Using videogames to simulate and therefore predict real-life sporting events can be a hubristic business. Already this year I've watched John Terry lift the World Cup for England, courtesy of the 2010 FIFA World Cup team. And hasn't that turned out well so far?
Two days ahead of UFC 111 in New York City, the headline face-off between much-fancied Canadian bruiser - and current welterweight champ - Georges St. Pierre, and mohawked Midlander Dan Hardy, is unfolding in high definition on a cinema screen in downtown Manhattan.
The general feeling is Hardy's stand-up game gives him an outside shot at an upset, but if the clash goes to ground (likely), wrestling master GSP, as he's known, will simply overwhelm the British underdog. As it transpires on-screen, Hardy is KO'd in round two by a devastating roundhouse to the chops, leaving him sparked out on the canvas.
UFC 2009: Undisputed was a pivotal release both for fighting organisation and publisher. The UFC needed a decent game to help drive the popularity of MMA and erase memories of previous feeble efforts. And THQ needed to prove it could do something other than WWE.
Positive reviews and four million sales later and a successful franchise is born which, if not the "beginning of the rebirth of THQ" as is suggested during the presentation, is clearly a strong foundation upon which to exploit and expand the rapid growth of the sport.
"Certainly, I think the UFC recognises how important the videogame is from an education standpoint," says producer Nevin Dravinski. "We're educating a whole slew of people that would maybe never be exposed to the UFC.
"Some of the biggest compliments I've gotten have been from people who say, 'I love your game', and I say, 'Oh, are you a big UFC fan?' 'No, but now I am because I played the game and know all these people as a result'."
In business as in sport, success breeds confidence and the showcase for UFC 2010 is carried out with a swagger and self-assurance that contrasts sharply with the edgy optimism of the previous year's event.
Then, a hotel suite presentation in Vegas with Forrest Griffin and Rampage Jackson was relatively low-key, relaxed and big on 'vision'. Now, following a lengthy, live theatre presentation, press are shipped to a setting much more in-tune with the pizzazz and intensity of a live UFC event.
Giant screens loop highlights of classic UFC fights while below PS3s and flatscreens with playable code fill the dancefloor. Dana White rocks up with a bevy of man-beasts, including injured heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar, taking it in turns to pile on the superlatives under the spotlight and play the game as media teams jostle for the best vantage points. Chaos.
It's all preposterously entertaining and an impressive statement of intent, illustrating the potential the UFC sees in the game not least as a marketing tool for MMA.
"They recognise we did make a good game," says Dravinski of the show of support. "Dana pulls no punches, he's very quick to mention how bad the previous games were." ("They sucked" is White's preferred formulation). Dravinski adds: "Making videogames is hard and making an MMA game is really hard. It's incredibly difficult from a technical standpoint."
Indeed, with any new franchise, a hefty chunk of the development cycle is spent on simply building it from scratch and getting it out of the door. With a solid base in place, the studio has the relative luxury with the first annual update of focusing on the game experience. And THQ is keen to point out what it sees as a wealth of improvements made by the Yuke's team in Japan.
Dravinski is more direct: "We went out to kill the '09 game. It was a great first start. We had momentum being the first MMA to release on the next-gen. I think we made a good fighting game.
"We're certainly aware there are things we had to improve - 2010 is light years past that with all the different combat improvements. The game plays so much faster, we've quadrupled the number of strikes, tripled the number of animations, doubled the number of submissions."
Among the headline improvements is the expanded possibilities for personalising the experience, with THQ wanting to encourage community involvement and players' investment in the content.On a straightforward level, Create-A-Fighter offers a useful guide to the team's ambitions.
First up, we're assured every one of the 100-plus UFC fighters in the game has been given the full treatment to make them not just fight but also look like their real-life counterparts. As have the personalities of the sport, from commentators Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg and cheese-king of cadence Bruce Buffer, to the Octagon Girls - complete with Dead or Alive-esque 'chest physics'.
The options, meanwhile, for crafting your own deadly neck-snapper are manifold. For 2010, more parts can be adjusted with greater variety; long hair's included; there's a flexible drag-and-drop system for applying tattoos and logos; and a slider-based colour system allows for greater subtlety in applying tone to all features.
Furthermore, while you can call your character whatever you like, if you choose first and last names from the game's sizeable listings you'll get callouts in game. And for when you're in the Octogon, touch glove sequences and victory animations can be pre-selected.
