MMA fans who weren’t paying attention to the announcement of a new European/UFC Fight Pass commentating team might have been surprised at hearing voices other than the standard “B-Team” of Jon Anik and Kenny Florian when today’s Fight Pass card started. However, it quickly became apparent that this new team, consisting of former UFC Welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy, John Gooden, and ring announcer Andy Friedlander, brought an informative, exciting, and refreshing change of pace to the UFC viewing experience.
Andy Friedlander, who brings soccer announcing experience into the octagon, brought an intensity to his in-ring announcements from the first preliminary bout into the main event that was a bit more boisterous than a Bruce Buffer, but not in a way that was over-the-top or cheesy.
John Gooden, the play-by-play man, did an excellent job throughout the night as well. Gooden, who has experience in both competitive judo and amateur boxing, brings a more subtle and knowledgeable approach to the fights than a Mike Goldberg or a Jon Anik, which is a refreshing change. He also does an excellent job of knowing when to be quiet and let his partner Dan Hardy take over, an excellent trait to have as a play-by-play man.
The real star of the team, without a doubt, was Dan Hardy. The UFC Welterweight, who is on a hiatus from fighting due to a Wolff-Parkinson-White diagnosis, is very intelligent and articulate, and seems right at home in the booth. His color commentary was concise, on point, and consistent, and he clearly worked hard on doing research for all of the fights. Like Gooden, Hardy says what he needs to, but does so in a more subtle way than Joe Rogan or Kenny Florian would. There was certainly less yelling than normal, though the commentary was never boring or overly reserved, and he still managed to interject plenty of personality into the card.
Before the event, Hardy told MMAfighting.com “I think we can improve the quality of the commentary, without taking anything away from anyone else. With me and all my experiences, we can point out things fans haven’t seen before. I’ve experienced everything from a four-fight losing streak to a world title shot. I’ve experienced that pressure and can relate that to the fans.”
Hopefully Hardy will be able to overcome his WPF diagnosis to fight again, but in the meantime, he has found a great home as the European and Middle-Eastern color commentator for the UFC. Not only did he do an excellent job with his ringside-announcing, but he did surprisingly well at in-cage interviews, a spot where many a man has faltered. Overall, the performance of the European team today was excellent, and they’ll hopefully do nothing but improve from here on out. While the other commentating teams are both great in their own rights, the UK team brought in a fresh perspective and style that helped to give a fun, international flair to the card, which helped it to stand out just a little bit from an increasingly homogeneous UFC product.