UFC 169 broke the UFC record for most decisions for a single event with 10.
Seven of those decisions came on the undercard. The first seven bouts of the night all went to the scorecards, and save for Al Iaquinta vs. Kevin Lee, they were not even compelling fights that went the distance.
There are some out there who will point to this being due to the work Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, UFC matchmakers, do. They are the best in the business, but they are failing at putting together undercards for UFC bouts.
The notion that undercard fights should be evenly matched is false. The undercard portion of a card is to foster prospects and build future stars. The current UFC preliminary card landscape is failing at every turn.
From time to time, we are getting fun fights. We don't have to look too far to see that. However, those fights, more or less, are not creating new stars. Nor are they developing fighters. It seems odd to say, but the undercards to UFC events need more mismatches.
If the UFC has a prospect they see a future in, then they must foster his talent with favorable matchups. There may be individual stylistic challenges, but overall they should be placed in bouts where their victory is a forgone conclusion.
That is not happening often enough right now.
At UFC 169, was there any fight where a prospect stood out? No.
Evenly contested bouts are for main cards. It is to help determine who the best of the best are. That isn't happening on the majority of undercards. We get mid-tier fighters, at best, fighting other mid-tier fighters with the hopes we will get a brawl or back-and-forth brawl.
That is helping no one. And it shows.
The UFC is having a hard time developing new stars. Brock Lesnar has been back in the WWE for a long while, Georges St-Pierre is on hiatus for the foreseeable future and Anderson Silva just suffered a second consecutive loss. Who are the new stars, and where are they being developed?
The UFC is not developing fighters the same way it was just a few years ago. Johny Hendricks is a fantastic example.
Hendricks slowly worked his way up against fighters he held considerable advantages over as he developed his all-around skills. Eventually, the UFC tested him against fighters just outside of the top 10. When Hendricks won those, he got to the top 10 of the division and put together his run toward the title.
Hendricks spent nearly three years facing fighters outside the top 10. In those seven bouts, five were on the preliminary card. He was only on the main card in his UFC debut because Amir Sadollah was coming off winning The Ultimate Fighter.
In spite of the quick KO, the UFC relegated him to the undercard and slowly developed his talents. That is paying off.
Now, if a fighter has a big win over a semi-popular fighter, you can see him on the main card of a variety of shows, if not co-main-eventing a small fight card in another country. It is asinine. The UFC has gotten away from developing talent on the undercards, and it is hurting their business.
This used to be an area in which the UFC excelled, but now for one reason or another the matchmakers are failing. They are just hoping someone emerges from the pack instead of identifying talent and fostering their growth.
The UFC should reevaluate how it constructs the preliminary cards for their events if it hopes to bring up more stars that will lead the business in the years to come.