To many combat sports enthusiasts, the Ultimate Fighting Championship appears to have the potential to replace boxing as the top fighting sport for spectators.
I'd like to see a comparison of receipts between the last three pay-per-view boxing events and UFC 59, 60 and 61. Or, if you prefer, ask the person sitting next to you to name a current boxing champion in any weight division. Meanwhile, UFC fighters like Matt Hughes are becoming household names.
But first, the UFC needs to live up to its own hype.
UFC 61 - Bitter Rivals, which took place Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, was for many a big disappointment.
The undercard fights were OK -- if you don't mind the sight of two fighters rolling around in a pool of blood.
Joe Stevenson, from the UFC reality show, and Yves Edwards were putting on a great show until Edwards got a head cut that refused to stop pouring out blood, although he otherwise seemed unhurt.
Understandably, the doctor stopped the fight. Stevenson showed true sportsmanship by admitting after his victory that "the fight could have gone either way" but for the cut.
Watching the behemoths Frank Mir and Dan Christison gasp for breath as they tried to gather enough energy to finish their fight was entertaining, to some degree. Mir was awarded the decision.
The match between Tito "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" Ortiz and Ken "The World's Most Dangerous Man" Shamrock, billed as "the ultimate grudge rematch," turned out to be a huge disappointment, however.
The highly-anticipated fight was called after only 1 minute and 18 seconds when the referee decided Shamrock was not "intelligently defending himself" against the five or six quick elbow strikes to the head from Ortiz following a body slam.
While I agree it is best to err on the side of safety, Shamrock was clearly not hurt -- no visible bruises, cuts or swelling -- despite Ortiz's claim that Shamrock "went limp." He never looked limp to me.
Ortiz gloated while Shamrock -- who was upset about the referee's call -- was escorted away by security.
It would have been nice if officials could have awarded Ortiz the win but then called for an instant rematch -- although I'm sure authorities don't allow that sort of thing.
Fans sounded as upset as Shamrock at the outcome but the next big fight was a disappointment of another kind.
Following a decent bout between Josh Burkman and Josh Neer, which Burkman won in a decision after three rounds, UFC heavyweight champion Tim "The Maine-iac" Sylvia and Andrei "The Pit Bull" Arlovski faced off for a title bout and apparently forgot they were not in a boxing ring.
While the first two Sylvia-Arlovski fights were action-packed matchups, this one was 25 minutes (five 5-minute rounds) of amateurish fisticuffs. The fight never went to the ground and while Arlovski managed to bruise Sylvia's left knee with some kicks early in the fight, he abandoned the tactic in later rounds.
In the end, Sylvia retained his title in a decision.
UFC 60, with the matchup between Hughes and Royce Gracie, was definitely a more enjoyable experience, although the end of the Hughes-Gracie match came to an end too soon as well when Gracie let Hughes mount his back and then failed to defend himself.
In this case, however, I think fans were more surprised by Gracie's inaction than the ref's decision to call the fight -- even though everybody I've spoken with who saw the fight believe Gracie could have weathered the last 14 seconds to make it out of the round.
It was so uncharacteristic of a Gracie to first give his opponent his back and then fail to put his hands in a defensive position, that I've even heard speculation that the fight was fixed just to build anticipation for a rematch.
Given the hype before these two UFC events and the disappointing results, UFC's fighters and referees appear to be letting a golden opportunity to usurp boxing's crown slip from their fingers.