Jon Jones and Rashad Evans had a great marketing campaign and a lot of hype, but their UFC 145 main event failed to deliver excitement. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Last night's boxing on Showtime ended at a perfect time where one could catch the heavily-hyped UFC 145 main event between light heavyweight (205 lbs) champion Jon Jones and rival Rashad Evans. I missed the rest of the show because of the boxing, obviously, but I did tune in for the main event, which was hyped very well, I have to assume sold well on PPV, and would be considered a "mega-fight," like our Pacquiao and Mayweather events over on this side of the combat sports fence.
After sitting through what I honestly felt was a dreary and dull affair -- without intending to start an argument or seem smug or overly pro-boxing, anti-UFC -- I think for maybe the first time with a real big UFC event, I felt the pain that MMA-first folks feel when they tune in for a Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather fight, where generally speaking for the last two or three years, we have seen one-sided fights that frankly become pretty boring by the middle rounds.
I'm not saying no big UFC hypejob main event has ever failed to deliver before, but again, I don't get to see all of them live, so for me, this letdown was something new. I expected more, had been told to expect more, and without following the sport day in and day out, I didn't know anything about why it might be a disappointment. I didn't even know if that was a likelihood, a possibility, or something totally unlikely to happen.
Jon Jones is one of my favorite athletes in sports right now. I'm not the biggest MMA fan in the world anymore, and not close to the MMA fan I used to be, largely because there are so few of the numbered events I get to see live thanks to boxing taking up my schedule, which is fine, I usually catch fights I hear are really good or great, and watch what I can when I have the spare time.
Jones is one of those guys, and I've said this before, that I think could be a big star, someone who changes the game in UFC. Mayweather and Pacquiao have done that in boxing in recent years. But last night's fight with Evans got one-sided without question after two rounds, and then it was just sort of a sad crawl to the finish line. Like too often happens in boxing, we saw the underdog survive and a less than satisfying fight.
This isn't meant to be some shot at UFC 145 or even that fight, really, it just made me think of what it must be like for people who are not easily impressed by boxing all the time -- the way I'm not easily impressed by MMA all the time -- when they tune into one of these big, overhyped, $65 extravaganzas. I never really had that perspective because I'm intensely interested in boxing so frankly even the crappiest of those main events, well, I had to watch it and I'm glad I did. It doesn't mean I won't criticize them, just that beyond being honest about the fights not being good, I'm still happy to have seen the fight and all that.
But lots of people don't feel that way, and last night I think I got a good comparison from my angle. Now I believe that I understand more how folks must have felt after paying money for Mayweather vs Marquez, or Pacquiao vs Clottey, or either of them vs Shane Mosley. I had a gut feeling all of those fights would be dull, but that's because I talk boxing with a lot of people every single day, follow the sport every single day, know all the fights that led to these big fights, know how the matchup figures to play out, etc.
With UFC 145, I wasn't flying blind, but I was relying somewhat on the marketing, more than I ever would for boxing. I have to assume that's how a lot of the people on the flip side of this coin are with the Manny and Floyd fights.
I realize this might all sound very obvious to many of you, but here's the thing: In my mind, I assume that everyone should know better. There are tons of web sites out there where you can get the real skinny on how good a fight should or will be. You can guess by the betting lines usually that a fight isn't a good matchup. Everything -- even something like Mares vs Morel, which was a mismatch on paper and didn't play out as much more -- is sold like it's a tough fight.
But not everyone knows better. In fact, most people probably don't. Who has time to go around reading web site articles all the live long day and getting deeper into something? That's for the passionate, not the curious. The TV ads and official promoter propaganda matter more than we often realize.
Someone out there thought Joshua Clottey really was a "devastating brawler," just like Top Rank's ad folks told them. Just like I thought Jones vs Evans was going to be an intense, passionate war between true rivals. They got the infamous Clottey turtle. I got a fight that lacked spark and seemed anything but personal.
So I get it now. And I can't imagine I'll take much righteous boxing fan offense if Mayweather vs Cotto and/or Pacquiao vs Bradley are entertainment flops, and those who wind up surprised or disappointed by that feel like their money went down the drain. It's nothing to do with them "not getting it." It's genuine disappointment that puts a dent into a wallet.
And just like the Floyd/Manny viewers who swear they won't serve up their hard-earned cash next time unless they fight each other, I'll be back the next time UFC has some grudge match of the century that cannot be missed. That's how it works.