First things first – what are we calling this thing?
UFC Fight Night 39? UFC Fight Night: Nogueira vs. Nelson? UFC Fight Night Abu Dhabi? I’ve even seen just UFC Abu Dhabi. As you can see from the title, I’ve gone with the numerical approach. Numbers are logical and chronological. Things tend to get squirly when we name events and I know that none of us want to go back to the days of UFC: The Ultimate Ultimate.
Whatever we call it, it’s happening this Friday. Crept up on you didn’t it.
A full 19 days will have passed between this and the last UFC event, an eternity in the UFC’s current model of mass production. Despite this dearth in action, and with nothing else to focus on, the anticipation and excitement for this event has almost been non-existent.
Perhaps it is an out of sight out of mind kind of problem. This will be the UFC’s second international show in a row. The next one is even in Canada, if that counts. It’s natural, then, that an event happening in the Middle East on a Friday – and only being shown on the internet – isn’t getting the same coverage as a typical North American event on a Saturday night.
The logistics aren’t the whole problem though, not for hardcore fans anyway – they’d know about it whatever the situation. The location of the fights are irrelevant, it is the quality of them that gets the fans talking. This is where UFC Fight Night 39 comes unstuck.
The card is perfectly fine, it’s just lacking a certain something.
Uniquely, the reason this card is lacking, as I put it, has little to do with the personnel involved. Nogueira is a genuine legend of the sport and Nelson and Guida are well known veterans with recognizable names. The prelims even feature fighters like Thales Leites and Rani Yahya. Not too shabby for a Fight Pass card. Chris Camozzi was another but Andrew Craig withdrew from their bout due to illness.
UFC Fight Night 39, therefore, is in a peculiar position. The level of the combatants involved is perfectly acceptable, it’s just lacking that added extra ingredient.
There is no narrative. There is no number one contender bout, nobody is making a run towards a title, there isn’t a highly-touted prospect making a debut, there isn’t even a rivalry or any bad blood. This event is completely inconsequential. Come Monday morning, the MMA landscape will be exactly how it was the previous Monday.
The main event of Nogueira vs. Nelson pits two aging big-name fighters against one another. Both are coming off losses and are fighting to retain any scrap of relevancy they might have in the heavyweight division. They are gatekeepers now, fodder for whichever heavyweight prospect the UFC wants to push. This fight and its result will have no impact on the division, it is just going to be two 37-year-olds going at it until one removes the other from their consciousness.
They probably won’t be going 5 rounds and nor do we want them to. That would not be a pretty sight. These men are already lacking in mobility – Nogueira because of his substantial wear and tear and Nelson due to his insistence on training in his living room.
What they do have, however, is excellent grappling and effective striking. Their striking is largely confined to their boxing and whilst Nogueira is the better of the two technically, and more varied in his attack, Nelson unquestionably has the edge in power. This is likely to be a stand-up affair and the combination of Nelson’s power, chin and Nogueira’s disregard for defence suggests that a Nelson TKO victory is the likely outcome.
Time-filling, convenient, inconsequential fun.
It’s the kind of show that you’ll watch if you’ve got nothing better to do or maybe you’ll get round to it over the weekend when you have some free time. Nobody is clearing their schedule for this one. But, hey, that’s the beauty of Fight Pass.