Affliction vs. UFC, Round 1

By Jake Rossen Jul 14, 2008
I had originally intended to begin my weekly crybaby session by chiding the UFC for its folly in scheduling an emergency Fight Night block to combat Saturday's Affliction pay-per-view offering. Hadn't Zuffa brass, I thought, heard of a Digital Video Recorder-capable cable box, which has made these kinds of choices obsolete?

Joke's on me. Despite my assumption that DVRs were as pervasive in U.S. households as litter boxes, an agency buying unit with the dubious handle of Magna Global USA reported to Media Weekly that only 25 percent of homes are equipped with the tech, which would ostensibly eliminate fight fans from having to choose between two pretty compelling events.

That leaves enterprising viewers to depend on either a two-tuner DVD recorder or -- pause for a communal gasp at the Luddites -- a VHS deck to watch one and record the other. Either way, we still find that the vast majority of eyes will likely pick one to watch and one to comb viral video sites for highlights of later on.

For those of you techno-phobes still rocking Walkmans instead of an iPod, or still harboring a collection of laserdiscs "just in case," here's a handy primer to the respective attributes of each broadcast. Consider it an event-wide weigh-in.

Pound-for-Pound Showdowns

Depending on whom you talk to, both Affliction and the UFC lay claim to promoting the best "pound-for-pound" fighter on the planet Saturday night. In the UFC's case, it's middleweight Anderson Silva, who has made some very credible opposition look very foolish. Affliction, meanwhile, is paying out the nose for Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), a concrete-constitution Russian with few visible seams in his armor.

Silva has done more to validate his promotion's boasts than Emelianenko, who hasn't truly been threatened in the ring since a late 2006 fight with Mark Hunt (Pictures). But that's where things get interesting: While there's undeniable intrigue in Silva moving up to 205 pounds against a dangerous James Irvin (Pictures), he's already stated he has no intention of vying for that division's title, which slightly deflates the point of even moving up in the first place. Emelianenko, meanwhile, is in a very relevant battle against a very formidable opponent in Tim Sylvia (Pictures), who has proven time and again to be one of the biggest hurdles to clear in the heavyweight division.

There's real drama in whether the former Pride champion can sustain his win streak against his most substantial challenge in three years. It means something. If Silva should happen to beat Irvin, it won't be nearly as instrumental to the battle of legacies as what's happening across the dial.

Advantage: Affliction

Heavyweight Attractions

IFL's Ben Rothwell (Pictures) is slated to make a significant step up in competition against former UFC heavyweight champion -- one of three on the card -- Andrei Arlovski (Pictures) at Affliction, and Josh Barnett (Pictures) competes in a seemingly pointless rematch against a fading Pedro Rizzo (Pictures).

The UFC will have Cain Velasquez (Pictures) taking on Jake O'Brien in a fight that isn't likely to have too many repercussions in the promotion's stagnant heavyweight division.

I can take or leave Barnett-Rizzo -- a return engagement long past its expiration date -- but Rothwell-Arlovski could set up Emelianenko's next move, a significant bit of momentum for a fledging promotion.

Advantage: Affliction

Controversial Participants

The UFC is granting a second chance to golden shower fetishist Jesse Taylor (Pictures), who probably did more to blemish the sport's reputation in two urine-soaked segments than Goodridge-Herrera stuck in a loop. Affliction pairs penalized Renato "Babalu" Sobral -- who held on a choke too long against David Heath (Pictures) -- against Mike Whitehead (Pictures).

I can't condone either man's behavior, but random discharge of bodily fluids is a pretty hard public relations blunder to solve.

Advantage: Affliction

Ancillary Entertainment

After unfortunate experiments with elaborate ring entrances and WWE-style ramps, the UFC settled into a pleasantly mundane telecast that has more in common with conventional sports than overblown theatrics.

Affliction is slated to ignore the cardinal rule of fight promotion -- no cross-pollinating of entertainment genres -- by having irrelevant rock band Megadeth perform at some point during the show. Why presume MMA fans are going to appreciate heavy metal noise pollution? I don't own a single Iron Maiden T-shirt, and don't feel the least bit deprived.

Advantage: UFC

Hyperbolic Figureheads

Far be it from me to challenge Dana White's ability to swerve press and influence mass opinion. His blunt-force media misdirection is an art unto itself. (The latest, and possibly best, clipping: that this UFC Fight Night was in no way a response to the Affliction card. Uh. Huh.)

Whatever how-to-deal-with-media tutorial he read up on, I'd venture it was authored by Donald Trump, master of the bombastic pull quote. Trump's delivery is so smooth, so polished by his decades in front of microphones, that you walk away half-believing you need a case of Trump Ice Water. Better, he can do it without coming off like Andrew "Dice" Clay's dialect coach.

Advantage: Affliction


Disclaimer: Bruce Buffer is a swell guy. He's done more for the UFC's growth behind the scenes than most realize. A rock of support. Really.

But when it comes to the ability to induce goose bumps in his ring generalship, he can't hold a megaphone to brother Michael, possessed of a voice so commanding -- so attuned to the needs of spectacle -- that it brings to mind unfortunate comparisons to Frank and Sly. I appreciate the UFC's loyalty to Buffer Light, but Affliction scores big points by slotting in his well-piped sibling.

Advantage: Affliction

Curiosity compels me to award Affliction the nod for Must-See TV on Saturday, though obviously some fans will prefer the reasonable expense of the UFC (free) to the premium placed on the pay-per-view … though I would seriously question the brain capacity of those who feel it's not worth $39.95 to see Emelianenko in a truly competitive fight. This is, after all, a world in which more than 400,000 people paid $44.95 for a Bisping-Evans headliner last November. Set a precedent like that and Affliction should be asking $79.95 for this card.

The UFC is -- perhaps inadvertently -- leaving one loophole for the undecided. The Fight Night event replays immediately at 12 midnight Eastern time, precisely when Affliction's "Banned" attraction ends. How considerate.

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