This was not one to tell your grandkids about.
I mean, unless your grandkids want to grow up to be ringside officials.
UFC 169 made a bit of fairly inauspicious history on Saturday night, setting a record for most decisions during a single UFC event. Ten of 12 fights went the distance, as Jose Aldo and Renan Barao both retained their titles and Alistair Overeem staved off Frank Mir.
“We broke a record tonight that I’m not very proud of,” said UFC president Dana White at the postfight news conference, via MMA Fighting. “Most decisions ever in UFC history; that’s not one you’re going to hear me bragging about at press conferences.”
The Super Bowl weekend show is usually one of the biggest attractions on the UFC’s annual pay-per-view slate, but expectations for this year’s were already tempered weeks ago.
The loss of Dominick Cruz to yet another injury robbed UFC 169 of its much-ballyhooed bantamweight title unification bout as well as much of its sizzle, even after popular former WEC champion Urijah Faber entered the picture as his replacement.
Without Jones or Cruz, UFC 169 never established much momentum and—despite the fact that it featured dueling featherweight and bantamweight championship fights—was not expected to be a hot seller.
In the end, the action in the cage mirrored those tepid expectations.
The cliché about UFC events that don’t look great on paper is that they often exceed expectations. This one didn’t, instead leaving a good portion of fans wondering what exactly they’d paid $54.95 to watch in high definition.
It was not the best nor the worst fight card in recent memory, but certainly one of the most nondescript. Each of the seven preliminary bouts required the judges’ scorecards, and then all but the first and last fights on the PPV did the same.
One of the few bright spots came during the curtain-jerker, when Abel Trujillo and Jamie Varner turned the second round of their lightweight clash into a back-and-forth slugfest. For much of that frame, it appeared Varner was on the verge of victory—until Trujillo uncorked a right hook that left him unconscious and crashing to the mat on his face.
It was a stunning comeback KO for Trujillo, and it was about as good as things were going to get on this night.
As the most noteworthy finish on the card, it turned out to be a lucrative one. Trujillo pocketed a $50,000 Knockout of the Night bonus, while he and Varner won $75,000 each for Fight of the Night.
The only other main card stoppage—Barao’s first-round TKO of Faber—was marred by regrettable intervention from referee Herb Dean. Though Faber had been hurt twice during early stand-up exchanges, he appeared to have his wits about him and immediately protested after Dean stepped in to save him from a barrage of ineffectual hammerfists.
Both Dean and Faber handled the aftermath with grace, though the UFC president could not help but crack wise about it.
"It was the cherry on top of the 10-decision catastrophe," White said of the stoppage.
In what might turn out to be his last fight as featherweight champion, Aldo turned in a fitting microcosm of his entire career inside the Octagon.
He outclassed Ricardo Lamas over five full rounds, looking technically flawless and flashing his awesome power. There was absolutely nothing to critique about his performance, except that it lacked some intangible but ultimately essential quality.
He brutalized Lamas’ legs with kicks and peppered him with pinpoint punches but never appeared to put the 4-to-1 underdog in serious jeopardy. That has been the one drawback of Aldo's run in the UFC so far: There has been a great deal of wow factor but very few wow moments.
It will be interesting to see what becomes of Aldo’s fighting style if he indeed leaves the 145-pound division behind for a possible superfight with lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. Prior to coming to the UFC, he had 15 stoppages in 18 wins, but four of his six fights with the big show have gone to decision.
He was once known as a fearsome finisher, and it would very much behoove Aldo to get back to that if he’s going to fulfill his sky-high potential as a star.
Not that you could particularly blame him on this night. The monotony of UFC 169 was bigger than any one man.
Even the heavyweights—Overeem and Mir—needed the full 15 minutes to conduct their business.
Overeem battered and bloodied the former UFC champion over three rounds. Despite the fact Mir’s offense was historically bad, however, The Reem (a guy who amassed nine consecutive stoppages from 2007 to 2010) couldn’t finish.
Mir's 5 total strikes landed in 3 rounds are tied for the 3rd fewest ever landed in 15 minutes.— Michael Carroll (@MJCflipdascript) February 2, 2014
Aside from the record number of decisions, there was not much about UFC 169 that will linger very long in our collective memories. In the new reality of the organization’s live-event schedule, that’s to be expected.
Even in this shortest month of the year, the fight company still has two more live shows to get through—Fight Night 36 on Feb. 15 and UFC 170 on Feb. 22. For better and worse, that crush of events won't give us much time to dwell on this clunker.
Perhaps those back-to-back middleweight contender bouts will wash the taste out of our mouths. If not, then it's a good bet that Ronda Rousey's title defense against Sara McMann will do the trick.
Maybe we'll even see something worth saving for the grandkids.