UFC's second Blu-ray release, 'Best of 2008,' is much in the same vein as the first release, 'Ultimate Comebacks:' a compilation release filled with matches that fit a specific theme, rather than an entire event. Fans of MMA action are already well aware of the UFC, while newcomers can readily jump into the mix at any time, as there are no complex "story lines" or long running feuds as found in the WWE.
This compilation covers a wide range of matches, from UFC 80 to UFC 92, though not every pay-per-view event is represented here. For those unaware of the outcomes of these fights, please note that this review will not disclose spoilers in any way. Amusingly enough, the UFC doesn't mind spoiling the fun, as the opening segment to the disc discloses many victories for the matches found below.
After a recap of the year in UFC in 2008, we're thrown headfirst into the bloodiest match on the release, with BJ Penn facing off against Joe Stevenson, at UFC 80. This bout is definitely not for the weak of heart, as there is a ridiculous amount of blood pouring off the combatants, pooling up on the mat, and this bloodshed somewhat overshadows a fantastic match. Next up is BJ Penn and Sean Sherk, from UFC 84, in a match that encompasses three very boring rounds of boxing with an abrupt conclusion. Possibly the weakest match on this release. Matt Serra and Georges St-Pierre get their turn in the limelight next, duking it out in a somewhat one-sided match from UFC 83 that certainly pleased the audience members, who were a bit biased in their desired outcome. Wanderlei Silva and Keith Jardine's bout from UFC 84 is over before it begins, a credence to the "anything can happen" motto that the WWE once lived by.
Next up are a pair of fights featuring a one time golden boy from the WWE, Brock Lesnar, a newcomer to the UFC. His debut match against Frank Mir at UFC 81 showed his inexperience, but Lesnar showed he was more than hype, putting on a fantastic battle with Randy Couture at UFC 91, in a fantastic bout showing a wide range of skills in a back and forth battle, which was certainly one of the stronger matches on this release. Frank Mir gets another appearance on this release, as his match with Minotauro Nogueira at UFC 92 is absolutely fantastic, a great example of the MMA format that ends the first disc.
Disc two starts out with a bang, possibly the best match found on this compilation, with Quinton Jackson facing off against Forrest Griffin at UFC 86. This constant back and forth endurance test lasts far longer than any other featured on this release, and is the only bout that goes to the fifth and final round for a championship match. Rampage is featured again on the next match, against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 92, in a match that is a whimper compared to the previous bout's roar. Chuck Liddell fights Rashad Evans next, from UFC 88, in a strong match with an awesome finish, while the compilation comes to a close with Rashad Evans facing off against Forrest Griffin at the last PPV of the year, UFC 92, a predictable bout that is inferior to the bouts on this disc featuring both fighters.
As is the case with any "best of" list ever made, there are sure to be many who don't agree with the fights that were labeled as the best of an entire year's worth of matches, and considering the lack of emotion and interest some of the above found matches had, I'd have to agree, but that doesn't stop this retrospective from being any less of a great introduction to the sport for the unaware, or the casual fan. Unlike 'Ultimate Comebacks,' 'Best of 2008' isn't predictable at every turn, creating a more enjoyable experience, rather than a repetitive mess.
'Best of 2008' arrives on Blu-ray in a 1080i VC-1 encode that is a significant upgrade in picture quality compared to the only previous UFC Blu-ray release, 'Ultimate Comebacks.' That doesn't mean this release is stunning by any means, but an upgrade is an upgrade.
Colors are solid and strong. Reds can be absolutely stunning, coming from the open wounds of the fighters, especially in the very first fight, with the pools of blood piling up in the octagon. Aliasing is evident, especially in the segmented marks on the mat, or in the Bud Light logo in the middle of some of the events. Artifacts and macroblocking again make an appearance, as does motion blur, though it's nowhere near as prevalent as the previous release. Shimmering pops up a few times, but again, it's nowhere near as ugly as on 'Ultimate Comebacks.'
Skin tones are accurate, and again the wear and tear of the fights show on the bruised and tattered arms, legs, and torso of each combatant. Color and sharpness can fluctuate during a few of the matches, which was a bit annoying. If you're on the edge, deciding whether to purchase this title on DVD or Blu-ray, the upscaled standard definition content (often found in the promo vignettes) on this release will show how much better this release looks, and with the budget price, the choice should be obvious.
While 'Best of 2008' sounds superior to the previous UFC Blu-ray release, that doesn't make this Dolby Digital Stereo mix a winner by any means.
Again, the colorful commentary is the primary audio element, and this track is elevated to a volume level that drowns out the crowd noise without breaking a sweat. The audience sound is mostly incomprehensible, a wall of noise that readily drowns out the action in ring action. The fighting itself is almost on mute. The commentators will scream about how powerful an impact was, and you'll be left scratching your head, as it didn't appear to register even a puff in the audio mix. Sure, there are the occasional noises that can be heard from the bouts themselves, mostly the swooshing of an attempted punch, but it is nowhere near acceptable.
On the bright side, unlike the 'Ultimate Comebacks' release, when the color team elevate the volume and emphasis in their voices, the sounds they make don't seem wrecked with feedback. The dialogue is clear, from the in ring announcers, the vignette narration, and the commentators, so that is a step in the right direction. An improvement, but not entirely respectable. When we, the audience, can actually hear the fight, you know, the reason we're watching this program in the first place on one of these UFC releases, then the score will go up. Until then, UFC releases deserve the pathetic scores they receive in the audio department.
Extras! Sadly, there aren't many features to be found, but their inclusion is still welcome, to help round out this release.
Call me crazy, but I see no reason to have two single layer discs rather than one dual layer one, especially when the main feature itself spreads across both discs. Anything that can fit on two BD25's can fit on a single BD50, it's just simple math. Anyways...'UFC: Best of 2008' is an improvement over 'Ultimate Comebacks' in every way, from the content to the video, audio, and the inclusion of extras, but there are still some problems. This is a fantastic recap release, and would serve as a great introduction to the sport. As such, I can say this one moves past being "for fans only," into the realm of "worth a look" for fans and non-fans alike.
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