On July 11, I wrote a story detailing my wishes for the UFC to return to stacked pay-per-view events.
The story was written in the wake of the cancellation of UFC 176. I wanted the UFC to return to the good old days, when ordering a pay-per-view at home meant getting more than one or two fights you wanted to see. This used to be standard operating procedure, back in the days before the promotion began running one or two events almost every weekend.
There is hope peeking over the horizon. If the slate of upcoming UFC pay-per-view events is any sign, the promotion has heard our cries. After a dismal season of PPV events (at least from a monetary perspective), the world's biggest MMA promotion is loading up for bear hunting season.
First, there is UFC 177. Though it's short on real name value, there are two championship fights. There is also the debut of former Olympic medalist Henry Cejudo, who faces Scott Jorgensen. Bethe Correia continues her quest up the Four Horsewomen ladder with a bout against Shayna Baszler. And lightweights Tony Ferguson and Danny Castillo will attempt to continue their winning ways.
Then comes UFC Fight Night 50, which isn't a pay-per-view but is still a stacked card. Ronaldo Souza vs. Gegard Mousasi headlines the show, and Alistair Overeem vs. Ben Rothwell, Matt Mitrione vs. Derrick Lewis and Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Chiesa round out a quality free card. The UFC's decision to stack this event likely had something to do with Bellator running a card on the same night in the same area.
And then we arrive at the big one: UFC 178, headlined by Jon Jones defending his championship against Daniel Cormier. As you are no doubt aware, Jones was scheduled to face Alexander Gustafsson, but an injury suffered by Gustafsson forced him to the sidelines. In my opinion, Cormier is a better opponent for Jones. And given the early social media banter between the two, there's a good chance fan interest will be high come fight night.
But Jones and Gustafsson aren't the only featured events on the card. Take a look at the rest of the fights currently scheduled:
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
Dominick Cruz vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Tim Kennedy vs. Yoel Romero
Cat Zingano vs. Amanda Nunes
Jorge Masvidal vs. Bobby Green
John Howard vs. Brian Ebersole
Patrick Cote vs. Stephen Thompson
That's not all. Though it is not confirmed, rumors are circulating that McGregor vs. Poirier will not, in fact, be the co-main event. It is believed the UFC has a "massive" announcement for the co-main event. Sources close to the promotion told me last week that a big fight is planned for the UFC 178 co-main event.
Could the mystery fight involve Nick Diaz, who signed a new deal with the promotion last week? The UFC has stated that Diaz won't fight until 2015, but could those statements be a smokescreen? What about Anderson Silva? Dana White tweeted that Silva wouldn't fight until February. But what if that's a red herring designed to add impact to a surprise announcement of Silva returning early to face Diaz?
Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz? Yeah, that would be a pretty good co-main event.
But even without the addition of a huge co-main event, UFC 178 is already stacked. Despite having just three fights in the UFC, McGregor is a genuine star. He has heat with Poirier, and he knows how to sell a fight. Once fight night arrives, there will be as much interest in McGregor vs. Poirier as there has been for any featherweight fight since the division was added to the UFC.
Dominick Cruz is also returning. That's a big deal, and his bout against Takeya Mizugaki will allow us to assess where Cruz currently stands. Can the former bantamweight champion return from all that time off? Or will he look like he never left and become an instant contender for the title?
Jorge Masvidal and Bobby Green put in excellent performances at UFC on Fox in front of a large audience. Pairing them against each other is a sublime bit of matchmaking from Joe Silva. Oh, and they should deliver the goods in an exciting fight.
I could go on. Cat Zingano making her return after more than a year away. Tim Kennedy and Yoel Romero are sizing each other up to see who might make a run at the title in 2015. And the UFC isn't done with this card either; by my count, there will be at least three or four more fights added before it's all said and done.
It doesn't appear that the stacked nature of UFC 178 is a one-off either. UFC 181, scheduled for December 6, already has two title fights on the card: Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort and Gilbert Melendez vs. Anthony Pettis. A third title fight between Ronda Rousey and Gina Carano is also rumored to be on the card, provided Carano inks a contract in time.
It is obvious the UFC is stacking its pay-per-view events again. Is it a response to the reportedly low buyrate for UFC 174? Did it learn a lesson from the cancellation of UFC 176? Is it trying to create excitement around its big fights again?
The truth is that it does not matter. Whatever the reason, the decision to add more than one big fight to each pay-per-view card is a great one for the fans.
The free televised events the UFC is ramping up around the world may be harmed in the process. But pay-per-views are the UFC's bread and butter. They should be treated with care and given respect, and they should feature the biggest and best the promotion has to offer.
Stacked cards are a good thing. Let's hope it continues.
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