Evaluating Affliction

One of the questions that I keep thinking about is whether or not Affliction in here to stay and whether or not they will compete with the UFC.  No one disagrees that UFC is the standard of MMA right now, but Affliction is making up ground quickly.  It has been a tell tale sign of a slight change that Affliction has signed so many guys lately including many of the stars from the now defunt IFL, which was bought by the parent company of the UFC, Zuffa.  Affliction has signed Champs Roy Nelson and Vladimir Matyushenko.  They have signed lightweight star Chris Horodecki and are rumored to have welterweight champ Jay Hieron.  Affliction is cleaning up the free agents and doing better in that regard than even the UFC as of late.  So, what is there to judge a promotion…

1. Fighter Talent – Fight promotions are fight promotions.  There are other factors that come into play, but primarily if a promotion does not have top level talent they will not stay relevant.

2. Show Quality –  While good fighters is essential, the promotion must put on a good show.  They must entertain fans.  This includes exciting fights, good commentators and a solid show production.  Promotions have to build shows people will come to or buy.

3.  Solid Managment –  Managment is important to a fight promotion, not just anyone can do it.  A promotion may suceed or fail based ont he business savvy of the fight promoter or president.  The PR, fighter pay, contracts, TV deals, etc. all come into play here.

With that said, let’s see how Affliction is doing…

1. Fighter Talent…

There is a lot of hype around Affliction’s fighter talent.  Here is who I can think of off hand that they have and will use on their cards

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Andrei Arlovski
  • Josh Barnett
  • Tim Sylvia
  • Ben Rothwell
  • Roy Nelson
  • Pedro Rizzo
  • Paul Buentello
  • Aleksander Emelianenko
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Vladimir Matyushenko
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral
  • Mike Whitehead
  • Edwin DeWees
  • Vernon White
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Matt Lindland
  • Jay Hieron
  • Mike Pyle
  • J.J. Ambrose
  • Chris Horodecki

I went to HDNet’s Rankings to see how many Affliction Fighters were ranked in the top 100 pound for pound or top in their divisons  here is the results.

(Pound for Pound Rank, Divison Rank)

  • Fedor Emelianenko (2, 1)
  • Andrei Arlovski (25, 4)
  • Josh Barnett (27, 5)
  • Tim Sylvia (55, 7)
  • Ben Rothwell (81, 12)
  • Roy Nelson (84, 13)
  • Pedro Rizzo (NR, 19)
  • Paul Buentello (NR, NR)
  • Aleksander Emelianenko (76, 10)
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (85, 13)
  • Tito Ortiz (87, 15)
  • Vladimir Matyushenko (66, 12)
  • Renato “Babalu” Sobral (92, 16)
  • Mike Whitehead (NR, NR)
  • Edwin DeWees (NR, NR)
  • Vernon White (NR, NR)
  • Vitor Belfort (NR, NR) – Unfairly I’d admit
  • Matt Lindland (22, 5)
  • Jay Hieron (59, 11)
  • Mike Pyle (NR, NR)
  • J.J. Ambrose (NR, NR)
  • Chris Horodecki (NR, NR)
  • Put this into perspective, out of the top 100 the promotions faires like this in pound for pound top 100 fighters…

    • UFC -39
    • Affliction – 13
    • DREAM -12
    • WEC – 10
    • EliteXC – 10
    • Strikeforce – 5
    • World Victory Road – 3

    The point is that Affliction’s talent is overrated. 

    • They are right about the level of DREAM talent wise
    • They are no where near the talent level of the UFC
    • 10 of the Affliction guys that appeared on the rankings list have fought in the UFC before.  Some have been sucessful.  There are several former UFC champs (Sylvia, Barnett, Rizzo, Ortiz and Arlovski), however most of them did no better than fair in the UFC (see Matyushenko, Hieron, et. al)
    • Most of the top Affliction guys are in the second half of their careers and are past their prime.  They still have fight left in them, don’t get me wrong, but not for the long haul
    • What happens if two or three of those gusy get injured?  Affliction is hanging their hat on Fedor, Barnett, Arlovski and Ortiz.  They cannot keep putting everyone on every card, they will run out of match-ups.
    • To their credit, they can put on good fights.  The talent isn’t bad.  Their guys can fight exciting fighter, but they have exciting fights at tough man competitions. They need to sign younger talent and more talent.

