UFC 129 is receiving its fair amount of hype—and rightly so—but will that translate into success when it comes to the all important PPV buy rate? Hardcore fans seem sold, but it is the “casual” fan that really counts if the UFC wants to rope-a-dope in a big number.
It is safe to say that anything less then a 700,000 PPV buy rate would make UFC 129 a dud at the box office. Something north of 800,000 would probably suffice, while a PPV of one million would be a dream scenario and put it in elite company.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the top 13 UFC PPV fight cards of all time.
UFC 126 is still fairly fresh in people's minds.
Forrest Griffin redeemed himself at the expense of the visibly smaller Rich Franklin. Jon Jones manhandled a fairly manly Ryan Bader, earning his title shot in the process. And Anderson Silva worked his mojo once again, planting his foot in the face of Vitor Belfort.
Thinking back to the hype around this fight card, I actually thought it would perform much better, but it is hard to scoff at anything over 700,000 PPV buys in today's economy.
A classic card, which featured the much anticipated long overdue come to blows between Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva. An action packed fight that left fans wanting two more rounds.
Headlining the card was the interim welterweight title fight between Georges St. Pierre and Matt Hughes. St-Pierre was not to be denied, as this passing of the guard fight proved that while Hughes was great, he was from a previous era.
UFC 61: Bitter Rivals was just that, as Tim Sylvia defended his heavyweight belt against the man he took it from Andrei Arlovski. It was the third and final time the two would face off inside the Octagon as they both would go onto...bigger and better things.
The co-main event featured the much anticipated no love loss rematch of TUF 3 coaches Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. It was so good they booked the trilogy.
How could fans resist?
With a fairly weak sauce main card, this PPV was carried on the strapping shoulders of the protagonist vs. antagonist storyline St-Pierre and Koscheck had built up as opposing coaches on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter. GSP's jab played antagonist to the eye of Koscheck, and it is safe to assume Kos was impressed by the performance.
Anderson Silva had been labeled as someone who couldn't bring in big PPV numbers, but when you move him up to the weight class where he belongs and pit him opposite a fan favorite in Forrest Griffin, presto!
It probably helped that they added a title fight between B.J. Penn and Kenny Florian as the main event.
No surprise here as GSP headlines again, this time opposite a brash British bomber. Dan Hardy did his job to sell the fight and was valiant in defeat. A compelling interim heavyweight title fight was added while Brock Lesnar sat on the shelf. While we waited, Shane Carwin ran roughshod through Frank Mir.
This one was all about GSP vs. Penn, the rematch. While the verbal back and forth leading up to the fight was entertaining, the action inside the Octagon was fairly one sided, as GSP forced BJ to quit on his stool. Lyoto Machida played a supporting role in his beat down Thiago Silva. We also got to see Jon Jones start to emerge as something special.
A trifecta of great fights at the top of the card, Forrest Griffin attempted to defend the belt he took from Rampage Jackson but was unsuccessful in doing so against Rashad Evans. Frank Mir took out Big Nog, claiming the heavyweight interim belt and earning a spot opposite Brock Lesnar on what would take place at UFC 100. And just for fun, Rampage Jackson and Wanderlei Silva completed their trilogy.
It still feels a bit surreal that Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar fought each other. But they did, when Couture decided to come back to the UFC and defend his belt. Always the gamer, Couture looked competitive in the first round against a man who likely out weighed him by 70 pounds. But in the second, Lesnar clipped Couture and then proceeded to bounce his head up and down like a basketball with those lovely hammer-fists of his.
This was the fourth PPV that Lesnar headlined, which brought in over million buys. It is going to be hard to replace Lesnar once he is retired to killing deer. Possible retirement sooner rather then later, thanks in large part thanks to the man who he faced on this card, Cain Velasquez. Velasquez kept going where Shane Carwin couldn't and finished Lesnar in bloody fashion.
One has to wonder if UFC 131, featuring Lesnar taking on Junior dos Santos, will keep the steak alive of one million PPV buys plus.
Chuck vs. Tito, the rematch. Enough said.
Rampage said there was going to be some black on black crime, and Rashad mugged him for most of three rounds. It wasn't what fans were expecting, but did you really think Suga was going to go toe to toe with a man monikered Rampage? Shake them haters off.
Brock equals bankable, and this was the biggest of the three PPV's, where he headlined without the help of much of a supporting cast. Carwin was coming off the hurting he put on Frank Mir, and fans believed that Carwin might abuse Lesnar just as badly. He did, but ran out of gas, allowing Lesnar to live to fight another day.
What do you get when you combine Brock Lesnar with Georges St-Pierre? A record breaking PPV that we may not see challenged for quite awhile.