Friday is MMA day here on Wrestling Rambles, which means it’s time for another edition of Championship Rounds. This week’s CR includes a review of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2 finale. Plus there’s news on Bellator’s return to TV. We take a look at three huge UFC Title fight announcements, there’s the latest on the on-going dispute between Jon Fitch and Dana White over fighter pay and a preview of this weekend’s UFC161. CR is packed full of MMA goodness once again folks. So what are you waiting for? Let’s touch gloves and come out swinging.
Round 1 – Submissions all round at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil Season 2 Finale.
Last weekend saw the 2nd season finale of The Ultimate Fighter Brazil take place at the Paulo Sarasate Arena in Fortaleza, Brazil. As always the Brazilian crowd was loud and passionate for all the home fighters, which helped bring the level of excitement up a few notches for the viewers at home. Brazil is fast becoming the best place to host UFC shows. The crowd are so fired up and intense; they sing, they chant, they dance in the aisles and they boo anything that isn’t Brazilian. It’s awesome. They even boo the Brazilian fighters when they speak English! They create a true party atmosphere and the show last weekend was no different.
If there’s one lesson you should take away from the show it’s that Brazilian fighters are submission machines (like you didn’t already know that). There were eight submissions in total on the twelve fight card, which tied the record for the most submission wins. That record was set at UFC 2 way back in 1994. Of the twelve fights on the card, ten ended inside the distance, with six in the first round and four in the second.
The quick nature of the fights, coupled with great finishes and a red hot crowd, meant this was a UFC show that never felt like it was dragging. The excitement and entertainment factor was sky high. While it may have lacked well know or big name fighters (bar the main event), the level of skill on display and the numerous great finishes more than made up for the lack of big name stars.
That lack of star power didn’t hurt the show when it came to the TV rating. It was broadcast in the US on Fuel TV and did a 0.64 rating with 313,000 viewers. This made it the second most-watched show in the history of Fuel TV, behind only the show from Saitama, Japan, headlined by Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann, which did 485,000 viewers back in March.
The new Ultimate Fighter Brazil winner was Leonardo Santos who is a multi-time BJJ world champion. He defeated William Patolino, who is one of the youngest fighters in the UFC at 21 years old, via second round submission.
The most impressive wins on the card included TUF Brazil Season 1 winner Rony Jason beating Mike Wilkinson via submission inside two minutes of the first round. Jason was one of the most popular fighters on the show and he was incredibly impressive here. He was taken down by Wilkinson but quickly used his BJJ to hook a triangle and landed elbows to the top of Wilkinson’s head, before the referee called the fight off as Wilkinson was out cold. The crowd went absolutely insane for the win and they erupted again when Jason did the ‘go to sleep’ pose before putting on his trademark Jason Voorhees hockey mask. Jason has a ton of skill and charisma and the fans react to him as a star. Expect to see much more of Rony Jason in the UFC in the coming years.
There was another highly impressive performance from Brazilian Erick Silva. Silva is another highly talented young fighter who possesses everything you need to become a star in MMA; fast hands, slick submissions, a great look and charisma to burn. He was coming off a loss to Jon Fitch in one of the fights of the year and didn’t waste any time in disposing of Jason High. High is a former Strikeforce fighter who was coming back to the UFC after years away from the promotion. He’s a solid fighter but was completely out of his league against Silva. The Brazilian stuffed a takedown attempt, took High’s back and hooked him in a triangle and an armbar at the same time. It was the armbar that forced High to tap out after just one minute of the first round. Silva made a statement here and it’s time to get him back into the cage with a top ten welterweight for his next fight.
The big upset of the night saw Thiago Silva beat Rafael Feijao by knock out late in the first round. Both fighters have a history of drug test failures and I hardly recognised Feijao now he’s off steroids. This was a heated match up as these two have a legitimate dislike of each other. Feijao looked like he would dispatch of Silva early, but he battled back and as Feijao gassed late in the round, Silva was able to land some big strikes and finished him for the big knock out win.
The main event was a clash of the TUF coaches and two Brazilian heavyweight legends as Fabricio Werdum beat Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with an armbar in the second round. This was a rematch from a 2006 fight in PRIDE. In that fight Big Nog was one of the top three heavyweight fighters in the world and he dispatched of Werdum with relative ease. The years have not been kind to Nogueira, who has been in countless wars down the years. He’s a shadow of the fighter than dominated in PRIDE.
