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Bodog Fight show was long in duration, short on action

I was at last night’s Bodog Fight show in Trenton, NJ and the show was long on duration and short on action.

My second biggest complaint about the show (I’ll get to the biggest later) was the pacing and the match making. I had to leave the show early because I just couldn’t take it anymore. And I feel bad because I’m from Philadelphia and I was looking forward to seeing Eddie Alvarez fight. But the show began shortly after 7:30 and it was 11:30 and the fourth to last match was still going on. The strange thing was that a lot of the matches ended early and the show was still moving at a snail’s pace.

I had been working since early in the morning and was tired and had a long drive from Trenton back to Philly. I was afraid at that point I wouldn’t be able to drive without nodding off so I just had to go. The lack of action really prompted my decision to leave. If I was watching good fights I would have probably forgotten about the time.

I really don’t understand why they decided to do 10 matches plus an intermission. I realize they have TV needs to satisfy but what they should have done was started the show at 6:30 p.m. and had the opening matches be Blair Tugman vs. Dan Hawley and Nick Agallar and Binky Jones. Would the place have been empty? Sure, but the crowd wasn’t that thick to begin with.

I’ve been to cards that lasted until 1:30 a.m. but those at least had 20 matches on them. There weren’t all that many matches on this card and like I said, a lot of them finished early but for some reason they just took forever in getting everything rolling.

The matchups also weren’t the best. They say styles make fights but in a lot of cases the styles clashed. I realize Bodog has some experienced people handling the matchmaking but I have to call it like I see it. I’m not ripping them for the sake of ripping them so if they are somehow reading this, I hope they don’t just disregard my comments as some “keyboard warrior” with an ax to grind.

In addition to the amount of matches and also the order in which they were presented, the actual decisions in matching fighters was questionable. You have a feared striker in Roman Zentsov and he was matched up against Branden Lee Hinkle. This was the worst match on the card because Hinkle kept shooting in repeatedly. Once Hinkle got Zentsov on the ground he did nothing at times to advance the action of the fight. I was shocked that the referee didn’t stand these guys up. There were so many obvious points during the match where the fight should have been restarted with the fighters on their feet. If they had been handing out red cards Pride-style then Hinkle could have possibly won the match but still owed Bodog money.

The David Love vs. Eben Oroz and Chael Sonnen vs. Amar Suloev bouts were also weak. Oroz looked very tentative for some reason and Love only pressed the action a few times. Sonnen really dominated Suloev but both guys used a counter-punching strategy and there wasn’t really an instigator of the action in that bout. There just weren’t enough guys on the card who were aggressive and really wanted to push the pace. Simply put, there were too many counter-punchers on the card.

The production also really killed a lot of the show’s energy. There wasn’t a whole lot to begin with because it doesn’t look like the show did well from an attendance perspective. When I got there just before 7:30 the place felt nearly empty. More fans arrived during the course of the show but there were still a ton of empty seats. Eddie Alvarez did his part though because there were a TON of green Eddie Alvarez Fight Factory shirts. The attendance would have been better if they had more local guys on the show. The Bodog name is not enough of a draw. They should have not booked some of the fights with the lighter weight, lesser-known guys from random parts of the country. Instead, they should have given the card more of a local angle with more local fighters.

I realize they don’t have a lot of guys from this area signed to the roster but bring in some unsigned local guys and promote their matches as “tryout matches” with the winners getting Bodog Fight contracts. And I realize Tara LaRosa is from Jersey but she doesn’t train in the area so you aren’t going to get the hook of having a bunch of friends, family, and people from her school buying tickets like they got with Eddie Alvarez or like Strikeforce does with all of their Southern California guys who teach a ton of students at the local martial arts schools.

In regard to the production, Bodog had to do a couple of re-shoots (an introduction to a match and also apparently having some of the Bodog girls record vignettes in the ring). There was also the extended intermission I mentioned earlier. At one point the ring announcer stated that the fights would start again in two minutes but I swear it had to have been 20 minutes after he said that. That was in addition to the time already spent on the initial part of the intermission.

