As far as feeling satisfied following a major mixed martial arts pay-per-view, I don’t think it’s possible for me to have walked away from last night’s UFC 91 card with a better feeling.
As a promotion, the UFC was clicking on all cylinders. We received the following: a much-anticipated main event from two larger-than-life stars that delivered; conclusive finishes to all fights shown without the slightest hint of controversy; a well-paced show that allowed for eight fights to make the broadcast; and one of the best performances from the commentary team of Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan in recent memory.
If the mainstream hype of UFC 91 brought first-time viewers to the table last night, then the event had to have left them with a positive impression of mixed martial arts. Having a main event that delivered was a huge step to ensuring that everyone watching in attendance or at home on pay-per-view walked away happy.
The fact that the outcome of Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar was controversy free was a a major relief. The timing in which referee Mario Yamasaki stopped the fight was somewhat anti-climatic considering the punches at the end didn’t appear anywhere near as vicious as the ones Lesnar delivered when the two first hit the ground. However, it wasn’t an early stoppage and if anything, I felt Yamasaki may have allowed the fight to go on a little long. Any doubt anyone might have had about the stoppage was erased after Couture was shown still laying on the ground following the stoppage.
It was just nice to know that the sport was on top of its game for a fight card that was widely viewed by a great deal of people. I’m not exactly sure how many watched last night, but I am convinced that it was a lot of people.
The media attention this past week that led up to the event was nothing short of outstanding. I read a lot of complaints in recent weeks in regards to the lack of promotional push that UFC 91 was receiving. While those complaints might have been valid a few weeks ago, I don’t see how anyone can complain about the momentum we saw build this past week. While far from scientific, I believe that the pre-fight mainstream attention that UFC 91 garnered easily surprassed the amount UFC 71 received.
When the final buyrate number comes in for UFC 91 I am sure there will be those that will ask whether it could have been even higher had the major promotional push lasted two-to-three weeks instead of just one but I’m not sure. I’ve talked to several promoters in recent months about why they wait until the week of an event to make their big pitch and the answer I kept hearing was that they felt to do the big push before would be a waste.
The general consensus amongst the promoters I’ve spoken to is that most viewers of MMA are of the casual ilk and they aren’t going to decide weeks in advance whether they are going to watch an event. When it comes to watching fights, people usually wait to make their final plans. I’m not saying I agree with that logic, rather I am simply trying to explain why we’re seeing a growing trend of late promotion for events.
But the media push was so strong in this case that there was some concern about whether the fight could live up to its billing. While Couture vs. Lesnar certainly wasn’t a fight of the year candidate, it most definitely delivered. It wasn’t a first round cake walk; the fight went past the first round and there were back and forth exchanges. It felt like as big of a deal as we all thought it would be.
Production wise, the show was solid. I’m not always impressed with what the UFC does production-wise because I’ve seen other MMA productions from a behind-the-scenes perspective and based on the UFC’s end product, I just don’t believe they put in the same effort. There are times that I feel that the UFC knows they have you hooked so they are only going to go far in terms of what they give you production-wise.
However, I found no fault with last night’s show and the UFC has never had a broadcast that took away from the fights. My issue is that while I am sure the UFC production team certainly cares about the quality of its work, I’d like to see them go the extra mile and most importantly, for the broadcast to evolve. If you watch a DVD from four years ago, it isn’t going to look much different from what you see today. Some people like consistency but I believe that no one should ever be satisfied with their work.
Adding to the quality of last night’s production was the solid effort exhibited by both Goldberg and Rogan. I’ve been critical at times of Goldberg but it’s important to note that I think he’s a good broadcaster and he’s does a good job. But that’s part of the problem I have with him — he’s nothing more than good.
I feel like the UFC is the top promotion in the world and it should have the top play-by-play announcer in the world. Goldberg is good at his craft, but he’s not the best. I do believe that Goldberg was just better than good last night. There are times when I feel he’s a step behind the action or says something ill-advised when he tries to force things, but Goldberg’s timing was on last night and he was a little sharper than usual in his observations.
The thing that you get with Rogan is consistency. There really isn’t any sort of dropoff or increase in his performance from show-to-show. I also appreciate the insight he brings to the table with his vast grappling experience and can appreciate that he doesn’t try to promote that experience on the telecast.
Unless you’re a hardcore fan, you aren’t really aware that Rogan is an accomplished martial artist. To a casual fan, he comes across like just a regular broadcast who knows his stuff. It’s to a point now with Rogan that while I am watching a UFC telecast that I completely forget that he’s a comedian or the same guy who was on “News Radio” or hosted “Fear Factor.”
The biggest relief of all was the overall quality of the show. Many pundits expressed a belief that UFC 91 was relying too heavily on the Lesnar vs. Couture matchup. However, there wasn’t a bad fight on the card and we got to see some very exciting finishes to the fights that preceeded the main event.
The pacing of the show was good enough that a total of eight of nine fights on the card were broadcast and getting to see the big uppercut by Jeremy Stephens and the “Fight of the Night” between Jorge Gurgel and Aaron Riley was something that I could appreciate coming from a consumer-perspective.
I’m just one fan, but for what it’s worth, I felt that UFC 91 was one of the best UFC events I’ve ever watched.