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The Question of “Relevance”: UFC 108

By Zach Arnold | December 30, 2009

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By Alan Conceicao

The key story being repeated by news outlets entering UFC 108 is a bit of an unexpected one for a show originally billed as UFC’s New Year’s Extravaganza. Rather than discussion of the main event, co-main event, or any fight on the card for that matter, the big story has been how many pullouts the card has seen. And by “big story”, I should indicate that its the only one being told. There are no other narratives coming into this event worthy of discussion, and that’s led fans and prognosticators alike to wonder aloud as to what UFC 108 “means”, if they bother to think of it at all. Is it indicative of a harsh new trend of fighter pullouts and bout cancellations? Will a good number inspire the UFC to put on more bad PPVs in the future? It has reached the point where Dana White is shooting videoblogs of himself yelling at journos over their apparent refusal to care.

Flashback: Transcript of Dana White’s rant against Loretta Hunt

Before getting into those questions and takes, I would be remiss not to look at the card and actually analyze it:

It is not unfair to point out the obvious: There are three top ten fighters on this card, using either the Independent MMA Rankings FO.com participates in or Bloodyelbow’s composite ratings. Bloodyelbow’s system ranks all the way to #25, and as such, there are a total of 7 top 25 fighters participating in the program. For those who feel that numbers are what makes an event relevant, its worth noting that the free WEC event viewed by 330,000 households had just as many top 10 fighters on it.

However, sheer rankings have never told the whole story in the fight game. UFC cards are, typically, rather competitive, even when lacking any sort of star power or legitimate title challenger. The style match up of Hazelett/Daley has led to heavy betting on the statistically less impressive fighter (Hazelett) to draw the fight to nearly being even, and Rashad Evans hasn’t necessarily run away with the line against Thiago Silva either. However, much of the remaining PPV card doesn’t do so well. Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon are healthy favorites, as is Dos Santos. Yvel and Ludwig, as much as I personally enjoy both, aren’t capable at this stage of fighting against elite competition and haven’t been for years. Their fights will likely end with “clean finishes”, as pro wrestling fans like to call them – KOs and tapouts. The gulf in talent and skills of the underdogs makes that inately likely. If Gilbert Yvel, Sam Stout, or Duane Ludwig do pull out a miracle win, it won’t be by lay and pray. If Hazelett finally beats a top fourty ranked welterweight (best previous win: Josh Burkman?), its not going to be by pushing him into the cage. And lots of finishes means a strong chance of preliminary fights making air. Anyone who is in touch with the sport enough to be reading this knows just how much hardcore fans love to see a billion quick stoppages on air.

When it comes then to answering the all important “Is UFC 108 relevant?,” the answer is easy: Only if you need it to be. For most, it’s not, and the journalism running into the event mirrors that mindset, in so much as they do not. The matches made on this card are, to put it bluntly, answers to questions no one asked or wanted to ask. But like a lot of the weaker cards, it will probably make for one of the UFC’s patented cavalcades of simplistic brutality that fans seem to adore and call their favorites. That often happens with events filled with mismatches and suitably matched limited journeymen. Fans who have been buying PPVs of the UFC for years will likely buy this one, just like they bought UFC 78, 85, 96, 103, or any of the other long list of generally mediocre cards that have been offered. Quality doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for them.

UFC 108 is not a positive change of pace, nor does it pretend to plumb the depths to find out how low you, the fan, are willing to go to get your fix. Its not especially worthy of your money, nor is it exceptionally poor value for it. It is simply there. How you choose to act is your business. Some 10PM EST Saturday night, I plan to be curled up in a Chicago hotel room, probably asleep. If you’re planning to watch the fights at home, well, I know you’ll be happy with your purchase. I’m sure of it.

Topics: Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 31 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

31 Responses to “The Question of “Relevance”: UFC 108”

  1. Steve4192 says:

    I don’t think a win by Yvel would be considered a ‘miracle’. To be quite honest, I think he will win.

    Dos Santos hasn’t shown any ground game at this point in his career, and the ground is where Yvel’s Achilles heel lies. In a pure standup battle, I think Yvel’s explosive Muay Thai is much more polished than Dos Santos’ rudimentary boxing-oriented game.

    The only reason people think Dos Santos will win this is because he has smashed an ace grappler (Werdum) and the rotting corpse of an elite striker (Cro Cop). People talk up his training with the Nog brothers as if that means he is a ground wizard by osmosis. But the fact is, he is the same BJJ rank as Yvel (purple belt) and has shown even less grappling skills in his fights than Yvel has.

