5 YRS AGO: KELLER’S NOTEBOOK – UFC on Fox thoughts, UFC Heavyweight Division poll results analysis, Benson Henderson, Dan Henderson, attendance

By Wade Keller, MMATorch editor

Five years ago this week, I wrote about a variety of hot topics in MMA including the UFC debut on Fox broadcast network, our poll results regarding the UFC Heavyweight Division,

-By a sizable margin, MMATorch readers want to see Cain Velasquez take on the loser of the Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem fight. It makes sense. A Lesnar vs. Velasequez rematch would result in the winner moving back into title contention, while losing would be a big setback for either fighter. If Cain lost quickly to Junior dos Santos and then also lose to Lesnar in a rematch, it’d be a long road back into contention. If Lesnar lost three in a row – Cain, Overeem, and Cain again – it’d make everyone question whether he is washed up, was ever all that good to begin with, or was just “figured out” by his opponents after first storming UFC. For Overeem, losing to Lesnar and Velasquez would move him practically off main card consideration, much less title contention. Of course, a lot depends on how the fighters lost. A spirited, competitive, close judges’ decision is different than getting pummelled in the opening round. If a fighter was injured going into a loss, that would also temper “writing them off” after two straight losses.

-While 33 percent of our poll respondents want to see Cain fight the Lesnar-Overeem loser, the second choice with 18 percent of the vote is Frank Mir, followed closely by Shane Carwin with 17 percent of the vote. Then it’s a long list of potential opponents all with 2-5 percent of the vote.

-It’s probably a good thing Junior dos Santos won quickly on Saturday because 11 days before the fight he tore his meniscus. He said he couldn’t train cardio other than in a pool and he took some meds to get through the fight. It means had Cain Velasquez taken a strategy of keeping out of dos Santos’s reach and wearing him out, or just shooting in more quickly and trying to grind him into being winded, he could have used his superior cardio and probably had a clear advantage as the fight entered rounds two and three.

-What would UFC had done if either Cain or Junior were unable to fight on Saturday night? Would they have just moved Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida into the live spot? What impression would that fight have made? Would it have drawn more than 8.8 million viewers at its peak, or would the non-title, non-heavyweight, non-name-brand nature of the fight have led to masses turning off the show once the Heavyweigh Title fight was called off? Would Fox have even gone for a different fight, or would they have just canceled the special altogether. I haven’t heard a clear answer on what plan B was, perhaps because there wasn’t one. A last-second injury would have put them in a tough spot, but with a week or two of notice, they could have redesigned the entire hour and built it around another fight.

-One of the more gruesome aspects of MMA that long-time viewers have grown accustomed to is big splotches of blood splatter all over the canvas in later fights if someone bled heavily earlier in the card. That happened on Saturday, but unlike the very early days when UFC touted the blood-letting as part of their marketing, the Octagon mat surface was scrubbed clean and painted over to hide any signs of blood. I agree with the decision. As Dana White said, that Fox special was aimed at the uninitiated potential future UFC customers, and many of them would be turned off by blood stains all over the mat if that was their first impression.

-Ben Henderson challenging Frankie Edgar is slated for Feb. 25/26 in Saitama, Japan. It’s an interesting fight marketing-wise for UFC to headline a Japan show with. Yushin Okami vs. Tim Boetsch and Yoshihiro Akiyama (at 170) vs. Jake Shields will fill out two undercard fights, though, giving the Japanese crowd a “home team” to root for.

-UFC on Saturday night in Anaheim, Calif. drew 11,607 paid fans for $1.07 million in ticket revenue. It was actually about 1,700 short of a sellout. Attendance was down from Lesnar vs. Velasequez last October, which drew 14,856 and $2.2 million in ticket revenue.

-UFC.com is offering Dan Henderson’s “epic knockout” (as they call it, accurately) of Michael Bisping as a free fight today on their website. It’s also a reminder of Henderson doing what a number of fighters in a similar position have chosen not to do – brutally punch at full force a clearly knockout out and vulnerable opponent. I know Bisping gets under the skin of a lot of people, including Henderson that night, but that was a character-defining moment for me when it comes to Henderson. I felt it was unsportsmanlike, no matter his emotions toward Bisping, to hit him when he was down like that. No matter how much you dislike someone, and no matter how “technically legal” it was because the ref hadn’t stepped in quite yet, it was a potentially long-term health-altering punch after the fight was clearly decided.

-The UFC 139 press conference takes place at 4 p.m. ET / 1 p.m. PT, less than an hour from when this is posted. Check MMATorch for full details.


(Wade Keller is supervising editor of MMATorch. He has covered MMA since before UFC 1 for the Torch Newsletter, and is among the longest tenured reporters covering the sport. He is a double-black-stripe belt in tae kwon do and has practiced judo and jiu jitsu at the North Star Martial Arts Academy under Michelle Holtze and Tom Crone. He founded MMATorch.com as a dedicated MMA website in 2006.)

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