We had some logistical problems catching up with UFC 148 and missed a few of the early fights on the card, which we are now, ahem, ‘acquiring’ by any means necessary. The complex logistics were the result of CryTuff HQ moving from the sweltering, hip-hop soundtracked urban decay of Southern Connecticut to the crisp Andean air of salsa-dancing Colombia. I found a bar online advertising that they were showing the fights. Said bar is in Parque Lleras, where the young, rich, and gorgeous of Medellin go on weekend nights to pound their poison and shake their booties. Being old, broke, and ugly I hardly fit in, but the place did have the fights on, and they were in HD. First then, two cultural observations about Colombian nightlife. Adult males NEVER wear shorts (adult females routinely wear shorts, skirts, and halter tops consisting of roughly 2 square inches of fabric, but that’s another story), and it’s perfectly normal for an adult male to order the goofiest, fruit juiciest girly drink on the planet. Machismo, it seems, ends somewhere this side of alcohol selection.
However, to the fights we go. First, props to Cung Le for getting a UFC win. Patrick Cote might not have come in with the greatest game plan to stop what everyone knows Le is going to do, but it was still a solid win against a solid opponent. Le is 40 years old, has a Joel Silver produced movie on the way, and has been in the fight game something like forever. To see him with the desire to fight in the UFC, at his age and after what he has accomplished, shows a guy who just likes the competition. He’s not going to get a title shot or a huge pile of cash, but even after having his face pushed around by Wanderlei Silva he still wants to fight. Props to Mr. Le, long may you run.
On to Mr. Jenna Jameson and Forrest Griffin. Post-fight, Dana White said Griffin and Mr. JJ ‘looked old.’ Really, Dana? Ya think? As in, how many fights has it been since Forrest DIDN’T look old? As for Mr. JJ, thanks to the interwebs I now know that he debuted in UFC 13, and that on the day of said UFC tilt the #1 song in America was MMMBop by Hanson. So, yeah, Dana, a bit long in the tooth, that pair. Then again, Mr. White, it was YOU who decided to put that fight second on the card, yes? The fight was gruesome (in a bad way), boring, and an example of everything that’s wrong about the UFC. More about that, anon.
On the top of the card we had the most hyped fight since, at least, the last time Rashad Evans fought Bones Jones. It went more or less as I expected (the rest of my CageWall picks were predictably abysmal), with Anderson Silva waiting for his chance to strike and taking cold-hearted advantage when it arrived. My favorite bit of the fight was that Spider essentially won by ducking. How many times have we seen him bob, weave, and feint his way to a devastating punch or kick? It must be incredibly annoying for opposing fighters. ‘Damnit, I swear there was a 185 pound Brazilian right there a few seconds ago. Where did he . . . OUCH!!’ After Chael Sonnen’s ill-advised attempt at a highlight reel spinning back fist he wound up sitting on his ass, ripe for what had to be a devastating knee to the chest and a flurry of head strikes to finish the match. For purely schadenfreude reasons I would have preferred the fight to have lasted a bit longer, as would a few million insulted Brazilians, so Spider could have pounded on ‘The American Wanksta’ some more, but it was probably stopped at about the right time.
Which brings us to the 30,000 foot look at the UFC and how the money and competition clash right now for Anderson Silva. It is worth reminding ourselves that the goal of Dana White & Co is not necessarily to put on the best fights between the most qualified fighters in the game. What DW + Co want is big fat gate receipts and insane numbers of people paying for the PPV package at home. That’s why we get Forrest Griffin and Mr. Jenna Jameson at the #2 fight on this card, when any of half a dozen fights from unwatched UFC 147, looked at purely from a quality of competition standpoint, stomped all over the Griffin – Mr. JJ ‘battle.’ This means that DW + Co have to walk a fine line. In the long run they DO need good, competitive fights, which means bringing along young talent to compete with the superstars. But in the short run a fight like Griffin v Mr. JJ, because it includes two widely known fighters, becomes a ‘name’ fight that puts asses in the seats and rings the till at the PPV checkout. It does eff all to make the UFC a better, more interesting competition for any but the most casual fan, but it makes Zuffa money.
All of which puts Anderson Silva in an interesting, and fairly rare position. I hate the term ‘cleaned out the division’ but in Silva’s case he has not just cleaned out the 185 division, he has disinfected it, polished the copper fixtures, repainted it a jaunty cornflower blue, and sandblasted the exterior of the 185s. Reading the MMA web sites it would seem Hector Lombard (assuming he beats Tim Boetsch), Mark Munoz, Alan Belcher or Michael Bisping are the fighters people are saying are next up for the Spider. In other words, the UFC seems to be serving up 185s whose last kicked in anger in a win over Chris Leben (Munoz), a loss to Sonnen (Bisping), and a win in Bellator vs Trevor Prangley (Lombard). By the way, Wikipedia informs me that Mssr. Prangley most recently beat someone named George Stork in May of 2012 at a fight in Worley, Idaho.
Put yourself in Silva’s shoes for a minute. You’ve just made Dana and his merry band buckets of money. Your ‘brand’ is at an all time high, and you managed even to refrain from your usual dickishness before and after the fight. As a side note, to give an idea who much Spider has advanced recently, most fighters look like NASCAR cars in their T-shirts, taking a couple of shekels from anyone who will fit on the fabric. Silva entered this fight wearing his own Spider logo, a Nike swoosh, and a Burger King add. Clearly his brand is doing quite nicely if Nike and Burger King are paying him enough to keep everyone else off that precious cotton real estate. So what, exactly, is the upside for Silva fighting Bisping, Munoz, or Lombard? Nothing that I can divine, which puts him in that rare position where Zuffa needs his fame and name more than he needs Zuffa. Other than a serious long shot ‘superfight’ against GSP or an even longer shot move up in weight to 205, if I were Silva a year or two selling shoes and burgers would look a lot more interesting than putting a gold-plated legacy on the line against low-draw (and presumably low-payday) opponents like the UFC has in Middleweight now. I could be wrong, of course, maybe Silva is champing at the bit for a bite of Bisping, but I suspect that’s the last we’ll see of Spider in the cage for quite a while.