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Decision December for the two major promotions in UFC & K-1

By Zach Arnold | December 10, 2010

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This weekend, the two major organizations that promote MMA will be having critical shows. What’s at stake for each promotion, however, varies greatly.

UFC will break their all-time record for attendance with UFC 124 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The fight card itself is nothing special but the main event is red-hot and has been promoted amazingly well. It’s a rare occasion in UFC for a big PPV where you have a headlining fight featuring one champion (Georges St. Pierre) who is so heavily favored to win over his challenger (Josh Koscheck) and yet that is stopping absolutely no one from buying the show. It truly is remarkable how I have not yet encountered a single reader who believes Koscheck will win, yet everyone is adamant that they will watch this show. If that’s not the definition of doing an excellent job in promotion, I don’t know what it is then.

The sense of electricity for the show is huge and there will be a lot of important people at the event, such as Ken Hayashi and members of the Ontario Athletic Commission. With Montreal attracting UFC’s big box offices in the past, everyone else in Canada wanted to get in on the action. In a few years when we look back at the major expansion UFC will undergo in the Canadian marketplace, the past shows they’ve had in Montreal must never be forgotten (especially when Shogun destroyed Liddell). If there is one clear statement to make this week about UFC, it’s to say that this has been a great week for the organization and they have so much momentum on their side for business it’s really incredible.

On the other side of the globe and the other side of the momentum equation, you have K-1. The promotion is on its last legs. Whether or not the promotion collapses and goes into hibernation or dies, one thing is for certain — this Saturday’s Ariake Colosseum event in Tokyo is a make-or-break show. K-1 has this event airing on Fuji TV. Fuji TV has been their long-time television partner. If the show tanks in the ratings (a good possibility), how much longer will Fuji TV stick with K-1?

And then there’s Dynamite at the end of the month. It was announced today that Fields will be the main sponsor of the show. In other words, K-1 has not been able to attract any large-scale sponsors for the Dynamite show. Entirely predictable but sad. It indicates what I noted all along, which is that K-1 is leaning hard on their current sponsors but not able to expand the sponsorship pie. This is why you’ve heard no support publicly yet from Tokyo Broadcasting System about the event. Whether or not the show actually airs on New Year’s Eve is largely a moot point now. The damage is done. The prestige is gone. The question is all about finances now for K-1. Take a look at the leaked card so far.

Which leads me back to Saturday’s upcoming event at Ariake Colosseum. I’ve had a few insiders note to me that this show feels like ‘the last hurrah’ for K-1 on network television. I’m not sure if this is the company’s last television show, but I certainly feel that this event more so than Dynamite will be the finale in terms of putting on a strong display for a show. What’s amazed me so far in the media reaction about the leak concerning Josh Thomson vs. Crusher Kawajiri is how the same MMA writers who complain that fans don’t understand the business of MMA are the first ones to mark out about how ‘awesome’ Thomson vs. Kawajiri is when it’s a fight that maybe 500 Japanese fans care about.

I think the atmosphere at Ariake Colosseum for K-1 on Saturday night will be strong because of a mixture of both good and bad reasons. Good reasons because the World GP is historically the promotion’s strongest. Good because we may end up seeing Alistair Overeem vs. Semmy Schilt, two Golden Glory stars, in the finals. Good because I expect some of the fights to have highlight reel finishes. Bad, however, because there is such a thing as a ‘this is the end’ effect on fans. You can’t ignore it. I think there will definitely be some fans at the show who wouldn’t have been there in the first place because they want to see history and want to be a part of one of the last major shows that the promotion is putting on. I’m not suggesting that K-1 won’t have any shows in 2011, but what I am suggesting is that they are going to be financially in a bad place and the possibility of a promotional stoppage is high. I think the Ariake Colosseum show will turn out to be exciting but also sad in a way, too.

To put the cherry on top of K-1’s collapse and UFC’s rise, the story about Kid Yamamoto heading to UFC in 2011 makes a lot of sense for all parties involved. Yamamoto could easily make more money fighting for DREAM, but look at all of the financial problems in Japan right now. Plus, to say that relations between Yamamoto and K-1 are strained would be a great understatement. Remember the stories in Shukan Gendai about Kid Yamamoto and marijuana parties? So do I. As for what reason Yamamoto would go to UFC, I think there are a couple of reasons. The primary one is to get a Bantamweight fight against Urijah Faber. This has been talked about for yeras in the Japanese press as a dream fight. Now that the WEC merger will be soon complete, Kid can get a fight with Faber in UFC. I also think it’s got a strong chance of being on a main PPV card. I know it’s a fight that only the hardcore fans would largely care about, but it would be a hell of a fight to see in the UFC and one that I think UFC’s matchmakers will be glad to book. If you book Yamamoto in a showcase fight against a lesser opponent, you do risk having him potentially lose and kill interest in a fight with Faber. The secondary reason I think Yamamoto will be happy in UFC is because he’ll get to fight in a cage and fight at the right weight class for a guaranteed paycheck. In today’s Japanese climate, there are no guaranteed paychecks any more.

