(Looks like Andrei’s the only thing standing between Fedor and another trip to the scary rollercoasters. That is not a safe place to stand.)
Is it sad that this installment of Ben vs. Ben is forced to dwell on questions surrounding Affliction’s possible demise? A little, but that’s life. We can’t just pretend that they aren’t paying Andrei Arlovski roughly 20,000 t-shirts for an event that has no clear path to a profit…or does it? That discussion and more awaits you below.
What are the odds that this is Affliction’s last show?
BF: -300. In other words, 3-1 odds that we’ll never see another Affliction MMA event again. I’m not happy about that, but if I’m being honest I have to look at how difficult it’s been for them to get a second show together, how much they’ll spend on it and how little of that will be recouped in ticket sales or pay-per-view revenue, and I can’t see how they justify another money pit of a show after this.
Of course, three has always been their magic number. That’s how many shows they said they were committed to, and it would give them the chance to put on the Josh Barnett-Fedor Emelianenko fight they’ve obviously been angling for since the start. But if Arlovski’s getting over a million bucks for this fight, imagine what it would cost to put on Barnett-Fedor alone, not to mention the rest of the card. It would be an obvious money-loser, and even Affliction can’t bleed cash forever. If they don’t pull out a miracle on Saturday night, they’re going to pack it in.
BG: I really hope nobody at Affliction has their fingers crossed and breath held for this miracle of which you speak. Between Margarito/Mosley and the UFC’s usual counter-programming and market saturation, Affliction won’t even be outperforming their first event in terms of ticket sales or pay-per-view buys. But I have to assume that they already know this. Maybe Atencio & Co. are bad at running an MMA organization, but they’re not childish enough to believe that money will literally fall out of the sky. And yet they sign Gegard Mousasi to fight in their third event, and announce they’ll be promoting four events a year with Golden Boy.
I’m not Affliction’s CFO, so I don’t know how much money the company is willing to lose on this MMA pursuit. But is it naïve to think that they wouldn’t be making these concrete plans if their future really depended on the financial performance of "Day of Reckoning"? Short answer: yes. Still, I’m going to set the odds for this one at a more generous -200. Now if I could just find a gambling site that offers a parlay bet on "Affliction won’t put on a third show" + "Tito Ortiz will never fight again," I could probably make a decent profit…
If Affliction does survive long enough to put on a third event, what lineup would you like to see?
BG: Assuming Fedor Emelianenko and Josh Barnett both win tomorrow night, this is the best PPV card that they could realistically put together for "Affliction III: Sexxxplosion" (working title):
- Emelianenko vs. Barnett, obviously
- Tito Ortiz against the winner of "Day of Reckoning"’s Renato Sobral/Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou fight
- Gegard Mousasi in his light-heavyweight debut against the winner of "Day of Reckoning"’s Antonio Rogerio Nogueira/Vladimir Matyushenko fight
- Andrei Arlovski vs. Aleksander Emelianenko, as long as Aleks isn’t facing a permanent ban from U.S. competition. If he is, Affliction should bring in someone like Sergei Kharitonov or Dave Herman to put against Arlovski.
- Fabricio Werdum vs. Tim Sylvia
- Jay Hieron (assuming he beats Jason High tomorrow) against the winner of the Paul Daley/Nick Thompson fight at next month’s MFC 20 card (assuming he could be poached from his MFC contract)
Toss in Matt Lindland, Vitor Belfort, Ben Rothwell, and Kirill Sidelnikov somewhere on the HDNet undercard broadcast, and you’ve got yourself a stacked MMA event, ladies and gents. If only Affliction could afford it…
BF: There’s no reason to assume Barnett and Fedor won’t win, unless you like imagining worst case scenarios for Affliction that are also pretty unlikely. So there’s your main event, though just that fight alone will be enough to bankrupt them. But as long as we’re dealing in fantasy, let’s picture a world where Aleks can fight in the U.S. and where Arlovski doesn’t come with a prohibitive price tag, and then pit them against one another for a fight I would genuinely love to see.
Kharitonov-Rothwell would be a lot of fun, as would Belfort-Mousasi. Tito Ortiz, however, needs to do something different in order for me to give a damn. Maybe go up to heavyweight and fight Werdum, or else have a rematch of the good old days against Vladdy Matyushenko.
