Opening Round: American Nitpickers

This past weekend the UFC delivered a legitimate #1 vs. #2 title-fight at heavyweight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos with a convincing finish coming a little over a minute into the match-up. A new champion was named in Dos Santos, as likeable an athlete as the UFC has on its roster with a tremendous backstory and exciting style to boot, plus he laid claim to the belt by taking out a man many had seen as virtually invincible entering the fight. The production was slick, the ratings were solid, and better yet it was a free gift from the UFC/FOX before their official deal cranks up in 2012.

Yet people complained.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years covering the sport it’s that it is impossible to make everyone happy, especially a certain sect who look for cracks in the Mona Lisa’s paint rather than at the masterpiece before them. They’re the folks who immediately label a fighter as being washed up after a pair of losses; who criticize how attractive ring-girls are; who feel anything other than perfection is a personal slight.

UFC on FOX: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos was an outstanding show from head to…well, ankle. Sorry Matt Lucas. There were a number of competitive clashes including two with divisional impact, one of which named a new #1 lightweight contender in Ben Henderson and the other showing Dustin Poirier is a 145er to watch in 2012. And, frankly, if you didn’t watch the undercard, you have no place to point any fingers other than nine at yourself for missing the action with one thumb leftover for sucking on.

Even if simply examining the main event and concerns about a single scrap being shown, first consider the quality of the fight – one most fans would normally pay to see on TV – and the fact it featured a stoppage. Look at Dos Santos’ knockout of Velasquez a preview of what’s to come on a grander scale when the companies’ partnership can fully bloom in 2012 and beyond. Would Velasquez holding Dos Santos down for five rounds while being showered with boos been better for the UFC’s debut on network television?

Sure, having Henderson vs. Clay Guida on the broadcast would have been great and there’s little doubt in my mind the quality of their encounter would have drawn more people in the same way Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar did (on a smaller scale). Average people would have stopped, watched, enjoyed, and called friends to tell them to tune in as well. However, dig a little deeper, or take your head out of the sand depending what side you’re on, and it turns out none of the other fights were eligible to be televised based on the UFC’s pre-existing deal with Spike TV. Don’t think for one second Bendo vs. Guida wouldn’t have been part of the broadcast if it had been an option.

The ratings weren’t off the charts but they weren’t horrible either, and there’s no doubt they would have been higher with a full card rather than a short one-off no matter how big a fight it featured. When Zuffa waters the next “UFC on FOX” main event with “word of mouth” by providing a real lineup as a lead-in and sprinkles in some diversity as far as the types of pairings being shown, I guarantee the numbers will grow well-beyond the record held by boxing in terms of viewers.

There are so many overwhelmingly positive things to say about UFC on FOX it seems a shame anyone feels the need to spoil the party. Then again, I suppose there will always be “that guy” who hogs the keg and starts trouble after getting plastered due to an infantile need for attention. If someone reading these lines can identify with that individual – if you are losing sleep over UFC on FOX’s fabricated shortcomings – I have three pieces of advice for you. 1.) Find the part of you who is a true MMA fan if it exists, 2.) Appreciate what MMA has achieved since the dark days, and 3.) Perhaps most importantly, stand up from your keyboard, go to your nearest watering hole, have a beer, and do your damndest to get laid.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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