Since UFC 146, the subsequent cards have been considered disappointing. Can fans look forward to the Aug. 11 UFC 150 event headlined by Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar’s title fight rematch to break the slump?
Perhaps a look at where and why the previous three cards failed and what to expect from this card will help to answer the question.
Last May, the UFC 146 all-heavyweight main card was a spectacle of an event that delivered. It was a night of great fights and finishes, a new title challenger emerged, and the preliminary card had a couple of moving stories of its own. Even though the original main event, a heavyweight championship match for Junior Dos Santos’ title, was lost due to a failed drug test by Alistair Overeem and multiple injuries changed nearly every one of the main card fights, the event was still a success.
Unfortunately, the next three UFC cards had the same problems, but not the same positive end result as UFC 146.
UFC 147 was a card for the Brazilian fan base with nearly all Brazilian fighters, so, to be fair, it probably wasn’t going to be a hugely popular event for the U.S. It was meant to host the winners of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and the fight between the coaches of the show, Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva. One of the show’s middleweight tournament finalists, Daniel Safarian, pulled out due to injury and Vitor Belfort was forced to do the same with a hand injury. More so, the original main event of Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen was pushed to UFC 148 and the importance of the event lessened significantly.
UFC.com issued a statement and the company offered a full refund for tickets purchased, which was a first in UFC history. The pay-per-view buy rate was rumored to be around 140,000, the lowest since UFC 55 in 2005. UFC 147 is the least successful card since the UFC went mainstream after the first The Ultimate Fighter reality show. This card marked the beginning of the current card slump, but it can only get better from here, right?
The next PPV card, UFC 148 on July 7, fared better. It wasn’t a bad card, but it wasn’t spectacular either. Eight of the eleven fights went to decision, which drew criticism from fans. But the debate of decisions is another issue entirely. The main event rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen was successful and it carried plenty of hype from fans leading into it.
Again, the originally scheduled main event was moved to the next card due to Domnick Cruz sustaining an ACL injury. That moved Urijah Faber and Renan Barao from the card to face each other at UFC 149. Rich Franklin was taken off this card to headline the previously mentioned UFC 147. Barao’s original opponent, Ivan Menjivar, received a new opponent in Mike Easton, and Patrick Cote was brought back into the UFC to fill the void left by Franklin against Cung Le. While cards being reshuffled due to injury is nothing new in MMA, the severity of losing two main events in a row and the changing of several matches is a trend that greatly impacted how good the UFC 147 and 148 cards could have been. Not to mention, it added to the hesitation of fans willing to buy a UFC PPV.
Later that month, UFC 149 added to the slump with main card fights that did not deliver. The preliminary card on the cable channel FX was enjoyable, but fans that purchased the main card on PPV were not as entertained. The fans in attendance at the Scotiabank Saddledome certainly voiced their opinions with loud boo’s noticeable in the final three fights of the night.
The problems began with Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan clinching for most of the three rounds of their fight. The next scrap with Hector Lombard’s UFC debut against heavy-hitter Tim Boetsch was expected to turn the night around and maybe even produce a No. 1 contender for Anderson Silva. It did not turn out that way at all. Lombard did not engage his opponent with much more than single punches at a time, and the fight quickly became a frustrating experience for all watching. Fans were restless by the time Faber and Barao squared off, and while it was a decent fight, the stink of the previous two fights had already marred the main event. As nothing extremely exciting took place between Faber and Barao, it left the UFC with a third consecutive lackluster event.
Once again, injuries played a major part in the card being reshuffled, and it lessened the impact of what the card was initially planned to provide. I won’t go into each fight that was changed for this card due to injury, but this time the problem can not only be attributed to issues stemming from injury, but the lack of entertainment the main event fights delivered.
On the surface, UFC 150 appears to be similar to the previous two cards, but that doesn’t mean it should be a bad event. Let’s take a look at the main card to consider if UFC 150 is a card worthy of the price of admission and where fans can set their expectations.
The main event is a rematch from February of this year between the new lightweight champion Benson Henderson and the very man he took the belt from, Frankie Edgar. The first fight gave Henderson a unanimous decision, which really didn’t need to be challenged, but here we are again with a third rematch in a row for the belt. Both fighters are at the top in their division, but the unprecedented number of title fight rematches have proven to stagnate this division from moving forward. The fight carries mid-level excitement going in, though it should turn out to be more than that and worth watching. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn into a trilogy.
Donald Cerrone vs. Melvin Guillard should have the makings of an action-packed fight, but we must remain realistic, especially given how UFC 149’s anticipated bouts failed to deliver. Both men are looking for a second win after coming off a loss, and each of their last wins were decisions. We shouldn’t count out the fact that each may want to play it safe rather than going straight to war, because a win could put either fighter further up the ladder for a title shot. The fight still warrants mid-to-high levels of expectancy.
Two fighters looking to move away from the fringe, Jake Shields and Ed Herman, will square off in a middleweight scrap. Herman is on a three-fight winning streak, each of them finishes, which earned him a shot against a higher-ranked opponent in Shields. Shields is known for his technical performances, but hasn’t finished an opponent since 2009. Each of these men can make a positive statement for themselves with this fight. Expectations can be placed moderately high.
Yushin Okami is facing Buddy Roberts, who is a replacement due to injury of Okami’s original opponent, Rousimar Palhares. We haven’t seen Roberts against an opponent of such high standing, so there will be tension for each to perform well. Okami will fall further with a loss here, and Roberts has a chance to seize a big opportunity. Like Shields/Herman, this should be moderately high on expected delivery if both men fight as if they need this win.
Lastly, The Ultimate Fighter 15 alum Justin Lawrence takes on Max Holloway. Lawrence has proven striking and finishing power in his young career, and the UFC is making a safe bet he will kick off the main card with violence that fans will appreciate. The fight will serve to push two young careers forward, but doesn’t have major significance for the featherweight division. Regardless, the fight should deliver high levels of excitement.
UFC 150 has the makings to deliver a solid night of fights, but it doesn’t distinguish itself from being anything more than the previous few cards. I can’t see it breaking out from the slump from how it looks on paper, but if the fights deliver, then it won’t be considered a failure such as UFC 147 and 149. More than likely, it will be a decent card, but anything less and the UFC might need to address the value of its PPV efforts going forward.
Recent UFC events have suffered due to a high amount of injuries as well as the frequency of UFC events spreading the events’ quality thin. The UFC deserves credit for its honesty and willingness to deliver fans with a worthy product. Fans willing to put their money down for the event are obligated to know what they are expecting to receive. As the famous Latin phrase goes: “Caveat Emptor: let the buyer beware.”
Photo: Benson Henderson (top) battles Frankie Edgar at UFC 144 (James Law/Heavy MMA)