With the UFC's signing of a TV deal with FOX last fall, there were promises of changes to their production structure as well. Last night was the debut of one of those changes: a second announce team for the lower rung cards on Fuel TV and FX. Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan are still the primary team for the pay per view and Fox events (including all prelims), but the shows taking place on FX and Fuel would have a new annouce team: Jon Anik, formerly of ESPN, and UFC fighter Kenny Florian. The pair made their debut during last night's show on FX, and they were generally very good.
Anik, who was a studio host for ESPN's MMA Live before joining the UFC in the fall, made his live play by play debut during last night's event and was solid. He called all the in-Octagon action very cleanly, rarely slipped up, and was good on post-fight interviews. Florian, who's had experience calling fights for the UFC before, was his usual self, which is knowledgeable and a little loud at times. The two didn't have a lot of chemistry, and there were a couple periods of dead air, but that will take care of itself in time. Anik also seemed a tad bland on his play by play, refusing to show much emotion with his calls, and treating a generic mid-fight takedown the same as he would a fight-ending punch.
The show also featured pre and post fight shows on Fuel, with the pre-fight show going on between prelim fights, and the post-fight show coming on after the main FX card ended. Those shows were hosted by Fox's Jay Glazer, whom I'm sure you all know from his appearances on Fox NFL Sunday, and UFC fighter Stephan Bonnar. Glazer was his usual self, but seemed to have some nerves going with his delivery. Bonnar is a little wooden, but adds a unique perspective to commentary with his bluntness and good sense of humor. Bonnar has experience commentating as well with the WEC (former UFC sister promotion) and also on MMA Live appearances with Anik. During the pre and post-fight shows, there were also backstage interviews and newsy-type segments with MMA reporter Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com. Helwani hosts The MMA Hour radio show/podcast every week and is a natural with the mic. He's also been doing interviews for his site after shows for years and knows exactly what he's doing. It's a welcome addition to the team and Helwani is slowly being phased into more UFC programming. In fact, Helwani is a member of the UFC Tonight show that recently debuted on Fuel.
Overall, the new announcing team did a good job. Goldberg and Rogan have their quirks, and it was weird to watch a show without either commentating, but it was a nice breath of fresh air for the company. I'd like to see Helwani do his backstage thing during PPV events as well because I thought that was a good break from the nonstop video packages and plugs that usually inhabit these types of shows.