While some people will say I am nitpicking, I also had an issue with the music. I don’t know for a fact that all the music used by Bodog was from the Bodog music label but I think I have a pretty good ear and I didn’t recognize a single song a fighter came out to or any of the promo music or music beds played in between fights. So what does the music have to do anything? Well, when I go to the show the intros get me pumped for the match. Despite being taped for TV, the intros were pretty much no-frills. There were some lighting effects and that was about it. It reminded me of an WCW house show from back in the day. When I say back in the day, I mean early-90s WCW and not late-90s WCW. It was so dull that I kept looking at the fighter entrance area half-expecting Maxx Payne to come out and fight Van Hammer.

Back to the music — when I go to smaller MMA and Muay Thai shows they have DJs playing good songs between the fights to keep the energy going in between bouts. If the smaller shows can do it, why not Bodog?

If they had used songs people were familiar with then maybe the crowd would have reacted somewhat to what was played (because they were unfamiliar with most of the fighters) and people would have started talking. Like I said, a minor detail but when you combine it with everything it really does add up. It also sounded like they played certain songs multiple times for fighter entrances. Heck, two fighters didn’t even come out to music. When Chael Sonnen came out there was some music and then it inexplicably cut off, prompting one fan to yell “Remix!” I thought that was a funny line. Philly fans are some of the wittiest in the world.

I know Bodog has a music label and they want to promote their brand but a lot of the songs just sound so generic from my perspective. If I was a fighter I’d have a real issue if they told me I had to come out to their music.

The PA system was also terrible. Why does that matter? Well, in addition to the lag time between matches they also played vignettes to promo the fighters before their entrances. I thought the promos were a little long and making matters worse was that the sound was hard to pick up on. I think the fact that there were so many empty seats and not enough people to absorb the reverb could have been part of the problem. It just stunk because Matt Lindland got in the ring and said a few words to Trevor Prangley after Prangley’s win. I’d love to report on what he said for all of you but I don’t know if he merely congratulated Prangley or if he challenged Prangley for the Bodog middleweight title he had just won (they are in the same weight class).

There was also no clock in the arena to keep the fans in the know about how much time was left in the round. There was no excuse for this because the Sovereign Bank Arena is used for minor league hockey and they had a traditional hockey scoreboard above the ring. You mean to tell me you couldn’t get a timer working? It killed the energy because fans really didn’t know to stand up and cheer if the fighter might have been close to finishing a fight with time ticking down.

They also started doing post-fight interviews towards the end but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. And I was only four rows back!

Another minor issue was the fact that there was a delay between the fighter entrances. They’d play a vignette, bring out the fighter and then pause and play the vignette for the other fighter and then bring him out. At most shows I think they play the video package for both fighters and then bring them out one after the other.

My biggest issue was with the crowd, which you can’t blame Bodog for. But I was really ashamed to be a Philadelphia sports fan. The racism at the show was simply horrendous. During Yves Edwards’ match vs. Jorge Masvidal two separate people were yelling the “N word” at Edwards. No disrespect to Masvidal, but by that point I was rooting for Edwards to win by brutal knockout in hopes he’d then grab the mic and call the fans out.

The racism continued during Yuki Kondo’s match vs. Trevor Prangley. There weren’t a lot of fans chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” but having a couple fans do it is a couple too many. There’s nothing worse than being at a show seated next to a bunch of Hacksaw Duggan marks.

This one kid next to me was chanting “U-S-A!” and someone pointed out that Prangley is South African. The kid looks at the guy and goes “So what? I’m from the USA.” There were some fans of Asian-heritage right next to me on the other side and they were jawing back at him. If there had been an altercation I would have been half-tempted to intervene on behalf of the Asian gentlemen.

There was also some chants directed at Kondo that incorporated the common racial slur used for people of Japanese descent. It reached a new low when someone hurled a slur at Kondo which is the common slur used towards people of Chinese descent. I mean, Kondo is from Japan. Is it too much to ask a racist to get his facts straight? By that point someone finally had the nerve to turn around to the guy and tell him if he didn’t shut up he was going to beat the crap out of him. That took guts to do because the kid he threatened was sitting with four other guys wearing Eddie Alvarez shirts. The guy who told them off appeared to just be there with his girlfriend. I simply think he had had enough. The kid kept his mouth shut… for five minutes.

