In a perfect world, the UFC would be headed to Madison Square Garden this fall.

There’s no venue in the world that UFC President Dana White and company covets more than MSG, and with the UFC’s 20th anniversary show coming up this November, it’s not surprising that the promotion is doing everything in its power to try to throw an event in New York City.

But, despite their best efforts, it doesn’t look like holding the anniversary show at MSG is a possibility at this point. No matter how ridiculous it seems to MMA fans, mixed martial arts is still illegal in the state of New York, and according to White, things aren’t likely to be resolved in time for the UFC to throw an event in the Big Apple by November.

With MSG seemingly out of the picture, the UFC is going to have to decide on a different venue to throw what should end up being one of the biggest fight cards in the company’s history. Luckily, the promotion has plenty of options available to make sure the 20th anniversary card is still a historic night.

The easiest route for the UFC to take would be as simple as holding the event in Las Vegas. Vegas has been called the “fight capital of the world,” and the city has hosted far more UFC events than anywhere else by a wide margin. In effect, the UFC could hold its anniversary show at Mandalay Bay or the MGM Grand and keep the event in its own backyard. It’s doubtful the promotion will have to put up with any criticism if it decides to go that route.

However, Vegas is the boring choice. If the UFC wants the show to feel special, the event needs to take place in a venue that would get people talking. The UFC needs a venue that makes the sport seem bigger and better than ever before, and there is nowhere in the United States that would make the sport feel bigger than Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

Everything about the massive stadium is impressive, from its 105,000 person capacity to the mammoth video screen that seemingly takes up the entire ceiling of the arena. Throwing a big-time fight card on such a huge scale will make the UFC look more legitimate than at any other venue available.

The thing is, the UFC isn’t going to be able to get away with throwing a normal fight card in such a large venue. If Dana White wants to come to Cowboys Stadium and break a few records, he’s going to need UFC matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby to bring their “A” game.

Trying to sell out a stadium of this magnitude isn’t easy, and the most obvious answer for Silva and Shelby would be to try to book one of the superfights that fans have been asking for, with middleweight champion Anderson Silva taking on either welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre or light heavyweight title holder Jon Jones in the main event. However, there’s a reason we haven’t seen one of these fights yet: they’re just too hard to book. St-Pierre is likely going to defend his welterweight title late this summer against Johny Hendricks, which effectively rules him out, and despite the enormous amount of interest in a bout between Silva and Jones, we haven’t seen much progress towards making that fight happen.

Although there’s an off chance that a superfight could be put together by November, odds are that it just isn’t going to happen. In that case, the UFC is going to need to throw together an unbelievably stacked card for its anniversary event.

Even without a superfight, the main event for this card will have to be something that captures the attention of fans in a big way, and there’s nothing quite as big in combat sports as a heavyweight title fight.

Reigning heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is set to defend his belt in late May against Antonio “Bigfoot Silva. If Velasquez is victorious in that bout, he isn’t going to have a whole lot of options in finding a new contender. Alistair Overeem is still in need of another win or two before becoming a legitimate contender again, and Fabricio Werdum’s winning streak hasn’t seen him defeat a single top-five fighter. Ironically, the fighter that would make the most sense for Velasquez is the one man in the division he won’t fight. Daniel Cormier holds recent wins over Bigfoot Silva, Frank Mir and Josh Barnett, and would likely be the next contender for the belt, but unfortunately for fight fans, Cormier and Velasquez are teammates and training partners at American Kickboxing Academy.

That leaves Velasquez with one possible opponent: the winner of the Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt fight that takes place on the same UFC 160 card where Velasquez will defend his belt.

Although many hardcore fans would love to see Hunt pull off the upset and score a win over dos Santos, odds are that isn’t going to happen. Sure, Hunt has a better puncher’s chance than almost anyone in MMA, but he’s going to have his hands full with the speed and accuracy of dos Santos and all signs point to “Cigano” winning that fight. If he does, the UFC’s anniversary show could feature the most anticipated heavyweight title fight in UFC history: Velasquez vs. dos Santos III.

Velasquez and dos Santos first met in November of 2011, where the undefeated champion Velasquez made his first title defense on the inaugural UFC on Fox card. The hype behind the bout was tremendous, but the fight was over so quickly that it failed to live up to many fans’ expectations. Dos Santos caught the champion with a big shot just over a minute into the bout and quickly pounced to finish him off, winning the belt in just 63 seconds. From there, dos Santos and Velasquez both earned dominant victories over Frank Mir and Bigfoot Silva at UFC 146, and the rematch was set up soon after.

The second bout between dos Santos and Velasquez could not have been any more different than the first. Velasquez was much more cautious on the feet to start the fight, but soon after he started mixing things up and landing takedowns to dominate the fight. Dos Santos showed a lot of heart by hanging on and lasting the entire 25 minutes, but he took a hellacious beating in the process and Velasquez left with the title.

There isn’t a bigger heavyweight fight the UFC can make than a rubber match between Velasquez and dos Santos for the belt. As long as both fighters take care of business in May, the opportunity is there to showcase the fight on the largest stage available at Cowboys Stadium. A high-profile heavyweight title fight is the perfect bout to headline such an important card, and with the help of another title fight in the co-main event, it could definitely draw enough fan interest to help pack such a large stadium.

However, having the right co-main event is crucial for the UFC on this card, and a while a second title fight is probably the way to go, the promotion needs to make sure it picks the right champion to co-headline the event. The problem is, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones all draw in a few too many pay-per-view dollars to justify putting them on a card in which they aren’t part of the featured bout, so the promotion is likely going to turn to one of its lighter champions to help carry the load.

Luckily, the most anticipated fight south of 155 pounds may be ready to go by the time the UFC is putting together the anniversary card for November. Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has been stuck on the sidelines since October of 2011 due to multiple ACL injuries, but his return to the cage is likely going to come late this year and a co-headlining spot on one of the biggest cards in UFC history would be a great place to showcase his return.

While Cruz has been stuck nursing his injuries, the UFC created an interim title to be defended in his absence, and it is currently held by rising star Renan Barao. Barao took full advantage of Cruz’s time away from the spotlight, taking out top contenders Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald in back to back title fights and is set to defend his interim belt for a second time against Eddie Wineland in June. If he defeats Wineland, Barao will be riding an incredible streak of 32 straight fights without a loss and will have a ton of momentum heading into a potential fight with Cruz. There’s no doubt that these two are the best bantamweights in the world at the moment, and it would make sense for their inevitable bout to happen on a big stage.

With a combination of a heavyweight title rubber match and a champion vs. champion battle in the bantamweight division, the UFC would have a solid top two bouts set up to make its 20th anniversary card feel special. A two-fight nucleus of Velasquez vs. dos Santos and Cruz vs. Barao would be enough to get fans talking, and with the addition of a few more big names, the UFC’s anniversary card could easily become the can’t-miss event of the year.

Photo: Cowboys Stadium (Wikipedia)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.