Werdum has improved massively as fighter since their first fight, with his stand up in particular being very impressive these days. He is considered one of the top three heavyweights in the world today. The crowd loved this fight as both guys brought it in the first round and landed some good shots. In the second, Werdum was able to score a takedown and used his excellent BJJ to get out of a guillotine attempt, take Big Nog’s back and eventually submit him with an armbar. A mightily impressive performance from Werdum.
This was a huge win for Werdum who could now be in line for a Title shot against the winner of Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos 3. While it was a great win for Werdum, questions remain over how much longer Big Nog can compete at this level. He is a legend of the sport, but he has suffered numerous bad injuries during his career, has had multiple surgeries and in this fight his usual dominant and dangerous ground game was completely blown away by Werdum who was slicker, quicker and much more effective than the highly respected veteran.
If you are a fan of excellent ground work and enjoy watching a highly partisan crowd cheer on their home country heroes, then this show would have been your idea of perfect MMA entertainment. The UFC’s success in Brazil continued to gather pace and if this show is anything to go by, there are a lot of highly talented and dangerous fighters from that part of the world who will be breaking through the UFC ranks during the next few years.
Round 2 – Bellator moves to Friday nights and announces UK TV deal
They say timing is everything and that’s certainly true when it comes to TV schedules. If there is one slot that can be the kiss of death to a TV show, especially a MMA TV show, it’s Friday night. The UFC found this out to their misfortune when The Ultimate Fighter moved to FX on Friday nights and did record low numbers. The decision to move the show to Tuesday night saw ratings for the show increase dramatically. The problem is too many of the key demographic that watch these shows (males aged 18-49) are out on Friday nights and not home watching TV.
Bellator are the latest MMA promotion to attempt to run a show on Friday night as they announced they will run their second season on Spike in the 9-11 p.m. time slot starting on 13th September.
The time slot was chosen to avoid clashing with the UFC’s new season ofTthe Ultimate Fighter (featuring Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate) that will air on Wednesday nights on the new Fox Sports 1 channel. Bellator also wanted to avoid competition from NFL games, which effectively removed Sunday, Monday and Thursday from the equation. This left Friday night as the new day for Bellator’s second season on Spike TV. While they won’t have competition from the NFL or the UFC, they won’t benefit from a lead in by TNA IMPACT Wrestling, which both promotions had hoped would be beneficial in the long run.
In other Bellator TV news, the company announced this week that they have signed a deal to broadcast Bellator on UK TV. In a sign that perhaps the major sporting channels in the UK are still not willing to showcase MMA, the deal was struck with little known music channel VIVA. As a 32 year old man I’ve never seen this channel before. I’m not in their target demographic of 13 year old girls. I’m not entirely sure what the current VIVA viewers will make of Bellator.
While VIVA is available in more UK homes than BT Sports/ESPN (home of UFC) or Sky Sports (home of WWE) it’s unlikely they will attract big ratings. To give you an idea about the shows on VIVA and their viewer numbers, according to Wrestling Observer the most watched show on VIVA, for the week ending 26th May, was a repeat of an old episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air which did 86,000 viewers.
Unless Bellator plan on unleashing the mother of all promotional campaigns to direct MMA fans to their new UK TV home, it’s likely the show will go relatively unwatched. Still, at least Bellator will now be on UK TV each week and the company have responded by signing UK fighters Paul Sass, Martin Stapleton and Rob Sinclair which may help bring in viewers.
It’s the start of Bellator’s expansion into the UK but as the UFC have found out, while the MMA market in this country is growing, promotions need to regularly bring big shows here. Having a highly visible presence on TV and a UK star (like Michael Bisping) is also essential to their success. It’s a small step in the right direction for Bellator but not one which will change their level of exposure to the public in the UK any time soon.
Round 3 – 3 major UFC Title fight announcements.
If you want to get the latest and biggest fight announcements in the UFC, you really need to watch UFC President Dana White’s pre and post-fight media scrums. This week, ahead of UFC161, White announced three huge fights involving three UFC Champions.
First, Jon Jones will defend his UFC Light Heavyweight Title against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 on 21st September in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre. This will be the third time Jones has defended his Light Heavyweight Title at the Air Canada Centre. He has previously beaten Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort and will be hoping to make it three in a row.