"We want people to invest in their characters," says Dravinski, who believes the more ways players can tweak with the experience, the greater the community engagement. Oh, and yes, you can be a southpaw this year.
"Southpaw sways and leans were in the build last year but it wasn't working to the levels we felt comfortable with, it wasn't ready to be in the game," he insists. "It was an omission and everyone complained - I love it when I read, 'Oh, it takes three lines of code to put in southpaw and they just didn't do it because they're lazy'.
"I certainly have the chest pains to prove no-one on this team is lazy. Certain things just aren't done; doing a yearly title has its limitations. You can't please everyone, but I like to think we've pleased a lot of people."
Sambo, karate, and Greco-Roman wrestling styles have also been added - in the Create mode, templates can be assigned by discipline, or you can edit moves individually to create, in theory, a fighter to your exact specifications.
Career Mode has had a facelift. The buzz this year is about the sinister-sounding "game is watching you" feature, which tracks your performances and reflects the data in commentary and progression, rather than spying on you in the shower while touching itself.
A newly created fighter will start as an amateur, before progressing to the WFA and, if successful, onto the UFC. You can be kicked back down again if you fail to perform. Stats decay over time if unimproved, with thresholds at 30, 50 and 70 which, once passed, can't be dropped below, and fighters also age, adding wear and tear to stats.
Again with an eye on serving the community, players can set up fight camps online with friends, train together and challenge rival camps in competition.
The control setup remains complex and comprehensive, faced with the challenge of accurately representing the broad spectrum of disciplines covered in MMA. "How do you fit such a nuanced sport onto a controller?" asks Dravinski, rhetorically.
"I would need a keyboard to accurately represent the game. These are all very, very tough decisions that had to be made. The ground game was a big design challenge - how do you communicate struggle, how do you indicate success or failure? This year we've made a lot of improvement: submissions are more analogue, making it less easy to transition."
Like 2009, anyone coming fresh to UFC 2010 will need to invest time before they begin to appreciate the depths of the combat system. But Dravinski isn't worried about that. On the contrary, "Much like the real UFC, if you want to be good and want to win and win consistently, you're going to have to master all aspects of the game: the ground, clinch, stand up, what have you."
It's here that Dravinski believes UFC 2010 can go toe-to-toe with the likes Street Fighter, Tekken and Virtua Fighter when it comes to depth.
"There's certain design elements in terms of frame counting and how long animation takes and interrupts that are similar across the board, whether it's a Street Fighter or a Tekken," he says. "Our designers are very aware of that, they're some of the most hardcore fighting game enthusiasts in the industry.
"There are a lot of elements of hardcore fighting games in the UFC game. Even though it's a sport and requires a little different kind of gameplay, I still think we made a very compelling fighting game experience - certainly last year and even more so this year."
And he further insists the redesigned combat system will satisfy the MMA nuts who want that level of detail from the experience. "We've redesigned and reanimated every position in the clinch and the ground game; we've redesigned the entire collision system to take advantage of the sways, leans and counters."
In play, UFC 2010 looks superb, with highly detailed models, smooth animation and palpable impact to blows. As I pin one opponent to the ground and rain down blows to his face, I actually find myself recoiling at the impact I can see them having, moreso during the multiple slow-mo replays after the ref brings it to a halt.
On early impressions, Yuke's and THQ have clearly listened to the community and addressed a number of issues head-on to create what promises to be a more complete, well-rounded MMA experience - which is exactly what you should expect from the first full update to a new sports franchise.
But a challenger has emerged in the form of EA Sports' forthcoming MMA title. Dana White has declared himself "at war" with the publisher over its decision to enter the genre. Either way, it's coming in "late 2010" and is believed to be built on the acclaimed Fight Night engine. The challenge for EA is to prove it can produce a distinctive MMA experience that is more than simply 'Fight Night MMA'.
Dravinski is less belligerent than the UFC president on the issue. "Competition's a good thing - and ultimately I think it's good for the sport," he says. "This sport has still a long way to go but it's growing exponentially in popularity - I know what we're doing and I'm really happy."
As for the real St. Pierre-Hardy encounter, GSP wins on the scorecards after dominating an exhausting encounter. But the story of the night is the superhuman resilience of Hardy, whose Dhalsim-like limbs refuse to break under astonishing pressure from the champion. Hardy's determination and never-say-die attitude wins the Brit a legion of new fans. THQ will be hoping UFC 2010 can do a similar job.