It didn't exactly sweeten the UFC on Fox 19 pot when officials scrapped the co-main event on Wednesday.
But it didn't sour the best part of the card, either.
Please allow me to explain. The first thing to establish is this: the evening's now-four-fight main card is what some people might call "not the best." No disrespect intended to Rashad Evans or Glover Teixeira, who assumed the card's lead slot after Tony Ferguson pulled out of his lightweight fire show with Khabib Nurmagomedov April 5. (Nurmagomedov stayed on the card against Darrell Horcher in a fight with all sorts of implications for the 160-pound catchweight division.)
Evans and Teixeira are both proven and well-known fighters, but sitting at a combined 2-3 over the past two years, these are not two athletes taking the sunny side of the street to Tampa.
Therefore, when Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson fell by the wayside, well, it wasn't anyone's idea of a good thing, but the loss of these co-headliners (combined age: 82) just made a broken thing more broken.
Where is the best, most whole part of the card, then? The answer lies not on Fox or Fox Sports 1, where the main card and second half of the undercard will respectively air (sorry, Fox; it wasn't your fault). It lies on UFC Fight Pass, the promotion's subscription streaming service.
UFC fans are enjoying a noticeable uptick in the quality of Fight Pass bouts, and that appears to be the result of a conscious effort by the UFC to direct more attention (and, one imagines, revenue) to that part of its business. Friday's announcement that Rafael dos Anjos will defend his lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez on Fight Pass in July further cements that trend.
Let us now take a look at that portion of the UFC on Fox 19 lineup, fight by fight.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos vs. Omari Akhmedov
Fireworks, fireworks, fireworks.
Akhmedov was once considered a top prospect, but a 2-2 record in his last four UFC fights has cooled that down. Still, he's some kind of striker, blending excitement with legitimate power and sharp technique.
Dos Santos is less heralded and lost a split decision in his only UFC bout to date, but that was a good fight with Nicolas Dalby.
These men have 18 knockout wins between them. This bout could be another one for someone. If you can think of a better way to start a card, I'd love to hear it.
Cezar Ferreira vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
Mutante Ferreira has dropped two straight and three of his last four fights. When opponent Caio Magalhaes pulled out with injury, UFC matchmakers didn't help him out by tossing in Bamgbose, a mind-bending athlete and dangerous striker.
If he can find Ferreira's chin—and I think he can—it could be curtains for Mutante in this fight—and in this run with the UFC.
Randy Brown vs. Michael Graves
Both of these men are 25 years old. Neither has ever lost a professional fight. Both are 1-0 since joining the UFC roster. Something, as they say, has to give.
Graves is probably the better-known fighter thanks to his time on The Ultimate Fighter. But Brown might have the higher ceiling—at a towering 6'3", he can certainly count on at least one advantage as long as he stays at welterweight.
Graves' wrestling and Brown's distance striking present a compelling style matchup here.
John Dodson vs. Manny Gamburyan
The Fight Pass headliner features Dodson's return to bantamweight after being chased out of the flyweight division by all-time great and champ Demetrious Johnson.
The thing is, while he lost twice to Mighty Mouse, Dodson didn't lose to any other flyweight during his time there. In fact, Dodson hasn't lost to anyone else in the UFC, and that includes a TUF finale win over ex-champ T.J. Dillashaw.
Dodson is one of the best athletes anywhere in the UFC, and he'll show that against a judo machine in Gamburyan. The Anvil is a tough veteran and a suitable foil for Dodson's return. Dodson should win, though, and announce his return to 135 pounds with authority.