14 June 2013

UFC on Fuel 10: Did the UFC go too far?

By Andy McGowan

Saturday’s UFC on Fuel 10 was beamed live around the world live from the Ginásio Paulo Sarasate in the Fortaleza, Brazil. The card featured twelve fights and in each of those twelve fights a Brazilian came out on top much to the delight of the 6,286 paying customers inside the Ginásio Paulo Sarasate. Of these twelve fights a record eight were finished by submission with two fights going to the judges and only a single TKO.  

 Even those who aren’t cynical would have been surprised by the number of submission victories. The number of Brazilian winners sadly wasn’t a shock. Last time out in Brazil at UFC 134 only a single Brazilian lost out while his countrymen claimed a combined ten victories on the night so it comes as no surprise that Brazilian fighters dominated the latest card in their home country. 

Local Fight Rony Jason finishes Brit Mike Wilkinson with a triangle choke
There’s no question the UFC are matching these fighters easy to boost interest in the UFC in Brazil and how better to do it than with a Brazilian Jujitsu master class in Brazil by a group of Brazilian fighters? The question is has the UFC now overplayed its hand with easy matchups for local fighters and cheapened not only the UFC brand but the sport of MMA at large? And will we see this trend continue every time the UFC comes to Brazil? 

One of the big reasons that the UFC has managed to grow into a Billion dollar business in such a short time is that unlike its closest competitor for viewers Boxing, the UFC often offers ‘Stacked’ fight cards with 8-12 fights between well matched fighters at a similar level and styles that will complement each other and give paying customers an exciting fight.

In boxing undercards tend to be a parade of young fighters beating up journeymen looking for a payday to give these young fighters padded records and better marketability. If you’ve been a boxing fan for more than a few years you will have most certainly seen this and seen the end result which is a 30-0-0 fighter in a world title fight being blown away by a champion with genuine talent (Amir Khan vs Dimitry Salita in 2009 comes to mind).

It’s a mentality that has seeped into the minds not only of promoters but of boxers as well and many of them seem to spend more time ducking opponents out of the ring rather than in it these days and it’s not something we want to see coming into the UFC and MMA.

When you pay for a UFC event you pay for the whole card, you look forward to and watch the whole card. In boxing you pay for a fight not an event as the undercards rarely excite with their predictable outcomes. With the number of fight cards a year now doubled from 2006 to 2012 (16 in 2006, 19 in 2007, 20 in 2008, 20 in 2009, 24 in 2010, 27 in 2011 and 32 in 2012) we are already seeing less competitive cards and cards that are relying on the main event to carry the whole night. The temptation is now there for the UFC to put on more and more shows like UFC on Fuel 10 with local fighters in easy matchups padding their record and pleasing the locals.

It’s a dangerous and potentially damaging road for the UFC to go down and they risk alienating knowledgeable fight fans, who can spot a mismatch with relative ease for more casual viewers who will whoop and holler when the hometown fighter cruises to victory.

The mismatched fights have been slowly creeping in over the past few years but at the Ginásio Paulo Sarasate the UFC and its matchmaker Joe Silva simply overplayed their hand. They have tested the limits of what’s acceptable and it’s time to step back and get back to what made the UFC so popular in the first place: Stacked cards with well-matched exciting fights where any fight from the undercard to the main event can be the fight of the night.

Quality over quantity please Mr White/Mr Silva.

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