Wednesday, July 16, 2014

'Mechanical' UFC returns to Atlantic City

By John McMullen

ATLANTIC CITY - Many in the world of professional wrestling use the term
"mechanic" to describe a competitor who is really good at his job but isn't a
difference maker when it comes to selling tickets.

The UFC has too many mechanics these days.

In many ways mixed martial arts is as big as it's ever been but the sport's
popularity has created some unintended consequences, not the least of which is
overexposure.

A few years ago in the days of monthly-only pay-per-view cards, UFC was always
the hottest ticket in town, especially here on the East Coast, which has
always received far less attention from the Las Vegas-based promotion.

A date at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia or the Prudential Center in
Newark used to be automatic sellouts for UFC and unlike boxing, MMA fans
showed up for the opening bout of the night, not just the main event.

Wednesday's "Fight Night" card on FOX Sports 1, headlined by veteran
lighweights Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone, was able to pack the intimate
Ovation Hall at the Revel Casino Hotel with 4,000 fans but things didn't
completely fill in until the main card got underway.

Cerrone has always been one of the most consistent performers in UFC history,
finishing 11 opponents in his UFC/WEC career coming in, a mark deadlocked with
Nate Diaz for the most ever by a lightweight. He's also earned 14 different
post-fight bonuses, the most ever in the company.

Miller, meanwhile, also has an impressive resume with 13 UFC wins, tied for
the most ever in the lightweight division, along with seven finishes, the
second-most ever.

In the Octagon on Wednesday they delivered as usual, putting on an
entertaining fight. Cerrone (24-6, MMA, 11-3 UFC), nicknamed "The Cowboy,"
embraced the heel role, coming out with a black hat to Kid Rock's "Cowboy" against Miller (24-5, 13-4), a New Jersey native.

Cerrone's awe-inspiring kicks proved to be the difference as Miller began to
waver at the force of them as they connected to the body. That opened up the
high kick and Cerrone blasted Miller on the left side of the head before things
were called off at 3:31 of the second round.

There are always plenty of great and often entertaining fighters in the UFC,
though, but very few true box-office draws. Cerrone and Miller are the living
embodiment of that.

Neither is a difference maker when it comes to putting asses 18 inches apart
and that's why they were given main event duties on a live cable special vs. a
pay-per-view event.

A continued sluggish economy that has slashed discretionary income
for many coupled with a significant expansion of the product, has
more fans than ever picking and choosing what fights they want to see,
resulting in declining ticket sales, shaky television ratings and the
occasional disappointing pay-per-view number.

Yet, UFC president Dana White remains bullish on the company's future due to
the massive rights deal with FOX, the over-the-top, on demand Fight Pass
network, and continued international expansion.

And to be fair, the added revenue streams have made the bottom line bigger
than ever for the company but the days of seven-figure PPV buys with Brock
Lesnar headlining are a thing of the past, at least for now, and the product
is no longer perceived as hot by the general public.

Like any combat sport, the highs and lows of MMA are directly tied to the
major players. When larger-than-life personalities like Lesnar, Tito Ortiz and
Georges St-Pierre were ruling the Octagon, their fights were major events.

Today we're left with a bunch of mechanics.


THE ACTION:

The semifinal of the night was also in the lightweight division as Brazilian
star Edson Barboza (14-2, 8-2), who now trains with Frankie Edgar out of New
Jersey, had way too much skill for Evan Dunham (14-6, 7-6), who lost his third
straight fight.

Barboza unleashed a vicious right leg kick which sounded like a shot going off
in the arena when it landed. Dunham immediately crumbled to the ground and the
fight was stopped seconds later at 3:06 in Round 1.

Brazilian featherweight Lucas Martins (15-1, 3-1) kicked off the main
card by knocking out the previously undefeated Alex White (10-1, 1-1) at 2:08
of the third round. White missed badly on a punch and Martins struck on the
counter with a quick combination, punctuated by a straight right which turned
off White's lights.

Flyweights John Lineker (24-7, 5-2) and Alpetekin Ozkilic (9-3, 1-2) really
ignited the crowd with a hard-hitting affair, one which ended with just nine
seconds left in the fight when Lineker finally finished the bloodied "Turkish
Delight."

Lightweight Joe Proctor (10-2, 3-1) played the counter game, using a pair of
solid lefts to stop Justin Salas (12-6, 3-3) at 3:27 of Round 2.

Welterweight Rick Story (17-8, 10-6) outwrestled Leonardo Mafra (11-2, 0-2)
for much of their bout before cinching in a triangle choke from the top at
2:12 of the second round.

The preliminaries featured UFC's first ever woman's strawweight bout which
opened the night as undefeated Brazilian Claudia Gadelha (12-0, 1-0) dominated
Fin Tina Lahdemaki (5-1, 0-1) en route to a unanimous decision. Gadelha, who
nearly put Lahdemaki away in the first round with a pair of rear-naked chokes,
pitched a virtual shutout, winning all three scorecards easily, 30-26, 30-27
and 30-27 margin.

Lightweight Yosdenis Cedeno (10-3, 1-1) won his first UFC fight when Jerrod
Sanders (14-2, 0-1) was unable to answer the bell for Round 2 after injuring
his knee. Cedeno used impressive quickness early, causing Sanders to sprawl
and tweak the knee.

Impressive young bantamweight Aljamain Sterling (10-0, 2-0) remained
undefeated by taking care of UFC veteran Hugo Viana (8-3, 3-2) with strikes in
the second round.

The second and final ladies' bout of the night saw veteran bantamweight Leslie
Smith (7-5-1, 1-1) dominate Jessamyn Duke (3-2, 1-2), finishing her with a
stiff knee at 2:24 of Round 1.

The last preliminary fight saw 30-year-old veteran lightweight Gleison Tibau
(38-10, 14-8), who was performing in his 22nd UFC bout, earn a unanimous
decision over the Pat Healy (31-20), who is now 0-5 in his UFC starts.

NOTES:

Tonight's card was the second UFC event and seventh MMA card at Revel, all
starting with the UFC event on June 22, 2012. Bellator has used the resort
three times and World Series of Fighting twice.
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