Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva II & the 9 Least Likely UFC Main Events

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IIJune 16, 2012

Rich Franklin vs. Wanderlei Silva II & the 9 Least Likely UFC Main Events

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    As the recent string of injuries have shown us, fight cards are always subject to change. While the main event is occasionally altered, usually a suitable replacement is found. Other times, we are left scratching our head, and wondering how the cards possibly fell in such a manner.

    Did a middle tier fighter end up in the final fight? Was a solid co-main event suddenly bumped into a lackluster main event? Did a late switch-er-roo completely change the top fight of the card?

    Here is a look at the nine least likely main events of the Zuffa Era.

    For the sake of this article, only pay-per-view fights were considered. Events that aired originally on cable were ruled out.

Tito Ortiz vs Patrick Cote

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    The War of '04 was originally scheduled as a contest between Tito Ortiz and Lion's Den fighter Guy Mezger. When Mezger came down with stroke-like symptoms, he was removed from the contest. With only four days to find a replacement, the UFC landed on preliminary fighter Patrick Cote.

    The UFC refused to acknowledge the irrational placement of Cote in the main event, as a welterweight championship battle between Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre would sit as the co-main event. 

    Cote would not go down without a fight, but Ortiz cruised to a decision win in a fight that was universally expected to end quickly. 

Chuck Liddell vs Keith Jardine

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    Keith Jardine met unknown fighter Houston Alexander at UFC 71. It was not his proudest moment. 

    Although "The Dean of Mean" started the contest out in control, the tides would quickly turn, as Alexander battered the TUF star, knocking him into unconsciousness in only 48 seconds.

    Why does that have anything to do with Chuck Liddell vs Keith Jardine? Because Jardine's next fight, after being knocked out in less than one minute, was a main event against a former world champion. 

    Let me say that one more time. After being knocked out by a virtual nobody, Keith Jardine was tapped to headline a pay-per-view. 

    As if his placement in the main-event wasn't unlikely enough, Jardine made UFC 71 even less predictable when he went on to outstrike Liddell throughout three hard-fought rounds.

Forrest Griffin vs Tito Ortiz II

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    After unifying the UFC Heavyweight and UFC Interim Heavyweight championship at UFC 100, champion Brock Lesnar was set to make his first title defense at UFC 106 against hard hitting Shane Carwin. The contest was expected to break 1 million pay-per-view purchases and go down as one of the biggest events in MMA history.

    In the co-main event of the evening, Tito Ortiz was scheduled to meet newly-inducted Hall of Famer Mark Coleman. Coleman has just upset Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100 and was making one last run at greatness.

    This event saw back-to-back hits, as Lesnar would pull out of the contest due to his original bout against diverticulitis, and Coleman also pulled out due to injury.

    With the top two fights gone, who would headline UFC 106? Although Carwin was looking to reschedule his title fight, Ortiz had no desire to leave the card. All they needed was a quality light-heavyweight to challenge him.

    Who would answer the call? How about former Light-Heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin?

    Coming off of a disparaging knockout loss to Anderson Silva and was anxious to redeem himself. Not only that, but Ortiz had scored a close split-decision win over Griffin at UFC 59.

    The fight hadn't even been considered in the months leading up to UFC 106, but it ended up headlining an otherwise forgettable card. 

Rashad Evans vs Thiago Silva

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    UFC 108 was plagued with injuries. And I mean plagued. Not only were several matchups scrapped due to injuries, but the main event was changed four times.

    The following fights were announced as the main event at some point in time, but would not take place until much later:

    Brock Lesnar vs Shane Carwin

    Cain Velasquez vs Big Nog

    Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort

    Rashad Evans vs Rampage Jackson

    Rashad Evans would stay in the main event, but not against an expected opponent. Instead, Thiago Silva would be asked to headline a pay-per-view for the first time in his career. 

    Despite the lack of appeal on paper, UFC 108 ended up being one of the most exciting and entertaining cards in UFC history. Dana White was so grateful for the hard-fought performances that not a single fighter was released after the event.

Randy Couture vs Mark Coleman

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    UFC 109 was the original date for Anderson Silva's title defense against Vitor Belfort, as confirmed by Dana White. However, the bout would be pushed back to UFC 112. The fight was later postponed to UFC 126, but that is neither here nor there.

    The main event of UFC 109 was left wide open, and the Zuffa boys turned to the Hall of Fame for assistance.

    For the first time in UFC history, Hall of Famers would square off when Randy Couture and Mark Coleman battled to a second-round submission. The combined age of the fighters? 91 years.

