UFC 87 Review

August 10, 2008

UFC 87 has to be judged a success from the entertainment and business perspectives. Going into the card, UFC 87 looked to be the best UFC PPV so far this year and in retrospect now I would say that was the case. Two of the bigger draws in the company (GSP and Lesnar) were able to put on dominating performances that should cement their status as draws. The GSP and Lesnar fights were dominating, but on different levels. GSP put on a performance for the ages, making his case for pound for pound status and maybe more (more on that later). With Lesnar, his domination of Heath Herring gave the UFC’s whole Lesnar experiment credibility and viability going forward. It doesn’t mean that Lesnar is the future of the heavyweight division, just that the UFC will be able to make a lot of money in the process of finding out.

The night also had it’s other moments. Kongo and Emerson came through with KO performances, something always embraced by the folks in the arena and the viewers at home. The Maia vs MacDonald fight was an entertaining submission battle that was surprisingly embraced by the crowd. That generally isn’t the case. The rich history of amateur wrestling in the Midwest probably helped in the crowd showing appreciation for a ground based battle. After years of hearing the boos of the Vegas crowds as soon as the fight hit the floor, this response was both encouraging and refreshing.

Huerta vs Florian was the only off-key note in the symphony tonight. Hyped as a fight of the year and one of the most anticipated UFC lightweight battles of all time by various Zuffa touts, the fight didn’t live up to the hype and only seemed to reach a critical mass during periods of the third round. The fight moves Florian closer to a title shot with Penn, but the performance didn’t really make the fight more attractive. With lightweights in general being weak box office, they don’t really have the luxury of being elusive, if you will. Penn vs Florian, if it is made, will be more of a testament to BJ’s drawing power than anything else.

The Brock Lesnar performance was one that was at the same time pedestrian yet electric. Lesnar was able to use his wrestling pedigree to physically impose his will on Heath Herring. His positional dominance held the day but his occasional flashes of his one of a kind strength/speed reminded one why he has been so heralded. His initial punch that that sent a 250 lb man literally half way across the Octagon will be one of the enduring images of the year when we look back at the year in MMA.

As for GSP’s performance, the concept of pound for pound is thrown around more and more these days. In the context of the UFC using it, it is being thrown around as more of a marketing concept to sell a re-tooled product, with it’s ubiquity in the ads leading up to the Silva vs Irvin Fight Night. It comes off as cynical as opposed to logical, a vehicle to generate heat for a product heretofore that has gotten a lukewarm response by pay per view buyers. Anderson Silva (or Dana White for him) is making a case for best pound for pound fighter, but St Pierre seems to have bigger fish to fry. GSP is cleaning out and dominating the deepest division in MMA, a division with a history and legacy that can’t be matched at middleweight. The growth of GSP as a box office phenomenon shouldn’t be seen as a fluke or coincidence. The ticket buying public increasingly realizes the special place and time they have been lucky enough to have had bestowed upon them, as more and more fans recognize GSP is building a legacy. That legacy? Quite possibly one of being the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

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