Remember Vitor Belfort? That half-man, half-synthetic headkicking machine that was terrorizing any man who weighed 185 pounds and dared to meet him in combat?
Yeah, that guy was really something.
He was also supposed to be fighting for a world title on Saturday at UFC 173 in Las Vegas before a surprise test from the athletic commission sent the whole thing pear shaped.
Lyoto Machida replaced him in that fight against champion Chris Weidman, then both of those guys got hurt and they were moved to UFC 175 in July. UFC 173, the original home for Belfort, Weidman, Machida and the whole middleweight title carousel was in shambles.
Only apparently it wasn't.
BARAO vs DILLASHAW!!! pic.twitter.com/7ueS70kcMj— Dana White (@danawhite) May 24, 2014
While the story for much of the spring was Belfort's bizarre regulatory dance and how it set off a chain events that ruined a historically excellent Memorial Day card, the UFC put together quite the event with everyone else looking the other way.
Renan Barao will get a chance to justify his continued push against TJ Dillashaw, an overmatched but exciting challenger.
Dan Henderson will fight Daniel Cormier in a relatively late-booked co-main event that will either confirm Cormier as an elite 205er or confirm Henderson still has something left to give the sport.
Jake Ellenberger will fight Robbie Lawler, a replacement for Tarec Saffiedine who actually served to improve both the stylistic appeal and rankings stakes of the bout.
Throw Jamie Varner, James Krause and Takeya Mizugaki into the main card shuffle and all of the sudden your $60 is pretty well-spent.
UFC 173 is...
It's nice to see the UFC put together such a strong offering after it was looking so grim as recently as a couple of months ago. With so much action and so many cards demanding attention, the promotion's capacity to cobble together something enjoyable on paper is only going to be tested more often.
When it is, like it has been with UFC 173, getting creative to make good cards will buy goodwill from fans who aren't always enthralled by what they're paying for from the promotion.
So kick up your feet and enjoy the show, folks. This weekend could have been shrouded in illegitimacy, controversy or outright disaster for the UFC. Actually, it looked like it would be for quite a while.
But while the world was looking in that direction, the UFC was putting together a sneaky-good event that looks primed to pay off with a solid night of action. That deserves praise in any climate, but it deserves even more when one looks at the road that was traveled to get there this time.