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By Wade Keller, MMATorch Supervising Editor
KELLER'S UFC ON FOX 1 BLOG
SEPTEMBER 28, 2012
AIRED LIVE ON FOX NETWORK
-Thanks for joining us here at MMATorch either on our App (iPhone, iPad, Android, Amazon) or website (http://www.MMATorch.com). I will be blogging all night about the three-fight card on Fox broadcast network, a historic night for UFC.
-Matt Pelkey is handling play-by-play so click on that link for the actual results and analysis of fights. And MMATorch editor Jamie Penick and MMATorch columnists Shawn Ennis and Rich Hansen are on-site in Chicago for this big night, so check back all weekend for their insight into this event. We are among the top five most read MMA-dedicated news and commentary sources in the world with our coverage dating back to UFC 1 and, as always on fight nights, we aim to bring you the best night-of coverage of big MMA events you'll find anywhere.
-It does instantly make UFC seem more mainstream to have the music and voice of the NFL on Fox accompany images of the Octagon and the UFC fighters. UFC even gets its very own robot.
-Great camera angles to open showing a packed looking arena. They showed the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks banners in the rafters, again associating UFC as a mainstream pro sport.
-As Shawn Ennis posted on Twitter hours ago from inside the arena, the Fox Sports desk is set up in the arena. Sitting at the desk are Curt Menefee, Randy Couture, and Jon Jones. Smart to have Jones there to expand his profile with network viewers. And Couture is a great representative of the sport with background being an analyst.
-The highlight package of Couture was heavy on his punching. How about a little Greco-Roman technique thrown in? At least they showed him finishing someone with a sleeper.
-Jones says he's eager to get a fight with Rashad Evans to get past that chapter in his story, so therefore he's rooting for Rashad to win.
-Within two minutes Menefee already showed more passion for MMA and professionalism as an announcer who does his homework than Gus Johnson did in all of his Strikeforce broadcasts combined.
-Jones shows signs of being a little green on camera as he kept peeking at his notes for the rehearsed talking points. Having been at ESPN HQs a couple years ago to see pre-production work for an "MMA Live" broadcast, there is a lot of prep work and coaching that goes into making sure the analysis for fights is on-point and smooth. It's not as improvised as those who are good at it make it seem.
-Quotebook - Jon Jones: "Tonight is where we're going to see what Phil Davis is really made of. Is he a top guy or is he a mid-tier guy."
-Jones looking at his notes is really bad. They might want to set up a teleprompter in the future if he can't remember his talking points.
-I endorse one million percent the on-screen graphic showing the Middleweight Rankings. It totally puts in perspective, instantly, for the novice viewer where the fighters are in terms of title contention and who should be favored and has the most to gain or lose. They have Sonnen at no. 2, Bisping at no. 5, Maia at no. 6, and Weidman at no. 10 (but with a 7-0 record). UFC should have done this years ago, especially on Spike TV "Fight Night" specials, and I am thrilled they've added it here. It's so important for that casual viewer to have a big picture perspective on what the fight means and this is such an efficient way to get that across.
-Thirteen minutes into the broadcast Menefee threw to Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan at Octagon-side. I don't know if it's good or bad for UFC that it's expert color analyst has been the subject of donkey semen drinking controversy this week (Google it if you're lost).
-Well done concise video packages on both Maia and Weidman going into the first commercial break. They did a good job establishing Maia as the favorite and Weidman as the "all-American" underdog getting an opportunity of a lifetime due to an injury reshuffling the line-up. "People don't get opportunities like this in life," he said. "I want to be something special."
-I wish I knew how many people were watching their first ever MMA fight on TV at this moment. What percent are channel flippers or people who think it's legit enough on Fox to be worth watching who never saw it before.
-Dana "I Dare You To Hack Me" White is sitting front row watching, but otherwise wasn't part of the broadcast this far, a big contrast to the Heavyweight Title Fight Special on Fox a couple months back.
-Weidman finally got a takedown after four minutes that wasn't far off from the Ken Shamrock-Dan Severn disaster in tersm of action. Rogan said Maia looks "stiff" when throwing punches. He called him predictable earlier.
-A few boos from the crowd as the first round ends. Not an awesome display of MMA excitement to start the broadcast. Or as Pelkey aptly called it in his report: "This might be one of those 'bad kickboxing by badass grapplers' kinda fights."
-Crowd begins to boo by mid-second-round as Goldberg notes that Weidman is gaining more confident with his stand-up. "What's on ESPN right now?" asks millions of viewers.
-We got our first "buried subject" Yoda-like sentence structure from Goldberg late in the second round: "Starting to build a little momentum, the Brazilian is." Annoyed by that sentence structure, this writer is.
-First two rounds easily for Weidman. Maia has to turn it up if he wants to avoid a really disappointing showing in front of a massive audience. Rogan says the weight cut and late notice for this fight is clearly affecting Weidman, and both fighters look very tired.
