ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program will be delving into the business practices of the UFC, more specifically looking at the payscale that UFC uses for its fighters. Dave Meltzer, of WrestlingObserver.com and of Yahoo! Sports, wrote a very informative article recapping the major points of UFC’s practices. Most specifically, UFC is a private company which reserves them the right to not have to release pay figures publicly. Therefore, there is potentially a moral debate looming regarding the pay of lower tier performers versus the increasing profit growth that UFC is experiencing in the wake of a major television deal with Fox. As noted by Meltzer in the article (which is linked above), Dana White has already taken to the offensive via his twitter, stating that he will destroy any negativity that the ESPN piece may imply. Whatever the true intention of the ESPN piece may be, the topic itself being brought to light may lead to some major shake-ups in the business model of the UFC.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” will air on Sunday @ 10 AM EST on ESPN2. Zuffa CEO Lorenzo Fertitta is interviewed as part of the piece.
July 2nd, 2011 was meant to be a passing of the torch in the Light Heavyweight Division of the UFC. While many may not have said it outright during the promotion of UFC 132, the writing was clearly on the wall. Tito Ortiz, the 36-year-old former Light Heavyweight Champion of the UFC, hadn’t earned a victory in the octagon in his last five fights. After four and a half years of defeat, and various conflicts with Dana White along the way, Ortiz was set to fight Ryan Bader, the 12-1 budding prospect of the division. At eight years Bader’s senior, Ortiz entered the octagon poised to be cut from the UFC if he met defeat.
1:56 later, Bader was tapping to a guillotine choke, and Ortiz couldn’t hold back the tears. The ‘Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ is back, at least for the time being.
As it conincided, Light Heavyweight Champion and phenom Jon Jones was supposed to defend the title against the quick hands of former champion and Ultimate Fighter winner, Rashad Evans. Unfortunately for Evans, Jones suffered a broken hand in training and was replaced by wrestling upstart Phil Davis. Davis, however, would suffer a knee injury shortly thereafter and be forced to pull out of the fight. The revolving door of opponents then went around from Ortiz, to Machida, and back to Ortiz again. After an emotional and triumphant return just one month ago, Ortiz will try to carry that momentum into a second encounter with Evans.
It’s very difficult in this situation to have any confidence in Ortiz pulling out a victory over Evans. With the fight against Bader, Ortiz had a solid 9 months to train and prepare and was also facing a fighter who showed weakness to getting caught in guillotines. At 36, Ortiz is taking this fight on less than a month’s notice, where age and recovery play a giant factor. Jon Jones was able to defeat Bader under similiar circumstances and then defeat Shogun Rua a month later to win the Light Heavyweight Title, but Jon Jones was only 23-years-old at the time and proving to be an unstoppable force.
The advantage to an Ortiz victory would be the intriguing storyline to associate with it. Jones is already slated to defend his title against “Rampage” Jackson in September, but if Ortiz were to defy the odds yet again and overcome Evans then a potential title fight could be made down the line. Not unlike the heavyweight encounter of Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar in 2008, the legend of Tito Ortiz could go to war with the remarkable talents of the prodigy. This would have potential as a huge draw for the UFC. However, other than the dream match up, Tito doesn’t serve much purpose to remain in the division. A loss may send him packing again, or a victory could keep the tour rolling. With a couple flat tires, a shakey starter and a busted fender, tonight we’ll see how far the bus can keep rolling.
We here at DBB endorse Rashad Evans for victory.
Vitor Belfort v. Yoshihiro Akiyama
The Middleweight Division that Anderson Silva has torn apart remains a graveyard for former title contenders and a purgatory for those that dare rise to title contention. Belfort looks to bounce back from a first round KO at the hands of Silva, whereas Akiyama looks to turns things around after experiencing the first losing streak of his career. A win might boost “Sexyama” into that snowball’s chance in hell against Silva, but Belfort still remains a serious threat with his strikes.
We here at DBB endorse Vitor Belfort for victory.
Mike Brown v. Nam Phan
Mike Brown was considered one of the bigger names to come into the UFC following the merger with WEC. The former WEC Featherweight Champion handed Urijah Faber almost half of his loss total (2 of Faber’s 5) and reigned over the division until Jose Aldo took the belt from Brown in 2009. Since the merge, however, Brown has gone 0-2 in UFC bouts and is in need of a victory to keep himself from drowning. Nam Phan, the popular TUF contestant, returns after a controversial split decision loss to Leonard Garcia and the TUF Finale back in December. A win over Brown would prove a great starting point for Phan’s UFC career.
