As far as major fight cards are concerned, you’re not going to get much closer to perfection than what fight fans witnessed at UFC 92 on Saturday night.
Even the most fickle of critic is going to have a tough time finding flaws with last night’s “Ultimate 2008” as the event delivered in just about every regard.
Good production? Check.
Strong commentary? Check.
Good pacing? Check.
Efficient judging and officiating? Check.
An effort to show more than the five guaranteed fights on the PPV broadcast? Check.
Compelling matchups featuring stars vs. stars? Check.
Highly-anticipated fights that delivered strong action? Check.
Surprise outcomes that will keep fight fans and the media talking for days? Check.
Alright, you get the idea.
UFC President Dana White said in his post-fight press conference that UFC 92 lived up to the hype and a sane human-being cannot make a rational argument against that statement.
On a fight card filled with highlights, at the top of the list was the night’s main event which saw Rashad Evans procure the UFC light heavyweight title from Forrest Griffin following a third round TKO.
The fight had a little bit of everything: drama, action, and a major change in momentum. But most impressive of all was the degree of skill that was on display during the bout.
Critics of MMA often complain that the sport is nothing more than bar room brawling in a cage. However, Griffin vs. Evans exhibited too much technique to ever be confused with a street fight.
Neither Evans or Griffin will ever be confused with championship-caliber boxers, but they applied compact and crisp striking that made for a very aesthetically appealing fight.
If you were going to force a critic of MMA to watch a fight in hopes of changing their opinion that the sport lacks skill, you could have shown them Griffin vs. Evans. Meanwhile, also showing strong standup skills on the card were both Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Frank Mir.
In knocking out Wanderlei Silva in the first round and avenging two previous losses to the former PRIDE middleweight champ, Jackson showed improved defensive standup capabilities. While Jackson still needs to work on his standup defense from the waist down and start checking kicks, he exhibited good head movement and controlled the range between him and Silva.
When Silva did land strikes to the upper body of Jackson, the impact was usually minimized by Jackson diverting his upper body in the opposite direction in which the blow was coming from.
As for Mir, the jiu-jitsu black belt not only displayed improved head movement and footwork, but he employed tactical mastery. With Nogueira known for being able to absorb unconventional amounts of punishment, Mir avoided several gambles that would have caused him to expend too much energy in an attempt to finish Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Instead, Mir was patient and waited for his opening in the second round.
The amazing knockout by Jackson coupled with the upsets by Mir and Evans provided more memorable moments on one card than we had seen combined over the course of multiple recent events promoted by the UFC. Even the show’s other televised fights involving Pat Barry vs. Dan Evensen, C.B. Dollaway vs. Mike Massenzio, Cheick Kongo vs. Mustapha Al-Turk, and Antoni Hardonk vs. Mike Wessel all offered strong entertainment value.
Not only were the fights themselves good, but the outcomes were definitive and created intriguing matchups heading into the new year. The UFC now finds itself with a huge rematch between Brock Lesnar and Mir on its hands to unify the UFC heavyweight title. And a rebound win by Jackson gives the UFC an option of matching him up with new UFC light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans in a bout that has the potential to draw a strong buyrate on pay-per-view.
Additionally, the exposure that Kongo, Hardonk, and Barry all received during impressive wins on a high-profile card will help strengthen the promotion’s depth in its heavyweight division.
Without a single disappointing fight on the card and strong matchups created for 2009, the UFC delivered one of its most successful events in company history with UFC 92.