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Early word on UFC 98 countdown

Da Meltz has the scoop:

–I got an advanced copy of the UFC Countdown show that debuts after Impact tomorrow night on Spike. To me, the Hughes-Serra stuff will end up with Serra as a pretty big heel but it was also the best selling job of a match, with the possible exception of Penn-St. Pierre, dating back to Lesnar-Mir I. They also did a great job of making Lyoto Machida look like a star and Rashad Evans like a superstar. But when it’s over, it is very clear it’s Hughes and Serra who are the ones who are going to make this show a success. Mostly Serra, with Hughes coming off as the aging babyface shutting up a loud mouth.

It seems from Big Dave’s description that the belt is getting a bigger rub from an epic grudge match than the competitors vying for it. It’s very interesting to see that the most indeterminate title match in UFC history is being upstaged by the co-main event. It makes a sense, though, seeing that Hughes vs. Serra has a longer and more chronicled history to it’s booking. Hughes’ mini-feud with Serra on TUF 4 (when Serra started the d**khead meme) and the carryover hype from TUF 6/UFC 79 means the fight has a much better head of steam than something booked three months ago.

Also compelling is the portrayal of the four men. Machida is put over as a star, but Rashad a “superstar”. Having not seen the show and being none privy to any motives, we can infer that the UFC wants Machida to be put over by beating the champ. Evans has crushed people left and right on the way to becoming the #1 Light Heavyweight in the world so he doesn’t need the nudge someone like Lyoto does. Keep each man’s respective fights with Tito Ortiz in mind when pondering their promotion: Rashad’s was a co-main event while Machida’s was the second of the night. From the experience of a pro-wrestling and boxing fan, Rashad is being promoted as a mega star to make it a much bigger deal when Machida inevitably defeats him. Storytelling 101 on display right there.

On the Hughes/Serra side, it looks like Matt Hughes is being put in the fan favorite position – likely as an apology for the Alves debacle where he took a main event on short notice against someone who didn’t make weight. Being booked as the villain, Serra is apparently carrying over the vitriol from fans that stems from his rematch with GSP (On that note: it’s funny to realize GSP is the catalyst for this feud). Very curious to see the direction they’re going with edits, as this fight is rumored to be each man’s swan song. Making Hughes the good guy who wins creates a great story to induct him into the UFC Hall of Fame with this July.

This show is extremely heavy on the drama – much more than the last few UFCs – so it should be great. It airs on Spike tomorrow night (Thursday) at 11 PM EDT.