Wednesday, February 23, 2005

UFC: Ultimate Knockouts 1 & 2

Like eating an ice cream cone for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Ultimate Knockouts skips over the substance of these Mixed Martial Arts knock-down drag-outs and gets right to the flash, splicing one knockout after another in rapid succession. It's good fun that doesn't get old quite as quickly as you'd imagine.

I'm just now starting to gain my bearings in the MMA world, and found Ultimate Knockouts a welcome introduction to a lot of UFC's past and present stars, not to mention an entertaining two hours' worth of action. While there are very few matches in their entirety in either presentation, (naturally excluding the fights that last a minute or less) most chapters pick up a full minute or two before the actual knockout itself and as such provide a solid, albeit brief, backstory to each face-off. You've generally got enough time to gather, both from the announcers' descriptions and from the fighters' conditions, where the fight has been and what kind of an impact the big knockout is packing, just before the fight comes to its explosive conclusion.

Part one is loaded, start to finish, with uninterrupted fight footage. Each chapter is immediately preceded by a quick screen that names the competing fighters, but you're on your own to tell them apart if you're a fresh fan as I was. Once a fight ends, the coverage sticks around for a few minutes, presenting the announcers' immediate reactions, the winning fighter's celebration and a few replays, before jumping headlong into the next fight. It's a bit dizzying, really, as you're never given any indication of when and where each fight took place... you just madly fly from arena to arena, sometimes jumping into the middle of a brawl-in-progress, sometimes watching the ref's instructions. In the end, though, you're left hungry for more... the disc does its job and delivers the goods without hesitation.

Part two takes a little more time introducing each fight, as lead announcer Mike Goldberg and legendary fighter Chuck Liddell chat briefly about the competitors, the timeframe of the event and the strategy that led to each victory or defeat. Liddell doesn't really look like he wants to be there, and Goldberg often has to drag a response out of him, but the interludes are kept short and give viewers the chance to catch their breath that was missing from the first volume. Probably my favorite aspect of the second chapter is the inclusion of a timeframe for each fight, along with the decision to include knockouts from the earliest UFC events right alongside the beatdowns of today. By working their way up from the second and third UFCs to the present day, (or, rather, present day at the time of the disc's release) you really get a good idea of the path UFC as a whole has walked and how the sport itself has evolved since it was first conceived.

Interestingly enough, there seems to be no shortage of great material here. Part one is chock full of great fights and thrilling knockouts, and part two is more of the same. The quality never wavers, and I'm intrigued to see if they managed to stretch the concept through to part three without slowing down or padding it with weak footage. Worth a serious look, whether you're an MMA rookie looking for a primer or a longtime fan who wants to remember.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 8.1

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