Welcome to the first edition of “Postcard from the Couch.” The goal of P.C.F.T.C. – that’s right, I’ve already declared it good enough to abbreviate – is actually quite simple.
P.C.F.T.C. will break down and analyze the television production of selected, televised MMA events in a “minute by minute” (give or take a few) format. My hope is that my analysis, along with my sporadic doses of humor, will make this an enjoyable read. Of course, I won’t know this unless I hear from you, so please feel free to email me. I want to hear your thoughts, both good and bad, as well as any suggestions or questions that you may have for me.
Professionally, I am a producer who has worked in television production since 1992. A big part of my television background comes from the world of sports. Two of the most influential places that I have worked at are ESPN and ESPN Classic, amongst others.
But most important is the fact that like you, I have become a huge fan of mixed martial arts. Two years ago, a friend and co-worker of mine, Richie Wilson, introduced me to the sport. At ESPN Classic, the majority of my work was boxing-related. Like boxing, it takes some effort to follow MMA because of the multiple organizations and weight classes within the sport. For the record, MMA is nowhere near the mess boxing is when attempting to follow it. However, because MMA also combines a wide variety of combat techniques, learning about those techniques certainly takes some time…especially if you’re a couch potato like me.
Without further ado, below if my full review of UFC 89.
I’m going to begin with an adjective often used by those with the bad teeth and bland food across the pond: splendid.
Splendid as in, “It was a splendid idea for the UFC to air this card for free on Spike.” In this economy, anything with value that’s offered for free is a rarity. After all, did you really want to pay $50 to watch Kelly Pavlik versus Bernard “The Executioner of Boring Fights” Hopkins tonight on HBO PPV?
Here’s my theory: if I wanted to pay $50 to watch a bunch of holding, I’d buy a ticket to go see my favorite football team, the Cincinnati Bengals, play. Oh wait, I did that last weekend at Giants Stadium. Hmmm. I think I’ll go with UFC 89.
(Times presented in hour/minutes/seconds)
9:00:00 – It’s that bone-chilling, spine-tingling show open again, which begins with Brandon Vera using the “Winning’s not everything. Winning is the only thing” clichÈ. Can anyone tell me what this means? OK, it’s not everything. Which means there are other things that are meaningful, right? But it’s the only thing – meaning, there’s nothing else. And if it’s the only thing, then it’s everything isn’t it? Excellent…five seconds into the telecast and I am already lost, like Heroes on NBC or Lost on ABC lost.
9:01:41 - Chris Leben says, “When I hit people they go down.” Foreshadow alert?
9:02:14 - STEMM’S “Face The Pain” kicks in. Couldn’t think of a better song that’s great for fighting montage but would be terrible as a single on the radio.
9:03:20 – Show open ends and we open with the obligatory wide shot of the sold out crowd at National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, England. Lighting is perfect since I see no signs of yellow teeth anywhere in the crowd. By the way, National Indoor Arena may be the most generic name ever for an arena. Can’t wait to see what National Outdoor Stadium looks like. Or National Outdoor Domed Stadium With A Retractable Roof.
9:04:10 - Holy mother of Moses, it IS Moses! Joe Rogan is going for the full-bearded look. It’s going to take a while for this to settle in. Goldberg and Grizzly Rogan preview Bisping/Leben and Brandon Vera/Keith Jardine, Then, a pre-recorded voiceover track by just Goldberg rushes through previews of Paul Taylor/Chris Lytle, Sokoudjou/Luiz Cane and Paul Kelly/Marcus Davis. Zuffa obviously is doing this to save time and get to the first fight as soon as possible, but I wouldn’t mind hearing from Rogan on the three other fights.
9:06:20 – Commercial break #1
9:09:54 - And we’re back with Goldberg introducing the Marcus Davis/Paul Kelly preview package that he also voices over. The best tidbit we learn is that Davis used a new training regimen for this fight that has supposedly made him “faster and more lethal both standing and on the mat.” We’re about to find out if this holds true.
9:12:35 - Marcus Davis introduced. Graphically, they show his MMA record and where he’s fighting out of. They also show his height and weight again, even though we saw it just a minute ago during the Tale of the Tape. I wouldn’t mind seeing a graphic showing his fighting style, for example, instead of something we just saw a minute ago. Unfortunately, this is a pattern the UFC does all of the time. Give us more.
9:13:40 - The fight begins. We learn that tonight’s round clock is sponsored by the movie Saw V. Is it me or does it seem like there is a new Saw movie every other week?
