A New Year & Whole New Era for UFC
MMA fans don’t have to forget the old acquaintances they came to know, love, and more importantly shelled out their dollars to watch on pay-per-view. After all, you don’t ever forget Anderson Silva or Georges St. Pierre, two of the best to ever step inside the Octagon. It might be premature to speak of them in the past tense, but given Silva’s nasty shin break that could sideline him for a year and the uncertainty of what St. Pierre actually wants to do after a surprise hiatus announcement, they are far from the mix of what might happen in 2014.
The biggest changing of sure-fire headliners since Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell retired. This might be a setback, but it could also mark the new era of stars with that flair and talent combination needed for main event clout. This is the time and the chance for middleweight champ Chris Weidman and lightweight title holder Anthony Pettis to show they can carry a card. Up until now in their young UFC careers, they have known as much success on cable TV shows, as full fledged PPV. Their only shot at the top of the lineup was fighting established champs Silva and Benson Henderson respectively.
Ronda Rousey is quite possibly the biggest draw at the moment after only two UFC appearances. Her appeal reaches the far corners of the sports world more than any male counterpart. Not to discount the man now widely considered the greatest active fighter, light heavyweight champ Jon Jones with his national brand endorsements and “Tonight Show” appearance. Jones and Rousey are two names that bring in viewers regardless of the opponent.
Never underestimate the drawing power of Jones. His refusal to take a last minute opponent resulted in the only cancellation of the UFC, 151 and when he had to pull out of a title defense against Rashad Evans at 133, a wild domino effect occurred, eventually leading to Tito Ortiz stepping in to save the day and possibly that event as well. While 151’s demise was unfairly attributed to Jones at first, it glaring showed how vital a star is at the top of the PPV marquee.
Heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez last year brought stability to the big man ranks. The heavyweight title was long the ruling class of combative sports but that certain drawing power has changed in boxing. Velasquez has revived interest with his Junior Dos Santos trilogy of bouts, and anyone trying to take his belt will make for interesting viewing.
On the opposite end is flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson who has dominated the young division, one that still shares cable time with PPV. Jose Aldo the featherweight king and interim bantamweight champ Renan Barao still are more interesting depending on who they are going to fight. Historically the lighter weight classes, while exciting, usually need to be paired with another major fight to hold a PPV card. That the appealing sidelined champ Dominick Cruz is out again with injury, takes some shine from the bantamweight draw.
Not that the UFC is in panic mode, their marketing approach is worthy of academic studies, and it is at certain institutions right now. No matter your favorite fighter, the thought is how many others will pay to see this fighter no matter the opponent? Silva and GSP were in the rarified class of being the attraction. Now there is a new era with new champs who have the chance to prove they can fill these huge voids.
BCS Won’t Change College Football
The Bowl Championship Series bid adieu this week with one of its best games, Florida State’s last seconds victory over Auburn. For over a decade, there has been controversy and complaints about which two best teams should play for a championship that was at times as arbitrary and sensical. Now, no one will have the BCS to kick around any more.
This upcoming season ushers in the first “playoff” system at the top level of the college game. A whopping four teams playing for this still subjective “title.” A committee will select the final four–a red flag right there. Take this season, Alabama certainly would’ve been ahead in the pecking order of Oklahoma the team that trounced them in the Sugar Bowl. No one would’ve considered UCF a contender and they outgunned Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. Lower rated Clemson beat high rated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and South Carolina who finished fourth in the final poll, wasn’t in one of the prime time bowls.
Who would be the top four this year with Florida State and Auburn being agreeable to all picks? Michigan State, Stanford, Missouri, Baylor, Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma. And the “smaller” conference guys like UCF would have never been mentioned. That’s why there won’t be the excitement of a Wichita State in the Final Four as in basketball; or with only two games that matter in the semi-final setup to play the one “title” game a Florida Gulf Coast type of team will never be in the football playoffs.
The only way a real tournament would work is to have 16 teams playing it down over four weeks, just like the FCS formerly Division 1-AA does now. But that’s not realistic. The bowl games that would have to concede tie in to conferences now would lose those and the teams outside the top 16, the Vanderbilts and Marshalls of the college world would suffer. Plus fans want big games, it would be difficult if not impossible for even ardent SEC or Big 12 fans to follow their team every week of the playoffs, especially around Christmas time.
So welcome in this “playoff” system which is flawed but understandably doesn’t have many options. It will create arguments but a few really good games, just like the BCS did.
Got something you’re burning on? Tell the man himself on Kenny Rice’s Twitter or Facebook page. Watch Kenny, along with Bas Rutten, LIVE every Friday at 9 ET|6 PT on “Inside MMA,” and check out his book “Not Hit Yet,” an insider look at the MMA world.
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