Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Monday, May 09, 2005
Mixed Martial Arts--- Pride's Announcers Have a Bad Night, and Phil Baroni Gets Yet Another Chance

by Ivan Trembow for MMAWeekly.com

Was I the only one scratching my head at the thought that Pride saw fit to sign Phil Baroni to a contract? Even if it's just to fight on the smaller Pride Bushido shows, the fact is that Baroni's MMA record is not much better than Tank Abbott's. And while Tank Abbott was once a PPV draw, Baroni has never shown himself to be a PPV draw. The UFC's pay-per-view buy-rates have always been comparatively weak on the East Coast of the United States, and the UFC's attempts to change that trend using Baroni and his New York roots were never successful.

Of all the former UFC fighters who are no longer in the UFC, this is who Pride decides to sign? Baroni's record in the UFC was three wins and five losses. The man hasn't won a fight in the UFC in almost three years. Looking at Baroni's last four UFC fights, he lost a one-sided decision to Matt Lindland. Then he got grounded-and-pounded into oblivion by Evan Tanner, and decided immediately afterwards that it would be a good idea to start throwing punches at the referee. Then he lost another one-sided fight to Evan Tanner. To cap it all off, Baroni was ultimately choked out by a kid named Pete Sell who has fought a grand total of one fighter with a winning record in his short MMA career. Yup, that seems like someone I'd want to sign if I were in Pride's shoes.

To top it all off, after inexplicably being given a second chance to make it on the big stage, Baroni showed his deep appreciation for and understanding of Asian culture by referring to an Asian fighter as "Pork Fried Rice" during color commentary on the latest Pride broadcast. So not only is he a winning fighter, but he's all class...

Pride's Announcers Have a Bad Night
Pride announcers Mauro Ranallo and Bas Rutten were very critical of many fights during the recent Total Elimination 2005 event, and they have since been surrounded by a firestorm of criticism. I agree with the basic statement of the people who have been saying that Ranallo and Rutten were way too hard on the fighters during the event, but as is often the case, the criticism has gone way overboard.

First off, I should state for the record that I believe Mauro Ranallo and Bas Rutten are normally very good at what they do, and I wouldn't say that they "ruined the event" by any means. But in general, they were way too critical of fights being "boring" and fighters "not bringing it." In some cases, the comments were warranted, like when Kevin Randleman spent the vast majority of his fight gasping for air and doing nothing after he gassed out. In other cases, their comments were downright ridiculous, such as criticizing Igor Vovchanchyn as he was putting on a grappling clinic, dominating Yuki Kondo, and showing the world that he is a now a versatile fighter with a good ground game and not just a one-dimensional stand-up fighter.

In general, I think many of the things that the announcers said were boring were not, in fact, boring. It just seemed like if a fight was going to a judge's decision, that automatically meant it was "a boring fight" to the announcers. I would expect that kind of thinking from a casual MMA fan who doesn't understand the sport, not from two seasoned MMA announcers like Ranallo and Rutten.

There were two comments in particular that I thought were particularly egregious. The first was when Mauro Ranallo said at the end of the Arona-Lister fight, "Let's go to the footage... I won't call them highlights." That is just plain disrespectful to the fighters, and is something that I would expect someone to say if they've never seen an MMA fight before. The fact is that Arona and Lister put on a grappling showcase that was far from the best fight in recent Pride history, but also far from the worst. The fight did indeed have plenty of highlights, it just had its fair share of inactivity as well. It's your job as announcer to draw the viewers' attention away from the inactivity and towards the highlights.

The other comment that I found particularly glaring was Bas Rutten's statement that he's sure Igor Vovchanchyn is going to look at the tape of his fight with Yuki Kondo and be disappointed with his performance. Really? If your criteria is just, "Win by KO or it's disappointing," then I suppose Vovchanchyn would be disappointed, but that's not how MMA works. I'm pretty sure I saw Vovchanchyn dominate the fight, dictate his will on a great ground fighter, show the world how good he is on the ground, and land a good amount of hard ground-and-pound. Despite Rutten saying during the fight that Igor's punches had no power, many of them landed with an audible thud and caused Kondo's head to bounce off the mat. I thought Rutten was way too critical of a fighter who was actually putting on his most impressive performance in a while Again, the fact that the fight went to decision doesn't automatically make it an "un-impressive" victory.

It's very challenging to be an announcer for a sport where a significant percentage of the audience is watching it for the first time and has not yet determined if they like the sport. As an announcer, one has to strike a delicate balance. One side of that balance is saying things like, "The mandate here in Pride is action" in order to point out to new viewers that the fights are normally much more exciting than what they are watching at that moment. The other side of that balance is that if you go too far in criticizing the efforts of the fighters, you're simply undermining the product and making it come off worse to viewers than it otherwise would. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan always seem to do an excellent job of finding this delicate balance, and normally Ranallo and Rutten do as well.

Regardless of what was or wasn't "boring," the fact of the matter is that Ranallo and Rutten were not doing their jobs. The job of an announcer is to "sell" the action that is taking place. That doesn't mean being a shameless shill and referring to a lackluster match as an all-time classic, as I would be criticizing that just as much.

The announcers in any sport are supposed to make everything come off better to the viewers than it otherwise would. Announcers can make decent fights come off like good fights, good fights come off like great fights, and great fights come off like all-time classics. They can make a bad fight more bearable and can point out the things in the fight that are good, or try to talk to newer viewers about the technical aspects of what they're seeing. The last thing an announcer should EVER do is make a good fight come off like a bad fight, or disrespect a decent fight as if it's a waste of everyone's time. On this night, Ranallo and Rutten simply failed to do their jobs as they spent far too much time complaining about the fights and not enough time actually calling the fights.

However, as much as I was disappointed in the performances of Ranallo and Rutten at Total Elimination 2005, the criticism of their performances has been taken to an extreme on MMA message boards. Ranallo and Rutten normally do a very good job, and people shouldn't over-react to one bad night. The MMA community has never been accused of running short on hyperbole or overstatement. If someone has one bad night, it seems that a large segment of the MMA population is ready and eager to jump on them and treat them as though they're worthless.

According to this atmosphere of hyperbole, when Chuck Liddell had a very bad night against Randy Couture at UFC 43, Liddell suddenly became a one-dimensional fighter who was "exposed" and was certainly not among the elite fighters in the sport. When Couture had a very bad night against Liddell at UFC 52, suddenly Couture was "done" and had "been exposed." When Matt Lindland had a very bad night against David Terrell, suddenly Lindland was a loser who we shouldn't see in the UFC anymore. When Terrell had a very bad night against Evan Tanner, suddenly Terrell was a loser who we shouldn't see in the UFC anymore.

The list could go on and on for pages. If you make a career out of having bad nights, like Tank Abbott or Phil Baroni, then there's a legitimate problem. But the fact of the matter is that one bad night in MMA is just that--- one bad night, no matter how many people over-react to it.

It's no different for Mauro Ranallo and Bas Rutten at Total Elimination 2005. I feel strongly that they had a very bad night, but having one very bad night does not mean that you should be fired or that you're incompetent. Just as Ranallo and Rutten should have cut the fighters more slack during Total Elimination 2005, the MMA community should cut Ranallo and Rutten more slack.

Labels: ,