9:15:48 - Look, I appreciate that Goldberg does his MMA homework, but we’re now two minutes into the fight and I feel like he’s already falling into his analyst mode. If there is one pet peeve I have about Goldberg, this is it. I’ll take this over coming off as clueless any day, but it’s almost as if Goldberg is trying to let the viewers know, “Hey folks, I know about the sport too.” My advice: call the shots, keep it simple and set up Rogan.
9:17:14 - With 1:28 left in the round, Rogan mentions that Kelly appears to be attempting a guillotine. To me, this is a perfect example of how Zuffa could enhance their telecasts and educate the more casual fans who are watching. You already have your clock on the lower left of the screen and the Spike TV bug – which is fooling no one by saying “Live From England” – on the upper right. Why not use the upper left or lower right of the screen to put up a simple “Guillotine Attempt #1: Kelly” graphic? Think of it as the equivalent of when hockey games use a “Power Play” graphic. Doing this would allow the more casual fan to read what the move is while seeing it at the same time.
9:18:50 - Round 1 ends…commercial break #2.
9:21:24 - We come right back to the beginning of Round 2.
9:23:20 - Kelly shoots in for the takedown. Another example of how it couldn’t hurt to see a takedown-related graphic. It could be as simple as “Takedowns: Kelly 1, Davis 0.” Again, just another way to enhance what we’re seeing inside of the octagon.
9:24:05 - Grizzly Rogan states, “Marcus Davis has a solid guillotine,” my imaginary “Guillotine Attempt #1: Davis” graphic pops up and before you know it, Paul Kelly is tapping out.
9:24:30 – Goldberg teases the official decision after commercial break #3.
9:30:02 - In the post-fight interview with GrizzRogan, Davis says, “Can I say something real quick?” I’m praying that he makes a comment about Rogan’s new look. Instead, we learn that Davis made a friend in the opponent he just submitted.
9:30:37 - We go to commercial break #4 learning that Marcus Davis has made a new friend. Awwww. See? Mixed martial artists are people too.
9:31:37 - We come back for the obligatory “Oh-my-God, there’s-the-fighters-in-the-main-event-arriving to-the-arena-that’s-so-cool!” shot.
9:32:05 - Commercial break #5. Just a note: we’ve had one fight in 32 minutes of airtime so far.
9:35:40 - Back from commercial, it’s time to toss it to the Paul Taylor/Chris Lytle preview package.
9:39:26 - Taylor/Lytle begins.
9:39:30 - We are once again reminded that Saw 5 is sponsoring the clock. I just got a text message saying that Saw 6 through 10 will all be shot and completed by the main event.
9:40:00 - A shot of the back of Lytle’s trunks reveal my favorite sponsor in the history of sports, Condom Depot. You can’t be sponsored by Condom Depot and not get laid. Good for you, Chris Lytle.
9:40:40 - The magic of Wikipedia comes through again. Lytle is married with four children. Now the Condom Depot sponsorship is making total sense.
9:44:23 – End of Round 1, commercial break #6.
9:47:00 - Back from commercial break for Round 2, we, the viewers, are given just half a second to look at the breasts of the Octagon girls. Someone in TV land is not doing his or her job correctly.
9:48:20 - GUILLOTINE ALERT! Insert “Guillotine Attempt #1: Lytle” graphic, pronto!
9:49:15 - Paul Taylor with the nice takedown. Casual viewer: “Daddy, isn’t that tripping?” Chuckling Daddy to son/casual viewer: “No son. That’s a legal move known as a takedown. See, it even says “Takedown: Taylor” on the screen.
“Gee, Dad,” says the son. “Thanks for teaching me that.”
“Don’t thank me, son,” says a smiling Dad. “Thank the UFC.”
9:50:46 - Lytle gets caught with a low blow and is moments away from losing his Condom Depot sponsorship.
9:52:33 – Commercial break #7 interrupts Joe Rogan as he was attempting to give us his thoughts on the end of Round 2. So far, the clear winner here is Condom Depot.
9:55:04 - The third and final round begins with a touch of gloves. Again, we appear to have missed some of Goldberg and Rogan’s comments coming back from the break, because we start with Rogan reacting to something Goldberg asked by saying, “Yeah, this would be a huge feather in his cap if he can pull it off. But that’s a big if.” That’s the bummer of having a tape delayed telecast as opposed to a live, commercial-free, PPV event.
9:55:13 - I just cracked open a Bud Light Lime – which has no affiliation with me or this website – but is quite simply the best beer in America.
