There are very few cards that have suffered the kind of beating that has come upon UFC 146. The all-heavyweight main card, meant to draw in casual fans and rack up buys for the UFC, has turned into one giant headache for the promotion.
Here is a reminder of what the original card looked like:
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir
Roy Nelson vs. Antonio Silva
Shane Del Rosario vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt
When this first got announced it was easy to get excited. Dos Santos vs. Overeem was downright tantalizing with the two champions set to unify the UFC and Strikeforce heavyweight belts. Velasquez vs. Mir was a comparably exciting co-main event set to either cement the resurgence of Frank Mir or open the door for Cain Velasquez to retake his belt.
Past that, all the bouts had some level of intrigue. Nelson vs. Silva was going to show just how good either of these heavyweights were, with Silva showing he belongs in the top echelon of the UFC's heavyweight division or Nelson proving he deserves a spot in the UFC. Meanwhile Del Rosario vs. Gonzaga and Struve vs. Hunt pitted young up-and-comers against wily veterans trying to work their way back into the public eye.
Obviously things did not stay that way. Alistair Overeem's much-publicized failed drug test (which he claims was due to his use of a doctor-prescribed anti-inflamatory) got him booted off the card. Mir replaced Overeem for the title fight. Silva replaced Mir in the co-main event. Gonzaga replaced Silva, and was scheduled to face Roy Nelson. Stipe Miocic then stepped onto the card to fight Shane del Rosario in place of Gonzaga.
That still had the makings of a decent card. Unfortunately a couple more changes had to come down. Gonzaga threw out his back during training and was replaced by heavyweight journeyman Dave Herman. Then to make sure every bout from the original card had been sabotaged, Mark Hunt had to pull out of his fight with Stefan Struve and was replaced by Lavar Johnson.
The card is currently:
Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir
Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva
Roy Nelson vs. Dave Herman
Shane del Rosario vs. Stipe Miocic
Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson
Dos Santos vs. Mir is interesting only insofar as it is a heavyweight title fight, and lacks the appeal (and will probably also lack the excitement) of the original fight with Overeem. Velasquez vs. Silva is likely to be fun (what heavyweight fight between two guys with hands made of dynamite is not?) but the UFC was wanting to build Antonio Silva up against Roy Nelson.
Cain Velasquez, however, is no stepping stone, and should be heavily favored going into the event.
Nelson vs. Herman lacks the appeal of either of the fights Nelson had scheduled. Though “Big Country” fans should be happy about the changes, as Herman is an easier opponent than either Silva or Gonzaga (Nelson, who is 1-3 in his last four fights, is likely to be cut if he drops this bout).
Del Rosario vs. Miocic lacks any sort of name-brand recognition as both fighters are about a year removed from fighting on Strikeforce: Challengers cards on Showtime. The bout is still interesting, though, as both fighters are undefeated and have combined for only one decision. However there is no getting around the fact that either fighter is unknown to a huge majority of MMA fans.
Struve vs. Hunt actually ends up being the second biggest loss for the card. After events began pointing to Overeem being forced off the card, a huge rallying cry came up with fans calling for Hunt to replace him in the title fight. The movement failed but still put the spotlight on Hunt who, unfortunately, will not be able to take advantage of his renewed fame.
As for the actual fight, Struve often ends up in interesting technical battles due to his opponents needing to compensate for his freakish height (checking in at 6'11”). He remains one of the most under-appreciated fighters in the UFC with a 7-3 record in the promotion in just three years, but he has a tough fight in Lavar Johnson who is looking for his third knockout victory of 2012.
This combines for an injury-riddled card that does not live up to its original booking. While it is not bad, again it was supposed to be amazing. The untouched lineup of fights would have ended up one of the biggest spectacles in MMA this year (its only real competition being UFC 148). The product fans are looking at, though, does not qualify as such.
Still, there is enough to get excited about to keep most UFC fans interested. We have, after all, seen worse bunches put forth exciting fights, top-to-bottom. It is easy, though, to wonder “What if...?”