Is the UFC watering down fight cards? At one point in time last year, roughly around the time I saw Fabricio Camoes submit Tommy Hayden in the first round of their lightweight bout; you would have received a solid, "Hell yes!" That was on the preliminary portion of the card however. The main card featured a fan friendly foursome of bouts with Pat Barry knocking Christian Morecraft silly, Mike Easton beating down Jared Papazian, Josh Neer submitting a revitalized Duane Ludwig, and Jim Miller overcoming the Melvin Guillard blitzkrieg to close out the show with a RNC. And all on free TV? Forget about it.
However, the following fight cards had fans lose interest exponentially, and part of it really can’t be blamed on the UFC. The injury bug that made its name in 2012 forced the UFC to relocate bouts from fight cards to other fight cards, main event worthy fighters were knocked down one by one, and soon, only one fight on an entire card would really reach out and grab the casual fans attention.
Of course, this all came to a head at the infamous show that would never be, UFC 151. Dan Henderson pulled out of his bout with champion Jon Jones a week before the fight, and with no time to find a suitable replacement or even to market him if one had been found, the entire fight card had been scrapped.
The reason, of course, is that there was really no one on that card who could replace a Jones-Henderson title fight. The days of having a stacked fight card with champions, former champions, rising stars and relevant journeymen looked to be running out. The UFC had spread its ranks too thin with the new television deals with FOX, FX, and FUELtv. If they were going to continue this trend onward and outward, they were going to need to expand their ranks. And that’s just what they’ve done.
In the new year of 2013, the UFC’s two newest divisions, the flyweight and women’s bantamweight, have already been slipped into the schedule. Ronda Rousey defends her title against Liz Carmouche in a historic fight (the first female fight, and the first openly gay fighter in Carmouche), Demetrious Johnson gets his second title defense of the year against streaking John Moraga, and on that same card, former champion Miesha Tate takes on undefeated Cat Zingano in a bout that likely has title implications for the neophyte division.
The Ronda Rousey fight happens with Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida as the co-main event and the Johnson-Moraga fight happens on the same fight card as the Tate-Zingano fight (and that’s on a TUF finale). What? A title fight on a TUF finale? Yeah, that’s right.
The UFC finally got their biggest growing pains out of the way: actually growing it’s rosters. Now, more world ranked fighters will be available to more audiences, and will be able to fill a fight card from top to bottom. This will likely continue to be the case as the UFC continues to grow, and spreads into East Asia with Dana White announcing he would like to see the inclusion of the strawweights (115lbs).
The UFC is doing things right with its expansion of weight classes. With such a large schedule to fill, making super stacked fight cards on exclusively payperview was impossible with the weight classes they had before. However, with the addition of lighter weight classes and the female side of the fight sport, more fight cards can be filled out with higher quality fighters and fights, meaning less headaches for the UFC, and better product for the fans.