

Dave Meltzer attributed this to the limitations of the ten-point must system, but it’s really the implementation of that system that is the problem. While you could argue Arlovski in the first if you subscribe to “every round must have a winner” thinking, you’re much better off scoring it a 10-10 and moving on. And that’s the problem with the implementation. When commissions discourage their judges from awarding non-10-9 rounds, you end up with silly scoring like this, where a marginal round is weighted the same as a clear one.

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