On March 6, the Ultimate Fighting Championship announced the fifth fight that would be scheduled to air during the Pay-Per-View broadcast of UFC 146. That bout was another heavyweight bout between Stefen Struve and Mark Hunt. This will mark the first time in the company’s history that all fights on the main card will be competed in the heavyweight division. I believe that this card started out as an accident for having mostly heavyweights, but grew into a forced live experiment by the UFC brass.
The good: This is a great strategy that may play out well for the UFC three to four months afterwards. By having the champ defend his title against the latest challenger, a number one contender fight and three other bouts battling for position within the division will answer many questions in the one night. Dana White, the president of the UFC, is asked ‘all the time’ at post fight press conferences about whom the winners and losers will fight next. His response is always a truthful one in “I don’t know. We’ll have to see.” At the UFC 146 post fight presser; he will have a much clearer picture of whom each fighter should or could fight next.
Bellator Fighting Championship has been using this similar format to run their tournaments for years now, and it seems to be working for them and their audience. With all of these fighters fighting on the same night, injuries and typical medical suspensions almost become irrelevant because they will be on the same time table. This will level the playing field for the next fight, if the fighters from this card are matched up with an opponent from the same UFC 146 card for their next fight. Which again, Bellator has set the example for them to follow.
Summary: This makes future match making simpler and faster.
The bad: One of the best aspects of the largest MMA promotion in the world is their talent roster of over 300 active fighters. The heavyweight division is rapidly grown and is the deepest it has ever been. This division has almost been around since the beginning. Its long history dates back to UFC 12 in 1997 when the first heavyweight champ was crowned. However, the heavyweight division is still one of the shallowest divisions when compared to the other divisions (light heavyweight down to lightweight; featherweight through flyweight are new and still in development).
From UFC.com: Number of Fighters per Division
Heavyweight 33; Light Heavies 35; Middleweight 48; Welterweight 64; Lightweight 57
The UFC is not using all of their resources to entertain the fans. With mixing the division on the cards, the fans get to see the sport they love used in different ways. One difference from the heavies from everyone else is the space in the cage. The heavies are at a disadvantage because they have slightly less space on the canvas to paint their art on. But the best example is the faster pace lighter fighters can work in compared to the heavies. Explained more below. Another worry is that these fights will end in the first three minutes. Heavies have a great reputation of ending each other early more than any other divisions. We will be tuning in to see hours of live MMA action as we are now accustom to, but only a combined 30 minutes of the main card.
Summary: No diversity for the audience and a quick night.
The grueling: When was the last time you saw a high paced heavyweight fight for more than one round? Heavyweights are huge men and their bodies need more oxygen to fuel those heavy muscles than the average lung can take in during each breath. Of course these men are professional athletes and will come into the fight in shape and under the 265-pound limit. What I am worried about is all or most of the ten fighters will start to gas out after the first few minutes of the fight. Do you remember season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter reality show? I’m not talking about Rampage and Rashad’s epic confrontations. I’m talking about the slow, non-technical, heavy breathing action in the cage each week. Again, I’m not comparing that crop of new talent to all of the fighters on the 146 card.
My point is that the heavier a fighter is, the sooner they slow down in the cage. By the time the main event, or even co-main, rolls around we may already be bored to tears after three fights of huge men throwing looping punches, half hearted kicks, leaning on each other against the cage, checking the clock and gasping for air. This is not entertaining for most MMA fans. A part of that may be due to the fact that we are now accustom to the fighters in the lighter divisions fighting at a very high pace. These lighter fights are very entertaining, because they can do more moves, technics and combos with in the same window of opportunity as the heavies. We now expect to see that from every fight, including the big boys.
Summary: Great fear of slow moving action for three plus hours.
Heavyweight Championship: Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir
Heavyweight: Antonio Silva vs. Roy Nelson
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve
Heavyweight: Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane del Rosario
Tune in on May 26 to see how this historic event unfolds.