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The Agony of the Injury: UFC's 2012 Badly Slowed by Health Woes

Joe Camporeale, US PRESSWIRE
Joe Camporeale, US PRESSWIRE

It doesn't take a statistical analysis to innately understand that injury woes have ravaged the UFC schedule in 2012. Still, with two-thirds of the year completed, a look at the numbers makes it clear exactly just how bad it has been.

So far this year, the UFC has had no fewer than 78 fights canceled due to injury, an MMA Fighting examination of records shows. To put that into perspective, that number of injuries is just two less than the total number of fights produced by the UFC in all of 2005.

To date, the UFC has either produced or officially announced 26 events. It has produced 230 matches and scheduled 59 more for formally announced shows. That means that of the 289 matches they've worked to put together, nearly 27 percent have been unraveled by injury. Worse, eight of 26 events (30.7 percent) have had at least one of the main-event participants injured and replaced.

Pay-per-view events have been the hardest hit of all. Five of the canceled main events were pay-per-view headliners, which has undoubtedly been one of the factors in decreased buyrates. Arguably the biggest loss came at UFC 143, when welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre was forced out a grudge match with Nick Diaz because of a knee injury.

The other pay-per-view main event injury withdrawals were Vitor Belfort at UFC 147, Dominick Cruz at UFC 149, Dan Henderson at UFC 151 and most recently, Erik Koch at UFC 153.

St-Pierre's injury though was effectively a double-whammy, because it not only knocked him out of a highly anticipated match, it also put him on the shelf for most of 2012, removing the possibility of multiple appearances during the year.

St-Pierre was one of eight injury withdrawals at UFC 143, which amazingly, wasn't enough to gain the No. 1 slot on the list. That spot belongs to the absolutely cursed UFC 149 event in July.

That show, which was the UFC's debut in Calgary, featured an astounding nine injury withdrawals. It wasn't just the quantity, it was the quality of fighters lost that was impossible to overcome. For example, featherweight champion Jose Aldo was originally supposed to fight in the main event until he was hurt. Bantamweight champ Cruz tore his ACL during training. Michael Bisping withdrew from a match. A Thiago Silva injury scrapped a planned bout with Mauricio "Shogun" Rua. And Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira had a setback in the rehabilitation of his arm that forced him out. To add insult to injury, highly touted bantamweight Bibiano Fernandes was reportedly signed to fight at the event before it was learned the announcement was prematurely made.

In effect, UFC 149 lost its main event, co-main event, and an entire main card.

That wasn't as bad as UFC 151, of course, when Dan Henderson's injury set off a chain of events that ended in the cancellation of the entire event. While that was the first time the promotion was forced to cancel a formally announced show, just months earlier, they had canceled a planned date in Montreal largely due to the fact that as the on-sale date approached, they were unable to generate a worthy main event.

UFC 147 was also a notable disappointment, as the original plan was for the Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rematch to take place in a 60,000-seat soccer stadium in Brazil. The event was expected to be one of the biggest of the year. Instead, logistical issues made the stadium show unfeasible and Silva-Sonnen was moved. Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva were then plugged into the main event, but a broken hand sidelined Belfort, and UFC 147 ended up being one of the smallest pay-per-views of the year.

On the other end of the spectrum is UFC on FX 3, the only card so far that made it from concept to completion without a single injury.

That's rare of course, and the injury bug has done more than just decimate matchups; it's affected fight bookings.

For example, no fewer than three champions -- St-Pierre, Aldo and Cruz -- have spent time rehabilitating injuries. Other established names like the Nogueira brothers and Shane Carwin have been out for the majority of the year, and coupled by the unexpected unavailability of names like Brock Lesnar and B.J. Penn to varying lengths of retirement and Nick Diaz and Overeem due to suspensions, the UFC has had little flexibility with the top of their roster.

UFC president Dana White recently attributed the rash of injuries to the competition in training camp. Others say such periods are simply an eventuality in any physical sport. Either way, the injury issue is one the promotion will always be faced with. How they respond will ultimately determine whether it's a problem that has long-lasting effects on fight card quality and the promotion's bottom line.

2012 Event Injury Withdrawals
UFC 142 -- 4
UFC on FX -- 6
UFC on FOX 2 -- 4
UFC 143 -- 8
UFC on FUEL -- 1
UFC 144 -- 2
UFC on FX 2 -- 2
UFC on FUEL 2 -- 3
UFC 145 -- 1
UFC on FOX 3 -- 4
UFC on FUEL 3 -- 5
UFC 146 -- 3
TUF Finale -- 1
UFC on FX 3 -- 0
UFC on FX 4 -- 7
UFC 147 -- 2
UFC 148 -- 1
UFC on FUEL 4 -- 2
UFC 149 -- 9
UFC on FOX 4 -- 4
UFC 150 -- 3
UFC 151 -- 2
UFC 152* -- 2
UFC on FUEL 5* -- 0
UFC on FX 5* -- 1
UFC 153* -- 1

(* - denotes formally announced future event)

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