Other than that, I can only suspend my disbelief so much. There’s no way they can pay for the fights I’ve just mentioned unless they have a) ceased to care about the bottom line entirely, or b) located some hidden pirate treasure we don’t know about. Now that I think about it, Tom Atencio does look like he’s one fluffy shirt and an eye-patch away from passing as a pirate. Though who isn’t? I mean, when you get down to it.
How does the main event end, and when, and how will it change MMA’s heavyweight landscape?
BF: Maybe my judgment is clouded by how sick I am of hearing about Andrei Arlovski’s boxing skills, but I don’t see how he wins this fight. His stand-up is good. That’s a given. But you’re never going to beat Fedor by really good at one aspect of MMA. You have to beat him everywhere, or at the very least beat him badly in one place and force a stalemate everywhere else.
As good as Arlovski looked on his feet against Ben Rothwell, his ground game hasn’t come along at the same pace. It’s still comprised of a loose guard and the same straight footlock that beat Tim Sylvia four years ago. That won’t cut it. Fedor takes him down and submits him midway through the second.
Afterwards not much will have changed. Fedor will still be at the top of the heavyweight class. Arlovski will still be somewhere below him but still in the top ten. On and on until Fedor either signs with the UFC and puts to rest any doubts of his greatness or else retires after a few more bullshit fights in Japan.
BG: You know what, I think Arlovski’s new obsession with boxing is going to fuck around and get him killed. He can use all the "angles" he wants, but there’s really no way to prepare for the blitzing overhand-murderballs that Emelianenko throws in standup exchanges. The problem with training in a traditional boxing gym like Freddie Roach’s is that you’ll never find a sparring partner who can replicate Fedor’s completely un-traditional style. Plus, Arlovski’s chin has already been a question at several moments in his career. Maybe Fedor is tired of armbarring people and wants to challenge himself by shooting out his opponent with striking. And I think he can do it, particularly in the second round. A big right hand will make the Pitbull’s legs give out, and Emelianenko will close the coffin with a couple more shots from the top.
Since Fedor isn’t signing with the UFC in our lifetime, the only notable consequence that can come out of this event is if Arlovski walks away from Affliction — having failed to defeat the Russian White Whale — and re-signs with the UFC, where he’d add even more possibilities to their resurgent heavyweight class. With him and Alistair Overeem in the mix, no longer would the name "Cheick Kongo" be mentioned in a discussion of the UFC’s best heavyweights. The dark times are nearly over. Can you feel it?
Let’s say that Affliction gives out UFC-style end-of-night bonuses. Who would get them for "Day of Reckoning"?
BG: I have a good feeling about the Renato Sobral/Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou match for Fight of the Night. We all know Soko will open the fight throwing bombs, trying to cut down Sobral standing, but Babalu is a gamer, and will hang in until the African Assassin begins to fade in the second round. Sobral will score the finish in the third, via some sort of choke, after an exhausting scrap that leaves both men beat halfway to hell.
But the more satisfying choke – and therefore the Submission of the Night – will of course be Josh Barnett’s rear-naked on Gilbert Yvel. It’ll be set up with Barnett knocking Yvel down – I know, right? – then setting up the sub on the ground. But Gilbert will be too proud to tap, so he’ll go to sleep. The ref will pull Barnett off, after which Babyface will jump onto a turnbuckle and do his thumb-across-the-neck thing; the 4,500 people in attendance will lose their shit.
The evening’s best knockout will happen in the first round of the Paul Buentello/Kiril Sidelnikov fight, following a wild exchange of power punches. It’s kind of a coin toss here, but I’ll say Baby Fedor starches the older veteran.
Each bonus, theoretically, would be worth $250,000.
BF: If we’re talking about bonuses that are handed out fairly, and not just as a way to slip some extra cash into a Russian Last Emperor’s pocket, I’d say Barnett and Yvel will put on enough of a show to be worthy of Fight of the Night. Obviously, Barnett wins, but I think Yvel puts up a fight first and the showman in Barnett forces him to finish with a little flair, say by a crazy flying heelhook.
Knockout of the Night, that’s going to be Vitor Belfort turning out the lights on Matt Lindland. It won’t be easy. Lindland is the kind of guy you have to damn near kill to put him away, but late in the fight his takedown attempts will get slower and Belfort’s hands will still be sharp. Mid-third round, Lindland catches a hard left on the chin and gets a ticket to the land of nod.
Submission of the Night is Fedor finishing Arlvoski with an armbar, I think they’re called. If it takes more than one round, I’ll be surprised. If it takes more than two, I’ll be downright shocked.