How much is Georges St. Pierre’s image as a legendary fighter on the line at UFC 124?

This isn’t much a question that I’ve spent much time thinking about, but clearly it seems to be the one that everyone is asking heading into this weekend’s fight. Everyone knows about the ongoing debate between Dana White & Greg Jackson as to whether or not Jackson is making his guys strictly into point fighters. Jonathan Snowden has a look at GSP’s top 10 career defining moments. St. Pierre’s last fight was against Dan Hardy, who decided to play the role of gumby in their title match and ridiculously not submit to some painful submission attempts.

I will say that there will be a tremendous amount of pressure, both internal and external for St. Pierre to get the job done fast against Josh Koscheck and in painful or brutal fashion. If Koscheck manages to frustrate St. Pierre and drag the fight out to go the distance (Daniel Cormier thinks this is possible), there will be a lot of impatient fans. Could St. Pierre make a mental mistake due to putting too much pressure on himself to finish off Koscheck early? He did admit that Koscheck gets under his skin. He gets under mostly everyone’s skin, though.

Outside of the main event, the fight I’m paying the most attention to is Jim Miller vs. Charles Oliveira. Love the fight on paper. Miller is one of those guys who is always in the -150 to -400 range each fight and just keeps winning. Always reliable, solid, and with a win against an exciting prospect like Oliveira, he will slowly elevate himself into title contention (or at least main event status for a Fight Night level show).

On a Canadian media note, the former boss of Canwest Global Communications has purchased The Fight Network.

Topics: Canada, Japan, K-1, Media, MMA, UFC, Zach Arnold | 5 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

5 Responses to “Decision December for the two major promotions in UFC & K-1”

  1. David M says:

    I don’t think GSP is heavily favored. GSP is a better technical striker, more athletic (but not much), and they are about equal as wrestlers. Koscheck is definitely the most dangerous guy in the division for Georges because he hits haahd, isn’t molasses slow like Fitch, and can take Georges down. I think Koscheck fights dumb often and is chinnier than Georges, but it will be a really exciting, dangerous fight with an absolutely horrid undercard; I literally could not name a single fight on the undercard, and that is ok with me. I intend to get to whatever bar is showing it around 12, so I don’t have to waste two hours on fights I don’t care at all about.

    I am taking GSP ko 3, for what it’s worth.

  2. 45 Huddle says:

    I think I have seen about 90% of the people saying GSP would win.

    But people are completely underestimating Koscheck. I think they are letting their hate get in their way of their picks.

    This is about a 55/45 fight, with GSP having a slight edge.

  3. Mr. Roadblock says:

    GSP’s 1st fight against Koschek is when he started his streak of brutally boring fights.

    I don’t see much reason to suspect he won’t continue trying to do just enough to win and not taking any chances.

    I was really pumped for GSP/Kos I. I felt at the time it was the two best athletes in MMA going head to head.

    I don’t have much expectation for this fight to be exciting. Mainly because I don’t want to be let down. But if GSP goes toe to toe with Kos this could be one of the best fights ever.

  4. Steve4192 says:

    Overeem wins the K-1 World Grand Prix.

    As an MMA fan, I hope that now that he has achieved #1 status in kickboxing, he shifts his sights to doing the same in MMA. Now we just have to hope Strikeforce can get someone to fight him. Overeem-Werdum makes the most sense, but I wouldn’t be surprised if M-1 strongarms Strikefoce for a Fedor rematch and we wind up with Overeem-Bigfoot.

    • 45 Huddle says:

      Does this mean when Joe Rogan wants to hype up a fighter he will now say: “This guy has MMA Level Striking!!”?? Overeem has been KO’d a few times by guys like Liddell and Rua.

      I just see Heavyweight fighting across multiple sports and think it’s really bad. Heavyweight Boxing is bad outside of the Klitschko’s. The best K-1 striker was never considered top tier even in his striking when he was fighting the best guys in MMA. The SF Heavyweight Pool won’t fight each other. The UFC’s is so inexperienced because there is such a lack of depth.

      I see a guy like Overeem dominating like he did as more of a failure for K-1 then anything else. At his talent level, he would have never won the tournament 5+ years ago.

      And don’t just think I’m just hating on Overeem. Brock Lesnar coming in with a good work ethic and good takedowns should not make him a world champion in like 5 fights.

      Heavyweights are bad. People trying to make them into better then they are are stretching it.


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