    The bout was originally scheduled for UFC 17 back in 1998, but Couture was unable to compete due to injury. Who would have guessed that the fight would take place 12 years later?

Anderson Silva vs Demian Maia

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    When the UFC announced a trip to Abu Dhabi, it came along with an announcement that government-owned Flash Entertainment had purchased 10 percent of the organization. Putting on a big-time event in the back yard of their new business partners was absolutely vital, and the Zuffa boys planned to deliver a war between champion Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort.

    Belfort had previously won the UFC 12 Heavyweight tournament and was a former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion to boot. Riding a five-fight winning streak that was spear-headed by knockouts over Rich Franklin and Matt Lindland, Belfort would have been an excellent challenge for The Spider.

    When Belfort had to withdraw from the event due to injury, it was assumed that number-one contender Chael Sonnen would be his replacement. However, Sonnen was still recovering injuries sustained in his title eliminator against Nate Marquardt and would be unavailable on such a quick turnaround.

    Submission specialist Demian Maia was recently successful against Dan Miller at UFC 109, and since he had recently defeated Sonnen, he was deemed the next-best option. Fans were not convinced of Maia's worthiness, as he had suffered a 21 second knockout back at UFC 102.

    Bleacher Report's own Brian Oswald summed up the feeling of fans when he reported that Maia had been tapped as a replacement contender. 

    Maia looked game to stand and strike with Miller last week, wanting to showcase his improved striking. But it's hard to imagine that the man who was flattened by Marquardt at UFC 102 in less than 30 seconds will want anything to do with the stand-up of Silva.

    Did Maia's Abu Dhabi connection have something to do with his receipt of a title shot? Possibly. But it is the only time in recent memory that someone outside of the division's top five would receive a UFC title shot.

Rampage Jackson vs Matt Hamill

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    The third time was the charm when it came to booking UFC 130's main event. Originally scheduled to host the final chapter of Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard, the card would shuffle when Edgar's camp announced that the champion was mending broken ribs.

    Bumped up from the co-main event, Rampage Jackson vs Thiago Silva was a worthy replacement that featured a PRIDE legend vs a dangerous striker who would be willing to bang with him. Unfortunately for fans, Silva was also removed from the card.

    Injury? No. Silva would face a year's suspension for falsifying his urine sample for UFC 125. With another main event down the toilet (see what I did there?) the UFC elected to find a replacement for Silva so Rampage could remain on the card.

    Ultimately, Zuffa landed on Ultimate Fighter alumnus Matt Hamill. Despite being the highest-ranked light-heavyweight who was available, fans were not satisfied with the switch.

    The event went largely unwatched, as it garnered only 325,000 buys. In comparison Rampage vs Machida garnered 500,000 buys while Rampage vs Evans pulled in over one million.

BJ Penn vs Nick Diaz

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    At UFC 137, fans were excited at the promise of a pair of welterweight battles with major implications. The scheduled co-main event saw surging contender Carlos Condit challenging BJ Penn in what was widely considered to be an unofficial title eliminator. Additionally, the main event saw UFC champion Georges St. Pierre defending against Strikeforce champion Nick Diaz.

    Instead, Nick Diaz decided to skip out on a pair of press conferences leading up to his title shot, and a furious Dana White had enough and removed the Cesar Gracie fighter from the high-profile contest. Condit would find himself upgraded into the title fight, while Diaz would be paired against Penn in the evening's co-main event.

    When GSP had to pull out due to injury, Condit was given the night off instead of a new opponent. Penn vs Diaz was the only fight on the card capable of headlining and that's exactly what they did. 

    Once again in the main event, Diaz did not disappoint the second time around. He outstruck Penn tremendously to win a one-sided fight.

Rich Franklin vs Wanderlei Silva II

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    UFC 147 is right around the corner, and the main event is a rematch of a thrilling battle that occurred at UFC 99 in Germany. Although the contest doesn't have title implications, nor is it a particularly heated rivalry, it should produce fireworks until the finish.

    Does that make it a likely bout? Not at all. One month ago, both fighters were scheduled for different fights. When Vitor Belfort was forced out of his fight with Wanderlei Silva due to a broken hand, speculation ran wild in regards to finding a replacement.

    Contrary to normal style, Joe Silva broke up a contracted battle between Rich Franklin and Cung Le that was scheduled for UFC 148. Now that Franklin was free, he was able to step in and have a rematch with The Axe Murderer.

    UFC 147 is one week away and has a main event that should be exhilarating. While the rest of the card isn't particularly exciting, remember that a lot of events have looked bleak on paper and delivered from top to bottom.

    Could UFC 147 be the next UFC 108? Find out Saturday, only on Pay-Per-View.