UFC 149 and the 10 Worst Cards in UFC History
By and large, the UFC almost always comes through on their cards.
For a variety of reasons, though, there have been several undeniably disappointing UFC events over the years, both for fans and for the UFC.
Things can go wrong before, during and after an event, and it is important to think back on some of the unfortunate things that can ruin a card. Though some of these ended up having redeeming factors, all of them are terrible in their own ways.
These events were chosen for a variety of reasons and are in chronological order. So do not get offended if you thought one card was way worse than the one three spots later. It also focuses in on main cards, so even if a card had a strong preliminary card, that does not factor into this list.
UFC 11 (September 20, 1996)
Way back when, UFC events were largely centered around tournaments where fighters would have three bouts the same night. Why were things structured this way? I'll never know. But they were.
Now, if your reaction to reading that was, “three fights one after another? The entire event would get ruined if...” then regardless of what you said after that, you were probably proven correct during UFC 11. The event was mired with problems.
Firstly, the UFC “seeded” UFC veterans against a variety of newcomers. The eventual UFC Hall of Famer Mark Coleman fought against random schmoe, Julian Sanchez. UFC 6 finalist Tank Abbott was matched with another no-namer, Sam Adkins. The same went for Brian Johnston and Jerry Bohlander (though Bohlander was against BJJ whiz Fabio Gurgel, who only had one MMA fight at that point).
In a position of guaranteed success, Mark Coleman advanced to the finals with just over three minutes of fighting. On the other side of the bracket, Tank Abbott was to face UFC 8's Jerry Bohlander in the semifinals, but Bohlander had to withdraw from the tournament because of a concussion.
Abbott was then assigned obese brawler Scott Ferrozzo. After fifteen straight minutes of action (there were no rounds back then), Ferrozzo earned the decision win.
At this point, Ferrozzo had fought twenty-four full minutes of fighting to Coleman's three. That gave Mark Coleman an incredible advantage going into the final fight.
Well, it would have if they actually fought—Ferrozzo had to withdraw from the finals because of cuts and fatigue.
With little fanfare and almost no acknowledgment or explanation of the injuries that had completely rearranged the event, Coleman was declared the winner of UFC 11. Many questioned if the event was fixed.
It wasn't. It was just poorly thought-out.
UFC 12 (February 7, 1997)
For a good, long while, the UFC generated a great deal of ire among the general populous. Even moreso than today.
Go ahead and re-watch footage of UFC events from the 1990s, and you'll see all sorts of things that have been phased out of the sport.
Bare knuckles. 170 lb Royce Gracie fighting 300 lb monsters. Kicks to the faces of grounded fighters. Fish-hooking. Keith Hackney's merciless assault on Joe Son's genitals.
All those things are now illegal in modern MMA.
The growth of the UFC from a spectacle to a sport started at UFC 12. That growth, though, came with more than a little pain for the promotion.
The event was meant to take place in New York but, just days before the event, the state's government effectively banned MMA (which is, in fact, yet to be repealed). This started a trend that kept the UFC out of most of the country, forcing UFC 12 to Dothan, Alabama.
The city had a population at the time of just 57,000, and is well away from Tallahassee, FL or Montgomery, AL. With no street-level marketing, all sorts of bad press and a sub-awesome venue, the event was a flop at the gate.
Add to that how the UFC refunded the tickets purchased for the New York event, and you had an event that nearly ended MMA in the United States.
Even though the card itself was not bad, UFC 12 was still a very dark time for the sport.
UFC 24 (March 10, 2000)
Going down the results list for UFC 24, you would initially wonder why this card is on the worst-ever UFC events list.
There are plenty of stoppages to be had here, with only two of seven fights going to decision. Who doesn't love stoppages?
What makes this one of the worst UFC events ever is the fact that it was supposed to be eight fights, rather than seven.
That eighth fight that did not happen? Oh, that was just the headline heavyweight championship fight between Kevin Randleman and Pedro Rizzo.
