Dana White and the UFC had hoped that UFC 112 would spark a major step for the organization in its campaign to grow internationally. The event, held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in an arena called “Ferrarri World” (which I always thought was 50 Cent’s house), had a good card with two title fights and ended up drawing a huge crowd. The time difference didn’t even seem to bother most U.S. fans, even though pretty much everyone knew the results of all the fights by early afternoon on Saturday.
Problem is, the card itself didn’t deliver and the event was a disaster inside the cage.
Anderson Silva, the greatest fighter in the organization and possibly the world, acted like a jackass in his fight with Demian Maia and won a five-round decision. He danced around, made faces, and was so unprofessional that Dana White walked out in the fourth round and threw the championship belt at one of Silva’s handlers. The crowd was even chanting Maia’s name by the end of the fight. Basically, Silva gave the crowd the exact opposite of what it wanted and might have even given over the title of Greatest Fighter Alive to Fedor Emilianenko or even George St. Pierre.
While Silva danced and embarrassed the over-matched Maia, the big story of the night, though, is B.J. Penn’s upset loss to the equally over-matched Frankie Edgar, which some are calling the biggest upset in UFC history. I always thought Matt Serra over George St. Pierre was bigger (Serra lost to Shonie Carter, for God’s sake), but it’s a matter of opinion.
What’s also a matter of opinion is whether B.J. Penn really did lose on Saturday. There have been myriad questions about the UFC’s judging system now that there has been time to digest the fights.
If anything, Penn’s loss seems to be a result of Edgar taking Penn completely out of his strengths and taking him down a couple of times. Basically, B.J. did nothing to win and didn’t get the champion’s benefit of the doubt, so to speak. At least that’s the official line. On the other hand, Edgar didn’t exactly dominate either.
I’m sure UFC 112 was a success for the UFC as a promotion, with plenty of PPV buys and a sell-out in the arena. But in the cage, the two main events were a total disappointment for the organization. It’s marquis fighter would rather dance around like Apollo Creed than fight and it’s longest-reigning champion lost in something of a controversial fashion to a totally outclassed foe.
Going forward, don’t be surprised to see White and the UFC throw its promotional weight behind Brock Lesnar and put Anderson Silva into the background for a time.
In any case, it’s become evident that the biggest problem for the UFC is that it has essentially the same problems as boxing (sketchy scoring system, lack of depth in some weight divisions) and some new ones of its own like champions that could lose at any moment, thus undermining any branding or promotional magic the company could potentially create. So now we get to watch Frankie Edgar versus Gray Maynard instead of the obviously great Penn continuing his reign, and it’s going to be near-impossible for the UFC to promote a Silva fight against anyone less than George St. Pierre or another champion.
The good news is UFC 113 is right around the corner, featuring Kimbo Slice vs. Matt Mitrione (buzz-factor) and Shogun vs. Machida 2 (fantastic).