UFC 92 News, Notes, And Thoughts

December 29, 2008

Thoughts

The Brand is the Key in 2009 – With the outcomes of Saturday Night’s fights, it seems more than ever that the strength of the UFC brand will be more important than ever in 2009. With Wins by Rashad Evans and Frank Mir, two of the high profile slots in the company will be occupied by two fighters that have no track record of being a draw for the company. Both fighters are faced with a situation where their ability to draw on PPV will be heavily defendant on their opponents drawing power. Rashad could do strong numbers if paired up with Rampage Jackson, but might do Anderson Silva type numbers if paired with someone like Lyoto Machida. The possibility of a Machida vs Evans main event would be a quite the test for the UFC hype machine. I’ve queried in the past why a Machida vs Evans hasn’t taken place already, well before any titles or main event slots would have been involved in order to take one or the other out of the top of the card. Mir is faced with a similar problem. A showdown with Lesnar will do huge numbers again, with Brock bringing all of the box office to the table. If Mir takes that fight, you are faced with Mir as a champ with little PPV appeal of his own and slim pickings amongst those in line for a title shot, necessitating a possibly recycling of Randy Couture back into the title picture. Again, the ability of the UFC have it’s fans show high brand loyalty will be key in 2009, something that may be assisted with a prevalence of cards similar to UFC 84 and UFC 92, with multiple “bigger” fights being stockpiled onto the same card.

Rashad the Neo-Couture?
– The rise of Rashad Evans is oddly reminiscent of Randy Couture’s road to glory in the UFC. Much has been made of Couture constantly being put in a situation to fail only to lay waste to the best of well laid plans. From his derailing of the Phenom Vitor Belfort, to his defeat of Heavyweight of the future at the time Pedro Rizzo, to his win over Chuck Liddell for the interim title in their first match-up to his five round domination of Tito Ortiz, Randy was put in multiple situations where the company would have been better off if he lost but he kept on upsetting the apple cart. Much was the case for Evans. From written off early on during TUF to playing second billing to someone named The Hillbilly Hearthrob at the TUF Finale, through to his improbable KO of Octagon legend Chuck Liddell to his capturing the the Light Heavyweight title from TUF prodigal son Forrest Griffin, Evans has been “swimming against the stream” the whole way, but has performed with aplomb. One may not be a fan of Rashad’s fighting style but you have to admire his ability to keep his eyes on the prize.

Sponsor Notes – As MMAPayout.com indicated earlier, MMA Authentics/Cage Fighter made their return to the Octagon at UFC 92.  Former Light Heavyweight Champion Quinton Rampage Jackson  was sporting a signature MMA Elite shirt, with special wolf design for the brawler known to let out a howl after victory.  Cornerman for Rampage Tiki Ghosen as well the entire Rampage crew were decked out in the shirts.  Any past tensions between the apparel brand and the UFC look to be in the rear view mirror.  Expect an announcement shorlty about a possible deal/further elaboration on the lifting of the ban.

The most ubiquitous sponsor of the night was Full Tilt Poker, a sponsor that MMAPayout has spoken on in the past. With gambling sites generally being on the no-go list for sponsors, it was a surprise to see the poker site as a primary sponsor for Randy Couture during his unsuccessful title defense against Brock Lesnar. Full Tilt also sponsored several AKA fighters, including Mike Swick and Josh Koscheck, on the Fight For the Troops card from Fayetteville, NC. The special dispensation given to those two particular camps would seem to raise an eyebrow, as neither are known for cozy relations with UFC brass. Allowing those two particular camps the sponsorship opportunity may be a case of the UFC using this as a carrot in a carrot and stick situation. It should also be noted that those two camps were the only ones allowed such deals with these poker/quasi gambling sites, with others precluded from doing similar deals. After appearances that all fighters weren’t being treated equitably, UFC Head Dana White opened up the sponsorship deal so that all fighters on the UFC 92 card were able to cut deals with poker sites, with Full Tilt being the biggest beneficiary. The end result being…… it was hard to throw a push kick on Saturday night without hitting someone that was wearing Full Tilt signage. However, these allowances pertained to UFC 92 only and policy for future cards is uncertain at this time.

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