What was supposed to be a matchup between the two top “next generation” heavyweights ended up getting cancelled, as Kevin Randleman slipped backstage, hit his head on the floor and suffered a concussion that landed him in the hospital. Needless to say, many were less than happy about this turn of events.
Randleman and Rizzo would later fight at UFC 26, but this is still one of the most random, hilarious-in-retrospect things to happen in sports.
UFC 27 (September 22, 2000)
You know how people ruthlessly criticize Strikeforce for putting together flimsy matches for their top stars? Like how Josh Thomson ended up fighting against Gilbert Melendez for their lightweight belt while riding a one-fight winning streak?
The UFC was once in that boat. Pedro Rizzo and Kevin Randleman were two of the best heavyweights the UFC had. Rizzo was booked to fight again—shortly after his UFC 26 bout—at UFC 27. The thing is, the UFC did not really have anyone to put him against.
At this point, weight classes were clearly in place, so the sort of wild size differences found in early UFC events were a thing of the past. The UFC had all sorts of issues retaining fighters at the time, meaning they had few heavyweight fighters fans had ever heard of.
Randy Couture was fighting in the Rings promotion. Various UFC veterans had moved on to Japan to fight in Pride or Dream. Andrei Arlovski, Ricco Rodriguez and Josh Barnett would all make their UFC debuts in the months after this event.
This perfect storm nudged the UFC into dialing up the 42-year-old Dan Severn to face the 26-year-old Rizzo.
While Severn was still racking up wins against no-namers and sat on a silly 41-4-3 record, he had far less success when it came to legitimate opponents. Basically, he beat John Calvo, Ross Quam, Slade Martin and a bunch of other guys you have never heard of; while losing or coming to a draw against Kimo Leopoldo, Josh Barnett, Pat Miletich, Frank Shamrock, Mark Coleman and Jeremy Horn.
The fact that Severn was also a part-time ref did not help the perception of him being an old man against a young killing machine.
Rizzo ended up injuring Severn after just 93 seconds of uncontested leg kicks.
The fight ended up a net loss for all involved parties. The UFC lost face for its bad matchmaking compared to Japan's Pride FC. Severn's legacy was called into question. Rizzo got no respect or fame for beating down his middle-aged, mustached opponent.
UFC 33 (September 28, 2001)
This event is commonly pointed to as the worst in UFC history, and for good reason.
UFC 33 was the first event fought under the complete “Unified Rules” that govern the sport today, which allowed the UFC to return to regular Pay-Per-View broadcasts. To celebrate this, the brass stacked this card from top to bottom.
The card is loaded with names that have persisted into today. Matt Serra vs. Yves Edwards. Chuck Liddell vs. Murilo Bustamante. Dave Menne vs. Gil Castillo. Jens Pulver vs. Dennis Hallman. Tito Ortiz vs. Vladimir Matyushenko (though the original main event was supposed to be Ortiz vs. Vitor Belfort).
This list of fighters included many of the best at the time and was supposed to vault the UFC into the position that it achieved with The Ultimate Fighter. It did not.
Every single fight went to decision, and the event ran so long that some cable providers ended the broadcast halfway through the night's main event. While Kevin Randleman losing his bout with a floor at UFC 24 was a crazy tragedy, UFC 33 was a downright disaster.
The event is said to have set the promotion back by years, and there is no real question about that. UFC 33 drew 75,000 buys. The next event to meet that mark not headlined by Tito Ortiz was UFC 46 in 2004, which sported Randy Couture vs. Vitor Belfort II in its top spot.
UFC 33 remains the gold standard for failure in MMA, and is referred to by Dana White whenever he is asked if he thought a card was bad.
UFC 36 (March 22, 2002)
UFC 36 was actually an entertaining card, to be honest. It had a slew of greats, with nine different fighters that—at one point or another—wore a championship belt.
