The UFC has made it a part of their marketing strategy to build their year end show as the biggest of the year.
Ultimate 2008, also known as UFC 92, was a perfect example.
The fight card featured a light heavyweight title fight between Forrest Griffin and Rashad Evans. It also hosted a heavyweight interim title fight involving Frank Mir and Antonio Nogueira and added a grudge match between Quinton Jackson and Wanderlei Silva for good measure.
The show was a huge PPV success, pulling in between 1.1 and 1.2 million buys which, at the time, broke the record previously held by UFC 66 which featured the rematch between Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz.
Ultimate 2008 has since been passed by UFC 100 which did around 1.65 million buys.
Looking ahead to UFC 108: The Ultimate 2009, one would think that this card would be even more stacked then last year’s very successful show. But that may not be the case.
The problem starts with finding a credible main event. Because of injuries and scheduling conflicts, there will likely be no titles on the line when UFC 108 goes down on January 2.
Brock Lesnar is defending his heavyweight title against Shane Carwin at UFC 106 on November 21, which rules out the emergent winner fighting on the year end show. The same is the case for a lightweight title fight between B.J. Penn and Diego Sanchez. That fight is being contested at UFC 107 just three weeks after the Lesnar bout.
As far as welterweight and middleweight title fights, both look very unlikely.
George St. Pierre is currently recovering from the injury he sustained at UFC 100 in a title fight with Thiago Alves and will likely not be ready until early February of next year. As for Silva, an upcoming elbow surgery will cost the middleweight champion the rest of the 2009 fight season.
That leaves the light heavyweight division as the only one with an outside chance of being represented in a title bout on the Ultimate 2009 show.
Lyoto Machida defends his belt against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua on October 24 at UFC 104. That would leave the winner a mere ten weeks to turn around and defend their belt. That's a quick turnaround.
The other pressing issue would be deciding a contender.
The number one contender to the belt in waiting is the winner of Quinton Jackson vs. Rashad Evans, but even without their fight getting pushed back, neither would have been ready for a title fight until March of 2010 at the earliest.
With Forrest Griffin having been flattened by Anderson Silva at UFC 101, he is several fights removed from another title shot. Thiago Silva, who made quick work of Keith Jardine at UFC 102, could theoretically be an option, but he previously fought Machida at UFC 94 and got dismantled. He likely needs at least one more big win before being granted a title shot.
Dan Henderson has said he would vacate the middleweight division if not given an immediate title shot at Anderson Silva, and it appears that won't be happening any time soon. Would Henderson be deserving of an immediate title shot at 205?
That however may not be where th UFC is headed. It is now being reported that Dan Henderson could face Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the main event at UFC 105. Even if he were to win, a turnaround for UFC 108 would seem out of the question.
The front runner could be Rich Franklin if he emerges victorious against Vitor Belfort at UFC 103. Back to back wins over Belfort and Wanderlei Silva would be impressive, except for the fact that Franklin was defeated by the aforementioned Dan Henderson in a scrap back at UFC 93.
Just to cover every corner, even Randy Couture could be considered an option. While it may seem preposterous for Couture to get an immediate title shot in the light heavyweight division after coming off a one-sided loss to Antonio Nogueira, there is some historical precedent on Couture’s side.
Back in 2002, Couture was coming off back to back heavyweight losses to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez. His next fight after Rodriguez was an interim light heavyweight title fight against Chuck Liddell at UFC 43, a fight he shockingly won.
Even if the UFC can somehow get a light heavyweight title fight on The Ultimate 2009, it doesn’t seem like the fight card will have the same firepower as last years record breaking show. Dana White and match maker Joe Silva certainly have their work cut out for them.