We Here at DBB endorse Mike Brown for victory.
HDNet announced last night that Bobby Lashley will face former UFC fighter Eddie Sanchez in the main event of a 7/29 live show from Kansas City’s Memorial Hall.
Bobby Lashley looks to build off the momentum from his last fight and re-assert himself as a heavyweight contender. Lashley had been making his transition from the world of professional wrestling to the world of mixed martial arts look easy with pummeling first round victories over MMA mainstays like Wes Sims and Bob Sapp. However, a TKO loss to Chad Griggs last August brought into question Lashley’s conditioning, as well as his progression as an overall fighter. The 250-pound wrestler failed to display any comfort or knowledge in a submission game despite having several chances to possibly finish Griggs in that manner. Lashley bounced back with a decision victory over John Ott back in March, but exhibited the same factors of fatigue and questionable commitment. It should be noted that Ott was also a Middleweight fighter who struggled to put weight on to be in the same ballpark of size as the mammoth Lashley.
Lashley’s opponent, the 12-5 Eddie Sanchez, will prove a more legitimate heavyweight competitor for the former WWE superstar. Sanchez fought with the UFC from 2006 to 2008, but only amounted a 3-3 record during his time there. After coming up on the losing end in his last two fights, a victory over the brand name of Lashley could be the boost Sanchez is looking for to put him back on track.
It was reported earlier this week that the captivating Chael Sonnen is finally free of all suspensions (and most legal troubles) and will return to fight Brian Stann at UFC 136 in Houston, Texas. For those that may not recall, Sonnen’s last fight was a Middleweight Title shot against Anderson Silva in August of last year in which he thumped the champion for 4 1/2 rounds before being lured into a triangle submission. Not only was Sonnen regarded as having had the fight won on points up to that moment, but he also quickly asserted himself as a budding superstar by dominating Silva in a manner no one had seen before in the octagon.
The video embedded above is an interview done by MMA weekly with Dana White regarding Sonnen’s issues with the California State Athletic Commission. In regards to this report, the main commentary to focus on comes from about the 2:50 mark onward. At that point of the interview White discusses the window of opportunity that Sonnen had presented to him by his performance against Silva and how the punishments imposed by the CSAC cut Sonnen’s chances to become a star and to make a hefty income. The point is actually two-fold as not only would Sonnen had benefitted personally, but the UFC itself would’ve had a budding Middleweight feud at a time when the division was in dire need of a threat to Silva’s reign. With Yushin Okami next on deck for Silva as a serviceable opponent, Nate Marquardt chased from the division after poor performances, and an elite level GSP still refusing to move up 15 pounds, a dominant returning performance from Sonnen could hopefully ignite interest in both the division and in a feud with Silva.
Last night, Jon Jones continued his domination of the Light Heavyweight division by defeating champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua to claim the title. Jones was entering the match as a highly touted favorite, with some feeling he was even over-hyped. However, a little over a minute into the first round, Jones executed a beautiful takedown that seemed to instantly break the spirit of the champion. For the remaining two rounds Jones enjoyed some target practice before landing a knee and punches that took Rua out for good. The moment will surely be a lasting memory for Jones, the match itself, however, may be quickly forgotten as the UFC moves forward to the big showdown on April 30th in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, between welterweight titan Georges St. Pierre and the only remaining threat in the division, former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields.
Mid-way through the show last night was the debut of the vignette for the match, which you’ll find embedded above. The piece is quite masterfully done, as have been the vignettes for previous GSP fights, most notably his recent destruction of Josh Koscheck months ago. Whether it’s the influence of GSP’s people, or just the brilliance of the UFC production staff, or both, these videos wonderfully sum up the story of both men leading to their battle.
The opening for Shields reveals his accomplishments through his career to date. There are titles, medals, and headlines, all summing up what Shields has accomplsihed in his career to date. He rolls with a partner on the mat, applying an armbar amidst shadows. Small steaks of light allow a clear enough vision to witness Shields transition over into a rear naked choke. He quietly emerges victor in a “smaller” promotion over the likes of Jason Miller, Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler and Dan Henderson. They are certainly no cast of characters to sneeze at, yet Shields remains in the background to a larger MMA athlete.