    Show Quality…

    • I cannot judge them solely on their sole show.  Affliction needs to improve their show quality as far as commentating, interviews and production is concerned
    • Also, I thought with the exception of the last 3 fights the card wasn’t what it was billed to be
    • They are nowhere near the UFC level as far as enjoyability to watch

    Solid Managment:

    • The UFC with Dana White and the Fertitas is still the managment standard.  I have problems with the UFC and Dana White’s managing style.  I don’t like his constant expletives, I don’t like the way he trashes other promotions, I don’t like the stubborness he exhibits with signing guys like Lindland and Barnett, and even Fedor.  However, Dana is crafty.  Atencio is no Dana White.  Watch his video below where he can’t remember Josh Barnett’s name and he is the main event for the second show. 
    • Affliction does have the deep pocketed Donald Trump behind them which helps.  Trump is a business guiness, but he doesn’t neccessarily know MMA.  The money helps thought he same way it helped having Lorezon and Frank in the UFC early days when they lost tons of money.

    Here is the point folks…Affliction is a solid upstart company.  They may be around for a while, but before we jump ont he bandwagon and label them peers to the UFC and competitors to the UFC let them get through a few shows first.  Let’s see how much money they lose after 3 events.  Let’s see how many fights they can do after 3 card.  They could compete, but as for now it is the UFC and then everyone else.  Zuffa is sitting pretty in the MMA world.  They are the big leagues, everything else is just the minors.  Affliction, EliteXC and DREAM are in the same boat and in a year from now at least one of them will be non-existent.

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    Donald Trump and Affliction

    It has been learned that multi millionaire Donald Trump has some involvment with the upstart MMA promotion Affliction.  Affliction will host a huge show on July 19th featuring many great fighters.  MMARated reports:

    at tomorrow’s Affliction press conference in Manhattan, Donald Trump will be announcing that former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, has officially signed with the upstart promotion. The Executive Vice President of The Trump Organization and the Special Counsel to Donald J. Trump, Michael D. Cohen, confirmed the news with MMARated.com.

    It has long been rumored that Arlovski would be facing Ben Rothwell on the inaugural Affliction card but Mr. Cohen would not officially comment on when “The Pit Bull” would be making his debut. We should, however, find out more tomorrow.

    Trump will also announce that he has become an equity partner in the Affliction promotion. When asked what percentage of the organization he now owns, Mr. Cohen would only say “a significant amount.”

    Finally, when asked if Trump’s relationship with Tito Ortiz would help bring the former UFC light heavyweight champion to Affliction, Cohen said:

    “Everything that Donald Trump does is the biggest and the best and the “Afflcition: Banned” show will be just that.

    Due to the status of the Trump mark, and Donald Trump as a mogul business man, Mr. Trump has received dozens of phone calls from fighters who are interested in joining the Affliction family.”

    Obviously, the point is that Donald Trump has deep pockets.  That will obviously help Affliction.  Many fighting promotions get off to a bad start, but not Affliction.  It seems that financially Trump will be willing to invest in them.  Also, is addition to the money Trump has the know how to run a busisness and run it well.  He will be a bonus for Affliction.  The upstart promotion is also expected to officially announce what I reported several days ago, that Andrei Arlovski was signed to a deal and would take on Ben Rothwell.  Affliction has many good fighters and a good card set up.  Their divisons look like this:

    Heavyweight:

    1. Fedor Emelianenko

    2. Tim Sylvia

    3. Josh Barnett

    4. Andrei Arlovski

    5. Ben Rothwell

    6. Aleksander Emelianenko

    7. Pedro Rizzo

    8. Paul Buentello

    Light HeavyWeight

    1. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

    2. Renato “Babalu” Sobral

    3. (Possibly Tito Ortiz)

