Welcome to the latest edition of Post Card From The Couch: UFC 93 Franklin vs. Henderson.
It’s freezing here in New York City. Like watch your breath freeze in mid-air freezing. And that’s INSIDE of my apartment, so I can’t imagine what it’s like outside. Honestly, today is the perfect day to sit on the couch and watch a live, mid-afternoon UFC pay per view.
Of course, the reason behind the 3 p.m. EST start is because UFC 93 is taking place from the 02 Arena in Dublin, Ireland. I wonder – will this be the sporting event where the Irish fans finally loosen up a bit, try a beer or two and become more vocal?
It’s time to break down UFC 93.
Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan were bringing us the action as usual. Goldberg was Rajon Rondo-like steady in setting up Rogan, who once again, turned in a great broadcast.
Before the show’s first fight, an expected stand-up war between two former boxers, Marcus Davis and Chris Lytle, Rogan was quoting Davis when he said, “The first guy to take it to the ground is a p***y.” Sure, such crudeness probably wouldn’t work on a golf telecast: “Mickelson, like a p***y, is going to play it conservatively and go with the 3-iron as opposed to a driver.” But, it’s a line that only Rogan could deliver without sounding like he’s trying too hard to be funny.
Rogan’s technical analysis really shined during the second round of the Rousimar Palhares – Jeremy Horn fight. Horn surprisingly got the mount and attempted an arm triangle. Rogan smoothly broke down Horn’s submission attempt in real-time, explaining what he needed to do to finish Palhares. When the move failed, Rogan clearly explained why.
With all of his technical knowledge of the sport, Rogan is also not afraid to let the fan in him come out as well. When reacting to Alan Belcher’s absolutely horrific Johnny Cash tattoo on his left arm, Rogan said, “I got a dog named Johnny Cash, man. I’m a fan (of Belcher’s).” In print, it may not come off as humorous, but in the moment, Rogan has a way of making even the novices of the sport feel right at home when watching a pay per view, because he’s a fan, first and foremost.
Rogan also has a keen eye for the not so obvious. I’m not sure if Palhares was actually crying on his walk to the octagon, but if he was, kudos to Rogan for noticing it. And if not, kudos to Rogan for making me believe him.
Another strength of Rogan’s – being able to relate to the fighters – was also on display before the Mark Coleman – Mauricio Rua fight. Coleman won their first fight in Pride when Rua dislocated his elbow while trying to defend a Coleman takedown attempt. Rua believes it was a fluke, while Coleman maintains he was simply doing his job. Personally, I’ve always looked at it as a freak accident or fluke…until Rogan was quick to point out that Rua may have been the one responsible for his loss. Rogan said, “You can call that fight a fluke, but the bottom line is, Coleman wanted to take him down and did…and Shogun, quite honestly, made kind of a rookie mistake. He tried to catch himself with an extended arm.” Maybe it was Coleman’s arrogance when talking about it that always overshadowed that fact, but until Rogan pointed it out, I’d never looked at it from that angle.
OVERALL PRODUCTION VALUE:
I’m going to delve into an area that in general, only gets a mention when it’s bad: audio.
I vividly remember how horrible the audio quality was in Affliction’s debut pay per view. It was an absolute embarrassment to anyone who has ears. But, with the UFC and Zuffa, we probably take for granted how great of a job they do with audio, simply because they always do such an outstanding job with it. UFC 93 was no exception, with several examples that showed us why the production crew for the UFC and Zuffa are clearly the cream of the crop in MMA.
In an amazing atmosphere like the O2 Arena, stellar audio is an absolute necessity. I can’t imagine what the atmosphere must have been like in person, but the crisp, clear audio of fans cheering and chanting for fellow Irishmen Davis and Tom Egan (versus John Hathaway) was top-notch and deserves major accolades. What if the audio quality had been poor while Davis was getting choked up at the beginning of his post-fight interview with Rogan? It wouldn’t have come off as genuine as it did, especially since Davis was reacting directly to those fans that were cheering for him after his victory.
The bottom line is, you truly got a sense of how big the UFC has become on an international level. Rogan even acknowledged as much, saying, “What an awesome response for Egan…the crowd is going nuts, screaming out his name. That just shows you so much about the growth of this sport.” Of course, Rogan benefitted by being there live, but the fantastic audio production by the UFC and Zuffa supported his sentiments.
The UFC’s excellent audio also provided evidence that Phil Baroni is either blind, the worst corner man of all time or both. Baroni, who was in Coleman’s corner, inexplicably told his fighter this after watching him get dominated and subsequently exhausted after the first round: “You won that round…You’re winning the fight… He (Rua) is hurt…He’s looking for a way out…It’s your war. You got him…It’s a war and your winning….You’re in a war, you’re a legend and your doing awesome.”
Regardless of whether Coleman was even listening or not, there’s a difference between encouraging your fighter and putting his health at risk by flat out lying to him, which is what Baroni did. Remember, no one, including Baroni, had a crystal ball at that time and knew that Coleman would somehow survive as long as he did. We’re only talking about how Coleman looked after round one. Baroni’s responsibility at that point was to protect his fighter at that very moment – not feed him a bunch of BS. You might be reading this and wondering, “Well then, what should have he been saying?”
