Arguably the best moment of the sports weekend went mostly unnoticed by the mainstream media. Maybe it's because the UFC is still battling for positioning against more established sports, but watching Quentin "Rampage" Jackson go nose to nose with Rashad Evans in the Octagon after Jackson dismantled Evans' friend, Keith Jardine, was exactly why UFC is one of the fastest-growing sports organizations.
It was a moment that has become somewhat of a UFC signature to build its next big pay-per-view. It's a mixture of WWE storytelling, old-school boxing bravado and an underlying commitment to cut through the red tape that has doomed boxing and competing MMA organizations.
There is no mystery when you look at the UFC champions and the pecking order of challengers below them. Every card and every match builds towards the next show like a constant playoff. In fact, Brock Lesnar's win over Randy Couture and Frank Mir's win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria on two separate cards within a month of each other at the end of last year were like a couple of semi-final matches setting up the mega fight between Lesnar and Mir for the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Championship this summer.
As opposed to the confusing, disjointed cards put on by the dozen or so boxing promoters who can never agree on anything, there is no confusion in the UFC. If fighter A wants to fight fighter B and the fans want to see it (i.e., it will draw money) the fight will happen. In boxing you usually have to go through the alphabet a couple times just to get the two fighters to even agree on where a proposed fight would take place.
The drama this creates is undeniable. Instead of a match ending and fight fans having to wait a year reading about what Bob Arum or Don King or Richard Schaefer have to say about ongoing negotiations, just moments after Jackson wins his fight he turns around and sees Evans, the man holding the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship he felt he never should have lost. What ensued was a classic stare down and trash talk session that simply can't be matched by any press conference tango boxing promoters would like to stage between their fighters to build interest in their fights. Needless to say, the intrigue and interest for their fight, tentatively scheduled for May 23 in Las Vegas, will be heightened.
One of the aspects that draw fans to watch sports are the consequences that each game or match is supposed to have in a long winding domino-like season that leads to the championship game. It's what makes the playoffs so exciting. We like knowing, quite simply, that if team A wins and team B wins, they will play each other. It's probably one of the biggest reasons why the UFC has surpassed boxing in the sports landscape.
While fighters and promoters in boxing continue haggle over who gets the biggest cut of the pie, they are slowly watching it sliced away, piece by piece, by the UFC. Soon there won't be anything left for the sport once known as the "sweet science" that has now become as convoluted as quantum mechanics.