It seems, much like the Wrestlemanias and Royal Rumbles that remind wrestling fans that another year has passed, the UFC has a compilation highlighting what some may consider the greatest fights for that calendar year. With numbered events making it hard to call any one UFC pay-per-view "the grand-daddy of them all," the UFC has strived off uniformity, despite the fact that their combatants don't appear with every card, or every event.
It's amazing how fast a year can go by when you watch any year-round sport, but there are times when the events transcend the time in which they were filmed. They are the pinnacles of the sport, the ones containing moments sure to be shown in clip reels for years to come, highlighting everything that can go right in the UFC. With 'UFC: Best of 2009,' many of these moments have been culled together to form one forceful narrative, a barrage of black and blue, bloodied battlers, that represent the greatest fights this last year.
Some can easily argue that some of these bouts are hardly the greatest in the MMA league's 12 month period, and I could easily agree with that statement, but with so many events, it's hard to single any "best of" list. This compilation covers many of the greats, while others that didn't quite make the cut are referred to in a number of short features that play in between some of the bouts, that highlight particular fighters' year in the sport, or the impact of a weight class on the calendar year. On to the fights! (Please note that this review will not disclose any winners or vital fight details, so that one can view this release blindly and appreciate the fights, even if some of them are over a year old now. There are no spoilers in these brief recaps and descriptions of the fights found on this release.)
Matt Hughes vs Matt Serra (UFC 98) - A rock 'em sock 'em brawl to start out the compilation. This bout features plenty of back and forth action, with a variety of fighting techniques, rather than monotony. While low on drama or major takedowns, the two Matts create a solid fight out of a standing feud.
Carlos Condit vs Jake Ellenberger (Ultimate Fight Night, Oklahoma City) - While the previous fight was fairly fast tempo at times, it has nothing on these guys. Big blows (high risk, high reward), reversals, submissions, and quick changes of fortune are the name of this game...in the first round, as the match quickly changes pace and theme. I'm massively disappointed with the commentators on this one, as they proclaim "Once! And twice! Three times!," without ending it with "a lady." Ah well, these guys just don't have a sense of humor...They also don't have a sense of awareness, as they proclaim an audience is on their feet, as we can see the attendance sitting on their asses instead.
Nate Marquardt vs Demian Maia (UFC 102) - I sure hope these combatants can last longer with their sexual partners than they can in the ring. Blink, and you'll miss it. The only thing great about this match is the humor in the slow motion replays.
Rich Franklin vs Vitor Belfort (UFC 103) - A less than spectacular or engaging fight, one of those ones that causes me to wonder if this really is the best in a year's period.
Nate Quarry vs Tim Credeur (Ultimate Fight Night, Oklahoma City) - Ground and pound? Nah. These two vets engage in what equates to more of a kickboxing match than an MMA bout for a very lengthy period of time. Finally some serious bloodshed is shown in this release, then the bout turns technical and brutal. Big, big hits are the story of this bout, which is pretty damn entertaining.
Anderson Silva vs Forrest Griffin (UFC 101) - And now, for something different, watch as Silva will back off of a downed opponent and shake his hand mid-match. Griffin doesn't give anywhere near as convincing a performance as he does in the previous Blu-ray compilations, as this is hardly even a match.
Rashad Evans vs Lyoto Machida (UFC 98) - An undefeated vs undefeated championship bout! Also, a damn uninteresting bout that can be at times called a dance, rather than a showdown. Once it gets going, it gets going, but Evans sure does make you wait for it.
Chuck Liddell vs Mauricio Rua (UFC 97) - A fun match (any match with Liddell getting hit more than he hits is fun in my eyes), with nice improvisation, hard hits, ridiculously tight shogun shorts, and a nice bit of back-and-forth.
Keith Jardine vs Thiago Silva (UFC 102) - Umm, what? I'd hardly call this short little exhibition the best of anything. Not the best short match, not the best finisher or take down, nothing.
Diego Sanchez vs Clay Guida (The Ultimate Fighter 9) - What a way to start a match and get the audience interested! This miniature slugfest features lots of blood, turns of tide, hard hits, tactical ground action, and even more blood. A fantastic fight, worthy of any "best of" compilation.
Randy Couture vs Antonio Nogueira (UFC 102) - These two bigs hammer it out on their feet and rolling around on the mat, with a slow paced ugly little brawl. A solid technical fight, low on thrills, but high on technical expertise and veteran guile.
Brock Lesnar vs Frank Mir (UFC 100) - The main event from the biggest event in UFC history, in Las Vegas. Nearly everyone already knows what happened between Mir and Lesnar in their first meeting, and this highly publicized rematch, this time with each competitor sporting championship belts. This match pissed off the audience at first, as they didn't expect Lesnar to play it slow and close, but it...wait, no, it was nothing but chest on chest short range thumping. The most hyped match of the year? Easily. The best? Far, far from it.
I can honestly say I remember being more enthralled by the 2008 release of UFC's "best of," but that may be due to the fact that I knew many more of the outcomes of the bouts on this year's compilation in advance. That said, I found myself questioning many of the choices found on this release, though the inclusion of bonus fights (see the extras for this release) make up for it. The release, in general, is the exact same in feel and theme as the previous year, with one notable exception: I can't recall hearing as much booing in the 2008 release's fights. Call me crazy, but when the audience is getting that pissed off with the fighters, then I'd hardly call that something great.
If anything, it's worth noting that at nearly three hours, this release can, at times, feel somewhat like a chore, and it is wholly recommended that one only view the feature, or the bonus fights, in one sitting. This release contains approximately six hours worth of fights, which may seem like overkill to even hardcore fans. Still, it's great bang for the buck!
'UFC: Best of 2009' arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4, 1080i encode (1.78:1) that is a slight improvement from the 2008 compilation, with the same strengths and weaknesses, just not as much of the weaknesses over the runtime of the program. It isn't necessarily a bad transfer by any means, it just isn't stunning, eye catching, or strong enough to garner praise.
Macroblocking is present but fairly faint, while aliasing is still an issue (particularly in that damned Xyience barcode logo on the mat and trunks of combatants), though to a lesser degree as in compilations past. Shimmering is also still present, just less prevalent, while motion blurring is about on the same level. Artifacting is minor, but present more often than I would have preferred. Black levels are natural, but there is a slight crushing effect. Also worth noting is a single pixelation glitch, found in the Couture vs Nogueira bout.
Colors are strong, particularly in the more bold trunks and ring advertisements, though the reds in the Lionsgate movie advertisements (particularly the one for 'Gamer' that pops up a few times) have an awkward glow to them. The never steady camera movement isn't helpful with the interlacing and attempts to spot some of the more fine object detail, even in close ups. Skin tones are perfect, with great bruising, and no orange or red tints. White levels are spot on and crisp, and blood was visible dripping even at a distance.
"Rich just called to Matt Hume, he can't hear him."
"I think that means talk louder."
Yes, that ever-so-wise retort in the commentary was actually a part of this release, and what better line could be used to describe UFC's Blu-ray outings? The audio for 'Best of 2009' comes by way of a Dolby Digital Stereo mix that is a light improvement on previous disasters, but is still not worth praising by any means.
The commentators are normally the prioritized voices, though the audience members still find a way to overpower them regularly. In ring action is lightly discernible, mostly little rumbles from weight shifts in the ring, with very very light swooshes from punches and some tiny impact pops. Crowd chanting becomes uniform random noise often. Volume levels stay fairly constant, save for when the crowds chant a participant's name, with tiny spikes, but for the most part a regular level of intensity, or lack there of. The stereo effect works nicely, and there is clear separation, but really, we're talking about stereo here. The audio is often flat and uninspired, but it doesn't do too bad a job, considering what it is. A step forward, but still, not a very inspiring audio situation.
Disc one: St-Pierre vs Penn (UFC 94, 25 min), Swick vs Hardy (UFC 105, 20 min), Akiyama vs Belcher (UFC 100, 19 min), Machida vs Silva (UFC 94, 6 min), Nogueira vs Cane (UFC 106, 4 min), and Bonnar vs Jones (UFC 94, 18 min). The St-Pierre vs Penn battle is epic, absolutely epic, while Akiyama vs Belcher has some very fun moments, including a bad ass superman punch (yes, that's its name) and a nasty low blow that gets a few choice replays.
Disc two: Griffin vs Franca (UFC 103, 11 min), Diaz vs Guillard (Ultimate Fight Night, 9 min), Sherk vs Edgar (UFC 98, 18 min), Stevenson vs Diaz (The Ultimate Fighter 9 Finale, 18 min), Penn vs Florian (UFC 101, 24 min), Carwin vs Gonzaga (UFC 96, 3 min), Velasquez vs Kongo (UFC 99, 18 min), and Cro Cop vs Dos Santos (UFC 103, 18 min). Really, these fights pale in comparison to most of those found in the first disc, but they're still entertaining, and a nice variety of styles and weight classes.
The UFC is still going strong and getting stronger, but this year's "best fights" left me wanting something different rather than something more. The fights in the supplements to the headliners are often better. Still, there's a hell of a lot of UFC fighting on this release, so much so that I can't recommend viewing this entire package in one sitting. Like all UFC Blu-rays, the video and audio aren't exactly strong points, but the audio has improved since the 2008 compilation. The biggest change between last year and this year has to be the huge pile of bonus fights, that are often much longer than those in the feature. This release is for fans only, despite the fact that most of those fans will already own or have seen many of these battles.