This review will be much shorter than usual, because as I write this I am just about ready to catch a flight.
But I just wanted to say that last night’s WEC show was perhaps the best MMA show I have ever seen on basic cable. If you did not enjoy last night’s show, I have to question whether you are a true MMA fan.
There weren’t any fight of the year candidates, however, all the matches provided great action. Even the Rob McCullough vs. Jamie Varner match, which started out slow, had its moments, especially the end, which I thought was insane. How many times did Varner have to nearly finish McCullough before he was declared the winner?
Manny Tapia vs. Antonio Banuelos was a great opener with back and forth action. Miguel Torres vs. Chase Beebe was short, but the ending sequence was thrilling and the announce team did a good job of selling the title change. Carlos Condit vs. Carlo Prater was a little disappointing in that I expected Prater to provide a stiffer test. But Condit’s win came off well on live television and made him look more of a star than he ever has before.
What I love about the WEC fights are that they are true MMA fights. They can go anywhere (standing or on the ground) at just about any time and the momentum changes are frequent. Just because a guy dominates the first two minutes doesn’t mean he’s going to be dominating the final seconds of the bout.
From a production standpoint, the show was nearly flawless. The pacing was not too fast, nor too slow. To me, Todd Harris has his best showing yet as a play-by-play announcer. He seemed to be more of a factor during the telecast and sounded more confident in his delivery. While I am a big fan of Frank Mir’s broadcast work, a more equitable split between the two as far as mic time is concerned as definitely an upgrade.
In regards to Mir, even his work was better than usual. One of my only complaints is that sometimes he can be a bit scattered when it comes to composing his thoughts. He really seemed to be focused and on point.
Overall, the way the show was presented is how every basic cable MMA show should be presented. We didn’t get killed with commercials and the broadcast came off as high-end, as there were no cheesy segments with interviewers having to interview half-interested movie stars about some soon-to-be box office bomb. The only in-show product placement we saw was from the WEC promoting its champions. Urijah Faber was used on the announce team and Doug Marshall got some mic time between fights to pump up his March fight vs. Brian Stann for the WEC light heavyweight title.
I also liked the pre-taped segment they did highlighting the fact that the WEC show was emanating from New Mexico, which has emerged as a hot bed for MMA. I would love to see more of those type of features.
The element of a larger crowd also added a lot of energy to the show. There’s nothing wrong with having a few “B” shows at the Palms or Hard Rock, but I’ll take the atmosphere of a big arena show as opposed to the “intimate” feel of a smaller show any day of the week. The WEC fighters came across as bigger stars last night.
The idea that both the UFC and WEC are produced by the same company is crazy to me because the WEC shows are so much better from a production standpoint. Some of the music the UFC uses is cheesy and their graphics are nothing special. The lighting, the sound, and the production effects are so much more crisp for the WEC. And I’m convinced the UFC is holding out on HD customers when it comes to their pay-per-views. I can’t think of a logical explanation, but last night’s WEC HD broadcast on Versus was way better than what I witnessed during UFC 81 several weeks back.
For me, if ESPN or HBO ever did an MMA show, the vision I have of it pretty much is what I saw on Versus last night. I don’t think I can give higher praise than that.