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Signal to Noise: UFC 157’s best and worst

UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche was, generally speaking, an excellent event. We all bore witness to an historic moment with women making their way to the UFC, a thrilling preliminary card and much more. Not everything was perfect, though. We all were forced also had to sit through a dreadful co-main event, not all of the referee stoppages were as good as they could be, among other problems. Let’s separate the winners from the losers, the best from the worst and the signal from the noise at UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche. Most UFC Move: Putting Rousey on Pay-Per-View Before FOX I’ll cop to being wrong. I was one of those that argued Rousey should’ve been put on free television (FOX) before headlining a pay-per-view card. I believed while she was clearly a popular attraction and one capable of great heights, it would take a more development, manicured process to get there. I was wrong. For better or worse, UFC brass are aggressive. Sometimes that leads them into thinking their brand power is greater than it is. When they face setback, they occasionally have difficulty acknowledging their own judgment errors. When they faced poor reception and bad ticket sales at UFC on FX 3, UFC President Dana White blamed the tough Miami market, one he said has historically always been so. That necessitates the question, though; if it’s so tough, why bother going in with a very watered-down card? And that requires a follow-up, candid query as well: isn’t the watered-down card that’d have difficulty being received with strong demand anywhere in North America the bigger culprit than a market that was only referred to as difficult when poor financial returns and low fan enthusiasm were on display? On the other hand, UFC 157 was a clear case where their aggressiveness paid huge dividends. Zuffa brass forged ahead with a hunch Rousey could do big business even in an area where UFC often faces box office difficulty. They didn’t listen to critics who suggested a more measured approach was appropriate a) because Rousey wasn’t a proven box office draw and b) if Rousey didn’t sell pay-per-views her first time out, she’d be labeled a promotional dud (even if such a conclusion was unfair). The result? The sell-out gate, enormous if not unprecedented media attention and the most high-profile women’s combat sports fight arguably of all time. Not too shabby. We’ll have to wait to see what the pay-per-view buyrate returns are, but it’s hard to fathom a scenario where they underperform early modest expectations, e.g. 300,000 buys. Whatever the case, though, UFC accomplished something beyond proving critics wrong: they made Rousey’s big stage introduction as big and successful as it could possibly be. Promoters get one opportunity to make an introduction count. You’d be had pressed to argue they left any stone unturned and they did so at a time when the mainstream media and casual observers were willing to look at what was under the rocks UFC turned over. Biggest Winner: Everyone Arguing this event on Saturday was on any meaningful level a failure can only happen from the mind of someone deranged or paid to say as much. Saturday was an unmitigated success. Fans benefit by having a diversified and arguably more energized product, UFC benefits on similar terms, women benefit by having additional opportunities (and proving they are capable of competing and being compelling in combat sports), and the sport benefits by making a portion of the game more robust as well as have it humanized it, insofar as women force the sport to be viewed in a new light. It’s true the inclusion of women means roster cuts of some men, but the UFC already employs far too many fighters. We cannot complain fight cards are too thin and then lament the loss of those fighters who likely aren’t UFC caliber. Best Representation of What’s Possible in Good Refereeing: Herb Dean For starters, referee Herb Dean deserves acknowledgement for not pulling the trigger too early in the chaotic Dennis Bermudez vs. Matt Grice affair. Frankly speaking, I don’t know if anyone would’ve been overly upset if he had. There were moments in the third round where Grice’s connection to conscious thought was tenuous. No clear line was crossed in the pitched battle, though. Dean acted reservedly and therefore appropriately by letting the combatants have every fair opportunity to compete on their own terms. What’s noteworthy is the controversy about Dean’s stoppage of the Josh Koscheck vs. Robbie Lawler bout. Some suggest it was premature as Koscheck was neither unconscious nor unable to immediately react once the bout was halted. At first glance, I believed Dean erred. After a few more viewings, however, I noticed Koscheck, while not entirely asleep, was doing nothing to stop Lawler. There were no meaningful defensive postures taken. He was poised to take more abuse and to do so without any kind of bulwark. All of this is to say that Dean’s stoppage is at least defensible. What it doesn’t mean is the…

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