Some UFC Thoughts

It's a Saturday, so there's a UFC event on. The weeks this is not the case have become more and more scarce; it's hard to even remember what it was like to wait any length of time between events.

I have barely-colour memories of living in my first apartment, rejoicing on those weekends where we would be lucky enough to have a UFC and a PRIDE show. Or those months with a televised UFC fight card as well as a pay-per-view. Shit, there was a time that the phrase "new season of The Ultimate Fighter" was something that elicited genuine interest instead of reactions on a spectrum from groans to outright hostility.

I get it, though; times change, the UFC's expanding roster and schedule were inevitable. The driving goal behind the UFC has always been to extract as much revenue as possible from the UFC brand.

The inevitable expansion has resulted in a product that, 16 years after the debut of The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC now runs well over 40 events per year, featuring a roster that is both exponentially more talented than at any point in MMA history but also generic and interchangeable.

The broad strokes of my issues with the modern product are twofold: too few experts, too many generalists. There is now a fairly standardized skillset that every MMA fighter has these days: just enough wrestling and jiu-jitsu to defend and keep the fight on the feet where it becomes (kick)boxing match in 5oz gloves. A lot of this can also be traced to the UFC, specifically Dana White, heavily emphasizing their expectation that fighters "throw down" — that tactics and good strategy are moot if it's not exciting to watch.

Some of my disaffection with the modern product is surely the result of a tenured fandom. I've been watching a lot of fights for over a decade. Prior to 2006, I mainly used Torrents and Sunday editions of Live Audio Wrestling to stay up to date. It wasn't until livestreams of pay-per-views became ubiquitous that I began watching in real-time. They were a boon for a broke imbecile, fresh out of college, working too many hours for too little pay.

Nowadays, I can't be bothered dealing with sketchy websites and lagging feeds — the best deterrent to piracy will always be ease of use. Of course, when the product isn't instilling any sense of anticipation, accessibility is a moot point.

I'm curious to see how the main event, a heavyweight tilt between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, goes. I like both of them; it's a fight where I don't actually want either of them to lose. It's also a fight where the conventional wisdom makes it a very simple pick — Blaydes is going to wrestle the shit out of a guy with bad grappling — but that's only if you discount the Derrick Lewis Factor.

The man has made a career out of the fact that until the fight is over, he is capable of knocking anyone out cold with a single well-placed punch. If you had to have anyone's Puncher's Chance, it would be Derrick Lewis's.

One must also consider that Blaydes will need to expend a lot of energy to grapple-fuck Lewis for the whole fight. He doesn't appear to have exceptional power in his shots, so finishing Lewis with ground-and-pound seems unlikely. If Blaydes' cardio fails him, then the fight swings heavily in Lewis's favour.

I'm picking Blaydes, but I feel like the upset is a very real possibility — this is a much closer fight than it looks like on paper.

It is also the only bout I have any specific interest in, so I am looking forward to ignoring the rest of the show. It's been freeing, to finally let myself miss a fight card. Once you let yourself break a cycle, it gets easier and easier. There is so much content being produced, no rational person could possibly be expected to consume it all.

Published: February 20th, 2021.