    What no one is considering is that rankings are nice and all, but styles make fights. This fight kind of reminds me of when Cro Cop faced Mark Hunt in Pride. Cro Cop was in his prime and ranked in the top three of the HW division and Hunto was unranked. Mirko had been in the ring with the best MMA had to offer and Hunt was a neophyte whose win against Dan Bobish was his only win against a fellow HW. Yet, rankings aside, Hunt was a nightmare matchup for Cro Cop because he was every bit as good as him at Mirko’s specialty (kickboxing) and despite his experience, Mirko still had a one-dimensional game.

    I think this fight is similar Hunto-Cro Cop in Pride. Dos Santos has shown a powerful boxing game and not much else, while Yvel has a much more diverse standup game. If this fight stays on the feet, which I think it will, Yvel is the better fighter.

  2. Fluyid says:

    “Will a good number inspire the UFC to put on more bad PPVs in the future?”

    Don’t you remember Fertitta going on and on about how they learned with the Rashad Evans vs. Michael Bisping card that they could put on shit events and still be profitable?

  3. Steve4192 says:

    “Fans who have been buying PPVs of the UFC for years will likely buy this one, just like they bought UFC 78, 85, 96, 103, or any of the other long list of generally mediocre cards that have been offered. Quality doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for them.”

    I don’t think the average fan gives a shit about the rankings implications of fights. I think they approach the sport with a completely mindset than the supposed ‘hardcore’ fans do. They just want to be entertained, and as you mentioned, many of these weak cards wind up being wildly entertaining.

  4. Mark says:

    Simple rankings don’t matter to anybody beyond internet fans. A UFC show could have nothing but mid-level star top-10 fighters fighting each other (like this show) and would be guaranteed to get blown out in buyrates by Tito-Chuck III which means absolutely nothing to the MMA world. It’s all about starpower and Rashad Evans is the sole star on the show (I know Dos Santos is popular but I don’t think he draws any major money right now.) But I do think it will be interesting to see how his TUF season, which did get amazing ratings but were solely due to Kimbo Slice and the fight they were advertising, that people really did want to see, isn’t happening and in its place as “Two guys who got knocked out by Machida.”

    And I don’t blame UFC for this. They certainly couldn’t rebound from Rampage’s exit with the rate of injuries and several shows that would get ruined if they pulled fights just to have the big traditional New Year’s show. It’s just the end of their 2nd half of ’09 bad luck run. Hopefully they’ll make a new year’s resolution to cut back on cards.

  5. Steve4192 says:

    Damn.

    I wish this place had an edit button.

    completely DIFFERENT mindset

  6. Alan Conceicao says:

    Dude, you sound like someone desperate to care. The fight you described is nothing like this. Its more like Monte Barrett/David Haye: Old former fringe contender well past his best faces up and coming star. Cro-Cop was the favorite because he was the more experienced MMA fighter, which Yvel is here. Neither Cro-Cop or Hunt was not considered washed up, which Yvel has been for about 4-5 years now. Hunt’s rise to the K-1 crown was in part due to an almost inhuman ability to absorb punishment, something Yvel isn’t known for at all.

    Dos Santos has already beaten 3 kickboxers at Yvel’s level too. This is a keep busy fight for the guy, not some sort of massive test.

  7. Alan Conceicao says:

    I don’t think the average fan gives a shit about the rankings implications of fights. I think they approach the sport with a completely different mindset than the supposed ‘hardcore’ fans do. They just want to be entertained, and as you mentioned, many of these weak cards wind up being wildly entertaining.

    There’s a bunch of typos in the glorified blog above too. No matter: You’re right. They don’t. The 350,000 who will buy whatever do so because they expect carnage. This will probably have it. Not sure that its such a strong endorsement of the sport, but whatever.

  8. Steve4192 says:

    Why would you consider Yvel washed up?

    The guy has won eight of his last nine fights, and the lone loss is to Josh Barnett. With exception of the Zentsov loss, Yvel has pretty much killed anyone who stands up with him. If you can’t/won’t take him down, Gilbert Yvel is a nightmare for just about anyone.

    Junior Dos Santos has shown no desire to take his fights to the ground. If he goes strength for strength against Yvel, I think he will lose. I don’t see anything particularly delusional about that.

  9. Alan Conceicao says:

    Actually, Steve’s reply gets to the heart of what I’m saying. If you want to care about this, you can invent ways to give a shit. Duane Ludwig was in K-1 Max and is a great striker for MMA. He’s even got a bit of a ground game and works pretty consistently. A fight with Jim Miller might be the opportunity he needs to regain his place in the sport and start a second career of sorts.

