It is official and the first UFC on Fox live special will be headlined by a good old fashioned heavyweight championship fight. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos for the UFC heavyweight title will be the first fight to introduce the UFC on the Fox network on November 19.
The announcement came today from UFC president Dana White on a conference call. The five round heavyweight title fight will be the only live fight to be broadcast on the special. Time permitting preliminary fights would air. It was also announced that Fox will present a Super Bowl tailgate special with the fight featuring celebrities and pre fight analysis.
[adinserter block=”2″]The announcement changes plans for UFC 139 in San Jose, CA which was scheduled to feature the Velasquez vs. JDS contest. The November 12 UFC pay per view event will reportedly get a new main-event to replace the title fight. My hunch is that Alistair Overeem, Tito Ortiz, Dan Henderson, or Rich Franklin wind up in that spot in some way shape or form.
Moving the fight to Fox is a really interesting decision on a lot of levels. When the television deal was signed, Dana White stated explicitly that the UFC is a pay per view business and that the Fox deal would be used to enhance the pay per views. Pay per view business is down this year and early reports are that UFC 134 did less buys than UFC 133. This decision completely goes against that premise. If moving the fight to Fox increases the UFC’s presence overall than it is a great thing for business. The downside is that you are setting a precedent that all of the live Fox specials will feature blockbuster main-events. That could be a problem if the UFC doesn’t plan to continue this on future Fox specials.
There is also a big danger in showcasing a five round UFC heavyweight championship fight on the first Fox special. Yes, the heavyweights provide great highlight knockouts but not all heavyweight fights are exciting. As a matter of a fact, I’d argue that most heavyweight fights are not. Junior Dos Santos’ last two fights went to decision, while Cain is a fast finisher. The pressure will be on Cain to deliver one of his typical exciting fights because a boring five-round decision will tune out first-time viewers in a hurry.
I thought Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz was the perfect main-event. Even moving Dominick Cruz to the Fox special would have at least guaranteed an exciting main-event. Are those guys recognizable names to very casual MMA fans? No, but neither are Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez if we are going to be honest. The only difference is that you know you will get an exciting fight with the lighter classes whereas the heavyweights can be a real gamble.
Dana White and Fox representatives are also putting a ton of pressure on these fighters. White predicted an exciting fight. David Hill of Fox compared the fight to Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman. Dana White compared the fight to Griffin vs. Bonnar. These guys are talking a very big game here. I am looking forward to a great fight between JDS vs. Cain but I am not expecting anything close to the level of Ali-Foreman or even Griffin-Bonnar. He was talking about the first Griffin vs. Bonnar and not the second right?
[adinserter block=”1″]Junior Dos Santos opened up as a -125 favorite against Cain Velasquez who opens at -105. That is a shocker to me. Cain is coming off of three straight KO wins, his most recent being a one round demolition of Brock Lesnar. Taking nothing away from JDS’ win over Carwin, he still didn’t finish him. Not only did he not finish Carwin, but he didn’t finish Roy Nelson in his previous fight. Dos Santos inability to finish two guys he dominated in his previous two fights is a big concern to me, especially against a guy who is a proven finisher. I would expect this line to even out quite a bit over the next few months. I think the lines are more a reflection of immediate excitement over seeing what Dos Santos did to Carwin, than an objective view of the championship fight. If the lines stick, this would be two fights in a row where Velasquez would fight as the underdog.
Regardless, as a UFC fan I am completely stoked about seeing these two guys fight on free television. I think the aura of a heavyweight title fight along with Fox’s award winning sports production team could provide one of the most exciting sports specials of the year on November 19.
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