Ultimately, though, it ended with one of the darkest days in UFC history: Where Josh Barnett bested Randy Couture to become the UFC's top heavyweight dog, and owned that title for only a few months before being stripped after testing positive for a bunch of different steroids.
The UFC has had good luck of late dodging these bullets, most notably Chael Sonnen's UFC 117 loss to Anderson Silva and at UFC 143 with Nick Diaz receiving a year-long suspension for marijuana use after losing an interim welterweight title fight with Carlos Condit.
Barnett has not fought for the UFC since, and this remains the biggest steroids-related controversy in UFC history. Even though—once again—this was an otherwise-strong card, there is no getting around the lasting impact being largely based on this.
UFC 61 (July 8, 2006)
Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski III for the heavyweight championship. Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock II coaches' match. How could that possibly go wrong?
It got off to a decent start, with solid fights in Joe Stevenson vs. Yves Edwards and Josh Burkman vs. Josh Neer. Things started going awry with an appearance by the “fat version” of Frank Mir (as our B/R leads call it) who won a boo-inducing decision over Dan Christison (Christison actually got shown the door, in spite of only being 1-1 in the UFC, officially).
The two top-billed fights, though, are what most people remember. Tito Ortiz was heavily favored against Shamrock coming into the fight, and it played out as one should have expected. Ortiz took down Shamrock, landed several uncontested elbows and was declared the winner.
Even though Shamrock stiffened, meaning ref Herb Dean ultimately made the right call in stopping the fight, many were dissatisfied with the results and said the fight was stopped too quickly. This was not helped by Shamrock immediately popping up and begrudging the call.
The damage was done, and Tim Sylvia vs. Andrei Arlovski was tasked with stopping the bleeding. This was, in fact, a rubber match that was meant to be downright exciting. The first two bouts were fun, wacky brawls that featured crazy finishes. This one? Not so much.
Sylvia and Arlovski pitter-pattered each other for over twenty-five uneventful minutes worth of what looked like a friendly sparring session. The fight was a far cry from their previous two and marked the beginning of the end for the UFC career of each one. This is also the fight that started turning public opinion against Sylvia.
UFC 90 (October 25, 2008)
Remember back when Anderson Silva was not the consensus greatest of all time? Back when he was, in fact, one of the least-liked champions in the UFC? That chapter in Silva's career all started back at UFC 90.
Silva had annihilated all his competition in the UFC to that point, and few gave Patrick Cote a chance. While this was a wise decision, the TKO victory did not come as anyone expected.
Silva, at this point, had finished each and every opponent he faced in the Octagon. Cote was a solid striker at the time, and Silva respected that. Unfortunately, he respected it by being reluctant to engage in the slugfest Cote was working for and—outside a couple spurts of action—the two largely spent the first two rounds feeling each other out.
Shortly into the third round, Cote ended up seriously injuring his knee, and fell to the mat, writhing in pain. It was an incredibly disappointing fight that—save Junior dos Santos' explosive UFC debut—was an otherwise unimpressive event.
UFC 119 (September 25, 2010)
Frank Mir vs. Mirko Cro Cop was a very difficult main event to get excited about. With Mir's two ugly knockout losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin fresh in many minds, few were itching to see him fight again—never mind even topping a card.
Cro Cop, meanwhile, was clearly past his prime and not an excellent replacement for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who Mir was initially scheduled to fight.
The UFC did not stack the rest of the card to make up for this, and the mediocre fights lived up to that label. Melvin Guillard vs. Jeremy Stephens was a dance-off that ended with a questionable split decision in Guillard's favor. Evan Dunham vs. Sean Sherk was a solid fight, though also had a questionable split decision that broke in favor Sherk. Lytle vs. Serra started off hot and heavy, but fizzled down the stretch.
The event featured a trampoline fight for Ryan Bader against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the co-main event. Bader, who is a strong wrestler, utilized this to lay and pray his way to a unanimous decision victory.
The stage was lazily set for the main event, and the two aging heavyweights did the rest of the card proud.
