Dana White would never tell you with a straight face, but canceling UFC 151 might have been a good thing.
Hypothetically, let’s say that the event went off as planned. We get to see Jon Jones, a young, talented angel of death who whips jagged elbows at faces like a Shaolin monk throws a ninja star. OK, that’s always fun to watch. And we get to see him face the immortal Dan Henderson, a guy who has been crushing skulls with his right fist since TVs were black and white. That’s also pretty sweet.
After that, we would have gotten to see Jake Ellenberger face a guy who hasn’t fought in the UFC for six years. And two middling featherweights. And that guy who once wore a Speedo in the ring. And, well there’s, hmmm.
That’s not much bang for your buck. By all accounts, White threw a card together on a wing and prayer and hoped that his main event was strong enough to carry him to pay-per-view paradise. And it probably was. But that doesn’t change the fact that paying 60 bucks for one great fight and four that should have been relegated to the despondent depths of the undercard is a complete scam.
UFC 151 was not a great card. Neither was 150. Or UFC 149. Sure, there’s no debating that those two latter cards delivered some exciting fights, and if UFC 151 had survived there would have been a few brawls that nobody was expecting. That’s how MMA works.
But it also revolves around the mega stars, and those guys have been suspiciously scarce lately.
Part of the problem is that nasty injury bug that’s been downing fighters for over a year. Another part, the bigger part, is that the UFC brand has been oversaturated in its relentless attempt to expand. On paper, fights ever weekend sounds great. But when the cards are watered down by no-names and also-rans, the fans suffer. And we deserve better.
Just look at the monster card that’s coming together in the wake of UFC 151’s cancelation: Jones vs. Vitor Belfort, Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight championship, and Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann in a battle that has major title implications.
Now that’s more like it.
Instead of having one solid card and one pretty awful one in a three week span, the UFC has been forced to merge the two into what is looking like the most stacked lineup of the year so far. Marketing and PR disasters notwithstanding, the destruction of UFC 151, in a roundabout way, was one of the best things to happen to the UFC in a long time.
Besides the obvious draw of simply having lots of big names and talent on the card as a major selling point, what fan isn’t going to want to see Jones’ next fight? He’s transformed himself into such a villainous pariah that, along with his breathtaking ability to destroy eye sockets, he’s impossible not to watch at this point.
Yes, the UFC 151 debacle was a dark day in MMA, but in three weeks everything will have worked out fine, and in the long run, even better.
About the Author
Written by Erik Schmidt
I was born into a rich sports tradition in Chicago and graduated with a degree in super fandom from Marquette University. As the sports editor and columnist for the award-winning student newspaper the Marquette Tribune, I interviewed current NBA players Wes Matthews, Lazar Hayward, Jimmy Butler, Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, and talked LeBron and the lockout with ESPN's Chris Broussard during a televised roundtable discussion. I firmly believe that Derrick Rose is the best player in the NBA, the Cubs are honest to God cursed and that Jay Cutler has never smiled. The world's greatest sport is MMA, and though I don't have any real fighting experience, I once received 10 stitches in a bar fight. Enjoy my work, and best wishes.