15 December 2010

A Different Kind of Final

WEC 53 airs Thursday on Versus.
Besides making awkward jokes and talking about superheroes, one of my favorite areas of focus is MMA. That's why this Thursday will be somewhat bittersweet, as it is the final WEC on Versus show...ever.

A few years ago, Zuffa Inc., the company that owns UFC, in an effort to prevent the IFL, a competing organization, from getting a television deal on Versus, bought the regional promotion WEC, short for World Extreme Cagefighting. UFC already had a deal in place with Spike TV, so they did the next best thing to ensure their competition had nowhere to go but down by buying their way out of the problem. Some of the divisions between the two promotions overlapped, but what made WEC stand out was it's featherweight division, consisting of fighters at 145 lbs. Most notable among the smaller group of fighters was Urijah Faber, a dude that carried the promotion for years as the Featherweight Champion and had the most potential for superstar status along the lines of GSP, Chuck Liddell or Randy Couture.

Eventually, WEC decided to focus on the smaller fighters by keeping the light and featherweight divisions and starting a bantamweight division at 135 lbs, while UFC absorbed the welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight divisions. In sharpening their focus, WEC started to put on the most entertaining fight cards, top to bottom. Lighter guys usually have bigger gas tanks, so they can keep up a faster pace for a longer period of time leading to more action-packed fights that are rarely boring. Unfortunately, while the cards were awesome, their shows were still stuck on Versus, a channel few have and even fewer know exists. While it was continually the most exciting promotion to watch, their ratings were poor and the fighters outside of Urijah Faber weren't becoming stars or making the kind of money that the UFC guys make. Despite being owned by the same company, their pay didn't quite reflect it.

At the same time, UFC continued to explode in popularity. Many people seem to make the mistake that mixed martial arts is the popular thing nowadays, but that's not really the case. While MMA continues to grow in participants and general popularity, UFC is the organization that's successful. Few people get together to talk about or watch MMA; more often than not, they get together to watch UFC. Compare it to baseball or football. Outside of regional minor leagues, everyone watches Major League Baseball. Who watches the CFL or the AFL? Nobody (except McBride and his kids). The vast majority watch the NFL. Just like baseball and football are synonymous with the brands of MLB and the NFL, fighting or MMA only carries with it one brand: UFC.

It's no wonder that WEC couldn't get any traction. Dana White, the Fertitta brothers and the rest of the folks over at Zuffa were very much aware of this but couldn't do anything about it because of the aforementioned TV deal...until late last October. In a move that everyone knew was just a matter of time, White announced that UFC would absorb the featherweight and bantamweight divisions at the beginning of the year and that WEC would cease to exist. Huzzah for no longer confusing the marketplace with brand dilution!

While this is great news for the many fighters who will now be making UFC money and fighting for bigger bonuses than they've ever seen before, as a fan of WEC, I'm kind of sad. Their final show is on Thursday, and, true to form, it's packed to the gills with two championship matches and an undercard with tons of potential for a really great night of fighting. But after this show, gone are the days of nothing but lighter weight fighters going bell to bell with reckless abandon. Sure, each UFC card will have a few bantamweight and featherweight contests, but it'll be spread out between fights featuring the bigger guys.  Don't get me wrong, UFC is a tremendous organization that regularly puts on great cards, but the nature of the sport is such that they very rarely match the quality of each and every one of WEC's shows.

Anybody who's ever been curious about whether or not they'd be into watching MMA should really check out the show on Thursday at 6pm EST, 9pm PST. You won't be disappointed...and if you are, then it's probably not the sport for you, and that's okay.

On Thursday, we finished our in-class discussion of Homer's Odyssey. You were tasked with finishing the story on your own and completing the plot point notechart.

Friday, we moved forward.

This last Monday was spent on review for the final, which consists of two tests: one is a department final that is a skills-based assessment, and the other deals with mythology and The Odyssey.

Thursday and Friday were spent finishing up Pleasantville. There was a bonus opportunity on the backside of the note assignment that only one person decided to do.

Monday, you received your graded culminating papers. Those of you that did less than stellar have the chance to revise and rewrite them. Along with the Final Step, a short response assignment that asks you to reflect on the book, your performance on the culminating paper and the project as a whole, the rewrites will be due the day of your final.

Good luck to everyone on the rest of their finals. I know this comes a little late into the process, but getting a better night's sleep than I'm going to get tonight and eating a hearty breakfast will do wonders for your focus on any tests you still need to take. I hope everyone does well!

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