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Bob D’Angelo

Bob is a longtime member of the Florida sports media, having served as a reporter and copy editor for more than 30 years. His true sports passion, however, is the history of the various games, exhibited by his in-depth book reviews and hobby of collecting cards and other sports memorabilia. He blogs for on both subjects, transferring his work for the Tampa Tribune to the realm of cyberspace.

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Collect call: 2012 Topps UFC Finest

Posted Jul 26, 2012 by Bob D'Angelo

Updated Jul 26, 2012 at 09:40 PM

The nice thing about producing mixed martial arts cards is that a company can think outside the box. Topps continues to do so with its latest offering, 2012 UFC Finest.

What I like about this product are the relic cards — the match-used gear and fight mat swatches are bold and large. The mat relics are even shaped like an octagon. And I guess you could say that Topps gets into the grill of its UFC fan base by including redemption cards for actual mouth guards worn by fighters (called Grill Gear relics). The mouth guards are encased in plastic, but that sure is a personal kind of relic.

Well, after all, the slogan on packs of UFC Finest probably sums it up: “As Real as it Gets.”

Here are the real facts about UFC Finest. A hobby box consists of two mini-boxes, with six packs in each mini-box and five cards in each pack. The base set consists of 100 cards.

The price of a hobby box is hovering in the $90 to $95 range, and Topps promises three autographs or jumbo relics per mini-box.

The hobby box I opened fit that quota. In addition, each mini-box contained inserts like Finest Moments and Bloodlines. Each mini-box I opened also contained a blue refractor numbered to 188, and four regular refractors, too. I originally thought these were doubles because they look so much like the base cards, but a quick look on the back of the card showed the “refractor” designation. So if it looks like you’ve gotten some doubles when you open a box, look again.

There were 40 base cards in the boxes I opened, and the photography is mostly tightly cropped, close-up action shots. The cards definitely have a rough, raw look to them, which fits UFC perfectly.

The first mini-box produced a Jumbo Mat relic card of Carlos Condit, a large piece of blue material taken specifically from UFC 143. The second relic was a Finest Threads Gear card of Chuck Liddell, and it is certainly an interesting piece of material. Kind of speckled-looking.

The third hot card was a Finest Moments autograph of Miesha Tate, a very legible and bold signature. The photo on the card shows Tate in triumph after she won the Strikeforce women’s bantamweight championship on July 30, 2011.

Hot cards from the second mini-box I opened included a Jumbo Finest Threads relic card of Antonio Silva. This is a huge red swatch of match-worn material. There is another mat card — this time, a Finest Fight Mat Jumbo Relic of Tito Ortiz, taken from UFC 140. It’s another piece of blue material in an octagon-like presentation. The autograph card of welterweight Jake Ellenberger was not as impressive as Tate’s but still a nice card. Both the Tate and Ellenberger cards, by the way, were sticker autographs.

The Bloodlines inserts were interesting. The boxes I opened featured featherweight Jose Aldo and welterweight Yoshihiro Akiyama. The type written on the back of the cards is in English and in the language of the fighter. That would be Portuguese for Aldo and Japanese for Akiyama.

If you are a fan of mixed martial arts, UFC Finest will capture the sport’s raw intensity. The cards are slickly made, but still have a rough-hewn look to them that is quite appealing.

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