Friday, July 16, 2010

MMA's mid-year report card (Part I)

With all four major U.S. based Mixed Martial Arts promotions taking a break of sorts this month, what a better time to look back on the first half of the year and see how each promotion fared. So far, 2010 has been a memorable year in MMA with some highs and definitely some lows as well; let's start with the UFC.

Not wasting anytime, the UFC started the year off the second day of 2010 with UFC 108, which featured Rashad Evans defeating Thiago Silva via decision. This win of course opened the door for Evans to settle his grudge match against Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson at UFC 114 during Memorial Day weekend, which also featured their second fan expo. While the fight itself did not live up to the hype, the expo was even bigger and better than their first one and drew over 125,000 fans over two days.

We witnessed a major upset in April when Frankie Edgar won a decision against longtime lightweight kingpin B.J. Penn and won the title; yet, that wasn't even the biggest upset in 2010, as we'll find out a little later. Edgar vs. Penn was of course the co-main event of UFC 112, the promotion's first foray into Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The main event on that card was the debacle between light heavyweight champion Anderson Silva and Demian Maia, that left UFC President Dana White in total disgust with the champion over his performance or lack there of. However, from that low point we went to UFC 116 and the return of heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar earlier this month, where Dana White went from total disgust back in April to saying, "this was the greatest night of fights I've ever seen."

Finally and hopefully, we saw the last of two UFC Hall of Famers, Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell (pictured above), who both went out with lopsided losses and looking like they are fighting well past their prime, which they are. The UFC's attempt to give them one last hurrah before the sunset on their careers backfired on them and these once proud champions.

Taking this into consideration, along with other factors such as the UFC providing free cards on both the Spike and Versus networks, my grade for the first half is a B-.

Their chief rival meanwhile, Strikeforce, did not fare so well. Even though there were some positive moments throughout, the negatives thoroughly outweighed the bad. The positives, include the emergence of future stars such as light heavyweight champion Muhammad 'King Mo' Lawal, lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, one of the best in the world and women's champ Cristiana 'Cyborg' Santos, the definitive best in the world.

Another positive is their TV contract with both cable's Showtime and network television's CBS. However, that was also part of the negative. With a major opportunity to put a big foot forward with a network telecast in April featuring three championship bouts, they bombed with three sub par fights that all went to decision then finished the CBS telecast on a down note with an unexpected melee inside the cage.

That notwithstanding, they followed up that fiasco with another. Finally seeing the return of their heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, instead of matching him up against their #1 commodity and drawing card Fedor Emelianenko, they chose Brett Rogers as the challenger who ironically enough was coming off a loss to none other than Emelianenko. To no one's surprise, Overeem destroyed Rogers.

If that wasn't bad enough, the icing on the cake was the next month in June when they paired Emelianenko against Fabricio Werdum and in the biggest upset so far this year he lost. So much for the mega heavyweight fight they were hoping for; or is it? At this point they're not even sure which way to go.

Combine all this together along with the indecisiveness on what broadcast team to use including a two-man versus three-man team or using Frank Shamrock versus Pat Miletich as an analyst and it was not a good first half. My grade for Strikeforce at the halfway point is a D.

In part II of my mid-year report card, I will discuss the two promotions that really did well in the first half of the year and scored the two highest grades so far, WEC and Bellator.

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