The UFC's success in the last 11 years has been based upon deep cards filled with evenly matched fights in which the athletes took risks in a desire to put on a show.
None of that occurred on Saturday at UFC 149 in a very lackluster main card at the Scotiabank Saddledome, in which Renan Barão claimed an easy unanimous decision over Urijah Faber to claim the interim bantamweight belt.
Fans in Calgary and in social media sites blasted Dana White before the fight for what they perceived as a poor card. A slew of injuries to high-profile fighters decimated the fight card, but White spent the week before the show angrily defending his men.
He said to anybody who would listen that "our guys always deliver."
On Saturday, though, they did not and White wasn't shy about sharing his displeasure. After Barão's unanimous decision was announced, the crowd stuck around and booed loudly to let White know what it thought of the company's first trip to Calgary.
Appearing on the post-fight show on Fuel TV, White said he was "not too excited about" how the card turned out, though he wasn't nearly as upset with either Barão or Faber. The rest of the fighters on the main card, though, felt White's wrath.
Heavily hyped middleweight Hector Lombard fell flat on his face, doing next to nothing in a split decision loss to Tim Boetsch. Cheick Kongo won a unanimous decision over Shawn Jordan only because he was slightly less horrid than Jordan. And James Head defeated Brian Ebersole by another split decision in a fight whose highlight was Ebersole giving a thumbs up while Head was trying to choke him.
Only Matthew Riddle, who defeated Chris Clements with a third-round arm triangle choke, put on the kind of effort in the main card that makes White smile.
"If the undercard didn't suck so bad, they wouldn't have been so [angry at] the main event," White said.
Fights, no matter how good they look on paper going in, can turn out far differently than most expect. And, as White said, the UFC does routinely put on far more good fights than bad.
It was good, though, that White showed his anger on Saturday. One of the reasons that the fights are so routinely good, in addition to the outstanding matchmaking of Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, is White's personality.
He won't accept cards like Saturday's very well and lets the fighters know it in no uncertain terms. It creates a culture in which the fighters compete with a sense of urgency.
The late boxing trainer, Georgie Benton, used to tell his fighters, "Win this one; look good in the next one." And fighters, who know how much it means to win in the UFC, can slip into that mode if someone isn't around to remind them that's not acceptable.
Barão certainly wasn't scintillating in his win over Faber, but he did everything right. He kept Faber on the outside with his kicks and fired punches and knees the few times the ex-World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion managed to close the distance between them.
They fought a tactical fight and Faber wasn't able to find a way to get near to create the scrambles he's so good in. As a result, Barão won by scores of 49-46, 50-45 and 49-46.
"I knew he was trying to keep me at a distance," Faber said. "Those kicks were coming from pretty far out and it was difficult to get in for takedowns."
But there was no excuse for the lack of action in the Boetsch-Lombard, Kongo-Jordan and Head-Ebersole fights. They were awful and weren't nearly up to the UFC standards.
"I was excited about this card," White said on Fuel's post-fight show. "I didn't just come down here and say a bunch of things I didn't think were going to be true. I never expected Hector Lombard would look like that [against] Boetsch. I thought those two would go right after each other. Cheick Kongo and Jordan, that was disgusting."
The card was awful but those things happen in sports. Not every fight can be Hagler-Hearns. Still, if you want to blame someone, blame White, since he's the man at the top and he puts the shows together.
Give him credit, though, for not sitting back and looking past what was a poor show for the people who paid their $55. He made his feelings known, loudly, publicly and unequivocally.
White getting angry and blasting the show isn't going to guarantee that every card will be hellacious in the future. It does, however, set a tone and reminds the fighters that there is a standard that has been set and expected to be followed in a UFC fight.
That was not the case on Saturday by any stretch of the imagination.
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