UFC 149 was unquestionably the worst overall UFC pay-per-view viewer experience since UFC 33.
And that's saying something, because UFC 33 set a new low that I figured would never be equaled. If you remember, that was the card that went black nationwide after the UFC used up its allotment of pay-per-view airtime, forcing cable stations to pull the plug before the main event between Tito Ortiz and Vladimir Matyushenko.
Of course, some of you veteran fans who were actually watching on pay-per-view when the broadcast was yanked were probably thankful, because the developing Ortiz/Matyushenko bout wasn't exactly full of thrills and chills. Three championship bouts—all of which were boring—went to full 25-minute decisions.
What's to blame? Injuries, of course.
This wasn't the card the UFC wanted to bring to Calgary. It was the card it gamely put together after being dealt injury blows to nearly all of the stars who were booked for the event.
In the lead-up to the fight, there were many stories written about the horrific state of the card, how it was uninteresting and clearly a show that fans could avoid. Most of these stories neglected to mention that, at one point or another, Jose Aldo, Michael Bisping, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Shogun Rua, Thiago Silva and Thiago Alves were all booked for the event.
There's an easy fix for the injury issue: stop running so many events.
With a packed schedule, you're constantly ripping stars from one event to feed another and the result is cards like the one you saw on Saturday night. But the UFC is adamant that it's not overexposing the product, and I don't see that changing any time soon.
So why can't the UFC cancel events, especially when it's obvious that it's not going to be able to fill out the event with the desired level of superstar fights? This seems like the most logical solution, right? Walk away with your head held high and promise to return in the future with an action-packed card.
The answer isn't all that easy. For starters, what's the guarantee that, when it finally does return to that market in the future, the card it schedules won't be riddled with injuries? Unless the UFC decides to start running fewer events per month, it is still going to run into injury replacement issues.
There's also the matter of committed pay-per-view dates. A source in the cable industry told me that once a date has been finalized with cable providers, it's incredibly difficult and very costly to cancel.
But are the costs of canceling those injury-plagued events higher than the damage done by subpar events? I'm not sure they are. The UFC rarely has nights like the one it did on Saturday, but a continual string of poor events would create a lack of interest in the fans who typically buy pay-per-view events.
The good news coming out of Saturday night—and there isn't all that much in the way of good news—is that UFC 149 was an aberration. Bad televised cards are very rare, at least in the way that UFC 149 was almost universally bad.
It'll likely rebound with a string of great shows, from the fourth FOX broadcast in two weeks all the way through the Toronto show in September headlined by Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson.
But there are lessons to be learned from UFC 149, and they are important lessons indeed.