The Guard Past: A look back at the night that was UFC on Fox 8

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Dememtrious Johnson (right) applies the armbar to beat John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8. Photo via Getty Images.

He’s quick, effective, strong and a well-rounded mixed martial artist. These are the reasons why Demetrious Johnson holds the UFC’s 125-pound (flyweight) title.

His only problem, it seems, is that he’s 125 pounds, fighting in a weight division that is still developing and yet to be a proven draw.

But what’s the reason behind the lack of drawing power? Well, there’s the idea that fans observe the Octagon, gazing upon fighters half their size, then say something along the lines of, “I’m twice as big as that dude. I can take him!”

But who beyond keyboard warriors will say that kind of thing? Likely few, and certainly not anyone with half a brain.

Whatever the reason for the lack of flyweight fever, the overnight ratings, according to tvbythenumbers.com, show that UFC on Fox 8 had the lowest ratings of any fight card on “big Fox” since the promotor and television station signed their landmark partnership in 2011. The average of 2.04 million viewers and .9 rating in the 18-49 age demographic are a far cry from the first UFC on Fox, which did a 5.7 million average with a 3.1 rating.

That’s the textbook definition of downslope, folks.

But, as is the usual following UFCs on Fox, now begins the wait to hear what UFC President Dana White will say in response to “dummies” and “morons” who know nothing of ratings and how they work.

Admittedly, I’m one of those alleged morons because I pay little attention to ratings. I watch the fights for fight purposes, and that’s all. But when the numbers are right there in front of my face, I can’t ignore them, regardless of how moronic I may or may not be. So they get, at the very least, a mention. Besides, that seemed to be the only thing people were talking about on Sunday morning.

The fact is that the 125-pound division is in its infancy, and casual fans still need to soak in the names, like Johnson, Benavidez and McCall, for a bit longer before getting overly excited about the flyweights. Give it time, people. After all, lightweights, who’ve been in the UFC for years now, still  to this day face an uphill ratings battle with their heavier colleagues. Just take a look at lightweight pay-per-view buys and Fox ratings in comparison to heavier main events.

So, are flyweights just mediocre fighters and that’s why they don’t draw? Of course not. Evidenced by the superb performance put on by “Mighty Mouse” in the UFC on Fox 8 main event and other fighters on previous cards, the flyweights have talent in terms of skill, speed, endurance and other characteristics. Now they just have to pay their dues and fight their way up the ladder. On thing that will help — and I write this knowing it’s easier said than done — is less decisions and more finishes.

And while we’re at it, let’s stop the “super-fight” talk. If we’re to give flyweight a chance to shine, we can’t take their title holder and have him fight a weight class higher — not just yet, anyway. It’s not as though Johnson cleared out the weight class, as there are currently 16 flyweights signed to the UFC roster. Beating four in a row, while impressive, doesn’t call for a champion versus champion showdown, especially since bantamweight has its own issues at the moment.

But that’s a whole other column.

Robbie Lawler is downright scary again at 170 pounds

Robbie Lawler (left) victorious at UFC on Fox 8. Photo via Getty Images.

Over 11 years ago, Robbie Lawler made his UFC debut, a unanimous-decision win over Aaron Riley at UFC 37. Since then, Lawler has seen his ups and downs as a mixed martial artist.

UFC on Fox 8 showed that his roller coaster career is currently on the upswing.

Upon returning to the UFC, the 12-year MMA veteran decided to drop to welterweight for the first time since 2004. The move has proven to be a positive one for him, as “Ruthless” finished two consecutive welterweight fights since dropping a weight class.

The knockout of Voelker on Saturday’s UFC on Fox broadcast, although not over a definitive top-10 fighter, showed that Lawler is approaching the upper echelon of fighters in the division, much like he was all those years ago. Without question, another win at 170 pounds will put the former middleweight in the mix with names like Demian Maia, Rory MacDonald, among others.

Two wins. Two knockouts. A featured bout, perhaps on a pay-per-view, against a top-five competitor isn’t completely out of question for Lawler.

Anyone up for a rematch against Nick Diaz?

Lawler and Diaz first faced off way back at UFC 47, a fight wherein Diaz got the best of his opposition by peppering Lawler with punches until it was too much. The knockout is one of the most impressive wins for Diaz in a lot of circles.

Book it, Dana White and Joe Silva. That is if Diaz is back from his pseudo retirement.

Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger both hurt their stock

Rory MacDonald’s unanimous-decision win at UFC on Fox 8 wasn’t pretty.

For three rounds, Ellenberger wouldn’t “pull the trigger” in a fight where he conjured up a lot of trash talk leading into it.

If the Seattle crowd booing wasn’t enough to tell you, the bout was a disappointment.

“I did exactly what I was supposed to do,” MacDonald said at the post-fight press conference. “I kept up my end.”

Not so fast, according to Dana White. In the opinion of the UFC President, and most everyone else that watched the fight, MacDonald didn’t do anything to try and finish the fight.

“Rory didn’t do anything to try and … make a statement, not only to the world, but to the guys in that division,” White declared.

And he’s right. MacDonald, and to a further extent, Ellenberger, did nothing to live up to the pre-fight jargon that promoted the fight.

Luckily for MacDonald, he came out ahead on the scorecards, which means he’ll move closer to fighting for a title shot (if he ever agrees to fighting teammate Georges St-Pierre). But he didn’t earn any fans. And that might not be important to him for now, but it should be. Less fans equals less appeal. Less appeal equals pay-per-view less buys. Less buys means less leverage in contract negotiations, which isn’t good in the long run of things.

As for Ellenberger, there’s nothing worse than leaving a bad taste in your boss’ mouth. When White says you “did nothing” in a fight that weighed heavily on the 170-pound picture, things can’t be all that good going forward. The trash talk leading in was epic — Sonnen-like, if you will — but you have to deliver the goods if you’re going to make anything of it. That didn’t happen on Saturday night.

The road back to contender status is going to be a long one for Ellenberger.

“The Guard Past” is a post-fight column by GRACIEMAG Assistant Editor Erik Fontanez. Look for more of the same following more fights in the future.

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