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By: Brad Walker, MMATorch Columnist
I have noticed a trend recently. Important fights are taking place on Fuel, Fox or FX's fight night cards, but if you look at the names fighting, none of them are people you would necessarily pay to watch go toe to toe. Perhaps they got the first two Fox cards the most accurate, with Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez on the inaugural card, and Rashad Evans, Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen, and Michael Bisping on the second. After that it seems everything has just tumbled down hill, not for lack of good fights or talent, but for lack of salesmanship by the UFC. Sure, these cards aren't supposed to be on par with PPV events, but why aren't they trying to sell them to us like they were? If you give someone the feeling that you're giving them something free that they ought to be paying for, doesn't it raise the bar a little bit on how nice free can really feel?
Jim Miller and Nate Diaz had a great fight on network television, but it wasn't hyped as being a number one contender bout in the commercials due to the unnecessary rematch being given to Frankie Edgar. The Korean Zombie and Dustin Poirier also had an absolute barn burner of a war in the cage, but due to Aldo fighting Koch and it being broadcast on Fuel it was again slept on. We couldn't even look at Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks as a number one contender fight, because the supposedly necessary interim belt is not being defended by the supposedly necessary interim champion for whatever reason. Isn't the point of having an interim champion to make it so a belt will be defended in the weight class while the champion is out of action? Things are so jumbled up in the UFC right now that I find it not only hard to keep up with who is doing what, but why we're seeing some of the fights that are being broadcast in the first place.
Let's look at Shogun Rua vs. Brandon Vera, for instance; there is absolutely no way that anyone truly believes Vera is going to win this fight. Shogun turned down an opportunity to fight up and comer Glover Teixeira, with Dana White accusing him of saying he would rather be cut than fight Teixeira. So White and Zuffa are now content with their fighters wanting to be put into a squash match instead of a fight that could actually be pretty compelling and evenly matched? How did all of this come to pass – did Dana White take the wrong meds one morning and suddenly the fighters are calling the shots? Why can't we all be treated to some fights that are actually worth watching?
Being a fan of the sport it's almost like being duped by the fighters we all have been cheering on for so long – instead of fighting the guy who could be the next champ they want to tear a past-his-prime guy to shreds. It'd be like if dos Santos passed on fighting Velasquez a second time and requested a title fight with Jeff Monson just so he didn't have to put up with a possible threat. It's completely unacceptable to book fights that, deep down, everyone knows won't be compelling or competitive; and then they wonder why the ratings are starting to slide. UFC on FX 4 has a couple of intriguing bouts in Gray Maynard vs. Clay Guida and Hatsu Hioki vs. Ricardo Lamas, but beyond that nothing compels me in the least bit to tune in. As for UFC on Fox 4, they would be better suited upgrading Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida to the main event as it is a million times more interesting than Rua vs. Vera.
Speaking of selling cards, UFC 147 is going to prove some points to the UFC that they really don't want to have to acknowledge, because the card is going to draw extremely minimal buys – and would fare better being given away free on FX. Very few are going to fork over the $55-$65 to watch two past their prime fighters in Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin battle it out until there is a flash KO in the first round. Fabricio Werdum vs. Mike Russow isn't going to sell the card either, so this is just a money pit for the UFC – why aren't they setting it up for FX and pulling in advertising revenue to try to get something out of this whole debacle? Injuries are plaguing the UFC right now on the level that steroids plagued the MLB in the first part of the new millennium. Everyone is getting hurt when it's least convenient, not that we can avoid these scenarios, but it really hampers business over at Zuffa.
How can a pay per view be expected to perform without a name on the card that is considered a big draw? Sure, the folks in Brazil are going to be head over heels in love with seeing hometown heroes like Silva and Werdum in the cage, but to the casual fan outside of Brazil it's not even a remotely intriguing card. Yuri Alcantara will decimate his opponent, and then the "TUF: Brazil" finalists will probably burn up 30 minutes of time on the card before the lackluster main event and co-main event are shoved down our throats. It's so weak as a card that I'm surprised they didn't cancel it altogether after pulling the rumored Silva vs. Sonnen bout and Aldo bouts from its originally presumed line up. It's going to have a massive, pumped up crown only to put on a weak performance for anyone who truly loves great fights, there's not a single one booked on this card.
In the end, a fighter's sell ability is based entirely on what they deliver in the cage, not who they were in another organization or for that matter five years ago. Rich Franklin is not a main event fighter anymore – in fact his bout with Cung Le intrigued me 40 times more than his fight with Wanderlei does. Silva in his own right is no longer worthy of the main spot – sure it's Brazil but a stiff breeze can render this guy unconscious these days so why are we putting together such an awful headline fight? It feels like UFC 147 has been set up to fail; time will tell whether or not it turns out to be epic and make me look stupid, but for now I feel safe in my assumption.
Let me know what you all think about everything within this column, since I feel pretty confident in my words here. Questions? Comments? Unfiltered Hatred? Follow me on twitter @BradMMATorch
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