    4. Mike Whitehead

    5. Vernon White

    Obviously, following that they do not have much competiton in the other weight classes.  Also, we may wonder how many possible match-ups can they have with 8 Heavyweights.  They do have some solid big guys, they have 6 top ten type fighters in the world.  I expect that they sign more fighters as time goes on.  The age and mileage on the guys they have is a worry for me, but the July 19th fights ought to be good and we ought to see not only good Affliction match-ups, but also good inter-promotional match-ups.  Affliction could make the Couture vs. Fedor fight happen.  Affliction could utilize other guys as well from organizations willing to work with others like EliteXC, Strikeforce, DREAM, and IFL.  With the Donald on their side Affliction instantly became a competitor with the UFC in the likeness of PRIDE.  They will attract fighters on the promise of better pay and better treatment as well as flexibility to work with other promotions.  I don’t look for Affliction to flop quickly.

    Who Benefited Most From PRIDE’s Collapse?

    When PRIDE fell they were clearly the biggest competitors with the UFC, having many of MMA’s top guys.  They had some big time stars. Then PRIDE got into trouble and was bought by Zuffa.  So who benefited the most from PRIDE’s deminse?  There was a mad scramble to sign those guys who were now unemployed. I have been critical of the UFC’s ability to sign top PRIDE guys like Fedor, Gomi, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Arona, Kang, Mousasi, Melendez, etc. However, it looks like the UFC has done great due to PRIDE’s fall.  I ranked the PRIDE guys at the time of their collapse in order of who I would want to sign and the UFC benefited from it.  Now, the guys they have signed haven;t had huge success, but they are popular and will win eventually.  Can you imagine the UFC heavyweight divison without the influx of Nogueira, Werdum, and Herring???  The light heavyweight divison also was greatly boosted with the signings of Shogun, Wanderlei, Dan Henderson, Nakamura, and Sokoudjou.  UFC just struggles to get the lightweights. UFC signed 13 of those guys I listed and they have faired well, this doesn’t even include other guys who came in before the fall of PRIDE like “Rampage” Jackson.  Out of those guys you have some stars now in the UFC, some guys that can draw a crowd and one of them owns the belt (Nogueira).  DREAM and Affliction seemed to clean up what UFC couldn’t sign.  DREAM picked up the ligtweights, signing 8 of those PRIDE guys.  Affliction has a few signings.  So while I am critical of the UFC, let us give Dana and the UFC brass some credit for signing many of the top PRIDE guys.  I still would like to see the best of the best in one place, but it won’t happen, so this puts things into perspective and the UFC did good and benefited the most from PRIDE’s fall.

     

    Name

    Fight Organization Signed With

    Fedor Emelianenko

    Affliction

    Wanderlei Silva

    UFC

    Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

    UFC

    Mirko Cro Cop

    UFC (DREAM)

    Takanori Gomi

    World Victory Road

    Dan Henderson

    UFC

    Josh Barnett

    Affliction

    Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

    UFC

    Paulo Filho

    WEC

    Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

    HCF

    Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou

    UFC

    Ricardo Arona

     

    Gilbert Melendez

    Strikeforce

    Fabricio Werdum

    UFC

    Gegard Mousasi

    DREAM

    Denis Kang

    DREAM

    Aleksander Emelianenko

    Affliction

    Marcus Aurelio

    UFC

    Akihiro Gono

    UFC

    Kauo Misaki

    DREAM

    Ricardo Almeida

    UFC

    Heath Herring

    UFC

    Joachim Hansen

    DREAM

    Ryo Chonan

    UFC

    Kazuhiro Nakamura

    UFC

    Tatsuya Kawajiri

    DREAM

    Mitsuhiro Ishida

    DREAM

    Alistair Overeem

    Strikeforce

    Kevin Randleman

     

    Phil Baroni

    EliteXC

    Hayato “Mach” Sakurai

    DREAM

    Murilio Bustamante

     

    Murilo “Ninja” Rua

    EliteXC

    Fighting Organizations Rankings

    I have ranked the organizations before, but here is the updated rankings of who has the best product.