9:55:45 - Quick jab: great audio of Lytle punishing Taylor with some bombs to the body.
9:58:33 - By the way, where are the obligatory Mandy Moore shots? What, she couldn’t afford to fly over the pond? They couldn’t get a Guy Ritchie, George Michael or low-end member of the royal family instead? Boring Brits.
10:00:02 - Fight over and we go to Commercial break #8.
10:02:47 - Back from the break with a replay from the end of the fight.
10:04:07 - We get a tight shot of Taylor, expecting to see his hands raised once Bruce Buffer reads the decision. But oh my, Lytle gets the gift decision! Solid job by Zuffa/Spike capturing Lytle shaking his head as if he didn’t deserve the decision, all while Taylor stands a few feet away in total shock.
10:04:40 - Rogan interviews Lytle. No questions about getting a gift decision in England? No interview with Taylor on his shock and disappointment about the decision? Boo.
10:05:45 - We go to a pre-taped interview Rogan conducted with Anderson Silva. With UFC 90 one week away, I understand the reasoning behind this. However, with two fights and eight commercial breaks in just over one-hour of airtime, did you need to see this? Personally, Goldberg could have plugged UFC 90 and said to check out Joe chatting up Anderson Silva, go to UFC.com. Again, I understand the reason for doing this, but it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know already – which is that Anderson Silva is one bad mo-fo who may conquer his opponents, but not the English language.
10:07:48 - We go inside the locker room of Bisping, who is caught making out with Madonna, followed by Leben in his locker room. Leben, sporting Axl Rose-like cornrows, is shown laughing at himself in the monitor.
10:08:26 - Commercial break #9.
10:10:27 - Back from break, we begin with the Sokoudjou/Luiz Cane preview package.
10:14:10 – The fight begins, and Goldberg points out the wrap on Sokoudjou’s right knee, saying, “It may just be protection Joe, perhaps from a previous injury. We’ll find out, won’t we? Or maybe we won’t.”
The knee wrap may have been a last second addition in the locker room, but it could potentially play a major role in the fight. To me, you’ve got to do your homework before the fight. And I have to think that “Do you have any nagging injuries?” would be a question you ask in pre-fight production meetings with the fighters. Sure, the fighter could lie, not wanting to give anything away, but at least Goldberg could have said, “We spoke to Sokoudjou before the fight and he said he was healthy.”
10:14:45 – Sokoudjou uses that very leg for an inside leg kick, followed by a head kick. Now the question is, will Cane see if that leg can TAKE a kick?
10:15:00 - Condom Depot in the house again!
10:16:00 - Cane finally tests Sokoudjou’s right leg with a kick, but Sokoudjou continues to use the leg with counter kicks. Boy, I’d still like to know if he’s doing all of this with a bum knee. Maybe we’ll find out in the post-fight interview?
10:19:12 - Round 1 concludes, followed by commercial break #10.
10:21:43 – Round 2 begins.
10:22:12 – The action is stopped as Cane literally kicks Sokoudjou right in the testicles. This is followed up by the replay of the night, which shows the shot in slo-mo, including Sokoudjou having the wherewithal to not only take a kick to the groin, but also turn to the ref and raise his hand as he asks for a time out. Cup or not, if that were me, my only thoughts would be, “I’m dying, help me….please….just kill me now.”
10:23:20 – The man has a wrap on his right knee and just got kicked in the nuts, yet Sokoudjou just executed an explosive, leaping body kick. Someone just give him an ESPY for courage right now.
10:25:50 - Rogan addresses the Sokoudjou right leg issue by stating, “I’m surprised Luiz Cane isn’t attacking the legs more.” Goldberg follows by saying, “Well, if there’s any doubt about that right leg it seems to be just fine.” Wrong. Throwing kicks with the wrapped leg is one thing. Absorbing blows with it is another. Cane has yet to test the leg. Will Goldberg eat his words, with 1:40 left in Round 2?
10:26:39 - Cane catches Sokoudjou with a knee, pounds him on he ground, and the fight is stopped.
10:26:53 - Just as Cane starts to celebrate, we cut to commercial break #11
10:30:27 - We come back from break with Sokoudjou still being treated, followed by different replay angles of the stoppage.
10:31:27 - Luiz Cane is announced as the winner by TKO. Rogan then interviews Cane, who, according to my translation, said, “Who is this bearded man they call Joe The Rogan?”
10:34:00 - Commercial break #12.
