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Postcard from the Couch: UFC 93 Franklin vs. Henderson

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.

ANNOUNCING:

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 PalharesJeremy 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 ColemanMauricio 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.

QUICK HITS:

— 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.

23 COMMENTS
  • Nick says:

    although i didn’t mind the old format, i find this way to be much more informative and really allows me to learn from your experience and viewpoint…..very good article.

  • Davey D says:

    Lee, I think this is the best write up you have ever done for 5 oz. Good form, Sir. The break down was excellent and this new way of presentation is awesome. Don’t change a thing. I’m really looking forward to your take on Affliction: DOR and of course, UFC 94. Have a great vacation.

  • Jim says:

    I’ve really started noticing the production details since I’ve started to read this segment. Also, I’ve noticed that they have started to do some of the things suggested in this article: Goldberg has more factoids about each fight and fighter, they’re showing more graphics, etc.

  • JOe K. says:

    It was a pretty poor event in terms of the fights which is the main thing I want to see.

    The fights were long and some were boring and the pacing (my pet peeve) was not very good.

    Definitely a forgettable UFC (sans Lytle/Davis). I buy the ppv’s for the fights. Its nice to see the announcers on point and a high quality production value however, if the fights are bad and there aren’t many shown then the event is an utter failure.

    For examples see the last 2 WEC events or UFC 90

  • Joseph says:

    The card was not very good.
    Production is the norm for a UFC card.

  • Lee says:

    Thanks guys. I will be out of town for Affliction, but will watch it and share my thoughts soon afterwards.

  • HexRei says:

    I’m saying this as a very big Jeremy Horn fan, Goldie and Rogan were WAY overboard on talking up Horn during that bout. Every other line was about how Horn was about to explode, or about to finish Rousimar, Rousimar had Horn dominated for almost the entire bout but they acted like Horn was on the verge of winning. It was embarrassing frankly, and I hope Rousimar doesn’t rewatch that with a translator because if I was him I would be enraged.

  • Lawdawg says:

    With all due respect, asserting that Rogan and Goldberg turned in a great broadcast is absurd. Their bias in the Franklin v. Henderson fight was obvious. It was clear that Zuffa wanted Franklin to win and that Rogan and Goldberg were instructed to call the fight that way. The fact that Rogan failed to point out the absurdity of the 30-27 Franklin scorecard only shows the bias.

  • truth says:

    Fighters shadow boxing in the mist is old, really not that cool of an effect. Anyone else think it’s silly we just see the ring girls take 3 steps then plant thier ass. I understand we can’t have the cut to the corners and the ring girl, give me one or the other.

  • dedstrk says:

    another strength of Rogan’s is to be completely biased toward a certain fighter. I’m sick of that.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Excellent points, especially about the audio. The corner comments were particularly insightful, sometimes unintentionally.

    Speaking of audio, how about the Irish singing like they were at a football match? God bless, ’em, that was a really nice local flavor, and the crisp audio picked it up nicely. If you’re gonna get pissed out of your mind and make noise, it might as well be something worth hearing.

  • JOe K. says:

    So is anybody else bothered by the lack of fights shown?

  • Lee says:

    My thoughts on some of the comments…

    JOe K. – “a forgettable UFC.” For me, it wasn’t even close to this. It wasn’t the best card ever, but I certainly didn’t feel this way. Having said that, there is no right or wrong opinion, because what may be a good card to me may be a lousy one to someone else.

    Lawdawg – It’s absurd that you’d call someone’s opinion “absurd” when it comes to your point, because your point (“Zuffa wanted Franklin to win and that Rogan and Goldberg were instructed to call the fight that way”) has absolutely zero evidence to back up your claim. Again, if that is the way you saw it, believe that then.

    But, if I wrote that it was “obvious” that “Zuffa wanted Franklin to win and that Rogan and Goldberg were instructed to call the fight that way,” as a writer, I’d need to provide more evidence or insight into that. As an anonymous reader who has nothing to lose by giving outspoken, unwarranted opinions, you don’t. I didn’t see it this way at all.

