Over the course of the last few years, the Ultimate Fighting Championships has seen a substantial rise in pay-per-view buys. More and more fans now are willing to shell out their hard earned money to be enthralled by the top organization in mixed martial arts.
Seven years ago, at UFC 41, UFC legends Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and Randy “The Natural” Couture engaged in their first of three battles and had a pay-per-view buyrate of 50,000 people. Skip ahead two-and-a-half years later to UFC 57 and their third and final war generated 400,000 pay-per-view buys.
This Saturday night, at UFC 116, we will see two goliaths try to reign supreme when the returning UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar takes on heavyweight power house and interim UFC heavyweight champion Shane Carwin.
The drama surrounding this event is vastly similar to that of a high profile boxing match, where all eyes are focused on the main event. After the bout being cancelled on two separate occasions, the blockbuster heavyweight fight we’ve all been waiting for is finally here.
Will Brock Lesnar’s return to action against Shane Carwin propel UFC 116 to be one of the highest selling pay-per-views?
Before we examine that, let’s go on a blast to the past and revisit the top 10 highest pay-per-view buy rates in UFC history.
It was December 29th in Las Vegas, where the main event pitted former UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell against former Pride middleweight champion “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva. The two legends of the sport went to war as soon as the opening bell sounded and would leave UFC fans with their moneys worth as the two stood toe-to-toe for fifteen minutes of action.
As if the main event wasn’t enough, we had UFC legend Matt Hughes take on Georges St. Pierre to complete their historical trilogy. It was on this night, where St. Pierre would come out victorious by dominating Matt Hughes in the grappling department and capped it off with a beautiful armbar to win the interim UFC welterweight championship.
It was at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey where two blockbuster bouts featuring welterweight king pin Georges St. Pierre against top contender Dan Hardy and Shane Carwin vs. Frank Mir for the interim UFC heavyweight championship.
Shane Carwin rose to the occasion when he was given his first top five-ranked opponent in former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. From the opening bell, Carwin took control and a few minutes later would nearly decapitate Frank Mir with powerful uppercuts and vicious punches when he had Frank Mir’s back to finish Mir in the first round.
UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre left the fans a little bit disappointed in his approach to the dangerous striker Dan Hardy. However, the welterweight king pin would attempt multiple submissions and takedown Hardy at will in all five rounds to win a unanimous decision victory.
On this night, we witnessed the final fight in the trilogy between then UFC champion Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski. Also, on the card we saw the second fight in the trilogy between “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz and “The Worlds Most Dangerous Man” Ken Shamrock.
The main event proved to be fairly lackluster, as Tim Sylvia managed to outpoint Arlovski with his reach for five rounds that would leave fans irritated.
In the co-main event Tito Ortiz made short work of the UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock, however Shamrock would protest at the referees’ stoppage and fans of the sport were left in frustration.
Two of the sports pound-for-pound elites BJ Penn and Anderson Silva would look to continue their dominance as Penn would face Kenny Florian for the lightweight title, and Anderson Silva would look to climb the ranks of the 205lbs division as he took on former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Middleweight king pin Anderson Silva simply frustrated and dominated the former UFC light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin. In just slightly over three minutes, Anderson Silva knocked Griffin out by simply moving to the side and leaving his closed right hand in the air.
BJ Penn simply dominated the top contender in Kenny Florian for four rounds, and Kenny only was able to manage to push BJ against the fence. Florian would eat a devastating flying knee and hard punches, and in the fourth round Florian faded and Penn was able to submit the bjj black belt with a rear naked choke.
It was on May 29th where the bad blood between former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and “Sugar” Rashad Evans would finally set stage.
In many eyes, it appeared that the long lay-off hurt “Rampage” as Evans clearly dominated the first two rounds. However, “Rampage” would drop Evans in the third round, but it wasn't enough to get the job done. Evans utilized his speed and took a page out of Lyoto Machida's playbook to get the job done in route to a unanimous decision victory.
For the first time in UFC history, current champions from two different weight classes would meet in a super fight, when BJ Penn took on Georges St. Pierre.
St. Pierre dominated BJ Penn for four rounds via ground and pound and at the end of the fourth round, Penn’s camp decided to throw in the towel. However, controversy would follow the bout as Penn’s camp accused St. Pierre of greasing during the bout. It was clearly visible that St. Pierre’s corner man rubbed Vaseline on the welterweight champ.
The Ultimate Fighting Championships looked to finish out the new year in 2008 with a bang when Rashad Evans would meet Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight title, Frank Mir would meet Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the interim UFC heavyweight championship, and Quinton Jackson would get a chance at revenge against Wanderlei Silva to round out their trilogy from Pride.
On this night “Rampage” would score his first victory over “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva. Wanderlei seemed to have a tentative start and peppered Jackson with leg kicks, and the moment Wanderlei rushed he was met with a sharp left hook from “Rampage”.
The most shocking turn of events on this night was when Frank Mir became the first man to knock out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and win the interim UFC heavyweight championship.
In the main event, Rashad Evans would score a come from behind knock out victory over Forrest Griffin to win the UFC light heavyweight championship. Griffin clearly controlled the first two rounds by out striking Evans and beating him to the punch. In round three, Evans would get his wits back and caught Griffin’s leg kick and proceeded to ground and pound Griffin to win the title.
It was at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas where Randy “The Natural” Couture would look to return after a yearlong lay off to take on former collegiate wrestling champion and former WWE superstar Brock Lesnar.
On this night, Brock Lesnar made his presence felt in the heavyweight division in only his fourth fight in mixed martial arts, when he defeated the champion Couture via technical knock out in round two.
Still one of the highest grossing UFC pay-per-views to date is Chuck Liddell vs. Tito Ortiz 2 for the UFC light heavyweight championship. The rivalry between Liddell and Ortiz has been legendary since Ortiz refused to fight Liddell back during his title run. And Ortiz managed to put himself back in the title Hunt after defeating Vitor Belfort, Ken Shamrock (twice), and Forrest Griffin.
Liddell clearly made his presence felt and solidified himself in the top of the division when he dominated Ortiz through much of the fight and emphatically stopped Ortiz in the third round. “The Iceman” successfully defended his light heavyweight title and got to silence his rival once again.
At the present time the historic UFC 100 event is the highest grossing UFC pay-per-view with three blockbuster match ups as Frank Mir met Brock Lesnar to unify the heavyweight championship, Georges St. Pierre took on top contender Thiago Alves, and the legendary Dan Henderson took on season three winner of the “Ultimate Fighter” Michael Bisping.
Possibly the most memorable part of UFC 100 was when fan favorite Dan Henderson knocked out Michael Bisping with a devastating right hand that sent Bisping crashing to the canvas.
Georges St. Pierre managed to continue his dominance in the welterweight division by defeating one of his toughest challengers in Thiago Alves in dominant fashion. St. Pierre even managed to out strike the world class Muay Thai specialist in Alves and dropped him in the fourth round and won a unanimous decision.
In the main event Brock Lesnar unified the UFC heavyweight championship and managed to erase his first loss in the UFC octagon. From the opening bell Lesnar took down Mir and made the fight ugly, and in round two Lesnar would put Mir on his back again against the cage and brutally pound out the victory leaving no doubts in the mind of UFC fans who the dominant fighter was.