Heading into the main event for the debut UFC on FOX card (or, more accurately, the only fight that was going to be shown on FOX), Junior dos Santos was the underdog. He wasn't expected to defeat the reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez. Apart from the fight ending in a draw, the longest odds were for dos Santos to win the fight inside the distance (meaning before the fight went to the judges' decision). So, naturally, that's exactly what happened.
Velasquez was unable to make it out of the first round in his first title defense. Dos Santos rocked him with a big overhand right to the side of the head. The punch put the champ on the ground and the challenger pounced. He landed a flurry of unanswered blows and the referee was pulling dos Santos off within seconds, awarding him the match via knockout and making him the new Heavyweight Champion.
It was a shock to a lot of MMA fans. Not necessarily that dos Santos won -- because dos Santos was certainly thought capable of beating Velasquez -- but the nature of the victory. Velasquez was someone that fans felt could take plenty of punishment, as seen in his matches against Cheick Kongo and others. It's the nature of the sport that a blow at an odd angle can leave a fighter stunned and vulnerable. I'm sure there are a lot of people -- not least of which Dana White and the executives at FOX -- who wish the fight would have ended in a more decisive or "exciting" fashion. But here's the thing about MMA: if you don't act like you're trying to defend yourself, the referee is going to end the match.
If the UFC and their major television network were hoping that this event was going to bring in casual fans or further open up the market for mixed martial arts, they may have picked the wrong match to go all in on. It's possible that a lot of fans might have been intrigued or excited by the you-never-can-tell nature of the sport, but I have a hunch that the big executives were hoping for something closer to the classic Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar slugfest that first broke the UFC open to the public consciousness in a big, bad way. Quickly! To the bottled lightning store!
MMA isn't boxing. It's never going to be boxing. Odds are good that the next few days will bring endless headlines and editorials from mainstream sources about the disappointing event or the questionable stoppage. It's certainly nothing new to longtime MMA fans. If FOX is in any way upset with the main event they got on Saturday night, perhaps UFC on Fox 2 should plan to air more than one match. Never a bad idea.
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