posted on June 15, 2012 00:00
I almost did it. A little over a month ago, I nearly wrote an article about how I could hardly wait for UFC 148 to get here. I was going to reference the South Park episode where Eric Cartman attempts to put himself into cryonic suspension, because he simply cannot wait the three weeks for the Nintendo Wii to come out, and suggest that I was considering that same procedure for myself. However, I didn’t want to jinx it. I thought that, by writing the article, something was bound to go wrong. Turns out, the universe didn’t need any help from me.
At the beginning of May, the UFC 148 card featured an abundance of can’t-miss matchups. Michael Bisping vs. Tim Boetsch, a probable middleweight title-eliminator fight, promised to be an exciting brawl. Rich Franklin was set to take on Cung Le in a bout where a knockout was virtually guaranteed. We were going to see the final bout of Tito Ortiz’s Hall-of-Fame career, as he competed in a rubber match against Forrest Griffin. And none of those fights were even the co-main event!
Two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC, Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber, were set to square off in a contest for Cruz’s bantamweight crown, a culmination of their season-long coaching feud on The Ultimate Fighter and the final installment of their trilogy of bouts. The main event featured arguably the most demanded rematch in MMA history, as Chael Sonnen would finally get a second shot at Anderson Silva’s middleweight title, after nearly defeating Silva in 2010. The card was primed to be the biggest, most-watched event in MMA history.
In early May, disaster stuck as Cruz, 135-pound kingpin, suffered a torn ACL. The injury will keep Cruz out of action for the better part of the next calendar year, causing him to pull out of the fight with Faber on July 7th. While this is a huge blow to the company (especially considering the time and programming that was put into building up the fight on The Ultimate Fighter), the UFC had a ready-made challenger to move up on the card. Renan Barao (and his 29-fight unbeaten streak) replaced Cruz, and was set to take on Faber for the interim bantamweight championship. I wasn’t happy, but I was content. The card would lose a bit of luster, but was still elite. That is, until Jose Aldo pulled out of his UFC 149 main event matchup with an injury. As a result, the Faber-Barao match is moved to July 21st to provide much-needed star power to the show, and 148’s co-main event is gone.
At the end of May, Vitor Belfort (scheduled to headline UFC 147 against Wanderlei Silva) broke his left hand while training. An already lackluster card needed a star to bolster the show, and take on Silva in the main event. Enter Rich Franklin, who is pulled off the 148 card to fill in for Belfort. This leaves Cung Le squaring off with Patrick Cote instead, a man who hasn’t earned a UFC victory in nearly four years.
Still, having the middleweight title fight on the same card as the middleweight title eliminator was a cool situation. Following the Silva-Sonnen and Bisping-Boetsch, fans would have a clear picture of the 185-pound scene…until the Bisping-Boetsch bout was also moved to 149 to strengthen that show (on a side note, Bisping also suffered an injury and was replaced by the debuting Hector Lombard).
Despite the craziness, the card on July 7th should still be solid (due mostly to Silva-Sonnen), provided all parties can stay healthy. Commence knocking on wood now.