Last night Rashad Evans hid his fragile chin for the better part of three rounds, largely embarrassing what, we presume, was an out of fighting shape Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. It was hardly flawless, or a scintillating viewing experience, but it was deserved.
While I think the fight would have been much better served as a five-round affair.(Ben Duronio wrote a lovely op-ed on that topic by the way .) The fight came, went and was largely the contest most expected of an otherwise average card.
However, if you dropped in from another planet, you'd have thought this was the biggest UFC event ever. Even bigger than the landmark rematch between Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar with supporting acts like GSP and Dan Henderson as Grade-A lead-ins at UFC 100.
There's only one reason. Hype. It's nothing new to the sport. In fact, it's been the driving force in many of the companies biggest shows throughout history.
For example, back at UFC 18, Tito Ortiz fought Lion's Den product Jerry Bohlander. It was classic Tito Ortiz, a clinical, brutal stoppage after 14 minutes of one-sided pounding. MMA lore states that Tito acted like he was shooting at the Lion's Den corner and coach Ken Shamrock after his win.
The feud exploded after his second fight with Guy Mezger at UFC 19 when Ortiz put on a shirt that said "Gay Mezger is my Bitch" and gave the middle finger to the Lion's Den corner. Ken Shamrock leaped onto the top of the cage and screamed at Ortiz, angrily waving his finger in Ortiz's face.
Ken Shamrock was under contract with the World Wrestling Federation and the time and the fight, for various reason, had to be kept on the shelf until UFC 40: Vendetta.
The UFC was still circling the drain at the time, swamped under large amounts of red-ink, the feud was largely seen as the last hope for the company. The push was massive, then number one contender to Tito's belt, Chuck Liddell, took on dangerous submission grappler Renato Sobral, and company favorite Matt Hughes was tapped to make a title defense on the card.
Ken Shamrock and Tito Ortiz both appeared on the then successful 'The Best Damn Sports Show Period' sports talk-show, engaging in back-and-forth trash talk on live television. The fight also gained mainstream media attention from ESPN and USA Today, something that was unfathomable for mixed martial arts at that point in time.
It was a smash success for the promotion, garnering 150,000 Pay-Per-View buys, and nearly selling out the very same MGM Grand Arena. Many fans still contend it was the UFC's most important card in it's history.
In fact, the argument could be made that every blowout card the UFC has ever done has been carried on the back of bad blood.
UFC 100 featured two memorable rivalries, Henderson-Bisping and Lesnar-Mir. UFC Five featured Shamrock and Gracie in a "memorable" rematch. UFC 47, and 66 saw Liddell and Ortiz settle their differences, and UFC 58, 63, 94 were all major Penn rivalries.
Perhaps, it's not great fights that have defined the sport the most. It's titillating war of words. Or maybe great fights are nothing more than the culmination of a titillating war of words.
Perhaps, that's what scares me the most.