Mixed Martial Arts: The Savage Science

February 29, 2008 | Thyrl Nelson

 “Thyrl’s Mobtown Blog Pound”

If you’re not a fan of Mixed Martial Arts yet, get to the Original Steakhouse in Perry Hall on Saturday, and give yourself a chance to see MMA at it’s best. First of all if you haven’t been to the Original Steakhouse and Sports Theater yet, you’ll find out that the name Sports Theater hardly does it justice. This place has some of the biggest TVs you’ve ever seen outside of your local stadium. (The food is great there too.) And on Saturday you’ll be seeing the best card that the UFC has put together in the past 3 years, possibly ever.

I’ve been a boxing fan for as long as I can remember, and I also remember the early days of the UFC, when it was regarded as little more than a carnival act. Even then though, Royce Gracie was showing us a scientific approach to hand to hand combat that we were still too naïve to appreciate. Admittedly though, the UFC back then, was a far inferior product to what you are seeing in the modern age of MMA.
After being banned in the United States for a time and on the verge of bankruptcy, the UFC was bought by Zuffa LLC. Zuffa worked with US athletic commissions to get MMA back into the US, and through regulation, the sport has evolved from it’s tournament style, anything goes beginnings to the savage science that it currently is.
Success didn’t happen overnight for Zuffa and the UFC, they wallowed in obscurity for a long time, and to a large extent still do, but the sport is gaining momentum. The UFC really started taking off in the wake of the Ultimate Fighter Reality Series. The Ultimate Fighter, much like the Contender for boxing, exposed the sport to lots of potential fans that wouldn’t have watched otherwise. Fans like my wife, who has recently become a semi-avid follower of both boxing and MMA.
If boxing and MMA have to compete for my pay per view dollars, MMA will usually win. I haven’t missed a UFC pay per view in nearly 3 years. While I am an equally devoted boxing fan, Mayweather vs. Hatton is the only boxing PPV that I’ve bought in that same time span. And on that night in fact, the UFC had a free show on Spike TV. I watched the UFC show, recorded the boxing matches (which I had spent $65 on) and once the UFC Fight Night was over, I forwarded through the under card and only watched the main event on the boxing card. In fact, I still haven’t watched the under card from that night.
I have no issues with spending the money for UFC shows for a lot of reasons. First, you are guaranteed to get your money’s worth. Unlike boxing, where you might spend $65 to see a 5-minute fight, the UFC will show you 6-8 fights total on the card, and even if the main event winds up being a turd, you’re bound to see a few great fights. Three five-minute rounds tend to create a sense of urgency in fighters, and helps to press the action. Unlike boxing where bad fights are long and boring, the UFC under cards are perfect for my ADD.
Secondly, since the boxing PPVs usually wind up on HBO or Showtime the following week, there isn’t much sense in buying them anyway. As I said, these are two of the few sports that my wife actually enjoys watching with me. Since she isn’t watching Sports Center or listening to the Bob Haynie show very often, she never knows who is going to win even though the fights are a week old. (Please try to keep this in mind if you call in to my show. I love to talk boxing or MMA. I just try not to reveal the winners since she always listens) Once the Wire ends, there would be no reason for me to have HBO or Showtime if I were paying for boxing. Actually, to be fair, both networks have lots of good fights outside of their PPV offerings too.
The biggest advantage that MMA may have over boxing for now is the fact that Zuffa currently controls the market. They recently acquired their biggest rival, Japan’s Pride Fighting. The in-flux of talent from that organization is largely responsible for the star-studded card they’ll put on this Saturday. For now, the UFC decides who will fight whom and when, and since fighters are under contract, there is little to negotiate. This has meant that the UFC has consistently been able to deliver the best match ups, at the times when they are relevant, unlike boxing where we often have to wait years and years to see the fights that we are asking for.
That trend is slowly changing though. The UFC is starting to find competitors cropping up quickly and trying to take advantage of the sport’s rising popularity. We are also starting to see established UFC veterans becoming disgruntled at the money being paid to big name guys who haven’t paid their dues, like Brock Lesnar, Kimbo Slice, and maybe even Floyd Mayweather. As UFC fighters’ contracts begin expiring, we may begin to see more of the effects of money on the sport.
Boxing fans have benefited too from the rise of the UFC. The last 18 months in boxing have been the best time that I can remember. It seems that the pressure of competing for PPV dollars has begun to create some urgency with boxing promoters too. Others like Gary Shaw have taken the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach, as Shaw is now heavily involved in the Elite XC upstart which just signed a prime time network TV contract.
There is plenty of room in the market for both sports, and fans should continue to benefit from the competition that the two sports are creating for each other. In addition to going out to see the UFC PPV on Saturday, I’ll be just as anxious to go home and watch Vasquez / Marquez III on DVR.
As for Saturday’s card, “The Spider” is ridiculous; he’s like a Street Fighter character. He’s long and slender but one of the most feared strikers in the game. Both Silva and Henderson should look to keep the fight standing, and probably in close quarters. There will be lots of dirty boxing in this one. If Silva gets hold of anyone’s head, they’ll be in trouble, the beatings he gave to Rich Franklin were unfathomable considering what Franklin has accomplished otherwise. If Henderson can’t get the job done, I don’t know who might be able to unseat “The Spider”. I suspect that someone might be able to hurt Silva by working his legs with kicks, but getting close to the Spider is dangerous. In my opinion the Muay-Thai fighters are the most fun to watch too.
If you have been an avid follower of the UFC and the Ultimate Fighter series, you’ll recognize nearly every name on this card. If you aren’t an avid follower of the UFC, come out and join us on Saturday, and then tell me what you think.
Hope to see you there.


“Thyrl’s Mobtown Blog Pound”