    1. UFC – Still the best of the best.  Has more ranked fighters by far.  Has the most recognizable names in the likes of Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin, Shogun, Wanderlei Silva, Rampage Jackson, Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Georges St. Pierre, Matt Hughes and B.J. Penn.

    2. Affliction – By far the best competitive heavyweight divison with Fedor, Tim Sylvia, Aleksander Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Ben Rothwell, Pedro Rizzo and maybe Arlovski.  Not to mention Lindland, Whitehead and Babalu. 

    3. WEC –  The WEC has some star power, but is in the UFC’s shadow majorly.  The growing featherweight divison will help them as will the bantamweight with star Miguel Torres.  Guys like Condit, Stann, Filho and Faber give WEC the name recognition.  WEC still seems to be the minor league UFC.  Their success will not come with the bigger fighters, but with lightweights, featherweights and bantamweights. 

    4. EliteXC –  Their CBS deal will help them.  Kimbo can be a star.  They do great partnering with other promotions like Strikeforce and allowing guys to fight in DREAM. 

    5. DREAM – DREAM 1-3 have been solid with solid fighters especially lightweights and middleweights. Has guys like Aoki and Ishida as well as Caol Uno and Kwajiri. Has other guys fight for them like Alvarez, Gilbert Melendez, JZ Calvancante, Diaz, Cro Cop, Jason Mayhem Miller, Manhoef, Denis Kang, Mark Hunt, Jacare, Kid Yamamoto, Sakurai and Hansen. 

    6. Strikeforce – They have a few good fighters which helps them greatly.  They have Thomson, Le and Melendez

    7. World Victory Road –  They don’t have an American appeal, but they do have Gomi and some other solid Japanese fighters.  Also they have Kazuo Misaki, Kevin Randlemen, Jeff Monson, and Nick Thompson

    The Stars of the UFC

    There is a recent shift in stars of the UFC.  Those stars are the great investments, the money makers. The stars are not necessarily your best fighters, but they are well liked by the fans and they draw a crowd.  The stars are the people that the UFC will market and set up to be successful.  The stars get the most money and the best fights.  The stars have a louder voice with the UFC brass.  Some of those stars have been discontent like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Tito Ortiz.  Those guys leaving hurts the UFC.  The guys the UFC recognizes as their stars are the ones they need to cater to more.  The stars are prized in all MMA organizations.  The WEC has Filho, Faber, Condit, and Stann.  PRIDE had Fedor, Cro Cop, Barnett, Wanderlai, Dan Henderson, Gomi, Arona, Shogun and the Nogueira brothers.  EliteXC has Lawler, Kimbo, Frank Shamrock, and Carano.  Strikeforce has Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le.  The stars are not always the champs, but they may be.  In the UFC there is a shift.  The old guard is moving on.  They are still there, and still draw a crowd and are still good PPV fights, but in a few years will be gone.  The old guard consisted of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes.  There is a star level, then there is a second tier level of guys you want to hold onto at all costs, who have a following, and then there is the emerging star tier. Then you have your great fighters who perform in the octagon are respected, but may not have the charisma to be the face of the organization.  These guys can win and hold belts, but they won’t be the Chuck Liddell’s.  This system explains why the UFC gives a title shot and coaches spot to Forrest Griffin, who i no way has earned the title of number 1 contender.  He is good, but not that good.  He may eventually earn that, but this is premature.  Why did he get it?  Because he is popular.  He will sell PPVs and people will watch TUF because of him.  Personality will carry a guy a long way, just look at the Houston Alexander bandwagon. A lack of personality will hurt a guy, just ask Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, who if they had the charisma would be stars because they have the ability.  These guys can move up and down these different levels, but some guys have already been crowed as stars and can do little to harm that.  Your stars are the guys you hold on to at all costs.  Your second tier you want to keep because they are your contenders and can become stars.  Your third tier you be careful with because they can become stars if you play your cards right.  Your fourth tier are some of the best fighters, they put on good fights, they win fight night bonuses and they should be signed and kep in the organization if you can.  The effect of a star leaving the UFC is much greater than when someone else does.  The UFC is hurt by loosing their four biggest heavyweight stars Couture, Cro Cop, Arlovski and Sylvia.  The UFC is not so much hurt by loosing Jake O’Brien.  It would be nice to keep O’Brien, but if you can’t you move on.  Also, you sign MMA free agents based on this tier.  I and many others consider Fedor for example a star level guy, an instant smash hit and a great investment.  You pay him well, but he will make you money.  Dana White apparently considered him second tier, and didn’t sign him.  My opinion you give the Fedors and the Couture and the Liddells whatever they want.  My system looks like this:

    UFC’s Stars:

    • Anderson Silva
    • Georges St. Pierre
    • B.J. Penn
    • Rich Franklin
    • Chuck Liddell
    • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
    • Forrest Griffin
    • Tito Ortiz
    • Matt Hughes
    • Wanderlai Silva

    Second Level: UFC’s Near Stars:

    • Brandon Vera
    • Matt Serra
    • Jon Fitch
    • Diego Sanchez
    • Dan Henderson
    • Josh Koscheck
    • Sean Sherk
    • Kenny Florian
    • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
    • Rashad Evans
    • Michael Bisping
    • Joe Stevenson
    • Gabriel Gonzaga
    • Chris Leben
    • Karo Parisyan
    • Clay Guida

    Third Level: The UFC’s Emerging Stars:

    • Brock Lesnar
    • Roger Huerta
    • Mac Danzig
    • Joe Lauzon
    • Cain Velasquez

    Fourth Level: UFC’s Stud Fighters, but Not Stars:

    • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
    • Fabricio Werdum
    • Keith Jardine
    • Frank Mir
    • Thiago Silva
    • Heath Herring
    • Lyoto Machida
    • Marcus Aurelio
    • Yushin Okami
    • Marcus Davis
    • Patrick Cote
    • Evan Tanner
    • Stephan Bonnar
    • Martin Kampmann
    • Marvin Eastman
    • Ricardo Almeida
    • Mike Swick
    • Thiago Tavares
    • Nate Quarry
    • Wilson Gouveia
    • Nate Marquardt
    • Kauhiro Nakamura
    • Jason MacDonald
    • Demian Maia
    • Thiago Alves
    • Thales Leites
    • Frank Edgar
    • Matt Hammil
    • Nate Diaz
    • Akihiro Gono
    • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
    • Gray Maynard
    • Hermes Franca
    • Cheick Kongo
    • Din Thomas
    • Spencer Fisher
    • Tyson Griffin

    Note: The reality show really helped some of these fighters draw a fan base, because people saw them on TUF they root for them to suceed in their careers

    UFC’s Competition

    I have been critical of Dana White’ abilitiy to sign the free agents in the MMA world.  I think the bottom line is that Dana is unwilling to bend.  I just heard that Jacare, an excellent jiu-jitsu guy signed with DREAM.  The negotions broke down with the UFC because Dana felt they wanted too much money.  Maybe he is right, but nevertheless Jacare is now in a competitong organization.  Furthermore, it seems the UFC fails to sign top notch fighters especailly Japanese guys like Ishida, Ayoki or Sakurai.  There are other top level fighters that the UFC couldn’t sign.  Worse than that there are several top tier guys I don’t know if the UFC even cares about (Jakes Shields, JZ Calvancante, Gilbert Melendez).  He won’t sign Fedor.  He won’t sign Lindand.  In my opinion UFC will never be a monopoly and has some serious competition. With some of the internal problems and some of the UFC stars upset we could see another organization become the “big dog” in MMA.  In my opinion here is UFC’s biggest competitors.