10:35:00 - We come back to Joe Rogan conducting a pre-taped interview with Anderson Silva’s opponent next week, Patrick Cote. I’ve been to Montreal a few times, and for some reason, the French Canadian accents on strippers didn’t bother me as much as it does on Cote, as well as Georges St.-Pierre. DANK YOU, BYE, SEE YOU!
10:37:25 - We go back to the locker rooms of Bisping and Leben. This time, Leben reveals that Dave Navarro has also influenced him by sporting his black-polished fingernails. What’s next? Different colored eye contacts like Marilyn Manson?
10:37:44 - Commercial break #13.
10:40:45 – Back from the break, our next bout is the co-main even of the evening, Keith Jardine/Brandon Vera. Both fighters desperately need a win. However, if Jardine ever decides to go into acting, he should consult Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Sons of Anarchy) on how ugly actors get work.
10:41:00 - The Jardine/Vera preview package rolls. I predict an early finish to this one….Vera by TKO, Round 1
10:42:50 - Coming out of the package, Goldberg says, “A little Black Eyed Peas!” Rogan wisely stays silent.
10:43:03 - We get our first fighter entrance of the night with Brandon Vera. Visually, not exciting, but at least it allows Goldberg and Rogan to set up Vera’s story, which is that he’s in the weight class he belongs in and appears to be in excellent condition.
10:45:19 – Jardine begins his entrance to the octagon. It ain’t pretty.
10:46:23 - Well looky here…a rare graphic that gives us some insight as to what kind of fighter we’re about to watch. We see a graphic that states that Jardine has “92% accuracy on body strikes.” Which is a simple way of telling us that he’s a good body puncher. If you’re good at attacking the body, that can open up the upstairs region of an opponent and set them up for a knockout. So let’s see if Jardine goes for the body versus Vera. Unfortunately, because we don’t see enough of these kinds of graphics on UFC telecasts, it makes this one come out of left field. More…more….more!
10:47:00 – Goldberg gives us some more good statistics on Jardine: he lands 90% of his body kicks and 92% of his total shots to the body, which we already knew. Why not combine these two stats into one graphic and have Goldberg address them when the graphic was up? Just a bit of sloppiness here.
10:47:25 – Again, great info by Goldberg: per fight, Jardine throws the most leg kicks in UFC history. And again, rather than look at Jardine for all of this time, how about a full-page graphic that lists all of the stats Goldberg just rattled off? It tightens up the presentation a bit and would also add a graphical element that, as I said earlier, the UFC and Zuffa don’t utilize enough of.
10:47:31 - We see a Jardine graphic stating that he is well-rounded, has good cardio and is an intelligent fighter. Good, simple stuff that should be shown for every fighter in every fight. If I didn’t know this info about Jardine I’d think he was just another really ugly guy who likes to fight.
10:49:34 – Jardine is introduced. This dude was just born to get hit in the face.
10:49:50 - Jardine becomes even more disturbing as he executes the latest trend in MMA fights, the tweakage of the nipples. A top 10 disturbing moment in television history for sure.
10:50:29 - Round 1 is on. Jardine with the takedown. Please insert imaginary “Takedown: Jardine” graphic. Thank you.
10:54:18 – By my account, we see a wide shot of the octagon during a fight for the first time in the telecast. I always love these shots, because they really establish the octagon as a whole and also make it appear much bigger than it actually is. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen it enough so far, which is why it jumped out at me so much.
10:55:10 - Jardine gets caught! Will my prediction ring true? Vera gets caught! Oh well.
10:55:47 - Commercial break #14 as a solid Round 1 concludes and my prediction falls flat on its face. I knew I should have tweaked my nipples before I typed that.
10:58:16 - Back to the action as Round 2 begins.
11:03:35 - Commercial break #15 saves us from watching more of what was a rather boring Round 2. Which brings up another point about the use of graphics with pertinent information. There was clearly not as much action in Round 2 as in Round 1. How about some in-fight Round 1 statistics, followed by Round 2 statistics that represent how the action has slowed down?
11:06:06 - We’re back with the third and final round.
11:10:41 – Thank goodness Rogan asked Goldberg who he thinks is winning this fight, because I was just wondering the same thing as the fight winds down. Should be interesting, as we get ready to go to the cards.
11:11:21 - The fight concludes and we go to commercial break #16.
11:13:40 - We come back from the break with replays from the end of the fight, followed by the fighters waiting for the decision to be announced. Finally, the decision is read: Jardine by split decision, which reflects Goldberg and Rogan’s sentiments that this would be a tough fight to call.
