How beleaguered is the UFC’s first card of the new year? Hampered by recurring injuries and illness, it’s invited speculation that some kind of occult practices are at work, that the program is “cursed,” and that Scott Coker is right now, as you read this, covered in chicken blood and chanting something in a dead language.
The show and its promoters are largely a blameless party. With 20 (or more) events planned for the year, not all of them are going to produce incontinence on the part of excited fans. And lack of anticipation is not necessarily an indication of quality. (It actually has one fight that’s worth maybe half the $44.95 asking price by itself: see below.) It just means we’ll probably get some good fights without the boost of an emotional response to their outcomes.
When fans gripe -- as they have, nearly to the point of embedding snoring .wav files into forum posts -- and proclaim that “the show sucks,” what they really mean is, “I am not aroused by this card, but I acknowledge the fights themselves may be entertaining.” Feeling nervous for fighters can make boring fights riveting; lack of prior interest can make good fights easily forgotten. No one is particularly beside themselves for Rashad Evans vs. Thiago Silva in the way they might be over Anderson Silva’s 11th UFC win or Randy Couture smashing a clock to pieces or Brock Lesnar displaying some kind of inhumane technique. Sometimes a show is just a show.
What: UFC 108: Evans vs. Silva, an 11-bout card from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
When: Saturday, Jan. 2, at 10 p.m. ET, with a live one-hour preliminary show on Spike at 9 p.m. ET.
Why You Should Care: Primarily because ground specialist Dustin Hazelett (literally) tackling stand-up sensation Paul Daley is a fantastic style vs. style throwback; because Gilbert Yvel, for whatever character flaws he may possess, has managed few boring fights in his career and will likely stand with Junior dos Santos until neural functions give out; and because you can probably get out of chipping in for the order at a friend’s house by careful and controlled use of arson. (I do not advocate arson. Do not drag me into court.)
Fight of the Night: Daley/Hazelett, the rare substitute fight that should be better than the originally-planned Daley/Carlos Condit bout. This is the kind of thing that can induct new fans with an easy premise.
“This guy, Daley,” you can say, “wants to stand up. And the guy with the beard wants to submit him.”
“I hope Kimbo is fighting,” your friend will reply. And then you can make sure the smoke overcomes him.
Hype Quote of the Show: “I’m going into the cage to kill or die.” -- A melodramatic Thiago Silva, to Sherdog.com’s Greg Savage. (Silva earned a disclosed $58,000 for an August win over Keith Jardine: good money, but not the dying kind.)