-Maia looks exhausted as he tries for takedowns, which Weidman easily avoids. Rogan calls them sloppy attempts. Goldberg notes he telegraphs them. Goldberg also says it's a close fight. Close as in 10-9, 10-9, and likely 10-9.
-Rogan: "This fight has degenerated into a sloppy kick fighting competition. These guys are two drunken guys outside of the bar, and the crowd is reacting [with boos]."
-Maia can't take Weidman down, and Weidman doesn't want to mess with Maia on the mat and fall prey to a late submission. So we get drunken kickboxing.
-Rogan: "Neither gentleman with this performance putting fear in the eyes of the rest of the weight division." Goldberg notes that Weidman took this fight on 11 days notice. That's a fair point to make.
-Split decision win goes to Weidman. Not a huge outrage that a judge gave two rounds to Maia, but certainly he saw the fight differently than I did. At least the right fighter got the majority.
-I'm surprised they waited until after the first fight to show Michael Bisping trash-talking Sonnen. There are a lot of casual fans who'd have stayed tuned during the boring first fight if they got hear Bisping and Sonnen talk. But we got a decent dose of it here as Bisping said Sonnen is becoming a bit of a fool and a court jester in UFC. Sonnen then fires back: "I don't come out here and say to the microphone I'm the best in the world just to hear myself talk or to entertain the fans. I come out here as a full disclosure disclaimer for the same reason they put warnings on a pack of cigarettes. Fighting Chael Sonnen may be hazardous to your heatlh."
-Menefee says an online poll listed Sonnen and Bisping as the no. 1 and no. 2 villains in UFC, so quite a fight. He called them "two of the most polarizing fighters in the UFC."
-Pithy video packages air on Sonnen and Bisping including workout footage. They managed to screw up a pretaped bleep, as "God damn" got through in Bisping's interview clip. How does that happen? Or did he something less appropriate for broadcast prime time TV after that?
-As Sonnen was getting prepped at ringside, Menefee said this is one of the few times Sonnen might get cheered. We'll see.
-They're not showing fighters walking to the ring to music. They're in the Octagon or about to enter once they get back from the commercial.
-Yep, Sonnen got more cheers and fewer boos than Bisping.
-Goldberg notes the winner of this fight takes on Anderson Silva in Brazil.
-Sonnen takes Bisping down seconds into the right. Rogan said one of the fight's biggest questions was answered right away. It was at eight seconds, by the way. Bisping got back up seconds later. Rogan notes that Bisping has never been submitted in his MMA career. Goldberg notes that Sonnen has never scored a KO or TKO in his career.
-Nice spin hook kick attempt by Bisping at 3:00. Just grazes Sonnen's hand protecting his head.
-Very strong and intimidating start for Sonnen, but Bisping dictated more than the second half of the round. Exciting, tense round.
-Ref John McCarthy told Sonnen at least twice during the round and then went over to his corner reinterrated that he needs to "watch his head." Sonnen was close to headbutting Bisping several times when he charged forward.
-Rogan said Bisping might be the most underrated fighter in the UFC. Rogan wondered if Sonnen was mentally prepared for this fight or if he underestimated Bisping.
-At 2:00 of round two he took Bisping down and then controlled him this time on the mat against the cage. Bisping got back to his feet in a few seconds and a minute later had Sonnen against the cage again. Rogan said it was shocking how much Bisping was controlling the action. Goldberg noted that Sonnen controlled 82 percent of all his Octagon time in his UFC career, the highest percentage of all fighters.
-At the end of the round, Sonnen walked back to his corner, while Bisping dropped his hands to his knees and bent over to catch his breath.
-Sonnen took Bisping down less than ten seconds into the third round. At 3:00 a "USA! USA" chant broke out as Sonnen got a full mount on Bisping. Rogan does a nice job here of explaining the different techniques Sonnen is going for and why he's shifting positions for different strategies.
-With a minute left Rogan said he thinks Bisping won the first two rounds, so Sonnen needs to submit Bisping. Bisping, though, survived a full mount and ended up sitting against the cage with 30 seconds left.
-Bisping stands up at the end of the fight and raises his arms. Sonnen is slower to get up, then raises his arms, too. They cut to a commercial before the decision is announced.
-Winner: Sonnen by unanimous decision. Wow. One judge gave every round to Sonnen. He had the most dominant round in three, but also ended up on his back taking elbows at the end to mitigate that a bit. And it sure seemed Bisping won at least these second round if not the first two. Bisping, though, put in a strong enough showing - and many will argue he won the fight - that he will likely get another big fight or be put on ice to face the winner of Anderson vs. Sonnen in the rematch. He'll also be on standby in case of injury. He seemed okay with the decision, also; disappointed, but not outraged or cheated.
-In post-fight, Sonnen tried to interview Rogan and asked how it felt to be inches away from greatness interviewing Chael. He said when you're the greatest fighter in the world, they call you Chael Sonnen. "Beat me, if you can," he loses. All schtick and no insight into the fight, unfortunately. No comments from Bisping, either.
