At UFC Fight Night 45 on Wednesday, Claudia Gadelha and Tina Lahdemaki became the first two 115-pound fighters to step inside the Octagon.
Claudia Gadelha about to debut - she might be the best 115lb fighter in the world. The strawweights have arrived #UFC— UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) July 16, 2014
Claudia Gadelha was my early pick to win #TUF20. Tonight did nothing to change my mind. She should be the first challenger for the belt.— Rob Tatum (@RobTatumMMA) July 16, 2014
Unfortunately for fight fans, the bout was buried on UFC Fight Pass. That was a mistake made by the UFC and is something it should avoid moving forward.
UFC Fight Night 45 was a fun event, and only two bouts went to a decision—the women's strawweight contest was one of those bouts. That should not detract from why it should have been placed on the televised prelims at the least.
Gadelha defeated Lahdemaki by unanimous decision in a three-round affair. Lahdemaki was a game fighter in each round, and the bout showcased how deep the newly minted division is. Gadelha was able to show her top-level skills and why she was Invicta's top contender.
The UFC brass has had problems building stars recently, and the fight between Gadelha and Lahdemaki was a big bout in the strawweight division. Gadelha is currently ranked as the No. 3 strawweight in the world, and after the win she could be the first title contender for the UFC strawweight crown.
That contender and potential star was placed on a platform with the least amount of viewers. Fights with far less importance got far better treatment.
Why? What does that accomplish?
The only fight on the UFC Fight Night 45 card with equal divisional importance was the main event, and Gadelha was the highest-ranked fighter on the card regardless of weight classification. There was no good reason for the bout to be buried.
As the UFC prepares for the 20th season of The Ultimate Fighter, this could have been a great introduction for the Fox Sports 1 audience to the division. Instead, casual fans may not even know about the fight a day after the fact. They do not know the high-caliber fighters within the division yet. Fans are in the dark about perhaps the first title contender.
It was the only fight not shown on television.
This should be unacceptable.
Highly ranked fighters should not be relegated to opening a mid-level fight card with little to no importance throughout.
What makes this even more of a travesty is that Gadelha vs. Lahdemaki was a high-level battle. It was perhaps one of the best technically sound women's bouts inside the UFC to date. And only the hardcore fans who have subscribed to Fight Pass were able to see it.
Placing this fight on the main card, with proper promotion, could have put Gadelha on the national map. It would have generated more anticipation for the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
The UFC needs to build its ranked fighters. This year has shown the organization's lack of promotion for its titleholders and contenders. The UFC's biggest stars, Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones, have only drawn 340,000 and 350,000 buys, respectively, for their headlining shows in 2014. That highlights the UFC's recent struggles.
So why bury a potential title contender and a new division? What was there to gain?
It was a mistake. Point blank. The UFC needs to structure its events better and highlight its top-tier talent. Placing potential title contenders as the opening bouts on mid-level, midweek fight cards does nothing to help the fighter or the UFC.
As 2014 marches forward, the UFC needs to market its athletes better. The placement of the first ever strawweight tilt only highlights the UFC's shortcomings.