The UFC returns to Brazil with UFC Fight Night 36, a card typically in line with the UFC's current state of quality with respect to both Fight Night cards and non-UFC pay-per-view events in Brazil. The main card offers bouts of significance in both the main and co-main events with a smattering of interesting, homegrown talents in fights of moderate consequence. The preliminary card is simply a roster of local talent who may or may not ever graduate from that level of the game.
As far as what the UFC is risking or could face in reward, there isn't much here to fret over. The card is running ultra late in Brazil and will likely end by 4 a.m. local time, so there's an issue about what kind of ratings the organization can likely expect on Brazilian television. As for the U.S., Fox Sports 1 is still a channel in development and UFC programming has been absolutely critical for the burgeoning channel's growth. Even moderate ratings relative to what UFC is capable of is a win for the new sports channel. There's little worry UFC won't be able to deliver the kind of ratings Fox Sports 1 needs from live programming on a Saturday evening.
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The Fight Night series typically don't ask the audience for as much, nor do they have the potential to return as much as larger UFC events. That isn't to say they're forgettable or without worth. Far from it. But they also don't necessarily require us to over evaluate them piece by piece. They can be helpful to examine for indications of larger trends, but on they're own, they are what they are. There's no real need to fret over them especially with a main card as appropriately engineered as this.
Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi
At stake: a title shot. Chris Weidman is already set to face Vitor Belfort, but the winner of that bout is going to need a challenge. Given the relative shortage of top fights the UFC can make this calender year, the winner of Weidman-Belfort is going to need to be ready to defend on a expedited schedule. Short of some unforeseen circumstance, that fighter is going to face the winner of tonight's main event. I don't need to explain the significance of earning a UFC title shot, particularly for a fighter as advanced in age as Machida. What I can say is this bout offers that opportunity. This is two, top-tier middleweights competing a moment where establishing contendership is open and available given the amount of light heavyweights dropping down and Anderson Silva on hiatus (and also not champion). That window is closing quickly, however, and this is the moment where no mistakes can be made.
Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont
At stake: top contender status. Unless one of these fighters absolutely blows the doors off the other (something that's probably unlikely), the winner here may or may not get a title shot. There's arguably work to be done, although Jacare is probably closer to the top than Carmont. In either case, though, both are tantalizingly close to competing for the organization's top prize. They'll either have to fight one more time or simply wait for the opportunity for a title shot, but that only means this could be the final stop before a title fight if events work out in their favor. Winning this bout is absolutely critical. Looking convincing while doing it can't hurt either since that could fast track their efforts.
At stake: getting a prospect back on track. Sato was not Silva's original opponent, so the bout's purpose changes somewhat. At this point, however, it's pretty clear what's going on. Silva is or was a blue-chip prospect, one who has shown flashes of brilliance, but disappointing overcommitment and recklessness. He was also most recently brutally knocked out in a bout where he executing the kind of performance expected of him. That is until things went badly awry. This is about getting back on track. Sato is an experienced veteran and likely won't go away easy, but he'll resist just enough and last long enough to give Silva the sort of challenge he needs to get back on the competitive horse. Silva will also likely look good doing it. Sato is just fodder in this transaction.
Viscardi Andrade vs. Nicholas Musoke
At stake: visibility. Both of these fighters, as of now, are valuable as 'regional' talents. That is, if/when the UFC travels abroad, they need a staple of native talent to showcase to the native land. For now, that's the space these two fighters occupy. They're talented, of course, but so far have yet to distinguish themselves beyond the scope of this role. Winning this fight won't change that dramatically, but losing certainly keeps their profile lowered and visibility harder to detect.
Charles Oliveira vs. Andy Ogle
At stake: climbing the featherweight ranks. Despite giving Frankie Edgar a tough bout, Oliveira isn't ranked in the top 15 at featherweight. He's enormously talented, but hasn't quite put the resume together to rate at that level of the game. Beating a tough but limited Ogle doesn't necessarily move the needle in a dramatic way, but is an essential ingredient if he ever wishes to climb to any recognizable or valuable spot within the division. Ditto for Ogle. In fact, a win over Oliveira would represent Ogle's most significant MMA achievement to date. In either case, it's about rising to a position of quantifiable prominence.