Another UFC in the books, a card that delivered exactly the kind of tepid entertainment it promised, and we’re left with more questions than answers. Who is fighting whom? And when? It seemed fairly clear during the PPV broadcast that Rashad Evans would defend the light heavyweight title at UFC 98 against Rampage Jackson, while Brock Lesnar and Frank Mir would hook it up again at UFC 100 two months later. Apparently, despite advertising those fights to the fans on television, neither fight is set in stone. Just another unprofessional moment in a night full of them.
1. Yves Lavigne channels his best Mazzagatti:
It didn’t change the outcome of the bout, but referee Yves Lavigne’s decision to intervene in the Matt Brown-Pete Sell fight was truly a head scratcher. Brown had Sell reeling when Lavigne jumped in and corralled him. Fight over right? Not so fast: Yves took a second look at Sell and decided the fight could go on. After he had already physically restrained Brown! Yes, the stoppage would have drawn fire from many of MMA’s blood thirstiest fans. But you can’t go back once you tell a fighter to stop or put your hands on him. There are no do-overs. Can you imagine if that had happened in a fight that was actually important? Unacceptable, but hardly surprising. While the fighters get better and better, MMA officiating just gets worse and worse.
2. UFC channels its best WWE:
In the 1980’s and 1990’s it was a fairly common business practice for professional wrestling companies to sell tickets for shows by advertising stars who wouldn’t be on the card. Stars that they knew wouldn’t be on the card because they were injured, they were on vacation, or they weren’t with the company any more. Despite the pro wrestling overtones of UFC’s promotional strategy, despite Dana White’s bombastic public persona, despite the trash talking and backstage shenanigans, I’ve always held Zuffa to a higher standard than the WWE. Not anymore.
If Frank Mir is telling the truth, and there is no reason to believe he isn’t, Zuffa put tickets on sale for Mir-Lesnar II knowing full well that the fight wouldn’t happen at UFC 98. I understand they were put in a tough spot, but there is only one word for that kind of bait and switch: unacceptable.
3. Shane Carwin Wins; Fails to Impress:
Last week, I was tough on Shane Carwin. He was a prospect of unknown potential, thrust too early into a semi-main event fight. This despite never even appearing on the main card before! It seems strange to say, but after knocking out the impressive Gabriel Gonzaga, Carwin still has plenty of questions left to answer.
His knockout of Gonzaga was great, but let’s not forget that Gonzaga was steamrolling him right until the final punch landed. Carwin looked bad, getting knocked down and even taken down. For a prospect, he looks awfully old and slow. I remember being told backstage about the UFC’s plan to replace Randy Couture with three young wrestlers: Velasquez, Lesnar, and Carwin. After seeing them all fight, it’s clear that Carwin is the least of the three. But, we learned last night, he’s sure got a puncher’s chance.
4. Quinton Jackson Doesn’t Come Ready to Rumble:
I didn’t like Quinton Jackson-Keith Jardine as a PPV main event. It would be fine for a free television show, but for a show they’re asking $50 for, it seemed a little weak. A semi-main featuring a relative unknown just made matters worse. In this situation, you’d expect Rampage and Jardine to come in with something to prove. Instead, it was clear fairly early in that we weren’t getting either man’s best.
There’s no excuse, none, for a professional fighter in the main event of a pay per view broadcast to get tired before the second round is even over. But there were Rampage and Jardine, right before our very eyes, gasping for air and even putting their hands on their knees, in the second round. After an opening round that hardly set the world on fire. We got the hard sell from Goldberg and Rogan that we were watching a great fight. We weren’t. These were two great fighters, but two great fighters that didn’t come to fight. If that Jackson shows up in May, Evans is going to kill him.
5. Quinton and Rashad Take it to the Streets:
It wasn’t all bad news. Assuming that they actually run with Jackson-Evans, the promotion for the fight is off to a great start. The stare down in the cage after Rampage disposed of Rashad’s teammate Jardine was the night’s most memorable moment. Nose to nose, the two spit fire back and forth. The crowd remains cold to Evans, booing him anytime he’s on the big screen. Maybe this will finally be the fight that lets the fans embrace Rampage and give him the love he so desperately wants. Assuming Rampage even takes the fight.