There is a growing sentiment that the UFC is in for a lackluster couple of months following a compelling start to the year with UFC 93, GSP vs. Penn II, and UFN 17. There seems to be less interest in the UFC 95 and 96 fight cards headlining Sanchez vs. Stevenson and Jackson vs. Jardine.
After the exciting end to 2008 with the incredibly entertaining UFC 92 The Ultimate, many are expecting UFC 100 to be the biggest event of 2009. Franklin vs. Henderson, GSP vs. Penn fights lived up to expectations but we may be seeing a sharp drop in drawing fighters for 95 and 96.
Although lesser popular fighters fill the fight card for UFC 95, we are still going to be seeing great fights from two very well rounded fighters in Nate Marquardt and Wilson Gouveia compete as well as seeing the great submission specialist Damian Maia taking on Chael Sonnen.
The main event of Stevenson vs. Sanchez may not be getting flocks of people to the gates but for a free event, you cant really ask for much more than that.
UFC 96, featuring Rampage Jackson taking on Keith Jardine is definitely going to be entertaining.
This is not really an important fight in terms of the No. 1 contendership for the Light Heavyweight title since many believe Quinton Jackson should and would be a good candidate to take on Rashad Evans for his title anyway, simply because Machida vs. Evans is not as good a main event commercial-wise and Dana White would definitely push for Rampage vs. Evans maybe even if Rampage loses the fight to Jardine like he did back then with Wanderlai Silva vs. Chuck Liddell even when Liddell lost to Jardine in UFC 76.
Although Liddell vs Jardine wasn’t a title fight back then, Dana always chooses what the fans would pay to see over which fight should take place.
Rampage still has everything to lose in that fight if he does not beat Jardine. But the fans would certainly like to see them slug it out for three rounds definitely.
UFC 97 will see the return of Anderson Silva defending his title against Thales Leites while Chuck Liddell looks to regain his form by taking on Mauricio Shogun Rua if the regulation issues of prohibiting elbow and knee strikes and requiring that the referee stop a contest if a fighter gets knocked down are sorted out in Canada where the event will take place.
At this point, no one even comes close to being as much of a complete and dominant fighter as Anderson Silva in the same weight class and my bet is on Leites going down via KO or choke hold in Round 1 but it will be exciting nonetheless.
Lesnar vs Mir II and Matt Hughes vs Matt Serra are rumored to take place in UFC 98 awaiting official confirmation. That would also be huge in terms of main events leading up to UFC 100.
With so much to anticipate to the build-up of UFC 100, Dana and the UFC have done the best possible job in building momentum for the big event in the summer. Dana would be going the extra mile if he can convince Joe Rogan to create more new words for his play-by-play or to take on Mike Goldberg for UFC 99. I am sure I would like to see that.(joking of course..)