Looking At UFC 272

The Ultimate Fighting Championship returns to pay-per-view this weekend with UFC 272 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for a card that will be headlined by Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal, a match-up that the organization is promoting as a personal grudge match, but will that sell?

The UFC 272 fight card saw a slew of changes, originally scheduled to be main evented by Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan in a unification bout to settle the controversial Bantamweight title change via DQ from last year, but after a neck injury to Sterling postponed the initial rematch plans, and Yan won an interim title, the bout was moved to next month’s UFC 273 card. Alexander Volkanovski was scheduled for a trilogy fight against Max Holloway for the Featherweight title at UFC 272, but an injury put Holloway on the shelf, prompting Chan Sung Jung to get the spot as a replacement for a contest that will take place next month. Other card changes include Renato Moicano stepping in on just a few days notice for Rafael Fiziev, who tested positive for COVID, to challenge former champion, Rafael Dos Anjos in the co-main event.

In short, UFC 272 might have some manufactured fight hype, but there’s definitely a lack of substance to go along with the sizzle because the following month’s cards have two title fights, whereas this weekend’s event has to be propped up with a grudge between two fighters that aren’t exactly on a wave on momentum in terms of star power. Remember, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is as much, if not more so in the entertainment business as it is in the fight business.

As far as the actual fight, this is a contest where the numbers tell the story.

Colby Covington took a page from the Chael Sonnen playbook and tried to cast himself as the villain of MMA, supporting or criticizing a number of polarizing topics that were a part of the public discussion within society. Granted, most, if not all of Covington’s public persona is a poorly performed act, but he had a degree of success with it. He linked himself with Donald Trump, which immediately endeared him to one demographic while vilifying him to the other side. If fans pay to support him or pay to see him lose is irrelevant, the fact that people were willing to pay to watch him fight is the bottom line. The problem is, Colby hitched his wagon to a trend and with Trump mostly out of the public spotlight, at least for now, Convington’s rhetoric doesn’t have nearly as much cache as it did previously. The hype sold fights, particularly with bouts against Kamaru Usman, but there’s a reason that novelty acts have a limited draw because skill is ultimately the determining factor. Colby is a solid fighter with wrestling ability that can neutralize opponents to grind out decisions on the score cards. Given the competition he beat prior, he’s an upper-card fighter that is just below the championship level. That’s not meant as a jab against him, but rather a realistic look at his status within the sport.

On the flip side, Jorge Masvidal spent the majority of his career as just another guy on the card until the highlight reel knee that KO’ed Ben Askren propelled him into the main stream. His BMF title fight against Nate Diaz was, quite literally, a total gimmick with The Rock there to present the championship, but it definitely sold pay-per-views. Again, the UFC is in the entertainment business. “Game bred” Masvidal is an entertaining fighter with a solid skill set that is willing to brawl, which makes him a great addition to the card, but his ability still puts him in the role as a mid-card fighter, even if the sizzle of his persona got him into the main event. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to criticize him at all, the bottom line in the fight business is to get paid and Masvidal used a Tony Montana-inspired look to make himself more of a commodity to the UFC than he would’ve been otherwise.

That being said, as mentioned the numbers will probably tell the story of the fight.

Colby brings a record of 16-3 into the octagon, with his last fight being a one-sided decision loss against the previously mentioned Usman. Speaking of which, two of Covington’s three career losses are to the current 170 LBS champion, Usman so it’s a safe assumption that Colby only loses to top-tier competition. On the other hand, Masvidal is a journeyman in many ways with a record of 35-15 so he will have the experience advantage, but has also sustained more damage in his career. As underwhelming as it might be, most of Colby’s wins were via decision, and the vast majority of Masvidal’s losses were on the score cards so you can expect Colby to use his wrestling background to take down his opponent and win a unanimous decision on the score card. That would also be my guess on the result so I have to pick Covington to get the victory. However, most assumed Askren would do the same thing before he was KO’ed in five seconds so anything can happen in MMA.

The other piece of the puzzle is how this sells to the public, and more specifically what the UFC will schedule fight to generate buy rates because the first quarter of the year is rather flat with a lack of any blockbuster cards. Both of the fights in the main event were defeated by Usman in their last fights, including a devastating knockout of Masvidal so the public grudge is more of a selling point than any star power, and I’m not sure there’s a demand for such a grudge to be settled on pay-per-view. Injuries, including the horrendous broken leg that Conor McGregor suffered several months ago, have really affected the UFC landscape, not to mention that Jon Jones’ anticipated heavyweight debut never materialized after he was arrested for domestic violence last year. The UFC doesn’t have many top drawing cards on it’s schedule, but it will be interesting to see the buy rate for the UFC 272 and the events for the rest of the year.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta