Yesterday, UFC veteran and color commentator Brian Stann shocked the MMA world with his departure from the UFC Broadcasting squad. Stann cited a great opportunity in real estate as his reason for leaving the spot (looks like Al Iaquinta might be onto something…). Stann’s beginnings in commentary were shaky at best, but in recent memory he had developed into a very formidable broadcasting option. Stann will be missed by some and others won’t miss a beat due to Snoop’s blockbuster deal with the organization. Color options in a young sport such as MMA can often be as thin as the Women’s Featherweight roster. The position is extremely difficult. A star must be extremely knowledgeable in the sport, but also appealing to the average fan. Given this, who are the top commentators in the game today?
3. Jimmy Smith
Bellator color guy Jimmy Smith comes in at number 3 in the power rankings. Jimmy has a solid overall knowledge of the sport but also comes off as an average Joe. His analysis of Bellator fights proves not only to be intelligent, but easy listening as well. Jimmy is a master of breaking down complex fight details into layman terms. This is something that can often be undervalued by hardcore fans and become a source of negative reviews. His energy is exceptional, sometimes to the point that people accuse him of being fake (eh ehm, Joe Rogan). To me, his energy has always seemed sincere. Additionally, he has even tweeted out negative thoughts on Bellator sideshows like Kimbo Slice vs. DaDa 5000 as they are happening. Jimmy seems to be genuine in every sense of the term. The only thing holding Smith back is the fact he is absolutely horrendous at judging rounds. Luckily, MMA judges often prove to be just as inadequate and thus he makes the list.
2. Dominick Cruz
Dominick Cruz comes off to be as arrogant of a UFC fighter as can possibly be imagined. In the broadcasting booth it is almost unbelievable that he can come across just as arrogant. The thing that makes him so arrogant is the fact he is undeniably talented. Cruz is possibly the best Bantamweight fighter of all time, and the most educated person to ever cover a live fight from an MMA standpoint. It is also evident his elusive movements in the cage has helped him to steer clear of CTE. Cruz is a clean cut guy who speaks very well. Many fighters have great knowledge of the sport, but there are very few who possess the intelligence to compose and articulate analysis in real time. Some fighters struggle to stay awake on camera (sorry, Chuck), but Dominick Cruz shines brightest in this spot. The one knock on Dominick Cruz as a color guy currently is he makes his preferred style of fighting too obvious when speaking. Often times he will over analyze takedowns and the ground game. He finds himself discussing whether anything involving the ground should be scored by the judges for far too long. It is easily apparent when listening to him speak that he is a fighter who would much rather be on his feet in the cage. Regardless, in a short matter of time Cruz has climbed the ranks of the best MMA broadcasting has to offer. One can only hope he sticks with it and continues to progress. If this happens, he will be the voice of the UFC’s future.
1. Joe Rogan
Yup, I said it. I will be wearing a bulletproof vest around hardcore MMA fans for the next few weeks. The truth is undeniable though when looking at the grand scheme of things. Much like the sport they are covering, MMA, color commentary is about being the best mix of everything. Taking this into consideration, Rogan still occupies the throne. I won’t argue Rogan is more knowledgeable in the sport than Cruz, that would be foolish. That is actually the reason they don’t mix well broadcasting together. Two alpha males in MMA knowledge too often clash on a broadcast. This doesn’t take away from the fact Joe knows his stuff. Rogan is a mixture of high end MMA intellect, crazy energy, true fandom, and subtle humor. Furthermore, Rogan is as close to a household TV personality as the UFC will find. This based on his fame developed through his career as a comedian and forcing game show contestants to eat Cow testicles. Joe is the most appealing of the current options in the MMA world to new fans and average fans alike. He also has the talent to continue to appeal to those fans who prefer in depth analysis, although he is not likely their top choice. All of these things combined, and Rogan is still the top option and likely will continue to be for much time to come.
Honorable Mention: Daniel Cormier, Dan Hardy, Pat Miletech