Commentary

Does Affliction have a fighting chance?

Is Andrei Arlovski fit for Fedor Emelianenko? Can Gilbert Yvel behave himself? Will Affliction still be promoting after Saturday? Sherdog asks the tough questions ahead of "Day of Reckoning."

Originally Published: January 19, 2009
By Jake Rossen | Sherdog.com

As infomercials go, Saturday's three-hour Affliction "Day of Reckoning" telecast promises to be relatively painless -- providing you're not a participant.

The apparel company's second semi-charitable show is low on tomato-can stock, and like the best events, it promises to pose questions about records, careers and legacies. The $44.95 pay-per-view premium is the price paid for answers.

Cases in point:

1. IS THE "OLD" VITOR BELFORT HIDING AT 185 POUNDS?

There's no denying that Belfort's iconic performance at UFC 12 in 1997 guaranteed him work in MMA for as long as he desired: Slicing through a heavyweight tournament, Belfort embarrassed the competition with his athleticism and hand speed. Viewers knew he was something special.

[+] EnlargeVitor Belfort
Darryl Dennis/Icon SMIA lean Vitor Belfort is a dangerous Vitor Belfort.

Belfort -- and fans -- have been chasing that potential ever since.

Disinterested performances and personal strife followed; mid-fight, Belfort was predisposed to easy knockouts of his will. But like Mike Tyson, the clichéd comparison, he would always draw a crowd -- one waiting to see a glimpse of the kinetic terror that had once thrilled them.

Shedding bulk -- he had ballooned to upward of 230 pounds -- Belfort fought at 185 in July for Affliction, scoring an impressive knockout of canned-ham-handed Terry Martin. Saturday, he makes a significant step up by opposing Matt Lindland, a wrestler who can shut down virtually anyone.

It's a tall order for Belfort, who traditionally hasn't done well against wrestlers -- Dan Henderson, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz have all handled him -- but if he can put up a fight against Lindland, it bodes well for his future as a Shrinky-Dinked contender.

2. DOES FREDDIE ROACH MATTER IN MMA?

Hardly a minute passes by in the hype footage for Andrei Arlovski that someone doesn't mention Freddie Roach, the renowned stand-up trainer for hands as skilled as those of Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao. We're supposed to be galvanized by Roach blessing us with his presence in MMA, boxing's ugly kid sister, and by Arlovski's sharpened striking ability.

[+] EnlargeArlovski and Nelson
Tom Casino/Showtime Andrei Arlovski's deadly knees proved too much for Roy Nelson, but how will they fare against Fedor Emelianenko?

Roach has even committed to media record that Arlovski has a future in boxing -- something to be taken with a grain of salt, considering Jake La Motta once said the same thing about Robert De Niro. (Inflation of ego is one unwritten duty of hired handlers.)

But boxing is boxing, and MMA is MMA. Roach has openly dismissed grappling, and it's questionable whether he will be able to adopt his proven philosophies for a sport with as many variables as this one. Arlovski looked sharp against Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson, but both men are hardly known for their takedowns or kickboxing savvy; in both cases, Arlovski needed -- and got -- a boxing match with four-ounce gloves.

Against Fedor Emelianenko, his Roach-informed style might be shut down the moment his opponent decides to get underhooks. De La Hoya, after all, never had to worry about the mount.

3. CAN GILBERT YVEL BEHAVE HIMSELF?

[+] Enlarge
sherdog.comAll bets are off the moment Gilbert Yvel climbs into the cage.

This space previously hosted an indoctrination of Yvel, as bad a boy as we have in MMA, calling into question the intelligence in giving him a prizefight in the states. Yvel has repeatedly ignored the laws of good sportsmanship to gouge eyes, strike illegally and even knock out a referee. He makes Tank Abbott look like Sportsman of the Year.

Sitting on an "Inside MMA" panel Friday, Yvel was contrite and even charming, promising to mind his ring manners against Josh Barnett. Whether it's genuine sentiment or not, you could hardly expect him to say anything else. Like Andrew Golota before him, who was given opportunity after opportunity to clean up his act, the civilian Yvel is likely a different animal than the fighting Yvel. In the heat of the fight, he seems to lose his grasp on proper judgment.

Misconduct is rarely tolerated in other life-altering jobs: police, fire, air traffic control. Yvel has two tree-trunk thighs and dangerous hands. In the wrong frame of mind, he's a lethal weapon. Why he's been given a permit is still in question.

4. WILL AFFLICTION SURVIVE?

Ticket sales are slow; ticket sales are booming. Pay-per-views are threadbare; pay-per-views are in the six figures. Affliction won't last; Affliction is here to stay.

Spin from all angles abounds where it concerns the promotion alternately described as "upstart," "struggling" and "cash-strapped." In employing Emelianenko, Barnett and Arlovski -- heavyweights with price tags as large as their necks -- Affliction has set itself up for the short-term gain. Two or three shows with daunting payrolls are one thing, but five or six? Ten? Inconceivable.

With this -- only the second show in six months -- Affliction vice president Tom Atencio will gauge whether there's a retention rate in his audience, whether Emelianenko possesses box-office power on the level of his right uppercut and if a top-heavy card is a better business strategy than a series of modest evenings.

5. WILL ANNOUNCER TITO ORTIZ USE THE TERM "FOR SURE" MORE OR LESS THAN 24 TIMES?

Take the over. For sure.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to Sherdog.com.

Jake Rossen is a contributor to ESPN.com. His byline has appeared in the New York Times, Wired.com, and numerous other outlets. He began covering mixed martial arts in 1998.