Racism in MMA is bad for the sport. The non-racists need to take a more aggressive approach. How about when the racist chants start we all start drowning them out by yelling “Fuck you racists! Fuck you racists!” Yeah, I guess using expletives is a bad idea but anything to drown them out. I felt like I was at a clan meeting last night. I mean, I’ve never been to one but I could imagine feeling the way I did last night.

Overall, it really felt like the fans were second class citizens to the taping of the matches. The camera people didn’t even rotate positions! They had two guys on the apron who didn’t move at all. This angered a lot of fans who had paid good money but couldn’t see because the cameramen were blocking their sight line. Look, I realize they had a job to do but if they had rotated at least the fans would have been able to see some of the matches.

The pacing of the show was terrible. You know, I’m not sure if Bodog realized but Trenton isn’t exactly a short drive from Philly. You had a lot of people come out for Eddie Alvarez and their time was monopolized to some extent because if you had arrived at 7:30 and came there to see Eddie Alvarez you had to wait a long time due to production issues. If there had been strong action to keep them entertained then that would have helped pass the time.

Another annoying aspect of the show is Calvin Ayre’s insistence of shoving the whole Bodog image down everyone’s throats. We were “treated” to music from the Bodog label as well as promos for Bodog music. I know they have a lot of young bands on the label who are just trying to make their way into the music business but all the songs sounded so generic and overproduced.

They also ran some video footage of “Bodog Fight Girls” which was just lame. It was like they were piping in porno on the big screen. I understand what Ayre’s trying to do, he wants to promote Bodog as a lifestyle. But it gets to a point where he comes off as a homeless person’s Hugh Heffner. And Heffner didn’t shove the Playboy brand down people’s throats. He put out a product people enjoyed and then capitalized on the following he had created. Bodog on the other hand is trying to establish too many things at once. I know they are trying to market themselves but it comes across like excessive self-indulgence by Ayre. How did this guy make so much money in the first place?

I think all the T’N’A stuff you see on their shows really takes away from the credibility of the show. I’ll watch the Ion show sometimes and it feels like they are saying “Hey, forget about the fighters, watch the show because we’ve got plenty of scantily clad women for you! We know you’re a male between the ages of 18-34 so here is some clevage for ya!.”

Calvin, here’s some free advice for you: put on great fights and the people will come. Some of the fights from the last season were good but there weren’t enough of them.

Okay, enough of the diatribe. Here are my thoughts on some of the fights. I’m not going to give a full rundown because I didn’t make it through the entire show and you can get results everywhere by now:

David “The Dcotor” Love vs. Eben “The Big O” Oroz - Oroz looked a little nervous at first and came out cautious. Both fighters felt each other out early but the feeling out process just took too long. Both guys fought like they were in the UFC and had just been told before the fight that if they had won they’d be granted a title shot. Oroz was trailing in my opinion going into the third and showed little sense of urgency to make things happen. He looked like he trained hard but I don’t think he’s ready for the big time.

Mark Burch vs. Yoshiki Takahashi - These guys deserved a bonus. In fact, I’m not sure why this match was on so early. The two heavyweights came to fight and held nothing back. Both thew some heavy shots but Burch got the better of the exchanges and in spite of his Tank Abbott-esque physique, showed good technique by finishing Takahashi with some brutal knees at 3:45 into round one. Takahashi needed medical assistance because of the knees.

Chael Sonnen vs. Amar Suloev – Like I said, a battle of counter-punchers. Sonnen dominated, which surprised me. Suloev just didn’t look into the fight. Sonnen won via ground and pound at 3:33 of round two. Sonnen had Matt Lindland in his corner. Just a bad matchup stylistically in this one.

Yves Edwards vs. Jorge Masvidal – Yves is one of my all-time faves and I rooted more for him once they aired Masvidal’s cheasy entrance vignette. Masvidal looked like a knockoff rap video that some college kids would have made for YouTube to show all their buddies.