St. Pierre enters in grand fashion with an almost flamboyant display, executing a jumping spin kick. No partner to roll with, no grind on the mat, but rather a kip up off the mat in a further exhibition of athleticism. A shot of Josh Koscheck’s battered face floods the screen, and then a witness to the dismantling of the man who chirped endlessly of ending the reign of GSP. The crowd stands and roars, but Shields only casually stands up and exits the stands to the tunnels of the arena. Once there, yet again alone and unnoticed, Shields passes by St. Pierre and the cameras and media that surround the victorious Welterweight Champion. Each man glances at the other, neither breaking stride, and continue on their paths.
In one minute and one second, the UFC was quickly able to capture the essence of both men as they head towards their climax on April 30th. One man, GSP, is the highly regarded champion. He’s has accomplished all he can and dominated all that have challenged him. He has earned attention and glorification for what he has done in the past several years in the UFC. Arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, St. Pierre is on another level that seems virtually unattainable just as his skills leave him almost untouchable.
The other man, the challenger Jake Shields, watches from the shadows as he accumulates victories and trophies, none of which matter or compare when going up against GSP for a UFC title. He trains and continues to grind, waiting for his moment to shine on the ultimate stage for the ultimate belt (no pun intended).
The fight, and both characters involved in it, are captured so well in that one little minute, that it’s almost unnecessary to even know anything else of either fighter. Something even more impressive, especially given the purchase of Strikeforce last week, is the ability for the vignette to subtlely send a message that “Accomplishing anything here in UFC is the pinnacle, no other promotion matters” without burying any other promotion. The video is an impressive microchasm of Dana White’s ability as a promoter. Hopefully the fight itself will live up to the polish of the vignette that promotes it so well.
Jon Jones is arguably the fastest rising and improving star that the UFC has under its banner. After beginning his UFC career with decision victories over Andre Gusmao and Ultimate Fighter I alum Stephan Bonnar, “Bones” would go on a tear through the UFC Light Heavyweight Division. Jake O’Brien would fall to Jones in two rounds at UFC 100, followed by a hiccup of a disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, which remains the only tarnish on his record. The Hamill fight wasn’t even a loss in the true sense of the word, as Jones was dominating the accomplished wrestler before throwing a “12-6” elbow to the head which had been recently dubbed illegal. Hamill was unable to continue after the blow and thus the fight was called. Jones, however, as respectful and humble as he is skilled, took the loss in stride and promised to work harder for his next fight.
The next contest for Jones was UFC vet Brandon Vera on the UFC debut on the Versus network. All the experience in the world, however, wouldn’t stop Vera’s obrital bone from crushing under the force of a Jones elbow. Bones only let the man last half a round. A short four-and-a-half months later, Jones would make similiar work of Vladimir Matyushenko: Round one, elbows. Jones was drawing quick comparisons to the domination of Anderson Silva in the Middleweight Division with fans speculating that he should earn a title shot to match his rising status. Dana White understood this quite well and chose to refrain from injecting Jones into the title picture too quickly. Instead, White made a point to mention that he would hold off on Jones for another year and see where his progression was then.
Perhaps regarded as the first “true” test of his career, Jones was pitted against the undefeated Ultimate Fighter winner, Ryan Bader, at UFC 126 back in February. Bader had recently defeated the former PRIDE fighter Antonio Rogerio Nogueira by using his superior wrestling techniques and improved striking. Where Bader had dominated with his strength and size in the past, he met his match with an equally strong and incredibly elusive Jon Jones. Jones used Bader’s own game plan against him, controlling Bader’s body and eventually submitting him in the 2nd round.
Dana White at the moment was facing a light heavyweight dilemma. The champion, Shogun Rua, was set to defend the belt against perennial contender and former champion Rashad Evans. Evans, however, was forced to withdraw due to an injury in training. Having seen Jones dominate another title contender, White jumped at the oppurtunity in the post-fight interview and asked Jones if he would take the title shot in March against Shogun. Jones excitedly accepted.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua’s entrance into the UFC wasn’t quite as regarded as that of Jones. A highly toutued acquisition from the purchase of Pride: Fighting Championships, Rua was a top performer than many UFC fans were excited to see finally compete in the States. With victories in Pride over such fighters as “Rampage” Jackson, Alistair Overeem and the aforementioned Nogueira, many fans were expecting a light heavyweight title shot rather quickly. Instead, Shogun was given a fight with Ultimate Fighter I winner Forrest Griffin at UFC 76. Meant to be a “test” fight, Rua went from title contention to stepping stone as Griffin shocked the MMA world and submitted Rua late in the 3rd round.