Jones is currently tied with Tito Ortiz for the most number of Light Heavyweight Title defences (five) and is looking to break that record with a win over the highly talented and dangerous Swede Gustafsson.
Reports have indicated that Jones has taken this fight in an attempt to counter his critics who say he only wins fights because he is so much larger than all of his opponents in the 205lbs division. Gustafsson is an inch taller than Jones but will still be at a significant reach disadvantage when they face off. Jones has the largest reach of any fighter in UFC history at 84.5 inches and it this, rather than his height, which has proven to be Jones’ most significant advantage against previous opponents. Well, that and the fact he’s one of the most dynamic fighters in the world today.
Gustafsson is riding a six fight win streak and recently scored victories over Thiago Silva and Shogun Rua. He will present Jones with the most significant challenge of his UFC career to date. Of course this fight announcement means any potential super fight involving Jones is off the table for this year.
The second major fight announcement from White was confirmation of the Heavyweight Title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. While a date has not been confirmed, White did announce the fight will take place in October this year in Houston, Texas.
Rounding out the hat trick of massive autumn fight announcements was the news that GSP will defend his Welterweight Title against long time number one contender Johny Hendrix in November in Las Vegas. This is a fight that Hendrix earned a year ago but had to wait for GSP to dispatch Nick Diaz in their massive PPV (900,000 + buys) grudge match earlier this year. Hendrix even took another fight against Carol Condit and secured a decision win in what is so far the Championship Rounds fight of the year.
GSP recently celebrated his fifth anniversary as Welterweight Champion and with a win over Hendrix he will have effectively cleaned out his division, again. That said, a win against Hendrix is by no means guaranteed. Hendrix has an absolute hammer of a left hand which is his most dangerous weapon but he is also a highly skilled wrestler.
It’s likely GSP will find a way to win (he always does) but don’t expect this to be as one sided as his win over Nick Diaz. Hendrix has all the tools to be the man to finally unseat GSP from his throne at the top of the 170lbs division. He also feels disrespected and passed over and is highly motivated to prove to the UFC that he is the number one welterweight fighter in the world.
The announcement of this fight also puts an end to any discussions of a super fight involving GSP and Anderson Silva, which had been rumoured for later in the year. It looks like 2014 may end up being the year of the super fight, if they actually happen at all. Although with these three huge Title fights announced, there really isn’t a lot to complain about. It’s also encouraging to see the Title shots being given to the legitimate contenders after a number of recent Title shots were awarded for business reasons (Diaz, Sonnen and Tate) rather than sporting ones.
Round 4 – Jon Fitch and Dana White war of words continues.
The war of words between former UFC fighter Jon Fitch and UFC President Dana White intensified this week. Fitch was a controversial cut from the UFC, with many fans complaining that the cut was made simply because Fitch didn’t tow the UFC company line and White didn’t enjoy his fighting style (which had been very boring). It’s safe to say that few cuts from the UFC roster have fuelled as much debate as this one.
Fitch, who is due to debut for the World Series of Fighting tonight in Las Vegas, made a number of statements this week regarding his and other fighter’s unhappiness at the pay offs they received from the UFC and that he always felt unwelcome in the promotion.
“From very early on, I was fighting for my job every single fight. They made it very clear that they didn’t like me or want me around. That’s one reason I’m so excited about being with WSOF right now. They want me around and they’re giving me a great push. It’s awesome to have people working with me instead of against me.”
He also said, “There were times throughout my career with contract negotiations, there were threats of, after agreeing to terms of contracts, they were like, `It doesn’t matter anyway, as soon as you lose, we’re going to cut you and sign you back for half as much,’ type of statements. And just things said under their breath around me, things said behind my back to the media without ever sitting me down like a man and talking to me. To me that’s a clear sign of not wanting somebody around, not being appreciated and not having a place at the table.”
Fitch was also vocal about his pay offs from the UFC and how, in his opinion, the promotion does not adequately compensate their fighters. In terms of his earnings Wrestling Observer reports that Fitch is making a $30,000 guarantee for his WSOF main event against Josh Burkman, with a $30,000 win bonus. For his last fight in UFC, a loss to Demian Maia on 2/2, he got $66,000 guaranteed and would have gotten another $66,000 for a win.
As you would expect, it didn’t take long for UFC President Dana White to respond to Fitch in his own trademark style.