    Now, is any of what I just said a lie? No. It is potentially true. But I don’t believe any of it is going to happen. I think he’ll get taken down, he’ll end up getting beat up for awhile, and then submitted by kimura or choke in the 2nd. Anyone who isn’t an immediate family member or good friend thinks that. He likely thinks that. Does it matter if he ends up getting smashed? No, because there’s gonna be a subset of fans who will convince themselves that he’s a live dog and then they’ll be happy. Chances are, that subset is going to be large; maybe even the majority. To them, it matters. In my opinion? Who cares? Not even worth tracking down a copy of it on Megaupload later.

  10. Alan Conceicao says:

    Why would you consider Yvel washed up?

    Are we talking about the guy who lost to Minowaman? He was exposed a decade ago in PRIDE. He hasn’t improved at all. Wins over Akira Shoji and Michael Kita don’t do anything for me, nor does getting laid on by Barnett, sorry. I like the guy plenty, but he doesn’t belong.

  11. Steve4192 says:

    “There’s a bunch of typos in the glorified blog above too”

    Seriously?

    You really want to play the grammar/spelling card?

    That is incredibly weak.

    Regarding your point, I don’t think of that mindset as a positive or a negative for the sport. It is just the way things are.

    One thing is for certain though. It is good for the bottom line of promoters.

  12. Steve4192 says:

    So your not really really saying Yvel is washed up. Your saying he was never any good.

    You know what? I agree.

    Gilbert Yvel is not a very good mixed martial artist. His ground game is atrocious. If you take him to the ground, you will probably beat him. Just ask Minowaman.

    HOWEVER, if you stand with him, you are in for a world of hurt. I think Dos Santos will stand with him. Ergo, I think Dos Santos is in for a world of hurt.

    I’m not saying Yvel is a legit contender. His game is full of holes. Guys like Velasquez and Mir and Lesnar would molest him just like Barnett did. But if you meet him on his terms, he is a handful for anyone.

  13. Mark says:

    I think UFC just signed the fight assuming JDS was going to walk right through him and Yvel’s past infamy would make a few people care who followed PRIDE at the early part of the decade.

    If Steve is right and JDS does get KOed, there’s no upside. Yvel will have to face a series of grapplers who would embarrass him, his loose canon reputation is pretty risky to bank on investing in and since with commissions wanting total law & order you couldn’t turn it into his gimmick like PRIDE did: “tune in to see what this nutcase does next!” Look how much heat they took for showing Heath Herring’s sucker punch on TV 2 years ago, imagine if they hyped his Don Frye incident. So basically you’re stuck with a 1-D kickboxer past his prime who did some highlight reel KOs in Japan 1% of the audience knows about. You already have that fighter. His name is Mirko.

  14. Alan Conceicao says:

    The quip about typos was self-depricating. There’s at least three in the thing I wrote, and Zach hasn’t fixed them yet.

    Yvel/Rizzo was not an outclassing. Yvel/Zentstov was. Dos Santos is leagues ahead of either. I think it ends up like Koscheck/Trigg. Hopefully Yvel gets a second fight in some European card against a bum he can beat with a tornado kick next time out.

    I’m also not ethically opposed to stay-busy fights, which this is, and which Barnett/Yvel was too. But that latter example was on a much better card than this one, which is basically a $45 UFN. Kinda tough to justify trying to watch this then.

  15. Steve4192 says:

    “The quip about typos was self-depricating.”

    Ah.

    My apologies for getting rankled then. I guess my sarcasm detector needs to be taken to the shop for a tune up.

  16. Mark says:

    Also it should be noted when Kongo upset Cro Cop he had just as little respect on the ground as Dos Santos does, but trained on grappling enough in camp to do just enough to win (discounting the nutshots.) I don’t see why it’s out of the question for JDS to know he can’t bang with Yvel and immediately look to take it to the ground. He doesn’t need to be the heavyweight BJ Penn, he just needs to watch out for surprise highkicks and improve his wrestling, which he’s strong enough to be decent at.

  17. Steve4192 says:

    “If Steve is right and JDS does get KOed, there’s no upside.”

    I agree.

    That is why I was shocked Zuffa signed this fight in the first place.

    It appears I am the only one, but I think this is a very dangerous fight that could derail a legit contender and give Zuffa nothing in return. Yvel will undoubtedly get exposed any time Zuffa puts him in the cage with a grappler. If he beats JDS, they just tarnished one of the few legit contenders at HW and got nothing for it.

  18. 45 Huddle says:

    If this even was called Strikeforce: Battle of New Years…. People would be talking about how great of a card on paper it is.

