Sometimes UFC can be a bore. Slow rounds with no action until a decision. Sometimes it can be amazing. Fights with stories and a climactic finish. A PPV is given a good 5 fights give or take to accommodate this and we usually land somewhere in the middle for a general average. But UFC 124 was one of those special PPVs that managed to have basically no boring fights. Thiago Alves stood toe to toe with John Howard and put on a striking clinic; Matt Danzig had a first round standing KO of Joe Stephenson; Jim Miller spent 2 minutes defending submissions from Brazilian rubber band, Charles Oliveira, before reversing one into a kneebar/ankle lock to make him tap; Stefan Struve proved that he is growing into a better and better – and invariably exciting – fighter, beating down Sean McCorkle; And of course, the reason why we all paid for the PPV in the first place, the GSP v Koscheck fight gave us another look at the undeniable talent and finesse of the greatest pound for pounder in the business. UFC 124 certainly lived up to the hype.
But the hype became one of the stories for this PPV. The UFC is an insanely well run business. It’s growth since being taken over by Zuffa and presided over by Dana White has seen it transformed from a money drain to a multi million dollar enterprise conquering the US and the rest of the world at the same time. I think the key to this success hasn’t just been the roster of elite fighters but more so the profile that each fighter carries. Each fighter, even in The Ultimate Fighter, seems capable of talking smack – or at least trying to. I got to thinking that maybe the fighters are trained to talk big in order to hype up the fights – probably not. But I am certain that they are encouraged to. They are definitely rewarded for it as well.
Josh Koscheck is the perfect example. In the build up videos Josh even says straight out that he started training hard for his striking because that’s what people want to see. And it was a good choice. He has a highlight reel to die for and one that earns him title shots while Jon Fitch remains patiently winning. The fact is that wrestling is boring and BJJ that can’t finish isn’t much better. UFC crowds are infamous for booing after barely 30 seconds of inaction.
But good fights with big finishes don’t always cut it. Koscheck figured this part out as well. He plays the heel so well that Vince McMahon would be impressed. The talking in The Ultimate Fighter - though lacking in wit a lot of the time – was enough to sell countless more PPVs. But alternatively, he motivated GSP more than any title belt or child on death bed could. GSP went out with his game face and game plan firm. He executed and Koscheck saw the effects – with poor depth perception, I imagine.
It wasn’t just Koscheck either. John Howard and Thiago Alves were both promising nothing but stand up in their bout. Big swinging and no chance of the boring technical ground game. Sean McCorkle spent had a pre fight training regime of cardio, striking and twitter updates about Stefan Struve’s inferior bone structure. In the pre-PPV fights Mark Bocek performed a sweet Triangle Choke before telling Joe Rogan and anyone who would listen that he has the best BJJ in the lightweight division and that he will take on George Sotiropoulus any day.
In the end we need to remember the night belonged to GSP. The hero picked apart the villain and the reason he is the hero is because his fight game and mentality is beyond any trash talk. GSP also had the last word. It would be very professional if I could find it and quote it but instead I will have to paraphrase: something along the lines of you guys can boo Josh but he did the talking to make this event what it was. And it was a great event.