As part of its new deal with the Fox network, the UFC announced it would broadcast four specials on Fox as part of the new deal. Unfortunately, what they left out is that the first special will look more like a UFC prelims special than a landmark broadcast.
This odd piece of news floated out to the media after the UFC and Fox press conference. According to numerous reports, the first live UFC special will be live on November 12, a week before UFC 140. Yet the most interesting aspect of this is that the special will only be 60 minutes and feature just two live fights.
[adinserter block=”2″]On paper the UFC and Fox deal looks like a win-win for everyone. However, I think even the biggest UFC fan would have to question the commitment from Fox if all the UFC is getting is one hour and two fights. It is almost as if Fox said, “Welcome aboard, but make sure to park in the lot across the street from headquarters.”
The UFC will only get one first impression. That is why this first Fox special is arguably the most important UFC event in company history. But what can the UFC be expected to showcase with only one hour, and two fights for an hour on a Saturday night? Saturday night is not a big television night in general and now you’ll have the UFC trying to compete with a Notre Dame game in prime time as well as several other NCAA games on the various ESPN networks (including LSU). Manny Pacquiao will also be boxing later that night. Is this really a showcase or an invitation to fail?
In other words, this is just a glorified Spike prelims special on Fox. How many classic prelim specials do you remember on Spike? Other than the WEC pay per view prelims, I don’t remember many classics. That is because the odds are stacked against the UFC on a two-fight card to showcase UFC at its best. At minimum, the UFC needed a four if not a five fight special to make this thing work. I can’t imagine anyone at Zuffa is happy about this deal.
The odds are certainly stacked against the UFC. Sure, the UFC can get lucky and hit on two fights that deliver. But in a sport where nothing is given, how often does that happen? On a five fight UFC pay per view, how many of those fights deliver as promised? Probably two, three fights may blow the fans away on a good night, and it is almost rare for a home run in all five, although it does happen. Unless Vince McMahon is booking this thing, the UFC will be rolling the dice that both fights will deliver, and those are odds that I wouldn’t want on my first Fox special.
You also have the issue of the five-round fight. The UFC told the world several weeks ago that all main-events will go five rounds starting at UFC 137. So now you are talking about a show where at least one fight will be five rounds. Most guys who fight for five rounds generally start out at a slower pace, conserving their energy for the “championship rounds.” Unless the UFC completely balks at this new rule change, the company will be faced with delivering a slow, deliberate fight in their Fox debut rather than an action-packed three rounder. Of course that isn’t always the rule as Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva and Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber have shown, but it is generally the norm.
[adinserter block=”1″]So let’s talk fights. The UFC and Fox both said that the live specials will have star power. That’s all fine and good but who is available? I have heard rumblings of Chael Sonnen vs. Anderson Silva if Sonnen wins, but Sonnen would likely not be available. Not to mention, I don’t think you want the media diving into Sonnen’s baggage for your debut. Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz would make a ton of sense and they could move that from UFC 138. The champions would all be unavailable unless some stuff is moved around. Brock Lesnar won’t be ready. I’d say that Anderson Silva is probably your best bet, but there wouldn’t be anyone available worthy of a title shot unless Brian Stann beats Chael and takes the fight right away. Brian Bowles vs. Urijah Faber could move, but is that worthy of such an important slot? If Jon Jones wins, maybe he throws the UFC a bone for backing out of UFC 133 and comes back fast for a title fight with Rashad Evans? A Lyoto Machida vs. Shogun Rua rematch if Rua wins in Brazil is another possibility, but I just don’t know. I’d say Leben vs. Munoz is the way to go unless I am missing an obious matchup.
All I know is that for such a big event, there sure seems to be a lot of questions going into it. The two fight, one hour broadcast is a big disappointment and not what most expected when we were told about what the UFC’s presence on Fox would be.
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