As Griffin went on to defeat Rampage Jackson and become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Rua found himself removed from the title picture and having to claw his way back up. It would be a little over a year before he would get an oppurtunity to prove himself worthy of the title. To achieve his high status once again, Shogun had to fight his way through two UFC veterans and hall of famers, and he did so in impressive fashion.
Fans would be privileged to see Rua defeat Mark Coleman by TKO at UFC 93. He would make even quicker work of former Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell, TKO’ing the Iceman in round one of UFC 97. Now back to form, Rua was awarded a title shot against Champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 104. It was a long 25 months since the defeat at the hands of Forrest Griffin. The two waged war for five full rounds, each round closer than the previous. When the dust cleared and the score cards were turned in, a chorus of boos flooded the arena as Lyoto Machida was declared the winner and still champion.
All the work Rua put in would not be lost, though. Dana White realized the severity of the situation and the potential draw of another Machida-Rua contest and decided to book a rematch for the title. Much like his first three UFC fights, Rua’s two against Machida would move in the same progression. Fight one – Go the distance, reach defeat. Fight two – One round, one winner. At UFC 133 on May 8, 2010, Mauricio Rua finally achieved the title that could’ve been his two years prior as he defeated Lyoto Machida by KO midway through the first round.
To perhaps put the Light Heavyweight Title fight tonight in a tag line, you could say it’s “Adversity vs. Domination.” The borderline unstoppable Jon Jones seems heir apparent to the throne. He’s made short work of every fighter he has come across, and done so in absolutely dominating fashion. The most impressive thing to note in Jones’ fights are that he doesn’t simply strike his way to victory, he dominates his opponents physically, imposes his will, and then strikes the death blows while in a superior position. Jones has incredible striking ability, but he wins his fights by using overwhelming ground and pound and forcing his opponents into a defensive position that they can’t escape. He’s quick, powerful, smart, and getting better with each passing day, a hard combination to overcome for any fighter.
Rua’s biggest advantage could be that he is both very experienced and legitimately the toughest opponent yet for Jones. As noted, he’s struggled through his UFC career, having both moments of sheer domination, and moments of catastrophy. What it may boil down to for Rua’s camp is which Shogun comes to fight tonight. While absolutely deserving of the title he currently holds, his wins over aging stars like Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell seem more foregone conclusion rather than absolute assertion that he is capable of handling a young buck like Jones.
We here at DBB endorse victory of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.
Urijah Faber Makes UFC Debut
Another draw for the card is the official UFC debut of “The California Kid” Urijah Faber. Faber had been a dominate fighter at 135, and a poster boy for the WEC. Up until the purchase of WEC by Zuffa, it seemed unfortunate that a fighter like Faber wouldn’t have a big league outlet like UFC to compete in. He’s always had all the elements of being a major star to promote: Dominate fighter, great hair, great look – he’s made to be a central figure to promote around. Now, with the absorbing of the WEC promotion, Faber will compete on his first UFC card against Eddie Wineland. The California Kid is carrying some momentum, coming off a first round submission victory over Takeya Mizugaki from back in November. Wineland, by contrast, is barreling through with a freight train, riding a four match winning streak, with most recently a first round knockout via body slam. Faber’s recent losses have only been to the like of elite talent such as Mike Brown and Jose Aldo, so one would assume he could outclass the rising Wineland to victory.
Fights To Watch
Nate Marquardt is still wandering around in the Middleweight title picture. After his 21 second knockout of Damien Maia in 2009, Marquardt was lobbying pretty hard for Anderson Silva’s head, claiming himself the proverbial giant killer. His ability didn’t quite match his hype as Chael Sonnen defeated him by decision to swipe the title shot away from him. Since then, Nate earned a questionable TKO victory over Rousimar Palhares back in September, followed by a coma-inducing split decision loss to Yushin Okami in November. Tonight he faces the 13-4 Dan Miller, who is riding a two-fight win streak. Miller is on the rise, but Marquardt needs to pick up a victory here to even dream of getting back into the Middleweight title picture.
Mirko CroCop takes on Brendan Schaub in a heavyweight bout. Since the Pride merger years ago, CroCop never lived up to the reputation his built himself over in Japan. His last fight was an excurciating romp with Frank Mir, where Mir chose to find a way to out-strike the KO legend to prove a point, rather than possibly finish him quickly on the ground. It’s hard to say whether it’s CroCop’s age that’s slowing him down or his motivation to continue to fight, but either way Brendan Schaub seems a perfect fit as an opponent. The Ultimate Fighter runner-up will either be made a spectacle of, in hopes that the old Mirko will come out to shine, or will pull out a win over the former PRIDE Champion and give himself a small space to stand amongst the heavyweight title contenders.