  • 1michael says:

    as someone who generally could care less about this article and the whole “postcard” concept, i have to give props to lee’s latest comment. “As an anonymous reader who has nothing to lose by giving outspoken, unwarranted opinions, you don’t. I didn’t see it this way at all.” the truth if i ever heard it.

  • ViciousUppercut says:

    Lee; toward the end of your last post just above me you wrote “nothing to LOSE”. Thank you Lee, for spelling it correctly. I am amazed at how many times I read posters who spell lose as “LOOSE”. I am absolutely amazed by how so few posters can’t spell the word LOSE. I don’t mean to nitpick. I never do, but I was about to loose my mind. Just kidding

  • maddog says:

    There is no way for the ufc to know what fight will be good or what fight will be bad. I never for a moment thought that they wanted franklin to win. I would ask all you rogan haters to tell me who would do a better job? In my eyes the best commentators I have heard were rogan, goldberg and couture. If you watched elite xc it made the ufc team look like the greatest team in the history of man. Lawdawg you are completely wrong. You should all be thankful the ufc will pit two big names against each other when it seems like as a company they have nothing to win. That is what makes the ufc great.

    Hexrei,I am unimpressed with the way that Jeremy horn looks. It appears as though he hasn’t trained at all for a fight. We all bang on Karo and Mir for not training yet give horn a pass. I love the old horn but this is a different game than it was 5 years ago.

    Great change in format lee. Good write up.

  • JJ Docker says:

    HexRei I completely agree. I am a huge Rogan fan, best color in the game, by some margin. But it was amazing that he was suddenly clamoring for the fight to be stood up with 1 minute to go of RD3. Not only is this contradicting his (very) previously expressed opinion about the stand-up rule but I am also 100% sure he would not have felt the same had it been Horn lying in Palhares’ guard.
    And Lawdog to say “It was clear that Zuffa wanted Franklin to win and that Rogan and Goldberg were instructed to call the fight that way.” is ludicrous, to say the least.

  • JJ Docker says:

    Also, this article has improved leaps and bounds since its first installment; and is now a very enjoyable read. Particularly interesting are your perceptions and opinions of the audio/visual components of the PPV.

  • LMG says:

    Thanks again for the comments about the format change. Sometimes you try an idea and it doesn’t work, so you just go back to the basics. Having said that, I’m always open to input and/or ideas from everyone, as long as they’re delivered in a reasonable way.

  • ultmma says:

    Couple of points, great insight here as always the audioe section was spot on it truely adds to the big event atomosphere of the UFC
    -I like when they go to the corner for insight, I even wouldnt mind if they did it more
    – Rogan is not funny (pretty subjective comment :) ) his humor is cool if your between the ages of 14-21 and your a male
    -The p**** is just dumb and low brow. Its not called for. it makes the sport look low class and give the critics something to point to and say “hey i told MMA is too crude / too violent” This is mixed martial arts not boxing with smaller gloves

    -The UFC broadcast is far, far from perfect. I want to see you call for more improvments
    -I hope Affliction provide a nice alternative to their broadcast (unlike their first offering) Pepsi to the Coke of the UFC’s presentation

  • LMG says:

    ultmma…if you go back and read some earlier editions of this column, you’ll see me “call for more improvements.”

    The challenge is, though, not smacking the readers over the head with them again and again and again every single time I write a PCFTC. I’ve talked about how they need to improve their packaging and GFX, just to name a couple of things.

    This is also why I focused on the audio for this card, because it’s rarely talked about.

    Thanks for reading!

  • ultmma says:

    great point! about no need to repeat or pile on,

    I just want to know is using the same cookie cutter formula for their events a good thing “if ain’t broke don’t fix it” philosophy

    or

    as the industry leader shouldn’t they be expected to take more chances with their broadcasts??

    lol i don’t know maybe I’ve watched one too many UFC events in my life

    Love the breakdowns from the TV industry perspective keep up the good work

  • LMG says:

    ultmma…personally, I’d love to see the UFC try some different things. But the bottom line is, from their perspective, why should they? There is no other game in town, so to speak. And it’s not like they don’t do a good job. So yeah, their approach is definitely, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    For this column’s purposes, I wish there were more televised MMA shows, simply because it would give me more to work with. As I’ve said before, I will always do my best to cover all events, not just UFC events.

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