For nearly three full rounds, the two threw jabs from afar and clinched occasionally. In the final minute of the third round, Mir sneaked a knee to Cro Cop's jaw as he struggled out a hold, knocking him out. Even though it was a surprising end, the fight was such a disappointment that Dana White refused to give it Knockout of the Night honors, in spite of being the event's only knockout.
UFC 119 was a complete dud that did not even have an exciting undercard to look for a bright side on.
UFC 122 (November 13, 2010)
UFC 122 featured a blend of problems for the card.
Like UFC 12, UFC 122 was attacked legislatively in the UFC's second foray into Germany. Anyone under 18 years old was barred from attendance, and the event was kept off German television.
A pair of injuries did not help, either. The original main event, a top contender fight between Yushin Okami and Vitor Belfort got scrapped, with Belfort being replaced by Nate Marquardt. The co-main event featuring Alessio Sakara vs. Jorge Rivera was outright canceled.
This left the card as one of the most uninteresting cards on-paper in UFC history. The fighters took it upon themselves to reflect this with their in-cage performance.
With the exception of Siver vs. Winner, the entire card was boring. Sadollah was content out-jabbing Peter Sobotta. Duane Ludwig outworked a badly exhausted Nick Osipczak. Krzysztof Soszynski outlasted Goran Reljic and brought home a lackluster win.
The main event had Yushin Okami in it. 'Nuf Said.
Okami worked his way to the top of the middleweight division by clinching or grappling his opponents. This is, needless to say, a divisive strategy from an entertainment perspective but was still entirely unsurprising. While I certainly do not want to hate on Okami, I would be lying if I said I would be excited for a card full of his style of fight.
Okami won, setting up for an unexciting match with Anderson Silva at UFC 134. This, truly, was one of the ugliest cards of the Zuffa era in essentially every way.
UFC 149 (July 21, 2012)
UFC 149 was another nightmare for the UFC. However, it was even worse for the fans that bought the card (UFC 122 was aired on Spike TV).
For those who do not remember, UFC 149 was one of the most injury-filled cards in recent memory. The original headline was Jose Aldo vs. Erik Koch. Aldo had to pull out of the bout, and the UFC then replaced it with UFC 148's co-main event, an interim bantamweight championship bout between Urijah Faber and Renan Barao.
Even that fight, in fact, was meant to be a championship bout between Dominick Cruz and Faber, but Cruz suffered a knee injury during the taping of The Ultimate Fighter: Live.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua was rumored to appear somewhere on the card, most notably against Thiago Silva. Silva, though, ended up throwing out his back and dropped out; leaving Rua without an opponent and, thus, off the card (he is now appearing on UFC on Fox 4 against Brandon Vera).
A sure-to-be-exciting bout between Thiago Alves and Yoshihiro Akiyama was also scheduled...until Akiyama was injured and replaced by Siyar Bahadurzada. Alves, realizing that getting hurt is the cool thing to do, pulled out of the bout with an “undisclosed injury” and was replaced by Chris Clements. Bahadurzada followed suit and...well. You know what? I am just going to stop right there. You get it. There were a lot of injuries.
On to the fights! Chris Clements vs. Matt Riddle (by the way, Matt Riddle ended up in there) ended up being the only fight to not have a decision with a third-round submission.
James Head and Brian Ebersole started strong and faded, and was then capped with a questionable split decision in favor of Head. Cheick Kongo and Shawn Jordan ended up in a clinch fest that drew a great deal of ire from Dana White. Tim Boetsch vs. Hector Lombard had a great deal of hype—due to Lombard's Bellator pedigree—but failed to excite fans and ended with the night's second split decision.
Finally, Faber vs. Barao came around and, though it was not a bad fight, Barao got off to a convincing lead and was more than content to bring it to the judges. He had the belt strapped around him to the tune of boos from a disgruntled and disappointed crowd and did very little to save an all-around weak card.
Dana White threw a great deal of criticism around afterward, but that did very little to make up for the money each fan burned by buying the event.