-Not that Fox wants this to be a PPV infomercial, but how about footage of Anderson Silva in action doing his thing as no one else can do it, such as avoiding Forrest Griffin's punches and KO'ing Vitor Belfort just to introduce him to new fans?
-Back to Menefee, Jones, and Couture to talk about the main event. Someone talked to Jones about reading from his cheat sheet as he's trying very hard (white-knuckling it) to avoid glancing at them for help as he talks. Maybe he's just getting more comfortable as the show progresses, too.
-They air a feature on Rashad Evans seeing his brother off to Afghanistan as a soldier in the Army and missing a family birthday party back home. He talks about how every day away from his family has to be for a purpose, and becoming champion again is his purpose.
-Jones joked that he got some insight into Rashad's training by watching that video.
-Couture and Jones talk about Davis's reach advantage.
-They showed Davis and Evans walking from the back to the Octagon, so Fox isn't cutting all ring entrances.
-Rogan said Davis is carrying himself like this is right where he wants to be and belongs, which is the right demeanor headed into a fight of this magnitude.
-Rashad stares down Davis. Davis looks down and never makes eye contact.
-Rashad dominated on the ground late in the first to secure that round.
-By late in the second round, Davis was fighting with trepidation as if the step-up in competition was affecting his confidence. Rashad took Evans down late in the second round, and he was ahead before that. So Rashad clearly up by two rounds going into the third.
-Rogan: "Phil has anguish on his face." Good description, as Rashad was just a level higher than Evans and it became more and more clear as the fight progressed. Evans was just holding on, and doing so relatively admirably if come from the perspective that he's outclassed at this point as a fighter by Evans.
-Into the fourth, with Davis needing to win in the Octagon, not on the scorecards. Does his cardio hold up better than Evans?
-They officially ran past the two hour time allotment when the fourth round started. They decided it was better to possibly run over than to come up way short and have to fill 20 minutes of time with a dwindling audience level that would affect the story of whether the show was a ratings success or not.
-Rogan said Davis's only hope is to take Rashad down and wear him out on the ground. Rashad then takes Davis down and gets his back. They stand up, and Rashad still has Davis's back. Davis turns to face Rashad when they're against the cage, but Rashad still controls the situation. Davis is gasping for breath while Rashad looks fresh. Rogan said this is a learning experience for Davis who will know what it feels like to be in there with someone at Rashad's level.
-Rashad turns it on in the final seconds of the round. Another round to Rashad.
-Rashad gets a mounted crucifix at 2:15. Davis escapes and rolls onto his knees and elbows. Rashad continues to control. Davis springs to his feet with Rashad still controlling from behind. Rashad then lets it go back to mid-ring stand-up, landing a punch along the way.
-Rogan wonders if Rashad will be upset at himself for being unable to finish Davis.
-When the horn sounds, Davis moves in for a hug. Rashad leans in but doesn't really hug back, and seemed possibly disappointed in himself as Rogan was noting a minute earlier.
-When I was in Las Vegas for the first UFC event ever in that city back in September 2001, Dana White was hanging his head and shrugging his shoulders backstage afterward over the fact that their debut in Vegas and return to PPV (after being banned for years) was a card full of draws without one KO or submission. It was such an important night for them, and they just didn't get the classic card he and everyone in UFC was hoping for. Tonight wasn't that bad by any means, but three fights going the distance, and no spectacular knockouts or submissions is far from ideal. It does show an alternative aspect of UFC compared to the Junior dos Santos KO of Cain Velasquez in the Fox debut, though.
-Rogan interviews Rashad afterward, who said he was disappointed he didn't put him away, but he couldn't land any big punches. He said Davis is tough. Rogan asks about getting a shot at the light-heavyweight title next. Rashad said this fight was a monkey on his back because everyone kept talking about Jon Jones. He said now he's ready to focus on a fight he's motivated for, facing Jones for the title. That's a big fight, and Rashad's dominant performance for five rounds rebuilds his rep as being tough competition for the steamrolling champ Jones.
-Couture said he felt Davis looked intimidated backstage before the fight and that showed. He said he looked slow in the fight. Menefee went to Jones who said he has goosebumps right now. "I feel so alive when I know who I'm fighting next and I have a new mission, I have a new purpose. Fighting is my livelihood and I feel so good right now. I'm so excited to fight Rashad. I can't wait to get past this chapter in my career… I'm a very happy man right now and I'm excited to retain my title on April 21st in the ATL." He said he tries to fight people's bodies and skill-sets, not their names, but he can't help but factor in that he's fighting his nemesis next.
-There were some commercials during the show for Nick Diaz vs. Carlos Condit, but no appearances by them on camera or interviews in the arena. They did show the little PPV ad in the corner of the screen throughout.
-Menefee signed off about 20 minutes past the scheduled two hours.
-From a production standpoint, it was a high-end, professional, and glossy. It was what it needed to be, with familiar graphics, music, and Menefee as a high-profile host. No big glitches and nothing controversial. I think Dana will be happy overall, although having at least one finish to a fight would have been a strong preference, plus that first fight got things off to a slow start.
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