This Saturday, Sept. 21, the UFC travels to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to host UFC 165: Jones vs. Gustafsson. In the main event, light heavyweight kingpin Jon “Bones” Jones puts his belt on the line against Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson. Also, the interim bantamweight title will be on the line when Renan Barao squares off with Eddie Wineland.

Sounds like a good card, right? Instead of just one title fight, we get two on one card. But do the remaining bouts on the main card hurt its chances of being a solid pay-per-view seller?

On paper, it’s clear that the remaining fights will indeed affect the card in a negative way. It’s not that the six other men matched up on the main card make for lackluster fights. It’s just that they aren’t fighters that would normally appear on a pay-per-view to help draw interest.

Heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Brendan Schaub will do battle in a match-up of former Ultimate Fighter 10 competitors. Although there may some interest here considering both lived in the house together and know each other very well, neither is a true contender in the heavyweight division just yet. The winner, who would improve to 2-0 in 2013, could land in the mix, but this isn’t a fight where a No. 1 contender will emerge.

Francis Carmont takes on Costa Philippou in a middleweight tilt with both men on winning streaks. Philippou has emerged as a potential contender at 185 pounds, and Carmont has won, but not in an impressive manner, at least lately. Carmont’s spot on the main card makes some sense considering he trains out of Canada’s Tristar Gym, but he isn’t exactly a big name for casual fans and the two most recent wins in his five-fight UFC winning streak (and 10-fight streak overall) have come via controversial decisions.

Pat Healy returns from suspension to go toe-to-toe with Khabib Nurmagomedov in a lightweight dual. This is a solid start to a pay-per-view card for the hardcore fans who know both men well, but are casual fans going to know who Nurmagomedov is? It’s good that the UFC is promoting him, but it hasn’t really hammered home the fact that he is perfect through 20 fights, including four Octagon appearances. To the hardcore fans, this is a test of whether Nurmagomedov can defeat an established and tough veteran in Healy and prove he is a legitimate threat in the division. Those hardcore fans also see this as Healy’s change to rebound from the embarrassment of a failed drug test and recover the momentum he had when he initially beat Jim Miller. Healy could become a top contender and Nurmagomedov could jump into the title mix, but the casual fan’s knowledge of these facts certainly lags behind that of the diehard crowd.

Let’s be honest, these aren’t fights that the casual fans are going to jump up and down for, even though two involve potential contenders.

Let’s look at the schedule of UFC pay-per-view events that round out 2013. Here’s what awaits us: UFC 166 in Houston, with the rubber match between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos, plus Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson and Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez; the 20th anniversary show in November that features Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks; and then, to finish the calendar year, Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva collide in a rematch in the biggest fight of 2013. Compare UFC 165 to the three major events that follow and it’s clear that the lineup doesn’t pack quite the same punch, pardon the pun.

UFC 165 doesn’t compare to any of those events, and it will fall short of the buy rates of those three other events.

But wait, this event has two title fights. It should be able to draw more attention, right? Yes, you would think so, but two titles fights does not guarantee that the numbers hit the stratosphere. All we have to do is look at the UFC’s history to realize that this is the case. The last time the UFC put two title bouts on one card was last September at UFC 152. It featured Jones defending his belt against Vitor Belfort, and Demetrious Johnson in the first-ever UFC flyweight championship bout, where he defeated Joseph Benavidez. Even with two title fights at the top of the card, the event only sold 450,000 pay-per-views. Before that, UFC 136 had two five-round fights, but it only drew 225,000 buyers.

Having two title fights in one card is great, but the casual fans who are deciding whether to purchase a show will look at the entire card. In this case, it features Jones, who isn’t a huge draw that compares to the likes of other recognizable champions like St-Pierre, against a guy in Gustafsson who a lot of people are as of yet still unaware. When Jones fought Rashad Evans, the event drew 700,000 buys, but the reason for that is the feud they had going and Evans’ own high profile in the mixed martial arts world. Jones and Gustafsson haven’t done any trash-talking or anything to hype up the event, which means fans aren’t going to be pumped up to watch it.

Considering so much emphasis is being put on the main event, the co-main event bantamweight title fight has gone largely overlooked. Barao is probably the one champion in the UFC whose name doesn’t immediately pop into the mind of casual fans. Yet, it’s the supporting cast that carries a large part of the burden for drawing an audience to an event. Wouldn’t it be best to have a stacked card rather than two title fights with three bouts that are unlikely to attract much attention?

A good ballpark figure for the number of buys this event should garner would be 400,000. The title fights, even the one featuring Jones, just don’t have the spotlight that others enjoy (even though the light heavyweight tilt does have some eye-grabbing commercials featuring the exploding heads of Bruce Buffer and Mike Goldberg), and the three-round bouts lack the star power that should come with a slot on a pay-per-view main card.

Diehard fans will buy UFC 165, but those on the fence about purchasing it may opt to save their money for UFCs 166, 167 and 168 later this year. However, if you don’t have anything else to do on Saturday night, by all means join along with me in watching. Who knows? Maybe we could see title change hands or the other main card bouts deliver with entertaining fights.

However, in terms of the bottom line, UFC 165 won’t be a top seller. The expression “two is better than one” is often used, but in this case, two title fights won’t be enough to put this event at the top of the charts.

Photo: Jon Jones in the center of the Octagon following victory (Phil Lambert/The MMA Corner)

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.