After the hype-filled summer in MMA that included landmark events like UFC 100, the highest profile free agent in MMA history being courted by the UFC and ultimately signing with Strikeforce, and plenty of other big happenings, it’s understandable that UFC 102 was underhyped before Saturday night. Fortunately for those smart enough not to overlook the card, the fights proved to be more than worth the time and money of avid MMA fans.
Besides the brilliant matchup between Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira and Randy Couture, the card was filled with ridiculous knockouts and explosive finishes, with only a couple of duds to slow down the pace (Brandon Vera vs. Krzysztof Soszynski comes to mind). We got a look at some great up and coming prospects, and former contenders like Thiago Silva reaffirmed their places at or near the top of their divisions.
There may be a lesson to be learned as an MMA fan after UFC 102. Many times, even experienced fans fall into the thinking that without a high-profile title fight and at least one other fight between top contenders, an event is simply not worth their time or money. Also, for some matchups, it is easy to be talked into expecting a mediocre matchup. For Couture vs. Nogueira, there was the fact that both fighters were coming off of decisive losses, with Nogueira in particular looking very poor in his fight with Frank Mir.
However, we have seen yet again that it is incredibly difficult to forecast the quality of a card’s fights simply by a glance at the names involved. How many probable Fight of the Year matchups have we seen fall short of expectations? How many times have fighters that many have never heard of ended up delivering one for the ages? Anyone who saw the outstanding back and forth battle between former “The Ultimate Fighter” cast members War Machine (formerly Jon Koppenhaver before losing his god-forsaken mind completely) and Jared Rollins can attest to that truth.
Similarly, many names that don’t jump off the marquee will end up being the next big thing within a couple of fights. For UFC 102, Todd Duffee comes to mind, though Jake Rosholt and Aaron Simpson also impressed to varying degrees against experienced fighters. It only stands to reason that any number of the supposed “no-names” that many fans may not be familiar with will end up being tomorrow’s champions: no one was that psyched to see Jon Jones before he faced Stephan Bonnar at UFC 94, either.
With another UFC card (Franklin vs. Belfort) that seems to be underwhelming many fight fans coming up, it is good to remember that great fights can be had anywhere. For that matter, savvy MMA fans should remember to check out shows by WEC, Strikeforce, foreign promotions like Dream or Sengoku, and even local promotions, as well. While the pure number of MMA cards today may seem like market saturation to some, it is good every now and then for those of us who had to once wait months between televised events to appreciate how far the sport has come.
For now, the fighters who came through at UFC 102 can feel proud knowing that they delivered a card that rose well above expectations, which only reaffirms what most of us already knew: this is the best sport in the world.
by Jon Hartley for Fightmania.com