UFC Fight Night 52: Mark Hunt vs. Roy Nelson Review
Beyond the Octagon lies a sea of black. The UFC is in Japan, but we take that on the UFC’s word. This could be some Apollo-era soundstage, the Japanese-heavy crowd an illusion owing to an elaborate array of photo-visual editing techniques. Someone somewhere has carefully examined the footage and come to the conclusion that there’s no way the UFC has ever stepped foot in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.
This is horseshit, of course, but the UFC fits their live event production into a one-size-fits-all model. The product seen in Saitama is the same as the product seen in Bangor is the same product seen in Abu Dhabi is the same product seen in Stockholm. This isn’t limited to live event, but extends into promotional posters, video marketing, pre- and post-fight press conferences, etc. There’s value in this. Namely, it creates familiarity for the viewer at home. There’s no mistaking the UFC product on television.
That consistency also creates a barren, homogenous product. I’m not suggesting the UFC dress Lorezno Fertitta in a silk mawashi and send him out to bang a drum in the middle of the arena, nor am I suggesting Mike Goldberg and Brian Stann wear formal kimonos cageside. But creating an atmosphere of “Hey, we’re in Japan!” outside of stock shots of downtown Tokyo would be a nice touch.
MARK HUNTO, STRONGEST KAIJU
FightMetric credited Roy Nelson with six takedown attempts on Saturday. Whether it was a genuine effort at exploiting Hunt’s biggest weakness or a decoy to plant the idea of the takedown in Hunt’s mind, it was a slight surprise from a guy who’s combined for a total of 5 takedown attempts in his last 9 fights.
Nelson has never had a strong takedown game in the UFC. After Saturday, he’s been successful on a mere 17% of his takedown attempts in fights tracked by FightMetric. He was par for the course against Hunt, completing one of his six attempts. The lone completed takedown led to a fleeting moment of back control that Hunt calmly escaped from.
Nelson’s takedown futility forced him to stand in front of a man with the same amount of power and a much more technical game. The skill disparity played out over eight minutes until a Hunt uppercut caught Nelson as the latter darted in, sending the round man face first into the canvas.
For Hunt, it may send him ahead of Josh Barnett for the number-five spot in the UFC’s rankings, an absolutely insane thought considering he held a sub-.500 record as recently as the summer of 2011. That ranking speaks to the dropoff in the division past the top four challengers (plus Cain Velasquez), and also to the level of opposition Hunt’s beaten over the last few years. (Nelson challenges Stefan Struve, Cheick Kongo, and Ben Rothwell as Hunt’s best win.) Junior dos Santos soundly defeated him at UFC 160, and it’s hard to imagine Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Travis Browne, and Stipe Miocic don’t do the same.
YOU WON’T HAVE THE AXE MURDERER AROUND TO CALL OUT ANYMORE
Yoshihiro Akiyama returned to fighting after over two years away, putting on a dominant and impressive performance against Amir Sadollah, who was returning from his own extended time away from the cage. After the fight, Akiyama stated his preference to fight Wanderlei Silva, despite the fact that Silva last fought at 205 pounds and Akiyama currently fights at 170 pounds. It also disregards the fact that Silva retired hours before the card started.
Silva announced his retirement via a 13-minute Youtube video. The video could have/should have been edited to half that time, and Silva conveniently ignores his own role in how a segment of the fanbase perceives him now, but he addresses some issues that have been brewing if you’ve been paying attention.
The big one, though, is the UFC’s treatment of Renan Barao after Barao had to pull out of UFC 177 after passing out during his weight cut. Silva notes that the UFC scheduled Barao three times within six months (it’s actually seven months), which is a heavy toll to place on a fighter at the top of his division. What made the situation worse was the UFC trotting Barao out to publicly shame him, which the UFC probably deemed as necessary after the cancellation of UFC 176 and now losing an already weak main event the night before a pay-per-view.
Whatever your feelings on Silva, it’s important to note that this isn’t an isolated case. Quinton Jackson left the UFC under similar circumstances. Same with Tito Ortiz. There’s a reasonable argument that these fighters were all well past their prime and maybe valued themselves more than the promotion did. But it’s also worth noting that Georges St-Pierre walked away from the sport after being disparaged by management as well. St-Pierre’s retirement has been retroactively framed around the issue of drug testing, but that cannot be removed from the UFC and Dana White’s role in this from White saying St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks “both look stupid” to the public lashing White gave St-Pierre at the UFC 167 post-fight press conference.
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.