“In the time Jon Fitch was with us, we paid him $302,000 in discretionary bonuses — $302,000,” White explained to MMA Junkie. “That’s money that me and Lorenzo (Fertitta) decided to give him above and beyond the deal that he signed. He also made $130,000 on performance bonuses for his two ‘Fight of the Night’ bonuses. That’s a hostile work environment? Everything that Jon Fitch said is complete and total bulls–t.
“He was complaining about what he had to go through here, about people saying stuff under their breath to him and all this bulls–t. Jon Fitch is so full of s–t. He’s f–king delusional,” White continued.
“First of all, he had every opportunity that anyone else had. After Georges St-Pierre beat the living s–t out of him, did we treat him differently or anything? … He had an opportunity to fight for the title, and he got destroyed in that fight. He fought to a draw with B.J. Penn in a top contender fight. Then he gets a chance to be a No. 1 contender again and gets knocked f–kin’ dead in the first round by Johny Hendricks. What f–king opportunities has he not been given?”
The issue of fighter pay is one that is rumbling away behind the scenes in the UFC. Fitch has stated that a large percentage of fighters are unhappy with their payoffs but are too terrified of losing their spot in the UFC to complain about it. Fitch appears to be taking up the mantle as he went into great detail about his UFC payoffs and compared them to the hundreds of millions of dollars the UFC makes from their big PPV events.
There’s certainly an argument that fighters on the lower end of the card do not make a great deal of money. Whether that is a situation that will change any time soon is doubtful. It’s like any job, in any walk of life – you are paid what you are worth. Perhaps Fitch, Rampage and other fighters who have left the UFC will receive the remuneration they feel they deserve. However it’s doubtful that fledgling promotions are going to be able to sustain large fighter salaries when the revenue streams available to them are so limited. Expect this story to grow in the next few months as more fighters come forward about their level of pay and Dana White responds with more curse words than a Scotsman uses in his lifetime (which is a shit load).
Round 5 – UFC 161 preview
This Saturday is UFC161 from Winnipeg on Pay Per View. The event, which has been blighted by injuries, is headlined by Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson who clash at 205lbs. After coming off disappointing performances and losses to Little Nog and Machida respectively, both men will be looking for a decisive win to put them back into Title contention. CR will just be happy if they put on an exciting fight because neither of them got close to doing that in their last fights.
The show was originally due to be headlined by Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland for Barao’s interim Bantamweight Title. A foot injury in training forced Barao out of the fight. Then the fight between Little Nog and Shogun Rua was also cancelled (as detailed in CR last week). With those two fights off the show, the card does look a little weak on paper.
Roy Nelson and Stipe Miocic clash at heavyweight in a fight that if Nelson wins, and wins well, he could find himself in line for the heavyweight title shot. Although something tells me Dana White won’t be rushing to Joe Silva to book Nelson’s title fight. Miocic is a dangerous opponent and he has his own aspirations of breaking into the top five with a win.
The rest of the card is made up of Ryan Jimmo vs. Igor Pokrajac, Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan and in a female bantamweight fight Alexis Davis vs. Rosi Sexton. Sexton is from the UK, university educated to a high level and was recently featured in a BBC news piece on her decision to leave her academic life and become a professional MMA fighter.
While the card is a little weak, there is potential for an exciting shootout between Nelson and Miocic. Pat Barry vs. Shawn Jordan should end with someone getting knocked out. Whether or not that’s enough to convince UFC fans to pay $60 for the PPV is debatable. CR doesn’t expect this show to break any records but sometimes, as we’ve seen with past UFC shows, a weak show on paper ends up being more entertaining than a show stacked with star names and big fights.
You can read all about the show next week in CR, along with four other big stories of the week in MMA. Remember, if you want to shoot the shit with me about MMA, wrestling or anything else then be sure to follow me on Twitter – @MFXDuckman.
If you’re a wrestling fan who enjoys listening to the week in wrestling being torn a new one by two childish and sarcastic Brits, then you should check out the Marks for Xcellence Wrestling podcast. Each week myself and my partner-in-crime Sir Ian Trumps review the week in WWE and TNA in a NSFW and some people have called “highly entertaining” fashion. Just check out the podcast page here. Or head over to www.mfxpodcast.com for the latest show and all our past ones too.
Ok, that’ll do for CR for this week. As always, thanks for reading and be sure to keep supporting Wrestling Rambles.
Until next time…