Lessons Learned From UFC 177
Saturday night’s event was not one of the most shining moments in UFC history. A card that was already relatively weak in terms of star power took an even bigger hit when former bantamweight champion Renan Barão pulled out of the headlining fight the day before the event.
While last minute replacement Joe Soto acquitted himself well in his UFC debut against TJ Dillashaw, the lack of even one fight with two big names made this one of the weakest cards in recent memory and ensured an extremely poor performance in the Pay-Per-View market.
Despite these problems, discerning fans will recognize some illuminating trends from the night. These are the most prominent lessons that we learned from UFC 177.
The UFC needs a big-time event. Soon.
The conspicuous lack of any fights with two household names shined a light on arguably the biggest problem plaguing the organization. That is, the ledger of fighters is becoming more and more watered down with solid but unspectacular combatants that don’t register with many casual fans.
Saturday’s event only drew around 11,000 fans to an arena that seats over 17,000. The crowd present was raucous as always, but there were noticeably large chunks of empty seats. Similarly, the Pay-Per-View sold so poorly that it was the third-lowest gross since 2001 for the organization.
In the salad days of the UFC, cards were stacked from top to bottom with household names. Now, events are increasingly becoming one- or two-fight shows with several uninspiring matchups filling out cards. The fans spoke on Saturday by refusing to pay $55 for a mediocre-at-best card. The pressure is now on UFC 178 to be a big hit in order to restore some cache to the Pay-Per-View events for the company.
In the long term, the UFC must look to develop more marketable stars that can resonate with fans. Otherwise, the company might have to start forcing fighters to do battle more frequently to get big names on each card, the consequences of which could be disastrous for the health of star fighters.
Fans should know Joe Soto
Soto, a former Bellator featherweight champion, was scheduled to fight Anthony Birchak on the preliminary card at Saturday’s event, but was given a shot at Dillashaw with just one day of notice. That’s not to mention that he became just the sixth fighter in organization history to get a title fight in his UFC debut. Despite those obstacles and the fact that he was facing one of the brightest young stars in the sport, Soto gave a tremendous account of himself, making Dillashaw work much harder for his first title defense than many predicted.
Soto showcased his elite-level striking power, catching the champion with several big shots and giving the Team Alpha Male star some good-sized welts on his face to take with him. Dillashaw backed up his spot at the top of the bantamweight division with an impressive performance in which he landed nearly three times as many significant strikes as his opponent (151-62), but Soto made it clear that he will be a factor in the division for years to come. Could he be one of those new household names for the organization to market?
Yancy Medeiros has a creative submission game
Entering his fight against Damon Jackson on Saturday night, the 26-year old Medeiros did not have an official professional win since he beat Gareth Jospeh in a Strikeforce bout over four full years ago. That span includes two bad losses and a win vacated thanks to a positive test for marijuana.
Against the undersized Jackson, who fought above his usual featherweight class specially for this fight, Medeiros brought a startling end to that winless streak and he did with a show-stopping knockout that got fans on their feet for one of the few times all night.
Midway through the second round, “The Kid” Medeiros took advantage of Jackson’s exposed neck to begin a guillotine choke. As Jackson, himself a talented submission artist, tried to squirm out of the hold, the Hawaiian imaginatively switched to a rare reverse bulldog choke. The second hold not only finished the fight and got Medeiros his elusive victory, but also ensured that he should be on UFC highlight reels for some time to come.
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