View the remaining card here: Sherdog.com
We will be live tweeting during the event, so be sure to check us out on twitter @donnybrookboys
Ariel Helwani once agains nabs an interview that gets the world buzzing. This guy is trying to be some kind of MMA Geraldo or something. First he gets the infamous Undertaker-Brock exchange following Brock’s loss to Cain Velasquez, where everybody and their brother was talking about Brock abandoning MMA for a short period to work WrestleMania this year. Now, he’s the first to interview Dana and break the major news that Strikeforce has been gobbled up by the constantly growing empire that Dana and Zuffa are building.
The incredible interview has been linked or embedded above, so there’s no need to recap what Dana’s saying word-for-word. However, the most repeated phrase that Dana kept going back to is that, “It’s business as usual.”
Dana White and Vince McMahon draw constant comparisons within the pro wrestling fanbase. Dana often appears the prototypical model of what a perfect business man in the world of combat entertainment should be, whereas Vince tends to catch much wrath for the direction he chooses to take his WWE brand in. Arguably not as earth-shaking as the purchase of Pride: Fighting Championships, the acquisition of Strikeforce still amounts to another vast talent pool that could potentially be used in the UFC. If anyone reading this news didn’t instantly think “Fedor vs. Brock,” then it’s likely best you’re not booking any kind of promotion. Dana, however, has chosen to make it clear that this is a “purchase” in the truest sense of the word and not a merger of brands.
The news of this breaks almost exactly 10 years to the day that World Championship Wrestling was purchased by Vince McMahon and the WWF. Back at that time, there were several rumors floating around about what would happen with the merger. There was talk of WCW having its own timeslot on another channel, as well as buzzing about when or where the big clash of WCW “stars” versus WWF “superstars” would take place. As it would turn out, the WCW talent would be rushed onto WWF television, be featured amidst controversy for the talent selected, the major names were unavailable to be involved because of Time Warner contracts, and ultimately the entire WCW brand and legacy was quickly buried within 6 months of the greatest purchase in pro wrestling history.
Perhaps it’s a difference in finanacial standings at the time, or perhaps it’s just a difference of business strategy in general, but rather than execute a full-on absorbing of Strikeforce-contracted talent and instantly mesh divisions of both organizations, Dana has instead decided to allow Strikeforce to continue “business as usual.” Strikeforce will maintain their television contracts and deals, Strikeforce talent will be booked as they are within the context of Strikeforce events, and all business dealings will remain at the hands of Scott Coker. Strikeforce will remain Strikeforce, plain and simple.
What Dana realizes, which may have been a gigantic err in the ways of Vince McMahon with WCW, is that the Strikeforce brand has its own following and does a respectable amount of positive business by itself. It would be seem ill-advised to take a rival company, purchase it, and then instantly revoke any money-making ability it has had or could continue to have. Granted at the time of the WCW purchase the company was doing subpar television ratings and making horrid revenue off pay-per-view, but it was been well stated and theorized that whatever audience WCW did have in its final days, that those that watched Nitro and Thunder didn’t flip over to the WWF product and add to those ratings. They just disappeared, perhaps never to watch wrestling, or Vince McMahon’s version of wrestling, ever again.
There is potentially a degree of the Strikeforce fanbase that loves that brand of MMA and may not take any interest in the UFC’s brand of MMA. There may be Fedor or Overeem fans that only care to watch their matches and no one else. Rather than risk alienating that fan base, or restructuring the Showtime television deal, or re-negotiate the working relationship with K-1, Strikeforce will remain intact to make money as it has. Two entities are entirely maintained and allowed to live on their own merit. If perhaps down the road Strikeforce begins to fall apart, then I’m sure Dana would adjust the situation to best benefit all parties involved. At the moment, however, there is no reason to act in haste and destroy what Strikeforce has built itself into.
Still, this is some big, big news. Dana just continues to make major moves. He’s like Bradley Cooper, just popping them pills, banging fine hunnies, and telling the world of MMA what’s up. And wearing the sickest T-Shirts this side of Hot Topic. I mean, seriously, this dude doesn’t need fine threats. He just needs an 8×10 of Lennox Lewis, an iron, and a fresh shave and he’s ready to buy up half the United States.