My answer? Not, “You’re doing awesome.”
Despite Baroni’s comments, this was reality television at it’s best, because people love to see other people being exposed as idiots. That’s why COPS has been on the air for 74 years, with no end in sight. Had a sharp Rua showed up, Coleman could have gotten seriously injured. Then again, had a sharp Rua showed up, he would have finished Coleman in round one, thus eliminating the need for all of us to be exposed to Baroni’s expert advice.
Let me be 110% clear. I’m not judging Phil Baroni, the person. I’m judging Phil Baroni, the corner man. You got the sense that even Rogan felt Baroni was off base after his “instructions” when he said in a half-hearted tone, “Phil trying really hard to pump Mark up.”
I’ve always stressed how important it is to try to interject developing storylines, if possible, during these fights. The producer and director’s decision to cut to Coleman’s corner, while an obvious one, was a home run and gave viewers a sense that if Coleman had any chance to win this fight, he would be on his own.
In the main event, Rich Franklin versus Dan Henderson, Franklin suffered a nasty gash due to an accidental head butt in the first round. Naturally, you have to cut to Franklin’s corner immediately after the round ends to capture the drama of how they’ll treat the cut in such a small window of time. Once again, clean, crisp audio captured Franklin looking at the arena’s giant TV screens and saying, “That’s a head butt that got me.” Right on cue, a replay of the head butt was then rolled in.
Next, a bloodied Franklin said with a smile, “That’s a bad one.” Great producing…great audio…and a great example as to why Rich Franklin is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC.
Finally, seconds after round two ended, they cut to Henderson’s corner and captured him saying, “He’s f***ing tired too.” Bingo. With four simple words, we knew we had two exhausted fighters entering the third and final round.
The reality is, there are viewers who could care less about audio, as long as the fights are good. But for those viewers like myself who want the most bang for their buck, you got it tonight from the UFC and Zuffa.
PACING & PACKAGES:
There’s not much to say about the pacing of UFC 93, only because there wasn’t a ton of filler time between fights. Six fights were shown – with three of them going the distance and one (Coleman – Rua) nearly going the distance before being stopped. Another fight, Alan Belcher versus Denis Kang, nearly went two full rounds; plus, we were treated to Hathaway dominating Egan for nearly one full round. Basically, there wasn’t time to do much of anything but take care of business, plugging future cards and shows and then move onto the next fight.
We all knew coming in that Davis – Lytle would be a Fight of the Night candidate – if not a Fight of the Year candidate. Starting the televised card off with Davis, whom the crowd would get behind, in addition to the action that followed, brought a great energy to the beginning of the telecast.
It was also a good call to not only squeeze in Egan’s fight, despite the loss, but to interview him afterwards. While Egan did nothing in the octagon to merit a post-fight interview, it was more of a courtesy to Dublin’s amazing fans, and another great example for those of us watching here in the United States of how amazing the fans can be overseas.
— Rogan may have been a fan of Belcher’s Johnny Cash tattoo, but when I first saw it, I thought it was an ode to a dead and bloated Elvis Presley.
— Also, Belcher’s upset of Kang, who I personally picked to win, is a picture-perfect example of why MMA is so great. You simply never know.
— Despite my criticism of Baroni, Coleman displayed an amazing heart. But there’s a difference between a past his prime, aging fighter showing heart and two young(er) guns like Davis and Lytle trading blows and showing heart. Watching Davis and Lytle was entertaining. Watching Coleman was, at times, disturbing. Hopefully, this was Coleman’s last fight, because he’s got nothing left to prove.
— If you weren’t familiar with the UFC’s new series, UFC Primetime, I’m sure you noticed the promos for it during the pay per view. UFC Primetime is to MMA what HBO’s 24/7 is to boxing: an unrivaled reality show that takes viewers behind the scenes of specific fights. In this case, it’s the rematch between B.J. Penn and Georges St. Pierre. There isn’t a weakness to this show. It’s shot beautifully, and the storytelling is at a level where you not only want to invest in purchasing their fight, but in getting to actually know the fighters as well. Beyond doing meet and greets at every home in America, I cannot think of a better tool to promote the UFC than this show. Ship the show tapes to those who judge the Sports Emmy Awards, pronto.
THE FINAL WORD:
Overall, UFC 93 was well worth the money spent. We saw some very good fights, but the fighters themselves produce fights, not the producers or directors. It’s the moments mentioned above like the amazing crowd, the Baroni fiasco or the curiosity of Franklin and his cut that keep a televised show entertaining. Which is why I felt that this was a great card to focus on an element of production that often gets overlooked by fans – the audio.
The UFC and Zuffa get it, and most likely, always will. And there’s no doubt that Showtime taking over the production reigns for “Affliction: Day of Reckoning” will make for a significant improvement from Affliction’s terribly-produced first pay per view.
The question is, can Showtime/Affliction produce anything close to the high-quality programming that the UFC/Zuffa constantly provide in shows like UFC 93?
For the sake of competition, I hope so. But the bar has been set high… really high.
A planned vacation by yours truly means P.C.F.T.C. will be taking a short hiatus until UFC Fight Night 17 on February 7th. But, I’d love to get your reactions and comments on “Affliction: Day of Reckoning,” which I will share upon my return.