11:15:40 - Good replay and post-fight question by Rogan in asking Jardine if he was hurt by a shot to the knee that he took early in the fight. Jardine responded by saying it took him out of most of the second round, hence our reason for his inactivity. Rogan once again proving why he is the best MMA analyst on television.
11:17:40 - Commercial break #17.
11:19:12 - Back from commercial, it’s time for the main event. Goldberg and Rogan set up the fight. Bisping is in his back yard and in phenomenal shape. Leben is a different man than the one we saw during his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter.
11:21:25 – Building up the main event even more, a more in-depth preview package is rolled in. Unlike the previous preview packages that included generic, clichÈ-esque voiceover lines by Goldberg, this one lets just the fighters do the talking. I’d like to see this done for all fights on the UFC’s televised cards. Cut out Goldberg, let the fighters do the talking and go a bit more in depth than the typical lines we hear in these packages.
11:24:20 – Good informational graphic on Leben: he has power in both hands, he’s durable and a majority of his wins are by KO. Translation to viewers: he loves to fight.
11:26:01 - It’s now time for the homeboy Bisping, to make his way to the octagon. Nice shots of Bisping trying to pump the home crowd up.
11:27:38 - Another solid graphic lets us know that Bisping’s a fast starter, throws punches in bunches and is hard to hold down. Now, a casual fan can be watching this and assume, “Hey, sounds like fists are gonna fly. This ought to be a good one.” Mission accomplished.
11:31:08 – Bisping is being introduced – and I can’t help but wonder what he’d act like on a sugar high. To say he is pumped is an understatement. He might become the first man to cause a gravity shift via fist pumping.
11:31:30 - Rogan: “That’s the loudest 10,000 people I’ve ever heard in my life,” as the camera pulls back to a wide shot of the stoked crowd. A complete lie, but nice.
11:32:05 – The main event’s fight clock is now sponsored by Saw 26 – and the fight begins!
11:34:35 - With 2:20 left in the first round, it’s a good time to note that audio-wise, you really get the sense that the Brits are trying to rally behind Bisping. Had Affliction’s pay per view crew been working this event, we’d need sign language interpreters to help us hear the crowd.
11:37:05 - A great first round concludes as we head to commercial break #18.
11:40:14 - Round 2 begins…great crowd, great fight so far.
11:42:30 - Another low blow stoppage, this time because of a leg kick by Leben. And of course, the obligatory, “Man, he got kicked square in the nads” replay.
11:44:20 – Another random thought as we have just 1:30 remaining in Round 2…this fight has barely gone to the ground. It couldn’t hurt to see a statistic backing this up.
11:46:05 - Round 2 ends and we go to our 19th commercial break.
11:49:05 - We are back for our third and final round. Again, would love to see some CompuBox-like statistics at the beginning of the round here.
11:52:30 – Goldberg sets up Rogan, stating that Leben needs a knockout. And of course, what does Leben do? He takes Bisping down to the ground (TAKEDOWN GRAPHIC ALERT!) with just under two minutes left in the fight. Both Goldberg and Rogan point out that he scored with the takedown, but it may not be enough. Good stuff.
11:54:20 – Fight over and we go to our 20th and final commercial break.
11:57:03 - Back to the octagon for the decision: Michael Bisping by unanimous decision
Midnight - After post-fight interviews with the two gracious fighters, it’s a wrap!
Make no mistake about it, the UFC/Zuffa produce the best-televised cards in the sport of mixed martial arts. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and tonight’s telecast was a perfect example of that.
The best way to attract new viewers is to pull them in with storylines. It’s the main reason why The Ultimate Fighter reality show exists. The UFC/Zuffa, as the leading MMA promotion in the world, needs to cater more to the casual viewer if they want the sport to continue to grow, especially on television.
So while the presentation looked good as usual, I’m still waiting for the UFC/Zuffa to step if up and give us more storylines, whether it’s more personal pre-fight packages or enhanced in-fight storylines. Graphically, there’s so much more they could have done tonight. Don’t wait until the last two fights to present us with more graphics and statistics. Be consistent and sprinkle them in throughout the telecast.
Finally, you couldn’t help but get annoyed with the constant commercial breaks. Just remember, the card was free and even Spike TV/Zuffa/UFC need to pay the bills. It’s simply a part of the television business.
Thanks for reading – and until next time – I’ll see you right here, on the couch.
Lee Gerowitz is a producer who has worked in the television industry since 1992. He can be reached at leebubba at nyc.rr.com with any questions or comments.