    People have such a higher level of expectations for a UFC card. The last Strikeforce card on Showtime was being talked about heavily on all the websites beforehand. And yet this card is easily better then that card.

    On paper….Evans/Silva is better then Melendez/Thomson. Hazelett/Daley is better then Le/Smith. And the list goes on and on.

    People are way too critical of UFC events online. Obviously the general public disagrees. Strikeforce gets 350,000 viewers on Showtime… And a UFC event like this will get 350,000 PPV buys for $45 a piece.

  19. Alan Conceicao says:

    If this even was called Strikeforce: Battle of New Years…. People would be talking about how great of a card on paper it is.

    Sure. It would probably be free on Showtime or CBS. As a free card, I’d like this. As a PPV card? Well, 45, I’m sure you’ll find it action packed.

  20. Joseph says:

    Look at 45 Huddle playing the…”If this fight card was taking place in Strikeforce…” card.

    No one was paying $50 to watch Strikeforce on CBS or Showtime. Not only that, UFC is supposed to have all the best fighters in the world and all the resources in the world for a #1 promotion. Are you saying we shouldn’t hold it to higher standards?

  21. Zack says:

    “If this even was called Strikeforce: Battle of New Years…. People would be talking about how great of a card on paper it is.”

    Yes, because for the $12 a month that I already pay for Showtime, as a Strikeforce card, this would be a great value for my dollar. $55 for the HD broadcast, not so much.

  22. Alan Conceicao says:

    Just to further discuss the JDS/Yvel fight, BTW: Anyone above the level of Marcus Jones is going to be a dangerous fight for JDS. Anyone. They’ll all have the ability to hit him with one shot or test his ability on the mat or both. Yvel gives them a guy who’s one good dimension is fading and has nothing else, but has a name and some reputation they can build off of. Plus, he was available and probably cheap.

  23. spacedog says:

    Good article, however there is a typo in the last paragraph. “Some” should be “Come.’

  24. spacedog says:

    Sorry, I did not read the comments before I posted. I see you know about the typos.

  25. Dave says:

    Oh man, Alan kinda just beat down 45 here. I agree that as a free card 108 is pretty cool, for money? LOL.

    Sorry, no.

  26. 45 Huddle says:

    Even if Strikeforce charged $45, people would still be claiming it’s a great card. You people
    keep trying to fool yourselves into thinking otherwise. People constantly have 2 very different standards for the UFC compared to everything. That includes quality of cards (even free), fighter pay, and just about everything else.

  27. Zheroen says:

    Ah 45, having been bested for his words at face value, once again modifies his argument into that against some hypothetical scenario that doesn’t exist in reality, as opposed to what’s actually going on. When has anyone stated that they would pay $45 for ANY Strikeforce card?

    You are arguing against yourself here, dude. Your last post is basically the equivalent of a Chris Crocker’s LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE hysterics.

  28. Dave says:

    You people! You people! What do you mean by “you people?!”

    Seriously, though, I love UFC, I love MMA. UFC made UFC popular in the states, fact. UFC has the best fighters stateside in most divisions, fact. They put together the best cards? Wrong.

    They simply do not. I just love how you get so worked up over people enjoying and wanting something else to do well.

    People are critical of UFC because they have so many fighters under contract. So many. Instead of say, running things with lesser, builder shows for the names nobody cares about yet or the guys who’ve fallen off the wagon, they integrate them into PPV cards and expect you to be excited to pay for it. Instead of giving 3 big fights or so a PPV, they struggle, endlessly, to put together anything they think people might want or that an athletic commission will sign off on.

    UFC 108 is an exercise in futility. With UFC’s depth of talent, we get Rashad/Thiago Silva, which is nowhere near main event level for a $45 card. Dustin/Semtex is actually more interesting than what was there before and the rest is just, well, I don’t care. I love fighting, hell, I wrote about 12,000 words about MMA today because I love fighting. I am a hardcore fan and the rest of the card has no appeal to me at all.

    The next UFN card has more interesting fights on it, why not bump them up a few weeks? UFC 109 has 3 actual important fights for their divisions that are interesting, and then Serra/Trigg for entertainment value, yet 108?

  29. Zack says:

    Strikeforce & WEC would lose much of their appeal if they were on PPV.

  30. smoogy says:

    LOL! Even in the most far-fetched fantasy scenario, nobody would be lauding a card topped with Rashad Evans, Thiago Silva and Paul Daley.

  31. A. Taveras says:

    “Even if Strikeforce charged $45, people would still be claiming it’s a great card. ”

    er…if they could, don’t you think they would?

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