As reported by MMAWeekly.com, UFC president and company figurehead Dana White announced Thursday that all freshly inked main event bouts from this day forward will be five rounds, not the traditional three. Here’s a snippet of his quote from MMAWeekly.com:
“From this day forward, as we speak right here, right now today, every fight that is a main event that is not a title fight will be a five-round fight,” said White. “For Spike and everything else.”
Let me start off by saying: I was in full support of something being done to avoid main event draws. There is nothing worse for fans, who are shelling out hard earned cash to watch the pay-per-view, than having the two biggest draws on the card fight to a draw. (I’ll let you decide if the pun was intended).
Part of the fun of being a fight fan—or just a sports fan in general—is getting immersed in all the pre-fight hype leading up to an event. For diehards, weeks prior to fight nights are excoriating reminders of what it must be like for junkies during the dry times.
Not to mention, combine all the pre-fight interviews, video blogs, articles, Countdown specials on Spike, the occasional Georges St-Pierre Primetime, pressers and weigh-ins; by the time the final bell rings, every type of fight fan is craving for that climatic conclusion, the closing chapter to the main event.
Needless to say, when that closure is compromised by some indecisive judging and neither fighters’ hand is raise after the scores are spewed out of Bruce Buffer’s pie-hole, my inner Joe is sprinting around in my head like a zombie from 28 Days Later while I have to calmly starve my wallet by ordering another overpriced beer.
Point being, nobody wants draws in main events. There is a place and time for the inconclusive decision in MMA; it should be utilized during times where two guys never really had an advantage over the other. A good draw is acceptable, but when it occurs during the last fight—even during an incredible one like Edgar vs. Maynard 2—fans wake up the next day with a sour taste in their mouths.
On those mornings, I can barely find the energy to download such a hot mess, knowing the gratifying ending was omitted, devaluing all the time and energy spend on the internet leading up to the event. So, that last statement is both sad and pathetic, but equal parts true. You can sympathize with me even those there are far worse tragedies in the world, right?
Edgar vs. Maynard was bearable, almost acceptable, because it still stands as one of the best fights of the year, five months later. But after Penn vs. Fitch went to a draw, something had to be done.
That fight needed, at the most, an extra round, not two.
Good intentions and effort aside, extending all headliners to five rounds is not the best solution the UFC think-tank could have mustered up.
Even though regulation allows for an additional 10 minutes for fighters to duke it out after three rounds, it doesn’t mean it has to be that way—more is not always better, just ask Meg Ryan’s upper lip or the Octomom’s uterus. While you’re at it, ask the Octomom’s lips too.
Firstly, having your key fighters do battle for an extra two rounds will increase the likelihood of injury and general wear-and-tear on the body, which in turn will give match maker Joe Silva an aneurysm. The UFC already has a hard enough time replacing guys at the last minute to preserve a card’s momentum to keep casual fans intrigued—the cash cow of the equation.
As long as none of my readers have amnesia, please refer to two weekends ago at UFC 130 and think about tomorrow at UFC 131. Top guys had to relinquish prime slots on main cards due to injury and the alternate matchups that were improvised, as a result, made the event less appealing. Shaking up main events like a game of Boggle is risking business if the end product has less impact or meaning as the fight it was meant to replace.
Plus some fights are so static during the first three rounds, there’s no reason why fans would want to watch another two. Since UFC 131 was already referenced: Who was dying for 10 more minutes of Rampage not finishing Hamill?
Furthermore, the verdict is not quite out on whether or not these extra rounds will facilitate more finishes. That debate requires a certain level of empirical evidence and a fight mathematician—we’ve got neither here.
You’re stuck with me, but what I will do is link you to an article by Josh Nason, who diligently interjected previously recorded statistics on the percentage of finishes during non-title and title fights.
Basically, over the last year or so, there have been more finishes during three-round non-title fights than five-round championship bouts.
To put that into perspective, we’ve seen fighters who excel in the pressure cooker during those final minutes in the final round with their backs up against a wall. With two more rounds to consider, those types of fighters lose the urgency to make things happen.
On the flipside, there are guys who have made a successful living by grinding away the clock, dominating their will (usually through wrestling) in order to out point their opponents. What will two extra rounds do for that kind of competitor? I’m guessing more of the same.
The only advantage of a 25-minute lay-and-pray clinic over a 15-minute one is getting to see those beautiful little numbers take extra laps around the Octagon. But even then, there’s the internet. We’re watching for the fights.
Plan and simple: mandating five rounds for non-title headliners is a game changer for fighters, not only to the action in the Octagon, but also to all the extra preparation that has to happen in the gym. For example, guys will have to work on their cardio that much harder to survive longer fights, making training camps longer and possibly lessen the amount of bouts a fighter can take in a given year.
A lot of points of contention are up for debate at the moment until we see how it actually pans out, but rest assured, it is a historic shift in UFC policy that will likely alter the landscape of MMA as a whole.
I’ve always been a proponent for logically progressive change, whether in sports, politics or in society. Many calculated gambles thrive or die on a trial and error basis, hands-on test for those involved. This may be no different; time will tell the tale.
All I can say and have been saying for a solution is this: Why not the sudden victory round instead? It does wonders in avoiding draws for The Ultimate Fighter. Then again, that’s a whole other article for a whole other day. I’m sure your eyes are just as tired as mine.
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