I was pissed when the UFC dropped Edwards but since leaving the promotion he’s done little to make the UFC look bad. I think he’s 0-2 or 1-2 in Bodog now? I don’t know what happened to this guy!? I thought he was one of the best strikers at 155 lbs. Was it a case that he was just never that good? I mean, he’s not all that old, looks like he showed up in good condition, and pressed the action at times. But he still got caught by Masvidal with a high kick at 2:59 into round two. Of all the matches I saw, this was the best of the night. Both guys like to strike and came out aggressive. More matches like this should have been made.

Masvidal has some swagger to him and good quickness. He’s got some nice striking ability and is definitely a prospect to keep an eye on at 155 lbs.

Branden Lee Hinkle vs. Roman Zentsov - Hinkle was cornered by Mark Coleman. Hinkle apparently took a page right out of Jake O’Brien’s playbook from when he fought Heath Herring. Non-stop takedown attempts with little effort to finish the fight once on the ground. A waste of Zentsov’s ability. Throw another striker in there with him and set off some fireworks. This match was bad. I’m talking Kevin Jordan vs. Gabriel Gonzaga and Ivan Salaverry vs. Nathan Marquardt bad. I have no idea what the referee was thinking.

Trevor Prangley vs. Yuki Kondo - Decent match, while it lasted. Prangley busted Kondo open and the match was stopped after round two. The blood looked bad at one point but when they had made the official announcement it looked like the bleeding had stopped. It seemed like an early stoppage to me because I’ve seen waaay worse in fights that weren’t stopped. It was just an anti-climatic way to decide a title because it didn’t look like an obvious stoppage. Prangley looked like the kind of guy who can fight for anyone in the world right now. As for Kondo, I’ve seen much better performances out of him.

Blair Tugman vs. Dan Hawley - Brutal. I mean, just brutal. You’ve got two unknown guys who should want to come out looking to make a name for themselves and they did little to distinguish themselves. Well, Hawley did do some crazy stuff. During his pre-fight video package he stopped talking and out of nowhere pronounced himself to be what I think was a “caveman?” Look, the sound was bad so who knows. He then does a clawing movement with his hands and makes a high-pitched shriek. It was like something you’d hear from an angry crow. Everyone reacted in silence. He did it again. Finally, it got over with the crowd and some of them started repeating the noise.

Hawley came out wearing poorly-made Lucha Libre masks and mugged for the crowd with his corner people, who were also wearing masks. The crowd started booing and chanting “Asshole! Asshole!” Then they got bored and started making the noise again.

During the pre-fight instructions Hawley did his clawing routine right in Tugman’s face. If I had been Tugman I would have pulled a Heath Herring and shoved the dude and gotten disqualified.

It seemed like Hawley was trying to be like Jason Miller. The problem is, there’s a method behind Miller’s madness and he’s funny. Oh yeah, and Miller backs everything up by also putting a show on in the ring. Hawley wasn’t funny and didn’t entertain. The two of these guys simply didn’t want to engage. The ref should have warned each of them.

Anyway, Tugman won the decision in a match that ended the night for me. Simply put, this match should have never been booked. If they needed to fill out the card then they should have went on earlier in the night. They followed this match up with Agallar vs. Jones which made no sense.

Another issue I have with Bodog is that they are using too many 135 lbs. and 145 lbs. guys. For a company that is trying to get established, they don’t need to be focusing on the lighter weights right now. Plus, smaller fighters in a big ring doesn’t work. If you are having featherweight and bantamweight fighters you need to have a small area so these guys are forced to engage.

On a positive note, I got to meet Matt from UFCTakedown.com. Meeting a fellow MMA blogger from the local area was probably my highlight of the night.

The line of the night goes to the fan who yelled out: “Now I know why Dana White didn’t show up!” The promotion comes off like the eqivalent of Thursday night college football on ESPN in which the only people who care are the fans of the schools involved and the gamblers who feel like they need to bet on everything. It almost felt like this was an event made for Bodog’s gambling arm.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks it’s a conflict of interest for a company to run both an online sports book and a sporting event? It’s a scary thing when a fight promotion could potentially have access to the knowledge of where all the money is being bet.