    1. EliteXC.  Dana’s feud with Shaw hasn’t helped.  Shaw is a much more typical commissioner than White.  The CBS deal will bring them in a lot of viewers, but will also help all MMA.  They have some stars in EliteXC (Nick Diaz, Jake Shields, Cung Le, Robbie Lawler). They are willing to take chances as seen by the future star Kimbo Slice.  They offered Fedor, and may get him.

    2. WEC – I know it is Zuffa owned, but they have some great fighters that the UFC should bring over to the UFC.  I don’t know why you have another organization with top level fighters.  They have some great guys that would translate well anywhere (Paulo Filho, Carlos Condit, Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, Doug Marshall, Brian Stann, Rob McCullough, Jamie Varner, Chael Sonnen, Leonard Garcia and Jens Pulver)

    3. DREAM – Not much competition now, but has some good fighters (Sakurai, Cro Cop, Calvancanti, Ishida, Aoki, Denis Kang, Yamamoto, Joachim Hansen, Eddie Alvarez and Mark Hunt).  The American market is next to nothing though.

    4. World Victory Road — Josh Barnett and Takanori Gomi enough said.  A few more big names and they have something good.

    5. Strikeforce.  Not great competition, but still have a few guys any monopoly would want (Frank Shamrock, Josh Thompson and Gilbert Melendez)

    6. ICON.  They have Jason “Mayhem” Miller and a future star in Kala Hose.

     Right now the UFC is doing fine.  They have a few competitors, but they are still the big leagues.  They have the best fighters.  Some divisions they are better than others.  For example at Light Heavyweight they have a near monopoly and at welterweight they are doing pretty well.  There are several key free agents out there (Fedor, Arlovski, Couture).  If EliteXC or someone else picks up the other guys they can really compete.

    PRIDE Fighters in the UFC

    Before the collapse of PRIDE one could very well have argued that PRIDE had a larger dose of top tier fighters than the UFC.  When some of those fighters came to the UFC I expected them to dominate and win the titles fast.  I still believe that they had some good fighters, but if we look at the PRIDE stars in the UFC they haven’t done greatly, but I might add they haven’t done as poorly as some would suggest.  Let’s look at the best of the PRIDE fighters in the UFC.

    • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua — he lost to Forrest Griffin in his only UFC match.  I would still bet on him to beat Forrest and think he could still hold the title.  His injory may have hurt him here.
    • Mirko Cro Cop – Lost to Gonzaga and Kongo.  He was the best fighter I had ever seen before his UFC career.  I look for him to fight once more in the UFC and be out quicly in some other organization.  That will hurt the UFC if a group like M1 has, Fedor, Josh Barnett, Arlovski, Couture, Aleksander Emelianenko and Cro Cop.  That would be better heavyweights than the UFC has. 
    • Wanderlai Silva — He is fighting in the toughest divison.  Granted he lost his debut, but he put on a great fight!  He may not be the Wanderlai he used to be. 
    • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira –  He is 1-0 in the UFC.  He wasn’t impressive against Herring, but he still could hold the title by Saturday. 
    • Fabricio Werdum — He looked bad against Arlovski, but great against Gonzaga, appears to be next in line for a title shot. 
    • Rameau Thierry Sokodjou – Lost to another PRIDE guy in Machida.  Perhaps he was over-hyped.  Or Perhaps Machida is just that good.  He isn’t going away any time soon. 
    • Dan Henderson – He is 0-1 since his return, but he lost to a great fighter.  Also, if he looses to Anderson Silva that doesn’t mean he has disappointed. 

    Why are these guys struggling?

    • Some are out of their prime (Wanderlai and Cro Cop)
    • Some of the rules differences hurt them.  The lack of being able to stomp really hurt Shogun and Wanderlai. 
    • The cage vs. the ring.  Cro Cop learned quickly he needed to train in a cage it is a different ball game. 

     Don’t beat them up too bad,  Rampage Jackson fought in PRIDE and lost some in PRIDE to these guys, now he holds the UFC title.  I still think we could see PRIDE fighters holding 3 of the titles by Spring time.