November of 2012 will go down as a historic month in MMA and UFC history for a number of reasons. An unprecedented number of UFC events, the start of the network TV deal on FOX, the vaunted 18th anniversary of the UFC and 5 Round non title bouts are just a couple of the items that went down for the first time to make November historic. The allowance of five round title bouts is the one that actually affects the in-octagon product, so let’s have a look at this breakthrough.
The first match to be scheduled for 5 rounds that was not a title match went down November 5th at UFC 138 when veteran Chris Leben took on fast rising Mike Munoz. The second non title bout was the Dan Henderson verus Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua was that went down at UFC 139.
I guess the first thing I want to know is the process to determine a five round match. Is it ring experience of the competitiors?
Well, UFC 140 scheduled for December 10th in Toronto, Canada features two bouts that would seem to meet this criteria. In the heavyweight division, two former champions square off when Frank Mir meets Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and in lightheavyweight action Antonio Rogerio Nogueira takes on veteran former champion Tito Ortiz. Based on the resume of the fighters alone, this bouts deserved 5 round consideration. Why aren’t they five rounds?
In the case of Big Nog and Mir, this is a rematch. Maybe rematches should be 5 rounders? But what if the first bout, however competitive, was settled in less than the 3 rounds and 15 minutes? Hmmmmm.
In Henderson verus Rua, the UFC got an absolute gem of a five round match, one that has the whole world buzzing. I’m not sure the UFC was getting a performance like that out of Leben and Munoz, though it was a good fight.
By selecting 5 round fights seemingly at random, the UFC opens itself up for criticism. A future three round war will see people declare, ‘that should have been 5 rounds’. A worse case scenario is a boring 5 round snooze fest, where the 4th and 5th rounds are a repeat of the stalemate that occured in the early rounds. It would be interesting to see what percentage of fights are finished in the fourth and fifth rounds in the history of five round fights.
My worry is that the adding of five round non title bouts does not appear to be a decision made by the fight people at UFC, rather than a potential need from the TV production to fill potential time.
And that is the caution to the UFC. Either structure some rules around the five rounders and what matches deserve 5 round status, or take us back to the way it was and use 5 rounders only for title bouts. Anything else will lead to confusion and controversy, and letting non sport people affect the in ring product is of utmost importance.